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WDW’s Inaugural Wine & Dine Half Marathon: A Review

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.

Pre-Race:

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.

The Race:

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.

Post-Race:

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.

After Finish Party:

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.

Summary

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


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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 .

Comments (13)

JulFromMD:

Hi Mike,

Beautiful medal...congrats!

About the after-hours party... how did that work exactly? Was it that it was only for runners and family? Was it a hard ticket event that anyone could buy admission for? Or was it essentially a glorified EMH? If it was one of the first two, it sounds like they handed out/sold too many tickets. For any of them, I wonder if they didn't clear the park between closing and start of this event. With the sea of humanity that I saw from pictures at 2 AM, there would have been no way to check wristbands.

Ah well... first year hiccups. Do you know if they're planning to do a 2011 one?

Thanks for the recap!

Kathleen:

Mike,
I really enjoy reading this review and the running blog in general. I have never been a runner, but recently decided that finishing a marathon is something I would like to accomplish. I am planning to complete the Disney half-marathon in 2012, but perhaps if this race survives until next year, I will plan on making this one my first race!

Emma, Surrey England:

Congratulations on completing the race Mike :) it sounded like a really interesting experience too.

How did the relay part of the race turn out for those who ran in pairs?

I think it's great that the Senior VP of Disney Sports ran the race too, like you say - he should be able to see what needs tweaking for future night-time races.

Amy Bradley:

Thanks for the info. I volunteered at the registration/packet pickup counter at the Expo before the race and was amazed at the # of runners signed up (I heard 12,000 runners counting the relays). So, I was not surprised about the comments (both complimentary and constructive) and they sounded very useful. Hope they will be incorporated. Most inaugural events draw large crowds and this was no exception. Hope you'll be back for next year!

Cinderella:

Glad you had a nice time during the race. I am just starting to run and hope to complete the Disney Princess Half Marathon in 2012. Maybe I will see you there.

While you give props to Disney for the efforts of putting the event together, you may need to remind yourself that they have done marathon events at night before, so this is not new for them. It may be a different course, but they should have looked at the course closer to see where more lighting would help. Even if just ground lighting. Runner safety should be a number one concern. I would rather have too many lights than not enough if I were Disney.

Andrew:

I did a quick Google search for this race's reviews and yours popped up. This was my first distance race and I agree 100% with everything you said. It was an amazing weekend all around but being "inaugural" quirks were expected. But Disney being Disney, they put together one heck of an event.

The course was a tough one compared to the January Disney 1/2M. I felt the 2 mile stretch before DHS was the toughest. The Toy Story Army Man definitely got me up that hill! A little disappointed that DHS was mostly backstage...the course map was not accurate.

I also heard a lot of grumbling about the 3 or 4 "food stations" through the course. Smelling grilled seasoned foods is not helpful as your running.

The Finish Line area should have been wider. Several people passed out or worse, vomited. You weren't able to cool off or continue walking. The sudden stop after 13.1 miles partnered with being packed into "Millennium Village" was dangerous.

I would never have thought of a "Fast Pass" for runners but that's a great idea (and doesn't even need to be at every Pavilion.) Although I finished in 2hr:13min my friend who finished an hour later spent a lot of her time in line.

The course certainly needed better lighting. It would have been cool to see SpectroMagic or Electric Light Parade floats on the 3+ mile stretch to and from AK. Especially since Spectators are not allowed.

I couldn't agree more on that narrow walkway to Boardwalk...I wanted to pick it up at the end but was held back by crowds.

One last note, although not Disney's fault. I was disappointed with in "Runners" in Corrals A & B who started out WALKING in 6 people across groups. No shame in walking but please make room for runners wanting to move on.

All in all...it was worth the challenge and experience! Thanks for your "spot on" review!

Chris:

I worked the front turnstiles that night and loved seeing all the runners heading out with their metals. Congrats on finishing.

Dan Puffer:

I was a first time Half Marathon runner in the Wine and Dine and you are spot on! I was really pumped up from the start and the 'boring' first few miles were not too bad. My biggest problem as a first timer was whether or not I had 'time' to enjoy the race. I wasnt sure if I could pose for pictures with the characters and still keep pace. I didnt have a problem with the course, but you could not enjoy EPCOT Food and Wine kiosks afterward. The booths had 20-30 min lines at 2am! I blew off the food and got a quick couple drinks from the extra 'bar' setups they had. Thanks for the inspirational blogging!

Linda O'Brien:

Congrats on finishing the race and on a great recap!

This was my first half marathon (as well as my first race, Disney or otherwise) so I did not know what to expect. I had a terrific experience although I did have the same concerns/complaints as other runners such as the darkness into the Studios and the overcrowding at the after party. I was upset that the after party was promoted as a perk for the runners and by the time most of us got there the lines were so long that we were unable to enjoy it! And the bag pick up area was an awful experience to say the least (to put that many people in such a small area, well, no wonder many began to feel ill and light headed. I have to agree that the medal is a mighty piece of work -- I love it!

jt:

You asked about the those who ran in the relay. I did the first leg and my husband did the second. Since Mike has already commented on the run to DAK (and described it perfectly) I'll just comment on the relay part.

I really wish someone had been available at the registration to give us an idea of how the exchange was going to happen. We looked at the charts and many of us stood around studying them at the Expo and still had no clue how the exchange was to be made. Luckily, both the person I was walking with and I had cell phone contact with our partners and they called and told us a little of what to expect.

