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Happy New Year!

2016 Happy New Year RAD

2016 is going to be a BIG year in the world of runDisney!  Not only was a new Star Wars race weekend added to the Walt Disney World roster, but the Disneyland Paris Half Marathon is debuting in September!

I’ve been working behind the scenes here at Running at Disney on a new layout so all of the valuable information I have put together over the past 4 years (I can’t believe it’s been 4 years!!!) is easier for you to find.  I want RAD to be a resource for you along with all the fun news and blogs that we bring you.  I’ll be rolling out new features over time in the next few months so keep an eye out for that.

Meanwhile, best of luck to everyone headed to WDW for Marathon Weekend next week.  I can’t wait to follow along and live vicariously through all of you.  Why will I not be there you ask?  Well I’m currently 3 months into a lifelong marathon that I’m not ready to leave anytime soon, so any future race plans have been put on hold for now.  But really, can you blame me??

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Handing Out Medals at the Walt Disney World Marathon

Volunteers are what make a race actually run.  Disney’s VoluntEARs take it to a whole different level!  They get up even earlier (hard to believe!) than the runners and are often time on their feet for much longer.  I’ve you’ve read this blog for a while, you know that I LOVE the VoluntEARs and owe many of my race finishes to them.  The positivity, enthusiasm and encouragement mean so much to all of us runners.  This year, Amy VoluntEARed during the Walt Disney World Marathon and had the coveted job of giving out medals.  Here is her behind the scenes story…super cool!

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There they are. At the end of the course. Those big, beautiful, shiny medals. You earned one! But, did you ever wonder how they get there? Well, I like to say that it’s a pinch of Disney Magic and a handful of Volunteer Magic! Here’s what we VoluntEARS do before you are even awake!

Before you can go volunteer at the Marathon, you have to pick up your credentials at the Expo. You check in with a volunteer, sign waivers and are given your credentials, a bag, a lanyard and a letter that you exchange for a free park ticket at the end of your shift.

On the night of our shift, we arrived at Blizzard Beach around 1:45 am for a 2:00 am shift. After parking, we threw on a bunch of layers (it was COLD!), got our bags checked by Security and headed in to the tent.

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First, you check in at the computer, where your badge is scanned. Then, you are given a windbreaker. After that, you are given a large Ziploc bag and are able to choose your snacks. I chose Lay’s, Oreos, cheese crackers, Nutri-Grain bar, an Uncrustable and a bottle of water.

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Once we finished these tasks, we went out the back and put on our jackets and took a moment to rearrange our bags.

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If you need a pottie, there are ones here for you to use.

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Next, we found our bus – our credentials said we needed Bus #1 – 7. We ended up on Bus #2, a nice charter bus. When the bus was full, we began our journey to the Finish Line. Our bus actually crossed over the overpass under which the corrals are located, and followed the route (backwards) that runners use to get to the corrals.

We were dropped off behind Gear Check at the pre-run staging area and disembarked. We were led to a large tent that had hot chocolate and coffee! Since I couldn’t feel my feet, the hot chocolate was a very welcome perk (one that not all volunteers get!)

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All the Medal volunteers met near the Simba Flag (as instructed on our badges). Our Team Leader, Patrick, had us gather round so that he could introduce himself. He had his “Senior VP of Illuminations” – some guy with a light stick – walk us to the Medal Area at the finish line.

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While we were walking, Patrick grabbed my Hubby, dubbed him “Senior VP of Accounting”, and asked him to do a headcount when we got to the Medals Area (right next to the Med Tent). I could tell already that this Team Leader was gonna be a good one.

Once at the Medals Area, “Senior VP of Accounting” turned in his head count and we gathered around again. Patrick had a bullhorn, which was so great – some team leaders are very quiet! A runDisney staff member (I’m gonna call him Tom since I never got his name) stopped by and explained the RIGHT way to unbox medals. (We did medals at Tower of Terror, and it was CRAZY-HORRIBLE how people did them).

