Event: 2015 runDisney Expedition Everest Challenge 5K and Scavenger Hunt
Event Date: Walt Disney World, Orlando, FL
Event Location: May 2, 2015
Why I decided to run this race
Our year of runDisney… blah, blah, blah…you’ve heard this story before…if you haven’t, you can check it out here.
Actually, I’d really been looking forward to this specific race ever since we decided to do all the runDisney race weekends. It’s a shorter race, through a nighttime Animal Kingdom, and includes a scavenger hunt. The shorter duration meant we did not have to plan our entire vacation around a race: We could eat (and drink!) what we wanted when we wanted and we didn’t have to get up crazy early and therefore cut our evenings short. Nighttime at Animal Kingdom is a rare treat since the park usually closes before dark. And I love scavenger hunts! Basically, it’s a perfect race for me.
Getting there/the lead-up to the race
Training-wise, we were already prepping for Tinkerbell Weekend taking place the following week so we were already conditioned for the race. Knowing my husband and I have a history of either killing scavenger hunt clues or completely falling apart, we spent a little time online reading recaps from past races that included sample clues. We were about 50/50 on immediately getting the clues so it really was going to be a toss-up how we’d do in the actual race.
The race Expo
OK, yes, the Expedition Everest expo is small compared to other runDisney events. And, yes, it was held in the parking lot at Animal Kingdom. And, no, there was not a lot of special race swag. That does not mean it was a bad expo. It did exactly what an expo needs to do: allow me to get my bib and shirt with little hassle, shop around for a minute or two, look at the course map, and get out of there. If we had not stopped to work out the sample clue (which turned out to be the hardest of all the clues for the race) we probably would have been in and out of the expo in about 15 minutes—that’s a good expo in my book!
I liked the shirt we got for this race. They gave us white, short-sleeve tech tees with the race logo on the front. The material is a lighter weight than the tees we got at Princess so there is a much better chance I’ll wear it (yeah, I still don’t like the heavy polyester fabric used for the past few races…it makes me sweat just by putting it on).
We also bought the official Expedition Everest Challenge race pin to put on our medals with the pins that would represent our costumes. As for the rest of the swag, there were some “I Did It” shirts and maybe some lanyards, but not much else to purchase.
The weather was perfect for race night this year, a nice change from the freezing cold of Marathon Weekend, the crazy Santa Ana winds of Avengers, and the pouring rain of Wine and Dine. As a result, we got to wear our costumes as exactly as designed.
My hubby and I chose young Carl and Ellie from Up as our inspiration. I’d been wanting to be Ellie for quite a while and this seemed the perfect time. Not only is the adventure theme of the race something the characters would want to do, I thought the characters would be recognizable enough that people would get it but not so popular that everyone else would be doing it too. As it turned out we did see a few others as Carl and Ellie, but there were very few and we didn’t see anyone else who did them as kids. And I think it would’ve been fun to do a generational picture with the couple who were adult Carl and Ellie and the guy who was old Mr. Fredrickson.
I really streamlined my gear and costume for this race. For my costume I used: sleeveless yellow Nike golf shirt, Ink N Burn denim-print running capris, pleather old-school aviator helmet with similarly old-school motorcycle goggles, and a grape soda pin.
For the rest of my gear: brown Bondi Band headband, yellow Nike sports bra, Injini socks, navy and purple Brooks Adrenaline ASR 11 GTX shoes, and Garmin Forerunner 620 and Gymboss interval timer. You’ll notice I didn’t carry hydration for this race. Since I don’t need any special drinks for runs this short and I didn’t want to be juggling too many things for the scavenger hunt, I decided to not carry my own hydration.
My husband and I spent the days leading up to the race enjoying a relaxed vacation. We spent Friday at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios and had a late dinner at the California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. On Saturday we played some Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom at…well…Magic Kingdom, did some shopping at Downtown Disney, then headed back to our room for a nap. At about 7:30 that evening we emerged, fully costumed, to grab a quick dinner at the Caribbean Beach Resort food court and were on a bus to the race by 8:00pm.
