I hope you like photos because you’re going to see A LOT here! What can I say, I get photo happy on Disney races
This race is by far my favorite runDisney race to date. The atmosphere, the entertainment, the course and the after party were just great! But let me not get ahead of myself. Here’s how the day went…
Fueling for night races has always been something I’ve struggled with as far as timing and what to eat, etc… We got some great tips from Jeff Galloway and Tara Gidus at the runDisney Meet Up the day before, so I was feeling a little more comfortable going into this one. I decided to start the day off with a late breakfast at Kouzzina, one of my favs! I got the spinach, tomato & feta scramble, bacon and substituted the potatoes with their yummy sweet potato hash and the toast with blueberries and bananas. Great pre-race fuel!
After breakfast, Amanda and I were headed over the the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Golf Tournament being held at Shades of Green to cover the event. This was a lot of fun and a great way to spend an easy afternoon. I’ll have more to come on the event soon. Oh and look who I ran into there, I haven’t seen Donald since the Princess Half Marathon!
After walking around for a while, we decided to head back to our room at the Boardwalk to rest our legs for the race. But we made two quick pitstops. First was a quick drive through the Walt Disney World Speedway to see where we will be running for the 20th Anniversary Marathon in January, followed by a smoothie stop at Landscape of Flavors at the Art of Animation Resort. We stopped there for a small lunch and I was pleasantly surprised that they had a fresh fruit smoothie bar there. Just was I was craving!
Figuring we had a long night ahead of us, we took a nap to rest up before grabbing dinner. There are many dinner choices at the Boardwalk, but I was looking for something that would fill me up, be gluten free, yet still not be too heavy. After looking at menus, we settled on the ESPN Club for what we thought would be a quick bite. I went with the Champion Chicken Sandwich with no bread and all the sauces on the side. While the food was good, the service and the atmosphere were not so great. It took forever to get our food and the crowd was a bit loud watching college football. It probably would’ve been better to order dinner and take it back to the room to eat in peace.
We started getting ready around 6:30 pm so we could get on the bus over the the start line at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex (WWOS) in time since the last bus was at 8. We headed down around 7:30 pm and were greeted with a HUGE line that wound almost back to the hotel. This was very different from the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler when we walked right on the bus around the same time pre-race. There wasn’t any explanation for the delay, they just must have been short on buses, but we ended up waiting in line for about 40 minutes before we finally got on a bus. Not the ideal situation for runners to be standing around this long before a half marathon.
We arrived at WWOS around 8:20 pm and the holding area was packed! I headed straight to bag check and it was pretty chaotic. The lines were long and the volunteers were yelling at us to hurry up and tie our bags properly, but wouldn’t tell us what that meant. They all seemed very frazzled and didn’t instill a lot of confidence that my bag would arrive safely over to Epcot. Once my bag was checked, we headed into the crowd to find our friends who were in the insanely long line for pictures with Chef Mickey.
Since I had already had my photo taken with Chef Mickey at the meet up the day before, I was more interested in getting in the LONG line for the bathrooms and getting into our corral for a good starting spot. I’m glad I decided to do this because we ended up waiting in line for another 30 minutes to use the bathroom. This was turning into the pre-race of lines, lines and more lines.
Sarah-Irene (Sid), Amanda and I moved into Corral C at about 9:20 pm and slowly made our way to the front. Our friend Jim caught up with us and we all decided to stick together for the race and have a good time. The four of us started this running journey together back in 2010 with the inaugural Mickey’s Halloween Fun Run 5K and thought it would be fun to do this race together.
Before we knew it they were singing the National Anthem and Corral A was off with the usual runDisney fanfare of fireworks. I popped a Gu and we started making our way up to the starting line….this is when the nerves start kicking in! Or was it just excitement?? It’s really hard to tell the difference!
Then 10 minutes later we were off! Here’s a quick video of our start
Right off the bat, I knew this race was going to be better than the ToT 10-Miler the month before. The first character stop came less than a mile into the course right on Oceola Parkway with Chip & Dale all decked out in tuxedos in front of a sparkling piano. Not far after that was a live band that had such great energy…I couldn’t help to stop and dance
Somewhere between mile 2 & 3 I saw a bunch of motorcycles and official runDisney vehicles coming down the other side of Oceola and I knew the leaders were coming down the road. Now they were already between miles 6 & 7 at that point so they were MOVING! I was hoping I was going to see the winner of the Wine & Dine Half from the past 2 years Anton Van Zyl, who I had the privilege of meeting the day before at the meet up. We actually ran into him on the bus on the way to WWOS and I wished him luck. He wasn’t the leader at the time, but Anton was hot on his tails in 2nd place. I ran across the median to snap a pic and gave Anton a big shout out!
We were making pretty good time at the 5K mark with a time of 43:10. This is slower than I had hoped, but with all the excitement and photo breaks I was happy with that. The mile 3 marker was by far my favorite with a bunch of fun people cheering and waiving Austrailian and New Zealand flags. Each marker was themes after the countries represented at the Food & Wine Festival this year…clever.
It was around this time that we headed into Animal Kingdom. We were greeted in the parking lot by the fun spinning floats from the Main Street Electrical Parade and the sounds of Baroque Hoedown. The floats were spinning around like crazy…I want to drive one of those some day!
