The Inaugural Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler: Race Recap

The Inaugural Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler took place last Saturday on September 29th and I was so happy that I could be a part of it!  Be prepared, because this race recap travels directly to…The Twilight Zone!

After a whirlwind morning of cheering on the 5K runners and a fantastic lunch at California Grill for the Mom’s Panel Fan Meet, B and I headed back to the room to rest up before the race.  Jeff Galloway gave a few tips on nutrition the day before at the Health & Fitness Expo and recommended eating your final large meal around noon for a night race and then to snack throughout the evening, so we decided to forego the dinner we had planned for a nap and some snacks.  We slept for about 2 hours then got ready for the race.  Our friends Marc, Amanda, and her daughter Alexus met us at the Boardwalk and we all headed over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios on the shuttles.

Ready to Race!
On the bus…total photo bomb 🙂

We arrived at the Studios around 8:00 pm it was still very warm out.  This did not bode well for the upcoming race.  I checked our bag and we settled in for the 2 hour wait to the start.  If you’ve never been to a runDisney race, there is a lot of “hurry up and wait” involved, so be prepared to settle in for a while.  We found some of our friends from the Be Our Guest Podcast family who were also running and that helped pass the time with a lot of laughs.

B and I were in corral C and we decided to head in around 9:00 pm to get a spot close to the front.  A great addition to this race were the Porta-Johns and water stations in the corrals.  This was so convenient and something many of the runners were saying great things about.  I hope this continues for future races.

The race instructions stated that all runners should be in their corrals by 9:15 pm and they were serious.  At that time, volunteers promptly started moving the corrals out onto the road for the walk up to the starting line at the tool booth plaza.  It was quite a far walk and with all of the runners jammed into that area, it was hot.

Starting Area Map
Pre-Race Smiles 🙂
Walking to the Starting Line

The race started off with the wheelchair racers and then corral A was off at 10:00 pm!  In typical Disney fashion, each corral was sent off with fireworks which is so fun!  We were all cheered on by the enthusiastic announcers Rudy, John and fellow FitFluential Ambassador Carissa.  They had great costumes and the whole announcer booth was perfectly themed liked the lobby of the Hollywood Tower Hotel.

The Inaugural Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler Begins!!
Corral C moving to the Starting Line
Starting Line Announcers…they must have been HOT in those outfits!

And finally it was our turn to go!  Check out this video from the starting line featuring B and my friend Debbie:

This was B’s first long race and our pacing is very different.  I stuck with him for about the first mile, but we both decided it was best if I go and run my race.  I’m thankful he is so supportive and I was excited to see what I could do with after all this training.  As soon as we got on Osceola Parkway, I kissed B goodbye and took off.  Osceola Parkway is a long stretch of highway leading to Animal Kingdom and there are many hills due to the overpasses.  When the race course was first released, I was not thrilled about this area of the course, especially since it was just a straight out and back to the Animal Kingdom parking lot.  I was hoping that Disney would’ve provided entertainment along this stretch and was very disappointed to not find any.  After experiencing all of the entertainment along World Drive and leading up to the Magic Kingdom for the Princess Half Marathon, this was a serious let down.  There was only a DJ, a few puppets from Animal Kingdom and character photo ops with the Hyenas and Dr. Facilier over those long 4 miles.

Mile 2…Animal Kingdom Toll Booths
Photo Op with the Hyenas from The Lion King

Just before mile 5, we turned down a dirt path to head into the ESPN Wide World of Sports (WWOS) complex.  I loved the haunted theme of this area, but this was my least favorite part of the course.  It was VERY dark and there were large stones all along the path.  I walked most of this area because I was concerned about tripping or twisting my ankle.  Most of the runners around me had the same idea.  It’s funny that this was B’s favorite part of the course because he enjoys running on trails and grass much more than the road.  I think he’d make a good trail runner…maybe we should give that a try 🙂

On the haunted trail to EPSN Wide World of Sports

Once through the trail, we entered WWOS which was a lot of fun.  We ran all throughout the complex, including the track and around the bases at Champion Stadium.  The stadium was a great spot for spectators too!  There were some really fun signs there like “Worst Parade Ever!” which made me chuckle.  I also saw my friends Rora, Joell and James screaming my name in the stands…I really needed that push 🙂

Entering ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex
Entering Champion Stadium
Rounding the Bases at Champion Stadium!

