Dopey Training


Got a question about running? You’re in the right place. Every Tuesday, world-renowned coach, author and athlete Hal Higdon posts and answers athlete questions here. You can submit your question by joining the discussions on Hal Higdon’s Virtual Training Bulletin Boards.


I successfully finished the Goofy Challenge at Walt Disney World last year using your Intermediate 2 plan as my training guide. For next year, I plan to move up to the Dopey Challenge, so I’m looking for advice. One thought would be to follow Intermediate 2 again. Another thought would be to move your Wednesday Sorta-Long Runs to Friday, to simulate the extra fatigue caused by the multi-day racing. I am 61 and have been running for four years, it being my retirement hobby. So far, I have completed four marathons, including Goofy. Unfortunately, heavy beta blocker dosages limit the upper range of my heart rate, which prevents this old body from doing too much speedwork. So far my focus has been primarily on endurance and having fun. Dopey sounds like it may be fun.

Hal’s Answer:

My feeling about the Dopey Challenge is that it is well named. For those not familiar with the terms, Goofy medals at Disney are awarded to those who run the half marathon on Saturday, then the full marathon on Sunday. Dopey is the latest twitch, perhaps created by Snow White’s evil stepmother. On Thursday, a 5-K. On Friday, a 10-K. On Saturday, a half marathon. On Sunday, a full marathon. On Monday, a psychiatric evaluation.

For that reason, you might want to consider downsizing your program, rather than upsizing it. Find a way to creatively undertrain so you arrive at the Mickey Kingdom well rested and ready to absorb some punishment. Don’t waste your energy en route. Or at least not too much energy.

Consider a drop back to Intermediate 1, or even to a modified Novice 2. You are going to get the most benefit from the weekend runs, specifically the pace runs on Saturdays and the long runs on Sundays. Every second or third weekend, add another workout to your Saturday/Sunday weekend runs. Go Friday/Saturday/Sunday with the Friday workout 3-4 miles, but at a faster pace than the runs that follow. Then as you get closer to the deadly day in January, do some four-day workouts: Thursday/Friday/Saturday/Sunday. Don’t get too concerned about speed or distance. Focus more on getting your body accustomed to four days of increasingly longer runs.

If enough runners are interested, maybe I will create a special Dopey Training Plan, as long as Snow White’s stepmother doesn’t feel I am invading her territory.

Follow-up: The Dopey Challenge: Hal Higdon’s latest 18-week interactive program prepares runners for the Dopey Challenge at the Walt Disney World Marathon in January 2014.

About the Author

Hal Higdon

Hal Higdon is a Contributing Editor for'Runner's World'and author of 34 books, including the best-selling'Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide. He ran eight times in the Olympic Trials and won four world masters championships. Higdon estimates that more than a quarter million runners have finished marathons using his training programs, and he also offers additional interactive programs at all distances through TrainingPeaks.Hal uses'TrainingPeaks'to power his interactive marathon and half marathon training plans.'Check out more of Hal Higdon's training plans here'or on'his website.

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