runDisney: Inaugural Walt Disney World 10K
This past Friday, Walt Disney World hosted the Inaugural Walt Disney World 10K. Part of Marathon Weekend, this 6.2 mile race snaked through Epcot and the surrounding resorts before ending right behind Spaceship Earth. My motivation for running this race was simple: I've never participated in an inaugural runDisney event and I thought the course looked simple and the medal looked awesome!
Mickey Mouse hosts the Marathon, Donald Duck hosts the half and Goofy hosts the race-and-a-half challenge, so it was natural that Minnie Mouse had a race to call her own! Also new this year was the Dopey Challenge, which combines four races over the course of four days, totaling over 45 miles! That's on my bucket list for next year.
Over the past few years, runDisney has exploded in popularity. That's led to an increase in participation, as well as some growing pains for the runDisney participants. Disney does many things well, but one of their most business savvy triumphs is persuading customers to buy with emotion. Thus, last year, Disney introduced a limited time New Balance running shoe that you may only purchase at the Health and Fitness Expo prior to the races. Last year, the shoes were incredibly popular and this year proved no different.
What did change this year was the reservation process for securing a pair of shoes. This year, you arrived at the Expo, put your name in a virtual queue, and went about your business until you received a notification, indicating your time to fork over $130 had arrived. In any circumstance where there's limited supply and high demand, there are scalpers who take advantage of the situation. While a reservation process helped Disney organize buyers, there was not an adequate supply of shoes on hand to meet demand from those who wanted to purchase. Additionally, anyone visiting the Expo – not just runners participating in the race – could buy multiple pairs of shoes! That led to lots of pairs landing on eBay in the hours after the shoes went on sale, some going for upwards of $300.
Next year, I'm hoping runDisney offers runners who signed up for the race the opportunity to preorder shoes and pick them up at the Expo. Not only would this help Disney gauge demand, but it would also alleviate bad feelings that myself and several others experienced when we could not purchase a pair, due to scalpers snatching them up. This time, I walked away resolved that I wouldn't get the shoes, with hopes that I can purchase a pair at another runDisney event later this year. If anyone from runDisney sees this, the shoe purchasing process could use some "plussing," if we refer to Disney customer service jargon.
On race day, runDisney events are impeccably organized. Each runner is assigned a corral and there is plenty of entertainment and excitement to keep runners warmed up prior to the start time. While waiting in my corral, we got to hear from Jeff Galloway, the official spokesperson and face behind runDisney. As a former US Olympian, Jeff's training plan, which involves an interval run-walk method, is highly effective in getting first-time runners in shape. Personally, without it, I'm not sure I could have completed my first half-marathon last year!
After several rounds of fireworks and some encouragement by Minnie Mouse, we were off! As far as the course goes, the 10K was not that bad. There was only one ramp to run and most of the hills were manageable.
However, entertainment on the first half of the course was sparse. In fact, it was almost mile one before we saw Captain Hook and Smee. Looking back at my photos, I realized I didn't have many photos of on-course entertainment, because there wasn't that much! However, once we arrived in the backstage areas of Epcot, things became a lot more lively.
We ran underneath Test Track to arrive in World Showcase with all of the Illuminations torches lit! It was beautiful and breathtaking. I do feel bad for those people who booked rooms at Disney's Boardwalk, as we were quite the rowdy group running on the wooden boards! We passed through the Yacht and Beach Club and my first thought was "sand?! Yuck?!" I made it through with no sand in my shoes, and before I knew it, I was in Future World, running by Spaceship Earth.
The last half mile in any race is very emotional. There's an overwhelming sense of accomplishment, you feel all of the hard work you put into training push you towards the finish line and hear the spectators cheering you on. Once you cross the finish line, it's impossible to describe! If you've never run a race before, I would highly recommend starting one of Jeff Galloway's training plans, and consider singing up for the 2015 Walt Disney World 10K.
I had two main goals for this run. First was to run through the parks and resorts. I'm happy to say that I accomplished that! In fact, my fastest mile was the one through World Showcase. My second goal was to not use a Porta-John during the race! I achieved that goal as well! It felt great to complete both of those things and walk away with an inaugural medal.
It's amazing to see the athletes of all ages, shapes and sizes participate during Marathon Weekend. Even better is walking though the theme parks with your medal and hearing Cast Members and complete strangers congratulate you on your accomplishment. Next up on my running calendar is the Disneyland Dumbo Double Dare in August and the Wine and Dine Half-Marathon in November.
Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. January 9 - 12, 2014. Registration required. www.rundisney.com