Running Back-to-Back Races: If One is Fun, How About Two (or Three or Four)?

by Lorree Tachell, contributing writer
[Editor's note: By the time you read this, tens of thousands of people will have descended to Florida for Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, and many of them will start the weekend off with the 5K happening this morning. We wish every participant—and especially our many members of Team MousePlanet on our MousePad discussion board—a successful finish and wonderful time this weekend!]

With the runDisney Dopey Challenge in Walt Disney World happening this weekend, the 2012 Runner’s World article on strategies for running back-to-back races is particularly relevant. In the article, author John Hanc noted that in 2011, more than half of all road events offered more than one opportunity to race back-to-back events, whether on the same day or over multiple days, almost always including at least a shorter distance and a longer distance.

While running more than one race in a single weekend isn't for everyone, back-to-back challenges are becoming one of the more popular ways to spend a running weekend, especially when the races are in a destination location such as Walt Disney World or Disneyland. If you traveled there for one race, why not enter two (or three or four)?

Offering multiple road events in a single weekend is nothing new for Disney, which has historically offered two or more race options (usually a 5K and a half marathon) during its distance event weekends. But until recently, Disney only offered one official challenge: The Goofy Race-and-a-Half Challenge, which involved completing the Walt Disney World Half Marathon on a Saturday, and the (fll) Marathon the following day, on Sunday.

The 5-kilometer family fun runs, which Disney has used to kick off to its race weekends, have always been a fun way to add a little extra mileage to the weekend as well as earn an additional finisher's medal to add to the collection. Many runners use these 5Ks as a warm-up to the weekends' longer races.

39.3 Goofy miles

Until 2005, both the Walt Disney World half marathon and full marathon were held simultaneously. However in order to handle the growing popularity of the half marathon, Disney announced a big change for 2006: splitting the 13.1-mile half-marathon to Saturday, and keeping the 26.2-mile marathon on Sunday. With this change, runDIsney (still known at the time as Disney Running) created its first official back-to-back achievement: Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge. Particpants were required to complete both the Walt Disney World Half Marathon on Saturday and WDW Marathon on Sunday for a total of 39.3 miles to earn an inaugural Goofy medal for their efforts.

The Goofy Challenge, with the chance to earn three medals in a single weekend, provided to be extremely popular from the start. Registration has grown ever year, and was up to 10,000 in 2012. Back in the inaugural Goofy year, I'd just completed my first Walt Disney World half marathon and chatted with one of the Goofy finishers that weekend. He was exhausted and while he proudly wore his Goofy medal in the park, he said he would never, ever do it again. I watched as he slowly hobbled off in obvious agony. A few hours later, he spotted me at Epcot and stopped to tell me that he had changed his mind: He would be back if they offered the event again. Once he got over the first few hours of pain, the "Well, why not?" attitude had apparently kicked in.

For many, the Goofy Challenge is a one-in-a-lifetime goal, but for a small group of runners, it has become an annual event. There are actually fewer than 200 Perfectly Goofys (one who has completed all Goofy Challenges from its inception on) who will be recognized in 2015 when the Goofy Challenge celebrates its 10th anniversary. I hope that that Goofy finisher I spoke with in 2006 is one of them.

2006 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend finisher's medals. Photo by Lani Teshima.

Before Dopey was officially Dopey

Back when the only specially recognized achievement was the Goofy Race-and-a-Half Challenge, there was the unofficial Dopey. Unlike the official Dopey Challenge happening this weekend, the unofficial version consisted of participants completing the Goofy Challenge after also completing the the 5K Family Fun Run on the Friday over the same weekend. While Disney never offered special medals or acknowledgements for this achievement, it was not uncommon to see unofficial Dopey T-shirts in the parks and out along the course, proudly worn by those up to this unofficial challenge. When I asked one person who claimed to have done every unoffiicial Dopey to that point, why he did what seemed to me to be such an impossible feat of running 42.4 miles in three days, his simple answer was, "Well…why not?" Seemed logical at the time and is as good a reason as any to do some of the crazy running things we do.

A 2013 unofficial Dopey T-shirt design from

Chip n Dale n Donald

In 2012, runDisney offered the inaugural Chip 'n' Dale Marathon Relay as part of WDW Marathon Weekend. Scheduled for Sunday during the full marathon, relay teams consisted of two participants who each covered a half-marathon distance (13.1 miles) of the full marathon course. In addition, the WDW Half Marathon, held on Saturday, was celebrating its 15th anniversary that year, which lead to a quandry of which event to run: the anniversary half, the inaugural relay, or both? For a few of us, the answer was easy—we couldn’t resist earning both an inaugural relay medal as well as the special 15th anniversary half-marathon Donald medal.

This was my first attempt at back-to-back long-distance running, and frankly I was nervous (it didn't help that my marathon relay partner was a Senior Olympian—no pressure there!). Although Disney officially claimed that participants could not complete both the Goofy Challenge as well as the relay, it was inspiring to watch from the transition point as one runner managed to do so by running with multiple bibs—where there is a will, there is a way.

