Posts Tagged by Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Sticking Together for the Wine & Dine Half Marathon

Talk of rain began in the days leading up to Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend. There is always afternoon rain in Orlando as the 4:00 pm thunderstorms roll through, so I didn’t think much of it at first. However once race week rolled around, the sense of dread started to set in. It was looking more and more like the rain was going to arrive late Saturday night and on through Sunday morning. This was not just a passing storm…

Fun fact…I have never ran in the rain before. Maybe through a few sprinkles on a training run, but for no longer than 3 miles or so. Another fun fact…I hate having wet shoes. This is one of the reasons I’ve never done a Warrior Dash, Spartan Race or similar mud-themed race. Wet shoes = blisters and an unpleasant time.  Wait…are those really FUN facts?? Sigh…

So I arrived on Thursday before the race and enjoyed all things Food & Wine and even went to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party for the first time.  I was having a blast…life was grand!!  Then I woke up Saturday morning to grey skies and a not so promising weather forecast.  I can’t say I was thrilled about the race at this point, but I was just going to make the best of it. I knew that I had a bunch of friends that were going to be in corral H with me so my new goal was to get through it with as many laughs along the way as possible.

My running buddy Amanda and I decided that since the rain was imminent our best bet would be to leave her car at Epcot so we could make a quick exit after the race incase we were soaked. We were able to park close enough to the finish line (or so we thought) that I left my gEAR bag in the car instead of schlepping it all the way to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex to check it. So we boarded the buses to the starting line and our journey began…

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Since we hit quite a bit of traffic on the way over, we didn’t have much time to check out all the pre-race festivities, but I did notice that they made some nice additions this year. There were quite a few concessions available including a beer cart for the spectators. I actually found that to be a cruel joke because I had to run 13.1 miles to get my beer, but here was a cart right at the start line!

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There were also quite a few picnic tables set up which was a nice alternative to sitting in the damp grass.

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However our friends Kevin and Carrie decided to sit in the grass because they were sporting the trendy look of the day…trash bag chic.

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After a quick stop at the sea of porta potties and some hugs and well wishes from friends, it was time to head into the corrals.

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Photo Credit: Amanda Tinney

It was great to see that even with the threat of rain, the spirit of many of the runners was still going strong. There were tons of great costumes around and many were themed around the theme of the race, food and wine! Here is my favorite…she’s a Dole Whip!!

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The sprinkles started around 15 minutes before the start of the race so out came the ponchos and ziplock bags.  Earlier that day we took a trip to Walgreens to stock up cheap ponchos.  Well worth the trip off property to grab them for $1.49 instead of spending almost $10 for a Disney poncho.  You won’t feel bad tossing it if you need to either.

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Hey did you know that you can use your iPhone through a ziplock bag??  It was a HUGE revelation among the group…minds were blown.

Since we were in corral H, we didn’t actual get going until about 30 minutes after the start of the race.  The rain was turning into more than just a sprinkle at this point and the winds were picking up so we were all anxious to get going.  This is the first runDisney race that I didn’t get photos or video of the start line because of the rain, but I was happy to see that each corral was still getting a spectacular fireworks show! Once we got going I couldn’t help but laugh at how loud this race was due to the noise from all the ponchos and garbage bags moving around 🙂  I ditched my poncho after the first mile as it was making me quite warm, but this was something I would come to regret later.

There were 6 of us who decided we were going to stay together and run through the suck…remember the goal was laughter!  I had run this race with my friend Jim back in 2012 so I was happy he was in my corral again this year.  Unfortunately he was dealing with an injury and by mile 2 he encouraged us to just keep going after much protest.  Marc and Tiffany pulled ahead at some point and we lost them for a while, so Amanda, Charles and I trudged along to Animal Kingdom and we were actually making decent time when we hit the 5K mark.

By the time we got there, the rain was coming down hard.  The uneven terrain of the park was a bit treacherous and the paths were crowded due to all the construction going on.  This is also where I stepped in my first puddle…wet shoes, my favorite!  Blech.  When we left the park and made our way around the parking lot, all that was going through my head was “I’m COLD!”  Being soaking wet in the dark when it’s 58 and windy is not fun.  Here’s where I really regretting ditching that poncho.  I was hitting a low point and seriously considered stopping…but I just kept moving.

