Hi Friends! I’m back from another amazing Walt Disney World trip and runDisney race weekend. Here’s my recap of the 2016 Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend – Presented by MISFIT:
I hastily signed up for the Wine and Dine Half Marathon earlier this spring following my life-changing experience running the 2016 Disney Princess Half Marathon. I found the registration for this race exhilarating and stressful- the half almost sold out before my very eyes! But thankfully I made it in. Because of the inaugural 10K and Lumiere’s Two Course Challenge, I believe runDisney fans wanted to be a part of runDisney history and so the races filled up VERY quickly.
This year’s race weekend seemed “controversial” for many runDisney participants. Wine and Dine fans from prior years felt frustrated the half was no longer a rare night race and decided not to return. Others recalled prior years of bad weather, requiring runners to either race in the pouring rain or deal with bad lightning causing the race to be cut in HALF. I for one was grateful for a morning race. I am neither a night person, nor did I want to have to deal with potential bad weather and race shortening!
After my acceptance, I not-so-patiently waited for the Jeff Galloway training schedule to come out so that I could continue my maintenance runs and get started on my training right away. Having fulfilled my goal of completing my first half marathon, I decided to set a personal best goal for this race and opted to train with Jeff Galloway’s training guide for time improvement.
As it turns out, training in the summertime is grueling. I am a particularly sweaty runner (shout-out to my fellow sweaty runners!) so I had to be very careful about fueling and hydrating properly. Not to mention the chafing. Jumping and screaming in the shower is a common occurrence for me. Nevertheless, I trained hard through the summer and early fall months, all the while counting down the months, weeks, days until my racecation. In the meantime, there were dining reservations and Fastpass+ to arrange!
Finally the day had arrived. My boyfriend Tommy, our two great friends and I flew down on Thursday morning to visit the Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend runDisney Health & Fitness Expo. We picked up our bibs, took a few photos, and enjoyed the activity and excitement that took place.
I noticed right away that the expo did not seem nearly as crowded as my experience at the Princess Half expo. Maybe we were early. I also noticed that there were noticeable less thematic touches- they had the champagne cutouts and step and repeat photo opportunities, but not much else. When I went to pick up my pre-paid race gear, I was told that the jacket I purchased “wasn’t ready and would be mailed to me,” which seemed odd. Nevertheless, the expo experience wasn’t spoiled because I had the opportunity to meet Jeff Galloway! He was promoting the Atlanta-based Jeff Galloway 13.1 Race Weekend. It was so nice to meet him- he is lovely! And he definitely inspired and reminded me that anything is possible and “this is just the beginning [of my running career.]” What a motivating way to begin the race weekend!
Wine and Dine Half Marathon
I woke up early Friday morning to watch my friends participate in the Mickey’s Holiday 5K and enjoyed seeing them victoriously cross the finish line and receive their medals. I did not participate in the 10K but I would love to hear from you how it went! Instead I enjoyed a day at the parks and finished my night with some pizza and arancini from Via Napoli in Epcot’s Italy pavilion, my favorite pre-race meal. I prepared my race outfit, fuel, and other items I was planning on bringing with me the night before, knowing I could wake up early to grab and go. The one caveat to this trip was Daylight Savings Time: I knew my phone and Garmin would sync automagically but it was enough of a stress for me to dream all night that I had missed my start time.
When I arrived at Disney’s Wide World of Sports starting line and pre-race party site, I enjoyed the live entertainment from the announcers (they did blow a fuse at one point and all power was down on the stage for a few minutes!), the screens with video highlighting the options available at the Food and Wine Festival after party, and the excitement in the air. I noticed that there were many runners who opted not to wear a costume, or there was a mix between Disney character costumes and wine/dine-themed costume choices. It was considerably less obvious than the Princess weekend! Waiting for the race to begin, many runners (including myself) do the following:
Top 5 Things To Do When Waiting for a runDisney Race (Or Any Race!) To Begin:
- Consume fuel/hydrate
- Wait in long lines for the lovely porta potties
- Stretch or move around
- Keep warm with throwaway clothing, old heat-blankets or trash bags (so glamorous!)
- Look for PhotoPass cameras and take photos!
