Yukan Run’s Fast Half was held Saturday May 13th, in Hamilton, MA. It was billed as “mostly flat and fast with a few gentle rolling hills”. Hamilton is on the North Shore of MA, although not along the water. It’s more of an idyllic pasture sort of run. I chose it because I am looking to PR and ultimately to achieve a better corral placement when I run the Dopey Challenge at Walt Disney World in January. I was hoping for good running weather, as May can be quite variable.
The weather was close to perfect for running. It was cloudy and about 50 degrees with an occasional light breeze. It was chilly if you were standing still, but great for running.
I arrived about an hour before the start after a 75 min drive. The start was at a school. I parked and walked to the school entrance to pick up my bib and T-shirt. The school was closed and I wandered around looking for a porta potty because I had to pee! None were to be found. I went back to my car to wait where it was warm for race start. I had a few bites of banana and some Go-Go squeeze applesauce. I had a piece of toast with jelly prior to leaving the house and some tea. I left my car about 12 minutes before race start, still looking for a place to pee. I was going to ask someone else, but I noticed a door to the school propped open. No signage, but I wandered in. Score! A REAL bathroom! My bladder was quite relieved!
I was quite annoyed there appeared to be no porta potties at the start. There was no indication as to where they were and they were certainly not visible from the registration or start area at all. Come to find out, as I was driving out, in the waaaaayyyy back of the parking lot, on a patch of grass sort of set back a bit, were several porta potties. It was a poor design in terms of accessibility and signage would definitely have helped. I was not the only one who thought there were none available.
I’ve run a few Yukan races before, so I sort of knew what I was in for. While they are more organized than they used to be, it’s not nearly as much fun or as organized as many other local races can be. It was pretty much show up and run. No real excitement from runners or announcer. No National Anthem, a haphazard call to get in the “corral”, and a verbal, barely heard from 10 or more feet from the start line, “runners, set… go!”
The course is USATF certified and has a total elevation gain of 398 feet. Those rolling hills went on for miles in the middle of the course, and a few were a bit long in the climb. It was a loop course on local roads, which were open to traffic once the large pack of faster runners cleared the first mile or so. Some of the roads had no shoulder and it was a bit scary to run with traffic knowing there was no wiggle room if the driver wasn’t paying attention. I wonder what it was like when runners were in a pack, rather than single file like us back of the packers were. Instructions were to stay on the right side of the road at all times. Some of the course was through neighborhoods and past large pastures and farms. Not the most scenic of courses, but it did have a country run sort of feel to it. Thank goodness it was cloudy, for there would not have been much shade on the course if it were full sun.
Signage on the course was good. I’d give overall course support a B. There were water stops about every 2 miles, and most of the volunteers were friendly. They had gatorade at a few and gels at one mid race. Kudos to the crew at the last water stop about mile 11.5. They were cheering wildly, offering high fives and support to the runners and you could hear them from quite a distance! There were random folks standing in their driveways clapping and cheering along the way as well. At least one little boy appreciated my pink flowered running skirt and Tinker Bell T-shirt! I did not see any obvious medical support on course, and the only porta potty I saw on course was at a construction site.
Having run several races by this organizer I’ve learned they most definitely do NOT cater to slower runners. And by slower runners, I mean anyone who runs more than a 9:30/mile pace. I was at the back of the pack despite my first two miles being at a 9:30 pace! That’s fast for me! Ultimately, I finished in 2:26:21 per chip time (My Garmin had me at 2:25:37) which averaged out to an 11:09 pace. I missed my PR by about 90 seconds, but it was still faster than I’ve run in almost 2 years. I was also the only runner I saw wearing a sparkle skirt or running skirt of any kind, and one of a handful doing a deliberate run-walk-run. Most runners wore shorts or leggings, many with running club logos or BAA or other elite marathon shirts demonstrating their running pedigree. I suspect many of them were going for a BQ time. The course limit was 3 hours, most runners made it to the finish in just around or slightly over that limit as far as I could tell.
Race swag included a white tech shirt (their shirts are always the same, just the name of the race changes), a medal, a can cozie, a plastic keychain bottle opener both from sponsors, a 13.1 sticker, and a coupon for a post race free beer at a local restaurant.
One thing that baffled me is how I felt after the race. I felt crappy and “off”. I couldn’t figure out why. I didn’t run super hard, although it was harder than my training runs. The temperature was not too hot. I was well hydrated, at least I thought I was. But usually after I run a half, I am happy to drink a water bottle and have a snack, come home and shower, eat, and go on with my day.