Each box had 3 bundles of 25 medals zip-tied together. We were supposed to take out one bundle, find the center (where all the lanyards were connected), then, standing over a trash can, take all the plastic wrappers off of the medals. Once the plastic was off, we would walk over to the medal stand and place the entire bundle onto a peg without removing the zip-tie. If you did it right, the medals would all be pointing the same way and look show-ready. If you did it wrong, the medals would be a mess and you’d have to go back and straighten out the entire pile. Most people did it right, so there wasn’t a lot of fixing to do.

After they were hung, the “Senior VP of Scissors” – me – came around and cut off the zip-ties. I actually just handed out scissors to anyone who asked for a pair, so half the group hung while the other half cut. We started hanging around 2:45 and we were totally done by 3:45. We had a really bad-ass group of voluntEARs this time! Oh, a little math on those medal racks – 12 medal racks. 6 rows per rack. 10 pegs per row. 25 medals per peg. EIGHTEEN THOUSAND medals were hung up. In an hour.

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After breaking down the empty boxes that we’d used, we were given a 15-minute break. A small group of people were sent to the Bonus Tent to hang up Goofy and Dopey medals. I used the break to hit the pottie behind the Med Tent and discovered something I never knew about Disney’s potties – there is a coat hook on the door! Way up at the top, there is a little metal hook – who knew?

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Anyway, when I was done, I went back to the Medals area, where everyone was standing around, drinking coffee or snacking. At this point, there was LITERALLY nothing to do. Tom came back and said that he was genuinely shocked at how quickly we put everything up. We all kind of just stood around and chit-chatted. The DJ at the pre-race area was pumping out music. People were really starting to fill up the Race Retreat (the smell of bacon was infuriatingly delicious!)

Lots of the other volunteers were huddled at the fence between Medals and the Med Tent – some of them even curled up on the cold pavement and fell asleep.

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Some of the volunteers spent extra time perfecting how the medals were hung – especially the front of the rack, the part the runners see when they come in. I ‘borrowed’ the relative warmth of the med tent to add a layer – adding a fleece quarter-zip brought me up to FIVE layers. I was still cold. Luckily, when I had unrolled the fleece top, the hand warmers and gloves that I tucked in to the fleece fell out – I’d completely forgotten about them! It helped a little, but not a whole lot.

At 5:30ish, you could hear the announcers at the start line start to announce corrals. The energy was high and it was great to hear all the corrals go off.

The Kiddo and I (like many other voluntEARs) borrowed wheelchairs from the med tent to sit in, and soon she was zooming around having wheelchair races with some other voluntEARs.

Tom, Patrick, Hubby and I were gathered around, trying to keep track of which corral had just left when Tom showed me something really cool regarding the fireworks they shoot off at each ‘start’. Most runners (even I) never look behind them, but there is a large firework that goes off BEHIND the final corral, as well as the fireworks that shoot off at and near the start line. You can see in the photo how much space there is between the front and the back!

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After the final corral (P) had taken off, I made my prediction (I do this at every race) that the first finisher would come in around 2:20.

Now the DJ is playing at the Finish Line, trying to ramp up the handful of people that had already made their way to the bleachers. I had to give him credit – he did the DJ Thing of turning down the music and getting the crowd to sing, but no one in the crowd was warm enough to sing back (at least, that’s how it seemed from our end). It was like “I throw my hands up in the air sometimes, singing….. “ It was kind of funny.

This cool horse-trailer pulled up soon after that, and we joked that the finisher would ride out on a horse, but a while later the top opened and a Jumbo-Tron popped out! Oh, man I need one of those for my backyard!

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When we heard that the wheelchair racers were about 5 miles away, 12 of us were lined up in a V-formation, each with a few medals. Our shift was almost over, but we would be able to give out a few at least.

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I was able to give a medal to the 2nd place Wheelchair finisher, David, bib# 20001. The Kiddo gave a medal to one of the Wheelchair finishers, but further down the chute, he actually gave it back to one of the other voluntEARs because he’d already been given one closer to the finish line.

The first runner, Fredison Costa, finished in 2:18:06 – I was REALLY close with my guess! The second and third place finishers came in within 5 minutes of the winner, so it was a pretty close race.

