Dopey Challenge Intermediate Training Program

I’ve been busy designing a training program for The Dopey Challenge based on where I am in my training so let’s begin with some assumptions of your level of experience and current training level if you were to use this program to train for the inaugural Dopey Challenge. If you are a newbie runner of less than six months running experience then I would seriously consider doing something less than the Dopey Challenge as your body hasn’t the time to adapt to the kind of stress you will need to put it through across four days and 48.6 miles. Specifically, your tendons, ligaments, and muscles need time to adapt. This happens in months of training, not days and weeks.


  1. You have six months of long distance running experience at a bare minimum (12 months preferred)
  2. You have run at least one full marathon BEFORE starting this training program and in the last six months (2+ marathons in the last 12 months preferred)
  3. At present (today) you could go out and run at least 13 miles with no problem.  You would say, “Yeah, no big deal, let’s do 13 for fun.” (15-18 miles preferred)
  4. You’ve run at least one 5K, 10K, half, and full marathon and can discuss your own pacing differences for each race distance.
  5. Your doctor has said it’s okay for you to do this.

If you meet all five of these assumptions and your physician gives you a green light then this may be the training plan for you.  If you meet assumptions one, two, and three then you will probably be okay.  If you meet only number one and two then you may want an easier plan, but that is for you to decide. If you meet just number 1 or none at all then I’d pass on this program and wait for me to post the novice plan in a few weeks. This plan is not for beginners. This plan is not for newbie runners.  This is a mid-level plan that will help someone cross the finish line four days in a row and still be able to walk afterwards assuming they are healthy and injury free when they start the program. Of course if you meet all of these assumptions and then some I will be posting a more advanced plan after I finish the novice plan.

This is a complete program. If you delete or modify any part then you run the risk of not getting the overall benefits of the program.  I’ve designed in cross training, lifting, rest, and three different types of running to prepare your body for four days of running that will double (or more) in length each day from one to the next.

The Dopey Challenge is quite unique. Some would say that it would be easier to just run 50-miles since you wouldn’t have to worry about having tight muscles, lactic acid build-up from one day to the next, and warming up day after day after day for what will most likely be longer periods of time to warm-up while running on limited rest. Compound this with the fact that you may foolishly go to the parks for more mileage after each race and the Dopey Challenge may prove to be more than some people trained for so with this in mind, read on, enjoy, ask me questions, and let’s get Dopey!

The Program

The program I have designed is 25 weeks in length meaning you would need to start this plan in July to complete it for the week leading up to WDW Marathon Weekend. Make sure you calculate your own program start date to ensure you have time to complete the plan in full. Details of what to do for the Bike, Intervals, Lifting, Tempo Runs, and Elliptical follow the program table.

Week Mon Tues Wed Thurs Fri Sat Sun
24 Bike 30min 2 miles 4 miles Lift #1 Bike 30min 13 miles Core
23 Bike 30 2 miles 5 miles Lift #2 Bike 30 15  miles Core
22 Bike 30 3 miles 5 miles Lift #1 Bike 30 10  miles Core
21 Bike 30 3 miles 6 miles Lift #2 Bike 30 17  miles Core
20 Bike 30 5K Easy Rest 5K Easy Bike 30 Ellip 30 Core
19 Lift Bike 30 Rest 5K Easy 5 miles 6 miles 12 miles
18 Bike 30 5K Easy 5 miles Lift #1 Bike 30 15 miles Core
17 Bike 30 5K Easy 6 miles Lift #2 Bike 30 17 miles Core
16 Bike 30 5K Easy 7 miles Lift #1 Bike 30 12 miles Core
15 Bike 30 5K Easy 7 miles Lift #2 Bike 30 20 miles Core
14 Bike 30 5K Easy Rest 5K Easy Bike 30 Ellip 30 Core
13 Lift Bike 30 Rest 5K Easy 5-mile 8 miles 16 miles
12 Bike 30 5K Tempo 10K Easy Lift #1 Bike 30 17 miles Core
11 Bike 30 Intervals 1 10K Easy Lift #2 Bike 30 19 miles Core
10 Bike 30 5K Tempo 7 miles Lift #1 Bike 30 14 miles Core
9 Bike 30 Intervals 2 7 miles Lift #2 Bike 30 22.5 miles Core
8 Bike 30 5K Easy Rest 5K Easy Bike 30 Ellip 30 Core
7 Lift Bike 30 Rest 5K Easy 6 miles 10 miles 21 miles
6 Bike 30 5K Tempo 10K Easy Lift #1 Bike 30 19 miles Core
5 Bike 30 Intervals 1 10K Easy Lift #2 Bike 30 21 miles Core
4 Bike 30 5K Tempo 7 miles Lift #1 Bike 30 23 miles Core
3 Bike 30 5K Easy 7 miles Lift #2 Bike 30 15 miles Core
2 Bike 30 5K Easy 7 miles Core Bike 30 20 miles Core
1 Bike 30 15K Easy Rest 10K Easy Bike 30 Core Ellip 30
0 Rest Rest Rest WDW 5K WDW 10K WDW Half WDW Full

