2012 runDisney Wine and Dine Half Marathon – The Third Time’s a Charm

Editor’s Note: “Adventures by Daddy” is pleased to welcome runDisney fan Todd Carrier to the site.  Todd is a longtime friend, and although not a Florida resident, he is a frequent traveler to Walt Disney World, and Disneyland, and Disney Cruise Line…  This is Todd’s first post for “Adventures by Daddy,” and hopefully not the last.  Please see his bio below.

Article and Photos by Todd Carrier

The weekend of November 9-11, 2012 was an extremely busy time across the Walt Disney World resort.  One event happening that weekend was 3rd annual runDisney Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend.  The first two editions coincided with the opening weekend of Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival (beginning of October), but this year’s race had been moved to the closing weekend of the Food and Wine Festival to accommodate the Tower of Terror 10 Miler race.  The 2012 Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend was comprised of participants from all 50 states a handful of countries with nearly two-thirds of them being female.

runDisney Wine and Dine Half Marathon

I had run the first two runDisney Wine and Dine Half Marathons, so I was planning on running the third.  The first year’s race was fraught with issues—mostly logistical due to being a relay and a night race as well as an extremely oversold after party.  The second year, they altered the course and remedied some issues; however, it still had problems—blinding lights aimed at runner’s faces, running out of water at water stations, checking your bag pre-race, etc.  I was hoping that after two times at bat, runDisney would be able to hit a home run with this event.

runDisney Wine and Dine Half Marathon

The Expo

I attended the Health and Wellness Expo which accompanies all runDisney endurance events on Friday, after arriving in Orlando.  The expo was held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in the Field House and Josten’s Center.  Splitting up the expo meant more walking and perhaps more confusion, but it felt much less cramped and congested.  There was the standard selection of expo exhibitors, as well as some specific to cooking and wine.  I was quite pleased to notice the marked increase in exhibitors and vendors concerned with fueling on the course and refueling after the race.  I am hoping this trend toward health and wellness versus race accessories continues.

Mickey’s Jingle Jungle 5K

The 5K paired with the half marathon this weekend was Mickey’s Jingle Jungle 5K.   It was held at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and started at 7am. The temperature was a little brisk, but nothing too uncomfortable.  I was surprised at the lack of costumes worn by the participants.  I thought that a holiday themed 5K would garner a wide variety of themed apparel.

Mickey's Jingle Jungle 5K

I was not surprised by the course.  If you’ve ever run a 5K event at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you wouldn’t be surprised either.  Starting in the parking lot, through the entrance and Oasis, over the bridge to Discovery Island and past the Tree of Life, down to Africa, out a backstage gate, an out and along Animal Kingdom’s access road, entering in Asia, passing Everest, Nemo, through Dinoland USA and the exiting the park behind Dinosaur and finishing in the parking lot, near the starting gate.

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The medallions were colorful and the race was executed with great precision.

runDisney Wine and Dine Half Marathon

Unlike the two previous years, I did not experience, nor hear of any instances of transportation issues getting to the start of the race.  The DJ was pumping music and getting people to dance starting at 7pm.  People who checked a bag had things go smoothly.  I will report that I waited in a line for nearly two hours for a picture with Mickey.  But what else was I going to do until the start at 10pm?

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The wave start flowed quite well this year.  There were six corrals in total, spaced with a start time 5 minutes apart.  And as an added bonus, the fireworks that go off at the start of each wave were shot off simultaneously around the large oval the corrals wound around.

runDisney Wine and Dine Half Marathon

The course down Osceola Parkway to Animal Kingdom was well lit and clean, and even had some spectators near the McDonald’s/All Star Resorts.  Upon entering the Animal Kingdom, the giant animal fangs, a success from the past two years, glowingly welcomed runners into the park.

runDisney Wine and Dine Half Marathon

There were a couple of portable lights out throughout Animal Kingdom, but they were being fixed and relit as racers passed by.  The course is naturally narrower in the Animal Kingdom and can create some slowing and backing up, but most participants kept good manners and etiquette so the flow wasn’t hindered badly.

