Posts Tagged by runchat

A Look at the Kessel Run Challenge

When I first heard about the Kessel Run Challenge, I immediately added it to my bucket list of races to complete.  Not only because I love Star Wars, but because the medal is AMAZING!  Zach just completed the Inaugural Kessel Run Challenge and is here to share some of the high and lows of both races.  Let’s go for a run!

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Kessel Run Challenge

Star Wars was my first love.  I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know the movies – I immediately fell for the feel, look and spirit of the films.  They stuck with me through countless novels, comic books, video games, prequel movies, an animated series, and the exciting announcement – in October, 2012 – that Lucasfilm had been acquired by the Walt Disney Company.

That month I was training for my first marathon and first runDisney event: the 20th Anniversary Walt Disney World Marathon.  I daydream when I run, and it was hard not to get lost in a galaxy of imagination: What would the new movies be like?  Was Disney planning an expanded Star Wars presence in the parks?  How would it feel to run a Star Wars themed race?

That last question was answered in just a little over two years!

I completed the first two Star Wars Half-Marathons in Disneyland, but I didn’t plan to participate in the inaugural Star Wars Dark Side races at Walt Disney World – I’ll tell you why before I wrap up.  However, when runDisney unexpectedly reopened registration in mid-February 2016, I couldn’t help but sign up for the Half Marathon and see if I could earn the incredibly cool Kessel Run Challenge medal.

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What runDisney has given us are two fun, wonderfully-themed races on fast courses with great entertainment along the way.  Each has high points and low points, and I thought it would be helpful to discuss those for the uninitiated in three areas: Course, Entertainment, and Medals.

COURSES

I dare anyone to not love the first five miles of the Star Wars Half Marathon in Anaheim.  That portion of the course is almost exclusively through Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure, or through backstage areas.  No one has ever written a review of a west coast runDisney course without using the words “once you leave the parks, however…”  This course is no different.  Around mile 7 it turns through a residential neighborhood as bathrobe’d (NOT Jedi robe’d) residents stumble out to the curb for their morning papers.  From there, it gets weirder.

At one point during the race I noticed a man in a wheelchair struggling to get up a ramp to the door of an adult bookstore.  I instinctively veered onto the sidewalk to help him, but thought again when I realized that – considering I was dressed as Luke Skywalker – it would have been one of the strangest things happening on the planet at that moment.  The entertainment makes up for the oddness of the course, and I’ll get into that in the next section.

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When I signed up for the Dark Side half on the East Coast, the course was not yet public.  A little detective work on the runDisney site revealed a start at Epcot and a finish at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex.  My quick conclusion was that we were getting a reverse Wine & Dine course, and the eventual map release essentially confirmed that, with a few notable exceptions!  Most importantly – and maybe the highlight of the race – is mile 2 through World Showcase in Epcot.  It’s dark.  The torches are lit.  Other than the music and sound effects it is eerily quiet other than the sound of shoes.

After Epcot was the part of the race that had my crowd concern antenna up – the narrow path between the Boardwalk and the ‘Studios.  I had heard this was wingtip to wingtip during the 10K, but I thankfully had no problem keeping my pace up into what’s currently left of Hollywood Studios.  Animal Kingdom is always a joy to run through in the dark, and then the final surprise of the course was a dirt path into ESPN WWOS off Osceola Parkway that I didn’t know existed!

Both courses are flat, fast and offer solid opportunities to run through Disney Parks.  What excites me is that they’ll only get better when runDisney can route us through finished, immersive Star Wars lands at each resort in just a few years!

ENTERTAINMENT

Again, the early portion of the Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon really shines.  Star Wars music comes from everywhere, and characters are projected stories tall on buildings.  The course runs through a tunnel underneath the Disneyland Railroad that has been lit lightsaber red and filled with the ominous sound of Darth Vader’s mechanical breathing.

In California Adventure, World of Color lights up Paradise Pier.  Several character stops mark the way, the most popular of which this past year was easily BB-8 in DCA.  I stopped during the 5K, 10K and the half, and never faced longer then a 5-10 minute wait.

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Other stops include giant set pieces that allow runners to become part of iconic Star Wars scenes, like the Death Start trash compactor in Episode IV and the Wampa’s ice cave in Episode V.

