07 October, 2011

Race Recap: Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon (aka Redemption!)

My whirlwind weekend is finally over and I'm starting to go through photos and jot down thoughts about the Wine & Dine Half Marathon adventure. I figured the most important part of the trip was the race itself so I'll skip over the other parts of the trip for now and jump right into the fun, sound good?

If anyone remembers my adventure from last years race, you'll remember it didn't really go as planned for me.  Hit the "wall" around Mile 9 or 10 and it just went downhill from there.  After spending over an hour in the medical tent puking my guts out, I missed most of the after party and was overall miserable the remainder of the night.  There were definitely a few mistakes on runDisney's part (not what got me sick though!) and a ton of mistakes on my end.  If none of that jogs your memory, the recap can be found here

I am thrilled to say that this weekend's race went off without a hitch!  The issues that many runners had with runDisney's logistics last year were completely non-existent this year.  A few months prior to the race, runDisney issued a statement acknowledging that changes would be made to the 2011 race.  They stuck to every promise and I think the race was very well run. 

So now lets see how it all went down in 2011....

The Expo: 

Packet Pickup Area

I think it was well organized and ran smoothly.  Keith and I arrived around 10am Friday as it opened and it wasn't too chaotic.  Packet pickup went quickly and we enjoyed wandering around the expo booths looking at new products and getting a few samples (big thumbs up for the free Oikos Greek yogurt!).  Stopped over at the Running Skirts booth to say hello to Heather and Ernie and then just wandered and kept running into friends and other Running of the Ears members.  Wasn't a huge fan of the runDisney merchandise that I didn't already own so ended up with just my usual wine glass.

The only blip we had was with transportation to and from the expo.  On the way to the expo was totally my fault.  I remember the Polynesian being a host resort last year and just assumed it would be again this year.  Since we were at Bay Lake Tower, we jumped on the monorail to the Poly and asked about transport.  That's when I realized the Poly was no longer a host resort.  Apparently there were no host Magic Kingdom resorts, which I found odd.  Keith and I jumped in a cab and made it to the expo in record time so I guess it all worked out.

Transport from the expo was slightly chaotic.  There wasn't a cast member anywhere near the bus stops and not much signage.  We only saw signs for buses back to Pop and Caribbean Beach.  After seeing a Beach Club (the 2nd resort we stayed at that weekend) bus pull up on the other side of the parking lot, we quickly sprinted across the lot before it left us.  (Transport to the race on race day, however, went seamlessly.)

Leading Up to the Race:

Last year I definitely exhausted myself by running around the parks the days leading up to the race.  This year?  I TRIED to be better.  I really did.  The day before the race, we went to the expo and then wandered Epcot's Food & Wine Festival sampling a ton of food.  Didn't do too bad with the walking.  However, it was Walt Disney World's 40th birthday on race day and I knew I wanted to be at the Magic Kingdom for park opening.  People started arriving at 6am for the ceremonies but we ended up getting there slightly before 8am for the 9am rope drop.  Quickly sprinted to the castle and stood around until 10am when the ceremony started.  After the ceremony (which lasted maybe 30-40 mins?) I enjoyed stuffing my face with breakfast foods at Crystal Palace and then attempted 3 rides before calling it a day.  Our chaotic ride adventures will be saved for another post but a quick recap:  Got on Pirates, got stuck on Pirates for an hour, got evacuated from Pirates.  Went to Thunder, Thunder broke down right before we got on.  Went to Carousel of Progress, it broke in the last 'future' room.  We gave up! :)

We got back to the room fairly early and both attempted to nap, didn't really work.  Started getting ready about 5:30 and got so bored and antsy in the room that we headed for the buses around 7pm instead of 7:30.

The most amazing thing though?  The WEATHER!  The 2 days leading up to the race, it was HOT and gross.  Low 90s and humid.   I was having flashbacks of last year, ugh!  However race day?  Perfect running weather.  About 70-ish at the start and it dipped down to the low 60s by the time the race ended.  Perfect! 

A semi-full bus was waiting for us when we got to the bus stop so we were on our way in a few minutes.  It took awhile for the bus to get us from the entrance of Wide World of Sports to the drop off point but we had a ton of time so I just sat and relaxed while the traffic eased up.

