Race Review: The Celtic 5K

celtic 5k logoThe Celtic 5K is one of my favorite 5K races.  I’ve done it 5 out of the past 6 years it’s been held and it gets better (and bigger) every year!  It’s usually a race I run with my husband and sometimes my kids and other friends, but everyone had other commitments this year, so I ran solo.

It’s also the first 5K race of, er, spring!  I say that because at race start it was 10 degrees and the wind chill was below zero!  Holy brrr! Last year, it was in the 50’s at race start!  We won’t even discuss the nor’easter that’s coming on Tuesday with a foot+ of snow… Thankfully, I scored a decent parking spot so I was able to hang in my warm car until about 15 min before race start.  It’s the little things.

celitc brr

The race is held in Worcester, MA with an 11 am start, and is usually the Sunday before St. Patrick’s day, on the same day as the Worcester St. Patrick’s Day parade, which starts at noon.  The course is out and back, down Park Ave in Worcester, with a turn at mile 1.5 and is essentially a flat and fast course. It starts and ends where the parade also ends.  An added bonus, when the weather is cooperative, is that there are parade spectators that also cheer you along.  They were sparse today, because of the bitter cold. Although there were a few hearty folks out there.  I dare say some of them might have had some Irish whiskey on board already.  I bet that kept them warmer.  Hmmmmm.

It’s a well-organized race, with great music at the start and finish (some U2 and Dropkick Murphys sent us off at the start!), great staging, and Voss water, bananas, pizza, and beer at the finish.  Racewire does the timing and texted and emailed me my time before I was back at my car!  The race is also now the first race in the Tour de Worcester, which also includes the Firefighter 6K and the Worcester half marathon.

One of the things I love about this local race is the Irish spirit the runners and spectators exhibit. Everyone, especially in MA, is Irish on/in honor of St. Patty’s day!  It was a sea of green, with some really good costumes including a few leprechauns! A good number of the runners dress in some sort of Irish costume or attire, which is unusual for a local race, but tons of fun.

Given the cold temps, layers were the name of the game.  I wore fleece tights under my skirt sport cold weather running tights, and a sparkle athletic skirt. Green, of course.  I also wore a skirt sport tank, a Reebok fleece lined cold weather running top half zip, a fleece lined wind/waterproof jacket that is form fitting, and over that, my awesome new Ink n Burn Celtic singlet.  No one saw them, but I had on green compression socks as well. Hair was ponied with an orange scrunchy, and of course, I wore my team Shenanigans visor over my ear warmers!  I also wore mittens I got when I was in Ireland and I must say, they kept my hands much warmer than any running or fleece gloves I’ve worn for cold weather (but warmer than today) runs!

Swag is where it’s at though peeps!  I have a bin full of race shirts I’ll never wear. Not so the Celtic race shirts!  These shirts are awesome!  They are different long sleeve themed tech shirts every year, and this one is the best yet, at least I think so!  The race icon is a Celtic cross, which you find both on the shirt and on the medal.

Oh, speaking of bling!  Different medals every year, too!  This year, it does triple duty!  It’s a finisher’s medal, a magnet, and of course, a bottle opener!  Functional bling is where it’s at, especially for the Irish!  🙂

celtick 5k medal

looks nice against my sparkle skirt!

It seems the luck of the Irish might have been with me today, as I believe I may have gotten a new 5K PR.  You’d think I’d know my PR, but I typically don’t keep track for 5K’s. I guess I should start to.  I know I ran fast today, and my pace was about 9:45, which is much faster than my training runs are, probably because it was so damn cold!  Although I was a bit overdressed, for about a mile or so in, I could have shed a layer, but was unable to because of costuming. Whoops. Of course when the wind gusted and that below zero blast of air hit me, I was glad I did not shed that layer after all! 🙂

If you live in or around central MA, this is a great race to start the spring running season with!  Today was unusually cold, but that didn’t dampen the spirit of the race or the nearly 2000 runners. If you like St. Patty’s day, green, running or walking 5K’s, awesome race shirts and multi-functional finisher medals, and a great flat, fast course with good course support, this is your race!

I can’t wait until next year!  I sure hope it’s warmer!  Will you be there, too?

Really runDisney? Some frustrations of Disney runners, explained. Plus, how to get a race bib for a sold out race!

Disney, and all things Disney is a huge business.  HUGE.  Disney is also known for it’s stellar customer service, or at least it used to be.  Perhaps it’s lost some of that reputation over the past several years for many reasons. So why is it that runDisney can’t seem to be as organized as businesses 1/20th their size, particularly when it comes to race registrations and merchandise information?

Let me explain.

Lack of information, particularly pricing

First of all, the runDisney pages contain precious little information about races to begin with, although it’s better than it used to be, you just have to surf a bit. https://www.rundisney.com/disneyworld-marathon/

They do include race date and start time, a very brief description of the race, and what you get for swag, but it’s vague. You can also find pacing information, when proof of time is due and how to submit it, and a few other race related details if you poke around a bit.

Interestingly, there is no information about cost, other than for the Runner’s World race retreat packages, probably because Runner’s World is working with, but separate from, runDisney.  It’s a cost add-on and it’s significant, although for some, worth it if they can afford it, especially given the wide possibilities of weather conditions in January.  It could be in the 80’s or in the 30’s or raining or even snowing or with a crazy cold wind-chill like this January’s marathon day.

It’s likely that the limited information is intentional, particularly the lack of information about what the races and merchandise related to the races costs.  Until you actually get to the registration page at Active.com, you don’t know what each race actually costs, and if cost is a factor, you really need to plan the entire racecation well ahead of registration day. I suppose they are banking on the fact if you have already decided you want to run, the desire to run will override your sticker shock.

Of course there is enough information out there on blogs like this one, Disney running related Facebook groups and Podcasts, that it’s not hard to find out. Know that pricing does vary and Disneyland races, for whatever reason, tend to be a bit more expensive. For those who haven’t experienced the sticker shock, here’s the breakdown for WDW Marathon weekend 2018:

  • WDW 5 k – $85  (sold out)
  • WDW 10k -$120 (sold out)
  • WDW half marathon -$185
  • WDW full marathon – $185 (huh, you run twice as far, but pay the same amount as the half!)
  • Goofy race and a half challenge (half and the full) – $360
  • Dopey Challenge (all 4 races) – $560 (sold out)
  • Kids races – $20 or $30 each depending on age

To be fair, while these race registration prices are double or triple what one might pay for a local race of the same distance, you are paying for the runDisney experience and an excellent quality tech race shirt, not to mention some of the most coveted and significant pieces of bling you will ever be awarded at the end of a race.  These are some fun facts from 2016.

disney race info numbers

Also embedded in that cost is the cost of the race on course support like water/powerade, gels/bananas, post race snack boxes, medals, and some of the entertainment.  I believe the cast members who are characters are paid, and the race announcers are compensated, but everyone else is a volunteer!

Once you factor all that in, the race fees are actually not that outrageous.  I’m sure runDisney is still making money, even if they don’t sell out all the races anymore. Multiply those numbers by the tens of thousands of people who run each race weekend, and yeah, they are doing just fine.

Can I still get a bib if a race is sold out?

Maybe!

You won’t hear it from runDisney, but you may be able to secure a bib (race registration) even for the currently sold out races through a runDisney contracted travel agent, or by running for a charity group.  The TA bibs require a few nights on property hotel stay and park tickets (most of them do, if not all of them) and the charities obviously have fund raising requirements.  You can find out about the charities with runDisney teams at the runDisney site, although right now, all I see listed is Leukemia and Lymphoma Team in Training. Raw Threads has great bamboo running gear, and may also have some bibs still available if you join their VIP club.  Give Kids the World is a great organization (for make a wish kids) and they also have bibs. I know Acclaim travel this morning has four 10K bibs still available.  🙂  If you ask around about TA’s on some of the Disney running related Facebook groups, you may find some who still have bibs.

The more detailed information comes about a month or so before the race, in the form of a now electronic digital event guide, which includes course maps, transportation information, timelines, and more.

Registration Challenges

It appears the days of frenzied registration and races selling out in under an hour have gone by the wayside.  Probably for a myriad of reasons such as the pricing going up significantly in the past few years for each race, the craziness of the expo and selling out of race related merchandise, and the fact that for most people who do not live in central Florida, the expense of travelling and staying at Disney for a racecation, especially if you are bringing your family, is very expensive.

That said, the 5k did sell out the first day.  I believe the 10K sold out within 24 to maybe 48 hours. Dopey sold out in a few days as well.  As of today, the Goofy challenge, the half marathon, the full marathon, and the kids races are still available for purchase.

AP and DVC pre-registration snafus

My parents are AP (annual pass) holders and Florida residents. They, along with DVC (Disney Vacation club) members have a perk of being able to register a week or so before the general public.  My mom tried several times to register via the AP site and link they provide, but it was broken and did not work.  She called and emailed runDisney and got a message they would get back to her within 2 weeks! I don’t believe they ever did get back to her before general registration.

She was able to register for the 5K the day it went on sale to the general public, but she should have been able to do it via the AP link.  She’s not the only one who had this problem, although it seemed to be hit and miss, based on some of the groups I follow.