Special Weeks:

Dopey Practice Weeks:

Weeks 19, 13, and 7 are designed to give you a little Dopey practice to prepare you to run four days in a row at distances that build across the 4 days.

Pull Back Weeks:

Weeks 22, 16, 10, and 3 are pull back weeks designed to give you extra rest from the long run in comparison to the two previous weeks.  As the program progresses these are still fairly long runs, but less distance than the previous 2-3 weeks.

Push Weeks:

Weeks 21, 15, and 9 are Push Weeks which fall between the Pull Back Weeks and Alternative Training weeks.  You will notice the Push Weeks come back strong with the long run pushing out a bit further than before the Pull Back week.

Alternative Training Weeks:

Weeks 20, 14, and 8 are alternative training weeks. These weeks mix things up with a break from lifting, a couple easier and shorter runs, and an elliptical session. These weeks will help you with the mental fortitude and motivation to keep training by giving you a break from the “same old same old” routine.

Taper Weeks:

Weeks 1 and 0 are the days leading up to The Dopey Challenge. Follow the program, trust in your training, don’t add workouts, and if you must change anything opt to be over-rested rather than over-trained. Try to minimize time walking around the Disney parks on the 2-3 days before the 5K and across the 4-days of The Dopey Challenge. It would be a shame to train all this time to just throw it all away by being too tired.  The average park guest walks 8 miles per day when visiting a Disney park. This is why I’m just doing the marathon this year and saving Dopey for 2015.  I need park time!

Types of Workouts in the Program:


30 minute bike sessions should be on a cadence/rpm of 80-100. Add a resistance that will allow for you to have a “good effort”, but not so difficult as to make the next day’s run difficult.  RPMs are more important than resistance on the bike. Push with the heel down, NOT the toe when pedaling.


As an alternative form of exercise that is less impactful on joints, but still works the running muscles I have added an occasional elliptical (Ellip) session.  Notice a Core workout follows these so as to give your legs a rest.


All long runs on Saturday and Sunday are “LSDs” or Long Slow Distance runs.  These should be done at a slow pace under the pace you plan for a marathon.  The purpose of an LSD is NOT speed, but rather just going the prescribed distance.


A tempo run is paced fast enough to where you can maintain the pace for the desired distance, but cannot carry on a long conversation without taking breaks for breathing. Short bursts of conversation would be the most you could do if your pace is fast enough, but you should be able to do this for the entire distance. Most 5Ks at tempo pace can be described as a “Fast 5K” or a PR effort 5K.

Interval Workouts:

Interval #1 (4.25 mile)
Warm-up half mile (800m)
4x400m (400m R.I.)
2x800m (400m R.I.)
Cool-down half mile (800m)
Interval #2 (5.5 mile)
Warm-up half mile (800m)
1600m (400m R.I.)
3 x 800m (400m R.I.)
1600m (400m R.I.)
Cool-down half mile (800m)
R.I. = Rest Interval.  You may slow your run pace significantly or even walk if you need to recover more.

Lifting Workouts:

Weights/Exercise Reps Sets
Lift #1 = Legs & Back
Lift #2 = Legs & Chest/Shoulders
Walking Lunges 10/leg 3
Leg Curl (lying preferred) 10 3
Calf Raise 10 3
Abduction Machine 10 3
Adduction Machine 10 3
Assisted Pull-up Machine/Lat pull down 10 3
Seated Row Machine 10 3
Pull Over Machine 10 3
Chest Press Machine/bench 10 3
Shoulder Press Machine 10 3
Chest Fly Machine 10 3
Use a weight that you can comfortably lift for 10 reps.  Rep number 9 and 10 should be the most challenging.
Standard Plank 60 sec 3
Low Plank with one leg off the ground: both legs 60sec 3/leg
High Plank position. Knee to elbow. Both legs 15/leg 3/side
Crunch 30 3

Rest, Skipping Workouts, and Fatigue

As I always say, if at ANY time you feel you need to rest more then REST MORE!  Taking an extra rest day in the form of an easier run, slightly shorter run during the week, or skipping an “easy 5K day” in lieu of more sleep is okay if you need more rest and recovery.  Try not to skip too many long runs (or any at all) as these will ensure you can cover the distance required on Saturday and Sunday of marathon weekend. Realize that you will start to feel the fatigue of marathon weekend about half way through the half marathon on Saturday. Keep to your fueling/nutrition plan and stay the course! You will do great!

