Posts Tagged by characters

A Race Retreat From The Cold

I’m often asked if Race Retreats are worth the extra cost.  While I’ve haven’t experienced one first hand, every time I see what they entail I think it might be in my future for an upcoming race.  Besides the warm area to wait for the race to start, there is tons of food, character photo ops and a stretching area.  

You might remember Jenn recently from The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler weekend where she covered the Villain’s Bash and gave some great tips on prepping for a night race vs. a morning race.  Well she’s back with a look inside the Race Retreat from this year’s Walt Disney World Half Marathon!  I’d love to hear what you think about the Race Retreat and if it’s something you will be doing for a runDisney race.

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Well, another fantastic WDW Marathon weekend has come to a close. Marathon Weekend is my favorite race in Walt Disney World. The excitement is palpable throughout the entire weekend, and I love how every runner is so supportive of one another. I have attended these weekends for 3 years straight, and I have experienced something new each time; and this year was no exception. First, I attended as a ChEAR Squad participant, watching my husband run his first half marathon. My second year, I attended both as a runner and a ChEAR Squad Member; there was no way I was ready to run 26.2 miles with my brave hubby! This year, I attended as a runner in the half marathon.

If you have been to any Disney races, you may be aware that many of them feature a Race Retreat. This is an optional extra that runners can purchase, and space is limited. The Race Retreat is open to runners and Platinum level ChEAR Squad participants, and I must say, it offers quite a few perks!

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First, a description: the Race Retreat is in essence a very large, climate-controlled tent. It is set up near the finish line, and it is open for both the Half-Marathon and the Full Marathon. This option is not provided for the Family 5K or the 10K. Within this space, there are several different areas, each providing comfort and convenience to the runners and spectators who have purchased access. You notice tables and chairs set up throughout the space, and as you may imagine, there is a nice spread of breakfast food available.

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The retreat also features changing areas, gEAR bag check, and private port-a-potties – and if you’ve ever participated in any race, Disney or not, you know how important port-a-potty access can be!

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The retreat opens at 3am for runners, stays open until 5am when the runners head to the corrals, and then re-opens at 5:30am for Platinum ChEAR Squad Members and runners. It stays open until 10am for the half-marathon, but of course, it’s ope later for the full. There are real-time updates on the runners available for spectators, as well as, you guessed it – food!

Speaking of food, you may be wondering what exactly is served. Before the race, runners can enjoy bagels, fruit, juice, coffee, water, and hot chocolate. There were mini-Cliff granola bars scattered on the tables, and muffins were also placed out about an hour after the retreat opened. And don’t worry – if you, like my mother, will only eat a toasted bagel, there are toasters available! There is also an assortment of jams, peanut butter, and cream cheese available as spread for your bagel.

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Of course, you are running in Disney, so there is bound to be some Disney magic, right? Right! Each year, the Race Retreat features character meet-and-greets! This year, in honor of the release of Toy Story 4 this coming April, we got to meet Buzz Lightyear, Woody, and Bulls-Eye!

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There were also some Green Army Men running around posing for pictures. One of them was particularly enamored with my husband’s fake Capt. Jack Sparrow dreds.

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Fair warning: the line for the character greet can get long, so you may want to do this first thing when you arrive.

Another fabulous area is a relaxation center, which features a TV and bean bag chairs. You can view a Disney movie in comfort here, and it is a popular space for kids once the ChEAR Squad is permitted to enter. It was completely full by 3:30am…runners like bean bag chair too, apparently!

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Of course, you are actually at the Race Retreat to run, so Disney has thought of many conveniences for race prep. I have already mentioned the private port-a-potties, which are located just outside the tent, but it is worth adding that there were no lines for this amenity. They also featured a hand wash station in addition to the hand sanitizer, which I personally appreciated.

One of the amenities inside the tent is a First-Aid Self-Treatment area. The table has an array of handy items, like band-aids, Bio-freeze, Tylenol, Vaseline, Skin Lube, and sunscreen.

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So if your gEAR bag is missing some important item, there’s a good chance it is here at the self-treatment station.

In addition to the First-Aid station, there is a Stretch Area. You can see in the picture that there are small tables around the perimeter. That is because this area is also utilized after the race for massages; you can pay $10 for a 10-minute massage.

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The stretch area got pretty full at around 4:30am, since that is prime time to check gEAR bags and prepare for the walk to the corrals.

Speaking of corrals, let’s talk about the walk to get there. The Race Retreat is a convenient distance from the finish line, which I definitely appreciated after 13.1 miles, but it is a solid 10-15 minute walk to get to the corrals. Since runners are supposed to be to the corrals by 5am, you need to plan accordingly to ensure you are on time (and to make sure you can use the non-private port-a-potties, if necessary).

By this time, it’s just about race time!

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As I mentioned earlier, the Race Retreat is actually closed to all runners/spectators from 5-5:30am. It then re-opens with an additional spread of food. This spread is more substantial than the pre-race goodies. Scrambled eggs with cheese (and salsa or ketchup, if you like), breakfast potatoes, turkey sausage, oatmeal with accompaniments, muffins, mixed fruit, granola, and greek yogurt are all available.