As we got close to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the rain began to taper and I could feel my motivation coming back a bit.  We were more than halfway done and the best part of the course was coming up.  I couldn’t help but smile when I turned the corner to see one of my favorite sites, the Hollywood Tower Hotel!

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It seemed safe to take out my phone now and I was happy to get back to my usual habit of snapping tons of photos along the course.

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Just before we reached the Streets of America, I got a text from Tiffany asking where we were and to my surprise her and Marc were just ahead of us enjoying the Osborne lights!!  We were so happy to be reunited that we just had to dance it out and Marc got it on video 🙂

We all actually spend a good amount of time here and soaked it all in.  It seemed that a lot of other people were doing the same thing and enjoying the break in the rain.  I’m not a huge Christmas fan, but you can’t help but smile and be happy when surrounded by all of this.

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We were all feeling pretty beat up from being cold and wet so we just banded together to finish the race.  Oh what a welcome sight Spaceship Earth was….just beyond that was the finish line!

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This had been a mental and physical challenge from the moment we crossed that finish line, but it would’ve been much more difficult if we didn’t all stick together.  It was a great feeling to have this support team by my side and I think everyone felt the same way.  We all knew that we were going to cross that finish line together and we did it hand in hand 🙂

After the race I grabbed up a mylar blanket that the voluntEARs (BIG thanks to the voluntEARs the stuck it out in the rain for us!!) were oh so thankfully handing out and we made our way through the maze to get out. I also grabbed my free beer and we high tailed it to the car.  I was a bit disappointed to not go in and enjoy the Finish Line Party, but I was so wet, cold and tired that all I could think about was a hot shower and my comfy bed at the Waldorf.

This was my worst race time by A LOT and there were many times that I was cursing myself for doing it, but looking back now, I actually had a great time.  I have made so many wonderful friends and have great memories from my journeys running at Disney…this was just another one of those times.  I’m lucky enough to be able to complete these races and share these stories…there nothing bad about that.  Even with all the rain, the Wine & Dine Half Marathon is still one of my favorite races and I hope to continue doing it for years to come.  I mean, who doesn’t like free beer after a race?! Cheers!

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2014 Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend Info

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Five Years Running!  It’s hard to believe that the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend is already 5 years old, but I’m happy to say that it has just gotten better with age.  This is definitely one of my favorite courses because you get to run through 3 of the parks that are all lit up with fun nighttime entertainment…can’t get much better than that.  Oh and look at the rad medals you can get!

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Like any runDisney race weekend, there are TONS of details that you need to know to make your race go smoothly.  Well I’ve got all of that for your right here in one place!  Let’s get started…

Health & Fitness Expo

Like all other runDisney race weekends you will need to start yours by heading to the Health & Fitness Expo at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.  Hours for the Expo are:

  • Friday, November 7th: 10:00 am – 7:00 pm
  • Saturday, November 8th: 9:00 am – 3:00 pm

Participants in all of the races 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 with B-Tag timing devices, race shirt, and gEAR bag.  The gEAR bag doubles at the bag to use for bag check during the race.  This is also where you will receive any commemorative items you may have purchased during registration, such as pins or necklaces.

Your first stop at the Expo will be the HP Field House for Packet Pick Up.  If you are unable to attend the Expo, you can arrange for an absentee pick-up by filling out an authorization form (found here) and providing the person picking up your bib with a photo copy of your ID and signed waiver.

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From there you will then proceed across the way to the Jostens Center to pick up your race shirt and gEAR bag, visit with over 50 vendors and spend all your money on runDisney merchandise.

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Resort Transportation

Bus transportation will be available to bring participants to and from ALL events taking place during Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend.  This includes the Expo, 5K, Kids Races and the half marathon.  Bus service to the Expo will run during the following times:

  • Friday, November 7th: 9:30 am – 6:30 pm (last bus will leave for the resorts at 7:30 pm)
  • Saturday, November 8th: 8:30 am – 2:30 am (last bus will leave for the resorts at 3:30 pm)

For the 5K, runners must be on a bus by 5:30 am to make it to the corrals by 6:15 am at the latest.  For Kids Races, families must be on a bus by 9:00 am to make it to the corrals by 9:45 am at the latest.  For the 10-Miler, runners must be on a bus by 8:00 pm to make it to the corrals by 9:15 pm at the latest.  Buses will run until 4:30 am on Sunday for a return trip to the resort.  If you are staying at the Boardwalk, Beach Club, Yacht Club, Swan or Dolphin, you have the option of walking back to your resort at the end of the night.