I had zero desire to eat or drink, to the point I had to force myself. And really didn’t get very far with it. About a half hour into my drive home, I suddenly felt sick to my stomach and a bit spacey and really tired, like I could have fallen asleep right then and there. I had a dull headache that got progressively worse as the afternoon went on. I barely made it into a Dunkin Donuts bathroom before I puked. That’s never happened to me before.
The only thing I can figure is I might have overdone the pre-race eating and during race honey stingers. I also tried salt tabs, and perhaps they didn’t sit well with me. I’ve done pre-race salt tabs before with no problem, but I also took one post race. I suspect that may have been the last straw for my GI system. It’s the only thing that I really did different than any other long run/race. It did me in for the entire day though, because after vomiting, I was super dehydrated! I got home and crashed in my bed for 2 hours, also something I never do after a race. It took me several hours beyond that before I started to feel good enough to try to drink and eat a bit.
By evening, I was feeling mostly myself. Today I feel normal. No significant muscle soreness, appetite is fine. Odd.
So, nothing new on race day applies to electrolytes, too! I’m a bit concerned as I my foray into longer runs and official marathon training begins in about a month, what and how I am going to eat before, during, and after those long runs without upsetting my GI system to the point it interferes with my training or recovery.
I have no more races scheduled until September. I am spending the next 6 weeks building my base and then gradually increasing mileage for long runs and officially going past 14 miles in training runs. The goal is to PR one or both of those, hopefully by a minute or more. I have a lot to work on if that’s going to happen!
My first official half marathon of 2017 is in the books. It was made all the more sweet by the fact it was a “do-over” from a race last October on the same course, but with miserable weather then.
The Newport Splash and Dash of 2016
First, a little background on the no-good, very bad, cold, rainy, windy, and absolutely miserable race I had on the same course last October. Obviously the race directors cannot control the weather, and I, like many, had signed up for this race because of the course and it’s gorgeous scenery. It’s through the very scenic town of Newport, RI, including amazing stretches right along the ocean. But Mother Nature had other ideas.
The forecast wasn’t good. Given I had a nearly 2 hour drive each way, had to get up at 4 am, and was not looking forward to running in a cold rain, I briefly considered bailing. But I did not.
That day, it started out in the mid-40’s with light rain, that became heavier and downright torrential at times, and by the time I finished, the winds were gusting quite strongly and the temp dropped into the 30’s. We were being impacted by the remnants of a hurricane off the coast. The waves were amazing to behold, but I’d have preferred to watch from a warm, dry, car than run 13.1 miles in the elements that day. It started out wet, and got worse as the morning progressed. Light rain became torrential wind-driven rain, puddles and even some minor street flooding made dry feet impossible, and after 2.5+ hours of being wet and cold, well, it sucked.
I was soaked, freezing, and literally could not feel or operate my hands, my toes were numb, and my legs felt like they were being stabbed with tiny knives the last few miles. The rain literally HURT it was driving so hard. My limbs were not working right. It was as if they were on some sort of delay. It gave new meaning to “the wall”.
Then there were the hills. Mother of God, this course is pretty hilly for a seaside town. And by hilly, I mean the first 10.5 miles all have significant climbs in them. The hills trashed my legs, and it sucked the life out of me. I got slower and slower the colder and wetter I got and the further I ran. I only kept running because it was my only hope of maintaining some sort of body temperature and because, well, walking would take even longer. It was the most miserable race experience I ever had, and really it was just because of the weather. Even worse than races in the 20’s with snow I’ve run!
The race support that day was amazing and the medal was a sailboat with a fabric sail! The best part? They had hot SOUP at the finish!! I had a nearly 2 hour drive home, and despite the fact I changed into dry clothes in the car, and blasted the heat all the way home, I did not warm up and completely thaw out until I had taken a very long, very hot shower. I told myself that day I would run it again next year, because I really wanted to experience the course and enjoy it.
Fast forward to this year. Given my marathon training, and the races I chose this fall, the dates did not line up for me to do the race again this October. HOWEVER, with a little research, I discovered that a different race organization held a Newport Half Marathon in April that was essentially the exact same course. Done. Deal.
And today, I ran my redemption run. And it was glorious!
There was barely a cloud in the sky. It was a bit nippy and breezy at the beach-side start. It was in the low 40’s, but with the wind, it felt more like upper 30’s. The sunshine was warm and abundant though. This was going to be a damn near perfect day for a run. Temps were forecast to be in the low 50’s by the time the race finished. The winds did get a bit gusty right along the ocean, but with no shade (no leaves on the trees yet), the breeze was welcome as it helped to cool runners down. I ran in a Sparkle Skirt and a tank top, with a long sleeve half-zip that eventually ended up around my waist.