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Of course, there is also coffee a-plenty – thankfully! Juice, water, and hot chocolate are also available. The food is tasty, and the workers do a great job keeping it replenished.   Speaking of the workers, they are fabulous! They are friendly, helpful, and just all-around good people.

It is worth noting that Race Retreat runners get a “goody-bag”. This year, it was a drawstring bag promoting the new Disney movie, “MacFarland U.S.A.”, Champion socks, and a marathon sweat towel.

So, is it worth it? In my opinion, it absolutely is! Particularly this year, with temperatures in the upper-30s, it was fabulous to be warm while waiting for the race to begin. In other races where I have not utilized the retreat, I remember how long it felt while waiting in the corrals. I can only imagine how long that felt this year with the cold! I also liked that I didn’t need to worry about remembering to buy my pre-race food the evening before. It was nice being able to eat at a leisurely pace, and I was able to time it nicely with my start time.

Without the Retreat, I sometimes feel like I am forced to eat earlier than I otherwise would prefer to. The food offerings were exactly what I like to have, and so it took the guesswork out of my morning preparations. My parents enjoyed the Retreat as ChEAR Squad Members, and they were grateful for a warm place to sit and watch the finish line.

I am so glad that I was able to take advantage of the Race Retreat this year, and honestly, I will always purchase it from here on in – especially since next year MAY just be my year to brave 26.2!

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*****

Jenn has been a lifelong Disney fan.  Her passion for the Mouse has only increased throughout the years.  She visits Disney Parks 2-3 times per year, often in conjunction with Disney Races.  In addition to being a fan, she plans Disney travel for others, hoping to share the Magic with everyone.  Through her Disney-themed blog & Facebook pages, she regularly tracks new and exciting changes to the Disney parks so she can share them with others.  Check out Jenn’s blog DISining Memories and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

2015 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend – Family Fun 5K

My first race EVER was a 5K at Walt Disney World.  I wasn’t a runner at all back in 2010, but I managed to finish the race and I had a BLAST!  It’s a great way for Disney fans of all ages and athletic abilities to try a new challenge and see the parks in a completely different way.  The recent Walt Disney World 5K was Beth’s first runDisney race and as you can see from her recap, she LOVED every second of it!

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The 2015 Walt Disney World Marathon weekend kicked off with a bang last Thursday, January 8 with the Family Fun 5K run/walk event through Epcot. This race is now known to all participants as the “Frozen 5K” with a wind chill advisory bringing temperatures to a balmy 38 degrees (but more on that in a little bit).

This was my first runDisney event ever, and a great introduction to the runDisney club. My best friend and I had originally signed up just to participate in the half marathon (also my first ever), but after realizing that the last training run of the Jeff Galloway training plan (provided for free by Disney) called for a final 30 minute training session the Thursday prior to the half, we thought – why not?! A chance to get another fantastic Disney medal? Sign us up! (It turns out, Disney medals are incredible and very, very addicting).

The 5K starts slightly later than most of the other races of the weekend. The first gun goes off at 6:15am (as compared to 5:30am for the half and full). This means we didn’t have to wake up until 3:30am (of course everyone’s wake up calls vary, depending on pre-race rituals). Heading out from the Art of Animation resort, we jumped right on a bus at 4:15am to arrive at Epcot at 4:30am. (Bus transportation was amazing all weekend long, with little to no waits at any point.)

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Arriving at the race, we knew right away we were in for a long wait to the start. As mentioned before, it was freezing with high winds making matters even worse. Racers lined the fence line seeking protection from the wind as much as possible. Other groups gathered around the spotlight generators which blew out warm air to try and stay warm. Disney had a great DJ going to entertain and pump up the crowd, but when the DJ is dressed in a coat, gloves, hat, and scarf, it’s hard to leave the sanctuary of your wind protector to dance the cupid shuffle in the open arctic tundra.

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During this time, runDisney did have bag check available as well as food and drink for purchase. Few racers appeared to check bags, due to the nature of the race. I was pleasantly surprised to see the food available for purchase, both from Disney and local food trucks.

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Lines were never long, and the Disney booth did accept Magic Band payments if linked to a credit card (they also accepted cash and regular credit). The most popular item was certainly the hot beverages since participants were doing whatever they could to stay warm. Though picnic tables and high top tables were available, few took advantage, instead seeking refuge along the fence blocking perimeter. (Some racers did creatively use the table clothes as blankets.)

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Runners were not moved into their corrals until 5:20am and the walk from the gathering area to the corrals was a quick 5 minutes. Had it not been so cold, the early arrival time would have been fine and filled with dancing and photos, but the chill made the wait until the start feel like forever. The longest line of porta-potties I had ever seen were lined up for use before entering the corrals. So many were supplied, lines never seemed to be that deep.