Travel Agent package snafus

As I mentioned previously, I opted to register for the Dopey Challenge with a TA, in part because I didn’t want to chance it selling out super fast and in part because I knew I couldn’t register at noon the day the race went on sale.  It was peace of mind and worth it for me.

At first, everyone was under the belief that runDisney would send the special registration links within a few days of purchase.  Then it got pushed off until “around the time general registration opens”.  I finally got the link to register via the TA group March 8th, 3 weeks after general registration! I don’t know if this was true of all TA groups or not, but I know runDisney was late in getting those links out to quite a few TA’s.

I wasn’t worried, as I knew the TA had been doing this for a few years, I had already paid for it, and they knew the drill and they were great about communication.  They were a bit frustrated, too, it was taking longer than usual.  Still, I was eager to register!

Here’s the thing.  This is not new.  runDisney had already set aside the #of registrations they allotted to TA’s prior to general registration.  All they had to do was set up the link to active.com for the TA groups.  The same is true for AP and DVC registration. They’ve been doing this for years now.  How hard can it be?  They do it for every race.  The race registrations are rolling out every month or two.  It should be running like a well-oiled machine at this point.  Yet it seems, it’s not.

The Disney Web Site

While I’m on a roll, another sort of mind-boggling thing is why is the Disney website so freaking slow?!  You’d think, again, given their size and income (and they make a killing, or at least the CEO does), they could have a faster, more responsive website, with a bit more information.  Just sayin’.  And it’s not my internet service!

runDisney Merchandise

When you register for a race, you have the option of pre-purchasing some commemorative items.  They are typically given to you when you pick up your race bib at the Expo. These are sight unseen, as you have no idea what they look like, or if they will be the same or different from anything for sale in the runDisney store at the Expo.  You also don’t have any sizing information (let me tell you, runDisney uses Champion and their sizes run super small!  I am normally a small and I get a medium tech shirt and a LARGE jacket!) Sometimes they let you exchange sizes, but I wouldn’t count on it.

This year, at Active.com, they had a runDisney sneaker ornament and “commemorative figurine”, a commemorative pin bundle, another bundle with a pin/magnet, kids race commemorative ears, and a jacket.  Since I registered for Dopey, I am assuming the jacket is a Dopey jacket. There was no specific explanation of that, however.  My experience tells me the jackets are NOT the same as the ones for sale at the Expo, and although they are well made and a bit fleecy on the inside, historically, I’ve liked the ones for sale at the Expo much better.  Maybe that’s changed, I’m not sure. That said, I bought the jacket anyway, because the lure of the one and done Dopey got the best of me.  I hope I like it, it was expensive!

Historically, the items for sale at the expo related to each race distance are often highly coveted and sell out quickly, and this year, because of the anniversary of Dopey, the 10K and the marathon, those items will be in high demand.  In the past, runDisney has not had enough of this race themed merchandise to go around, and the most popular items were selling out day 1, leading to very long lines to get into the expo and the runDisney store inside the Expo, and then waiting in line forever to check out.  Not to mention, a whole slew of runners who were pissed they couldn’t get merchandise they wanted because they couldn’t be at the Expo the minute it opened.

Runners have long complained about the lack of limits on purchases (so many of the items that sold out ended up on eBay hours later for a higher price) and lack of adequate stock.  It seems they have been doing better with ordering enough, or at least more, of the most anticipated popular items.  The “I did it!” shirts, themed jackets, race themed magnets, runDisney race themed sweaty bands, and glassware often sell out the fastest, especially for the challenges.  Replica medal pins are also popular.  Of course there are other items and generic runDisney items for sale as well.

runDisney typically does not release photos of the race themed shirts/merchandise, the official shirts you get with registration, or those for sale (they are different), until a few days before the race, if at all. To be safe, if you plan to purchase items at the Expo, save your pennies.  Here are some of the items from 2017 Marathon weekend.

It would be nice if runners could pre-purchase more items, could see photos of what they looked like or a description of what they will look like, know the cost ahead of time so you can budget, or could order items at the Expo to be sent to their home if they are sold out on the floor of the Expo. I’m sure Disney prefers the impulse buys that happen with most Disney runners, especially if it’s your first race.  You know what they say, if you wish upon a star…

Medals

Last, but not least, the bling!

So here’s the thing.  Many people run Disney races for the bling.  They do have some sweet medals.  I totally ran Tink for the wing bling, and it’s my favorite runDisney medal, EVER! Also my favorite runDisney race weekend!  I ran all 3 races and the Pixie Dust Challenge, and it was magical!

The theming changes a bit every year or every few years.  The recent announcement that the Glass Slipper Challenge for Princess weekend will be called the Fairy Tale Challenge threw people into a tizzy!  Will they change the challenge medal?!  The Star Wars medals are different each race.  The 5K and sometimes the 10K medals seem to change each year for the various races, where the half and full medals change every few years, along with the design of the challenge medals.  Anniversary year and inaugural medals are usually different as well.

Because some people plan their Disney races well over a year in advance, and may choose the races they run based on what the medals look like, when there is an unexpected change, it can throw people for a loop, because medals are not released until well after registration happens.  They recently changed the Tinker Bell half medal and made the wing bling (formerly the half medal), the challenge medal.  Of course this was after registration, so those who were registered for the half only and not the challenge, thinking they’d get the wing bling, were probably really disappointed and downright mad. I would have been!

Given there are so many races, I get that they don’t release the medal design until a few months before a race, so although you have an idea about what your bling might look like based on previous years, you won’t know for sure until they release a photo or it’s placed around your neck at the finish!

So just consider if the medal is the sole reason you are registering for that race, will it crush you if it’s not the one you thought it would be?

Do I get one even if I don’t finish?

As of right now, if you start a race, but do not finish or are swept, I believe runDisney still hands out medals, as it’s a “participation” medal, not officially a finisher’s medal. However, if you are running a challenge, if you don’t finish each race in the allotted time, you will not earn the challenge medals.

This practice is a heated topic of discussion.  Perhaps someday, it will change to be a finisher’s medal.  There are a good number of people, particularly for half marathons, who do not train at all or sufficiently because they know they get a medal no matter what. some PLAN to be swept at the first sweep point.

There are some runners who feel this is somewhat irresponsible of both runDisney and the person who chooses not to train, because there is a real risk of injury should they try to run when they are not properly trained and especially if they are not prepared for the weather conditions in Florida.

When races used to sell out crazy fast, there was also outcry from the running community, because runners who were trained and could run and finish in the allotted time, were not able to register.

Ultimately, I think it’s the participant’s responsibility to be properly trained for the distance you are running.  It’s about having fun and doing something healthy, not just about getting a medal.  You can buy one on eBay for less than it would cost you to run and travel to the race, if all you really want is the bling. Challenge yourself, put in the work, and that medal will mean so much more to you!

Any left over medals are reportedly counted, compared to the number of runners who actually received them, and the rest are destroyed.

If you purchase a commemorative keepsake at the Expo or online (lasting Commemoratives for example) that includes a medal, you actually get a second medal in that keepsake along with a bib replica, or finisher’s certificate, and race photo, depending on which one you choose. It’s meant to be for display, so you don’t have to use your actual medal for the display/shadow box.

Is it really that bad?

So sure, runDisney is a child of the parent Disney organization and it’s got it’s flaws.  The more experience you have as a runner, and particularly a Disney runner, the more you both recognize the flaws and even understand them to a point.  I think it’s the people who are less familiar who are more likely to be surprised along the way.

That said, for a large organization with the reputation they’ve had over the years, they really should have websites and registration links that work, that are ready on time, and have more timely and detailed communication across the board.  Runners spend a LOT of money on these races and racecations.  They need to listen to their complaints and attempt to resolve them.

A good number of former runDisney fans are defecting and running fewer, if any, Disney races in favor of other destination races that are cheaper, have better organized and informative websites and social media, and strive to provide stellar customer service and satisfaction. This may be why the Disney races are not selling out as fast as they used to. Or maybe, the novelty wears off after a few Disney races.  It’s an expensive race habit, no matter where you live!

I know for me, this Dopey challenge is really the last Disney race I really want to do. If I never did another one, I’d be satisfied.  That said, if I did do another one, I’d go back for Tinkerbell weekend!

See, that’s how it happens…

🙂

keep calm and run disney

A stress free, easier way to register for Disney races? To use a travel agent or not?

I think there are two marathons happening in my life.  One is the racecation planning for a marathon, the other is the actual training for running a marathon!  I think the racecation planning may be more time consuming!

what-is-a-racecation_thumb2

I wrote about the challenges of registering for a runDisney event a few years ago.  While the process has changed a bit, it still holds pretty true.  You can read that post here: https://runkimmyrun.wordpress.com/2015/03/19/how-to-successfully-register-for-a-run-disney-race/

Why are Disney races so hard to register for?

Disney races are not all as difficult to register for as they were a few years ago.  There are more races to choose from now, both at WDW and Disneyland, and there is now a Disneyland Paris race in September as well.  Because of the construction happening at the parks, some courses have been changed (reducing time running in the parks, especially at WDW), or races eliminated entirely.  This has been a turn off to some people.