These are the host resorts for the weekend:

  • Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort
  • Disney’s All-Star Music Resort
  • Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort
  • Disney’s Beach Club Villas Resort
  • Disney’s Boardwalk Villas Resort
  • Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
  • Disney’s Polynesian Resort
  • Disney’s Pop Century Resort
  • Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter
  • Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside
  • Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
  • Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort
  • Disney’s Yacht Club Resort

Driving Directions

If not staying at a host resort, participants will need to provide their own transportation to all events.  An important thing to note is that there will be NO parking or guest drop-off at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex on the evening of the race.  Runners will need to park at Epcot and take shuttles to the Sports Complex.  Parking fees for runners and spectators will be waived at Epcot after 6:00 pm on the night of the race.  Runners must be on a shuttle by 8:00 pm, so make sure to leave extra time to park your car and wait in line for a shuttle.  Event transportation will be suspended between 9:00 pm and 10:00 pm due to road closures and the start of the race.

Costumes

Costumes are one of the best parts of any Disney race.  It’s amazing to see what some people run in!  For this race you will see a lot of chefs and food themed costumes.  I even saw someone running as a bunch of grapes!

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.  This is for your own safety, especially during a night race!  So who are you dressing up as??

Bag Check

Participants MUST use the clear bag provided at the expo to check any belongings during the race and affix the label with their bib number on the outside.

Tip for you: Put a small, lightweight backpack or duffle bag inside your clear gEAR bag to transfer everything into after the race.  The strings on the gEAR bags make them horribly uncomfortable to carry around if you are planning on staying for the after party.

All bags must be checked by 9:00 pm at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.  Bags will be available for pick-up in the Epcot Imagine Parking Lot and must be claimed by 2:30 am on the morning of November 9th.

Staging Area & Start Corrals

When you arrive by shuttle to to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex you will be directed to a large staging area.  This is where you will find bag check, water stations, photo ops and most importantly Port-a-Potties.  You can hang out here until about 30 minutes until the start of the race when you will need to be in your corrals.

The corrals will be located in the Touchdown Lot at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.  Your corral will be listed on your race bib and you will only be granted access to that corral or one behind you.  All runners MUST be in their starting corral by 9:30 pm. The Wine & Dine Half Marathon will start at 10:00 pm with the wheelchair start at 9:58 pm.

Waiting at the Starting Line!

You can find your corral placement by printing your waiver and finding the corresponding corral for your bib number.  I will be in Corral H so please say hi if you see me around!

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Race Bibs

Bibs must be centered on the front of your shirt.  Safety pins will be provided in your race packet at the expo.  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.

Pacing Requirements

You must keep a minimum of 16-minutes per mile throughout the race or you will run the risk of being picked up and brought to the finish line.  Keep this in mind if you are planning to stop for character photos.  Those lines can get long and it’s easy to lose track of time.  Pace cyclists and the dreaded balloon ladies will be on the course to let you know if you have fallen behind.

Aid Stations

There will be 9 PowerAde and water stops along the course and they are located approximately 1.5 miles apart from each other.  The PowerAde flavor is lemon-lime, so if that isn’t your thing you should carry your own.  There will be one food station at mile 8.4 that will have Clif Shots available.

Changing Tents

Changing areas will be available in the finish line area of the Epcot Imagine Lot after the race so you can get out of those sweaty clothes to enjoy the Finish Line Party.  But be warned that there is no privacy and the tents can get hot, so I have found that it is worth it to stand in line for a bit to get into an air conditioned restroom to change.

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Tip for you: Walk farther into Epcot and use the bathrooms in one of the Innoventions buildings…they are typically empty!

