My alarm rang at 6:30pm and I dragged myself away from my power nap. It was supposed to have been a few hours worth of sleep to get me ready for the Wine & Dine Half Marathon Relay, but my afternoon didn’t end up going quite according to plan. I was supposed to have been in bed by 4pm at the latest. That didn’t happen, and while I’m pretty good at pulling myself out of a pit of failure into a win, I have to say that at this point I was concerned. As I got dressed in my already laid out race clothes, I went over my day.
I had spent the morning getting up at 5am in order to go cheer for friends a the Halloween 5K race, being up so early was why I had planned an afternoon nap. From there, Shalon and I headed over to Magic Kingdom for the 40th Anniversary Event & Singalong, and we watched with our friends John, Mark, Sarah, Tim, Mark, and Libby. I have to say that this event, while small in scope, was a lot of fun and very exciting to have been there. After managing to meet up with my wife, Cheryl, we rode a few rides and just hung out until lunch.
Sarah, Tim, Cheryl, and I then went over to Liberty Tree Tavern to meet with friends for lunch. It was a very relaxing meal and I got to see Kristen, Scarlett, and others. Sticking with my prior pre-race meal, I went with a hamburger, subbing out my tavern fries for these new and totally awesome sweet potato fries that they now have. And then I got this oddly cryptic text from my friend Shelley telling me not to freak out when I see the picture she just posted on her Twitter stream. So, of course, I rush to look.
What I see is a picture of Shalon, Betsy, and Shelley in Epcot. Now, normally this would not be an odd occurrence, but there’s forth person with them, my Disney Film Project Podcast co-host, Briana. The problem with that picture was this: Briana and Betsy had never met in person. While Cheryl and I are trying to comprehend this, I get a phone call from Briana. Now you have to understand that to Cheryl and me, Briana is like a daughter. So you can only imagine what’s going on in my head when she tells me she’s in Epcot. She assured me she was on her way to see us, and I’m pretty sure all I said, repeatedly, was “Okay…”
At this point I’m a nervous, anxious wreck. Processing. Conflicting thoughts of needing to eat and sleep run against getting to see someone near and dear. Getting emotional before a race can be a bad thing, but this is a good thing I kept telling myself. I got through the rest of the meal, which I honestly don’t remember much of. Unsure what to do while waiting between lunch and seeing Briana, Cheryl and I met up with Lou Mongello’s 40 Hour Live Broadcast group and got a tour of Liberty Square. Of course, I was looking over my shoulder the whole time.
Eventually we got to meet up with Briana at Sleepy Hollow Refreshments, and with not having seen her in person for almost an entire year, it was a great and magical moment. The sort of thing that is perfect for Magic Kingdom. It was a really great present for Cheryl, Shelley, and me from Briana, Betsy, and Shalon, and we’re all thankful for it. Nothing makes Disney better than friends. Sacrificing my pre-race nap, I stayed as long as I could before having to head back to the room to nap and suit up for the race. Which brings be back to where I was, only about 2 hours later than planned.
In the end, I think that the power nap worked to my favor as did the afternoon’s emotional onslaught. Triple knotted sneakers, and water bottles in my newly acquired running belt (no more weird tool belt questions), I was ready to go. Heading over to the bus I ran into the boss man himself, Len Testa, and Laurel, and we headed over the race together. It was really nice to get to talk with friends on our way over to the Wide World of Sports Complex – the location of the start of the race.
Now I’ve taken the bus over in order to cheer at several morning races in the past. And it’s always been no problem just walking on to the bus to find a seat. This time however the line for the buses was very backed up, and it felt like we were waiting a very long time. Disney defintely needed more buses to be running. Plus when we got onto the bus, it was standing room only and very cold despite being packed in. Getting to WWoS didn’t take too long, but the buses were all held in this holding pattern where they weren’t letting us off for what felt like 20 minutes.
During this time I was texting with my friend Cliff who I was supposed to be meeting with to head over to Animal Kingdom – the Relay transfer point – as it was required that we catch a bus from WWoS to AK. Eventually, since I was stuck, we just agreed to meet at AK instead. I was also trying to meet up with my Relay partner AJ from The Disney Food Blog, and I was concerned she’d have to go into the race corrals before we could. However, after escaping the bus, we were finally able to meet up, give each other a big hug and wish each other luck.
From there, I got on a bus to Animal Kingdom. An incredibly hot bus – the difference was Animal Kingdom Hot vs. Kouzzina Cold. Fortunately, the bus trip to Animal Kingdom was very short. I met Cliff over by the pre-race bag check. AJ and I had decided not to check bags, but had we, she’d have been checking my bag over at WWoS, and I’d be checking her bag at Animal Kingdom. It’s a little confusing, but it makes some sense. Runners starting at AK need their bags to be at the finish line in Epcot, and those finishing at AK need their bags to be at AK.
Cliff and I met up with Mr. Ultimate Touring Plans himself David and we all hung out together in the AK parking lot waiting. From what we could tell all our Relay partners were approximately the same pace, so we could all line up at approximately the same time. After watching the start of the race and not long after a few wheelchair entrants pass by, we met a former Voices of Liberty singer and heard some funny stories about the Candlelight Processional. My race adrenaline was already building, and I was getting antsy.
Eventually we moved over to the exchange zone to wait. This is really the most confusing part of the event. No matter how many times you go over the explanation of the exchange, you’re not really prepared for it. The idea is this, you line up in a corral range according to your number. There is a big screen, you’re supposed to be trying to spot your runner on the big screen and then step out into the running track to spot your runner when you do. Your runner has to look for you in the track. Then you meet and then cross the transfer line together.
