Running 71 miles at six Disney parks in 11 days: the unofficial marathon Hercules Challenge


Brand new opportunities were introduced in the runDisney event schedule. 2014 started with a multi-race series where you could earn up to 10 medals in 11 days.

By Don Gworek

Brand new opportunities have been introduced in the runDisney event schedule. This year started with a multi-race series where you could earn the above 10 medals in 11 days.

02wdwExpo This story begins at the Walt Disney World Marathon weekend, where the race expo was held in three venues at the ESPN Wide World of Sports. Seen here is the Jostens Center.

03mickeyShoe Adult runDisney shoes were introduced by a vendor at an expo last year, and the shoes quickly sold out. What runDisney fan wouldn’t want to run in super cool shoes like these? This is one of the 2014 editions of the running shoes, the Sorcerer Mickey shoe.

04wdwIDidIt Most of the expos have an “I Did It!” shirt. New to the schedule was a four-race series called the Dopey Challenge. The Dopey Challenge is where you run a 5K, 10K, half marathon, and full marathon, one per morning of the event weekend. It totaled 48.6 miles.

For many years the Dopey Challenge was unofficial. Guests would register for the half-full marathon combo, the Goofy Challenge. If you also did the 5K fun run, you did the unofficial Dopey Challenge. Now the Dopey Challenge is official, and includes a 10K too!


05wdw10KmonorailStaging The first event of the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon weekend was the 5K fun run at Epcot, held the Thursday morning of the event weekend. The 5K has grown to a well-organized but incredible size, where all of Amaze section of Epcot parking is used to hold the starting corrals. Thousands gather in the corrals for each separate starting wave. Seen here is just Corral A, the first wave. Seven thousand of the 10,000 5K participants were entered in the four-race Dopey Challenge.

06wdw5KStart Corral A is moving to the starting line, on the roadway between the Amaze and Imagine sections of the parking lot.

07wdw10kTestTrack The 5K fun run is quick 3.1 miles around to backstage, and then under Test Track, seen here.

08wdw5KItaly Participants then circle the World Showcase lagoon. Seen here is Italy. The race continues through Future World, to finish in the Epcot parking lot.

Three point one miles done. Sixty seven point nine miles to go!


09wdw10kStart The next morning is the brand new 10K race of Marathon Weekend. It was held Friday morning. The starting line was the same as for the 5K, but the first few miles were different.

10wdw10kEpcotToll In the 10K, participants headed out the Toll Plaza for two miles on Epcot Boulevard, the guest entrance road to Epcot.

11wdw10kBlvd Seen here in the median of Epcot Boulevard was a video wall. The screen is too bright here, but it had Disney characters dancing to current pop music. This location is also the start of the half and full marathons the following two mornings, with the video wall turned the other direction.

12wdw10kYacht The 10K course then circled World Showcase to the International Gateway hotel resort entrance. The course then circled Crescent Lake. Seen here is the course near Disney’s Yacht Club Resort. The yellow arrow points to the glow of the finish line, in Epcot’s parking lot.

13wdw10kSoarin The 10K course continued to have very interesting routing. It then went backstage. Seen here is the backstage view of Soarin’.

14wdw10kFW The 10K course continued through Future World, to Epcot parking, and the finish line.


15wdwHalfStart Saturday morning of the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend was the 13.1-mile half marathon.

The organizers have introduced smaller corrals for the leaders. The first wave had only a few hundred of the fastest runners entered. Later waves grew in size. This allows more people of similar pace to run with each other. There is less jostling for proper position in the pack. The starts are safer and more comfortable. This also means there were 16 separate starts! Each started with a blast of fireworks, like seen here.

16wdwHalfToll The half marathon heads direct to the Magic Kingdom, through the Toll Plaza on World Drive.

17wdwFullSpaceMountain The course then enters the Magic Kingdom through a service access road north of the bus loops.

18wdwHalfMain The course goes up Main Street and zig-zags through most of the lands of the Magic Kingdom.

19wdwHalf9mile The course then continues on Seven Seas, along the Grand Floridian and Polynesian resorts, before returning to Epcot on World Drive.

With 16 different starts, there were far more people on the other side of the road at this point than before. On the left are thousands still early in the half marathon, heading north to the Magic Kingdom. On the right are many of the first to return to Epcot.

20wdwHalfRamp2 The course takes many of the heavily forested ramps and Epcot access roads before a quick loop in the park and the finish line.


21wdwFullSpeedway Sunday morning is the signature event of the Walt Disney World Marathon weekend, the full 26.2 mile marathon.

