The Casual Runner

2016 WDW Half Marathon

Event: 2016 runDisney Walt Disney World Half Marathon hosted by Donald Duck
Event Date: January 9, 2016
Event Location: Walt Disney World Resort, Florida

We have TONS of coverage of the 2016 runDisney Walt Disney World Marathon coming your way! Here is a quick guide so you don’t miss any of it:

Can’t get enough of this great event, including the Dopey Challenge & other race events? You can check out our past coverage of the 2015 Walt Disney World Weekend now:

IMG_3034Why I Decided to Run This Race

I knew after completing the 2015 Dopey Challenge that I would dial back my running program at this year’s WDW Marathon weekend. As the Goofy Challenge presents the most significant physical challenge, and not running Dopey would allow me to sleep in 2 mornings, I convinced Candace to enter the Goofy Challenge. Thus, Donald Duck’s Walt Disney World Half Marathon would be the opening leg of our race program.

Getting There/the Lead-up to the Race

I am sad to report that my training for this race wasn’t what I wanted it to be. I was keeping up with my maintenance runs, but I did not get the long training runs in that I wanted to. Thus, I knew I would be fine for the half marathon and opening half of the full marathon, but beyond that, my success in this challenge would be determined by how much I saved myself over the 39.3 mile total distance.

The Race Expo

As we arrived in Walt Disney World on Thursday morning, the expo crowds were very manageable (all of the Dopey and 5k runners had already been through the day before). The volunteers and cast members were kind and helpful, maybe a little too helpful. One cast members actually congratulated us as we left the first building, proudly proclaiming “Congratulations on completing the first stage of the race expo!” Um, ok?

Silly me: I left town without my Body Glide and race fuels, so I had to buy them at the expo. But we were in and out of the expo in relatively short order and on our way to the parks to enjoy a little Disney fun.

Swag Review

My biggest issue with runDisney races is that their race shirts tend to be long sleeve. I know I might be splitting hairs here, but I did receive 5 long sleeve shirts for last year’s Dopey Challenge, plus long sleeve shirts for the Wine and Dine Half Marathons, and I would receive 3 more long sleeves for this year’s Goofy Challenge. As I love wearing these in the parks (where its great to celebrate your runDisney accomplishments and the weather is usually too warm for long sleeves), it would be nice to see a little more variety in the race shirts. Additionally, I do miss the days where marathon finishes would merit a race jacket as a runner premium.

That being said, the shirts themselves are top notch. The quality is great, the logos are awesome (I love the larger park icons on the sleeves), and they picked nice colors for these events. The only other swag is a small Cliff bar, so, not much to report there.

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Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum, ready to run!

The Gear

Yes, Candace did talk me into another joint race costume, but it would not be as elaborate as her cool Monsters, Inc. creations. We went with Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, which allowed us a great combination of functionality and theme-ing. The major costume elements were a beanie hat (with a spin propeller thingy!) and bow tie that Candace glued to my running shirt.

The rest of my kit consisted of Adidas Climalite compression shorts (which were crucial as the costume running shorts I ordered online were WAY too short, especially when they got wet, er, soaked, from sweat), Swiftwick running socks, Soleus GPS+ watch, and Saucony Virrata running shoes. I also had my Iphone 5S, Yurbud Ironman Series headphones, and a Ziploc bag for moisture protection tucked away in my Spibelt. I wore 2 C9 wristbands, which were crucial on this day as I sweat a lot and there was a lot of moisture in the air.

Finally, I wore a pair of Tifosi Tyrant 2.0 sunglasses.  My thinking was that these transition lenses would be perfect for that notorious stretch of Grand Floridian Way where the sun is always in everyone’s eyes. However, the sun never did rise during the race, so at least they were super comfortable on my head!

The Pre-Race

runDisney absolutely rocked the race day transportation. Whereas past races had long lines and bus delays, I could not have been more impressed with how fast and efficient the transportation was this year. We walked into our resort lobby and were surprised to find that there was no line. We walked right onto a bus and did not sit in traffic at all on our way to Epcot. Job well done runDisney!

The pre-race area was pretty much as it was in previous years, except there was a longer line than normal at security screening due to the new costuming and bag policies. Despite this, they did their best to keep the line moving, though there was a log jam due to the way the queue was set up (it emptied onto the end of the line of checkpoints, which meant some were backed up and others were not being used at all).

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The view of the see of runners from the Monorail during the race.

