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Training for the Dopey Challenge

BY Hal Higdon

An athlete would like to do a marathon before the Dopey Challenge; Hal suggests to not do that first marathon as a "race", but to make it more of a "workout".

Have 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 have about nine months to prep for the Dopey Challenge in January 2015 (5-K, 10-K, Half and Full Marathon on four successive days). I have been running about a year with multiple 5-K and 10-K races plus one Half Marathon, but also multiple obstacle races up to 12 miles in length. Mileage right now 12-15 weekly, but I easily can go out and run 5- 6 miles at any time. Lots of cross training, core and upper body work. I am slow, but that is okay with me. My goal for Dopey is to finish healthy.

My thought was to do your Novice 2 marathon schedule leading into a race at that distance, then move on to your Dopey Challenge schedule 18 weeks out from the Challenge. That will leave a couple of weeks in between the two schedules, but I figure I can just continue with similar mileage.

While I want to get a full marathon under my belt before Dopey, the first full marathon here in the state of Florida is not until October 11, actually Week 5 of the Dopey training plan. Do you see a problem doing it that way?


Sliding from Novice 2 to Dopey makes a lot of sense to me, and you can juggle the schedule as you wish in between. But your mix of races and talents is so diverse that it is almost difficult to advise you in making the shift from Do-All runner to Do-One. I think you are on the correct track, however. My main bit of advice would be to not do that first marathon as a “race.” Make it more a “workout” to prove your ability to cover 26 miles 385 yards, not cover that distance fast. Keep your eye on the end of the road: Dopey, which is not about speed but more about survival. Four successive workouts in four successful days (as per my Dopey schedule) works only if you develop enough patience to get to the starting line of the fourth workout/race with some gas left in the tank. Keep this in mind in your training. Even for an extreme event, moderation often is the answer.

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About 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 over a quarter of a 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 on his website.