There have also been some races that have been shortened or cancelled the past few years due to weather conditions in Florida at race time (out of runDisney’s control, obviously), and some horrible weather where the races did happen (very cold, very hot, or pouring rain).  This also turned some people off to registering again, although the weather is a risk you take no matter where you run.  Every race director has the right to change or cancel any race for the safety of the runners and volunteers.  Disney races cover large distances.  It could be sunny at the Magic Kingdom but thunderstorming at the Animal Kingdom. If you read the fine print of your registration, you agreed you understood that and the race director owes you nothing.

The price of registration has gone up considerably over the past several years, and there are often complaints about long lines for characters on course and fewer characters out during a race.  Although honestly, when you look at the quality of the medals and tech shirts, the on course support (water, food, medical, race announcers) and characters (cast members who get paid), and the work that goes in to setting up and breaking down a race and all those porta potty rentals, paying security, and so forth, it’s actually reasonable. You can pay half of that and get nothing but a T shirt and a cheap medal at many other races with no entertainment and poor course support.

Given people choose to run Disney for the Disney magical experience and the race theming, those who have run many of the races before are less enthusiastic about running all the races than they used to be.  It’s getting boring for them, and expensive.  I get that. Of course, some people just like to complain. One person loves the exact same race someone else hates.  You can’t please everyone, unfortunately.

That said, these races are still very popular, very fun, and magical, especially for first time distance runners and Disney lovers.  Any inaugural or anniversary race tends to sell out very quickly.  The demand for 5 k and 10K’s is still phenomenal and those sell out very fast. Like within an hour quite often, if not faster. The challenge races, which are a 10K + a half marathon challenge (you must register for the challenge, not just the 10K and the half) at any given race, the Goofy, and the Dopey, tend to sell out quickly as well. Mostly because the # of registrations runDisney allows for those challenges is limited to a very small percentage of the overall field.

Half marathons and the full marathon at WDW in January are not tending to sell out as fast as they used to, although with the WDW half marathon being cancelled this January due to storms in the area, and the fact a deferral was graciously an option offered by runDisney (NOT in their policy at all anymore), next year’s half may sell out super fast.

An easier option. Stress free?!

Registering for runDisney races can be stressful, as I have written previously.  There is another option offered by runDisney through select travel agencies, where you can purchase a race package, that guarantees you a race entry.  It’s an option that is most available BEFORE the race you want to run goes on sale.  Although sometimes you can find a provider with a race bib available closer to the actual race, but it’s rare.

However, there are pros and cons to this option, and not all TA packages are the same!  So, here is my list of pros and cons of registering for a racecation on your own versus using a TA for a race package that also includes race entries.

Benefits of Registering for the races yourself:

  • You are fully in control of your registration
  • You are an AP holder, and get to register before the general public, although those registrations are limited, too.  If you don’t get in on AP registration day, you get a second chance on regular registration day
  • You are able to devote the time it takes to register, in the middle of your work day, at exactly the time the races go on sale, without interruption
  • You are familiar with the active.com registration system and know ahead of time and have ready all information you need to register
  • You will have reliable internet
  • You want to plan your own racecation
  • You are only registering for one race or challenge, for one person
  • You don’t need a hotel, park tickets, or you are a DVC member and/or AP holder
  • You want to and can still use a travel agent to book rooms at a discounted rate at the resort of your choice, or for other travel needs
  • You want to purchase park tickets through a vendor who offers discounts
  • You want to stay off property or you live within driving distance to the park
  • You are staying with others who already have a room reserved

Cons of registering for the races yourself:

  • The races your want to register for might sell out before you can get into them
  • If you are registering more than one family member for a popular race, one of you may get in, but it could sell out before you are able to register others
  • It can be stressful.  You really must make yourself available at noon on the day the races go on sale (EST), have access to reliable internet and a device to register on, and be familiar with the active.com registration system.  Registration can take a half hour as you could end up in a virtual “line” – don’t refresh or try again, you’ll lose your place in line!  If something comes up like an unexpected work meeting, illness, the internet goes down or you lose power, you are in a place with unreliable cell service, whatevs, you are out of luck!
  • Did I mention it’s stressful?

Benefits of using a preferred runDisney travel agent/partner to register for a race

  • You are guaranteed a race entry for the races of your choice, provided they still have bibs available for the race you are looking for
  • You don’t have to deal with the logistics and stress of registration day
  • Good option for those registering more than one member of your family
  • Good option if you want to register for a popular challenge race or a 5k or 10K, especially for groups/families
  • They can plan your entire racecation for you
  • You want to stay on property
  • Some will allow you cancel or to legally transfer your bib if you cannot make the race for some reason, for a fee, assuming there is a need for that bib (deadlines typically apply). runDisney does not as a rule allow deferrals any more, so if you register and then get injured or otherwise cannot make a race, you lose that money and race opportunity. Note that runDisney does not allow YOU to transfer your bib to another runner for safety/liability reasons. They check ID now at bib pick up.

Cons of using a preferred runDisney travel agent/provider to register for a race

  • Some only have race bibs available until a certain date, then they must return unsold bibs to runDisney, so timing is important
  • Not all TA’s have the same requirements for their race registration packages.  Do your research!
  • You have to know the details of your racecation way in advance.  Where you want to stay, how long you want to be there, how many days you want to go to the parks, etc. If you are not sure, book more days and reduce it later.  It’s easier than trying to add days later.
  • They get a limited # of race bibs for each race.  Once they sell them, they may not be able to get more.  Some TA’s seem to be able to get more bibs than others.  I’m not sure how that works, but if you belong to any of the Disney running Facebook pages, you can find out which agencies might still have bibs for the race you are interested in.
  • Your best chance of getting the race bib you want is to book it BEFORE that race goes on sale.  At this time, registration for most races happens about 9 months before the actual race.  WDW Marathon weekend goes on sale Tuesday February 14th at noon EST.
  • They require a certain # of nights stay at an on property Disney resort and most require you also purchase park tickets.  This is probably a Disney Resort requirement, not the TA’s preference.
  • The room rates are typically the same as what’s posted on Disney’s website (no discounts).  Some offer a work around for park tickets if you are an AP holder, but it’s a PITA it seems to get that ticket refund.
  • If you want to work a combination of using a TA to book your race registration, staying the minimum # of days required and then transferring to another resort because you are DVC, staying with friends/family elsewhere, or booked a package for the rest of your stay with a different TA at a different resort and/or at a better price, it means schlepping your stuff to another resort in the middle of your racecation and that could add up to a few “wasted” hours depending on the transportation you choose and how far you are going.  It’s more work for you all around.

What I opted to do for WDW Marathon Weekend 2018

As you are probably aware, I’ve been wavering on what races I wanted to do for Marathon weekend.  It will be my first full.  After much thought, research, and soul searching, I’ve committed to register for Dopey.  They say running is a mental sport, and we are all insane.  Apparently, I’m now fully embracing that logic.

I now work full time in a job that does not allow me to be 100% sure I can be where I need to be, with the time and circumstances I’d need, to successfully register for Dopey.  It’s the 5th anniversary of Dopey in 2018.  The field is limited to about 7000 runners and it will sell out very fast.  Just thinking about registration day is already stressing me out!

I am an experienced runDisney racecationer, so I have spent hours doing research, getting quotes from different TA’s for both race and non-race packages, and figuring out logistics of when I need to get there and when I want to return home, how many days I realistically would go to the park, what resorts would be quiet for those early bedtimes, and so on.

Yesterday, I committed.  I booked my Dopey registration for 2018 with Acclaim Travel.  I’m in! *ahhhhhhh*

capable-of-more-than-i-imagined

I chose Acclaim because they came very highly recommended.  They only required a 2 night stay and a 2 day park ticket with no restrictions on which 2 days.  They offered Pop Century (a value resort).  A reasonable price, same as published Disney rates.  However, if people share the room with me (they’d have to also purchase a race package for those 2 days), it’s even cheaper for all of us.  They did not have to book the same time or same race as me, they can be added later to my room!

I did it all online.  I sent a question via their contact form and got a response, on a Saturday, in under 2 hours.  Fill out the easy form online.  Click.  Buy.  Done.

So I’m staying at Pop the first two days, then transferring to Port Orleans Riverside (a moderate resort), which I booked with MEI/Mouse Fan travel.  A small inconvenience for the benefits of staying at a quieter and moderate resort. They have awesome rates for race weeks at both WDW and Disneyland. If you can get 4 people to share a room, it’s crazy cheap for a Disney resort!  My sister will be joining me there.  Perhaps a few friends or family will as well.

I plan to purchase additional park tickets from Undercover Tourist. The proximity to Disney Springs (by boat) will be great for pre and post race fueling.  So many good restaurants!!

Choosing the TA to book my Dopey bib did NOT save me money per se.  It’s not likely anyone will join me those first two nights, so I will pay the full price myself, an extra $240 or so, although realistically, I’d have probably spent that elsewhere, since my arrival date is the same.  The park tickets would have been purchased anyway, so that’s not a big deal.

What it did give me was peace of mind.  I don’t have to worry about registration day at all. I’m in for the race(s) I wanted to be.  For me, this time around, it was worth it, even if  I end up in that room by myself for 2 days.

And now, it’s time for a long training run.

See ya real soon!

 

Race Chase 2017: Am I Dopey, or just fully crazy?

Disclaimer:  The wine I had last night is no longer in my system.  The endorphin rush from this morning’s run has worn off. I have no logical reasoning for what is forthcoming in this blog, other than I’ve lost my mind. 🙂

Goal Setting

They say if you write down your goals, and make them public, you are more likely to stick to them.  I guess if other people know about it, they hold you accountable, or more appropriately, you hold yourself more accountable, because you put it out there.