Bag check was a breeze this year.  Went into the correct line (ordered by last name), dropped off my bag, and went on my merry way.  I didn't really have any issues last year with bag drop off either but I remember hearing the lines were chaotic last year after awhile.

Last year I never got a chance to get a photo with Mickey since the lines were so crazy so we immediately went and jumped in line.  While there, we met up with Danielle and Lisa and also ran into a few other twitter friends after sending a tweet that I was in line and wearing a red hat (Hi Jim!).  The line went fairly quickly and we just chatted until it was our turn to meet the Mouse.  

We then found an empty area in the grassy area and plopped down waiting for others to show up.

Nicole and I met last year in the same grassy field...it was our Friendiversary!
Part of the running crew.... Lisa, Megan, Collin, Adam, Daniel, Keith, me, Patrick, Danielle

The Race:

After getting into the Runners Only area, we all made one more quick pitstop, ran into a few more friends, and then broke off to head into each of our corrals. Who in their right mind thought I was fast enough for Corral A? :)  Regardless,  I'll take it!  My first (and hopefully not last) Corral A start, woohoo!  

We moved about halfway up into the corral. I knew I didn't want to push any further up because some of these guys were SPEEDY!

The never ending Corral A
Before I knew it, the national anthem was being sung and everyone was doing their last minute stretches. I'm used to at least waiting for one corral ahead of me to start running so this was all new to me to start running exactly as the gun went off! As I ran by the announcers booth, I tried to snap a few pics.

And it starts! The first few miles were the typical "run on the highway" miles of a Disney race. There were a few characters along the way but I felt that there weren't as many as there usually are.  The lines were definitely shorter than I'm used to but then I realized it was because all the speedy runners in Corral A don't normally stop for photos.  I only stopped for a few long the way....

Oops, cast member forgot to zoom out!
Animal Kingdom is always fun to run through and it wasn't any different for this race! I love running past Expedition Everest and hearing the Yeti.  They also had the 'red tusks' along the course again this year but instead of all red, they were multicolored and changing.  I think I liked the all red ones better last year.  Made it seem more 'creepy'.

Also, THANK YOU runDisney for putting those random glowing eggs/footballs all along the course.  Not sure if I got a photo of them, but they were key!  The course this year was much more lit and I didn't run into any pitch black areas. 

After exiting Animal Kingdom, the long trek to Hollywood Studios started. I remember last year there was an out-and-back, the same as the marathon pretty much, but they had changed the course slightly this year. I thought the race flowed a lot nicer without the out-and-back and was happy to snap a photo with this dude at the top of the hill/ramp. Yes...I look scared (or possessed...) , I don't know why.....

Around here my mouth started to feel reallly dry so I tried to drink more Gatorade and grabbed a few waters along the route.  Nothing was helping so I made a conscious effort to keep a steady pace but slightly slow down.  I didn't want a repeat of last year!  

Hollywood Studios was also cool to run through at night. I remember last year, runDisney claimed that this was the longest run inside a park for any of their races, and you could tell. It honestly felt like you were in the park FOREVER! Not that it's a bad thing though. Better than running on straight highway!  After every turn or every time you thought you were going to exit, the next turn led into another area of the park.

When entering the backstage studio tour area, I was SO relieved to see that the ventilation fans were on throughout the whole costuming tunnel.  Last year was so muggy and hot through there that I think it was the start to my demise.   The draft from the fans felt fabulous! 

Somehow I got all turned around and lost my sense of direction. I couldn't for the life of me remember where the Osbourne Lights were in relation to where I was running. After a while, I was getting worried that they wouldn't be lit this year! Finally I caught the roof of one of the lit areas and it eased my fears!

I know a few runners I talked to were disappointed that not all the Osbourne Lights were lit but I've been keeping up with Studios Centrals updates and knew they weren't all installed yet. runDisney pretty much has nothing to do with the installation so you can't really blame anyone. Work on the lights just wasn't as quick this year than last. I did love that Christmas music was playing and all the cast members in the area were saying "Merry Christmas!!". It was a cute touch.

After exiting Hollywood Studios, I knew there was only a mile or so left until the finish line.  When I got to the resort area of Beach Club and the Boardwalk, I tried to pick up my speed.  The crowds all long that part of the course were awesome.  Little kids giving high fives, cow bells everywhere, just a ton of energy.

