Event: 2015 runDisney Walt Disney World 5k
Event Date: January 8, 2015
Event Location: Walt Disney World Resort, Florida
Jennifer and Mike recently traveled to the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida with nearly 60,000 other runners to participate in the 2015 runDisney Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. Jennifer completed the 5k and half marathon events, and Mike conquered the Dopey and Goofy Challenges, completing the 5k, 10k, half marathon, and full marathon events in 4 consecutive days. We will be bringing you complete coverage, including YouTube videos, of all of the Marathon Weekend events:
– Goofy’s “Race and a Half” Challenge (half marathon & full marathon)
– The Dopey Challenge (5k + 10k + half marathon + full marathon)
Why I decided to run this race
Last year I completed my first marathon at the 2014 runDisney Walt Disney World Resort Weekend (Part 2 is here), and in the back of my mind I was considering coming back to take on the Goofy Challenge (for completing the half and full marathons in consecutive days), as 2015 would be the 10th anniversary of the challenge. In consultation with my friends, who never miss a chance to encourage me to do things that I shouldn’t do, I became convinced that, if I was going to go Goofy, I might as well add on the 5k and 10k events and do the Dopey Challenge as well. So yes, I was going to “do the Dopey.”
Getting there/the lead-up to the race
As you know, the end of my 2014 race season was disappointing as I broke my foot during the 2014 runDisney Wine & Dine Half Marathon. As a result, November and December were frustrating as I had to adhere to a rest and rehab regiment when I should have been training up for the demands of the Dopey Challenge. Heading into the weekend I was afraid about aggravating the injury, so I knew I would have to take it easy during the early events, and adopted the ubiquitous March Madness mantra: “survive and advance.” My goal was not to set the world on fire with PRs in any of the events, I merely wanted to finish each event healthy enough to toe the line at the next morning’s event. As such, my race plan was to force myself to slow down and take it easier than I normally would during each of the individual events, and to have fun.
I flew down on Wednesday morning and planned on rendezvousing with Jennifer and her husband Jake at the Orlando airport. As we had other friends flying in from literally all around the country, we planned on meeting everyone else at Walt Disney World. The best part about runDisney weekends is the comradery amongst runners. While waiting for my plane, other runners came up to me and started discussing the race (it could have had something to do with the fact that I was wearing a Casual Runner shirt and carrying a 2-foot tall Dopey plush). But it was wonderful to meet so many great people on this trip.
The race Expo
All of these reviews are snapshots of our personal experiences, and those of others may differ. But one theme you will see throughout these reviews is that, while runDisney has had some issues in the past with transportation delays and long lines at expos, they were on their game this week. We tweeted this out at the time, but the runDisney Team deserves praise for how smoothly their operations ran during the entire event, which helped to enhance our enjoyment of the whole Marathon Weekend.
We stayed at All Star Sports Resort, and the event transportation picked us up with little waiting and brought us to the ESPN Wide World of Sports for the event expo. Wednesday should be the busiest day of the expo as everyone who is running the 5k and all entrants in the Dopey Challenge must pick up their race packets on Wednesday, and naturally other runners will attend the first day of the expo as well. That being said, while we went early (in the first 2 hours after it opened), the expo never felt overly-crowded, hectic, or rushed. The bib lines were efficient, the volunteers were friendly and helpful, and we were on our way with no stress or worry.
runDisney implemented a new procedure wherein Challenge participants have to have their photos taken so that volunteers may visually verify participants rather than using the old bracelet verification system. Volunteers were abundant to provide clear directions and instructions for this procedure.
If you have not been to this expo before, be prepared as it is HUGE. The expo is spread out amongst three venues that are located adjacent to one another in the Wide World of Sports Complex. runDisney, however, does a good job of branding the expo and directing runners to where they need to go to get everything they need: bibs, shirts, vendors, etc. When we were there, the lines for the runDisney event merchandise were very reasonable. The New Balance booth was mobbed, but that was to be expected as they have been the hit of recent runDisney expos. Overall, the expo was well-run and enjoyable.
The swag was minimal for this. 5k runners received a cotton short sleeved event t-shirt. I have no idea why runDisney gives cotton shirts for this event instead of the preferable tech shirts.
It was COLD the morning of the race: it was only in the mid-30s while we were in the pre-race area. I admittedly did not take this as “seriously” as I normally would because it was so cold and my need to rest for the following 3 days of events, so I did not even wear running clothes. Instead I wore clothes that I would wear to walk around an amusement park, and then layered them up. I did break 2 of my rules: (1) do not wear the event shirt to the event; and (2) do not wear cotton to a race. As I wanted another layer, I wore the cotton event shirt under my jacket, so you really could not see it anyway.
