Ever wonder what it’s like to participate in a runDisney event?? Here is a first timer’s account of the Wine & Dine Half Marathon weekend.
Friday morning was the 5k, Saturday was the 10k, and Sunday morning was the half marathon. The expo to pick up your bib and any merch that you might want, or have pre-ordered, ran from Thursday to Saturday.
Since I was running in the half marathon only, I got there on Friday. The expo is held in ESPN Wide World of Sports. You follow the directions and signs into one building, and that is where get your bib (you can print off and sign your waiver here too), you keep walking further into this building and you get to the space with all the runDisney merch for this event. This is only the runDisney merch and things that you pre-ordered when you registered for the race. I looked pretty close at just about everything in this room and I spent about 45 minutes in here. They have everything here … shirts, pants, travel cups, magnets, blankets, and Christmas ornaments to name a few. Almost of all of this is specific to that race weekend, but a few things are runDisney in general.
As far as the runDisney merch goes, I can say that if there is something in particular you want, preorder it or get there as soon as you can on Thursday because there were quite a few things that were sold out in all sizes smaller than a men’s large. The pins for the 10k and half were both sold out along with most of the magnets.
Your next stop is to go into the next building over to get your race shirt and see all the sponsor’s booths. I ordered a skirt from Sparkle Athletics for my Ariel bound (Disney “bounding” is when you dress in colors that subltly look like a character instead of a full on costume) and was able to do an expo pick up and avoid paying for shipping. I also stopped at the AfterShokz booth. My husband and I have had a heck of a time finding a pair of bluetooth headphones we like, but have read a lot of good things about the AfterShokz, so I wanted to see what they were all about. Everything in the expo is running based. You could buy shoes, any type of clothing you might wear to run, headbands, fitness watches, headphones, etc. There was also a really cool wall that had all the runDisney medals past and future. It was so crowded that I wasn’t able to get a photo of it, but it was really cool to see them all! I scanned the booths, but I didn’t need anything else, so I didn’t stop for too long anywhere. I probably spent another 30 minutes walking through this part of the expo.
Once you exit that second building, there are motorcoaches waiting to take you back to the resorts. That is all the runDisney you have until the day of your race.
There is signage around your resort listing the information about times and locations of the buses that bring you to the start line. They run buses starting at 3am, and they would really like you to get to the start line by 4am. The resort where I was staying opened the grab and go area of the cafeteria at 3am, but I brought my own food to be able to snack on something I eat all the time and knew I’d be comfortable with.
I got on the bus at about 3:45 and got to the start line just after 4am. Since the race doesn’t actually start until 5:30am, I was there plenty early.
Once at the starting line, you can get in line to meet a character, visit the medic tent, get food or drinks, or use one of the many port-o-potties. There were also a few PhotoPass photographers spread around in various places. The lines to meet a character were 45 minutes at a minimum, but they wanted everyone in their corrals at 5am and I didn’t feel like waiting in a line that early in the morning, so I just walked around for a bit with my friend who ran the race with me.
At about 5am, we wandered over into our corral and sat down. The race doesn’t actually start until 5:30am, so the hosts talked for a bit and did a few interviews and then showed a few movie previews. The first corral started promptly at 5:30am. They moved very quickly after that. I was in corral D and in the 3rd wave of that corral and we started only 13 minutes after the very first runners left.
Quick overview of the course. You start in Magic Kingdom’s parking lot and run toward Animal Kingdom. You spend a little over a mile inside Animal Kingdom and then head toward Hollywood Studios. It is between four and five miles of highway running between the exit of Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. You cut through a pretty small corner of Hollywood Studios, then you run the walking path toward Epcot. Since there is so much construction in Epcot right now, you enter the International Gateway and run through part of the World Showcase, but you exit the park and go toward the parking lot, and then the race ends in Epcot’s parking lot. From what I’ve gathered from past participants photos and conversations, you used to stay inside Epcot to finish the World Showcase and run towards the front of the park, but maybe we will get to stay in longer again next year when there is (hopefully) less construction.
runDisney did an amazing job of always having something to look at. Even though you don’t enter the first park until just after the four mile mark, it didn’t feel like we’d been going that long. I can also say with complete honesty, that I had definitely not realized that we ran over four miles between leaving Animal Kingdom and entering Hollywood Studios. Since this was my first runDisney race, I had obviously never run the course and didn’t know what was coming next, so maybe the element of surprise helped with that, but there is always something to look at.
There was at least one character stop per mile, there were live bands at more than one location, there were giant speakers playing music, there was a small light show that went along with the music at the very beginning when it was still dark, there was a jumbotron playing the part of the movie that the music was from, there were giant lines of volunteers with water and Powerade, there were jumbotrons with loops of the hosts from the starting line encouraging you and talking about the Food & Wine Festival that was waiting for us. By the time you passed one thing, if you couldn’t see or hear the next thing right away, you could within a minute or two. All the stuff going on made it all go by so much quicker than I ever imagined it would.
Once you cross the finish line, you can stop at the medic tent if you want or need to (go ice your knees, they will thank you later), you get your medal, you get a little box of snacks and a banana, and you pass about 10 tables with water bottles and different flavors of Powerade. As you keep exiting, there are some PhotoPass stops with a few different props and you can take photos with them and/or your new medal. Keep exiting and you get to a small area to buy any merchandise that wasn’t sold out and you didn’t grab at the expo, meet some characters, or get different food or drinks. There are then the buses to take you back to the resorts.
The cool thing that Wine & Dine half marathon offers that none of the other races offer is the is an after party. If you run in the half marathon, you get a party ticket to Epcot starting at 5pm Sunday night. So you can go and enjoy all the delicious food and see the nighttime show or ride some rides. It was awesome.
I went into the weekend thinking that I would be able to cross a runDisney event off my bucket list. I have never been a “runner” and still don’t really consider myself one, but I cannot wait to convince someone else to do another race with me! If I can get someone to do it with me, I will try the “challenge” next year and run the 10k Saturday and then the half marathon on Sunday.
If you’ve ever wanted to try a runDisney race, you should definitely sign up!! If you need help planning that trip to WDW, let me help you! You can fill out the form under “Free Quote” on the homepage or email me directly at Jill@ThinkTheHappiestThoughts.com. I can’t wait to talk soon and maybe to run next to you someday!!