Course Maps

Mickey’s Jingle Jungle 5K

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Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon

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More information on other events like the Kids Races is available on the runDisney website and in the Official Event Guide for the weekend.  Also, check out some of my packing tips as your get ready to travel and one of my plans for prepping for night races.  Also, Jenn from DISining Memories recently shared some great tips on Prepping for a Night Race vs. a Morning Race if you’re not used to running at night.

I ran this race two years ago and have tips and insights from my experience in my race recaps, plus from my friends who covered it for me last year!  Hopefully you will find some of them useful:

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I really excited to be returning this year to run the Wine & Dine Half Marathon.  It’s probably my favorite race course and my second favorite race after Princess.  Plus having the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival at the finish line is a BIG win in my book!  Speaking of the Food & Wine Festival, make sure to get a copy of the DFB Guide to the 2014 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival to help you plan out what booth you want to hit after the race to refuel.

Take my advice and head straight to Australia for a lamb chop (protein!) and take it inside Craft Beers to enjoy with an ice cold brew.  You can thank me later 😉

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Hope to see you there!!

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The Villain’s Bash! A Terrifyingly Fun 10-Miler After Party

When you run a nighttime race at Walt Disney World, the fun doesn’t just end there…there’s an after party to go to!!  This is such a fun way to celebrate your accomplishment, show off your new bling and just let loose!  Jenn is back this week (you might remember her tips on prepping for a night race vs. a morning race) to share all the fun from The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler after party, The Villain’s Bash!  It looks like she had a terrifyingly good time 🙂

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You’ve just run 10 miles! You are exhilarated, your muscles are sore…so now what are you going to do?   Obvious answers might be: “collapse,” “sleep,” or “eat my weight in doughnuts.” My answer? I’m going to the Villain’s Bash!

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But… what exactly is a Villain’s Bash? I truly wasn’t sure what to expect from this event. I imagined that some Villain’s would show up at the party, and I expected a DJ and some rides. But in my mind, I definitely didn’t do it justice.

The Villain’s Bash is truly the perfect ending to this themed race. As you may know, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler is the absolute best race for those people who are fans of the, well, wicked side of Disney.   All along the race route there are photo ops with a variety of Disney’s best bad guys. Dr. Facilier, the Hyenas, the Big Bad Wolf, the Queen of Hearts, and the Evil Queen in witch form are only a sampling of who you can meet along the route. It’s a Villain-lover’s dream (nightmare?)!

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But that was just the beginning! The Villain’s Bash totally upped the ante – but I’m getting ahead of myself. After the race, we claimed our medals and our snacks, and then began the rather lengthy trek back to Hollywood Studios. The path then diverged, one side heading to bag claim and the other straight to the Villain’s Bash. Although I was extremely excited for the after-party, my husband and I first made the obligatory detour to bag claim. We had stashed a little go-bag inside of the clear race bags with energy drinks, means to “freshen up”, and room for uneaten snacks; once we had this in hand, we was ready to go!

It is worth noting that there were conveniently located changing stations near Echo Lake for runners use; traffic flow took us directly past this area on the way back to the festivities. I realized that this was a very good thing, since the women’s bathroom lines elsewhere were extremely long.

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Party time! As you can imagine, there were people everywhere. The area on Sunset Boulevard near where they sell Toluca Turkey Legs was packed with people snacking on their post-race boxes. It was also packed because the rides were open! As you might imagine, we headed for the Tower of Terror, which happens to be our favorite ride. What can be better than riding the Tower with your Tower 10 Miler medal? Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster was also open, and I later discovered that other rides, including Toy Story Midway Mania and Star Tours, were also open. Of course, this is a big draw to the Villain’s Bash. But believe it or not, the rides were not the focus of the party.

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I began to realize this as we left the Tower and headed toward the heart of the party. We noticed that the shops were open, and we headed in to check out the merchandise. Of course, in keeping with the evening’s theme, we paused in the store specializing in Villain’s merchandise; it also happens to sell some delectable sweets – guilt-free of course, since you’ve just run 10 miles!

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We also passed two wet bars on the way to the Sorcerer’s Hat, available for those participants wishing to indulge in an adult beverage after the race. This was certainly a detour from what I normally see in the Studios! Music from a live DJ permeated the immediate vicinity, and there were several people enjoying the music – even dancing, if you can believe it! Even after 10 miles, the festive atmosphere was energizing enough to overcome our tired muscles.

