|My personal race bib and my team bib.|
The Race Expo was moved from the Disney Wide World of Sports Complex to the Coronado Springs Resort due to events being held at the sports complex. It was very congested (like most of the race) and very hard to get around. I picked up my race packet, and made it through half of an aisle before I got frustrated and we left. I don't understand why they crowded the aisles into such a very small space, there was still a significant amount of space left in the ballroom. There were things I really wanted to pick up but I just couldn't bare to deal with the crowds. My family and I spent the rest of the day on Friday at Magic Kingdom but I will blog about our vacation experience in a second post.
We spent Saturday at Animal Kingdom. I waited to pack my race bag which was a huge mistake. My ear phones disappeared. I frantically ran out to the local Winn Dixie to pick up a pair. I ended up not getting in bed til about 11pm which isn't great when you are getting up at 3am. If you can't handle getting up really early, this isn't the race for you. I was out the door by 330am and still managed to forget my breakfast. I drank a 16oz coconut water and some gatorade on the drive over.
My first piece of advice is stay at a Disney Resort. Run Disney provides transportation from all Disney hotels. I stayed at a Disney Good neighbor hotel, Marriott Residence Inn Buena Vista. It was just a few miles down the road and it still took over an hour for me to drive into the parking near Epcot. If you are military affiliated, stay at the Shades of Green resort (I will discuss this at length in the vacation post). The grounds are beautiful, the staff is so friendly, and they have Run Disney transportation.
Like many large races you will be herded into your corrals much like cattle, and there is a pretty significant walk from the starting entrance to your actual physical corrals. It is a good way to stretch your legs and stop for a potty break. Bag drop ends at 430am. The actual first gun and wave starts at 530am. You are suppose to be physically in your corral by 5am. I was in wave G which was 7th. It started at 617am. Someone told us that it was easier to get out of the starting gate in the later corrals if you were a decently swift runner. This wasn't the case at all. I am pretty sure you were going to hit traffic no matter what start time you got. I don't advise starting later, it gets boring standing around waiting. Even if a Fairy Godmother is entertaining you....
My adrenaline was starting to wear down before the gun fired and I was exhausted trying to get around
people out of the gate. There is something to grab your attention most of the course, so you won't get bored. There are forms of entertainment, water stations, character stops, the usual Disney sights, and all the volunteers cheering you on around the course. I have a love/hate relationship with the character stops. There are plenty of options but be prepared for significant wait times on all the popular characters. Mickey/Minnie and Cinderella were both 20+ waits for personal photo opportunities. I regretfully stopped for both and my photos have yet to appear (I am still crossing my fingers). I also stopped for Cinderella's evil step sisters and the castle which were about 10 min waits each.
I realized later in the race it would be easier to just go back to the park with my medal and get photos later. The only official race photo I have found so far is my finish line photo. I really hope my other photos turn up. This is one I had them take with my Iphone. The next photo is of Minnie and I on Monday before we left the park.
It would be much less stressful and the run would be more enjoyable if the wait times weren't so long for most of the characters. I don't see that changing in the foreseeable future, so I would strongly suggest unless there is someone you really want on the course or maybe the castle, don't stop. Otherwise, I would wait and take photos on a visit day in the park.
The run was pleasant. I wasn't so winded when I finished that I needed to lay down. I actually had a phone conversation with my dear friend Myrdin right after I crossed the finish line. I could never build up any speed on the course it was so congested. I probably paced about a 10 min mile. There was an overcast so it wasn't too hot. The last 3 water stops I grabbed a powerade to drink and a water to pour down my back. I strongly suggest hydrating on each stop even if you don't feel the need.
I saw alot of people ditching their costumes. There were people who didn't run in costume, so don't feel obligated. If you decide to run in costume, make sure you do at least a training run in it. Running skirts are popular. I did a tiara and tutu.
It was an overall fun experience. How many times will you get the chance to run through Cinderella's Castle? I am hoping to do it again next year with some friends, and maybe do Wine and Dine in the fall to see if my experience is any different. I don't expect the issues with congestion to change. It is a popular race series and you probably aren't going to set any personal records on the course.
I have two other half marathons in the next two months. I am doing our locally owned and operated half marathon Run the Bluegrass. It is on the beautiful grounds of Keeneland and set to be a wonderful race experience. I know Eric Marr and his team have worked very hard to set the bar high for this race. If you are moving past a 5k but don't think your quite ready for a half marathon, he is offering a 7 miler which is a good introduction to distance running. The Rookie's Run the Bluegrass info can be found by clicking the link. They are also offering .9 mile kids races which benefit Girls on the Run and the YMCA of Central Kentucky. I am looking forward to seeing many of my friends Run the Bluegrass.
I was also fortunate enough to be drawn for the Nike Women's Inaugural half marathon in Washington, D.C. in April. Who wouldn't want a cute fireman in a tuxedo and Tiffany's finishers medal waiting on the finish line?
If you have any running or race specific questions please feel free to post in comments or email me. I will be happy to answer them to the best of my ability. I am by no means an expert. I am hoping to do my first full marathon soon and I would love if some of my friends would commit to join in. I am going to be doing a separate blog post with general Disney vacation tips and another about using the Charity Miles app for organizations like the United Nations Foundation Shot at Life campaign.
Happy Fairy Fast Friday!