Of course, when I post from Runkeeper after a long run, the same two or three people like it (all runners and occasionally my husband) and no one else really cares, so why do I do it? Ego?  Proof?  Accountability? To who?  Facebook “friends” or myself?  I’m really the only one that should care.

I suppose it’s like having spectators cheer you on during a race.  Knowing someone, anyone, cares, can spur you on to continue when your heart, legs, or head just doesn’t wanna anymore. It can give you the motivation you desperately need when you hit the wall.  It gives you a burst of energy and mental resolve. It shows you that someone cared enough to stand still in whatever weather you are running in, and offer some words of encouragement, a hand clap, a cow bell, or a clever sign, all to complete strangers who paid to run far (while waiting for *their* people, of course), all of which break up the monotony of a run, especially a long one, and most especially one where you are struggling physically or mentally.

Mostly, for me, I think writing down my goals and sharing them helps me to plan my training, and knowing there are key races coming up, it somehow makes training easier because the race is my reward!  Especially if it’s a destination race!  And maybe, it will inspire someone else along the way to join me, or start their own race chase journey.  It’s the same reason I blog.

Creating a training plan, and carefully choosing races

This year in particular, I have to time the races I choose to coincide with my training for the marathon.  Which means I will miss some of my favorite races this year because the timing is not right or because I need to be tapering/resting on the week it’s held. Technically, marathon training won’t really begin until August, but between now and then I have both running and non-running goals and training plans that will both be instrumental in helping me get there.

I’ve done two training plans and literally put them into the calendar.  I factored in a 20 week marathon training plan working backwards from 3 weeks before the actual marathon (the start of the taper), plotting runs of the appropriate distance and frequency right into my Google calendar, as if they are appointments.  And they are.  With my running destiny and some theme park characters.  🙂

I’ve also done a half-marathon training plan, one starting now for a half on April 15th (Newport, RI), and potentially another half in May locally.  There are 2 5K’s in there, both of which I registered for before I decided I’d run the WDW full.  Those I will take easy and run for fun.  I may do a local 10 miler, because it literally falls the exact same weekend as my planned 10 mile run in March, but I will probably decide the week before rather than register for it now.  It’s mostly the fact it’s a 90 min drive each way that is making me hesitate.

On my non-running days, I have planned some combination of core/leg/upper body work with primarily yoga, Pilates, and conditioning exercises using my body weight and free weights for resistance.  Those are also entered as appointments in my calendar. I will take one full day to rest, possibly two each week, depending on how I feel.  Factoring in time for this will be my greatest challenge, and balancing running with the ballroom dancing I do.

Don’t forget to Register!!

There is one other VERY important appointment date in my calendar.  Tuesday, February 14th, at noon.  When I must register for the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend races. Right now, I’m planning to run (term loosely applied) the 10K and the full, because I’ve never done a 10K at WDW and clearly, the full is because I’m crazy,  but the damn enablers I listen to on my running team podcasts keep luring me with “Dopey, you can do Dopey! Do it with us!” And I find myself at times, being talked into it!  WTF is wrong with me?  How did I go from, “I’ll run my first full.” Which is daunting enough for the first time, to “Maybe I can do the Dopey challenge?”

Wait.  Do I Dopey?  No!  Yes?  Oh, crap…

Dopey, is the name given to a race challenge (after the dwarf in Snow White, of course), where you run (or walk, or walk-run in some combination) all 4 races of the WDW Marathon Weekend on 4 consecutive days.  A 5k (3.2 mi) on Thursday, a 10k (6.1 mi) on Friday, a half-marathon (13.1 miles) on Saturday, and the full 26.2 mi marathon on Sunday.  That’s 48.6 miles total. In 4 days. Oh, and did I mention all these races start at 5:30 in the am, require a 3 am departure time from your on site hotel, and all take you on a run around and through the parks?

dopey-challenge-graphic

Most people who have done it, say it’s the planning to be there at least 2-3 days ahead to get to the expo and allow for weather delays (and the added cost of all that), 4 days of getting up so early (2:30 am to catch the first bus at 3), and having to resist being in the parks those last 3 days to rest your legs that is the hardest part, not the actual races. That, and eating and drinking enough!  For me, it will mean flying on New Year’s Day next year.

When you “do Dopey”, you do a lot of walking or run-walk-run intervals, and typically slower than you would for a single race.  The goal is to finish each race in the allotted time, not actually race for time.  You “run” to finish.  It’s nearly impossible to PR at a Disney race anyway unless you are in the first corral by qualifying time.  There are waaaaaay too many people, way too many walkers and run-walkers, too many choke points on the course, and way too many characters to stop and see.  Disney races are expensive and entertaining, you should take advantage of what you paid for!  Stop for pictures!  Ride a ride.  Get a Margarita in Mexico before you finish!  🙂

Your reward for being such a running fool is great course support, exhaustion, the dream racecation memories of a lifetime, personal satisfaction for being one of the uber crazy ones who have done it and survived, and a haul of 6 Run Disney Medals (one for each race, plus the Goofy and Dopey challenge medals).  This, is all after you basically say to Run Disney, “Here, take all my money and in return, I’ll torture myself.”

I’ve actually done the equivalent of the first 3 races before, when I did the Pixie Dust Challenge at Tinker Bell weekend in 2014 at Disneyland.  That’s not the hard part. You haven’t even done half the total distance until you are a few miles into the full marathon for Dopey! I distinctly remember saying after the Tink half, that I could not imagine getting up the next day and running a full marathon.  Of course we also had been at the parks every one of those days, so our legs were toast by the end of the third day.  And I walked the 5K, ran the 10K and half at a somewhat slower pace than I normally would have. I’d walk a lot more if I did Dopey.

me medal shot castle

My Pixie Dust Challenge Rewards

I have until February 14th to decide.  If I am going to do it, I need to sign up for it as soon as registration opens.

Back to our regularly scheduled training plan…

Come June, I will taper the running for about 6-8 weeks, focusing on speed work rather than distance, but try to keep a base of 6-9 miles every few weeks.  This is a good time to do so because it’s the end of the school year and very busy especially on weekends. I typically don’t fare well running in the summer heat and humidity, especially long distances, and I figure my body will need a bit of time to rest and recuperate before marathon training begins in earnest.  I will continue the strengthening during this time and resist the urge to sign up for any other races!

Toward the end of July/beginning of August, I will begin to ramp my long runs back up beyond 8 miles, with two half marathons being PR/proof of time goals (for a better corral placement at Disney – gives me even more time to finish!) in the fall.  Rock and Roll Philly in September, and the Wineglass Half October 1st.  They fall right when I should be doing 14 miles for a long run in the marathon training plan, and they are bucket list races. (Thinking ahead to 2018 and beyond, Bird in Hand half marathon in PA, and RNR Vegas are also bucket list races).

After Wineglass, it’s all ramping up the distance for long runs, except for a few 5K’s I always do at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and will be during the taper anyway.  As the temperatures cool here in New England, it’s a good time to be doing long weekend runs. Pretty, too. Hopefully the snows will stay away until that last long run is done!  I find myself trying to figure out what route I would run to get in 20-23 miles!  It sounds so far! Maybe because it is!  Right now, I’m trying not to think about how long that’s gonna take me…

If I end up deciding to do Dopey, I need to alter my training plan so I do back to back long runs to mimic the challenge the last several runs.

Have I mentioned running is stupid? 🙂

So, what do you think?  Should I be Dopey?  Will I regret not doing Dopey while I had the chance?  Will I regret doing it half way through the marathon???  If doing a full marathon makes you crazy, what does doing Dopey make you?  Insane?  A glutton for punishment?

Or maybe, just motivated to challenge yourself in ways you never imagined you could?

Who wants to join me at Marathon weekend?  Run one race, run your first race, chEAR!  If a girl is losing her mind, she needs peeps to help her!!

Race Review: The Freezer Five

Happy New Year!

Today, I ran a New Year’s Day 5 miler, called The Freezer Five.  It’s held in Sterling, MA and organized by the Central Mass Striders running group.  It’s not fancy, just a simple, fun, short race to celebrate the new year and get off and running toward those 2017 running goals.  Or, for some, to work off that New Year’s Eve celebration!

This is the second year I’ve run it.  I love it because it’s local (7  min drive!), it’s inexpensive, it starts at 11 am, and it’s short (relatively  speaking).

The weather this year was nice.  About 35 degrees at race start in the sun, but a bit breezy. It snowed about an inch last night, so there were quite a few icy stretches, mostly where there was no sun to warm the pavement,  some with black ice but most with frozen slush that made for slightly slower pace and shorter stride to prevent slipping or injury.  At least for me!

Packet pick up was inside the school and there was coffee and snacks available as well as a warm place to hang out pre-race, although I chose to stay in my car until race start.  Swag includes the “famous” freezer 5 gloves, a recycled T-shirt, and a medal that says “I survived the freezer five.”

freezer-five

The course is a simple out and back from the elementary school.  This year it was chip timed and results were emailed/texted from Race Wire.  The course itself is on a country side road(s).  Police were needed only to clear the course for the lead runners and at one intersection with a main road, which in this small town, was not carrying much traffic on a Sunday Holiday.  The course has some gentle rolling hills, the terrain that was most challenging was dealing with the icy and frozen slush that were scattered in the shaded portions of the course.  I was more cautious on these stretches, choosing to slow down, shorten my stride or even walk across a few patches as I did not want to start the year with an injury from falling on ice!

