In Loving Memory
runDisney Expedition Everest Challenge
September 27, 2008 – May 2, 2015
Sad news to report, fellow Adventurers. My favorite runDisney event is no more. On May 3rd, the final Expedition Everest Challenge 5K was run, obstacles surmounted and scavenger hunt solved. Over the past eight years, runDisney tweaked the event, making it better each year and, ironically, it was pretty close to perfect on this final night. The cause of its demise is unknown (it sold out in recent years, so lack of interest wan’t the cause), but rumors are flying that it was killed to make room for a Pandora/Avatar event at Disney’s Animal Kingdom when Avatarland opens.
The Expedition Everest Challenge was run by individuals and two-person teams, with prizes awarded in each category and by gender). My sister and I participated every year, making us “perfect” in runDisney parlance. Expedition Everest Challenge was especially known for its puntastic team names and costumes. Our team name was Kashmir Club (chosen to honor my cat, Kashmir, and my nieces, whose initials are K and C) and we had custom shirts every year (mostly made by my sister, because she’s so good at it). This year, we also decorated our nails with Disney’s Beautifully nail appliques. In some, though not all, years, there was a kids version of the race that was beyond adorable (short run, mini obstacles, sandboxes full of plastic animals for children to search out, based on their clue card).
Expedition Everest Challenge started with a party in Disney’s Animal Kingdom parking lot, before the start. There were photo ops galore and a board to sign. And snow. Lots and lots of snow. I guess that should be “snow.”
The 5K started (with smoke flares, rather than fireworks, because of the animals) in the parking lot of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, continued past a gator coming out of a lake and the Yeti parking lot, then into Disney’s Animal Kingdom itself, with several characters along the way for pictures, sneaking out into the backstage area behind Expedition Everest, before heading back out to the parking lot to finish the run.
Happily, as evidenced by the mile markers, we were well behind the Yeti.
The obstacles, scattered along the course, included jumping over hay bales, crawling under a net, and running through tires.
After completing the 5K and obstacles, we were handed our first clue and a mini Sharpie with a light attached, the better to read the clue by, in theory, but I wore my NiteBeams visor, so I could read the clues easily (and have fun blinding my sister, accidentally, of course). In order to advance in the scavenger hunt, participants must solve each clue correctly. There were big claims that the clues were especially difficult this year, because it was the final year, but we didn’t have any trouble with them. If we could run as fast as we solved the clues and got through the scavenger hunt, we’d have won the event. (No, we wouldn’t have – that was just hyperbole, but we did finish 129th out of 636 female teams; 505th out of 1969 teams; and 790th out of all 3169 participants).
After receiving our Expedition Everest Challenge compass medal, we headed straight for Dinosaur, one of three thrill rides in operation during the wake (euphemistically called a “Summit Party”). After Dinosaur, we jumped onto Expedition Everest, then rode it again. We skipped Kali River Rapids, Triceratops Spin and Primeval Whirl. The Expedition Everest Summit Party was always great for characters meet-and-greets and this year was no exception. It was like a private party for little-seen characters. When’s the last time you saw Flik or Slim, let alone the Yeti?
We checked out the dancers for a while, then watched the awards ceremony before heading back to our hotel. The winners’ plaques are beautiful and appeared to have LED lights in them, which made them glow like glacial ice. Congrats to all the winners who have those in their trophy cases!
The Expedition Everest Challenge is survived by its parent, runDisney; its siblings: Goofy, Dopey, Glass Slipper, Dumbo, Rebel, Infinity Gauntlet, and Pixie Dust; and all of the races that comprise and accompany the Challenges. The Expedition Everest Challenge is mourned by the many runners who have participated over the years, many, if not all, of them sold-out events, but especially by the 37 Perfect participants who were there for EEC every step of the way.
In 2012, at the fifth running, the then 43 Perfect participants were lauded with a banner noting our names and with a special goodie bag that included embroidered Mickey Ears and a plush Yeti puff ball. There was no such noting of our devotion in this, the final running, and we were mocked by a runDisney cast member when we asked if there was a banner of names. We did not expect a special goodie bag, because it wasn’t a legacy year (every five years by runDisney standards), but the banner would have been a nice gesture to honor our eight years of support. I had met a family of other Perfects previously and they found me on facebook, so we had a mini reunion at the start.
Please do not send flowers, cards or casseroles. Any tributes should be in the form of donations to either the Snow Leopard Trust, Expedition Everest Challenge’s favorite charity, or to help Nepal in the wake of the deadly earthquakes. This article in the Guardian includes links to several vetted charities.
Disclosure: Everything described in this article (including travel) was paid for by the author, and all opinions expressed are her own. For more family travel news, reviews, and trip reports, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on Twitter and “like” our Facebook page, too.