Sadly, at this point, it was time for a shift change, so we passed our medals off to the new voluntEARs, gathered our bags and got in line for Patrick to sign off on our badges. If your Team Leader doesn’t sign off on your badge (which is proof that you worked), you don’t get a ticket back at the voluntEAR tent.

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We hiked back to the bus and collapsed – we were so tired! It took a while for the bus to get out of the area, due to lots of other buses coming IN to the area. We drove out past the Center for Living Well Family Pharmacy and what looked to be a Cast Member entrance to Epcot.

Back at the Volunteer Tent, we checked in again with our badge and traded in our letter (that we got on Saturday at the Expo) for a FREE One Day, One Park pass. For the first time, it has blockout dates – we’ll be unable to use it from Christmas Day to New Year’s Eve.

After leaving, we were headed towards WaWa for some breakfast, and we encountered the runners on Osceola Parkway! We all rolled down our windows and stuck our hands out and waved and cheered them all on! It was great to see all these guys still looking strong with almost 10 more miles to go!

Once we finished at WaWa, we went BACK to OP just so we could cheer on runners some more, at least until we had to exit at Western Way and go home.

I hope you guys enjoyed a Day in the Life of a VoluntEAR! We’ve been doing it now for more than a year and I LOVE doing it – I look forward to doing many more!

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Amy Weber began running in 2012 after deciding to make a lot of changes in her life. She’s done 4 half marathons, four 10ks, one 15k and too many 5ks to count! Upcoming races include Celebration ½ Marathon, Gasparilla Weekend and the Gate River Run. She’s married and has one daughter and works for the government, so running is her Me Time. You can find lots of race reports and Disney stuff on her blog TheLazyLady.Blogspot.com!

Coming From Australia to Get Her Coast to Coast! Part 1 – The Wine & Dine Half Marathon

I am SO excited about this two-part series!!  Ashleigh contacted me about doing a guest post on her runDisney experience and when I found out that she was traveling all the way from Australia to run both the Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend AND the Avengers Half Marathon Weekend to complete the Coast to Coast Challenge, I couldn’t wait to hear all about it!!  Here’s Part 1 of Ashleigh’s adventure!

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Hello everybody! Sarah kindly asked if I would blog about my experience running Disney as an Australian having travelled over to the States for Wine and Dine and Avengers. I will be writing a two part series, talking about my trip as a whole and the excitement of Disney and the runDisney races.

Deciding to travel half way across the world for a couple of races was not as easy decision. I am not what you would call a natural runner, I am about as far from a natural runner as you can imagine. I began running in July 2011 when I signed up for a 5k with my mum in support of a friend who was diagnosed with breast cancer.

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My mum and I after my first 5k!

After that I was hooked- I signed up for another 5k and another and another, then a 10k and finally a half marathon a year and a bit later. I found out about runDisney when I saw it mentioned on Facebook, and after doing some research I began following Jeff Galloway’s run-walk program, which is what gave me the confidence to sign up for more races after my first 5k. As someone who has always struggled with running and I had some pretty bad experiences with sport in school (not so supportive physical education teachers), the idea that someone who had run marathons at Olympic level was telling me it was okay to take short walk breaks when I ran was amazing.

So that brought me to the idea of runDisney- I liked everything it stood for, running for the fun of it, running not be the best but to be the best me and hello…Disney characters on course!?! Photo opportunities!?! Wear my medals around at the park the next day and have people stop and congratulate me!?! YES PLEASE!!!

I love living in Australia, but the running culture here is very different. We don’t have runDisney or Rock n Roll or Diva running events. Everything feels a lot more serious, and there are a lot less races. The fields are smaller, but the quality of runners is higher, so there are still quick finishing times, but at my home state of Victoria’s big half marathon (The Melbourne half marathon), I was at the back of the pack with a 2:41:57 finish.

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My first half marathon finish!

I mean right at the back, which is fine with me- but the idea of being able to run a race where there are other runners just like me- people running for fun and to better themselves even though they might not be the speediest runners, really appealed to me. So runDisney was officially on my radar. But how does one justify flights, accommodation and an international trip for a race? With great difficulty!