I ran it in 54:52, about 2.5 min slower than last year, which is probably due to the slower pace and extra walks due to the icy conditions.  Or, maybe I was just better trained last year…  I’m a back of the pack runner, especially for the shorter races.  I’m used to that. The beauty of running when you are not in it to win it, is that your only competition is what your brain tells you.

My challenge for training these next few months is going to be running at a training pace and staying disciplined in 2 short and one long run each week, with an “easy” run instead of a long run every 3-4 weeks.  My first goal race this year is April 15th, a half marathon. Today began that training.

It feels good to have started the year of marathon training (EEK!) with a race.  This time next year, I plan to be on a plane to Florida, to Disney World, to run my first full marathon.

See you on the road!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2016 Running year in review, and crazy plans for 2017!

I’m baaaaack!

It’s been a long while since I last wrote.  This past year has been a busy one for me, with many changes personally.  I went back to work full time, in a management position (WTF was I thinking?), sent my eldest son off to college, and upped my half-marathon game.  I had precious little free time, let alone time to write, so my blogging sorta slipped.

As I start to reflect upon this past year and what my running goals are for the coming year, I have decided returning to blogging is a key part of my 2017 race chase plan.

Looking back on 2016

My original goal was to attempt to do 9-10 half marathons this year.  In part to see if I could keep up the training, in part to see if I might have the motivation to eventually consider a full.  I actually ran 8 half marathons, choosing not to run races in Jan, August, Nov, or Dec.  I did run two in April (to qualify for Half Fanatics!) and two in October though, plus a handful of other fun local 5K’s!

The half marathons were:

  • The Ocean’s Run half in RI ( a nice cold March run by the beach)
  • Fools Dual Run in April in MA  (Crazy cold, snowy, and windy!)
  • Moose on the Loose Half in NH in April (a nice run, with a good portion on a wide trail)
  • Horseneck Half Marathon MA, May (another nice beach run, warm and humid)
  • Narragansett Summer Running festival half MA July (why I ever thought running a half in July was a good idea I’ll never know.  Thank GOD for sprinklers!  Hot, hot, hot! – nice after party, beer and music)
  • Worcester running festival half MA July (hot, hilly, a tough run for me)
  • Narragansett Fall Harvest half MA  October (quiet fall run, good after party with PIE, beer and hard cider, DJ at finish)
  • Newport Half Marathon RI – October (a gorgeous course but 40 degrees and rainy/windy most of the race, temp dropped and wind kicked up at the beachside finish.  COLD! but I’d do it again in a heartbeat)

My fastest races were the first two, and I ran the exact same time for the last two, all the middle races were slower than I’d have liked, mostly due to the temperatures.  I do not fare well in heat and humidity but apparently do well in the cold!

The Wall

Since running the Newport half, I have fallen off the wagon.  Barely getting my ass out the door once a week.  I was tired.  I was burnt out.  I was lacking motivation.  There was less daylight and colder temperatures.  Soccer for my son started back up and work got crazy and then the holidays.  And my race buddies were not training for various reasons, so I raced alone my last several races.  Not as much fun.  Poor excuses, but there it be.

I think I know why.  No more races on my schedule.  Without a race to train for, it’s harder to get my sorry ass out the door.  I have, but hate, the dreadmill, and I’ve learned if I don’t run in the morning or right as soon as I get home from work, I won’t run.  After work is harder because I eat horribly.  Especially for a runner.  I need to sign up for races that I will look forward to and want to train for!

Looking ahead to 2017

So, my running  resolution is to fix all that!

I’ve also decided, after a year of not running a Disney race, mostly due to the costs associated, I need me some mouse motivation.  I’ve completely lost my mind and am planning to run the WDW FULL Marathon in January 2018!  I’m not sure WTF is wrong with me!  I said I’d never run more than 13.1.  I always said I was only half-crazy!  Mostly because I have no idea how I’ll manage to fit in the training, especially at the busiest time of year for me.  It’s scary and daunting to consider, in the amount of time those runs that will take 3, 4, and 5 hours to do alone!  That’s a freaking long time to be out on the road, alone, and basically means an entire lost day each weekend the entire fall.

disney-marathon-logo-300x283

But if I’m going to do it, I feel like now is the time.  I’ll be 48 this year.  I have no idea how much longer I’ll have the desire, ability, and motivation to train at the level a full will require, and I know I can get at least half way there easily right now!  Crazy talk coming from a woman who 8 years ago could barely run 800′ without feeling like I was going to die.

It will be a huge training and time commitment, it will force me to schedule my time more efficiently and stick to it, eat better and more regularly, and it gives me an amazing goal and an amazing experience to look forward to!  And really, what better full to be your first (last and only) than at Disney?  The course support is amazing, and I need that level of support and entertainment go get me through those 26.2 miles!

It also means that I need to chose my races carefully this year so as not too mess with the training schedule.  So far, I’ve chosen a spring half, in April, in Newport (pretty much the same gorgeous course I ran this fall, different race organizer) to get me back on track.  I may do a local 10 miler in March and my favorite 5 k is also in March.

The only other races I’ve registered for are both in the fall, 2 weeks apart.  I am going to do Rock and Roll Philly in mid-September, in part because I’ve wanted to for years, and in part because it’s supposed to be flat and fast and would be a good PR race and proof of time for the WDW full, assuming it’s before the deadline for proof of time.

I’ve also registered for the Wineglass half in NY the first weekend in October.  Also a beautiful race, with a fast net downhill course and good PR course.  They both fall at the right place in my marathon training and I’m doing the 5K Saturday and half on Sunday for both races.  They are both destination races for me and hotels were hard to find already, but I lucked out.  I’m hoping I can convince the girls to come and make it a girls weekend, whether they run or cheer!

I may register for a May/June half to motivate me to maintain the 13.1 training with speed work being the focus through the summer.

Choosing a Marathon Training Program

I’m trying to decide on a marathon training program.  I am actually reading a few books and many articles to find the right training plan for me.  Jeff Galloway has you run the full 26 before tapering but with 3 weeks between each long run increase, but the increases are by 3 miles each time!  I’m not so sure my legs are gonna go for that, even using run-walk-run, which I most certainly will.   I’m so conscious of injury avoidance and over-training.

Most other marathon training programs have your longest run at 18-20 miles but with more weekly running miles comprised of  longer short runs.  I’m currently reading Hal Higdon’s Marathon, and it’s not all resonating with me either.  Having to run a full 10K farther than your longest pre-marathon training run in the actual race sounds like a recipe for a hellish last 10K, the “wall”,  and potential for injury!

I will probably choose something in between, maybe a 22-23 mile long run and make the training program ramp up more gently.  I’m starting with a good running base, I just need to maintain it until the dedicated marathon training commences.

I do know my long runs after 14 will be slower paced with more/longer walk breaks. Training wise I’d like to do a sub 5:30 full. My goal at the actual race is a sub 6 hour full, allowing for character stops and riding Everest, given it’s a Disney race!  Although finishing upright, alive, and before the balloon ladies is really my goal!   My half pace is about 2:30, and I’d be starting mid-corral placement I’d guess, so that should be no problem.

My plan also consists of the focus of the non-running days the next few months being cross training/strengthening and being really dedicated to rolling post run.  My calves are much happier when I do.  I also have massages every 3 weeks or so.  I ballroom dance, so that’s also cross training to a degree, but really would count as a short run more than anything.

Nutrition also becomes key and I’ll have to be better about planning meals, shopping ahead, and actually making and eating them.  Figuring out nutrition before, during, and after those long runs will be an interesting adventure.

Follow along as I post my adventures in marathon training throughout 2017.  And if you’ve done the WDW full before, let me know what your experience was like, both in training and on race day!

 

 

 

 

Race Review: Run Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon 2015 (AKA, the Inaugural Wine and Dine evacuation half of a half)

wine-dine-logoRun Disney’s Wine and Dine half marathon is perhaps the most beloved of all the half marathons offered by Run Disney.  Most runners who have run most, if not all, of the races offered by Run Disney will tell you that the Wine and Dine half marathon is their favorite.

I could not wait to run this race!  It is my third Run Disney race, and my second this year. I ran the the Tinker Bell half marathon (and Pixie Dust Challenge) at Disneyland in May.  Running Wine and Dine would get me my coast to coast medal for 2015.  You earn the coast to coast challenge medal by completing a half marathon at Disneyland and a half marathon or full marathon at Disney World in the same calendar year.  This was definitely a bucket list race for me and I’ve been looking forward to it for an entire year!  After the stress of registration for this event, which sold out ridiculously quickly, I wanted to savor every minute and every mile.
I was running as Marie, from the Aristocats as a tribute to my daughter, Meggie.  She loved both Marie, and the movie.  And after all, everybody wants to be a cat!  😉  Especially one with a light up tutu!
flat marie marie shirt back Pre race marie
This was also a large group trip for a bunch of my family and friends and their families.  5 of us were running the half, 3 of us were running the 5K, I was the only one to run both, which happen to take place in the same day!  The rest were our race support and ChEAR squad.  It is so fun to share the excitement of a Disney racecation with family and friends.  This racecation turned out to be one to remember for sure.
Best Race Host Resort Ever

Beach Club Pan 3

One of the things most people don’t really give a lot of thought to when running a Disney race is their hotel.  It’s important to stay at an on property host resort in order to take advantage of the free race and Expo transportation provided by host resorts.  You can stay more cheaply off property, but parking and traffic on race day can be a nightmare, especially for this race, because of the nighttime start and road closures, as well as the fact there is NO parking or drop off at ESPN where this race starts.