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As I said earlier, the course gets a little weird once it leaves the confines of the parks, but the on-course entertainment keeps the energy going.  Several high school marching bands provide music and enthusiasm along the way, especially if you wave a lightsaber at them – I honestly don’t know where these kids get their energy that early in the morning!  Huge contingents from the 501st Legion, the Rebel Legion, and the Mandalorian Mercs (fan costuming organizations, for those not in-the-know) hold down the course around mile 9, as well as several motorists with vehicles tricked out in a Star Wars theme.  I wish there had been more on-course entertainment thereafter on the trip back to the resort, but the promise of a celebratory drink at Trader Sam’s is really all the motivation I need to reach the finish line.

I experienced my favorite mile ever in a runDisney event during the Star Wars Dark Side Half, and it was mile two through World Showcase at Epcot.  There were no character stops, but Disney used light, music and sound to create an unforgettably atmospheric environment.  By the time I reached the China pavilion, I had turned off the music playing through my phone, and was scrambling to make a recording of the ambiance so I’d remember what it felt like: perfect (click here for the recording).

Thereafter, I was really surprised by the low number of character stations.  I may not be counting accurately, but I remember Chewbacca outside the International Gate at Epcot, Ezra and Sabine from “Rebels” on the way into Animal Kingdom, a second Wookie on the way out of Animal Kingdom, and a few stormtroopers sprinkled around.  Instead, many of the most sought-after photo ops were at the start or finish line, including Darth Vader, Captain Phasma and Jabba.  That’s very cool for spectators and runners who like to soak up the post-race finish line atmosphere, but there were certainly a few places along the course where a photo op could have broken up a long stretch without a distraction – I’m looking at you, Mile 8 Through The Animal Kingdom Parking Lot.  On the less Dark Side, I loved the big screens along Osceola showing various lightsaber duels from the films – very cool!

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MEDALS

The west coast finisher’s medal is based on the Rebel Alliance’s Medal of Bravery, which is awarded the Luke Skywalker and Han Solo at the end of the original Star Wars movie – that earns it a ton of fan credibility.  The east coast finisher’s medal features a very cool spinner with Darth Vader on one side and the Emperor (with a semi-hidden Star Destroyer) on the other.  Extra points for making the spindle the blade of Vader’s red lightsaber!

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The Millennium Falcon-shaped Kessel Run medal is unbelievable.  It is as big as my hand, but thin enough that it isn’t too heavy.  In a close race with the 20th Anniversary Walt Disney World Marathon medal, it may be the favorite in my runDisney collection!

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BOTTOM LINE

You can’t go wrong running either of these races, and you certainly can’t go wrong running both of them!  If you’re at all into Star Wars (and who isn’t these days?) there’s a lot of see and get excited about, and as runDisney races they maximize time in the parks and send you back to the showers with a lot of wonderful memories.

And I mentioned earlier that I didn’t originally plan to run the Dark Side Half.  That’s because my wife and I expected a new baby daughter to arrive exactly a month before the day of the race.  I didn’t think I’d be up for too many Father-of-the-Year awards if I skipped the state that soon, but my wife was enthusiastically supportive, and I managed the whole trip from Philadelphia to Orlando and back in just about 38 hours.  I want to give an embarrassingly public thanks to Leslie (and Charlie and very new Hadley) for her constant support of my crazy running nonsense!

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Congrats Zach & Leslie!!

Inaugural Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

The Star Wars Half Marathon – The Dark Side is definitely on my bucket list of runDisney races for the future.  I think even the little one will enjoy dressing up like Darth Vader and running a Kids Race!  This year, I’m happy to welcome Susan here to give us a great recap of the Inaugural Half Marathon….take it away!

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As a huge Sci Fi fan, as well as a veteran Disney runner, I was thrilled when I heard about the Inaugural Star Wars Dark Side Weekend at Walt Disney World.  I couldn’t pass it up once I learned it fell on my birthday weekend. I signed up for the Dark Side Challenge, a 10K on Saturday and Half Marathon on Sunday.  Fortunately I trained through a relatively mild New England winter this year and as the date approached, I began to get more and more excited.

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I flew in to Orlando on Thursday, April 14th in the early afternoon and after quickly checking in to the WDW Dolphin Hotel, I hopped on the shuttle and headed to the Expo at the Wide World of Sports.  Star Wars Dark Side was an inaugural race, one that I hope to run many times in the future, and I knew that the Expo would be crowded with people buying commemorative items and Star Wars merchandise.

