To start this blog I'm going to skip to the end - here we are after the race with our medals! We had a good run, and finished in 2:26:40, including some photo stops. I was especially happy to finish this one, since it completes my set - I have medals from all of the Disney half marathons and marathon now.
Saturday was race day...er...night. It was different preparing for a night race instead of an early morning race...I have to say that I liked it a LOT better. :-) I felt like I had a lot more time to prepare and I wasn't in such a rush to have to get moving so early in the day. Though we did find it strange on Saturday morning that we WEREN'T in a hurry to get up at 0-dark-30 and go somewhere! We'd tried to stay on west coast time, and that helped a lot - it was 7:00 for us at the start and not 10:00!
We ate our "big" meal around 3:00, and opted for Katsura Grill in Japan - the rice bowls were appealing to get some easily digestible carbs. After that we went back to our room to rest, stopping at the little store at the Boardwalk to pick up some yogurt, pretzels, and gummy candies to eat later. I like to snack on the pretzels and gummy candies the day before a race (or in this case, in the hours prior to), and I usually have yogurt on race morning, so that was my pre-race food.
We had time to take a nap, though I have to admit that I was nervous and didn't sleep well. But I'm always nervous before a race. :-) We'd gotten everything laid out and ready - runDisney had given us a checklist which included items like our race bib, wristband for the finish line party, gift card (we'd all received a mini gift card with wristband pre-loaded with $10), ID if we wanted our free beer at the end of the race, and the plastic bag and numbered sticker to be used for bag check. In addition we'd set out our running clothes, race belts, GU, GPS watches, iPhones, camera, and post-race clothing.
The race started at Wide World of Sports and ended at Epcot. No parking was allowed at WWoS, so runners needed to catch a bus from the host resorts or Epcot. The buses started running at 7:00 - we got to ours about 7:30 and the line stretched from the convention center to halfway up the ramp to the Boardwalk lobby! We waited 30 minutes before we were on a bus. We had plenty of time so we weren't worried about getting to the start, but it meant that we missed the Team AllEars meet at 8:15. :-(
It was really a beautiful night for the run - low 60s and not too humid or windy. We checked a bag since we knew we'd want something warmer after the race if we were going to enjoy the finish line party at Epcot, where it gets chilly around World Showcase Lagoon.
Getting to the start corrals was a WHOLE lot easier than it is for the races that start at Epcot. For one thing, it wasn't a half mile walk along a dark and narrow road! From the pre-race area there were different entrances depending on what corral you were in, so not everyone had to funnel through the same area. They also didn't start sending us to the corrals until about an hour before the race, so we didn't have such a long wait in a crowded corral. It was really well-done. Kudos to runDisney.
We were in Corral B - once inside we met up with Eve, a fellow Team AllEars member, and chatting with her made the time pass very quickly!
Corral A went off right at 10:00 with a shower of fireworks - each corral had their own fireworks burst, so that was really nice.
At 10:05 it was our turn, and we were on our way! (We could hear the fireworks as the remaining corrals started.)
I was a little concerned about lighting along the course, but for the most part there was plenty of light - just a few places where it was hard to see. Usually at the start of a race it's a little narrow and hard to run with people so bunched together, but we had several lanes of road at the start, and that made it easier to get spread out and into a comfortable pace.
Since it was a night race they had brought out a number of floats and characters from the SpectroMagic parade. Goofy was just past mile 1, and the line was short so we took time for a photo.
The course took us over to Animal Kingdom first. We were about two-and-a-half miles into the race when we saw the lead runners coming BACK on the other side of the road - and they were coming up on mile 7!!!
The course was pretty narrow on the approach to the park entrance, and we got a bit bottled up - fortunately not to the point that we had to walk, though. Once inside they had these lighted tusks along the path, and I thought they looked cool!
We ran all over Animal Kingdom - past the Tree of Life, to Harambe Village, then over to Asia past Expedition Everest and into Dino-rama, then backstage. They had several of the puppets from the Jingle Jungle Parade out in the park, and a few characters, but we didn't stop.
We came back into the parking lot and there was another Spectro float, with Flora, Fauna and Merryweather.
Not too long after that was the Mile 6 sign - almost halfway there! I didn't take photos of all the mile signs this time, but they were all themed representing different countries from the Food and Wine Festival. There was themed music playing at some of them.
There were a couple more characters with a different Spectro float...I think this chick should have been running the race with us - she has the legs for it. :-)
And Lee danced with this one...
About 5 miles of the race were along Osceola Parkway as we ran to/from Animal Kingdom. This is about the toughest part of the marathon course, but for this race they had given us some bands, DJs, and multiple character opportunities, so it wasn't too bad. There weren't very many people out cheering for us, though, nor the cheerleaders and high school bands and other groups that we are used to seeing in other races. It was a long time before we heard the welcome sound of cow bells, and they were pretty few and far between. Disney had given the people who purchased the "Cheer" package kazoos and horns, though, so we heard a fair number of those.
We entered the Studios at about mile 9. There was a short line for Wreck-It Ralph, and next to Star Tours a very long line for Darth Vader.
We snaked back and forth and on-stage and off-stage so much in the Studios that I lost track of where we were until we came out into the Streets of America and the Osborne Lights. It was so pretty - we walked down the street instead of running so we could enjoy it.