Even if you stay on property at a value resort, you need to be prepared to leave your hotel early to allow for ample time to get to the race without feeling rushed.
We chose to stay at the Beach Club Resort because of it’s proximity to Epcot, and because, well, it’s an amazing hotel.  We secured excellent pricing through Mouse Fan/MEI travel.  The rooms are spacious and can easily sleep 5-6 people and have a decent sized mini-fridge. They were all also recently remodeled. It is a beautiful resort.  The pool is great for the kids, with a sandy bottom shallow beach style pool, a water slide, and a large free form pool and a few hot tubs, too.  Not to mention, Beaches and Cream!  It’s by far not the cheapest option, but we felt it was worth the extra money for the race weekend and it was definitely worth it for us.
While all of the Run Disney host hotels cater to runners, the Beach Club was a win in so many ways. Being able to walk to Epcot or to the boat launch to Hollywood Studios meant we did not have to rely on the often time consuming Disney bus network unless we chose to go to one of the other parks (there is no bus service to Epcot or the Studios because of the proximity from the Beach Club).  The monorail or the bus could get us to the Magic Kingdom and there was the bus to the Animal Kingdom.  It was also a short walk to the Boardwalk and all of the activities and restaurants there.  We knew we would check out Atlantic Dance, Jellyrolls, and Trattoria, so this hotel was a huge win for us.
There were dedicated luxury (not Disney) buses for the runners to and from the Expo on Friday and Saturday of race weekend as well as to the race start at ESPN.  This is provided at all host hotels.  We never had to wait more than a few minutes for any bus for any reason.  Being on a bus to a Run Disney race or Expo is like a celebration in itself!
The Expo
The 2015 Wine and Dine official event guide is provided online about a month before the race and can be found on the Run Disney website.  I strongly recommend everyone read it cover to cover BEFORE arriving at the expo.  It contains valuable and important information about the expo set up and the race day details.  You do receive a hard copy at the expo, but it’s definitely helpful to have reviewed it prior to arriving.  There are maps of the layout of the expo floors, a list of vendors, course maps and descriptions and important safety information.  For this year’s race especially, knowing the safety information could save you a lot of frustration!  I’ll explain more about that later.
The expo was held on Friday and Saturday of race weekend, with both races being on Saturday.  It is held in two different buildings at ESPN Wide World of Sports.  Packet pick up and ticket pick up for the Pre-Race Taste is in the Field House with a small Run Disney Merchandise booth.  T-shirt pick up, a larger Run Disney store, and all the vendors are at the Josten Center, which is just across the way and a short walk.  There were opportunities for photo ops against race related back drops, although I did not take advantage.
You could drive to ESPN, although it was a lengthy walk from parking to the actual buildings, or take race transportation.  The bus system was well organized and well-marked, and we never waited more than 10 min for a bus.
transportation sign
There was a new VIP packet pick up event this year held the Thursday evening of race weekend.  It included perks such as character photos, appetizers and a bar, a run Disney duffel bag and luggage tag, an opportunity to meet Jeff Galloway, and shopping for Run Disney merchandise before the “common runners” who did not pay $199 for this privilege, could shop.  It was about 60% sold as of the day before, and from social media posts from those who attended, there were about 200 people there.  If it had been less than $125 or included a gift card or another perk, I’d have done it.  After my expo experience this year, I’d be even more likely to do it.
The Expo opened Friday at 10 am, and at 9 am there was already a long line hundreds of people deep, waiting to get in.  I did not arrive until about 11:30 am, thinking the chaos of being there when it opened would be over, and the lines for Run Disney merchandise were easily 45 min to an hour long!  I recommend you go to the merchandise booth first, then get your bibs if you have your heart set on merchandise.  This is the first time I’ve been to an expo so close to opening and seen most of the merchandise already sold out!
By the time I left at about 1 pm, the lines were all much, much shorter and if you came in the afternoon, you likely were in and out quickly.  There was very little Run Disney merchandise left though, even by noon.  It’s unclear what, if anything, they were able to re-stock.   I quickly shopped for what I could find of what I wanted, but the jacket I wanted was already sold out, which I was really sad about.  I mistakenly purchased the men’s jacket before I realized I bought the wrong one!  I was able to get a purple logo sweaty band (last one on the shelf), a generic Run Disney T-shirt and string bag, a coast to coast T-shirt, a race logo wine glass (they were gone 15 min later, although I don’t know if they re-stocked or not), a car magnet, and the pin versions of the medals.  Note:  the women’s shirts all run very small!  I usually wear a small and I purchased a large which fit like a small!  They are made by Champion and I have no idea why they run so small, but buyer beware!  I then waited in line for 45 minutes to buy it all.
The expo floor was crowded but had a lot of really cool running related vendors.  It helps to have an idea what vendors you want to visit, especially if you want to purchase something specific.  You could easily spend a few hours there (and spend a lot of money) if you wanted to really experience everything the expo has to offer. The Run Disney booth had Jeff Galloway taking photos and talking to people as well as a display of all the upcoming race medals.  There is also a speaker series and food is available for purchase at various places around ESPN.
expo floor
Packet Pick up
Packet pick up was divided by race, and then by bib #.  It is very well signed and well organized.  Your bib # is on your waiver, which you need to bring with you (along with a form of ID like your driver’s license, don’t forget it!) and sign it before handing it in to receive your race bib.  If you forgot, there are printers available to print one.  READ THE WAIVER.  You should always read what you are signing, it could save you a lot of frustration later. Once you had your waiver, you simply lined up in the correct line to claim your race packet.  Some lines were longer than others, but they moved fairly quickly.  The 5K and kids races were on one side of the expo floor and the half marathon bib pick up was on the opposite side.  You signed a book when you picked up your bib and you needed to show ID to do so.
 packet pick up
If you were running the half-marathon, when you handed in your waiver and signed out your bib, you also received a race event guide, a yellow wrist band for the after party, and if you were running this race for your coast to coast medal, you also received a green wrist band that said “coast to coast challenge 2015” which they placed on your wrist right then and there and could not be removed until after the race.  The real estate on my wrist was at a premium with my Fitbit, Garmin, Magic Band, and two wristbands!
With every race packet/bib you received a clear Run Disney gear check bag and a sticker with your bib # on it.  You are to affix that large sticker to the bag and use that bag if you are going to check any items pre-race to pick up post-race.  You can, as of right now, place another bag inside of it, but you MUST use the clear bag to check items and it MUST have that sticker on it.  When you pick up your bag, they check that # on the sticker against your bib # and if they don’t match, you don’t get that bag.  Bag check and pick up at the race goes very smoothly and is quick and easy this way.
run disney gear bag
If you pre-ordered commemorative items like pins, jacket or ears, this year they had a separate pick up area, instead of handing them out with your race packet.  The line was ridiculously long!  They made queues out of tape on the floor.  I heard many runners complaining about this new system and yet another crazy long line to wait in. It moved fairly quickly, but it added precious time waiting in a previously unnecessary line.  I’ve now twice ordered the commemorative jacket, thinking it was the same as the jacket available for purchase. It is not and in my opinion, it is ugly.  I have a gray one from Tink and a black one from Wine and Dine.  My recommendation is don’t waste your $.  It’s design is not revealed prior to pick up, so you are purchasing blind.  Also, this year’s commemorative pins were exactly the same as the ones available for purchase, which is also different than in previous years.
Safety Flag Warnings
There were signs placed at the expo outside and inside, and at each race staging area with a red flag warning for unusually warm and humid conditions.  There was significant concern on the part of the race management staff and the runners about running in the heat and humidity, which was unusual for this time of year in Florida.  This became very important come race time.
Reports from those who attended the speaker series said that Jeff Galloway and those speaking about the courses all strongly advised runners to significantly slow their pace, with more walk breaks, because of the heat and humidity and the risk of heat related illness.  Saturday, the temperature was in the high 80’s during the day with very high humidity.
heat warning
According to Run Disney’s flag system (from the race event guide):
Green:  Good conditions.  Enjoy the event by stay alert
Yellow:  Less than ideal conditions.  Participants with high risk of heat stroke should withdraw
Red:  Potentially dangerous conditions.  Heat injury possible.  All participants urged to slow their pace and hydrate adequately.
Black:  Extreme and dangerous conditions.  All participants advised not to compete.  Course may be shortened and times not recorded.
For everyone’s safety, delaying or cancelling the event is at the discretion of the race management team.  As a reminder, the registration fees are non-refundable and non-transferable. 
Race Transportation Tips
For both the Jingle Jungle 5K and the half marathon my advice is this:  BE ON THE FIRST BUS!  I’d heard this from experienced runners and heeded their advice and I was so happy that I did.  By this I mean be at the bus stop 20-30 min before the buses are said to begin running. You’ll thank me. Seriously. Do it.
Buses start running at 5 am for the Jingle Jungle 5k (race start 7 am) and at 7-8 pm only for Wine and Dine (race start 10 pm).
Traffic for the half marathon is a fustercluck because they close Osceola parkway and other roads for the race course, but all the Disney transportation, all the cars, and all the race buses still have to travel to/from and by ESPN WWOS and traffic backs up due to road closures.  I heard stories of people waiting at their hotels 60-90 minutes for buses and/or being on the bus for over an hour for what should be a 10-15 min ride at most.
Wine and Dine… and evacuate?!