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Moving into the corrals, runners huddled together for warmth, which provided everyone a great opportunity to make new friends. One of the best things about runDisney races is the friendliness and camaraderie amongst the participants. Everyone is so excited and supportive. Past participants are a great sources of information and inspiration to first time runners.

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For the 5K, there are only 6 corrals. I was in corral E, the second to last corral to start. Corrals were sent out 8 minutes apart to help spread participants throughout the course. Each corral received their own starting fireworks, which can get even the chilliest runner moving. Especially moving was the playing of the national anthem. Everyone went silent as the trumpet started. Slowly, there was a hum through the crowd, and gradually a quiet sing-a-long. It was a beautiful moment.

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Then we were off! Finally moving, it took a little while for the legs to warm up (the hands never thawed). Participants ranged in all ages and abilities. I had expected to see tons of younger children, but was surprised to find kids were a very small portion of the participants. Many participants wear costumes to the 5K, many more than to the half or full marathon. People can be so creative! Costumes are a great way to add even more fun to your race, and help to give your fellow runners something fun to look at during their run/walk.

Since Disney only requires a 16 per minute pace, it was common to see participants who walked the entire track, especially those participating in the Dopey challenge who needed to save their legs for later in the weekend. I did not hear of anyone getting swept off the 5K course and find it highly unlikely, but cannot confirm if they do or do not sweep for this race. An important note is that since so many people walk, to actually run the race can be difficult. My friend and I ended up bobbing and weaving all over the course and in many places where the course narrowed, there was no choice but to walk. Not a huge problem since this is supposed to be a fun run, but important for runners to be careful so they do not trip each other and cause injury.

The first mile of the course is mainly on a side road long the Epcot parking lot and then along a backstage access road where you reach the first mile marker right around where you enter the backstage of Epcot behind Test Track.

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During the first mile, there was only 1 character stop. This character was Princess Atta from “A Bug’s Life”. My friend and I choose not to stop for a picture since we barely knew the character and the line was fairly long.

Mile 2 takes place almost entirely within the park and is the best mile of the race. You enter the World Showcase between Mexico and Norway. The sun was just rising for us, providing a beautiful view.

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Norway Daisy was the next character, and we decided to stop since it is more rare to see Daisy in Norway garb. This also provided the perfect opportunity for my friend to use the park restrooms. (Park restrooms are preferable to porta potties any day).

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We then stopped for Pinocchio in Italy and waited about 8 minutes in line.

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We passed on Chip n’ Dale in Japan because the line was just enormous. Had it been nicer weather, we would have stopped, but we were just too cold. Marie from the Aristocrats in Paris had a short 4/5 minute line which was more tolerable.

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Note – wait times are not posted. Some lines look long but move very quickly because of the character attendant/photopass cast members’ efficiency. Other lines can be short but take forever if the character attendant is not taking photos with runners’ personal cameras.

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Running down international gateway and slightly behind stage, we finally hit mile marker 2. The three character stops had made this mile last 30 minutes!

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The course then jumps back into the park between the UK and Canada. Donald was the last character meet and great on the course at Canada. In all, there were 5 character photo opportunities; one in mile 1, three in mile 2, and one in mile 3.

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You finish the World Showcase and turn left for a straight shot down toward Spaceship Earth before turning left and running in front of Future World West (Imagination Pavilion, Land Pavilion, Living Seas Pavilion) and head back in front of the Electric Umbrella towards Spaceship Earth.

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You never pass directly under Spaceship Earth, but veer right slightly beforehand to go backstage for the last stretch out to the Epcot parking lot and the finish line. Crossing the finish line, the wonderful volunteers give you the great Pluto medal (while not metal like all of the other weekend races, the medal is huge and great quality. Plus, what other 5K gives a medal?!)

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My friend and I were able to backtrack and take pictures right outside the finish with our medals while the runners were still coming in (this was not allowed during the half).

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Professional photographers are everywhere to take your picture, and a very generous refueling kit of food and water are supplied to all participants (hint, always go to the photographer and food table farthest away – never ANYONE there!).

Disney still had other food available for purchase, and the DJ was still playing away on stage to keep the party going. Pluto, the 5K mascot, was available for photos and the line was quick at only 10 minutes (considering the thousands of participants, I was impressed). Dopey was also there for those participating in the 4 day Dopey challenge. Bus stops were very clearly labeled and nothing felt better than walking into that heated bus.

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Overall, the 5K race was tons of fun and very low pressure. Don’t let it intimidate you if you haven’t participated in a 5K before, don’t consider yourself athletic, but have always wanted to do a runDisney event. This race is perfect for any ability and a great way to start what is a very fun weekend of events!

*****

Beth Pope currently lives in Washington, DC and is a former Walt Disney World cast member. In addition to the 5K, she also completed the WDW Half Marathon. Prior to this race weekend, she had only ever completed two 5K and two 10K official races. She now plans to complete the Coast to Coast challenge in 2015.