The pre-race was standard runDisney fun, which is to say it was enjoyable. The event transportation was efficient and well-run, and the bus rustlers encouraged us to wait inside our hotel lobby so we could stay warm, rather than queuing up outside. We made the standard long walk from the Epcot parking lot, under the monorail beam, to the pre-race area. Security and bag inspections were efficient and we were soon inside the runners’ village.
We saw runners huddling around the exhaust of portable generators and inside of unused charity tents trying to stay warm. The DJs were doing what they could to keep people moving and energized, and soon it was time to load into the corrals. As the 5k is much smaller than the half and full marathons and they share a village, there were plenty of port-a-potties for everyone and there were no waits to speak of to use them. Oh, and they were clean!
I was assigned to corral B but moved back to D to be with Jennifer and Jake – you can always move back to a later corral, but you cannot move up to an earlier one. Jake made a joke about “penguining up” to shelter ourselves from the wind, and before we knew it, all of the runners moved in close together out of instinct. If anything, the cold actually helped everyone to be in pretty good spirits as we all made the best of it.
Along the course
The early corrals were off and the race was underway. As this was a 5k race, the faster runners in corral A finished before we even started, and we were able to watch them cross the finish line on the large LED jumbotron at the starting line. runDisney gives every runner their due and each corral receives its own fireworks start along with all of the accompanying pomp from the race announcers. Soon it was our turn and we were on our way.
We turned right after the start and walked along the edge of the Epcot parking lot. I appreciated the course design as the least interesting parts (which were not bad at all) were frontloaded in the first mile of the course. We made our way into the backstage area by Test Track, entered Epcot through an entrance adjacent to the Mexico Pavilion, and turned left to make the trek around World Showcase. The atmosphere was great as the torches from Illuminations were lit and peppy pop music was blaring on the speakers. This made for a very enjoyable stroll as my race plan called for me to walk, not run, this race in order to save my legs for the later events. Even though we were walking, we did so briskly and kept pace with the pack which was not moving that quickly due to the congestion in the beginning, though it did lessen once we hit Epcot.
We stopped for lots of pictures and generally enjoyed ourselves during this stretch. There were several character stops along the way, but the lines were long and we decided not to stop. Race Icon. We made our way into Future World, and past Space Ship Earth, which was gorgeous in the crisp, clear, early morning hours. We crossed into the backstage area and made our way into the finisher’s chute. One interesting note is that, for Dopey Challenge participants, all 4 races follow the same finish path and share a finish line, which means you will become very familiar with this stretch of the course. This is helpful to you when you finish the longer races.
We crossed under the finish line arch and received our medals. Magic Moment. The best part of this race was seeing several runners who were overcome with joy having finished their first races. We all have different paths along our Casual Running journeys, and it is wonderful to witness those who experience the sheer joy of reaching a milestone on theirs.
This event is labeled as a “family fun run” and time is not kept except for Dopey Challenge participants. As such, runDisney awards a rubber medallion instead of a medal. It is cute, but not the best SMO, and I would like to see them award a true medal given the cost of this event.
The post-race experience
There was some confusion with the new picture procedure for Dopey, as we were directed into a special tent, where we were simply waved through. In short, you did not need to have your picture verified until the last day (though this may change in future years), and some runners were confused, fearing they missed a needed verification. I do expect that runDisney will be refining and clarifying this procedure for future years.
runDisney provided all runners with ample water and Powerade, as well as snack boxes at the finish. The best surprise was the addition of Goldfish to this year’s snack boxes. They tasted so good and I was starving. The DJs were cranking the tunes again and you could stay around for pictures if you wanted, but we were ready to head to Animal Kingdom, so we made our way to our resort.
This year runDisney relocated the resort shuttles so that they are adjacent to the runners’ village, which was a great change from previous years as it eliminated the very long post-race walk, and was particularly welcome given the frigid conditions. During the race, the faster runners were already in line waiting for buses that could not get there until all of the runners were on the course, which afforded them the opportunity to cheer on their fellow runners. This was a nice, unintended result of this change.
I created a short playlist consisting of the entrance music to Epcot and some classic Epcot background music, however, because the music being played inside of Epcot was so good, I did not really listen to my own music except in the first mile of the race before we entered Epcot.
Looking back now
I have to be honest, I really did not care that much about this event going into it, and the morning of the race I found it difficult to get out of bed (thanks for Jennifer and Jake for kicking me in the butt to get going!). I respect 5k races for what they are, but they just don’t do it for me, and this was no exception. I only ran it in order to fulfill the requirements of the Dopey Challenge.
It was great seeing so many people who found great fulfillment and accomplishment in this event, but I would have preferred to do so as a spectator rather than as a participant. As I walked the entire course when I know I am capable of running it, I do not feel as though I really “got” anything out of it. Consequently, unless I enter the Dopey Challenge again, I do not think that I will run the 5k again. But for those who are looking for a fun 5k that has all of the runDisney pomp and circumstances, you will enjoy this event.
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