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Having run many Disney races in the past, I was familiar with the layout of the Expo.  I headed straight for the HP Field House to pick up my bib.  There was no line, I confirmed my info, they took my picture for the Dark Side Challenge medal and I picked up my race shirts. Next, I made my way to the main Expo hall in the Josten’s Center where the exhibitors set up and the majority of the runDisney merchandise is located. I made a quick pass through the items to see what was available and then grabbed a couple of shirts I couldn’t live without.  I purchased an “I Did It” t-shirt (I have one from every runDisney event), a Dark Side Challenge t-shirt with Darth Vader and a long-sleeved Dark Side running jacket.

Sunday morning would come very quickly.  I ran the 10K on Saturday first.  The 10K is not part of this write up, but the race was a blast and this picture with Chewbacca ended up being one of my favorite race pictures.

Me and Chewie

After the 10K, we took it easy with no park visits so that I could rest my legs.  We had an early dinner of roasted chicken and mashed potatoes and I went to bed to try and get some sleep for the 5:00am race start.  I laid out my clothes so nothing would be forgotten.  I’ve run quite a few half marathons and typically keep my clothing choices to wicking materials and proper runner’s clothes.  For this run, I dressed it up a little with some sparkle; a visor and skirt from Sparkle Athletic, with running shorts from Lululemon and a Darth Vader tank top.  Comfort is key, especially when running 13.1 miles!

Outfit Prep

For anyone that has run Disney races, the early start times are the worst thing about the races and 2:30am is a dreadful time to wake up.  The alarm went off, I showered, dressed and headed out the door by 3:00am, making sure I had all my running supplies; iPhone, headphones, room key, money and breakfast (a bagel with peanut butter and a banana, along with a bottle of water).  The hotel lobby was full of runners all dressed up in Star Wars t-shirts, hats and all out costumes!!   The line for the bus wasn’t too long and within 5 minutes one pulled up to take us to the start in the Epcot parking lot.  The sheer number of people who run these races never ceases to amaze me.  I believe the final number was more than 18,000 runners.

Staging Area

The staging area near the start is always exciting and any sleepiness from the early wake-up fades away with all the liveliness happening.  A DJ and an emcee do their best to pump up the crowd.  They played scenes from the Star Wars movies on the big screen; they had trivia contests with runners in the crowd and kept everyone informed of the time.  4:00am came and everyone began the long walk to the corrals.   Even though it was still pitch black outside, with not even a hint of sunrise yet, people were excited and the energy was palpable.

There were many corrals for the Half, A through L.  I started in corral C, as I had submitted a proof of time from a previous half marathon of 2:01:35.  Most Disney runners aren’t running for speed and I knew this would not be a personal best for me, as the heat and humidity would slow my pace, plus I wanted to stop for photos, since this was an inaugural race.

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The national anthem was sung, the fireworks blasted and the corral A runners were off! Within a few minutes, it was our turn.  I started at a nice easy pace, running with the crowds around me and feeding off the energy.  Shortly before mile 1, we were greeted by the sounds of a fantastic high school marching band playing Star Wars music.  What an amazing group of kids!  R2-D2 was up ahead, but the line was very long, so I kept running.  We then made the turn into Epcot and ran through World Showcase.  All of the countries were lit up and Spaceship Earth glowed across the lake.

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We then ran out of the back entrance of Epcot onto the boardwalk past the Yacht and Beach Club Resorts.  Chewbacca was in the same spot as the day before, but I already had a photo.  From there, we ran onto the sidewalk behind the Boardwalk hotel leading us to Hollywood Studios.  The 501st Legion greeted us as we entered HS.  They are truly an amazing group of dedicated, highly accurate, cos-player organization who turned out in droves with Stormtroopers, Sith Lords and many other Star Wars creatures.  They provided many photo opportunities for people who didn’t want to wait in the long Disney character lines.

Darth Vader Throne

The course continued through Hollywood Studios, to a stage where Kylo Ren was standing with Storm troopers and then a phot0 op in front of the Tower of Terror.

Tower of Terror Backdrop

Kylo Ren and Me

We exited HS and headed out for a long stretch of highway before entering Animal Kingdom.  There was plenty of crowd support and a DJ set up in the median, although I cranked up my iPhone music at this point and just ran.

A Wampa cave scene was set up in the AK parking lot, but I had a good running pace going at that point and didn’t stop.  We entered Animal Kingdom, ran past Discovery Island and a photo op in front of Expedition Everest. The sun was rising, so the mountain really stands out in the background.  There were many more of the 501st in AK and I high-fived as many as I could reach as I ran through the park.  And then it was back out to the road again for the long stretch to Wide World of Sports.