The Wine and Dine half marathon is held in early November every year, during the Epcot Food and Wine Festival.  The weather is usually pleasant in central Florida by November, with average highs in the low 70’s and nightime temperatures in the upper 50’s.  The race is currently the only run Disney event that begins at night, and the only half marathon that runs through three, yes three, Disney parks!  It begins at ESPN Wide World of Sports, goes through the Animal Kingdom, then Hollywood Studios and through the Osborne Lights (and this is the last year the Osborne lights will be up, making this race even more special to those who have never run it), down the portion of the Boardwalk by the Yacht and Beach Club, and through Epcot to the finish in the parking lot just outside of Epcot.  That’s not all!  It also includes a famed after party in Epcot for the runners in Epcot until 4 am with their spectators (event ticket purchase required pre-race) that is a perk not offered in any other Run Disney event.

The race may also be becoming cursed. At least that is the way many runners are beginning to feel about it given the events of the past two years!  Let me explain…
Although I did not run it last year, it is commonly referred to as the 2014 splash and dash, as just as the race began, the skies opened and it poured with rain the entire race and temperatures were unseasonably cool, in the low 50’s.  Characters and other entertainment had to be pulled off the course because of the rain, and the runners were pretty miserable by the end, cold, wet, and sad that the race was not what it could have been because of the weather.  Most bailed on the after party in favor of a warm shower and to nurse blisters.  Run Disney, of course, does not control the weather. Those who ran last year were especially looking forward to this year being ideal conditions to actually get the full Wine and Dine half-marathon experience.  I was, too.  Unfortunately, Mother Nature once again had other ideas.
Pre-Race
The pre-race festivities are always fun and one of the reasons I like to arrive early.  You have to go through a security bag check and then the runners had a wide open field with GRASS (not parking lot) in which to hang out, stretch, meet up with friends or running groups for pre-race photos, take character photos, and have a snack.  There are plenty of porta-potties and water was provided for the runners pre-race.  There is a large stage and DJ and the race announcers Rudy and Carissa periodically come on stage to pump up the runners and eventually call them to their corrals for race start.
mickey milers half meet photo

Mickey Milers pre-race photo meet

 

pre race staging

Pre race area

 

Shortly after we arrived, we noticed lightning in the clouds off in the distance.  It was still 80 degrees and very, very humid.  We got a little nervous, but it seemed to never get closer and eventually subsided.  At around 8:40, the wind kicked up and the temperature dropped about 7 degrees.  Crap. Gust front.  That means incoming rain/storm.  It started to spit rain.  We wandered toward the corrals as it was almost time to do the corral crawl. 15,000 people were running this race and they would allow us into the corrals at about 9.  Except they were not letting us in.  It was actually eerily quiet from the stage.  Then, an announcement with a serious tone.  Due to incoming severe weather we were all to be evacuated to the stadium and field house immediately for our safety.
A collective groan, but all the runners dutifully turned around and slowly made their way up to the stadium and field house.  It took quite a while for all of us to get up there, but it was calm and orderly, and we were making the best of it.  Central Florida is the lightning capital of the world.  We were all checking the radar on our phones and it looked like a huge blob of red was headed our way.  Now storms can dissolve as fast as they build, but they can also get stronger quickly.  The race directors absolutely made the right call to move us all to safety just in case.  A bunch of runners standing in a wide open field is NOT the place to be in a lightning storm!
evacuation trek
The stadium quickly filled and was standing room only, packed like sardines.  I am claustrophobic and I said no way was I going in there.  We hung just outside the stadium for a while until we were quickly ushered inside the field house by staff with urgency due to lightning once again closing in. The field house was actually kind of nice.  We were able to pee in a real bathroom with not much of a wait, and sit on the floor or in the seats, while we waited for news.  People sitting in the stands did the wave.
Eventually, there were random announcements over the speaker system (music was playing as well), but they were basically, “we’ll let you know as soon as we know anything”.  As the minutes ticked by, we knew that the race was in danger.  It was already red flagged.  Social media was starting to report that the Rock and Roll Savannah half and full marathon earlier in the day was stopped mid-race due to heat concerns when one runner died and many, many others were taken to the hospital for heat related illness in similar heat and humidity.  In addition to the weather concerns and storms in the area, we knew the permits for road closures and availability of police, volunteers and staff on the course, as well as Disney’s requirements for runners to be clear of the parks by a certain time so they could prepare for the day were likely factors we were up against as the time ticked on.  We knew they could black flag the race at any time, cancel the race entirely, shorten the course, and/or not time it.  Of course the longer we waited, the more likely a cancelled race became and the less time we’d have at the after party as well.
Oh, the logistical nightmare if they had to bus all 15,000 of us cranky and disappointed runners back to our hotels instead of running to the finish! I’m sure cancelling the race was the absolute last resort, but it was definitely a distinct possibility.
stadium evacuation

Stadium evacuees

 

field house evacuation party

Field House evacuees

The Inaugural Wine and Dine Evacuation Half of the Half!
Finally, after about an hour or so of waiting, word came the race would start around 10:45-11 pm, once everyone was in their corrals.  We were allowed to return to the corrals.  The corral crawl began slowly.  Because everyone was trying to enter the corrals at once, and because of the way they were arranged, it took quite a while for people to navigate to their corrals.  We were in F, and actually couldn’t even get into our corral until the race began and the corrals ahead of us were moved up, then we squeaked in at the back of the corral.
race start

The start! Fireworks for every corral release!

At that time, while we were getting into our corral, we had very little information about whether or not there were any changes to the race course.  There were apparently announcements made from the stage, but we couldn’t hear them over the chatter of the crowd and the distance we were from the stage.  The run Disney Facebook and Twitter pages notified us that the course was being altered.  Word began to spread through the runners.  The entire Animal Kingdom portion was being eliminated.  We were essentially going to go from mile 1 to mile 8 and run about a 10 K instead.  The actual official distance is still a bit of a mystery, but my Garmin said 6.8 miles start to finish.
At the time, it was  also unclear why that decision was made however we later learned the AK actually got that storm and there may have been some wind damage.  We were also starting almost exactly an hour later than planned so by cutting the course essentially in half, runners would be finishing about the same time they would have had they run the full half-marathon distance starting an hour earlier.  Everyone would have the opportunity to finish the race.  They would not sweep.  Runners were strongly encouraged to slow their pace and hydrate due to the humidity as it was still 73 degrees and over 90% humidity (they almost turned off the race timing clocks, but ultimately did not).  Everyone who finished would get their medal.  Coast to coasters would get their medals.  The after party was still on until 4 am.
Reaction to the shortened course varied.  Some people were really upset.  Social media was aflutter with people demanding their money back, saying run Disney did a horrible job, and that the runners did not earn their medals because they did not actually run a half marathon.  They were upset we were evacuated for a storm that did not actually happen where we were.  Others were quite relieved, as they were worried about the heat and their ability to complete the race and not being able to enjoy the after party due to the late start as the after party would not be extended.  The vast majority were understanding that the the race directors did the best they could given the circumstances, and grateful that we got to run at all.
Overall, the decision to shorter the course was made due to a myriad of factors including the weather in the area and potential for more adverse weather, the heat and humidity, and the time.  I don’t know if it was officially black flagged before race start, but I’ve heard from sources very close to run Disney race officials that the race was *this close* to being cancelled entirely.  It most certainly would have been had thunderstorms persisted in the area or if we had no where to go for shelter when the evacuation was ordered.  In that way, we were very, very lucky to be at ESPN for that reason.  All the other races typically start in the Epcot parking lot and there is no where to put 15,000 people quickly into shelter there!
I applaud run Disney for their decisions.  I, too, am very disappointed that I did not get to run the full wine and dine half marathon and did not get the full experience I signed up for and looked forward to for the past year.  That said, they absolutely did the right thing by putting the safety of the runners, volunteers, and staff first.  Lightning is no joke and it can strike from more than 10 miles away.  The heat and humidity were dangerous running conditions, especially for those who are not accustomed to running in it.  They were following the policy that is clearly published on the run Disney race page, at registration, and in the race program.

Weather

The race will be held rain or shine. If there is lightning in the area, the race will either have a delayed start or, depending on the intensity of the weather, be cancelled. The determination will be made by the Event Management staff.

The Walt Disney World® Resort Lightning Policy

Event operations will shut down when lightning is 10 miles out from the event areas. Event operations will not resume until the lightning is 10 miles out moving away from the event areas. The Sports Manager will determine this using the *Flash to Bang Rule* and weather radar. The Sports Manager will consult with Walt Disney World® Resort Management on a course of action to utilize the operational rain plan, delay the event, or cancel the event.