Traffic getting to the race was pretty minimal and we arrived with plenty of time to spare. In fact, we had time to stand in three of the four picture lines before the race. The DJ was doing a good job pumping up the crowd and I was pleased to note that the music volume was lower than at typical Disney races, something I really appreciated since most of the time I have to avoid the stage and DJ like the plague for fear of my eardrums exploding.
Overall, I had the most fun I’ve ever had at a Disney pre-race. I’m sure the perfect weather played a role as well as the fact that I wasn’t worried about completing the distance so I was more relaxed. But there just seemed to be a really great vibe in the air. There were a wide variety of costumes: sure there were some princesses, but there were far more people taking advantage of the opportunity to explore everything from Indiana Jones to The Emperor’s New Groove, from random animals to Ewoks. People were happy to chat with strangers, and I met several people who I’d previously only known from Facebook groups.
Considering the theme and timing of the race, the VP of Animal Kingdom (himself a runner) took the opportunity to ask for a moment of silence for the victims of the earthquake in Nepal as well as announce that Disney would donate $1 million to the relief effort.
Along the course
Runners started the challenge by completing a 5K obstacle course. We spent about the first mile looping through the parking lot, then spent much of the rest of the race in Animal Kingdom and the backstage areas. Animal Kingdom is hillier than the rest of the Disney parks—something I never really notice until I’m running through it. It’s also darker than the other parks at night and there are some great lighting effects on the Everest ride and the Tree of Life. Runners encountered three optional obstacles during the 5K: hay bales to jump over (I only did a few because my shins felt like I had shin splints coming on and jumping hurt), netting to crawl under (my husband vetoed because of a knee injury), and tires to run through (which I fell on…twice).
Aside from a misprint on the first clue that caused a delay for us, my husband and I breezed through the clues. In fact, we were a little disappointed they were so easy. Also, since you followed an established course for the scavenger hunt phase, it wasn’t like you had to think about how to get from place to place. But it did allow us to basically run another loop through the park, which we enjoyed because we were finally warmed up from the earlier run and ready to put in more miles (my muscles don’t really loosen up until I’ve completed about 3 miles). We did notice that many people seemed to forget they were still “on the clock” and were walking the scavenger hunt portion.
As we sprinted to the finish holding up the correct item, we mourned the fact that we would not be able to do this race again, as runDisney previously announced that this would be the last year for this event. But I am hopeful runDisney will add something fun to replace it.
In my opinion, the Expedition Everest Challenge medals are some of the coolest Disney offers. I mean, it’s a working compass! Not just a rubber medallion that’s typical for a Disney 5K! How awesome is that?
Well…it’s a little less awesome when you don’t even get out of the finish area before you notice that the compass needle has fallen off. Luckily they exchanged it for me at the information tent, but I wasn’t the only one who had this problem. Even so, I’m glad I earned this medal to commemorate the last Expedition Everest race.
The post-race experience
Another fun aspect of this race is the after party in the Asia and Dinoland areas of the park. If you ever have a chance to ride Everest in the dark: Do it! It’s one of my favorite rides in the daytime and it’s even better at night. Just be sure to hold on to your medal so it does not hit you in the face and ribs!
In streamlining my gear, my iPod was one of the things I left behind. And I’m sure they played music on the course…I just cannot remember it. I swear, I was not drinking before the race even started….
Looking back now
In a sea of traditional road races, the Expedition Everest Challenge was a nice little change. The relaxed atmosphere and family-friendly course makes for a unique race. I’m sad that I’ll only get to do it once, but at least I got to do it at all.
Do you think that you have what it takes to take on the Everest Challenge? You can now try your hand at all of the clues from the 2015 event, we even provided you with hints and solutions for all of the clues. Good luck! You can check out lots more pictures from this event in our photo gallery.
The Casual Runner Team wants to hear from you. If you have any questions about anything we cover here on Casual Runner, if you have any questions regarding running gear or training for your own Casual Running needs, or if there is anything that you would like us to cover on Casual Runner, please leave a comment or email us using the links below. To ensure that you do not miss all of the great content from Casual Runner, please be sure to like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Instagram, subscribe to our YouTube channel, and add us to your circle on Google+. See you out on the running trails!