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We were taking it all in (and be-bopping to the music), when I noticed two lines off to the side.

As it turns out, the Villain’s Bash truly hosts a multitude of – you guessed it – Villains! Cruella de Vil was at that time welcoming her fans. I have never had the pleasure of seeing Cruella in person, and it was fascinating to watch her in action. I was informed by the Cast Member that Cruella was toward the end of her greeting period, but that the Queen would soon be coming in her stead; she would then return later in the evening. It seems the two were alternating on and off throughout the event. I decided to beat the rush and get in the line for the Queen, another larger-than-live Villain who I had yet to see! Since I had just managed to get a picture with the “old hag” version of the Queen, I thought it fitting to get her Majesty’s picture as well!

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I was so excited about the photo ops that I headed off in search of more! I headed back up Sunset Boulevard, and I located meet and greets with Gaston and Shan Yu (from Mulan). I have seen Gaston before, but never Shan Yu. This was one of the most fun character interactions I’ve had. I was amazed at how short the line was! Shan Yu is pretty much never out, so I decided to take full advantage of the photo op. Since Gaston was on his “off” period, I headed over to the opposite side of the Studios, near the old Soundstage and Star Tours.

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Next up, I found Pain & Panic from Hercules.

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As I left the line after my picture, I noticed another little merchandise area selling some apparel from the event.

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Then, I continued my journey in the pursuit of Villain pictures. I ventured over to Star Tours, and found, as you may guess, Darth Vader and two Storm Troopers. I have to say that I saw some of the best poses here before I had my turn. My favorite was the group who got on their knees with hands behind their heads, pretending they’d been taken hostage by the Sith lord and his cronies. As I continued on my journey, I also noticed that Boba Fett was receiving visitors nearby.

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Much of the Street of America was quiet, as was Pixar Place – even Toy Story Mania’s line was relatively short! Of course, at this point it was after 3 am, and things were starting to wind down. And I will admit, fatigue was most definitely setting in. Since we were walking back to our resort (a short walk, but I can honestly say it felt much longer!), we did a quick tour of the remaining shops and headed for the exit.

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The event was wonderful, and I had such fun getting my picture with so many infamous Disney Villains! The face characters were especially entertaining, but I have to say that all of the characters really did a fabulous job acting their … well, worst! Although there is currently no 10-Miler scheduled for next year, I truly hope the event will return so I can take part in it again!

*****

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!

A Terrifyingly RAD First runDisney Race!

It seems like even the most seasoned runners always have a runDisney race on their bucket list.  I mean how could you not?!  They are so FUN!  The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler is a great introductory race for those new to runDisney and Cheyanne is here today to share her experience.  Let’s just say, she might have caught the runDisney bug…

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It finally happened: I registered for my first runDisney race! My boyfriend’s mom wanted to register for her first race in several years and we agreed that The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler would be perfect. A racecation (yes, I made that word up) at the happiest place on earth? Yes please! I’ve done many races in my life, including 7 half marathons and a bunch of 10ks and 5ks. A runDisney race was on my bucket list because it combined my love for running and all things Disney. It almost sounded too good to be true!

I learned through various blogs that most people wear a costume to the Disney races. I was never one to wear a costume, but I figured if I was going to do it, gotta do it big! My race costume was Princess Anna from Frozen! I know, the TOT is mostly villains, but I love Frozen and knew it would be somewhat easy to make. I got most of the costume from Sparkle Athletic, but knew the design on the top would complete the outfit. My mom is very talented and crafty, so she offered her help. She made the design using puffy paint and threw on some glitter. I may be bias, but she did a fabulous job! Thanks mom 🙂 Since I never wear a costume to races, this was exciting.

