Event: 2014 runDisney Kids Races – Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend
Event Date: January 8-10, 2014
Event Location: ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, Walt Disney World, Florida
The Granddaddy of Them All – the 2015 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend – returns next month. Casual Runner has plenty of great coverage planned to get you ready for this event, but first we wanted to take a look back at the 2014 Weekend, and particularly the kids races.
Why I decided to run this race
I did not run this race, sadly, I am way too old to officially run it. But, as 2 of my nephews – Andrew, age 5, and Nolan, age 3 – entered this race, I was given the privilege of escorting them in their first ever runDisney races. My brother, Frank, and I, were in Florida with our friends and family to run our first ever marathons (I also swore it would be my one and only marathon, but we all know how that worked out). As a surprise, Frank registered the boys for the kids races, and to say that they were excited to “run with Mickey,” would be a gross understatement.
Getting there/the lead-up to the race
My brother has always been active and athletic – he played varsity basketball and soccer in high school – and he was one of the people who really encouraged me to get me up and get running. As such, his boys have always seen him getting up and going out for his runs. When he goes through his pre-run stretching routine, the boys are often right there with him on the floor, mimicking his actions. In doing this, he has set a great example for them which will hopefully help motivate them to be active and healthy in their own lives. When we entered the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon, he decided to further encourage them by signing the two older boys (the race weekend was 3 months after the birth of his third son) for kids races so they could share in the fun, excitement, and pride, of completing a runDisney race.
The race Expo
We will be bringing you more in-depth coverage of the 2014 Marathon weekend, including the expo, in the coming weeks.
For the kids races, runDisney made it easy to get the boys registered for their events and packet pickup was quick and easy at the specially-designated tables. Frank picked up the boys’ packets an hour before the race when he was getting his own packet for the next day.
The swag is minimal as the boys received a runDisney kid’s cotton T-shirt – I know, cotton!, right? BUT they featured Mickey, so the boys loved them. Side note: Andrew shares a birthday with Mickey Mouse, so he was extra excited to have Mickey appear on his first race shirt.
One of the great ongoing debates amongst runners is whether you should wear a race shirt during an event. I am squarely in the “NO” camp on this one, but my nephews don’t concern themselves with such grand issues and debates. They insisted on wearing their race shirts, and we obliged. They are kids, we were just hoping they wouldn’t be covered in mud when it was all said and done.
If you like orderly, organized pre-race experiences, yeah…this one may not be for you. It was a bit chaotic, but in a fun sort of way. The kids races took place on the track at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex on Walt Disney World property. Everyone had to walk through to the rear of the complex, and then around to the side entrance where everyone assembled on the infield. runDisney did their best to keep everyone entertained with music (it was a mini-version of their normal pre-race routine). Keep in mind that any time you get that many kids together in one place you have to expect a little bit of craziness, but that is just a part of the charm of the kids races.
There are no corrals. Think more of an Oklahoma land rush-style-mass start. There are several distances taking place at the same time, all of which have hundreds of entrants plus their escorts (some of the events allow parents to escort their children). Nolan entered the 100 meter dash, while Andrew entered the 200 meter “distance” event. The announcers instruct you to report to the flags denoting the starting line for your event, and so they can release everyone in waves. You report to your start area, and wait to load into the area to be a part of a start wave.
Nolan wasn’t feeling well that week (including making a stop at the urgent care), so he really wanted his daddy. Frank took Nolan to the 100 meter start area and I took Andrew to the 200 meter start area. It is possible for the same parent to escort children in different events, but it would require a lot of hustling on their part and a second parent or guardian to watch the non-running children in the meantime. While we went to the start areas, my sister-in-law and her brother were waiting at the finish line to take pictures.
Along the course
The course takes place entirely on the all-weather track where Olympians train. The races all finish at the same place, so the distances start at different points around the track.
As Nolan was not feeling well, he insisted that his father carry him the whole time, but this in no way diminished his pride at having “finished” his first race. I am not going to lie, there have been times where I wouldn’t have minded someone carrying me to the finish line.
Andrew and I took pictures as we waited for the shorter distances to clear the track. When it was time for our event, we waited to load into the area where they broke up the crowd into the various starting waves. We ended up being in the third wave. Here is a quick tip: as you can imagine, the kids were excited to run their races, and many of them are pushing their way to the front (not unlike adult runners). We hung back a bit so that Andrew wouldn’t be trampled by some of the larger kids and their parents who were desperately trying to keep up with them.
I told Andrew to stay on the right/inside of the track so his mom could get pictures of him. He sort of listened as he was more concerned with finding Mickey Mouse on the course, because he just knew that Mickey had to be there.
They started the countdown and our wave was off! I have never seen Andrew run so fast in his life. The kid is naturally athletic, but he was off like a rocket, clearly excited to be running at Disney. The problem was the crowd of folks on the track were not running fast enough for his liking, so he started darting in and around people to get ahead of them. This is fine, except I had to keep up with him, and I was trying desperately not to step on any little kids. Race Icon. We made the turn around the track and he spotted his hero – Mickey Mouse – at the finish line, and made a bee-line straight for him. Andrew gave Mickey a high-four as he finished and immediately turned to me and yelled “Uncle Mikey – I saw Mickey!!!” I wish I could give it justice in describing just how excited and proud he was in that moment. It was great to be a part of it.
The medal is a rubber, multi-colored runDisney kids race medallion that is the same for all of the kids races. The boys loved their medallions and wanted to take pictures wearing them. Like they have seen us do, they insisted on wearing them to the theme parks as well, and we obliged. Although, unlike their adult counterparts, they tended to take them off a lot, and we obliged that as well.
The post-race experience
The post-race is pretty much the same as the pre-race, with music playing and people just hanging out in the infield. There were a few characters available for pictures, but they were understandably mobbed with kids trying to get some face time. The best way to describe the whole experience is “cute,” as the kids were enjoying themselves greatly.
When we were done we walked back to the main part of the complex to exit. It is a long walk, but is not terrible. As it is Disney, you “exit through the gift shop” and have to walk right by the race expo (i.e. lots of shopping opportunities) to make your way back to your car or the event shuttles.
Some kids did have headphones, but I would strongly recommend against any adults listening to music during this race. Did I just say that? Aren’t I the one who always listens to music when running? Yeah I am, but the race is short, it is run entirely in a small area so you can always hear the music supplied by the runDisney DJ, and you want to make sure you are alert and not stepping on any kids. I am not kidding, the entire time I was completely terrified about accidentally stepping on or in front of a kid. Fortunately no runDisney kids were harmed in the writing of this review!
Looking back now
I cannot say whether these races are “worth” the money you pay, as I have no way of assessing whether or not it is a good “value.” What I can say is that the boys really did seem to enjoy the experience and were proud of having finished their first runDisney race. They still display their medallions proudly. If this in some way helps them to live active lifestyles and to want to run more races going forward, then it is absolutely worth it. And, if nothing else, we have the memories of having been there while they had a great time running at the most magical place on Earth.
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