Once throughWWOS, we headed down the long drive back to Oceola Parkway.  Sadly, there was no entertainment here either except for one photo op with the Big Bad Wolf.  This was a tough stretch for me as the heat was really starting to get to me and bordem was starting to set in.  I generally don’t drink Powerade when I run because it doesn’t sit well with me, but because I was sweating so much I started diluting it with 2 cups of water at each water station.  I’m glad I started doing this around mile 4 because I don’t think I would’ve made it much past this point.  The main thing that was keeping me going now was knowing that I wasn’t far from entering the Studios and I couldn’t wait to run through the park.  So I trekked on…

We entered the Studios just before mile 9 through a back entrance on the Lights, Motors, Action! stage.  This was really cool to run across, but there was a strong smell of gasoline in the air which wasn’t too pleasant.  From there, we ran down the Streets of America and once again disappointment set in.  I was expecting to turn the corner and see some of the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights illuminating the street as they had for the Wine & Dine Half Marathon for the past two years.  Nope, the street was dark.  The only bonus was to see my friend Suzie cheering at the end of the street…thanks girl!

Lights, Motors Action!
Streets of America

After the Streets of America, we ran past the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant, up to the hub and around the Sorcerer’s Hat.  There was a huge crowd cheering here as well which really picked up my pace.  I hope everyone who spends the time to be out there cheering on the runners knows how much it means to us.  You all are amazing!

The course then went into the Animation Courtyard and through Pixar Place.  I think this was the first time I haven’t seen a wait at Toy Story Midway Mania!  We then entered a backstage area and I knew we were on the home stretch because we were heading back towards the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.  Soon enough, the Hollywood Tower Hotel and the finish line were in sight…I picked up the pace and finished strong!!

Coming up on the Sorcerer’s Hat
Heading into Animation Courtyard
Pixar Place and a gorgeous night sky
Finish Line and the Hollywood Tower Hotel in the distance…FINALLY!
Crossing the Finish Line!
Finishing in the shadow of the Hollywood Tower Hotel

It was so great to see my friends all waiting for me at the finish line, including Marci who has been such a huge supporter and inspiration this year.  Congrats Marci on finishing your first 5K!  I also got a big, sweaty hug from my friend Melissa who completed her first long race with a big smile on her face.  Best hug ever…I’m so proud of you!

So here is where the madness began.  After getting our meal boxes, bananas and water (I took 2 because I felt severely dehydrated from the heat!), we began to wind our way through backstage and into Fantasmic!.  There was a “lovely” giant hill we had to walk up and then the path narrowed into the photo stop area…not ideal for hot, tired runners.  If you’ve ever seen Fantasmic! you know how long of a walk it is to get to the stadium, well we had to walk out that path onto an insanely crowded Sunset Boulevard.  I’m not sure what a better route would be, but this definitely was frustrating.  Many runners were overheated and needed a place to sit and rehydrate, but the volunteers where very adamant about keeping us moving.  I didn’t witness any of this, but I heard numerous stories of people passing out and vomiting after the finish line.  A rest area was definitely needed.

I knew B was a ways behind me, so I decided to head over to to bag pick-up so he would be able to change when he finished.  Changing was also a huge priority for me as my clothes were literally dripping in sweat.  I don’t think I have ever sweat so much in my life…that humidity was no joke!  Bag pickup was located at Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, which is all the way over by Echo Lake.  When I got there, I was greeted by a long line and a giant set of stairs leading down to the stage where the bags were.  Sigh…  It was very cool to walk on stage and the bag pick-up itself went smoothly, but it was just a frustrating experience after a long hot race.

Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular Stage
Bag Pickup

Changing tents were set up along echo lake, but they were more like saunas than changing tents.  It would’ve been nice to have some fans set up inside the tents to get air circulating.  I was already over heated from the race and couldn’t bare the thought  of changing in there, so I set off to find a nearby restroom.  Apparently, I wasn’t the only one with this idea because the lines at all the restrooms were incredibly long.  So I suffered with my wet clothes, at least I could change into my flip flops…best feeling ever!

It was around this time that I got the text that B had finished the race!  I was getting worried about him because he wasn’t answering any of my text messages and feared he got swept.  I literally jumped for joy and headed back to Sunset Boulevard to meet him.  We immediately headed to Fairfax Faire for some ice water and I grabbed a Yuengling for a nice carb boost 🙂  We were also famished and craving salt so I grabbed some chicken nuggets and french fries from Rosie’s.  These were the best chicken nuggets I’ve ever had in my life!!

Chicken Nuggets & Fries…Post-Race Meal of Champions!

It was around 2:00 am at this point and we were both exhausted and needed showers, so we decided to forego the Villians Hollywood Bash and head back to the room.  I finished the race in 2:20 and my Garmin recorded 10.16 miles, an average 13:48 minute pace.  This was a slow pace for me, but I was happy considering the heat.  B finished in an impressive 2:53 for his first distance over 3 miles!  I am beyond proud of him for taking on this challenge!  I’m not sure he’ll ever do another race, but doing this one is more than most people can say they’ve done.  The medals definitely lived up to the expectation and they are by far the best part of running this race!

Red faced and proud of our accomplishment!

While I had fun, this was definitely not my favorite race.  The heat definitely had something to do with it, which was also an issue the first year of the Wine & Dine Half Marathon held the same weekend in 2010.  Maybe this is still too close to summer to have a race in Florida because the weather can be unpredictable.  The lack of entertainment on the course was also a big negative for me and I heard a lot of similar feedback from other runners about this.  There is a lot of room for improvement with this race and I hope runDisney will take all of our feedback to make for a better experience next year.

So now I want to hear from you!  Did you run the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler?  What did you think?  What was your favorite part?  What improvements can be made?  Leave your comments below and I’ll compile all of the feedback for a future post.  Collectively we can help make this better!

Congratulations to everyone who completed the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler.  You are all rockstarts for braving that heat!

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  • This was my first race ever beyond a 5K so I was proud of my finishing! I was at about a 15 minute average after my foot started hurting badly around mile 7. Before then I was in the low 14. So I am proud of myself and enjoyed the race due to that. Oh and I had no idea we’d be running up exit ramps and bridge hills. Silly me just assumed it was flat. Next year I better add hills to my training.

    However, I had heard so much about Disney races, and couldn’t wait for the coolness of the race. Sadly, it was SO BORING. I was in corral D and the lines for characters were 20-30 deep since there were so few. I skipped all because I didn’t want to risk not finishing. However that stretch of Osceola especially should have had tons of music and characters. I also agree with you about the concern with the dirt path. I didn’t want to sprain an ankle that close to the end so I made sure to pick my moments carefully to sprint past walkers.

    And the Villains Bash was so overcrowded we just left out of frustration at the wait times. Wait times were 30-40 minutes. We went back to DHS the next morning and had walk ons to everything. That shouldn’t be how it is.

    • Congrats on finishing your first long race!! It is a huge accomplishment, especially in that heat. I’m sorry to hear that your foot started bothering, but I’m glad you were able to finish.

      Most people think of Florida as being flat, but forget about those hills from the overpasses in WDW. Training on hills is not only a great way to prepare for these races, but it will also make you a better runner overall. Definitely add that into your training routine.