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Even though I am a seasoned runner, training for this race wasn’t the easiest. See, I live in Phoenix, Arizona where the Summer heat is BRUTAL! It is not unusual for it to be in the 90s at 4 or 5 in the morning June through the end of September, which means you either have to run very early in the morning, late at night (um, yeah not safe) or on the treadmill. I did a mix of treadmill and outdoor running. Shout out to the best running store in the nation Runners Den for hosting an amazing training group that motivates me to get out of bed every Saturday morning 🙂

Before I knew it, race weekend was here. I made sure to pack all my race gear in my carry on so I wouldn’t risk losing all my gear. My main concern about running a race in Florida was the humidity. Heat? Bring it on? Humidity? Yeah, we don’t have much of that in Phoenix. I checked the forecast the week of the race and saw the high chance for thunderstorms. Shortly thereafter, there was a message from runDisney warning about inclement weather. Lots of rain? NNNOOOOO!!!! One, I’m not used to it. Two, I had a cute costume to wear. My boyfriend’s mom was running the race too and was also concerned about the weather. Either way, we were prepared to run, even if it meant getting wet and muddy.

We flew in Orlando the night before the race, which was kind of a bummer given that we missed the first day of the expo. Hey, we did what we could. We stayed at the Shades of Green, which is on Disney property and is a great place to stay for military families. We went to the expo at the ESPN World Wide of Sports Complex bright and early the next day. I must say, the crowds weren’t nearly as bad as I read about. Like most expos, we spent way too much money on race gear. I had the pleasure of meeting Jeff Galloway. What a nice man! We also saw the tail end of the Haunted 5k taking place that morning. We were officially pumped for the race!

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After the expo, we took the advice to lay low. I snuck in a 2 hour nap, but I was too excited to rest more than that! After saying good bye to my boyfriend and his dad (they do not like those kind of crowds!) we headed over to the Polynesian Resort to wait for the bus. We got off the bus and saw the sea of runners dressed in awesome costumes! That crowd had an energy level unlike any race I’ve ever done. The weather ended up being a clear, beautiful night. Still more humid than I’m used to, but not as bad as the predicted forecast. I drank a lot of water that day hoping that would help. We stretched and waited for race time to begin.

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We got in our corrals to get ready to go. I was shocked to see we needed to be in our corral 45 minutes prior to the start. My plantar fascitis was not happy about this! I was set in corral D while my boyfriend’s mom was set in J, so we wished each other luck and got in our place. I was happy to see runDisney volunteers being firm about coral placement. I’ve been in way too many races where people were clearly in the wrong corral and that can be a pain. Anyway, it was getting to be time to go and we walked almost a quarter mile to the start. It was so cool to see the fireworks go off for every coral, but they didn’t do it for D! Boo! Oh well, I was about to run a Disney race!

I felt great getting started. There were a couple of hills the first couple miles (If you’ve been to Arizona, it’s pretty flat), but I was still feeling good. I was going between a 10 and 10:35 pace, which was good considering I was stuck in the 11 minute range for a long while. I was happy with my pace, so I originally decided against stopping for pictures with characters. I ran by the Queen of Hearts, the Hyenas from Lion King and Captain Hook. There was a line for each one and I was worried it would drop me below the 16 minute mile. I threw that thought out the window when I came across a picture opportunity with Jack Skellington and Sally from Nightmare Before Christmas. No way I was missing this!

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It was around that time I decided to let go of my competitiveness and enjoy what the race had to offer. I could run a PR at home, but I can’t take pictures with Disney characters at home! I got pictures with Stitch and the Haunted Mansion cast among others. Even though I stopped for pictures, I was still able to maintain a good pace.

Stitch!

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One of my favorite spots to run on the course was through ESPN World Wide Sports. My joints were thanking me. This was also the part where I really started feeling the humidity. I stayed hydrated with the water and Gatorade combo, which works well by the way.

Before I knew it, we were running back into Hollywood Studios. Yay, almost there! I loved the part where we ran by Mickey’s Sorcerer Hat and down the Streets of America. What a sight! The one rough thing was the sharp turns. Oh my!

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Just when it seemed like the finish line was a long way away, I was crossing it! Oh yeah, I did it! Loved the medal and the fact it glowed in the dark. I was so happy to be done with my first runDisney race!