Prepping for a Night Race vs. a Morning Race

Most of us train and run during the day, so the night races that runDisney holds can be a challenge.  There are so many different things that come into play that you might not immediately think about when you are preparing.  Jenn is a veteran Disney runner, but had never run a night race before this year’s Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler.  She’s here today with some great tips on how to prepare for a night race and some of the differences you can expect if you are used to morning races.

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There is absolutely nothing like a Disney Race! The atmosphere, the fun, the characters – everything is impeccably planned and executed. In fact, Disney races are the entire reason I got into distance running. The thought of running through my favorite place, seeing things that are behind the scenes, and being part of the fun and excitement were all huge draws. The icing on the cake is that I get to take a vacation while I’m down there!

Up to this point, my husband and I have only participated in morning races on the WDW Marathon Weekends. So this year, we decided to try something new – The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10 Miler! The Tower of Terror is our favorite attraction, so we decided that this was the perfect race with which to “branch out”.

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I have to tell you, I was so excited that this race was at night versus in the morning. Being a “night owl” by nature, the 10:00pm start time really appealed to me. I mean, waking up at 2:00am to catch a bus is rough – worth it, but rough!

But as the race date approached, I began to realize that I had never prepped myself for a night race – and it is a whole different ballgame than prepping for the morning races.

So, let’s start with the morning races. As every runner knows, it is important to learn how your body handles long runs. It is always a process knowing what to eat, how much to eat, and when to eat it for maximum benefit. Too much food makes me sluggish, too little makes me feel sick. Over time, I have learned that for my morning races and long training runs, I need a nice balance of protein and carbs – nothing that weighs me down, but something that will stick with me. I usually opt for a meal replacement shake with lots of protein and some breakfast biscuits to munch on.   The slow burning carbs sustain me through the morning hours and the run ahead.

When I do morning Disney races, there is the added element of not tiring out your body. Disney has so many wonderful things to do; it can be easy to get caught up in the magic of the parks and overdo it before a race. I am always careful to take it easy in the parks the day before, have a nice dinner, then head back to the room to prep my gear and grab some sleep for the next day. Of course, the alarm going off at 2am is never a great sound, but it is amazing how the adrenaline begins to flow, waking me up more quickly than usual. By the time I’ve had my shake, I’m feeling ready to go. I bring my breakfast biscuits in my go bag to munch on since there are always a couple of hours before the corrals release.

So, this has been the perfect formula for my morning Disney runs. The excitement at the finish line keeps me going, as does the snack box the wonderful volunteers pass out. I even have enough energy to head into the parks for a few hours before the need for a nap overwhelms me.

Of course, this formula was of no help to me for the 10-Miler. I totally had to change my preparations. First up, it was more challenging to “take it easy” before the race. We had tickets to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party on Friday night, and so we were up late. Add to that the fact that we walked more than anticipated on Friday, and we woke up on Saturday a bit more tired than we had hoped.

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We had planned to go to Epcot that day; as we stayed at the Boardwalk, it was just a short walk to get there. We planned to stay just long enough to see the booths at the Food & Wine Festival and ride our favorite rides, then head back to the room for a nap. We pretty well kept to the plan, but as you know, Epcot is quite a large park. We did more walking than we should have, but after a nap, we were feeling good.

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Next came the tricky part. What on earth should we eat? We planned to walk over to the Studios at around 7:15 to experience the pre-race festivities, and so just a protein shake wasn’t going to work. By the time the corrals launched, I knew I would be starving. My husband and I debated back and forth. Finally, we grabbed a room service menu at around 6pm. There was a great looking salad – nice and light – but then I realized that there is nothing worse than being hungry in the middle of a run, so I didn’t want to eat something small. I decided that I had plenty of time to digest, so I settled on the pulled pork sandwich with homemade chips; my hubby opted for the grilled chicken sandwich (side note: both were fantastic!) with chips. We had water only to drink in anticipation of the race.

We sat down to dinner at 6:40pm, and then we finished our race preparations and walked over to the Studios via the walkway along the lake. I was pleased that the sandwich had been filling but not heavy. The salt in the chips was helpful pre-run, but I realized halfway over that I forgot a bottle of water in my race bag. Thank goodness for the water stations near the corrals!

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So, I’m sure you are wondering how things turned out. I have to say that overall, I was successful in my first nighttime race. I did notice that my feet were definitely sore by mile 3 – I attribute this to the fact that I did more walking than I should have during my park visits. This did not impair my speed too much, but I know that had I rested a bit more, I would have been more comfortable during the latter half of the 10-Miler. Food-wise, I was pleased. The balance of protein and carbs was still good, and the food stuck with me throughout the race. Don’t get me wrong, I was ready for a snack after, but I never felt hungry during the run. I was also able to enjoy the pre- and post-festivities due to my afternoon nap.

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I would say that if you have never done a night race, don’t avoid it! Be careful not to overdo it in the parks, and try to find a meal that combines the same elements you eat for your morning runs. They will take a different form, but the combination will work like a charm. I am definitely looking forward to more Disney races, whether night or morning!