At DAK we split off from the half runners and that part went smoothly and crossed our "finish line" then ran down a lane that had many chutes off to the right side. Our partners had told us on the phone to look for the chute with the purple flags and that helped a lot. We met up with our partners at the purple chute and then we had to run with our partner to the end of the lane where they veered off to the left and we went right. That went much smoother than we thought it would.

Then we received our medals and were told to stick out our foot and someone cut off our d-tag. We were given a bottle of water and our snack bag and told to proceed to the buses that were waiting. Since the buses were sitting in the parking lot 1/4 mile away we went past the couple of porta potties thinking that when we got to EPCOT we would have access to the nicer facilities there.

When we got to the parking lot we found out that ALL of the 20+ buses there were already full and we were asked to line up on the white stripe to wait for the next bus. At first we were jealous of those sitting on the buses until we realized they were in air conditioning and shivering because they were still in their sweaty running clothes. We stretched out on the still warm tarmac and visited with each other and shared our experiences. After about 20 minutes all the buses left in one huge convoy leaving at least 300 of us just sitting there. There wasn't a Disney employee in sight except back at the exchange area! It was another 25 minutes before the caravan of buses came back and we boarded.

We were dropped off behind the American Experience at EPCOT and as soon as we got off the bus security had to inspect all of our food bags, (yep the ones they gave us at the relay finish). If they had put a trash can before the security post most of us were done with ours.

Then the fun began because there were multiple buses dropping off their passengers (mainly women) in an area where the restrooms only had 2 to 4 stalls in them; American Experience and Morocco. The lines were too long to wait in because by now we knew our relay partners were close to finishing their leg of the race. We met up with them and then continued on our quest for a BATHROOM!!

One wonderful employee by the American Experience finally got security to radio in what other bathrooms were available and she dispatched us in groups to Italy etc.

The lines for the sips and tastes were so long that we wound up buying hot dogs and fries while the guys stood in line to get the Sam Adams.

Summary: the race course could use improvement but for us it was fun. Things seemed to fall apart when it came to transporting everyone back to EPCOT - they did have the number of relayers beforehand. They didn't seem to know that people who have just run 5, 8 or 13 miles need to have liquids and food quickly, not stand in a line for 25 minutes for a sip or a taste.

We are planning on running it again because Disney usually doesn't drop the ball as badly as they did on this one and we think next year will be much smoother.

Mike, did you ever get the backlight working on your Garmin? I'm the one that passed you coming out of AK that asked.

I had a great experience, and I'm thrilled with my finishing time, I just did not anticipate what the crowd would be like. I never dreamed I'd be passing people for the entire 13 miles. I thought I'd eventually fall in with a group moving roughly the same pace as me and I have to wonder what part the relay racers played in this.

I was so excited to see the parade floats and and the Osborne lights!

While the entire run through the AK, especially through the Oasis, was miserably crowded, I felt the entire first 5 miles were just as bad. Since this was my first race longer than a 5K, I started in corral D. I think I was with many of the first relay leg walkers. On one hand, it was a good thing we moved so slow since it kept me from taking off too fast, but on other hand, by mile 3, I was ready to speed up and couldn't.

There was no excuse for the streetlights being off as we entered the studios and I still don't understand why there was a guy frying up a huge skillet of peppers & onions around mile 10???

The other thing I don't understand was the DJ as we were heading out of the WWOS who was yelling things like, "you've done a whopping half a mile!" and "you've got a long way to go!" as the corral D runners passed. What's up with that?

Alayna:

I ran this race as well and was very disappointed after having such a great experience at the half marathon in January. We waited at the Boardwalk Hotel for over an hour for a bus to the race start...and we were towards the front of the line. I have no idea how long the people behind us waited. There were parts of the course that were not well lit, and the 2 miles between AK and DHS needed more entertainment. My biggest complaint is with the after party. The lines were way too long, bathrooms too crowded, and overall just a mess. I didn't check a bag, thank god, since that appeared to be quite the situation. Even though I was disappointed, this is still run better than other races I have done (including some big name races.) Disney is just usually at a much higher level of service than what I experienced.

Jill:

Great blog, Mike. I agree with all of your points about the race except that I did kind of like the finish line. I mean where it ended, right outside Epcot. We stayed in the Epcot resort area and saw the finish area being constructed the day prior, so that was kind of cool. What happened after the finish line was chaotic. We did not check any bags and I was annoyed at having to wait in the long line of those retrieving bags in order to exit World Showplace. That is until a cast member kindly let us out a nondescript side door.

The masses of friends and family waiting outside to meet their runners was insane! I was hot, sweaty and tired and then I had to wade through hundreds of people to get free. Cast members tried desperately to direct folks and give us a path, but they were having a tough time. Maybe a designated reunion area?

The other thing that got me was the post-race party. I must have read the materials incorrectly but I was under the impression this was a somewhat exclusive event for runners, their family and friends. Not open to anyone willing to pay the price. My husband and I were shocked at the number of people. A few castmember friends told us there were 23,000 people. We only wandered around for a few hours and then got the heck out of there.

Believe me I understand the planning and logistics it takes to put on races, and Disney did a really fantastic job. I commend all of the race planners and volunteers. After all, this was the first of its kind in Disney and I'm sure they will make tweaks moving forward. And we'll definitely be running again next year!

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on October 4, 2010 5:00 AM.

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 .

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