Run Disney Race Reports – Late 2015 & 2016 Edition

This is an extremely overdue report of three Run Disney events:

  • 2015 Wine and Dine Half Marathon
  • 2016 Marathon
  • 2016 Pixie Dust Challenge
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Photo via Run Disney

When I left off last fall, I was headed on a complicated trip that took me to the 2015 Wine and Dine Half Marathon via a whirlwind trip to Dubai, which was not the most convenient – or relaxing – pre-race preparation.

Spouse was running this with me and we were slated to meet in Orlando on Saturday morning, with the race starting Saturday night. I had two flights to get there: a 17+ hour one from Dubai to Atlanta (in coach, ugh) and then a quick 90 minute jump from Atlanta to Orlando. The first leg was miserable; I was cold, uncomfortable and could not sleep. Thankfully I wore compression socks to reduce some in-flight leg swelling, but I was still pretty cashed once I deplaned.

After a quick shower and some major teeth brushing for me, we hit the expo, which was also pretty cashed. I’m usually not big on buying official race merchandise, which is a good thing because there was none left at this point.

The rest of the day involved a nap and waking up to head over to the race start. We were staying at the Swan Hotel, which was not one of the hotels offering transportation to the starting line, but it was easy enough to walk next door to the Boardwalk, which was. We arrived around 7 PM and the bus lines were long. After waiting about 30 minutes, we boarded and headed to ESPN Wide World of Sports. Bus traffic was also crazy; there were traffic jams and the ride took about 30-40 minutes.

The conditions when we left the resort were hot and humid, but by the time we got off the bus the temperature had dropped several degrees and the wind had picked up. There was lightning in the distance and I had a bad feeling about the race. Let me also say that at this point, I was not feeling too hot. Even after a nap I was still exhausted from the travel. My legs felt heavy. I knew the race was going to be a push for me to complete. I was focusing on Getting It Done and making it to the famed after party where racers can enjoy EPCOT until 4 AM.

We then started to see people moving from the grassy starting area towards the ESPN stadium. Tweets were coming out that the race was being delayed due to weather. We slowly walked with everyone else into the stadium, where we were officially on hold.

As more than an hour of limbo ticked by, I started to think that Run Disney would either need to cut the distance from 13.1 miles to something less or entirely cancel the race. There was no way all of the runners could complete the course AND get to the after party with enough time to enjoy it by 4 AM. Standing between hangry runners and the Wine and Dine Expo was not going to work.

Finally the announcement came that we could head out to the corrals. Spouse and I were in different ones. I had submitted a proof of time and was in corral D; he did not and was in the last one. Once in the corrals, there was an announcement that indeed, the race was going to be cut to a shorter distance. If they announced the shorter distance, I didn’t hear it, but in the end my watch said that we had done 6.75 miles, so this became a Half Half Marathon.

Personally, my exhausted legs and I were ok with this turn of events. Many, many other runners were not.

Since I was fairly early in the corrals, I didn’t get caught up in a lot of foot traffic, but Spouse did. I think I finished in about 1:07. I waited for him at the finish and he crossed nearly an hour later. His corral started about 40 minutes after mine, which accounted for most of the time but he also reported areas that were so congested he had to walk.

We’d taken advice from a lot of other bloggers and brought fresh clothes for the party. By the time we hit EPCOT it was after 1 AM. Neither of us was particularly hungry, which was good since the lines at most of the booths were loooooooong. We both had an artisanal wine and cheese plate and I had a sushi roll from Japan, while Spouse waited in line to get a beer and something from Germany. We made it to nearly 4 AM and were able to walk back to the Swan Hotel via the International Gate, and then we promptly collapsed. The one thing that I did right about this trip was to NOT return home on Sunday; we gave ourselves an extra day and came back on Monday. On Sunday we slept late, ate lunch and spent a leisurely day together, followed by dinner at Il Mulino. We came home on Monday without a hitch.

Considering everything, would I do the Wine and Dine again? Probably. However, if you follow Run Disney events you would know that they’ve changed it to a morning race and added a 10k, plus a 10k/half marathon challenge option. It’s also a moot point for this year since I was shut out of the 2016 registration, which filled with lightning speed like always.

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Ironically, I have less to say about the 2016 WDW Marathon than the Wine and Dine, even though it was essentially four times the distance of the latter.

2016 was my fourth time on the course, but it was my friend L’s first marathon and that made it really special.

The week leading up to the race held an unexpected event for me: my 94-year-old grandmother died. I spent most of the week helping with arrangements and then attended the funeral in Wisconsin on Thursday.

L. and I met up in Orlando on Friday – two days before the race – and hit the Expo. Most of it was the same as before except that we had to go to a different area outside the stadium to pick up our wristbands for the Race Retreat (side note: whenever possible, spring for the Race Retreat; it’s totally worth it).

On race day we were up and out the door before 3 AM. Transportation was smooth and we waited in the Race Retreat tent until it was time to head to the corrals. Even though it was her first marathon, L. had posted some amazing half-marathon times and was placed in corral D. I was in G, so we split up at the start and before I knew it, we were off.