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We entered the WWOS complex from the back on a dirt road that leads to the baseball and soccer fields.  I loved the softer stretch of dirt as the pounding on the roads is tough on your legs.  As I reached mile 12, I was feeling tired but overall pretty good.   I came upon Jeff Galloway at this point in the race.  He was run/walking with his wife, Barbara.  I slowed down to say “Hi” and shook his hand.  I thanked him for all the help he has given runners over the years.  He was so gracious and nice, I almost felt bad about speeding up and leaving him behind!  This was definitely a highlight of my race.

The dirt road is only about a half mile and then the course is back onto a sidewalk between the sports complexes.  There were tons of people along the last mile of the race yelling encouragement and holding up signs.  I can’t say enough about spectator support in the final stretches of long races, they really are what gives runners the strength to finish strong!! (RAD Remark: I TOTALLY agree!!)

The end was in sight and I could see the finish line, those medals would soon be mine.  Although I didn’t have much left, I ran through the finisher’s chute and raised my arms in triumph, hot and tired, but thrilled.  Running back to back races at Disney, paired with the early morning wake-up calls, is pretty exhausting, but it’s all about the bling!!  When’s my next race??

Finish Line

Medals!

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Susan is a mother, a pediatric nurse practitioner, a Disney fan and a runner. She loves sharing her passion for running and a healthy lifestyle with others. Her favorite distances are 10Ks and Half Marathons, but this year she is going to tackle the big one!  She’s registered for the Chicago Marathon on October 9th. Let’s wish her luck!!
Follow Susan on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Inaugural Star Wars Dark Side 10K

I’m excited to welcome Krissy to RAD today to give us a recap of the Inaugural Star Wars Dark Side 10K! Krissy and I are kindred spirits…we are both new moms, we are HUGE Disney fans and we both have an obsession with cupcakes.  She’s a runDisney veteran and still loves every magical mile.  Let’s take a trip to the Dark Side with her!

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When runDisney announced a new race weekend to their Walt Disney World line-up, with the Dark Side Half Marathon Weekend, I knew I had to get involved! As a longtime Star Wars fan, runDisney junkie, and Florida resident, it really was a no-brainer…however, there was just one problem – I was six-months pregnant at the time, and was not sure how my post-partum recovery would go.

Still, I knew I wanted to be involved, so I did the sensible thing and registered for the inaugural 10K – a bit more challenging than the 5K, but not as intimidating as a half marathon – and here, seven months later, I am so glad that I took that chance!

For this race weekend, we were guests at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge (DAKL). As a larger race weekend, all Walt Disney World Resort hotels were hosts, and as usual, my experience was smooth and efficient. Although I planned to wake up around 3 AM to catch a 4 AM shuttle, my dear infant daughter had other plans, so I ended up out the door, and on the first bus around 3:15 AM.  Special bonus? I ran into Connie, a friend of mine, and so we sat together on the way over to the race start.

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Like many other WDW races, this starting area was staged in the Epcot parking lot, and once we arrived, we started the walk to the action! There was the standard stage/DJ/music, concession booth, portapotties, and several long lines (would it be Disney without some lines?), which turned out to be character greeting lines of various Star Wars characters, including: a Boba Fett, Jabba the Hutt, Captain Phasma, Darth Vader, and even a backdrop of Han Solo in carbonite.

The weather was pretty much perfect – cool, although a little humid – and, true to the race’s name – still very dark (in fact, the sun didn’t rise until I boarded my bus back to the resort post-race). This darkness made the slow slog of the masses to corrals feel a bit more ominous at 4:45 AM!

For this race, I was seeded in Corral A, and I noticed that the corrals felt a bit more crowded than I had anticipated. Since I had been able to get back to training sooner than I had planned, but was certainly not as speedy as I may have been in the past, I set up camp around 2/3 of the way from the front of the corral, and waited out the start.

Before I knew it (really: I think the Star Wars clips really helped the wait!), the wheelchairs were off, and then, Corral A! We were off for 6.2 miles of intergalactic awesomeness!

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Now, going into this race, I had not yet decided if I was going to straight run, or stop for characters that morning. However, that call was quickly made right before Mile 1 approached, as R2D2 appeared as the first stop of the run, right outside of the cast entrance to Epcot! The line was about 15 runners long, but it moved quickly – probably took 3-4 minutes, tops.