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Even though I was done running, the walking had only just begun! Wow, we walked about a mile after the race. I know the volunteers had to keep things going, but wow! I walked over to the family reunion area to wait for my boyfriend’s mom, and she finished about a half hour later. Her goal was to not get swept and finish, which she aced! We met up and got ready to go on the Tower of Terror, but she decided to sit it out and told me to go on her behalf.  A couple runners learned the hard way that wearing their medal on the ride is not a good idea. Luckily, I tucked it in the seatbelt. I had to go get our bags and with it being 3 am, we almost missed our chance to get them! I hate to brag, but I got directions around the park from THE Jeff Galloway 🙂 We finally got on the bus and passed out at the hotel around 4:30 AM. Woo! What a night!

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We went to Epcot the next day in our race shirts. I didn’t know about the Food and Wine Festival, but that alone made the trip worth it. Whoever planned the race around that event is genius! All in all, it was a wonderful experience. I’m so sad to now learn that this race won’t be happening in 2015, but we already agreed to do the Wine & Dine Half Marathon and the Disneyland Half Marathon next year. No shock here, but I am officially addicted to runDisney! I’m already brainstorming costumes. Sorcerer Mickey, Merida, or Belle? Stay tuned 🙂

Running The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler All By Myself…Not Really

As many runDisney veterans can tell you, when you run a Disney race you are never really alone even if you start out that way.  The spectators, on course entertainment and overall friendly atmosphere make it the perfect place to run if you are a solo runner or if it is your first long distance race.  Well this past weekend, Holly found all of that to be very true as she ran The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler!  If you have ever hesitated to run a race because the distance seemed to long or because you didn’t have a running partner, you MUST read this story!

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10 miles…52,800 feet…633,600 inches…Could I really run that far? All by myself? In a crowd of 12,000 people? YES! How do I know? Because I DID it! And you can, too!

Saturday, October 4, 2014 was my first ever runDisney event, my first ever competitive distance over 3.1 miles, and most importantly, the first time I’ve ever run a race without a friend along for encouragement. My husband and I were vacationing at Walt Disney World for 11 days and my race was scheduled for day 10 of our trip. After nine and a half days of beating up my feet in the autumn heat, humidity, and rain, I was about to say goodbye to my husband and start on a two-and-a-half hour journey all on my own. This wasn’t just any race for me. There was a lot riding on this finish.

After running a 5K last year, I wanted to try a longer race, but I hate to run, so I really needed something that would motivate me to keep lacing up my sneakers again and again.  My friend Jessica suffers from a chronic form of cancer that she will be battling for the rest of her life, and I found that motivation when I decided to run for Jessica’s benefit. Every time we come home from WDW, Jessica anxiously awaits my report of all of the new things that are happening in our favorite place. But as her cancer recurs again and again, I’ve started to notice a change in Jessica’s eyes when we talk about these trips. It’s not jealousy or sadness, but a steely acceptance that she’ll only ever experience these things vicariously through me. With such an uncertain future, allocating money to a Disney vacation is just not something that her family can do. So I decided to take action. I decided that I would run a race to raise money to send Jessica and her family to Disney. When we arrived in Florida, we had already exceeded our fundraising goal of $5000 and all that was left was for me to finish the race.

On race night,we took the Mears event bus from Saratoga Springs Resort at 7:45pm and arrived at the staging area which is in the Film parking lot at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. We entered the event venue via the makeshift bag check line, but no Disney Cast Members were there to welcome us or give directions. The giant parking lot loomed in front of us with lines to sign the guest registry, lines to take a photo, lines to take a last minute potty break.

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I was too nervous to be in the mood for dancing, but a DJ was warming up the crowd and playing lots of familiar, inspiring tunes from both Disney and popular repertoires. While waiting in line, we met up with two other solo runners, but they were starting in different corrals, so I would have to say goodbye to my new friends once the race began.

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At 9:15, my husband and I went our separate ways. He went off to watch the start of the race from the big screen and I headed into my corral dreading the 10 lonely miles ahead and wishing that I had chosen the 5K instead so I could have been on my way to the Villain’s Bash instead of embarking on the torture trail. I kept my phone with me for comfort and because I didn’t want to do this run without access to a camera!