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*****

Jenn has been a lifelong Disney fan. Her passion for the Mouse has only increased throughout the years. She visits Disney Parks 2-3 times per year, often in conjunction with Disney Races. In addition to being a fan, she plans Disney travel for others, hoping to share the Magic with everyone. Through Disney-themed blog & Facebook pages, she regularly tracks new and exciting changes to the Disney parks so she can share them with others.  Check out Jenn’s blog DISining Memories and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Comparing the Disneyland 10K to Walt Disney World Races

I’m really excited to welcome Heather back to Running at Disney!  She last visited back in March when she recapped the Fit For a Princess Expo during Princess Half Marathon Weekend.  Now she is here to recap the Disneyland 10K and give some comparisons to some of the other races she has run at Walt Disney World.  Heather LOVES character and takes some great photos…this post is chock full of them and I have to mention that I LOVE her costume!!  I might just steal that for a future race 🙂

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I’ve done four race weekends at Walt Disney World, including the new 10ks in January and February, but the Disneyland 5k and 10k this year were the first races I ran at Disneyland. I had wondered how the two coasts would compare during a rundisney race, so I thought I’d recap the Disneyland 10k while also pointing out the differences between the races.

One thing you will find in any Disney race, no matter the coast, are awesome runners (yay us!) and cool costumes. My friend & I decided to go completely out of the box, and dressed as Anna & Elsa. 😉 I’ve always worn something themed for a race, but I consider this my first actual costume during a race, and it made it even more fun. I got lots of “go Princess Anna!” along the route.

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Mary Poppins is my favorite, and I had to get a picture with these sweepers before the race! (Plus, no one wants to run into sweepers DURING a race, haha!)

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One of my favorite parts of the WDW races is that each corral gets their own fireworks to signify the start of the race. For the DL race, there weren’t any fireworks, and instead, only the first corral received a confetti send off. The race also starts on the street instead of in the parking lot like at WDW. I don’t know if this is why the corrals seemed so crowded or not. I also felt like there wasn’t the same party atmosphere pre-race that you tend to find in the start area before making your way to the corrals. There was still music, but the area seemed more empty, probably because you had to walk over to the street for the corrals?

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The main difference in the 10k on the east and west coast is how much you actually run through a park. In the WDW races, you run on a boring road for over 3 miles before entering Epcot and running through the World Showcase. After running around the Boardwalk area, you are back in the front of the park just long enough to run by Spaceship Earth and back out again. Combined you are only in the parks for about a mile out of the 6.2 miles for the race.

For the Disneyland 10k, the majority of the race takes place in the parks. The first 2 miles are on the streets, and you run through the Anaheim Convention Center area, which will be familiar if you’ve attend the D23 expo. However, the path here is not smooth and was a bit hard to run on. I saw at least one person have a hard fall here, so you really need to watch your step.

Just before entering backstage, we heard a roar of cheers. It was constant, and when you turned the corner, you saw a long row of high school cheerleaders who were doing an amazing job of cheering! (Spoiler alert, if I realized how few times I would be stopping this race, I would have taken a picture with them.)

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At about 2.5 miles, you enter California Adventure. From here until mile 5.5 you are basically in a park or backstage. It’s a great course and as much as I love Epcot, this one really feels like you are running through Disney because so much of it goes through the parks.

You enter DCA through the Bugs Land side of Cars Land. Seeing Cars Land lit up at night is always gorgeous and I really loved running through it. However, here is where I’m going to start my complaint that was my main take away from this race. There were hardly any characters out. I read lots of recaps of races and I know DJ is almost always out in Cars Land, no matter the race. He wasn’t out for the 5k, and I thought for sure he would be out for the 10k. But he wasn’t. Both Mater & Lightning McQueen were out (separately) in Cars Land, but you can find them at any time in the park.

Once you ran by both these characters, you have just passed half of the character stops on the ENTIRE race. For a route that is mostly in the parks. I am a big character person, and characters are actually the reason I signed up for my very first rundisney event. Then I started running because I wanted to do longer races, but still be able to stop for characters. So, without the amount of entertainment and characters along rundisney races, I never would have started running. To see the lack of characters in this race was a HUGE disappointment. I’ll also never be a fast runner, so I always have to consider where to stop for a picture. I spent a lot of time during this race thinking, well there has to be a character here, no really, there will be a character here, etc. So much so that I think it took away my enjoyment of running through Disneyland. In comparison, the January WDW 10k had 6 character stops & the February WDW 10k had 8 character stops.

After Cars Land, you ran to Paradise Pier, passing one of 3 Elvis impersonators along the course. Again, I don’t know why they had them out instead of using that spot for a character. No one was paying to see Elvis impersonators. And I understand that theme of the race was Stitch and so the Elvis part may seem to make sense, but not for the lack of actual characters.