From there, the race moved through the front of Epcot’s World Showcase – through the Mexico gate, past the Showcase Plaza area, Canada, the United Kingdom, then out through the International Gateway, where I definitely had to stop again to meet Chewie!

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The next part of the race took the Boardwalk Path past the resort, then onto the path leading to Hollywood Studios. The path was a bit narrow, and unfortunately, I encountered a few runners who were not heeding to the “no more than two runners abreast” bit of runners etiquette.

Once we reached the gates of Disney’s Hollywood Studios (DHS), I was excited to “run into” Darth Vader! It was somewhat of an unofficial run stop (no Photopass photographer) but it was cool, nevertheless!

Running through DHS was pretty fun! I always enjoy running past iconic landmarks, and truth be told, I had not stepped foot in that park in years, so it was especially cool…there’s just something magical about running through an (almost) empty park! Another favorite moment in DHS? I got to take a “screaming” photo in front of the Hollywood Tower of Terror, right before hitting the 5K mark!

In no time, we were back onto the streets, and we were on our way to the Wide World of Sports. Although this may have typically been a less interesting part of the course, I actually liked the winding uphill overpass, and the straightaway – it kept my mind occupied!

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Turning into the last portion of the “road” portion at Mile 5, there was a big screen that showed forest scenes, a cool transition into the “cross country” portion of the race that I had last run during the late Happy Haunted 5K and Tower of Terror 10-Mile races. The softer terrain was comfy under my feet, and I enjoyed that stretch before making my way into the concrete jungle of ESPN’s Wide World of Sports (ESPN WWoS).

Running past the soccer fields (which were brightly lit – a sight for sore eyes after the previous dark miles!) and I was happy to see my friend Rick. I picked it up a little and caught up with him, which was a great treat after 5+ solo miles!

As we rounded the last turn out toward the parking area, we could see the finish line straight away, and I felt like we were floating! I looked up at the official clock, and was delighted to see we’d be crossing the finish right around 1:20 – not too shabby for character stops, and walking through each water station!

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Making our way through the finisher’s chute, it began to sprinkle – talk about great timing! I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face from the fun race – and I was thoroughly impressed with the finisher’s medal.

After bidding Rick goodbye (and “see you later!” since we were going to meet at the Magic Kingdom later) I was able to board my bus back to my resort without any fuss, and due to the vicinity of ESPN WWoS to DAKL being quite close!

I was very satisfied with my overall race experience with the Inaugural Star Wars Dark Side 10K, and have to say – I was extremely grateful that it was the only race I was registered for that weekend – there is something to be said about taking each race for what its worth and not going overboard with a race challenge once in a while 😉

So, will I be back for another Star Wars race? I have to say – I’ll likely give in to the Dark Side once again – after all – they have bling!

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Krissy is a 14-time marathoner, RRCA-certified Running Coach, Disney Vacation Club Member, and mommy to one sweet girl and two rambunctious pups. She has been participating in runDisney events since 2008.
Visit Krissy at Shiawase Life and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest!

2016 Princess Half Marathon Race Retreat

This year I was lucky enough to have not one but TWO contributors attending the Race Retreat over Princess Half Marathon Weekend!  Today Deborah is sharing why she loves Race Retreat and all of the benefits you receive.

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2016 Princess Half Marathon Race-Retreat

Why I Love Disney’s Race Retreat

My name is Deborah and I love running Disney races.  My most recent races were the 5k and Glass Slipper Challenge during the Princess Race Weekend 2016.  While I had many great experiences during this trip to Walt Disney World, this blog will focus on the race retreat at the half marathon.  This is the second time that I have used the race retreat and it cemented for me my love of race retreat.

First, the facts:

  • What: Race Retreat is an additional purchase option during some runDisney events where you have access to a large, heated tent along with a number of amenities before and after the race
  • Purchase: Through the runDisney website
  • Cost: $120US plus processing fee
  • Includes:
    • Bagels, fruit, beverages before the race and a breakfast buffet (eggs, sausage, etc.) after the race
    • Tent with chairs and tables, private port-a-potties and bag check
    • First aid station after the race
    • A character meet and greet
    • Internet and computer stations to check results
    • Massage for purchase
    • Big screen with live video of the finish line
  • Controlled access: You pick up a wrist band at the Expo

Expo Floorplan

 

The morning of the 2016 Princess half marathon was chilly, not cold like in 2015, but certainly fresh.  After getting off the bus before 4:00 am on the morning of the race, I could see other runners heading to the corrals or waiting in the staging area; many were huddled together or clutching their runDisney Mylar blankets from the 10k the previous morning.  I, however, walked with purpose, following the signs to the race retreat.