*Flash to Bang Rule* is applied by measuring the time (in seconds) between a visual lightning “Flash” and hearing the resulting “Bang”. This time is then divided by a factor of “5” to obtain distance in miles. For example, 50 seconds between “Flash” and “Bang” divided by “5” equals 10 miles.

If people had actually read it, they would realize this is always in the realm of possibility for ANY distance race.  They can be cancelled, shortened, or stopped for any safety reason whatsoever without refunds.  It’s a risk you take as a runner when you register for races.  Of course Disney races are destination races, very expensive, and difficult to get in to, so there is a lot more invested in terms of time, money, and emotion for runDisney events than for a local distance race, hence the strong reactions by some to the changes.
The Course
This was the original course map
wine and dine map
Instead of going down Osceola parkway to the Animal Kingdom, we went straight toward Hollywood Studios.  There was some music and a DJ about mile 2 (the mile 8 marker), and several character stops along the way, although we did not stop or take photos.  We just wanted to get to the party at that point, given how late it was, and the lines were long.  From that point on, the race was the same to the end as it was originally.  We ran pretty much all the way around the outside of Hollywood Studios and back stage, entering through a cast gate near Rock N Roller Coaster where Aerosmith was blaring and volunteers were grooving to cheer us along and welcome us to the Studios.  We ran down Sunset Boulevard, and took advantage of a real bathroom!  We took a right where the hat used to be, and ran past Toy Story, then backstage again and through the old back lot, including through the costuming tunnel turned night club, before emerging on the Streets of America to see the Osborne Lights in all their glory.  We stopped for photos and walked down the entire street at a leisurely pace, taking it in, listening to Christmas Carols play, and taking a bit of a walk break.
Osborne half
Once we exited the studios through the entrance gates, we ran down the walking path toward the boardwalk.  This area is very narrow, maybe three runners across at best for about 3/4 of a mile, which made it difficult for anyone who wanted to actually run to make any progress.  There were some spectators and volunteers here (the mile 11 marker and the last sweep point for the full half marathon) and they had lovely colored holiday themed floats in the water.  From there, we ran under the Boardwalk sign and onto the walkway toward the Yacht and Beach Club.  Here there were a few spectators cheering, including my parents and aunt.  I’d like to give them a shout out.  They stayed out there until the last runner went by at 2 am!! They were the only ones there to encourage her along and she expressed her gratitude to them.
We made a sharp left before the International Gateway entrance to Epcot and ran backstage, emerging next to the Imagination pavillion.  There were lots of volunteers there cheering.  As we ran between the East and West Innoventions buildings, we could hear the crowd cheering, now spectators lined both sides of our course.  We were about a 1/4 mile from the finish.  We knew our husbands would be on the left side, and we did spot them as we ran by.  They waved and high-fived us as we took the energy from the crowd to spur us on to the finish. We ran by Spaceship Earth and out a cast gate to the finish.  Wa-hoo!  1:30 and change for about a 6.7 mile race.  An appropriate pace for us given the conditions, but a full 20-25 min or so slower than a typical race of that distance would usually be.
The finish chute was well-organized.  After we got our medal and bottle of water or Power Aide, we received a glorious cold, wet, cooling towel courtesy of Dr. Cool.  I love him.  The medical tent was right there, and had fans blowing, ice, and were ready to assist anyone who was overheated. Coast to coasters went through a little side chute to the right to claim their coast to coast medal and then back into the finisher chute for photos.  As you progressed through the chute, you got your snack box, and then on to bag check to claim your bag.  They had changing tents available for men and women, and then you went through the line to claim your free beer, wine, or soda.  Finally, you were out of the finisher chute!
beerandwine
Note:  the free beverage is given to you at the finish, not inside the park.  We chose the wine, which was in this nifty self-contained little glass.  I actually never drank it as I just didn’t want it immediately after the race and forgot about it until I was packing!
post wine and dine toast

Cheers!

wine zipz

My friend Mel, showing our wine

I was okay with the shorter distance, despite my disappointment.  I have never been so hot, sweaty, and miserable from a core body temperature standpoint during a run, ever, as I was for this race.  The humidity really took a toll on you.  We took it slower than usual, by a full 2-3 minutes per mile pace, taking more walk breaks than usual, too.  I poured water on my neck and head to cool off at several water stops and was diligent about hydration before, during, and after the race.
wine and dine bib

My race bib and medal for the Wine and Dine half marathon

coast to coast medals

The two half marathon medals that earned my coast to coast

One other big complaint I heard (and agree with) was that Disney (not Run Disney) made us go through another security bag check before getting back into Epcot.  There should have been a way for the runners to just go right from the finish chute into Epcot without having to go through another bag check (our bags were already checked at the other end of the race).  This was an issue because the line for bag check was easily a half hour long and was not well staffed or signed (nor was the way out for those with no bags) and it caused a huge crowd and back up.  Runners were already hot and cranky and hungry and eager to get to the after party, this did not help.  It was not Run Disney’s fault, but there should be a way around it for runners.
The After Party
For the spectators that had after party tickets, they had the best deal!  For $75, they were able to enter Epcot at 7 pm, and after the park closed at 9 pm, they had the place to themselves!  Wristbands were given to them to identify they were ticketed for the party.  They were able to access the food and wine kiosks with no lines and ride Test Track, Soarin, Spaceship Earth, and Mission Space with no lines.  They walked around with no crowds. DJ’s played music and the atmosphere was party central.  Our spectators had a blast.
Once the runners began to arrive, it got much more crowded, especially around the World Showcase.  One of the disadvantages of a shorter race was that greater numbers of people finished together, where they’d likely have been more spaced out over a half marathon, so lines formed quickly.  While I was able to ride Soarin with only about a 10 minute wait and Test Track with no wait as a single rider (stand by was 35 min at 3 am), the lines at the kiosks were still easily 20 min long or longer at 3:15 am.  I didn’t even bother, we just walked through to our hotel.  I do wish we had more time to take advantage, with more cashiers to make the lines move faster, but that was not the case.
Final Verdict?  Would I do it again?
Given the circumstances which were beyond Run Disney’s control, I think that Run Disney did an outstanding job managing the race in the most difficult of circumstances.  I’m sure they were as disappointed as the runners that they were not able to give us the full wine and dine half marathon experience we all signed up for, but you don’t screw with Mother Nature when she’s throwing thunderbolts!
I’m confident they did everything they could to ensure we got to run at all, especially knowing how close this race was to being cancelled entirely due to the weather.  I do wish people would stop their bitching and count their blessings!
Staging and managing a race of this size is a HUGE undertaking, and they do it with such organization and as smoothly as you could ask for.  I do wish runners had a greater appreciation for the logistics that go into races like these, especially at Disney.  Runners can be so very egocentric, and many of those who were upset were all about their loss.  They didn’t stop to think about all the volunteers, cast members who were up all night volunteering and had to report to work at 7 am, the characters, the bands and cheerleaders who came to cheer us on only to be put on a bus and sent home when we were evacuated, the set up of water stops and character stops that never saw runners go by due to the shortened course, and the logistics it took to alter the course, move equipment and characters around, and pull it off with less than an hour’s notice of the course change.  Not to mention our spectators, who now had to wait an extra hour with little information about when we’d be starting and finishing as well.
This race was a first to my knowledge.  I do believe this is the first race Run Disney has ever had to shorten due to weather conditions and the first so close to being cancelled entirely.  It’s the first where runners had to be emergently evacuated.  And yes, run Disney has all of these contingency plans for any race.  We were truly fortunate to be where we were and to have that shelter available, as had that storm hit us, it could have been very dangerous to all of us.  We were part of run Disney history.  The inaugural wine and dine evacuation half of the half!  We have a great story to go with that medal!
In the end, we were able to run our race, albeit a shortened and delayed one.  How lucky we were indeed.
Did we *really* earn a half marathon medal for running less than 13.1 miles?
For those who say we did not earn our medal, there is a saying in the running world.  You earn your medal not on race day, but on every early morning long run, on every day you get out of bed and run when you don’t want to, in the rain, the snow, the heat.  On holidays, before work, after work, while your kids play soccer, whenever you can, because you need to get those miles in.  Running is as much a mental sport as it is a physical one.  You earn it on every training run, with every sore muscle, with every hill you run up and down, and with every foot you put in front of the other.  You earn it by getting to the starting line, fully trained and ready to go.
We showed up ready to run a half marathon.  I had already run 13.1 a few weeks prior.  I knew I could do it.  I wanted to do it.  The vast majority of us trained to do so and would have completed it without trouble.  No, we didn’t get the chance to actually run 13.1 that day.  It was not our fault Mother Nature had other ideas.  For those who felt they needed to run 13.1 that day to earn it, I say why didn’t you just keep running another 6 miles then instead of wine-ing (see what I did there)?  Nothing stopping you.  🙂
So yes, I would absolutely run this race again.  I’d love to actually run the entire course.  Third time has to be the charm, right?  I’m so tempted to sign up again next year!  ChEARS to run Disney, for doing the best they could under unexpected conditions beyond their control.  I’ll be back!
EPCOT_ECENTR3_7513665076

All the Bling! This year’s races Neverland 5K, Tink 10K, Tink half, Inaugural Pixie Dust challenge, Jingle Jungle 5K, Wine and Dine Half, Coast to Coast