Along the Course

So, the course (including the long pre-race walk) was exactly the same as it was in years past, rather than re-hash all of the details, please check out our course reviews from the 2013 Princess Half Marathon (Part 1 & Part 2), and the 2015 Donald Duck Half Marathon (Mike’s review & Jennifer’s Review) and the Princess Half Marathon (2013 race: Part 1 & Part 2; and the 2015 race). I will however give you some quick thoughts of mine as I ran this race:

runDisney did a good job of mixing in some new characters to this course (Oogie Boogie from Nightmare Before Christmas), Mike Wazowski (the real monster, not the cool light up puppet), and my personal on-course favorites: Scrooge McDuck AND Genie dressed in his vacation gear! I do wish that they would find a way to change up this course a little bit as it is exactly the same as the Princess course and is the same as the first quarter of the Marathon course that we would be running the next day as a part of the Goofy Challenge.

It was very foggy/hazy on race day, which, although it ruined my pictures and videos, made for great race conditions: not too hot, not too cold. Plus, this kept the lighting darker longer, and Disney courses are always better in the dark, so that was a nice, unexpected bonus. And of course I never did actually need those sunglasses I made sure to wear.

Race Icon. While I did not experience it myself, runners in later corals reported significant congestion entering Cinderella’s Castle…it was so bad at times that they came to a complete standstill, waiting their turn to enter.  As you can see, course congestion continues to be a problem at times based on where you are in the start order. I still think that the corrals are too large and not staggered enough, as I spent much of the first two miles trying to make my way through dense crowds. Once you do find some room on the course and it opens up two 3 lanes (such as on World Drive), the race experience is wonderful.

IMG_3047Race Icon/Unexpected Magic. One of the undisputed iconic moments of this event is the run up Main Street USA. While many runners run for speed and time, I always make a point to slow down and stroll up Main Street (of course I stay to the side! You can see how this experience was from my vantage point in our Course & Race Highlight Video). I want to soak in the crowds and the magic. This year was extra special as, when I entered the hub, the music changed to a beautiful version of Feed the Birds from Mary Poppins. For those of you who know your Disney history, you know that this was one of Walt Disney’s favorite songs. It just made my moment that much more special, and yes, more emotional. It was spectacular.

runDisney still has the most consistently great water stations of any races I’ve run. The staff and volunteers should be commended for a job well done: plenty of pre-filled drink cups, long rows and stations on both sides of the road, cheerful and supporting staffing…great job!

We met several runners who ran this as their first half marathon, and the demonstrable pride they exhibited was heartwarming and inspiration. Congratulations on a job well done!

For those running the Goofy or Dopey challenges, you have 2 objectives in this race: (1) do no harm, save yourself for the next day; and (2) have fun! I can definitely say that we had fun on this day, however, I did take this race out a little too hard. My first 5k was run near a PR pace, which means I overdid it given that this was the opening leg of a 2 day race challenge. Sometimes it is just too hard to calm that runDisney race day excitement and adrenaline.

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The 2016 Donald Bling.

The SMOpinion

So I like the Donald medal, and I know that sounds like a luke warm endorsement. The reality is that, while it is a nice medal that is better than most of the race medals out there, it does suffer by the inevitable comparison to other runDisney medals. That being said, I definitely wore it around the parks with pride.

The Post-Race Experience

We had a large group of friends running this race at various paces and race plans, so I met up with those who finished earlier to enjoy some snacks. There was the usual runDisney post-race hooplah, which included music, character photos, and, unfortunately, confusion as to whether you could or could not get mylar blankets (I was denied one). I have no idea why this continues to be a thing.

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Running really is always better with friends.

Unexpected Magic. One of our good friends, Jason, ran his first half marathon at this event. Because that itself would not be enough to make this day memorable, at the end of the race he proposed to Laura, another one of our good friends. We met both of these great people through running Disney races, and are thrilled that to see them committing to be running buddies for life. Though, I have no idea how Jason managed to handle the nerves, emotion, and excitement of running his first half marathon while knowing that at the end he was going to propose to his future bride, very impressive indeed. Best of luck to you both, and thanks for letting us share in your special weekend!

Playlist Peak

Two major additions made their way onto my playlist. In honor of Disneyland’s 60th anniversary celebration, I added the soundtracks from Paint the Night and Disneyland Forever. But the best addition I made was Shut Up & Dance With Me. It came on at a perfect part in the course and gave me a little extra pep in my step.

Looking Back Now

Ugh, I really do struggle with sizing up this race. Don’t get me wrong, it is a good race in its own right, but it is the same course as the Princess Half Marathon and it is overshadowed by the WDW Marathon and Dopey and Goofy Challenges.  Will I run it again? Most probably, but that is because I already have a girlfriend and friends who are actively trying to talk me into running Goofy or Dopey again next year. We shall see!

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