runDisney Wine and Dine Half Marathon

The water stop location behind Dinosaur was a bad spot in my opinion.  It was extremely narrow and there seemed to be a thermal vent and trash nearby.  Hot, crowded and reeking of refuse—yuck.  Back out onto Osceola Parkway, passing through the parking plaza was calmer than in years past, yet still safe.  “Runners: Caution Speed Bump Ahead.”

runDisney Wine and Dine Half Marathon

After plodding along on Osceola, the hill of horror is the next thing to face, it just has a slightly steeper ascent than the other hills on the course.  Good thing Sarge, leader of the Green Army Men from Toy Story is there to motivate you up the hill.  A quick jog up World Drive to exit off on Buena Vista Drive and then duck in backstage at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

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Thankfully, when they redid the course they eliminated a lot of the twists and turns that have plagued every race through the Studios.  The awful costuming tunnel was part of the course though.  Out along the waterway that connects the Studios and Epcot, along the boardwalk (and significantly decreased amount of spectators) to enter backstage once again near Epcot’s International Gateway.

runDisney Wine and Dine Half Marathon

The runners spilled out of a backstage gate near Journey Into Imagination and then crossed Innoventions Plaza to exit the park at the backstage security gate and to the finish line awaiting them in the Imagine Parking Lot.

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The shifting of race dates proved to be a great success in regards to race temperatures.  The course and entertainment were very similar in comparison to last year’s race, with the exception of crossing through Future World to finish in Epcot’s Imagine Parking Lot.  Water stops were well supplied and the volunteers cheerful.  The finish line was well lit and easily recognizable.  All the major problems from the previous two years’ races seemed to have been remedied.

The Afterparty

After receiving my medal and retrieving my checked race bag, it was time to go to the afterparty.  Here is where the weekend’s events took a slight falter.  The ground was covered in sprawled out runners, exhausted whom plopped down on the ground.  The area wasn’t very large and had minimal seating, so it was ground or nothing.  Getting into Epcot, each runner needed to go through bag check.  While I can understand the need for this, I wonder if it could be handled any differently.  It was literally painfully slow to stand in line while the security officers inspected everyone’s race bags.  Once through, though the park was comfortably populated.

Doing another lap of World Showcase (did I mention I did the 5K that morning, then lapped the Magic Kingdom, lapped Epcot, walked to the Studios for some photo ops only to return to my resort for a three hour nap? I need my head examined), I found there to be manageable lines for food kiosks, rides and characters.  I ended the night with what will now be my tradition, riding Soarin’ with very little wait (less than 5 minutes).  At 4am, I sauntered back to the resort hotel transportation and lumbered to my room.

runDisney Wine and Dine Half Marathon

Rethinking the night as I lay exhausted in bed, I second guess where I could have improved my time on the course.  I also try to recall any missteps runDisney had over the course of the weekend.  The only things that came to mind were not significantly important enough to keep me from returning next year.

First, although the later date was great for temperature during the race, being the closing weekend of the Food and Wine Festival, Festival of the Masters, Jersey Week, Veterans’ Day Weekend, Annual Passholder Previews for the new Fantasyland, free dining promotion period and the weekend of the PGA Tour’s ‘Children’s Miracle Network Classic’ did make for some crowded park times.  Perhaps the second to last weekend of the Food and Wine Festival might have been a better choice.  [According to the information provided by runDisney, the 4th runDisney Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend is scheduled in the same spot as this year’s.]

Second, bag inspection upon entering the park for the after party could be improved.  I think if they would have inspected your bag as you checked them, as they do for the Expedition Everest Challenge, things would have gone smoother.  It would have meant keeping the runner’s only area truly runner’s only, which was not the case after crossing the finish line.

Although this race was not my best time, nor the most personally meaningful, I have to say this was my favorite runDisney endurance event yet. Everything just seemed to come together for a magical experience.  The weather, the logistical flow, the course, and other participant’s attitudes all helped create this feeling, one that I am not soon to forget.  And in case there was any doubt, I’m already formulating what my plans will be for 2013’s runDisney Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend.

Bio: Todd Carrier is a computer draftsman by trade and a self-professed travel junkie in his spare time.  He enjoys visiting areas of historical significance, seeking sites of natural beauty, exploring urban architecture and design as well as experiencing the magic of Disney.  He is an amateur distance runner, well versed in runDisney events, novice numismatist and collector of Vinylmation.

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