I knew this wasn’t going to be my best marathon (it turned out to be my second worst), especially since the week leading up to the race was really stressful. I took a short walk break after 8 miles and then spent the rest of the race taking unscheduled walk breaks every 30 minutes or so, usually for about two minutes at a time. I did a lot of bargaining with myself to get to the next mile, run through one more song on my playlist, etc. 

Eventually I reached Hollywood Studios, which is my favorite part of the course. The last five or so miles of this race always seem to go quickly for me, especially since the crowd support along the Boardwalk is so strong. I rounded my way through EPCOT and crossed the finish line in 4:59, which took a push at the end to squeak in under the five hour mark.

As I mentioned above, this was my second-worst marathon time. (Worst was my second marathon, which I trained for while I was postpartum and completed when my daughter was less than eight months old; the finishing time was 5:03). This was also my ninth marathon, so I am not new to this rodeo. While I am a lot older than I was the first time I did this race (January 2006; 4:24), I also determined that I need to get leaner and train differently to improve my running. This is something I’m working on now. L. was more successful in her race.

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L. and I met up in the Race Retreat tent after we finished. Due to her faster time and earlier corral placement, she’d been done for about 45 minutes by the time I staggered in. After a ten minute massage and a giant plate of breakfast, I was feeling like a human again and we headed back to the Swan Hotel, where we were staying. L. showered and left less than an hour later, so I was now on my own.

One really interesting thing happened: I got to see the end of the race. From the hotel balcony I had an eagle eye view of the course, right where the path leading from Hollywood Studios crosses the bridge to the Swan and Dolphin. There were still a lot of runners out there, and I decided the best thing I could do was to go down and cheer them on.

I think this was the first time I’ve been a spectator, not a runner, at a race. It was so much fun. I was waiting to see the legendary Balloon Ladies (the last people to start the race and the pacers for the course cut-off), but I missed them. I did see the course close as bikers and Disney people put cones across the path.

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The end of the race

I would definitely do this race again.

My final recap is the 2016 Pixie Dust Challenge, which is part of the Tinkerbell Half-Marathon weekend.

Photo from Run Disney

Photo from Run Disney

This is absolutely one of my favorite races and something I look forward to every year. 2016 was the fifth anniversary of the event, and I was in the Legacy Runner group.

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A list of the Legacy Runners that was at the Expo – and I’m on there!

Being a Legacy Runner gave me a special bib and a gift, which was a small mirror. I was oddly touched by it all. I’d also forgotten that I’d sprung for a warm-up jacket when I signed up – a departure from my usual avoidance of buying official race merchandise ahead of time, which I consider a bad omen because I am superstitious like that – so I was pleasantly surprised to receive it at the Expo. It was soft, fit like a glove, and I wore it several times during the weekend and since.

For the Pixie Dust Challenge, there is a 10k on Saturday followed by a half marathon on Sunday. This year I was staying at the Sheraton, which is about a 15 minute walk from the starting line (one of the reasons I love this race is the easy accessibility of the starting line, as well as the many real bathrooms to use pre-race). When I woke up on Saturday morning, it was raining. Not just sprinkling, this was full-on rain. I scratched my plan to walk to the starting line and decided to take the shuttle bus. This almost turned out to be a huge mistake. After waiting with several other runners for 20+ minutes for the bus, it finally arrived and we were dropped off on the far side of the park. There was still at least a 10 minute walk to the starting line from there. Fortunately, the rain had cleared by then so I was able to stay dry, but I reached my corral (B) right as the Star Spangled Banner was being performed. This was a bit too close for comfort.

The race had a slow start. Many runners were cautious on the still-wet pavement and I had a hard time getting through congestion for the first 1.5 miles. My usual 10k goal is to finish in less than an hour, but I wasn’t sure that I would make it due to the slowdowns. At the three mile mark, though, my watch said 32 minutes and I decided to push it to the end. I finished in 59 minutes and change, so this worked out.

Conditions were much better on Sunday. I was still doing some bargaining in my head. I decided that it would be ok if I walked a bit, but I needed to steadily run at least the first half of the race. When I got to the six mile mark, I also knew that there was a really boring part of the course coming up from miles six to nine. I was feeling ok and decided to keep going until mile eight and then consider a walk break.

When I got to mile eight, I discovered that the Red Hat Ladies and their awesome crowd support were stationed there this year instead of in their usual spot outside of Downtown Disney. These ladies gave me quite a boost and I quickly went through miles eight and nine.

At mile 10.75, I decided that I would take that walk break, so I did for about three minutes. Next I decided that I would take short breaks in miles eleven and twelve, but when I reached 11.75, I felt good enough to skip them and kept soldiering on. I finished in 2:09, which is also not my best half (1:54) but not my worst.

This race also racked up some serious bling, especially since I’d also signed up for the virtual She Rocks race and used the half-marathon to complete the distance.

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The medals are (left to right): She Rocks, Tinkerbell 10k, Tinkerbell Half Marathon, Pixie Dust Challenge and Coast-to-Coast (for completing races in Florida and California in the same year).

Not counting Castaway Cay 5ks, I’ve now completed 16 Run Disney events. It feels slightly dorky to admit that, but hey! There are worse habits to have.

 

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