My first race EVER was a 5K at Walt Disney World. I wasn’t a runner at all back in 2010, but I managed to finish the race and I had a BLAST! It’s a great way for Disney fans of all ages and athletic abilities to try a new challenge and see the parks in a completely different way. The recent Walt Disney World 5K was Beth’s first runDisney race and as you can see from her recap, she LOVED every second of it!
The 2015 Walt Disney World Marathon weekend kicked off with a bang last Thursday, January 8 with the Family Fun 5K run/walk event through Epcot. This race is now known to all participants as the “Frozen 5K” with a wind chill advisory bringing temperatures to a balmy 38 degrees (but more on that in a little bit).
This was my first runDisney event ever, and a great introduction to the runDisney club. My best friend and I had originally signed up just to participate in the half marathon (also my first ever), but after realizing that the last training run of the Jeff Galloway training plan (provided for free by Disney) called for a final 30 minute training session the Thursday prior to the half, we thought – why not?! A chance to get another fantastic Disney medal? Sign us up! (It turns out, Disney medals are incredible and very, very addicting).
The 5K starts slightly later than most of the other races of the weekend. The first gun goes off at 6:15am (as compared to 5:30am for the half and full). This means we didn’t have to wake up until 3:30am (of course everyone’s wake up calls vary, depending on pre-race rituals). Heading out from the Art of Animation resort, we jumped right on a bus at 4:15am to arrive at Epcot at 4:30am. (Bus transportation was amazing all weekend long, with little to no waits at any point.)
Arriving at the race, we knew right away we were in for a long wait to the start. As mentioned before, it was freezing with high winds making matters even worse. Racers lined the fence line seeking protection from the wind as much as possible. Other groups gathered around the spotlight generators which blew out warm air to try and stay warm. Disney had a great DJ going to entertain and pump up the crowd, but when the DJ is dressed in a coat, gloves, hat, and scarf, it’s hard to leave the sanctuary of your wind protector to dance the cupid shuffle in the open arctic tundra.
During this time, runDisney did have bag check available as well as food and drink for purchase. Few racers appeared to check bags, due to the nature of the race. I was pleasantly surprised to see the food available for purchase, both from Disney and local food trucks.
Lines were never long, and the Disney booth did accept Magic Band payments if linked to a credit card (they also accepted cash and regular credit). The most popular item was certainly the hot beverages since participants were doing whatever they could to stay warm. Though picnic tables and high top tables were available, few took advantage, instead seeking refuge along the fence blocking perimeter. (Some racers did creatively use the table clothes as blankets.)
Runners were not moved into their corrals until 5:20am and the walk from the gathering area to the corrals was a quick 5 minutes. Had it not been so cold, the early arrival time would have been fine and filled with dancing and photos, but the chill made the wait until the start feel like forever. The longest line of porta-potties I had ever seen were lined up for use before entering the corrals. So many were supplied, lines never seemed to be that deep.
Moving into the corrals, runners huddled together for warmth, which provided everyone a great opportunity to make new friends. One of the best things about runDisney races is the friendliness and camaraderie amongst the participants. Everyone is so excited and supportive. Past participants are a great sources of information and inspiration to first time runners.
For the 5K, there are only 6 corrals. I was in corral E, the second to last corral to start. Corrals were sent out 8 minutes apart to help spread participants throughout the course. Each corral received their own starting fireworks, which can get even the chilliest runner moving. Especially moving was the playing of the national anthem. Everyone went silent as the trumpet started. Slowly, there was a hum through the crowd, and gradually a quiet sing-a-long. It was a beautiful moment.
Then we were off! Finally moving, it took a little while for the legs to warm up (the hands never thawed). Participants ranged in all ages and abilities. I had expected to see tons of younger children, but was surprised to find kids were a very small portion of the participants. Many participants wear costumes to the 5K, many more than to the half or full marathon. People can be so creative! Costumes are a great way to add even more fun to your race, and help to give your fellow runners something fun to look at during their run/walk.