There was no special challenge medal from runDisney for completing both the WDW Half and the relay, but doing so turned out to be a smart move, as the Chip 'n' Dale Marathon Relay was only offered once, and has not been offered by runDisney since.

The one-and-done 2012 Chip 'n' Dale Marathon Relay finisher's medal. Photo © Disney.

Don’t blink or you’ll miss the flying elephant

In 2013, runDisney began adding a 10K (6.2-mile) distance option to its race weekends. Now, Disney could offer a more manageable distance for people who couldn't train for a half-marathon, as well as offer up an opportunity for people to spend more money to complete 19.3-mile challenge events. Leading off the new distance challenge was the Dumbo Double Dare, offered as part of the 2013 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend. Participants who completed the inaugural Disneyland 10K on Saturday and the Disneyland Half Marathon on Sunday would earn an inaugural Dumbo Double Dare medal.

Many particpants tacked on an extra unofficial challenge by doing the Disneyland 5K on Saturday just an hour before the 10K event. The Dumbo Double Dare proved to be so popular that it sold out not once but three times: once during pre-registration at the WDW Marathon Weekend expo, again during pre-sales to Disneyland annual passholders, Disney Vacation Club members and Disney Visa card holders, and then finally during open registration, where it sold out the remaining spots in less than an hour. runDisney obviously had hit on their hands.

The inaugural 2013 Dumbo Double Dare Challenge medals. Photo © Disney.

If the Glass Slipper fits

In addition to the Dumbo Double Dare in Disneyland, runDisney has added the Glass Slipper Challenge to the 2014 Princess Half Marathon Weekend in WDW. Similar in structure to the Dumbo Double Dare, participants must complete both the Enchanted 10K on Saturday and the Princess Half Marathon on Sunday to earn the inaugural Glass Slipper Challenge medal. Proving to be just about as popular as the Dumbo Double Dare, the Glass Slipper Challenge sold out in just over five hours (not including pre-registration). And as the Royal Family 5K is offered on Friday, many will likely take on the unofficial challenge to complete all three events. What’s an additional 3.1 miles, right?

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge Medals. Photo © Disney.

One weekend, four events, six medals

In what is likely a nod to the long-running unofficial Dopey, runDisney added the Dopey Challenge to the 2014 WDW Marathon Weekend. Participants must finish the WDW Family Fun Run 5K on Thursday, the inaugural WDW 10K on Friday, the WDW Half Marathon on Saturday, and finally, the WDW Marathon on Sunday to earn not only the Goofy but the inaugural Dopey Challenge medal. In total, participants will complete 48.6 miles and earn a whopping six runDisney medals in the process.

And in the spirit of "why not," some Dopey Challengers have also registered for Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend activities the very next weekend, adding 22.4 more miles in Disneyland for a total of 71 miles for 10 medals, over the span of two back-to-back weekends.

[For those who have lost count, the 10 medals are: Medal #1 – Walt Disney World Family Fun Run 5K, #2 – WDW 10K, #3 – WDW Half Marathon, #4 – WDW Marathon, #5 – Goofy Challenge, #6 – Dopey Challenge, #7 – Disneyland Never Land Family Fun Run 5K, #8 – inaugural Tinker Bell 10K, #9 – Tinker Bell Half Marathon, #10 – Coast to Coast (for completing both a Florida and California road race in the same calendar year).]

When runDisney added a 10K to the 2014 Tinker Bell Half Marathon weekend, it offered no special challenge medal as it did for the Princess Half Marathon Weekend. This may have been the reason why it took almost two months for the Tinker Bell 10K to sell out, in stark contrast to the five-hour sell-out for the Glass Slipper Challenge (for the Princess Half Marathon).

2014 Dopey Challenge medals. Photo © Disney.

What next?

Although there are no 10K races for either the Wine & Dine Half Marathon or the Tower of Terror 10-Miler, since they are held in the evening, their associated 5K races occur on the same day. This may make adding a 10K particularly challenging. The Dopey, Goofy, Dumbo, and Glass Slipper Challenge events are expected to remain an integral part of runDisney events, but as with any runDisney event, these are always subject to change.

If you are interested in giving a back-to-back challenge a try, remember that they sell out very quickly, even with runDisney pricing, and have very limited capacity. To keep up on the latest runDisney event news including registration and race capacity updates, make sure to visit the Team MousePlanet forum of our MousePad discussion board, where you can find the latest in runDisney information.


  1. By Mharokopus

    Quote Originally Posted by MousePlanet AutoPoster View Post
    Running Back-to-Back Races: If One is Fun, How About Two (or Three or Four)? by Lorree Tachell

    Contributing Writer Lorree Tachell looks at runDisney back-to-back challenge races

    Read it here!

    I am curious as to what other runner's experiences have been in optimizing the back-to-back racing experience. I have tried alternative pacing strategies over the years of running back-to-back events, i.e., running the first race at an easy pace and stepping it up for the next race and running hard for the first event and then whatever I have left for the next race. I seem to experience better results overall by running easier the first race and then running harder for the second race. I have to say I have not tried running an even pace overall that may be slightly slower than race pace. Any thoughts out there?

  2. Discuss this article on MousePad.