  • sarah,

    I wish I had had a chance to meet you while I was there and it seems that we were at the some of the same events. I also attended the Mom Panel meet and that was my huge meal for the day. I had done the 5k that day and also the 10mile that evening, this was my 1st long disntance run and all the training I had done still had not prepared me for the race becasue of the humidty it made it a tough run, but I had just completed it based on the pace requirements. One thing I did learn from this event Disney was very strict on the pace requirement. I know friends that were part of the race and they got sweep by mile 8. Though they were still given a medal at the finish line that has to be a disappointing feeling. Oh I also saw Rora in the stadium and her cheering from a friend gave me the strength to pull through.

    I know once we made it back into DHS and the hub area my hubby & daughter were there cheering for me, but at that point my mental state was just to finish. Once we came around the cormer and I saw the finish line I just took off full speed and bolt to the finish line.

  • I ran the half marathon earlier this year and loved it so much I signed up for the 10 miler. My Mom also was inspired by my running the half marathon and signed up for the 10 miler with me. I was pretty disappointed at the on course entertainment and found it lacking. The humidity was awful! (But that is something Disney can’t really control). I didn’t like the loooong walk to bag claim after the race, and no where for people to sit after the finish line. I had read about the Osborne Lights during the Wine & Dine and was hoping to see them for the 10 miler. I also ended up leaving the villains bash early. It was a little too crowded, and too hot.

    Although not my favorite race, I won’t say it’s my last runDisney race…

  • I thought the course was pretty boring too! Where was all the entertainment? I will say that from running the Princess, it seems like the wait lines for characters are typically 20-30 people deep whereas at Disneyland it is maybe 5 people. I definitely prefer the Disneyland races. I did think the haunted forest part was the coolest part of the race but was worried the whole time about tripping or twisting my ankle. However, I thought the theming was great.

    The Villains bash did have long lines for several things but we were able to walk onto Star Tours and had less than a 35 minute wait for Toy Story. Rock ‘n Roller Coaster only had a 20 minute wait but it then broke down.

    Overall, I think the race needs some work. It would have been so cool to have the Tower of Terror as a background for the finish line so it would be in all the pictures.

  • This was not my first runDisney race and I was looking forward to the on-course entertainment. In fact, this was the first time that I felt comfortable carrying my digital camcorder with me to capture all the special moments. Imagine my surprise when I discovered how little entertainment there actually was. I was truly disappointed and opted not to stop for any pictures.

    As a minimalist runner who runs in Vibrams I didn’t love the dirt trail to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. It was dark, rocky and hard to pass any walker who wasn’t kind enough to walk on the sides of the path. Also, I thought this was a boring part…I couldn’t wait to get out of there, it really slowed my pace because of the narrowness of the sidewalks there.

    I was really appalled at the amount of people in Hollywood Studios. The lines for the bathroom were ridiculous if you were a female and the poor Cast Members couldn’t keep up with the cleaning because of it. My husband (who also ran) and I left the party because we couldn’t stand the amount of people, lack of breathing room or space for tired runners, and the lines for food and bathrooms. None of that makes for an enjoyable after party.

    All in all, I finished in 1:51 minutes, but it was the hottest race I’ve run to date in Disney.

  • Great recap, love your pics! Congrats on your finish. I agree that the course was boring – this was my first long distance Disney run and I was expecting much more entertainment. Also, more water stops would have been nice.

  • Congrats on finishing the race Sarah! I’m sure it felt so awesome to cross that finish line. Honestly, the humidity that night was pretty brutal for us just STANDING in it so running in it had to be horrendous! My sister-in-law and I were saying we had much better running conditions during the 5k than you guys had…. and big congrats to B as well for running it!

    I have to say that during my 5k I was a bit surprised that there weren’t more characters out. There was brer bear and fox and the grave diggers but not much more than that. There was even a pirate ship on the way but there were no pirates there! I was a bit sad, I was hoping to see Jack Sparrow when I saw the pirate ship coming up. Another thing is on the run disney website they described the finish of the 5k as being “amazing” and something we would never forget. Um, there wasn’t really much of anything except the finish line and people cheering us on. Maybe I missed it but I assumed Disney would do something out of this world!