After finishing university and settling into work I got some hard news that a very dear friend had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. It was really hard to wrap my head around the fact that a friend only a few years older than me had suddenly been told that he had an incurable disease that would essentially affect the rest of his life. The reasons I had chosen not to do runDisney were stupid. Money. Work. The difficulty in planning. They were not good reasons to miss out on something that I was so passionate about. Life is short and if we don’t take opportunities when they come up, we might end up missing out on them altogether.

So when registration opened for Wine and Dine 2014 I took the plunge- the race was on my birthday, and I took that as a sign. I followed that with registration for Avengers (and registration for Dopey but more on that another time). I was registered and I was over the moon- then came the training. I actually had my strongest training block ever, even though it was actually Dopey training, so I left Australia feeling excited, because I knew I was ready.

After a lot of flying-Maningrida-Darwin, Darwin-Melbourne, Melbourne-Sydney, Sydney-Dallas Fort Worth, Dallas Fort Worth- Orlando, I finally arrived at Walt Disney World with my boyfriend who joined me for the trip and acted as support crew for the runs. We hit up the parks everyday and when we went to the expo I went crazy!

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My expo purchases! A very successful day in my book!

KT tape sells for $30 a roll in Austrailia and was 2 for $30 at the expo. Dr Kool- doesn’t exist in Australia? Cindy shoes- tick. Goofy shoes-tick. Pins- tick. Tumbler- tick. I did it shirt- tick. Tech shirt- tick. You get the idea. I loved the energy at the expo, it was a little crazy but really well organized so even as a first time runDisney participant, I found it really easy to navigate my way around and find everything I needed.

When I saw my bib for the first time I couldn’t believe it. Me. Ashleigh. I was running in a runDisney race. It was amazing. On Saturday we woke up and went to Animal Kingdom for a few hours before returning to the room at about 2. I used this time to nap, relax, re read the participant info booklet, and double/triple/quadruple check I had everything ready for the race. I went with a simple wonder woman themed costume, and even though temps were set to be around 55-65 degrees, I opted to run in just a t-shirt and running skirt as I find I overheat very quickly and I didn’t want to be stripping off during the run.

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Simple Wonder Woman inspired costume. It was super comfy to run in!

I jumped on the bus at Port Orleans French Quarter at around 7, and I arrived at the race by about 7:20. When I arrived at the race I quickly jumped in line for a photo with Chef Mickey- which proved to be a smart choice because by the time I had my photo taken the line had about doubled (and I ended up being in line for approx ½ hour).

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Chef Mickey and I. I love this photo!

I decided to skip the other character photos and instead take some time to sit down and relax before the start. Some very friendly runners chatted with me while we waited for the corrals to open, and at about 9:00 I made my way into the corral.

Corral G! I was really happy with my corral placement- it was an excellent fit!

Corral G! I was really happy with my corral placement- it was an excellent fit!

A gentleman in the corral kindly gave me a garbage bag as it started to rain almost as soon as we stepped into the corral and this ended up continuing for almost the whole race. Thank you to that mystery man- it was VERY MUCH appreciated! As I stood at the start line watching the fireworks go off, I was overcome by a sense of gratefulness. I was grateful for everything, the ability to run, the chance to be there, the opportunities that I had allowed myself.

The start line was amazing!

The start line was amazing!

I stripped off my garbage bag and bounded off as soon the fireworks went off for my corral.

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The fireworks were even more amazing. I can’t think of a better way to start a race!

I had decided to run 4:1 intervals and stop for as many photo stops as I liked, because it is not everyday you get to run at Disney! I stopped at every mile marker for a selfie, and I stopped for photos with the fairies, Timone, the Animal Kingdom tree, Buzz and Woody, the Incredibles back drop, the Osbourne lights and Captain Jack Sparrow. I also saw photo ops (but didn’t stop) for King Louie, a Star Wars character (sorry I am not a big Star Wars fan) and Country Bears.