Since Disney only requires a 16 per minute pace, it was common to see participants who walked the entire track, especially those participating in the Dopey challenge who needed to save their legs for later in the weekend. I did not hear of anyone getting swept off the 5K course and find it highly unlikely, but cannot confirm if they do or do not sweep for this race. An important note is that since so many people walk, to actually run the race can be difficult. My friend and I ended up bobbing and weaving all over the course and in many places where the course narrowed, there was no choice but to walk. Not a huge problem since this is supposed to be a fun run, but important for runners to be careful so they do not trip each other and cause injury.
The first mile of the course is mainly on a side road long the Epcot parking lot and then along a backstage access road where you reach the first mile marker right around where you enter the backstage of Epcot behind Test Track.
During the first mile, there was only 1 character stop. This character was Princess Atta from “A Bug’s Life”. My friend and I choose not to stop for a picture since we barely knew the character and the line was fairly long.
Mile 2 takes place almost entirely within the park and is the best mile of the race. You enter the World Showcase between Mexico and Norway. The sun was just rising for us, providing a beautiful view.
Norway Daisy was the next character, and we decided to stop since it is more rare to see Daisy in Norway garb. This also provided the perfect opportunity for my friend to use the park restrooms. (Park restrooms are preferable to porta potties any day).
We then stopped for Pinocchio in Italy and waited about 8 minutes in line.
We passed on Chip n’ Dale in Japan because the line was just enormous. Had it been nicer weather, we would have stopped, but we were just too cold. Marie from the Aristocrats in Paris had a short 4/5 minute line which was more tolerable.
Note – wait times are not posted. Some lines look long but move very quickly because of the character attendant/photopass cast members’ efficiency. Other lines can be short but take forever if the character attendant is not taking photos with runners’ personal cameras.
Running down international gateway and slightly behind stage, we finally hit mile marker 2. The three character stops had made this mile last 30 minutes!
The course then jumps back into the park between the UK and Canada. Donald was the last character meet and great on the course at Canada. In all, there were 5 character photo opportunities; one in mile 1, three in mile 2, and one in mile 3.
You finish the World Showcase and turn left for a straight shot down toward Spaceship Earth before turning left and running in front of Future World West (Imagination Pavilion, Land Pavilion, Living Seas Pavilion) and head back in front of the Electric Umbrella towards Spaceship Earth.
You never pass directly under Spaceship Earth, but veer right slightly beforehand to go backstage for the last stretch out to the Epcot parking lot and the finish line. Crossing the finish line, the wonderful volunteers give you the great Pluto medal (while not metal like all of the other weekend races, the medal is huge and great quality. Plus, what other 5K gives a medal?!)
My friend and I were able to backtrack and take pictures right outside the finish with our medals while the runners were still coming in (this was not allowed during the half).
Professional photographers are everywhere to take your picture, and a very generous refueling kit of food and water are supplied to all participants (hint, always go to the photographer and food table farthest away – never ANYONE there!).
Disney still had other food available for purchase, and the DJ was still playing away on stage to keep the party going. Pluto, the 5K mascot, was available for photos and the line was quick at only 10 minutes (considering the thousands of participants, I was impressed). Dopey was also there for those participating in the 4 day Dopey challenge. Bus stops were very clearly labeled and nothing felt better than walking into that heated bus.
Overall, the 5K race was tons of fun and very low pressure. Don’t let it intimidate you if you haven’t participated in a 5K before, don’t consider yourself athletic, but have always wanted to do a runDisney event. This race is perfect for any ability and a great way to start what is a very fun weekend of events!
Beth Pope currently lives in Washington, DC and is a former Walt Disney World cast member. In addition to the 5K, she also completed the WDW Half Marathon. Prior to this race weekend, she had only ever completed two 5K and two 10K official races. She now plans to complete the Coast to Coast challenge in 2015.