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After showing the race retreat guards (really, just a couple of nice Disney cast members) my wrist band, I was allowed to enter the race retreat.  The warm tent was a delight after the long, cold, dark trek from the buses.

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There were round tables with chairs sprinkled around with tables of food in the centre, and stations for gear check, the character meet, and other services were lined around the outside of the tent.   My first task was finding a table to serve as base camp for all of the different tasks and activities that went on for the next hour.

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These included eating (a bagel, cream cheese, jelly) drinking (hot chocolate and water), visiting the port-a-potties, and getting a character photo.  Had I brought a bag, I could have left it at the gear check in the tent.

 

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Shortly after 5:00 am, announcements were made asking all runners to head to the corrals.  It was tough leaving the warm tent, but sitting in a proper chair for the hour before the race was so much better than sitting on the cold ground.

After the race, I headed back to the tent.  This is where my first of two criticisms of the race retreat comes into play:  you have to find the tent!  Looking at the map, it seems very clear.  However, the signage after the race was seriously lacking and it took some time to find the tent amongst all of the people.

 

Map

The race retreat wrist band was required to re-enter the tent.  Once inside, there were again a number of things to do.  My first priority was to find something to drink and there were lots of choices, both hot and cold: Powerade, Coke products, water coffee, and hot chocolate.   I made two trips to the buffet for eggs, surprisingly delicious potatoes, yogurt, fruit and sausage patties.

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The First Aid station was handing out Tylenol, ice, bandages and staff were there to help anyone who needed assistance.  The characters were back and were meeting with the runners, and the gear check staff were handing out Princess towels.  There was also an area where runners could pay for a short massage.

 

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If you are going to the race with a group of family and friends but not running together, the race retreat is an excellent place to meet after.  Those who finish earlier have a warm, comfortable place with chairs and tables, and they don’t have to wait to enjoy a good, hot meal.

Family and friends can purchase access to the Race Retreat tent for after the race, to meet up with their runners.  An area with bean bag chairs and a television playing Disney movies was set up for the children.

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I mentioned above that I have two criticisms of race retreat, the first being the difficulty finding the tent after the finish.  The second is the expense.  At $120US, it is undoubtedly expensive.  I, however, find that it is money well spent and I will continue to purchase Race Retreat whenever it is available.

 

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A Peak Inside runDisney’s Race Retreat!

I’m very excited to welcome Heather back to RAD today for a peak inside runDisney’s Race Retreat! There isn’t much information available about this additional event during some race weekends and I’m thrilled to finally have an inside look at all the details.  From food, characters and accommodations, Heather’s got us covered…let’s go inside!

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Race Retreat!

Along with the races, runDisney also has some fun and useful events during a race weekend. During WDW marathon weekend and Princess weekend, they have Race Retreat before and after the half (and the full during marathon weekend.) The first time I was trying to decide if I wanted to do Race Retreat, I tried finding reviews online, but there’s really not much out there. So I knew I wanted to write one this time, since it’s still a mystery to most runners, and help you decide if it’s worth it to you!  (RAD Note: Thank You Heather!!)

I’ll say right off the bat that Race Retreat is expensive. This year it was $120. During marathon weekend, you can get it for both the half and full, and that was $230 this year. This year’s Princess Half was the fourth time I’ve done Race Retreat, so even with the price, I have decided that it’s worth it for me for the half marathon. (In 2014, they had Race Retreat with the 10k, too. It wasn’t worth it, which is probably why it’s no longer used for the 10ks!)

So, what IS Race Retreat? It is a tent just off the start/finish area that you can enter before and after the race. It is temperature controlled & out of the weather conditions, has seats where you can relax, has food, has characters you can meet with a short line, has medical and massage (extra charge), has private bag check, has a private set of port-a-poties (so they usually aren’t as disgusting as the ones used by more runners), and has a live video feed of the finish line.

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Only runners who have paid for Race Retreat can enter before the race. You pick up a wristband at the expo that you can put on yourself the morning of the race (so no having to wear it for days, like the coast to coast wristbands!) They will check for your wristband both before and after the race when you want to enter the tent. Non-racers who pay for a certain Cheer Squad can enter once the race starts.