I got really excited when I was approaching the International Gateway...the finish line from last year.  Then I realized that they changed the course slightly and when I looked at my Garmin, I realized I had about another .3 miles to go, doh!!  By then I just wanted to be done though so it was hard for me to enjoy the rest.  There were a ton of cast members along this part with funny signs.  I remember seeing the "Only 400 yards to go!" and then realizing that 4 football fields was a long way!

Crossing the finish line felt awesome!  And I didn't feel sick!  Happy dance!  The race was definitely not my best but by far not my worst but I'll take it.  It's not every day that you can run through the parks at night and have Epcot open for you until 3am.  

The Finish Line Area and After Party:

The finish line area was so much more organized this year, I was highly impressed.  After getting your medal, you followed the path to the food area where they had water, Powerade, and a goodybag of food that had a banana, a bagel, peanut butter, and...possibly a muffin?  I was in no mood to eat though so I grabbed a water and chugged it as fast as I could.

Quickly found Keith and we headed over to the bag check area, which was also a breeze.  Right past bag check there were changing areas for both men and women.  Pretty much just huge tents where you could go in and change out of your clothes.  I do have to say, the tents were not for the modest.  There weren't any changing 'rooms' so you had to pick a spot or a corner and change in the big tent along with everyone else.  Didn't bother me since all I really wanted was to get out of the gross sweaty tank top!

The path then led to the 'free drink' area, which runners had an option of either soda or Budweiser or Bud Light.  I SWEAR that at some point, an email came out saying that runners had the option of getting a free glass of wine but it was no where to be found.  I despise soda, Budweiser, AND Bud Light so I just grabbed a Bud to bring to Patrick or Daniel.  I wish they had extra waters in this area because I really could have used another one!

Walking into Epcot was slightly crowded but was honestly well organized.  Runners had a completely separate entrance than non-runners so it was nice.  The pathway along the runners entrance was lined with family members looking for their runner.  After getting out of the crowds, Future World didn't seem too crowded at all.

While trying to find a bathroom in Innoventions, we stumbled upon the Character Spot and saw that Goofy and Pluto were there!  Of course I had to run in and grab a photo! 


We met up with Daniel and his brother as well as Patrick and his sister and then all just started SLOWLY wandering around the World Showcase.  The lines were AMAZINGLY shorter!  Every booth we went to had no more than 5 people on it, compared to last years 30-50.  Everyone seemed much happier and in the partying mood this time around.  Not sure if the cooler weather played any part in that though! 

I wanted something refreshing to eat so quickly jumped in the Greece line and ordered the Greek Salad.  This Greek girl definitely approves!  However, I probably should have waited a little longer to start eating as my stomach started feeling funny right after I ate.  After buying a bottle of water and slowly sipping it, the nauseous feeling went away and then I was FAMISHED! 

As we made our way around, we each kept running into people that we knew (Hi Sarah, Holly, & Kevin!!) so it literally took us 2 hours to make our way around the World Showcase.  It was nice and relaxing though. 

When we finally made our way to the other side of the festival, I stopped at Argentina and had the Beef Empanada and the Grilled Beef Skewer with Chimichurri Sauce and Boniato Purée, both were AMAZING!  And I swear it wasn't because I had just ran 13 miles.  I've heard they're some of the most popular items at the whole festival. 

Right about then we realized that it was almost exactly 3am so we quickly ran/shuffled over to Test Track and were the very last people on the ride for the night.  Sadly the photopass photos weren't working though that late so we didn't get our awesome photo displaying our medals!  


Overall, I think the race was awesome and an amazing improvement from last year.  runDisney definitely listened to all of the criticism and made changes accordingly.  The after party ran much smoother and the addition of Future World and some attractions being open completely helped. 

The only small complaint I can even think of is the on course entertainment.  I, as well as others that ran previous runDisney races, all commented that there seemed to be hardly any characters around.  We also noticed it at Disneyland and heard about the same thing at the 5k too so not sure if this is an ongoing thing. 

Even without the additional characters though, just wanted to say thanks runDisney for another great weekend!  

And thank you to Mr. Walt Disney himself for sending the amazing weather on Walt Disney World's 40th Anniversary (and race day). 

