Today my friend Sarah Norris (hey…awesome name!) of Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free in WDW recaps the Mickey’s Jingle Jungle 5K which took place over the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend. This is Sarah’s 2nd 5K and it has been amazing to see her progress over the past few months. She is a fellow sufferer of IBD and I just love hearing positive experiences for those of us that often struggle. She’s defying the odds and I’m so proud to call her my friend and follow her running journey. I know you will to! Take it away Sarah!
It’s hard to believe that not that long ago, I had my first runDisney race. I ran the Happy Haunted 5K (which was my first race ever). In that race, I was quite nervous as a first-time racer but with one race under my belt, I was feeling very excited for the Jingle Jungle 5K. This race was held during the Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend and was held at the Animal Kingdom Theme Park. The race was scheduled for 7 a.m.
I knew going in this race was going to be a lot bigger, so I made sure to get to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex early on Friday. This expo opened up earlier than the Tower of Terror Ten Miler Weekend race, opening at 10 a.m. instead of noon. I like getting my bib & packet pick-up first so that I’m not feeling stressed and can walk the expo more. This time packet pick-up was in the HP Field House. The crowds seemed lower to me, and I’m not sure if it was just time of day or if the separation of the pick-up & expo made the crowds seem lower. I also thought it was a nice touch that they had an official merchandise station both in the HP Field House and the Jostens Center. (2012 Wine & Dine Health & Fitness Expo Recap)
I was a little concerned my corral placement would be further back in this race because my race bib number was higher this time. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see I was placed in corral B. Once I got my bib, I headed to the Jostens Center for some retail therapy and to pick up my race shirt. I liked the Jingle Jungle 5K shirt better than the Halloween one, but I’m also partial to the holidays. Overall, I’ve liked both shirts I’ve been given so far.
I picked up a few last minute race costume additions. In my first race, I didn’t wear a costume and for this race I really wanted to wear something fun. I chose a sparkle skirt from Sparkle Athletic and a sparkly headband from Sparkly Soul. Yes, I sparkled from head to toe!
The first thing I noticed was that the expo was definitely bigger this time with a lot more booths. There were also a lot of vendors who were not present at the previous expo. I particularly liked the Chiquita booth where you could play Chiquita banana plinko. So much fun. Many of the vendors & booths gave out nice freebies and samples. I even lucked out and scored a gift card to Fit2Run, which is a local Florida fitness store chain (with a location that opened at Downtown Disney during Wine & Dine weekend). I also ran into some friends at this race, including my friend Jen from Travel Girl on the Run! She is also a fellow runner with Crohn’s disease, and it’s really nice that we can all share our experiences with one another, especially IBD nutrition and running.
This time, I made sure to relax and unwind before my race. I was staying conveniently at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge – Kidani Village, which is so close to the Animal Kingdom Park. It made for an easy drive in the morning before the race. That evening, my family and I enjoyed a low-key meal at Kouzzina. And then, of course, early bedtime. To me, early bedtime is crucial. Because of my Crohn’s disease, I’m prone to chronic fatigue and I need to make sure I get sleep.
Once the 5 a.m. wakeup came, I was ready to go. I changed into my race outfit and also got my bib on. I then made sure to drink a protein shake. One of the biggest struggles I had the last time was nutrition, so I wanted to support myself as much as possible. I prefer the Plant Fusion chocolate raspberry shake with water. Bring a portable shaker, and you’re good to go! I also packed myself a Gu, which I normally wouldn’t consume on my short runs but because I have Crohn’s and often lose a lot of salt (plus I drink a lot) I found I really needed something to replace my body with after my run the last time. I also tend to push myself in these races so it was extra crucial. Gu’s are gluten free & dairy free so it was great to have on hand.
Once we got to the Animal Kingdom parking lot, one of the big differences I noticed was that the corral setup was very different. It seemed a lot more compact and also a little bit more crowded. The lines for the character and holiday photos were huge, so I didn’t get a chance to officially pose in them. I did however get an unofficial one by standing off to the side. The neatest thing at this race was the fake snow. Yes, you read that right—snow! They use soap bubbles to create snow effects, and it’s really cool. Along with occasional holiday music, this put me in the holiday spirit and was so fitting for this race. I will say they didn’t play as many holiday songs as I would have thought. It was way more dance music. Dance music is just not my thing at 5:30 a.m.
I finally made it to my corral and made sure to stick to the side. I don’t know why, but I like the sides. Plus, I get to chat with my family too! They surprised me with a sign to give me motivation to run harder. It was really nice of them to be there to cheer me on so early.
Before I knew it, it was time to run! This race didn’t have quite as much fanfare as the Happy Haunted 5K did, and I was a little disappointed in that. It just seemed like it was rather rushed and not quite as much anticipation/build-up. But I will say that the race inside the park made up for that.
The first mile or so was in the parking lot. That was pretty boring! It was cool because there were a lot of folks around chatting and having fun, but as far as decor, there wasn’t really anything. You could hear mostly just the announcers & music from the start of the race. Then when you got into the park, things got way more magical!
I will just say that I adore the Animal Kingdom and this was such a great place for a race. There were many character spots, and I personally wanted to try to get a least one photo. I skipped most of them primarily due to long lines & lack of theming. I like many of the characters but I was hoping more of them would be dressed in holiday costumes. The park had lots of holiday music playing and it was just neat to run past the Tree of Life and Expedition Everest.
Another good tip is to make sure you hit all of the water stations, even if you don’t think you need to. It was much cooler than the Happy Haunted 5K but still a good idea to hydrate whenever possible. And thank those amazing volunteers who are helping out! They rock!
The one character spot I missed but really regretted was with Chip & Dale. I love those chipmunks and they were so cute in holiday garb. But the line was really long. I was glad I was able to meet up with Donald later in the race. Because it was closer to the end of the race, and I felt that my pace was good, I decided to stop for the holiday photo with Donald. And I’m so glad I did because it’s one of my most favorite photos from the race.
Before I knew it the race was over! It was definitely a really awesome race. Not only was the theming great, but I also felt more confident as a runner (pushed it this time and set a 13:52 mile pace throughout the entire race). My race time was 45:51 though I paused my app when I met with Donald making my actual time in the race 49 minutes! That was definitely a huge jump, and gave me even more confidence to keep training hard for the upcoming Marathon weekend 5K.
After the race, my family and I went back to the Animal Kingdom Lodge to celebrate with breakfast at Boma. There were tons of Jingle Jungle 5K racers at the breakfast, as you could see a lot of “race bling” throughout the restaurant. Overall, I really enjoyed this race. I’m even more excited now for the next race which will be the Family Fun Run 5K at Marathon weekend.