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Race Retreat is about a 10 minute walk from the regular start/finish area. I always think, wow, I forgot how far this is, when I’m walking over. Especially after running a half! When you are walking from the buses before the race, you have to take a right just before entering the main starting area. Otherwise, you’ll miss it, and have to walk all the way back. Remember this extra time when you are deciding when to leave Race Retreat and head for the corrals! There’s a clock inside that counts down to the starting time for the race that you can keep an eye on. I leave around 4:30, since I’m paranoid and just like to get to the corrals early, but I’m usually one of the first ones to leave the tent.

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A big reason I decided to get Race Retreat was that my first half was 2014 Wine & Dine, the Splash and Dash where it rained the entire time. And as I followed along watching the next 2 race weekends, there was a race that was really windy, and one that was freezing. I decided that having an area where I could relax inside, away from mother nature, before heading to the corrals would be a smart idea. The tent IS inside, but I want to say that it’s not really a comfortable temperature. It still feels a bit cold inside. And if you are standing around where the characters are, there’s a big fan and it’s FREEZING in that area. It is still better than standing around outside in the cold, but it’s not exactly as comfortable as I expected the first time I went.

There are tons of tables and chairs inside, and I’ve never  had trouble finding a seat. The very first Race Retreat I went to had a few very comfortable sofas, but I haven’t seen those since. But the chairs they have are fine.

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On the tables, both before and after the race, they have Cliff bars or Luna bars.

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Usually there’s different color lighting, depending on the theme of the characters. But this year, they had some nice themed decorations in the tent, including on the tables. (I apologize for anything in the background of the pictures. Tables are always being taken and then I guess some runners don’t throw out their trash, because I had a hard time finding any empty table I could take a nice picture of!)

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On each table, they also have a schedule of events, so you can see when the tent opens and closes before and after the race, as well as a menu of the food.

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Speaking of food, this is probably the main reason I love getting Race Retreat! Before the race, they have the perfect pre-race fuel, bagels! During other Disney races, I always have to remember (and of course I sometimes forget) to get a bagel at the resort the morning before the race, so I can save it and have it the next day before the race. But with Race Retreat, I don’t have to worry about this at all. I eat my bagel pre-race plain, but they have anything you want to put on the bagel, including peanut butter, jelly, or butter . There’s also whole fruits, such as oranges, apples, and bananas. And in cold buckets, they have small water bottles and poweraide. They also have coffee and sometimes hot chocolate, though I didn’t see it this time, but I think I just missed it.

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After the race, I’m always starving! And with a typical Disney half, by the time I hang around the finish area, then travel back to the room, shower, change, and head to the park, it can be a while before I eat. One race weekend, I kept putting off eating because I was hanging out with friends in the park, and I didn’t eat anything until around 2. Not good, at all!! With Race Retreat, I know that I’m going to eat something that I need right after a race, and I honestly think this is the main reason Race Retreat is absolutely worth it for me (I guess these are the most expensive eggs ever!!)

The food Race Retreat has after the race is generally scrambled eggs, potatoes, some kind of meat (I’ve seen bacon in the past, but lately, it’s turkey sausage patties), whole fruit such as oranges and bananas, oatmeal, and muffins. There’s also the same drinks as before the race.  I felt like the food during Princess was the best I’ve had at Race Retreat. The eggs can sometimes be typical Disney scrambled eggs runny, but this time, they were really good. The eggs usually have cheese on them, but I can usually find parts that don’t have any cheese on it (if you’re like me and don’t want eggs with cheese, especially after running a half.)

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There’s usually breakfast potatoes, but this time, they also had a potato and onion soufflé, which was also tasty.

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I always get the turkey sausage patty, and while it’s good, I always remember after taking a bite that it’s pretty sharp. I don’t like spicy things, but if you do, you’ll probably like it. Eggs, potatoes, and meat are exactly what I want after a race, so they do a good job here.

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There was a nice selection of muffins. I ended up with a REALLY yummy strawberry muffin. You can see they aren’t labeled, so I tried to guess and take another before leaving, but it was some other type of muffin. Still good though!

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This is the first time I saw cut up fruit after the race, along with Greek yogurt, next to the whole fruit, including oranges.

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I was happy, until I saw melon in the fruit salad. I decided to take a chance, and ask one of the Cast Members who was bringing out the food if the fruit was already mixed, and she said no. I explained I was allergic to melon, and she said she could bring me out berries. I was really excited, she came right back with lots of strawberries, grapes and blueberries! I thought that was really nice.