The first eight or so miles of the full marathon are identical to the half marathon. The course changes when the full marathon enters for a lap on the tri-oval loop of the Walt Disney World Speedway (the race track normally used for the Richard Petty Driving Experience and the Exotic Car Experience). Many years ago the Speedway was built and used for Indy car and Nascar events.

22wdwFullHerbie Much of the tri-oval track is lined with classic muscle cars and show cars. Car clubs are invited to come cheer on the participants in the full marathon. Look closely and you’ll see Herbie the Love Bug is among the cars along the track.

23wdwFullLionKing The full marathon continues down a service road, and enters Animal Kingdom park through its north service entrance. At left are cast members of the Lion King show, cheering the guests entering the park.

24wdwFullEverest The full marathon continues into Animal Kingdom’s normal guest areas and circles past Expedition Everest.

25wdwFullBackstageAK The course goes backstage again. The large building at left is the show building for the Dinosaur attraction.

26wdwFullHaunted The full marathon continues to Osceola Parkway, where Haunted Mansion grave diggers were available if you needed a ‘final rest’.

27wdwFullTrack The full marathon continued to ESPN Wide World of Sports for a lap on the 400 meter track.

28wdwFullStadium The marathon also lapped the baseline of Champion Stadium.

29wdwFullStudios It then continued through Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

30wdwFullBritain Participants continued through the Epcot resort area, to the International Gateway, and a lap around World Showcase. Seen here is the hill near the United Kingdom pavilion. From here it’s aproximately 1.3 miles to the finish line!

31wdwFullInnoventions The last half mile of the full marathon is through Future World.

dopeyMedals If you ran the Dopey Challenge, you earned six medals in the past four days. Left to right, 5K Pluto, 10K Minnie, half marathon Donald, full marathon Mickey. You also earned a Goofy medal for the half-full combo. And the brand new official Dopey Challenge medal!
Seen here also are an additional lanyard on the Mickey medal for completing all 21 of the full Walt Disney World Marathons since 1994, and an additional lanyard for completing all nine of the Goofy Challenges – next year is the 10th Anniversary of the Goofy Challenge!


32tinkExpoHall Just a few days later, a three race series began at Disneyland. Hundreds of the Dopey Challenge participants were there!

This three race series is themed to Tinkerbell. It’s intended as an event for ladies, but hundreds of men run too. Just like the race weekend before, the Tinkerbell weekend begins with a race expo in the Disneyland Convention Center.

33tinkExpoWings A very cool item for sale was this pair of glowing fairy wings.

34tinkExpoTutu There were official runDisney tutus for sale too!

35tinkExpoJacket This fashionable women’s running jacket was also for sale.

36tinkIDidIt The “I Did It!” shirt for Tinkerbell weekend.


37tink5Kpixie The Neverland 5K starting line and corrals are within Disneyland itself! Seen here is a young pixie darting ahead, the first to enter Main Street this morning.

38tink5KMain Participants head up Main Street the Friday morning of the weekend.

39tink5Kcorrals For this event, the first-to-arrive are in the first corrals. Corral A lined up on the east side of the castle hub. When it filled, Corral B filled on the west side. When B filled, two more corrals filled the blocks of Main Street USA. Four starts in all.

40tink5Kfireworks The pre race ended with a flurry of fireworks. And then Corral A was lead to the starting line at the base of the Matterhorn.

41tink5KSmallWorld Small World was still with the Christmas holiday overlay, and was brightly lit with multicolored lights.

42tink5Ktunnel The Neverland 5K darted among the backstage areas of Disneyland, including this service tunnel to Frontierland.

43tink5Khollywood The Neverland 5K course eventually crossed over to Disney California Adventure park. Seen here is Hollywood, turning at Buena Vista Street.

44tink5Kmonsters The last portion of the Neverland 5K circled most of Paradise Pier. The participants here are dressed as Sully and Mike from the Monsters Inc. Spectators cheer at right.

45tink5Kcolor Just after the finish line was a wonderful and rare view of the World of Color fountains in the sunrise twilight. The fountains are normally seen only at night during the show performances.


46tink10kStart The next race was a brand new Tinkerbell 10K. The starting line was at the top of the Disneyland Drive viaduct under Downtown Disney. Note a race sponsor on this Anaheim sign – Celebration Health, Florida Hospital.

47tink10kBackstage2 The Tinkerbell 10K course quickly went backstage at Disneyland. Same areas seen in the 5K, but with different parade floats and music this morning.

48tink10kBackstage1 Each morning, you never knew what they would have on display backstage to see as you ran by.

49tink10kHaunted For the 10K only, these Haunted Mansion characters were available for photos as the course went around the Rivers of America. It’s the bride and the ballerina/tightrope walker as seen in one of the stretching room portraits.