As we entered the park, there were giant tusks lit up along the path to guide us through the dark. This was so cool! I had heard about it from prior years, but seeing it in person was a whole other thing. Rafiki was there for photos and a few of the puppeteers from Mickey’s Jamin’ Jungle Parade were on hand as well. It made for a great entrance up to the Tree of Life. This was my first time being in Animal Kingdom at it was breathtaking (and not just because I was running).
Amanda had separated from the group before we got to Animal Kingdom and we finally met up again in Asia. The four of us went along like this for the rest of the race….one or two would either fall behind or move ahead, but we would all meet up again at some point. This was my first time running with a group and I have to say it was A LOT of fun! It was great to have someone to talk to when the going got rough or simply share a laugh with.
Leaving Animal Kingdom we were at mile 5 and headed back down Osceola Parkway towards Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The next 3 miles flew by for some reason, which was a ok for me! And of course I had to stop for a little more dancing along the way
I love the Hollywood Studios and I especially love it at night. I hadn’t been to WDW around the holidays in over 10 years, so I knew I was in for a real treat with the Osborne lights coming up. We entered the park next to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and headed up Sunset Boulevard. All of the holiday decor was up and it looked beautiful!
It’s amazing to me how much mileage runDisney manages to get into the Studios since it is such a small park. They wind you around each nook & cranny and through a ton of backstage areas. I was familiar with some of this since it was part of the course for the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler, but it still seemed to go on forever. We even ran into Wreck-It-Ralph back there!
Oh the lights…the Streets of America were all aglow with the Osbourne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights (sans dancing). I’m really going to date myself here, but the last time I saw the lights was when they were on Residential Street in the Backlot and I don’t recall they danced at that time. These are so cool…definitely one of the highlights of the whole race for me. Sid and I even took a second to stop and appreciate the spectacle
We were now on the home stretch. Heading out of the Studios we were at mile 11 and about to head down the canal to the Epcot Resort Area. On the way, there was this really fun live band parked on a few pontoon boats. It probably was about 1:00 am at this point, but they were still in full swing as well as waiving and cheering for us…I LOVED this!
The walkway past the Boardwalk was a little tight, so we walked most of it. This is a great area for spectators if you are staying around there and it seemed like a meet up point for many runners. However, it did add to the congestion a bit, so if you’re a spectator the Yacht & Beach Club area might be a little better. Since I was staying at the Boardwalk Inn, it was a little difficult to not make a detour for my nice comfy bed. But that new runDisney bling was almost in my grasps and I kept on truckin’.
The course bypassed the Boardwalk and went past the Yacht & Beach Club Resorts. I was amazed by how many people were still out cheering. It was so encouraging…thank you to all of you strangers out there! Someone did call it a night, but thankfully left my favorite sign of the race.
At this point the Fantastic Foursome were all together and we decided to stay that way for the last mile. We were getting tired, but still having fun.
On to Epcot! You know that overpass from the Beach Club to International Gateway?? Yeah, that thing sucked… But we were rewarded with these AMAZING puppets. There was Lumiere and Genie…super cool.
We went into a backstage area, past a ton of trash (phew!) and entered Epcot between the Land and Imagination Pavillions. I was so excited we were able to run through Future World this year. The past two years ended right outside the park, so this was definitely an added bonus. Then to see all of the people cheering…whoa! It was like running down Main Street USA for the Princess Half Marathon, but WAY more festive. They only bad part was that no one handed me a beer…what up with that?!
That last mile seemed to go on forever. I guess it was making up for how fast 5 – 8 went by. I just felt like we were never going to get to that finish line. Just before mile marker 13, we saw Sid’s husband John cheering us on, which was a much needed push to get us through. Thanks John! There was a really cool laser effect at Mile 13, which kept the actual finish line hidden from sight and felt like we were running into some foggy tunnel. Definitely a fun perk of running a night race!
We rounded the corner and there she was…the finish line! And who else was there to greet us but Chef Mickey! I guess he finished all the prep for the After Party by that point The four of us grabbed hands and crossed that finish line together. The perfect ending to a great race.
Oh and then I got this bad boy…
My official chip time was 3:25:07. That’s a good 25 minutes slower than my last half in June and I know I could’ve subbed 3 hours for this race, but time didn’t matter. As you can see, I had a blast with my friends and enjoyed all of the Disney atmosphere. I’ve come to realize that for me Disney races aren’t about time, they are about the experience. There are plenty of other half marathons that I can run for much cheaper and that are closer to home where I can set a PR and I really hope to do that in the future. But when I runDisney, I want to enjoy myself and not pay attention to the clock. Does anyone else feel this way?
After the race, I made a stop at the medical tent for some ice for my shins just to be safe. They actually held up really well with the KT Tape (my favorite invention ever!) but I thought ice would be smart. I picked up my bag which thankfully arrived safely and headed over to the After Party. I’ll save that story for another post
Overall, I LOVED this race. After my less than stellar experience at the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler a few weeks prior, I was a bit skeptical going into this and was more than pleasantly surprised by the outcome. There were a few hiccups with the transportation and bag check in the beginning, but those were minor issues considering how well the race was done. runDisney has improved on this event every year and I can’t wait to see what they have up their sleeves for 2013. I will definitely be back to do this again.
Did you run the Wine & Dine Half Marathon? What was your experience? Please share in the comments below…I’d love to hear from you!
Disclosure: I was invited to attend the entire weekend as media. My hotel expenses, meals and park admission were provided by Disney. As always, all opinions are 100% my own and I am 100% obsessed with runDisney events.