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I didn’t have oatmeal, but you can see there’s a nice collection of food they had that you could add to it as well.

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They say that breakfast service ends at 10am, but they still had food out well after that. Here’s what the food service tables looked like around 10:30am. They emptied a few tables, but there’s you can see there’s still lots of food out on the further away tables.

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I’m a big character person, so another thing I love at Race Retreat are the characters! Usually, you can even find rare characters out! The same characters are out before and after the race, so if you run out of time before the race, you can meet them later. Or you can meet them both before AND after the race, because who doesn’t love meeting characters wearing your medal!? There’s always a Cast Member there to take pictures on your camera or phone. There isn’t a professional photographer with the characters, either from MarathonFoto or Photopass, so make sure you have a camera or phone with you!

The characters at Race Retreat at Princess were from Princess and the Frog, which you probably could guess from the Mardi Gras themed decorations and lighting you’ve seen in earlier pics! Tiana, Naveen, and Louis switched out with Dr Facilier and Louis. Usually there are 2 sets of characters that switch out every half hour. During marathon weekend, though, they had both sets of characters out at the same time! The characters are in the back left hand corner of the tent, and most of the time, there’s no line. Before the race this time, though, the line was longer than usual, and the characters switched out before I made it up there. So I met Tiana, Naveen, and Louis before the race

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It’s nice that you can have some interaction with the characters, too. It’s not like on the race where you quickly snap a picture with the character and run off.

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After the race, there was NO ONE waiting for the characters. I’ve found that to be the case every time at Race Retreat, there are more people meeting the characters before the race than after. This time, I met Dr Facilier with Louis.

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Dr Facilier tried to steal my medals because they looked like they were worth a lot, but Louis jumped in and wouldn’t let him. Phew!

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Since the characters change each time, here’s the other characters I’ve met at previous Race Retreats, to give you an idea of the type of characters they can have out. They range from super rare (last year’s Race Retreat was the jackpot for a character hunter like me!), to characters you can meet regularly (most of the Alice characters)

Foulfellow, Stromboli & Gideon and Pinocchio, Gepetto & Jiminy Cricket at 2016 Marathon Weekend

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Belle, Beast & Chip and Lumiere & Cogsworth at 2015 Princess Half Weekend

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Alice, Tweedledum & Tweedledee and Mad Hatter & Queen of Hearts at 2014 Princess Half Weekend

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If you are checking a bag, you don’t have to go to bag check with everyone else. There is bag check inside the tent. This is great after the race, since there’s no wait! At Princess, there’s an extra treat for anyone at Race Retreat after the race. The last two years, they have given out a small, square towel, with the logo of the race. Even if you aren’t checking a bag, you can go to bag check in the tent and get the towel!

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I didn’t take a picture of this (though you can see the layout in an earlier picture of this post), but after entering the tent, you go to the left, and there’s 2 doors to go outside for the women and men port-a-potties. They can only be accessed by those who were in Race Retreat, and they can be used before and after the race. There’s also several stands to wash your hands.

Towards the front of the tent is a medical section on one side, and a massage section on the other side. The massage costs $10. I’ve never gotten one here, but there doesn’t seem to be a long line. Also in this area is the live feed from the finish line. I was in Race Retreat late, so I was able to watch the very last runner cross the finish line this way. She was SO happy, and Goofy and Donald walked her across the finish line. It was really emotional, and I never would have gotten to see it if I wasn’t in Race Retreat, so that was pretty cool.

As I said earlier, at this Race Retreat, they had a lot more theming than other Race Retreats I’ve done, and they even had a great Princess & the Frog backdrop. Before leaving, I asked another runner to take a picture of me in front of it!

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Hopefully that gives you a good sense about what Race Retreat is like! Any race where it’s available, I always debate if I really need it, but then on race day, I’m so glad I ended up getting it. The chance to relax a bit pre-race, the food, and the characters, is what makes it worth it for me. If you have any other questions about it, let me know!

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Heather-Winfield-Bio-PicHeather 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 240 characters she’s met at Disney World and Disneyland. Follow her adventures at Disney on twitter, instagram and facebook.

You can also find other articles by Heather on RAD where she Compared the Disneyland 10K to Walt Disney World Races and recapped the 2014 Fit for a Princess Health & Fitness Expo.

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