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As much as I like running and being in the thick of a race, I also enjoy cheering for my friends when they run in a race. Night time races aren’t too bad to cheer for, but the real trick is that you have to get up before dawn to cheer for a morning race. In order to do this you pretty much need to be waking up and getting to the race at the same time as the runners. The Disney Halloween 5K was scheduled for 7 am and, despite that I was running the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Relay later that night, I was going to be there.
With most Disney races, whether you are a runner or a spectator you have a choice for getting to the race. You can drive to the race, you can take special bus transportation provided by Disney, or you can catch a taxi. I’ve driven and bussed for both cheering and running. My suggestion is that for a 5K race, whether running or cheering, unless you’re at a resort right next to the park where the race is hosted, one that is convenient to both the start and finish lines, drive to the race if you have a car available to do so. Whether running or spectating, for a 7 am 5K you’re expected to be at the race by 6:15 am.
Talking with my running and cheering buddy Shalon we planned to have her pick me up at around 5:45 am at Boardwalk. This meant a 5 am wake-up. Now, when I need to wake up at a specific time in a hotel, I never rely on the front desk or in-room alarm clock as both have failed me in the past. Instead I use my iPhone – I set the volume all the way up, pick an alarm sound that will wake me, make sure it’s plugged in, and not within arms reach. In case you’re wondering I always go with the old Batman Theme as I’d likely sleep through any Disney music.
Almost as soon as I woke up, I texted her to let her know I was on time and verify that she was too. Coordination like this is always important when you’re on a tight schedule, but not on your own. I got ready, ate some breakfast, and headed down to meet her. When she arrived, we drove over to Animal Kingdom as it was the location for the 5K.
As with driving to any race, getting to a spot to park can be a madhouse and this was no different. Since there was a lot of in car time to be had, we made contact with one of our friends we were coming to cheer for, Betsy. Turns out she was also stuck waiting to park and we arranged a meeting location. About 15 minutes later we were together along with a group of Be Our Guest Podcast folks.
After some talking, hanging, and last minute bathroom runs, the runners all headed into the corral – lining up along according to what they feel is their per mile race time. Shalon and I wandered about checking out some of the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party decorations that had been brought over. Then we lined up along the fence at the starting corral to see the opening fireworks – every Disney race starts with fireworks.
Not long after the racers started moving along, as planned, we met up with Matt and Raena, husband and daughter to our good friend Shelley who was also running in the 5K – her very first. I was very excited for this, like me Shelley had come a long way to become a runner. Together we waited for Shelley and Betsy to pass us, and about the same time we saw Shelley, Betsy popped out of the crowd of runners to give her a hug. It was a touching and exciting moment, tears and smiles all around. Raena was so very proud of her mother.
Once the runners pass the start line at an Animal Kingdom 5K they spend their first mile circling the outer edge of the parking lot making their way toward the main gate of the park. Fortunately, spectators can take a shortcut by making their way along the sidewalk to a cheering spot by the front entrance to the park. When we got there, for whatever reason, there were very few people here to cheer on the runners.
As a runner I know this, cheering helps keep you going. And it doesn’t matter if you know the people you see or not, you’re there to cheer, so cheer for everyone you can. So we cheered for everyone who ran by. We saw Rikki and others from the Be Our Guest Podcast run by. And not too long after Shelley came by in a whirlwind of happiness and excitement, followed by Betsy with a smile on her face as well. Not long after we watched them head into the main gate to Animal Kingdom we headed back to the finish line.
Finish line cheering at any race can always be tricky. I personally try not to get right at the finish line, but rather somewhere along the home stretch. It’s always a great vantage point, and for that last bit of the race, some runners still need need a good cheer or a hand slap to get them motivated for the finish. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t get up against the fence for the race course right away, people will generally clear away once their runners have passed. Be patient and wait for an opening.
In the meantime, it’s also a great time to get to see all the costumes being worn by the runners. And Disney races have a lot of participants in costumes generally speaking. More so in this race as it’s the Halloween 5K. Plenty of princesses passed us by as well as faeries and some chimney sweeps and convicts – fortunately Batman was on the scene. And special mention goes out to Cruella De Vil who finished the race wearing heels.
Soon enough Shelley came running by hands held high, I’m pretty sure she even did a little victory dance before reaching the finish line. Matt and Raena went to greet her while Shalon and I continued to wait for Betsy. Eventually they made their way back to us to wait for Betsy, and we didn’t have to wait too much longer she came running by, again all smiles. We then all moved toward the finish line and award area for the runners to greet Betsy. Both of our runners had finished.
Overall, it was an easy race to cheer for – there’s not a lot of distance to be covered by spectators. You’re not allowed to cheer inside Animal Kingdom during a 5K race, however you are allowed to be anywhere along the parking lot’s inner edge to cheer for runners. As you can see above, I prefer being at the Start line, the 1 mile marker, and then back at the Finish. This will give you two breaks between cheering for your runners, which makes cheering more leisurely.
From there Shalon and I gave hugs all around and then headed off to Magic Kingdom for the 40th Anniversary celebration. I still had a long day and night ahead of me. And, oh yeah… Betsy and Shalon were up to something…
What about you? Have you run a Walt Disney World 5K before? Any 5K? Any other Disney race? Are you interested in trying one out? Are you interested in cheering? Running? Already a runner? Are you up to something? Run, run as fast as you can…