As I write this I am less than 24 hours removed from Walt Disney World’s Inaugural Wine & Dine Half Marathon so it makes sense to organize my thoughts while the memory is still fresh.
One thing for sure…I need to remember to turn my Garmin watch off the next time I run a race. According to my watch I did 209.69 miles in 4:52:23…which means my pace was 1:23 min/mile and my best pace was 00:06 min/mile. Those would be PRs in anyone’s book.
The race was to begin at ESPN’s World of Sports and for the most part everything was run fairly well. The first thing runners look for before a race is the portable toilets and there were plenty.
There was music playing and entertainment and water for runners to hydrate with before the race and the atmosphere was very good.
The bag check line had me concerned. I had checked my bag early but a lot of the runners had waited for a while and I thought the race start would be delayed because we would to wait for everyone to check their bags…but that was not the case.
Not being a nighttime runner, I dearly wanted the race to start off on time.
The corral wait was probably the best I’ve experienced in all the WDW Half Marathons I’ve run so thumbs up to that.
This was a new Half Marathon race course and it proved to be very challenging…or maybe since I had run a Half Marathon the week before made it challenging…and of course the start time.
Anyway, the best I can say about the course was that the boring part was early as we ran to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park. One of the highlights of the course was as we entered the park through what can be best described as a tusk corridor. There were gigantic tusks lined up on both sides of the runner’s path and they were lit up in orange and it was very surreal.
Running through DAK is a challenge in the daylight and at night it’s even more difficult, especially for those of us who have a history of ankle injuries running in a race. Thus this part of the course slowed a lot of people down. For all intents and purposes the course lighting in the park was barely passable. In checking my splits I noticed my pace in DAK was my slowest of the night, which I expected.
The course area just before we entered Disney’s Hollywood Studios was not lit at all and I heard several comments by some disgruntled runners about this. I would say we are talking about 150 yards where everyone hoped and prayed they would not step on anything that would lead to a disaster.
The path through DHS was odd as we did lots of backstage routes. However another highlight of this night was that the runners were treated to the Osborne Lights, or what had been put up so far. I felt a lift when I saw the bright lights…thank you to whomever made that decision.
One thing I noticed at this point in the race was that the mile markers began to slip. My watch began to hit the next mile points several minutes before the mile markers.
The finish line was just before you get to the International Gateway turnstiles. I managed to call on some stored energy to sprint across the finish line.
The area following the finish line was a bit congested. The runners had to go into what many people call the Millennium Village building to get their bags…more disgruntled runners. We’re all tired and hungry and we are packed in like sardines.
I have been going to Walt Disney World since 1975 and I have never seen EPCOT crowded as it was at this party.
“How crowded?” you ask. Well it was so crowded that every restroom I passed in World Showcase had a line that stretched out at least 30 feet. It could have been Christmas.
More disgruntled runners as many of us were not in a physical or mental state to wait 45 minutes to use our vouchers that came with our race packet…besides, it took so long to get our bags that if we were lucky we would get 90 minutes of the party in before calling it a night.
So here are some points I want to make around this evening and I have suggestions for those areas in which you might say I think need suggestions.
• This is a half marathon course that is probably best for first time marathoners because frankly it is not conducive to speed and putting in a Personal Record (PR) would be challenging. If it’s your first half then it IS a PR for you.
• There needs to be better lighting in several areas and specifically closer to the ground, especially to highlight those uneven areas.
• While running in the parks there is virtually no room to run so I would like to see the course take the runners through the widest streets in the park and keep us from the more narrow areas.
• The pathway from the Studios to the finish is quite narrow in spots. If there is an alternate way to get the runners from the Studios to EPCOT I would go for it.
• I really feel that any race that ends in EPCOT should end in the parking lot as does the WDW Half and Full Marathons and the Princess Half Marathons. There is much more room and it allows the runners breathing room after logging those miles.
• If this race stays as is next year there should be some race officials at the bag pickup to regulate how many runners enter the building at once. It will make everyone happy.
• The After Finish Party was packed and runners were on the short end of the stick to get to the kiosks because of the lines. If there is any way a fastpass line for runners could be incorporated, it would be quite welcomed.
Although I may sound critical I am just here giving my thoughts while fresh in my mind.
For me the course was interesting and I knew beforehand I would not put in a good time…in fact of the four half marathons I have run this year this one was my third slowest.
I attribute this to the time of the start, being a nighttime race with darkened areas, many narrow areas which limits your running strategy, and last but not least, the fact that I had run a half the week before and my body really wasn’t ready to do it again.
Ken Potrock, Senior Vice President of Disney Sports Attractions and his entire staff need to be commended for their efforts in pulling off this inaugural event. It was by no means an easy task to do with all the coordination required, not to mention the fact that it is a nighttime marathon. To his credit, Potrock also ran the race, which is a great way for him to see what worked, what didn’t and what needs to be tweaked.
I also want to thank everyone who made an effort to say “Hi” to me during the race. It’s awesome for me to meet so many people who I had never met before. I hope all of you had a great race and are enjoying your medals.
By the way…talk about heavy metal
The previous post in this blog was A Couple of Entrees for Wine and Dine Half Marathon at Walt Disney World.
The next post in this blog is UPDATED: Reluctant Runner Sidelined .