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I could be forgetting a couple, the race was a bit of a whirlwind. I heard the green army men yelling at people but I don’t remember seeing them, I kept thinking I was about to run past them but it never happened- they may have been on the other side of the road. As for the actual running part, it may have been raining, but I was having a ball. I run in km in Australia so I just imagined that every mile marker was a km marker, so it felt like the race was only 13km!

Of course I stopped with the Australian mile marker!

Of course I stopped with the Australian mile marker!

The course was really interesting as it began at ESPN, then through Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios before finishing in Epcot. As someone who wasn’t overly familiar with the Disney World property it was actually a great way to tour around and see the parks. Although there were some huge puddles, there were lots of cast members and volunteers pointing them out, the aid stations were well organized and the medical tents and staff were amazing. I really enjoyed running through the parks because there was just so much to look at. I honestly remembered feeling disappointed at the 6 mile mark because I was sad it was half way over. I was hi fiving cast members left, right and centre and I loved the way random runners would strike up conversation for a couple of minutes. While many people complained about the weather, nothing was going to rain on my parade on Saturday night!

Still feeling awesome at mile 9!

Still feeling awesome at mile 9!

As we ran along the Boardwalk I was just so excited to see that finish line, and once I saw Spaceship Earth, I knew I was almost there. As I had run so conservatively the whole race, I had heaps of gas left in the tank and basically sprinted toward Mickey, hi fived him and then leapt across the finish line. I was given a finishers medal, wrapped in a space blanket and lead down the chute. I had my photo taken before being given some food.

I was lucky enough to have my lovely boyfriend waiting in Epcot with dry clothes so I could skip Gear Check, and I skipped grabbing a drink because the lines were just too hectic. I am a super impatient person so having all those people around and lines barely moving equals a very grumpy Ashleigh. I decided it would be best for my sanity if I just skipped the drink and moved straight through to the after party where I could have some breathing room- and show off my awesome medal! I met my boyfriend at the Australia (of course!) pavilion in Epcot and changed into some nice dry clothes and got some photos with my medal.

Very happy to have my medal and be in dry clothes!

Very happy to have my medal and be in dry clothes!

We ended up finding Dopey and Snow White and Pinocchio- I was disappointed that I had just missed Donald (my favorite). I was starving so we went to Italy, Morocco and Brazil and that satisfied my post run hunger. We decided to leave at around 3:15, but unfortunately our bus had a huuuuge waiting line, so I think we waited around ½ hour before we managed to get on the bus, and by this time the rain had started to get heavier. We arrived back at French Quarter and I had a quick shower before settling into bed at around 4:15am.

A Disney race wouldn’t be complete without post race, park touring with my medal. I had heard some horror stories about people’s medals breaking and people losing the spinner middle from the medal, so I decided to play it safe and only wear the medal in photos. The rest of the day it was tucked safely into my pocket. Even though I was a little disappointed I couldn’t wear my medal, I would have been devastated if it had have broken, so I think I made a good choice to just use it for photo ops. I loved showing off my medals at the parks and it was awesome having total strangers come up to me and congratulate me!

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My Wine and Dine Half Marathon weekend trip was a blast, and as I write this I am getting ready to race Avengers in California and get my coast to coast. I had an awesome experience running Disney and I am already planning my next runDisney trip!

Ash J

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Stay tuned for Part 2 of Ashleigh’s runDisney adventure at the Avengers Half Marathon coming up tomorrow!

Animal Kingdom Construction and the Wine & Dine Half Marathon

If you haven’t been to Animal Kingdom lately, you might not know that it is currently quite the construction zone.  I was there about a month ago and was kind of shocked by the amount of construction going on. After my initial disappointment with the appearance of the park, I immediately thought of the upcoming Wine & Dine Half Marathon and how this would effect the race.

Here’s the OASIS.  For the race, the course goes to the left when you enter this area and I’m going to assume that this will cause quite a bit of congestion as we head into Africa.

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The walls in Asia and going into Dinoland USA aren’t as obtrusive so I’m hoping they won’t cause a congestion problem, but they could cause the paths to be event darker than usual.