I’ll stop with the character complaints for a bit and get back to the race! One of the highlights of a Disneyland race is that the World of Color fountains are on! The only comparison I can make to the WDW 10k is that the Illumination torches are on when you run through the World Showcase, but the World of Color fountains win out for sure! During the 5k I just quickly snapped a picture here, but for the 10k, they had a CM out to take pictures. So I had to stop, and this was one of my favorite parts of the race.

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You then run through Paradise Pier, passing Screamin’, Toy Story Midway Mania, the back of the Fun Wheel, and the rest of the boardwalk area. This was one of the places it felt a bit congested, but it was still very cool to see the World of Color fountains from all different views. I wish I had stopped a few more times to take pictures here.

Mile 3 was in Condor Flats, and passing by Soarin, there was a group of CMs cheering. There was one particular CM there who was SO enthusiastic, I really hope he sees this because everyone I talked to LOVED him! I think he used more energy during the race than any of us did running! Then we ran through Hollywoodland (passing another Elvis impersonator) and made our way backstage for a bit before entering Disneyland at the entrance. There are lots of people cheering here, which is always awesome!

Then we run down an empty Main Street towards the castle. I wish I had stopped to take a picture by the Partners Statue, but there was a long line, and so I just took this picture. I love that the omnibus was out, and there were other Main Street vehicles along the route. At the start of Main Street, I saw someone posing for a picture inside the fire engine.

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We then ran through Tomorrowland, which was mile 4, by the Matterhorn and the outside of Fantasyland, to Small World. Chip & Dale as cops & robbers were meeting here (with another Elvis impersonator.) Since this was the first character stop since Cars Land, the line was huge. I was still thinking that there would have to be more characters out, so I skipped this line.

We went backstage again, and the one reason I loved this area is because there were several Soundsational floats out! Soundsational is my favorite parade, and I was actually listening to that music during the run at that point. Only the Little Mermaid float was right next to the runners and had a CM stationed to take pictures. I love the photobomb of the Halloweentime Pumpkin!

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I also stopped to take a picture with the Princess and the Frog and Mary Poppins floats. There were lots of CMs along the route and they were always happy to take a picture. I had to laugh at the CM who said she would take the picture as long as I didn’t jump on the float or touch it, though!

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Just before entering the park again, I had to stop and take a picture of this gorgeous sunrise. One of the best parts of getting up crazy early to run are sunrises!

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We entered a completely empty Toontown. (Seems like that would be a great place for a character, right? Oh well.) And ran back by Small World on the opposite side. Chip & Dale were still meeting and the line was still long.

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The façade on Small World is pretty as the sun was coming up.

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We ran by the carousel where the 5 mile marker was. And then towards what I was really looking forward to, running through the castle! We entered from the back of the Sleeping Beauty Castle.

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My first time running through a castle during a race! Pretty cool to do that during a 10k.

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I stopped to take a quick picture of other runners going through the castle

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As we ran through Frontierland, there was finally another character stop by the Mark Twain boat dock. Elvis Stitch was meeting with a Hawaiian dancer. The line was long but at this point I figured there wouldn’t be any more characters out (and there wasn’t), so I stopped. This was my first character stop in the race, and not until about 5.5 miles in. For me, this isn’t normal! The best part about this line is I caught up to my friends (they were in corral A & I was in corral B, even though we all put down the same time.) Anna & Elsa reunited!

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I waited close to 8 minutes for this (and Stitch is my least favorite character.) I have friends that were in later corrals that didn’t even know Elvis Stitch was out because he left really early. Very disappointing.

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We ran through Critter Country and then out of the park to another backstage area. More CMs and Main Street vehicles were here and I stopped for a quick picture with them.

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The rest of the course is through the Downtown Disney area. I saw someone run into Jamba Juice and get a smoothie during the race! That’s something you can’t do during the WDW 10ks, haha! I stopped for a picture with the 6 mile marker. All the mile markers had different Stitch backdrops. As an aside, the DL 5k mile markers also had cutouts of Lilo & Stitch and those lines were even longer than a lot of character lines I’ve seen on races! That long a line usually doesn’t happen for mile markers at WDW races I’ve seen.

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The finish line is on the street between Downtown Disney and the Disneyland Hotel. Hawaiian Mickey & Minnie were there slapping hands, but not meetable. I really wish they had been out along the course, especially since the characters were so sparse. I was able to at least snap a picture of Minnie high fiving me. I promise that’s my hand, lol!

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Like any Disney race on either coast, the medal is cool. Even though it’s Stitch lol. The post race setup of getting water, your food box, and getting a picture was the same on both coasts.

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After the WDW 10k races (and any WDW race I’ve done), there are characters you can meet in the post race area. However, there are no characters out after the Disneyland races. Another difference post race is that you don’t have to hop on a bus to get back to your room. So many hotels are within walking distance of Disneyland, whether you are staying on property or not. We ate breakfast at the Tangaroa Terrace, which is at the Disneyland Hotel, just a short walk from the finish line. The race expo is also at the Disneyland Hotel, so we ran in to get a picture with the backdrop they had set up for the race with our medals.