Parking was off-site and you had to be bused to the start, but it was just a few minutes. Busses came pretty frequently both before and after the race. There was no parking at the start unless you were volunteering or needed handicapped parking.
Packet pick up was fairly quick and about as organized as any other local race I’ve done. It was under the bath-house, and it was sort of dark as there was only natural light, and it was early in the morning, but it was a concrete structure, too, so that made it rather dark.
Bag check was not well marked, was right next to the table where you picked up your T-shirt and swag, was staffed by only one person, was in no way even remotely secure (as in anyone could walk in, grab a bag, and go, despite the bib tag to match your bag), and the line to check bags 20 min before the marathoners started was 20 min long. That was the only real criticism I’d have of this race. Poorly organized bag check.
There was great music playing at the start and the emcee was pretty good, both at the start and finish. The start was on the street, and the police did a great job marking the course and keeping runners safe.
This race had a full marathon that started at 7:30 am, a half that started at 8 am, and a 5K that started at 8:15 am. Course times were generous. The marathoners ran the same course as the half, then diverted to continue on, and the half marathoners entered the finish chute.
The course, as I’ve said, was gorgeous. Idyllic farms (sheep, horses, and alpaca!), quaint neighborhoods, through Fort Adams State Park, by Brenton Point State Park, and miles on Ocean Drive right along the water, with stunning vistas. Then there were the amazing houses on Ocean Drive and finally, flatter terrain down Bellevue Ave and the famous Newport Mansions. The downside to that was concrete roads! At least the finish was downhill to blissfully flat and along the beach!
Then there were the hills… I mentioned them before. I had forgotten how hilly this course was. The description says “moderately” hilly, but it’s pretty much rolling hills (some pretty freaking significant in both elevation and length of climb) for all but the last 3 ish miles. My legs were really feeling it by about mile 10 and it slowed me down. I also may have gone out too fast, which is an issue for me I still need to work on. I was on pace for a sub 2:20 finish the first 8.5 miles, which is super fast for me. My PR is 2:24 and change, over 2 years ago. I was on track to best that until about mile 10.5 ish. And then my legs said no. Rather than risk injury, I backed off and opted not to chase the PR. Despite that, I bested my course time from the fall significantly. That made me happy. 🙂
There was good race support with abundant water and nutrition on course, a few porta- potties on course as well, although medical aid was not obvious except about mile 10.
The finish was down the big-ass hill we ran up at the start and along Easton’s (first) beach. There was ample room for spectators the last 1/4 mile, and the finish chute was well marked. Runners were given a medal, offered a heat-sheet, and water. The medal was part of a series, and apparently if you run the entire series, the medals fit together to make a circle. Post race food included grapes, Go-Go Squeeze yogurt and applesauce, some sort of chip (I didn’t partake), bagels, bananas, and grapes! Those grapes tasted awesome post race!! There was a Clif protein bar in the swag bag as well. For those who partook, there was a free beer, and when I walked by the line to get into the beer garden area (which was VERY small) was VERY long.
It was not the best post-race entertainment/set-up I’ve seen, but it was average. They had a HUGE parking lot at their disposal, but they did not really utilize the space they had available very well at all.
RaceJoy App: Track yourself (with splits and estimated finish) or your friends!
This was the first time I’ve run a race that worked with Race Joy. It’s a free app you can download prior to the race. You put in your name and bib #, and you, and anyone else who you give access to (and does the set up on their phones prior to the race start), can track and cheer you.
It gives you auditory mile splits and estimated finish time each mile, all you have to do is start the app as you cross the start. The only caveat is that it is truly reporting GPS mileage, which is often somewhat off of your actual chip time, because of course, very few people run the shortest, and exact route they measured the course with. Because I get dumb when I run races, I didn’t realize until today that the time race joy reported was about a 90 seconds shorter than my actual chip time. Because you input the race distance you are running, the app assumes you’ve crossed the finish at exactly 13.1 for a half. Sadly, most of us run more than 13.1 when we run a race, because of zig-zagging and not running the perfect tangents, so you may actually run closer to 13.5. Still, it is a good app with great feedback on course, and I do wish more races used it.
All in all, it was an awesome redemption run. The weather could not have been more perfect. The course is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever run. The people, including fellow runners, were very nice and friendly. And I ran it about 2 min faster than I did ANY race last year, not just besting my time by several minutes on the same course!
I’d still love to best my PR, and even better, chase that 2:20 time (super fast for me). It would probably take a flat course and perfect conditions to do it, and more consistent, dedicated training and speed work, but I do have another half in a month, aptly called the “Fast Half”, so maybe…
The 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.
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! 🙂
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?
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.
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?
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.
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!
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…
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…
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!
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*
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!
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. 🙂
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?
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.
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!!