Sarah Norris is becoming quite the seasoned 5K runner!! I’m excited to welcome her back to recap her experience at her 3rd 5K 3 months – the 2014 Disney Family Fun Run 5K. Take it away Sarah!
Disney’s Marathon Weekend offers an exciting array of events for guests to participate in. From the kid’s events to the full marathon, it’s jam packed with races. This year, I had the chance to participate in the Family Fun Run 5K – adding another 5K to my 5K circuit during this 2013-2014 runDisney season. Having run the Happy Haunted 5K during the Tower of Terror Weekend and the Jingle Jungle 5K during Wine & Dine, I thought I was well prepared for the chaos that is Marathon Weekend. However as I discovered this weekend turned out to be a whirlwind of an experience.
The first thing I did during Marathon Weekend was head to the race expo to pick up my bib and race packet. The expo opened at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, January 8th, and I arrived around 11:30 a.m. The parking lot was the fullest I have seen for any expo that I’ve been to so far.
As with the Wine & Dine Half Marathon runners of the 5K pick up their bibs in the HP Field House and then pick up their t-shirts in the Jostens Center where the expo takes place. During Wine & Dine, I picked up my bib down on the main floor of the HP Field House, this time I had to take a winding path throughout the 2nd floor to find the 5K bib picket. The signs weren’t quite as clearly marked as one would expect; however there were plenty of volunteers on hand to direct runners to the right spot.
When I got to the bib pick up area, my line was fairly short. In fact, the entire 5K bib pick up area was very quiet considering. I quickly obtained my bib and headed over to the Jostens Center for my t-shirt and to explore the expo offerings.
I have to say that I really loved the shirts that they had for runners of the 5K. They were quite cute, and very bright. You wouldn’t get lost wearing this day-glow green shirt. My bag also contained some small swag – a Clif Bar and a voucher for a free gift from Fit2Run’s Downtown Disney location. I did later redeem that voucher for a bag.
The expo itself is impressive. There are tons of booths with just about everything you could think of for runners from clothing to gear. The most popular booth was New Balance, as they unveiled their new Disney inspired running shoes this year. As I would hear throughout the weekend, appointments to try on shoes booked up quickly and shoes sizes sold out fast. There were also plenty of runDisney official merchandise spots where you could grab commemorative race swag. There were tons of freebies given out, and one of my favorite spots – the Chiquita Banana/Fresh Express Plinko station!
In preparation for the race, I tried to take it easy and rest. Of course, bedtime was later than I wanted it to be, especially with my 4:30 a.m. wake-up call for the race. One handy tip that I’ve learned after participating in runDisney races is to have all of my gear laid out and ready to go for the morning. This allows for stress-free wake-up and race prep early in the morning. I always have a Plant Fusion protein shake before I head out the door for the race.
As with everything I experienced during the Marathon Weekend, the 5K was packed. It took longer than I anticipated getting into Epcot, where the race was held. Thankfully, I gave myself plenty of time. After parking, I headed through the winding maze that was the Epcot parking lot pre-race area. I finally made it to my corral and got myself situated. Disney has been making smaller corrals for these races, and I think that’s actually a good thing. It means they are less crowded and you also get a better chance of being closer to the front.
I will say that the pre-race entertainment seemed somewhat lacking. I don’t know if it’s because there was so much at the Happy Haunted 5K and the Jingle Jungle 5K but this one seemed rather low-key. There was still a DJ with lots of dance music but it just didn’t have as much of a festive vibe as those other 5Ks.
Before I knew it, 6:15 a.m. was upon us, and it was time for the race. Because I was in corral D, it took a bit for the race to begin. My by count, my corral left the start line about 20 minutes after the race itself began. One of my favorite things about this race – the Fireworks! Not every runDisney 5K has fireworks that go off at the start line, and I was super excited that they did at this one. It totally got me into the runDisney spirit.
Because this was a larger race, the running areas were fairly crowded. They told us before the race began that there were 10,000 5K participants: 7,000 were running the Dopey Challenge (so inspiring!) and 3,000 were running the traditional 5K. That’s a lot of people. One of the things I did notice is that the race etiquette was better at this race than some of the previous ones I experienced.
The race itself goes through backstage of Epcot into the World Showcase and back to the Epcot parking lot. In general, I liked this race path – though I think I liked the Animal Kingdom path better. My only major complaint was that there were very few character spots. There were only 4 that I counted and many were packed. The Dopey character meet was lined up clear from Germany where it began through to the end of the Italy pavilion. After running the other 5Ks this season, I would say this one was seriously lacking in character photo ops.
The major challenge of this race was the weather. Not only was it slightly chillier with temperatures in the high 50s and low 60s, but it was also raining off and on. This was the first rainy race I had experienced, and I will say that my pace definitely suffered because of this. In fact, I really didn’t stop much throughout the race because of the poor weather. It was hard to see with my glasses!
Overall, I will say that runDisney’s events are amazing and really inspire me to continue to run. From the amazing people that I meet every race to the awe-inspiring Dopey Challenge runners, I was so proud to be a part of this event. Thank you to the runDisney team, Disney cast members, and amazing volunteers for making this race weekend so wonderful. I can’t wait until the Princess Half Marathon Weekend where I’ll be running the Royal Family 5K!
Sarah Norris is the owner of Gluten Free & Dairy Free at WDW. She began her first runDisney races in 2013 with the Happy Haunted 5K and has had the runDisney bug ever since. She writes about her experiences as a newer runner, as well as running with Crohn’s and a special diet.
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