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Overall, it was a fun race, but I had trouble enjoyed it as much because the lack of characters is something that really bothered me. When friends who are not character people like me were complaining too, I know that it was a pretty universal complaint. Hopefully rundisney will hear this and beef up the characters for future races.

*****

Heather is an annual passholder that loves coming up with excuses to take a trip to the World. She started doing runDisney races for the characters, but then found out she actually loved running. Visit her website, I Love Characters, to see pictures of the over 200 characters she’s met at Disney World and Disneyland. Follow her adventures at Disney on twitter and instagram.

2014 Fit for a Princess Health & Fitness Expo

I’m very excited to welcome Heather to Running at Disney!  I’ve known Heather for quite some time in the Disney community and it has great to grow together as Disney runners over the years.  Today she has a great recap of the Fit for a Princess Expo with a lot of really fun photo ops!  Enjoy 🙂

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Princess Half Marathon Weekend was my fourth runDisney race weekend.  I ran the 5k and 10k, so this was my 4th and 5th race! The corresponding expo seems to run smoother each race weekend. Last year’s Disney Fit for a Princess Expo was held at the Coronado Springs resort, which was a nightmare. The lines were insane, even for the buses to get into the resort! This year, it was thankfully back at ESPN Wide World of Sports, and I didn’t encounter any long lines or other issues.  I attended the first day of the expo on Thursday.

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Staying at a host resort (which was every resort on property this weekend) makes getting to the expo easy. runDisney is really good with having signs up in the resorts and at the bus stops (even having signs directing you TO the correct bus stop), so you can’t miss it. The sign also has the times the expo takes place and the times when the first bus will run for both the expo and the races.

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There’s also a volunteer at the bus stop if you have other questions. The same volunteer at Pop was there EVERY time I passed by, no matter the day or time. When I got on the bus for the 10k, I joked with her, asking if they ever let her sleep…and she was there when I got off the bus after the race too. A reminder to always thank the great volunteers during race weekends!

The buses seem to run pretty smoothly, and there’s usually not much of a wait for the next bus. The buses are all labeled with a number and the resorts it stops at, so you can’t miss it!

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Soon enough, you’ll pull up to ESPN Wide World of Sports.

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I love all the signs that runDisney has up for the different races ESPN Wide World of Sports. Everyone likes to take a picture with the sign for the race they will be running! And if you’re at the expo alone, don’t be shy in asking someone to take that picture for you! Everyone is just as excited as you are. 🙂

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There’s also general signs up, with the schedule for the weekend.

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They split up where you pick up your bibs and race shirts, so first I headed to the HP Field House to pick up my bibs.

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I love the silhouettes on this screen when entering the building.

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The overview of the floor. Pretty empty, other than the long line (which thankfully moves quickly enough) for official runDisney merchandise.

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Picking up your packet is easy. Just have your signed waiver and ID, and find the correct line based on your bib number. In January, I left my printed waiver in the room (of course I remembered the second the bus started pulling away), but they have computers there to print your waiver. So no worries!

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Around the official merchandise area, they have large panels with the race courses. I should have taken a picture with this one!

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On one wall, they have a banner with all the runDisney WDW races throughout the year.

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And there’s lots of other fun backdrops to take pictures in front of.

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Two princesses were meeting in a corner of the floor, in front of cute backdrops. You meet both after standing in just one line. For a character hunter like me, the line wasn’t too bad. On the day I went, Jasmine and Belle switched out with Snow White and Mulan. On the other days, a really cute Princess Minnie was in the rotation (I almost went back to the expo on Saturday just to meet her!) I had a fun interaction with both princesses, and I was glad to see they weren’t rushing you!

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Then it was time to go to the Jostens Center to get the race shirts and check out the vendors.

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One of Cinderella’s Coachmen was by the entrance (other times during the weekend, you could meet 2!) In the past, the coachmen met in front of Cinderella’s Coach, and it was a great photo spot. Since last year’s expo was at Coronado, they met inside in front of a fake castle backdrop that was a little cheesy. I was hoping the coach would be back this year, but sadly no. I still never turn down a chance at meeting a fun character. 🙂

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After walking on a red carpet, you go downstairs to pick up your race shirt. Usually the 5k shirts aren’t that great, but I loved the one this year! It’s probably the best design of any of the runDisney shirts I own. The 10k shirt was a tech shirt, but it is white, so it’s kind of see through. This was also the first time I exchanged a shirt for size at the expo, and it was a really easy process. I just brought it over to a practically empty stand, and they exchanged it for me. And if that still wasn’t the right size, they said I could keep exchanging. So no more worries about entering the wrong size when registering for a race!