Happy Training!


15 thoughts on “Dopey Challenge Intermediate Training Program”

  1. Wow, this is great, lots of x training cut back weeks and resistance training. Nice job. I’m going to share this post in a Google+ community if you don’t mind.

  2. I appreciate you sharing this and the time you took to put both the plans together. As someone who has trained for marathons but nothing beyond this is really helpful.

    1. Hi Courtney! You are welcome. I want to reiterate that these programs are to get you across 4 finish lines in the upright position, not to qualify you for Ironman Hawaii. 😉 They are basic plans designed for beginning and intermediate runners. If you have any questions I’m happy to help!

  3. Hi there! Thanks for this great resource! I ran my first marathon exactly one month ago and I’m excited to start training for Dopey. My left foot was slightly injured after the marathon, and I’m guessing it was from my lack of cross training and running about 5 times a week. It’s nice to see a training plan designed to get you across the finish line(s) without calling for such a high volume of running every day. Just wondering, do you suggest running another marathon in the fall as part of training? I’ve seen this suggestion on other blogs, but I’m afraid to run another marathon and get injured, hindering my Dopey training. Any thoughts on this or other suggestions are much appreciated!

    1. Suggest? Perhaps, but IF you did run a full then it should be timed to coincide as one of your later LSD runs on a non-Dopey practice week and at the right time for the distance and not before. IF you did run one then don’t run it for time or a PR, just run it to run it. That being said, you don’t have to run a marathon pre-Dopey assuming you get all your LSDs in and follow a program. If your foot is giving you any trouble then opt to NOT run a full marathon and instead be over-rested as opposed to over-trained. Respect the distance. It’s going to be a long (and fun) 4-days!

  4. This is awesome! Thanks so much! I don’t have a gym membership, so I’m hoping free weights will work on the lifting days, but this is a much more rounded plan (in my un-educated opinion) than the Galloway ones which are just running and rely on you to figure out the rest!

  5. I haven’t actually written anything down as of yet so you are way ahead of me. I think that double, maybe even triple runs per day (like prepping for Ragnar) in Nov & Dec will be important for me. I want/need to really get the legs used to running tired, on whatever energy is available.

    Good for you for putting a plan together so quickly. I have a lot of my plate before I really start thinking about Dopey.

    1. These plans are more geared toward the novice and intermediate runners to start training now. Never too early, ya know! I planned in “Dopey Practice Weeks” on both programs so people are prepared to run on those tired legs!

  6. I did my first Goofy this year (2013), and now I’m signed up for Dopey as well as Dumbo Dare. I used Galloway up to this point but I feel as though I could do more. I like both the bike and elliptical. One problem though, I most likely overtrained and have plantar fasciitis. It’s something I live with and refuse to let it stop me. I run slow, although lately, my pace seems to be getting faster. My job has me standing all day walking from point a to b. I haven’t been in the gym until recently. There, the trainers believe I need to cross train. I agree. I like your plan because it has a Dopey focus but also includes bike elliptical and core training. What do you think I should do? Can I still do a walk/run with your plan? I started running one year before Goofy.

    1. Hi Marco!

      Yes! I definitely recommend a run/walk/run or Galloway method for you. My plans are designed to help a newer runner complete their goal or for someone who did the basic Galloway program be able to add more variety to their training than the WDW website plans. Someone could do a Galloway or decide to run the entire distance. With your plantar fasciitis (PF) doing a Galloway method will make the entire experience more enjoyable and less painful.

      For your PF, if possible get a referral to a Sports Med doctor or Physical Therapist (PT) from your general practitioner. Many times a sports med MD or PT will have a lot more experience in treating PF than a family doctor. Many times the first instinct of a family doctor is to send you to a podiatrist, but you need someone who is used to treating sports injuries…a collaboration of MDs is even better.

      I know this may not be possible based on resources (believe me I know) so it never hurts to do your own research on PF and see what treatments like massage or stretching may help you help yourself! From personal experience with ITBS when I had issues I researched exercises on YouTube, read books and articles, searched out online blogs, and came away with enough knowledge to have a good conversation with my medical professionals. I eventually went to a chiropractor for my ITBS and today I have zero issues.

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