    Either way I had a great time and definitely have the running bug. Congrats again to you and B for completeing the race. I’m sure you both are wearing your medals around town proudly!!

  • Congrats on the race! It was crazy hot just standing around and cheering, I can’t imagine running in that humidity & heat! It was SO inspiring watching everyone run!

    I did my first ever 5K the day before, and had so much fun! I didn’t like the trail part of it though, especially when I fell (thank goodness it was on the dirt part, so I was just a little dirty & a lot embarrassed, lol, but not hurt. There was a large branch or something in the middle of really soft mud, and that’s what I hit.) but I was doing it for the characters, and even though there weren’t too many out, they were rare (and Brer Fox wasn’t even out when I passed by), and I was SO excited to meet them! I’m already signed up for the princess 5k. 🙂

    Oh, and next time I spot you at the expo, I will make sure I come over to say hi. 😉

  • This was our first runDisney race and I agree with you completely. The humidity, obviously out of Disney’s control, was brutal! But the things in their control, the course, entertainment, no powerade at the second drink station, etc., were all a bit disappointing and not at all what I had expected.

    I am anxious to run another race there next year, just not this one 🙂

  • Hi… I enjoyed reading your write-up. This was my 3rd Disney race, starting with the 2012 Half last January and the Disneyland Half last month, and with the 2013 Full coming up early next year, I’m definitely trying to become a Run Disney junkie. Based on my experiences at the WDW Half, I signed up for the ToT 10-miler almost as soon as I could. The WDW Half was absolute magic. Cool running weather (started in the mid/late 40s, which is arctic to this Floridian), great on-course entertainment, running through the MK, past the Deluxe resorts, back to and through EPCOT, and of course lots and lots of great characters and photo ops.

    Your criticisms of ToT were pretty spot-on. Of course, Disney can’t control the weather, but it was REAL humid, even for Florida in late September. The course was long, dark, and mostly unexciting. Very little in terms of on-course entertainment. You passed by the same DJ twice, a few scattered photo ops, and a long, DARK course. Things really didn’t get very interesting or well-themed at all until you reached the ESPN WWoS area. The dirt trail was pretty cool, I’ll admit.

    Unfortunately I discovered I caught a little food poisoning from my lunch somewhere between miles 3 and 4, so the last 6 miles or so were a brutal. Between the heat and the nausea, it wasn’t the most fun of races for me. But I finished! Yet, even the finish line was disappointing. You turned a corner and…oh. There it is. No characters, no bright lights, nothing really. You had an announcer and that was it. Nothing like high-fiving Donald at the end of the Disneyland Half!

    Overall I was disappointed (and I left the bash pretty quickly feeling extremely weak and queasy, although my wife and I managed two get on two rides with on wait), but this won’t turn me off from Disney races anytime soon. The great experiences I had at WDW Half (and the not-quite-as-great-but-still-pretty-awesome Disneyland Half), especially compared to some pretty wretchedly organized other races I’ve done (*cough* ING Miami *cough*), will keep me coming back for more.

    But I do hope they improve the race dramatically for next year. Play up the spookiness! More characters, decorations, and entertainment! And for the love of Mickey, a shorter exit chute!! 🙂

    • It’s so easy to become a runDisney junkie, isn’t it?? I’m sorry to hear that you got food poisoning during the race…that must have been horrible, especially in that heat. I’m sure they will make improvements for next year and hopefully it will be cooler!

  • nice write up! I am looking forward to the Haunted Trails 5K this year. I have done other Disney 5Ks, but this will be the first one outside of a park.
    I am planning to chear on my friends during the 10 miler that night.
    How did your friends get to the WWOS?

    • Thanks!! Hope to see you over ToT Weekend!
      Disney will provide transportation to WWOS for the race if you are staying at a host hotel.

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