When it came time to line up, I went to my corral (F), I got my photo taken by a PhotoPass photographer, and patiently waited for our start time. On the way, I ran into an Instagram friend/fellow runDisney fan and we passed the time before our start getting to know each other! That’s the magic of Disney/social media for ya! 🙂
Once the race began and each corral was set-off by fireworks and internationally-themed music from the countries represented in Epcot, the wait went by very quickly. The announcers mentioned that Olympic Bronze medalist, Jenny Simpson and her husband, Jeff, would be running the race with us. Jeff ended up winning for the Men’s Division and set a new record for the race!
Once we set off, it really hit me that I had to spend the next 2 ½ hours or so running. I continued to breathe and push forward. The course had us go up and down highways and service roads, through and behind Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and back toward Epcot through Future World for a finish in the Epcot parking lot. I LOVED going through Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Seeing the Tree of Life lit up for the first time in an otherwise closed park while the sun rose was simply enchanting. They bumped up the volume of the thematic Africa/Asian music and had character spots along the way. Running past Expedition Everest underneath the prayer flags, through Dinoland U.S.A., Asia, and Discovery Island Trails gave me the extra motivation I needed to push forward knowing there was still a good 8 miles left of the course, many of which were service roads. The PhotoPass photographers were strategically placed throughout the park, providing some amazing photos post-race. With all the excitement, my pace quickened through Animal Kingdom, so I knew I had to relax and slow down.
Throughout the course there were DJs, live entertainment, character spots with rare characters, such as the Country Bears and Darkwing Duck, and huge monitors blasting music to classic Disney cartoons and movie moments. I really enjoyed that feature!
Just before we made it through Epcot there were two on-ramp hills that we needed to endure. Thankfully, some of the green army men from Toy Story were strategically positioned to motivate us as “his soldiers” to keep moving. This was just what I needed! I did not want to give up- I was determined to PR after all of my hard work over the summer.
Running through Epcot was just like the end of the Princess course. I knew I had to make my way around Future World and back behind the parking lot to cross that finish and get that medal. When I saw the finish line, I gave it my all and “sprinted” through. When I received the text message notification of my “unofficial” time, I definitely ugly cried for a hot second. I managed to cut off over a minute of my Princess time (2:26:22) with 2:25:04. As quickly as I could, I made my way over to a volunteer to receive my medal and grab water/Powerade/a snack box. They were also handing out Dr. Cool wet towels- I somehow missed the heat blankets? Were they even available?
Tommy and our friends managed to see me cross the finish line (albeit with an obstructed view- we chose to save our money and opted not to purchase ChEAR squad seats) and snapped a couple photos that I now cherish- I may not look my best but I look strong, proud, and relieved.
After the race, I usually drink chocolate milk and eat something, take a shower, strech and nap right away. While it would be so easy to “take it easy” for the rest of the day, spending time in the parks forces you to keep your legs movng and the blood flowing to combat soreness, which I appreciate.
Our group chose to spend that Sunday evening at Epcot to enjoy the Food and Wine Festival. We did not attend the after party because we chose not to purchase additional tickets for everyone in our group (yet another expense), and I felt guilty attending by myself! We actually had two other runners ask us to take their tickets off their hands- if we ran into a third, we would’ve been able to justify having our entire party attend! It seems silly to not provide a +1 invitation but maybe runDisney can work on that. Despite this, we managed to try most of the foods around the world and check off marketplaces in our “passport.” All Wine and Dine Half participants received a $15 gift certificate via email to use during the festival or after party (or anywhere onsite for that matter). The second I got to World Showcase (we started counter-clockwise), I waddled over to the Mexico pavilion and ordered the delicious shrimp taco with a sangria- for $14.50 my $15 gift certificate was gone in a flash.
We made our way around World Showcase, went on a few attractions, and watched Illuminations: Reflections of Earth, my favorite fireworks show. Illuminations is a very nostalgic experience for me: I’ve been watching this show since my very first Disney trip with my family during the Millennium celebration. It was the perfect end to an incredible day.
Overall, the Wine and Dine Half Marathon race weekend was an incredible experience- I was grateful for the opportunity to participate in the inaugural morning race, I was relieved we had perfect weather, and I was so happy to share this weekend with some of my favorite people.
PS: Does anyone have a MISFIT?
Did you participate in the Wine and Dine Half Marathon weekend? What were your experiences?