We were in the Studios for almost two miles, and just outside was the mile 11 sign! Only 2.1 to go - piece of cake. The path narrowed again as we ran along the canal between the Studios and the Epcot resorts. We both noticed that the path was more congested than it is during the marathon, since the runners weren't as spread out as we would have been over 24 miles.
There were more people to cheer us on as we ran along the path and then in front of the Yacht Club and Beach Club resorts, and that was most welcome at that point. I was still feeling really good, though I was looking forward to the finish!
We ran mostly backstage at Epcot, entering the park next to the Imagination Pavilion, and then exiting near Innoventions east. Mike, one of our Team AllEars runners, had finished earlier (personal record for him - yay, Mike!) and was in Future World to cheer us on.
As we neared the finish we had to make a left turn, and at the corner were these lasers in the sky. It looked really cool!
We sprinted the last quarter mile or so, and Mickey was standing just in front of the finish line - we ran on either side of him and gave him a high-five (or high-four, in his case). Our time was 2:26:40, which is pretty good for us in a Disney race with photo stops.
We got our medals and picked up bottles of water, but passed on the silly boxes that they were giving out in lieu of REAL food. They did that at the Disneyland Half and Tower of Terror runs, too. I don't like that practice at all - we pay a lot of money for these races, and they should provide us with something more substantial. Though at least this time they had some bananas available at the finish. Lee says there were bagels, too, but I didn't see them - or I would've grabbed one!
We had heard that bag retrieval had been an issue last year, with long lines and disorganized bags, but it was no problem this year. Disney also recognized that because of the party runners would probably want to change into different clothes, and had provided men's and women's changing rooms. Nicely done.
We had a tear-off drink coupon on the bottom of our bibs - there was a pass-through area where could turn in the coupon and grab a small beer or sangria out of one of the tubs. No line for that, so that also worked well.
The finish was in the Epcot parking lot - we didn't stick around very long since there was a party going on inside the park! We still had to go through the silly bag check at the entrance, though at least since all most of us were carrying was our clear plastic bags, it was easy for the guards to check them. For entrance to the park we showed our pink Wine and Dine wristbands.
Once we were in the park we had to cross the race course to get back to World Showcase. That was a pain, though they had established a crosswalk and tried to handle it about as well as they could - short of building a temporary bridge across I'm not sure what else they could have done. It took us at least 5 minutes to cross, though.
They had cast members in the cranberry bog, which was surprising - but I guess they were there to make sure that guests *didn't* decide to go for a swim...At least the guys in the bog seemed to be enjoying themselves. :-)
Team AllEars had established a meeting point back at Germany, and that's where we went. All of the food booths were open, as well as some of the regular food/beverage kiosks, and a few of the counter service restaurants. (Though we were very disappointed that the funnel cake stand was closed - while the Kaki Gori stand was open!) They had also established several additional temporary bars around the lagoon. Some attractions were open, like Soarin', Spaceship Earth, Mission Space, Maelstrom and Gran Fiesta tour. There was a DJ on park-wide audio and a band in the America Gardens theater. In addition, Off Kilter, British Revolution, and Mo'Rockin were performing sets at their usual venues.
There were already a lot of people (lots of non-runners, too) enjoying the party, and the lines for the food booths were longer than I expected - like a regular busy day at the Food and Wine Festival, though not totally packed.
We hung out with the Team until about 2:45 - despite my jacket I was starting to get chilled, and we had to get up in the morning to go to Sweet Sundays. I wanted to get a little bit of sleep!
It was really interesting how quiet the Boardwalk was - ALL of the restaurants were closed, though we saw some of the bakers at work in the Bakery. Other than that we only saw a few other people returning after the party. A hot shower felt good, and we went to bed about 3:30 (after putting in a wake-up call for the next morning - I can't remember when I've ever done a wake-up call for 9:00!!!)
All-in-all this was really a terrific race - I really enjoyed running at night, and it was a lot easier for me than I expected. Of course it helped that the weather was just about optimal running conditions for me. The whole start line experience was so much easier than most of the other Disney World races I've done - after this I'm really not looking forward to the "start line shuffle" in January. Ugh.
I enjoyed the course, and the opportunity to run through three of the four theme parks. I think the highlight for me was the Osborne Lights in the Studios. For the most part the lighting on the course was pretty good, though there were a few places (mostly in Animal Kingdom and other backstage areas) were it was uneven, narrow, and not as well-lighted as I would've liked.
I didn't think there were as many characters out on the course in this race. Though it was interesting that people didn't seem as interested in getting their photos taken, either - the longest line we saw was for Darth Vader in the Studios. Most lines were 6 deep or less, I think the longest we waited in was Chip and Dale, where we had about 8 people in front of us.
The volunteers were terrific and we really appreciated all of the cast members who were in the parks to cheer us on - since spectators weren't allowed in those areas it was very nice that the cast was there to encourage us.
The finish line party was fun - between attractions and entertainment and characters and food there was a lot to do! If we hadn't had Sweet Sundays the next morning we would've stayed longer. For those who were not running the race and had a lot more time to enjoy the park (they could use their ticket to enter at 7:00) I think it was a pretty good deal - I'm sure it wasn't too crowded between 10:00 and midnight!
It was a really fun experience, and I'd definitely run this one again!
The previous post in this blog was Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend - Part 1.
The next post in this blog is The Holidays come to Disneyland!.