And will I do this race next year?  Well I can't stop the tradition of heading down for my birthday weekend now, can I? :)


  1. Great recap and you definitely redeemed yourself from last year!

    I agree with you on Hollywood Studios! While I ended up in the back group of runners (my mom was in Corral C) and was dodging walkers (thus slowing me down) I really enjoyed how long we were in the park. And the fans in the tunnel were a God send! Ah, so amazing!!! :)

    I definitely want to go back next year and do the entire half, but I am thankful that I was even able to do the relay!

    And we MUST meet up in January. Third time is the charm right?

  2. Sorry I didn't see you in Corral A. Here's hoping in January we both score A placements. Totally agree with the light up pebbles in AK, where can I buy those?

  3. Great recap and I'm so glad you had a better experience than last year!! RunDisney did such a great job of listening to the feedback and improving the race. I was a little bummed about the Osbourne Lights not being all turned on yet (but definitely nothing to do with RunDisney...they worked with what they had for sure!) and the sparse entertainment, but definitely an enjoyable race all around. Congrats!!

  4. Yay!! Sounds like a great race!! And I'm glad you had a better experience this year. And look at you in Corral A! :) Love the pic of you & Mickey.

    My first "official" Disney race (as in put on by Disney and not just on Disney property) was the Tower of Terror 13K and I remember thinking the part through Hollywood seemed to go on forever!

  5. That sounds so much better than last year - I am so glad to hear that runDisney listened to all of the runners and made smart changes.

    Glad to hear that your race experience was better and that you were able to enjoy the after party this time!

  6. Great recap!!! You're making me even more excited to run disney races!! Are you doing the Tinkerbell 1/2?!?

  7. What a great report! I sounds like you had a fun time and I cannot wait to do this race next year! We will definitely have to meet up then, too! Glad to hear they had improvements, although I don't know that I could ever complain about a Disney race too much anyway. I mean really it is the most fun setting for a run, no matter what!

  8. Congratulations! The race sounds awesome, you got me all psyched (not that I needed it) for the Disney Half this January. Wahoo!

  9. I really want to do this race next year! If only I can convince my sister to schedule her WDW wedding properly so the wedding and the race can be in the same week!

  10. Well you def had a better race experience than me! But I know most of that had to do with you being in a faster corral and being a faster runner than me. I was suppose to be in corral C but was running with a friend who was in E, so I went back to E with her so we could run together. It was SOOO crowded and congested, took forever to get around people, we had to run on the island in the median to get around walkers. It was bad for a while and the theme parks only got more congested since then they were forced into single lines when people were running 4-5 people deep. A mess! Plus by the time I got to the finish party it was already almost 2am, I waited for my friend to finish & by the time we found our family we had an hour to do anything before it all closed. So I only went on 3 rides & didn't get a chance to eat anything or visit any countries - my biggest complaint since I didn't go to Epcot any other time. I also noticed a lot of things that were along the course had stopped by the time I was going to them, since I was finishing so close to the race ending time. :( But I will def be doing this race again next year and will make sure to stay in my own corral and hopefully will be a faster runner by then anyway, which will def help!! :)

  11. Just realized I haven't commented back on posts in months...I'm sorry guys! :(

    @Katy...Congrats again on finishing the relay. You and your mom rock! And we definitely need to meet up in January at some point. These near misses are getting a little rediculous :)

    @JStone...would love to buy those stupid little stone pebbles! Hopefully I'm in A for at least the half in January. Not sure if my time will move me up that much for the full. We'll see!

    @christina...thank you! Congrats to you as well :) Hopefully next year the Osbourne lights will all be on again.

    @Emily...I will cherish that Corral A start b/c I have no idea if I'll ever get back to it! Jealous that you got to do Tower of Terror. Would have loved to do that race, although there's rumors that it MIGHT be coming back but with a longer distance!

    @Amanda...thank you! And yes, I'm still thrilled with all the changes. A survey came out and I was singing praises...mostly. :)

    @LFinch...unfortunately I'm not doing Tinkerbell! I would have loved to but it's just too close to the January Florida weekend. :(

    @FF..you're definitely going to LOVE W&D! Can't wait for you to run it to see how you like it!

    @Tink...thanks! Good luck in Jan!

    @Beth...any luck on the WDW wedding moving closer to W&D? :)

    @Stacey...I wish that all races could figure out a way to make the higher corrals less congested but it never seems to work out that way. :( Hopefully next year is a better experience for you!