The angle of the camera on the screen is very odd, and you can’t really tell where the runners are relative to you when you’re seeing them on the screen. Since runners are tagged, having a number board flashing up numbers in front of the second leg runners as the first leg runners passed a certain check point would have made much more sense. Instead, what you get this very stressful moment of terror that you might miss your partner.
So, we just did our own thing instead. I texted AJ to look for the numbered corral when she hit the transfer point. And periodically I poked my head out looking for her. This is why meeting beforehand is important – we both got a look at what each other was wearing. Eventually I spotted her with a look of confusion on her face as she looked for the right corral. Fearing for my safety with oncoming runners, I stepped out, jumped up and down waving my arms, shouting “AJ!!!” She saw me, ran over, we hugged and then ran across the transfer line together. Her race was over, and mine had just started.
At this point I felt sort of bad. I’m refreshed and ready to go, stepping out into a group of people who have just run 5 miles. I started RunKeeper on my iPhone so I could map the race, and this kicked in my chosen race music – the soundtracks for Cars and Cars 2. And I was off. It was a lot of fun getting to see all sorts of neat things along the way. Really, this is one of the things that makes Disney races special. Right away I got to see some Main Street Electrical Parade floats including one that Briana and I call Fernando.
The run between AK and Disney’s Hollywood Studios was interesting. There’s a lot of very different surfaces comprising the roads of Walt Disney World. Two that stood out were this patch where the road was scored that made my legs feel wobbly when I ran over it. And the other was this butterfly exit ramp that was angled in such a way that your legs were not even – it was very distracting. Overall, if you haven’t run on the Disney roads before, I’d say be prepared for anything. Along the way I got to see a minvan from Lost, some bands playing music, and some SpectroMagic floats.
The run through the Studios felt like it took forever as it seemed to wind and loop back and forth on itself constantly. You run in from behind the Tower of Terror and pass by Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. Then you run in one entrance to Fantasmic! and back out the other and down Sunset, turning to head toward the Sorcerer Mickey Hat. Then you head toward the Animation Courtyard and turn again to go down Pixar Place. At this point I stopped to pose with Buzz Lightyear.
Just before the Backlot Tour, we turned in and ran through the tunnel where you can see the wardrobe design rooms, but opposite the way the trams go. Then they ran us through the backstage areas of the Studios for a while past all sorts of buildings – lots of Castmembers were on hand to cheer us on. At this point is where the 10 mile maker was – 5 miles for me. Then we ran back around and right through the Lights, Motors, Action! stage where we got to see ourselves up on the big monitor as we passed through. Just after this I got to stop and pose with Carl Fredricksen.
From there we ran down the Streets of America where we got to see a very early showing of the Osborne Lights. They weren’t nearly complete, but getting to see them lit up like that was fantastic and exciting. It really got you pumped to keep going. Running past Star Tours I couldn’t resist stopping to pose with dark lord of the Sith himself, Darth Vader. Really my favorite picture of the night.
And then after heading behind the Indiana Jones stage we headed out of the park. The course took us past the bus terminal and then down along to the pathway that takes you from the Studios to Crescent Lake. We ran past the Boardwalk and then headed over the bridge to run past the Yacht Club and Beach Club. Having done morning runs around Crescent Lake before I knew that running along the wooden planks can actually increase your pace if you know how to bounce off them. It’s actually fun to do.
At this point I knew to expect my wife and friends. Something I’ve picked up from my cheering, having runners text out their progress gives those cheering for them a heads up as to when they’re coming. And just before turning in to Epcot, there they all were. Ready to greet me. It is as important as I keep saying to be there for runners, especially toward the end of the race – it’s a great pick me up. Waiting for me were Cheryl, Betsy, Shalon, Shelley, Tom, and Emily. Tom booed me even, which is totally in character for him. It was a perfect moment for me.
Finally it was time for the home stretch. Along the Epcot backstage area I saw Bonnie and Andy cheering me on. I took a short final walk after this, and then kicked back into a run for the finish. Crossing the finish line felt fantastic, a milestone for me was completed. Handing out medals were Aurora and James who gave me my medal and hugs. As I walked past I grabbed some snacks, and headed in toward Epcot. I got to see Shelley, Matt, and Raena gave them hugs, chatted for a bit and then headed inside.
Waiting for me at the end was AJ. It was very exciting to see her as we chatted for a bit, me still burning off my adrenaline. We walked around and chatted more before she headed off. Cheryl, Tom, and Emily, all having tickets for the after party, met me inside the Land Pavilion and we rode Soarin’ together. I got to see a group of Castmembers doing the Cha Cha Slide which was really a lot of fun, they were very into it.
Later Cheryl and I walked around World Showcase for a bit and met up with Megan who had just finished the Half. Despite having just finished the race, I wasn’t hungry so I didn’t eat at any of the food booths. We hung out until a little before 3am with some other friends of Megan’s before we headed back to the Boardwalk for the night for some well earned rest.
Overall, I had a fantastic day from start to finish. The Wine & Dine Relay was a lot of fun to do despite my problems with the buses and the confusing way that you have to exchange with your runner – both of which I think could use some work on the part of runDisney for this event in the future. I’ve got the WDW Half Marathon to look forward to in January now, and completing this race reassures my commitment to that race. I feel very confident now, and I’m ready to do it. And there’s talk now of doing the Wine & Dine Half next year as well as cheering for friends in the Princess Half Marathon next in February. Running is so integral to my life now – I love it.
If you’re interested, my time for the 8.3 miles was 1:41:34.
What about you? Did you run in the Wine & Dine races? Other Disney races? Are you interested? Are you a runner? Do you want to be a runner? Don’t you want a nice shiny medal? C’mon you know you do. Ooooo… sparkly…