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Animal Kingdom can be quite dark at night and all of this might make maneuvering a bit more difficult, so please be careful out there this weekend!  And while all these walls might cause a bit of an eyesore now, I’m pretty excited to see what will be revealed when they come down.  Might make next year’s Wine & Dine Half Marathon even better next year!

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Expedition Everest Challenge – Race Weekend Information

The Expedition Everest Challenge is probably one of the most unique race offerings in the runDisney lineup.  A 5K with obstacles finished with a scavenger hunt…why have I never done this race?!?! Everything about it sounds like a blast!

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The weekend starts with packet pickup on May 2nd at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.  The hours are as follows:

  • Friday, May 2nd: 11:00 am – 7:00 pm
  • Saturday, May 3rd: 9:00 am – 3:00 pm

All race participants  MUST attend the expo to turn in signed waivers (click here to print your waiver) and pick-up race packets, which include your race bib, race shirt, and gEAR bag.  The gEAR bag also doubles as the bag to use for bag check during the race.  Teams will receive one packet, but both team members should be there to show their Photo IDs.

This is also where you will receive any commemorative items you may have purchased during registration and pick up after party tickets for spectators.  Transportation will be provided to and from all Walt Disney World Resort Host Resorts 30 minutes prior to opening and 30 minutes after closing.  The Host Resorts for this race are:

  • Disney’s Pop Century Resort
  • Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom Resort

Unlike other race weekends that have large expos, this is much smaller and everything takes place in Champion Stadium.  There will be a few vendors in the “Base Camp & Bazaar” area to get any last minute race needs.

Here is all of the information you will need for Race Day.

  • Host Resort Transportation  Transportation will be available to bring participants to and from ALL events during Expedition Everest Challenge Weekend from the host resorts listed above.
    • Bus transportation will be during the following times for the race:
      • Saturday, May 3rd, 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm and 10:15 pm – 3:00 am
    • Participants are encouraged to arrive 45 minutes prior to the race start at 10:00 pm
  • Driving Directions  If not staying at a host resort, participants will need to provide their own transportation to all events.  Parking will be available in the Animal Kingdom parking lot.
  • expedition-everest-challenge-230x150-01Costumes This is one of the best parts of Disney races…the costumes!  Runners get so creative and it’s so fun to see.  Please note that runners are NOT allowed to wear a face mask of any kind and will be removed from the course if this is violated.  Who is dressing up as a Yeti??
  • Bag Check  Participants MUST use the clear bag provided at the packet pickup to check any belongings during the race and affix the label with their bib number on the outside.  Bag check will be open from 8:00 pm to 1:30 am.
  • Start Corrals  Corrals will be located in the Butterfly parking lot of Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  Your assigned corral will be found on your race bit.
  • Race Bibs  Bibs must be centered on the front of your shirt.  Safety pins will be provided in your race packet.  Do not bend our fold your bib, as the ChronoTrack B-tag will be affixed to the back of the bib which will be used to track your time.  If your bib is not properly centered, damaged or covered, your time may not be recorded properly.  Your bib will also be used for the on course photographers, so make sure the number is clearly visible and smile for that camera :)
  • Pacing Requirements Remember, you must keep a minimum of 16-minutes per mile throughout the race.  Your final time will be the combination of the 5K Adventure Run and the Scavenger Hunt.  The 5K Adventure Run course will close at 11:45 pm and the Scavenger Hunt course will close at 1:00 am.  You must cross the finish line in the Butterfly Parking Lot after the Scavenger Hunt to complete the race.
  • Finish Line & Post Race Party This is where the fun really begins!  After the race, head on back into the park for a celebration until 2:30 am.  Catch a ride up Mt. Everest and challenge the Yeti again on Expedition Everest.  Kali River Rapids (a great post-race shower cool down), Dinosaur and all of the attractions in Dinoland USA will also be open.  So grab a beer and enjoy the evening!

Looking for the course map?  Here you go!

Expedition Everest Challenge

After the event you will get one of the coolest runDisney medal…it’s a compass!

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Are you taking the Expedition Everest Challenge?

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