I then checked out the official runDisney merchandise. Both buildings have a runDisney official merchandise area, and the one at the HP Field House is usually less crowded than the one on the main floor at the Jostens Center. Some merchandise, including the “I did it!” shirts, is only at the Jostens Center, though. Of course I didn’t realize this included some pins I wanted, so after buying a few things at the HP Field House, I got to stand in a runDisney official merchandise checkout line twice. I think that deserves a medal itself! 😉

Here’s all my runDisney goodies, including the 5k and 10k shirts I mentioned. I ended up only getting a few pins and the cute medal for the runDisney vinyl I bought in January. I’m looking forward to adding several more medals to that vinyl by the end of the year!

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The shirt they sold for the WDW 10k in January was much cuter than the Enchanted 10k shirt. I bought the WDW 10k shirt without a second thought, but passed up on the Enchanted 10k one. And I’m not one to pass on something like that! The “I did it” shirts for the half and glass slipper were both cute.

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I really liked all the Glass Slipper Challenge merchandise. Good thing I wasn’t doing the challenge. I would have wanted too much of the merchandise, so I saved a lot of money! I’m in trouble if I do the challenge next year, though!

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Now that all the “official” stuff was out of the way, it was time to check out all the vendors!

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The first thing I did when I got to the expo was to try to sign up to buy the runDisney New Balance shoes. I had tried to sign up online at 6am, but it kept giving me an error and then said it was sold out after 3 minutes. So I went to their booth to ask if there were still spots available, and was told yes, and to go outside and sign up.

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Of course once I got there, they told me the line had just closed (this was around 10:30a.) I chatted with them a bit, trying to decide if it would be worth trying to go back to the expo immediately after the 5k or 10k over the next few days. Did I really need the shoes that badly? (Silly question, they are Disney AND they are pink!) It seemed like too close of a call so I figured I probably would be trying for them at a later runDisney race expo. But while roaming around the vendor booths, a friend asked if I still wanted the shoes. Uh, of course! She had a friend that wasn’t going to make it, so she was able to give me her confirmation number. I was so excited…until I saw on the board that they didn’t have my size in the Minnie shoes. I signed in anyway, just in case, and was taken to a super cute bench inside the New Balance area.

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The New Balance worker was very nice, and double checked in both the store and on the truck, but they didn’t have my size. But then he said a kids size 4.5 or 5 is comparable to a womens size 7, and asked if I wanted to try. I asked if there was any difference between the adult and kids shoes, and he said the kids version just had more pink on it (bonus!!) I figured I had nothing to lose…and they fit! He was very patient when I couldn’t decide between the two sizes, and let me walk around the expo floor for a bit trying them out. When I finally decided on which size to get, I got a second bonus…the kids shoes were $50 cheaper than the adult shoes! So YAY for them not having my size! I can’t wait until we finally are rid of snow and ice so I can wear them (I’m not about to wear them through the slush to mess them up!)

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The area by the registers has more fun photo spots, though I think Cindy should be wearing her running shoes here!

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Though these glass slipper sneakers probably aren’t as comfortable as my favorite pair of running shoes.

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After acquiring my beloved pink Minnie shoes (after everything, carrying around the New Balance bag felt like a badge of honor!), I headed over to the Sparkle Athletic booth to get a sparkle skirt for the 5k. Kelly was so helpful when I was trying to decide on my first sparkle skirt at the expo on January, I decided to ask for a picture this time. I have to laugh at the girl’s face behind me though!

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I always seem to miss the Chiquita Banana lady at the expo, but I caught her this time! They were also giving out free bananas or apple slices after getting your picture. Since I hadn’t eaten all day, the apple slices tasted delicious!

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I’ve never taken a picture with my bib before the race, so I finally did that in front of a nice photo spot of the castle.

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It’s always fun to check out the runDisney booth. In January, this is where I got a picture with Jeff Galloway and talked with him for a while. It was a huge boost to someone like me who has just started running. I also love how they have the medals for past races. I will be doing my first half marathon at Wine & Dine, and just seeing this medal made it all the more real!

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You can see in that picture the new buttons runDisney had this year. One said “my first 1/2 marathon” and another said “I’m celebrating.” Hopefully they’ll have these at every expo, because I didn’t even think to pick up the “first half marathon” one for the future!

I’m hoping to get all these medals next year (yes, I haven’t even done my first half, and I’m already looking towards my 2nd and 3rd! runDisney is some addiction.)

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I’m holding off buying a fun rack for my medals until after I finish my first half. I can’t wait!

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One more fun picture before leaving the expo. They provided the tiara and wand. 🙂

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And runDisney wishing all runners good luck on the way out.

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It was kind of funny to hear some people complaining about the long walk back to the buses after the expo. You’re going to be walking or running at least 3 miles during the weekend…this is nothing! 😉

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I always end up spending a lot longer at the expo than I expect. There’s so much to see, take pictures of, and buy! I’m already looking forward to my next race weekend and expo in August at Disneyland!

*****

Heather is an annual passholder that loves coming up with excuses to take a trip to the World. She started doing runDisney races for the characters, but then found out she actually loved running. Visit her website, I Love Characters, to see pictures of the over 200 characters she’s met at Disney World and Disneyland. Follow her adventures at Disney on twitter and instagram.

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