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At about 9:45, the corrals started to move out to the starting line. I had submitted my estimated finish time of 2:15:00, which had earned me a starting spot in corral H. Usually I can find someone to chat with in any Disney situation, but during the 30 minutes that I spent in the corral, I didn’t speak to anyone. I was just too nervous. Then at 10:00, the first corral was released.  I wanted to run away, but I had come this far and there was no turning back now. As each corral was released on 2-minute intervals, I felt more and more nervous. Then suddenly about 20 minutes into the race, our time had come! This time the fireworks were for corral H!

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At that moment, I was missing my training buddies. I wanted to chat away the 10 miles with them as we alternated between jogging and walking. I wanted to look forward to sharing the joy of crossing the finish line with them. I wanted their support and encouragement for the moments ahead when I was going to want to quit.

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Typically, I run 1-minute intervals, but as all of the people around me started to run, I got caught up in the excitement. I ran for nearly a mile and a half straight before I realized that I had better pace myself if I hoped to survive until the end. We ran all the way to Animal Kingdom before turning around on Osceola Parkway and heading back to ESPN Wide World of Sports. Between the mile markers, characters, music, and water stops, it was easy to get lost in the atmosphere and not pay attention to the distance for the first five miles or so.

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Somewhere around mile 6, running started to become difficult. I had only done three runs that were longer than 6 miles, so I expected to be tired by this point. Then the most amazing thing happened. We turned the corner into one of the baseball diamonds and spectators were lining the stadium to cheer for us. From the time we left that stadium, volunteers and families lined our route shouting words of encouragement, smiling, waving giant Mickey hands at us. Suddenly I didn’t feel alone anymore. These people were cheering for me! Encouraging me to keep running! I wanted to stop and hug each and every one of them individually for giving up their time to help motivate 12,000 strangers to accomplish something a goal.

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We made a left turn back onto Osceola Parkway and down the home stretch to Hollywood Studios. I wasn’t alone anymore. These people were rooting for me and my husband was waiting at that finish line, ready to tell me how proud he was of me. I was unstoppable! I had long since thrown the intervals out the window. I was running for as long as I could and walking when I needed to conserve energy. When we passed under the Hollywood Studios welcome sign, Hades was waiting for us and announcing that we only had a mile and a half to go!

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As we wove our way through Hollywood Studios, both onstage and backstage, the excitement started to build. We ran past the hat and past Toy Story Mania before looping around backstage to the finish line. All the while, people were cheering and it was such an amazing feeling! As soon as I crossed the finish line, a volunteer was waiting with a cool towel. Then another volunteer handed me a medal and another presented bottles of water and powerade. Down the line, more volunteers were waiting to hand me a snack box and a banana and someone else wanted to take my picture.

Twelve thousand people crossed the starting line for this race and when I crossed the finish line, every single person that I encountered made me feel like I won the race. It was a hero’s welcome so grand that I could barely feel the pain in my legs and feet. All of the feelings of being alone and scared at the start had vanished. I was inaugurated as a member of the runDisney club. I wasn’t alone after all. I had this huge network of strangers who cared enough to make me feel like I had scaled Mt. Everest. My time of 2:07:11 was good enough to finish 432 out of 1102 participants in my age group, better than I could have hoped for at the start of the race.

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In the end, I’m glad I was running by myself. I could set my own pace and shift my position on the course to avoid traffic without the burden of pacing myself to the group’s speed and ability. I was able to run when I wanted to run and walk when I needed to walk. The festive atmosphere and music was enough to keep the course fresh and interesting. I did not stop for any character photos because the lines were long and I didn’t want to risk falling behind the required pace, but seeing Jafar, Captain Hook, Queen of Hearts, Big Bad Wolf, Stitch, Dr. Facilier, the hyenas, and others on the course certainly helped to keep that atmosphere light. I will do a runDisney event again and I would readily run alone again. It was intimidating at first, but the tremendous volunteers and all of the fanfare made it a fantastic and memorable experience!

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*****

Holly Liska never thought she would be a runner. As a gymnast, she grew up competing in an anaerobic sport and struggled with the endurance required to run long distances. After one season of high school track, she didn’t care to ever run again, but a community event sponsored by the Real Estate Agency where she works inspired her to try to run a 5K. She’s been running regularly ever since and she just completed her first 10-mile race.

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