50tink10kCarousel The sunrise silhouettes the Matterhorn, while the carousel lights continue to glow warmly.

51tink10kTomorrowland Circling Tomorrowland in the Tinkerbell 10K.

52tink10kCastle Passing Sleeping Beauty Castle.

53tink10kMain Going down Main Street.

54tink10kTurnstiles Between the turnstiles of the two parks.

56tink10kHollywood Running through Hollywood.

55tink10kCarsLand And through Cars Land.

57tink10KGoodNeighbors And then out to circle through the businesses and lodging next to Disneyland Resort.

58tink10KTowerTerror Returning to Harbor Boulevard. Straight ahead used to be the main entrance of Disneyland parking.

59tink10KFinish And finally to the Finish Line, where Mickey and Minnie are excitedly waiting to congratulate you!


60tinkHalfStartBack The final race of the unofficial Hercules Challenge was the Tinkerbell Half Marathon!
Only ladies are permitted in Corral A. This is the front of Corral B, and the bottom of the viaduct under Downtown Disney, looking south. Corrals extended past the Paradise Pier hotel tower at right.

61tinkHalfStartForward Looking under the Downtown Disney bridge, through to the half marathon starting line on top of the viaduct.

62tinkHalfViaductDark The half marathon circles Disneyland’s north perimeter on city roads. It then darts backstage on the east side into the viaduct that connects backstage of Disneyland and backstage of Disney California Adventure.

63tinkHalfCarsLand Running through Cars Land in the Tinkerbell half marathon.

64tinkHalfParadise Around Paradise Pier.

65tinkHalfMain Across the turnstiles to run up Main Street U.S.A.

66tinkHalfPoseCastle There were many official and unofficial areas where ladies posed for ultimate running photos. The half marathon is all about this magical location!

67tinkHalfCastle Now the course runs through Sleeping Beauty castle. This is the only time in the weekend’s three races that a course entered the castle.

68tinkHalfVader Posing with Darth Vader.

69tinkHalfTrain The half marathon now circles backstage at Disneyland park. Seen here is the roundhouse where the steam trains and monorail trains are serviced. This steam engine tooted happily. It was as if the steam engine was a living character, stepping out from its house to its front yard, to toot and cheer participants as they passed by.

70tinkHalfDowntownD The Tinkerbell half marathon then exited backstage of Disneyland at Adventureland to Downtown Disney.

71tinkHalfDLHotel Passing the Disneyland Hotel.

72tinkHalfAnaheim The Tinkerbell half marathon reaching downtown Anaheim at sunrise. The course also went by Anaheim City Hall and the Muzeo attraction.

73tinkHalfViaductDawn On returning to Disneyland, the course once again used the viaduct connecting the two backstages.

74tinkHalfTower Backstage of Tower of Terror.

75tinkHalfBackCars Backstage of the Cars Land desert mountain formations.

76tinkHalfFinish To the finish line!

77allMedals Here are the 10 medals you would have earned if you did the Dopey Challenge in Orlando and the three races of Tinkerbell weekend in Anaheim over the 11 days, spanning the two events.
At bottom are the 5K, 10k and half marathon medals of Tinkerbell weekend.
At bottom right is a Coast to Coast medal. The Coast to Coast medal is earned by running a half or full Disney marathon in Orlando and a Disney half marathon in Anaheim in a single calendar year.
Some of the unofficial Hercules Challenge participants earned 10 medals in 11 days. Others earned only nine (including this reporter).

The Coast to Coast medal seen here is actually the 2013 medal, and for display purposes only. This is because there is now the opportunity to earn two Coast to Coast medals in a single year. We were given a choice of earning a blue-ribbon Coast to Coast at Tinkerbell weekend, or earning a new pink ribbon Coast to Coast by completing the Princess half marathon next month – Pink ribbon for completing the two Disney half marathons for ladies.
If you also ran the 2014 Walt Disney World marathon you could also earn a blue Coast to Coast by completing the September Disneyland half marathon. So if you opted to earn a pink Coast to Coast medal, you finished the unofficial Hercules Challenge with nine medals. If you opted for a blue Coast to Coast to be earned at Tinkerbell, you finished with 10 medals.

Many hundreds look forward to earning both Coast to Coast medals this year!

78hercChallengeShirt There is no such thing as an “I Did It!” shirt for the unofficial Hercules Challenge, like the representation above. But maybe, someday! It took nine years before the Dopey Challenge became official. And all Hercules needs is a bunch of medals around his neck, plus a set of sparkling wings instead of a cape!

It was a fun, but very tiring, 11 days. The most tiring part: waking up so early on seven of the 11 days!


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1 comment

Tom January 21, 2014 - 6:25 pm

What a great idea! Looks like a lot of fun.


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