Surviving the GOOFY CHALLENGE

There’s the Half Marathon.
Nice distance: 13.1 miles-21.1 kms.
Longest run during training: about 10 miles – 16 km.

There’s the Marathon.
Not-so-nice distance: 26.2 miles-42.2 kms.
Longest run during training: 20 miles- 32 kms.

Then… there’s the Goofy Challenge.
Distance: 13.1 miles + 26.2 miles= brace-yourself-for-39.9 miles-around-WDW-parks.
Longest run during training: 12 miles Saturday + 22 miles Sunday.

The Goofy Challenge has been running at Walt Disney World for over 10 years.  It is held on the second weekend of January every year during the WDW Marathon Weekend. On Saturday you run the Half Marathon over two parks and on Sunday you run the full Marathon around all 4 theme parks, the ESPN complex, and the Speedway.

How can you survive this challenge?

First, you should have the appropriate fitness level. Even though you might see people of all sizes (and costumes), it is recommended that you have at least completed a Marathon before you attempt this challenge. Your knees will suffer, your feet will suffer, your muscles will suffer, your lungs and heart will suffer. Running back-to-back long races takes a toll on your whole body, but if it is used to longer distances already, you’ll be more ready to handle the strain.

Can I walk throughout the course?

Yes. Walking is allowed and the time limits for both races are enough to let you walk a good part of the way. For the HM, the time limit is 3h30m. And for the FM, time limit is 7h00. This would be about a 16.00 min/mile pace, though a good 15.00 min/mile pace is recommended both in training and race day to avoid any last minute complications and being at risk of being taken out of the course.

My recommendations for your training?

-Sign up early. Registration starts in April and spots sell out fast.

-If you haven’t done so, make sure you are building a nice base where you are at least running or walk/run 3 times a week for 45 min before starting your formal training.

-Start training about 20 weeks prior to the Challenge. This would be around mid-end of August.

-For the first 4 weeks focus on building a strong base. You were previously running or walking/running 3 times a week for 45 minutes each. Work for these 4 weeks on reaching running 4 times a week.

Sample: Tuesday: 45 minutes. Thursday: 1 hour. Saturday: 45 min. Sunday: 1h40 minutes.

-For the first 10 weeks, focus on building a good strength base. Lifting weights, using your body weight, at the gym, or at home. Now is the time to start strengthening all those muscles that will take you to the finish line. Aim for 2 times a week of 30 minutes of strength training, focusing on your legs, abs, back, and glutes.

-After the first weeks you should continue increasing your long-run distance (typically Sunday) at a no more than 10% increase per week.

-On alternate weeks, have a semi-long-run on Saturdays before your long run that is half as long as the Sunday one. E.g.: Sat. 8 miles, Sun. 16 miles.

-‘Recovery week’ every 3 weeks. Run 3 days. Example: Tue. 45 min, Thu. 45 min, Sun. 10 miles.

-One day of the week (not the long run), focus on speed training. Intervals or tempo runs are ideal. Not a fan of speed work? Do some hills.

-Cross-training one day of the week, either substituting one of your shorter runs or as an extra workout day. Can’t spare one day a week for cross-training? Go ahead and cross-train on alternate weeks. 5 times a month is better than 4, 4 is better than 2, but 2 is still better than none, right?

Are you going to suffer?  Absolutely.

Are you going to have fun? Absolutely!

My recommendations for Race Weekend.

-Plan on getting your packet before 5 pm on Friday. The Expo is at the ESPN complex. It closes at 7 pm and I have seen runners rushing or not been able to get their packets because the got there at 6.55 or at 7.05.

-‘Carbo load’ on both Friday and Saturday for LUNCH.

-Keep your dinners light and safe: a sandwich is a nice choice. Keep it light, not very fatty. Eat something you know won’t upset your stomach or make you feel super full.

-Get a good night sleep both days. At least 7 hours. Remember that for WDW races you need to wake up super early (maybe as early as 3-3.30 am).

-Wake up early and have a good breakfast both days at least 2-2 1/2 hours before the start time. An example of a good breakfast is a combo of protein+carbo+fruit for minerals. My choice: half a bagel with PB and a banana.

-After the HM on Saturday -and again after the FM on Sunday-, head to the massage tent right after the finish. You can get a massage for $1 a minute. So, carry a few bucks on your race belt.

BETWEEN RACES (Saturday afternoon)

-Walk a bit on Saturday afternoon,but do not stand still for long periods of time.

-Compression socks are a must. Wear them everywhere.

-Drink lots of water until 2 hours before going to bed.

-Refuel very well. Have a nice breakfast post-HM (low on fat and fiber, but packed with protein, carbs, and fruit)= Think eggs, white toast, a couple pieces of turkey bacon, OJ, banana). Then have a full lunch (carbo load)= some protein and pasta, but skip the creamy white sauce and the shrimp, stick with red for today.

Can I stop and take pictures during the races?

Absolutely. There is so much amazing entertainment along the course. Characters, animals, acrobats, music bands, you name it! Just make sure that you trained appropriately so you can still get to the finish line on time.

Can I dress up?

It is almost a MUST! It is very encouraged to dress up for the WDW races. Make sure that you’ll be able to cover your distance in whatever you decide to use and that you don’t carry any props that might harm other fellow runners.

Are there awards for the Goofy Race and a Half Challenge?

No, there are no awards for covering the whole 39.3 miles faster than other runners. Is this a bummer? Absolutely not, this is WDW’s way of telling you to have fun and enjoy the races!

Do I get a special shirt and medal?

Not just one. You get THREE shirts and THREE medals. One for each race and a special one for the Goofy Challenge. And they are all AMAZING.

What is this RUN/WALK method?

The run/walk method was created by Olympian Jeff Galloway, who is WDW’s official coach. Click here to go straight to his training method for the Goofy Challenge. It is a very simple method in which you have walk/running intervals since the beginning of the race, and including in your training. This is a great training program for beginners.

I did use this training method for the first time I ran the Goofy and I think that the training runs during the week are far too short for all the long running that is done during the weekend. But one of these runs could be substituted for a longer tempo run, intervals, or hills. This is, if you’ve already experienced a marathon before.

I hope these lines helped you a bit on getting a feel of this Challenge, and I hope you try it at one point. Enjoy!