Hello. I’m Marge, Disney pro and a runDisney enthusiast. This fall, I will be participating in the Disney Family 5k, my fourth Disney sponsored race—not too bad for someone who has only been running for three years and is not a local resident. I thought with the Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend only six weeks away, I would share my experience from last year’s Halloween Family 5k, in hopes to answer any questions new participants may have.
First off, yes I am crazy. During last year’s Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend, I participated in both the Halloween Family 5k and the half marathon on the same day. It was an amazing experience, probably would have been more enjoyable had I not been six weeks pregnant and suffering from horrendous morning sickness (don’t worry, my doctor gave me the okay to run both races). I was quite excited for the 5k, as I would be participating with my two boys, my husband, and my dad. This race was to be my son, Nolan's (age 6) and my dad’s (age 56) first ever 5k run and it was my son, Nathan’s (age 10), first race after breaking his foot over the summer. The day started out way too early, as we arrived to our Disney resort very late the night before. Getting checked in and four kids settled for the night is no quick task. By the time we were able to close our eyes, it was mere four hours before the alarm would be brutally tearing us from our restful slumber.
|It's not too late to register for the 2011 race!|
We knew we would need to take a taxi from our resort to the start line at the Ticket and Transportation Center. Transportation was only provided from select host resorts. This is true for all Disney sponsored races, so it is a good idea, before you even register, to make a transportation plan. You don’t want to wake up on race morning expecting to take a Disney bus to the start line only to discover the busses do not run that early.
The night before, I checked with Bell Services to see if I needed to call for a taxi in the morning or if there would be a few waiting in front of the resort. I was assured that there would be plenty of taxis available early the next morning. Much to my dismay, there weren’t ANY taxis outside of our resort that morning. However, the gentleman at Bell Services quickly phoned the company and a taxi was there within minutes to take us to our race. While waiting, I wanted to confirm the location of the start line (I was certain as to where it was, as I had my pre-race instructions in hand, but I always like to double check). When discussing the race details with the gentleman from Bell Services, he informed me that the start was at Epcot. So of course, I panic. I have instructions in my hand that tell me one thing and an employee telling me another. I thanked him for his help. After a minute of deliberating, I decide to go with my gut feeling and trust my pre-race instructions. So off we went to the Ticket and Transportation Center (unfortunately the taxi driver had no idea where to take us….but that is a whole ‘other story).
My instincts proved to be right. We immediately saw the crowd as we approached the center. This was a good lesson: Always know where the start line is located before you venture out. My guess is the Bell Services guy was looking at the Wine and Dine Half Marathon (which was later that day) information, which did in fact require participants to board a bus at Epcot.
We immediately located the packet pick up area and were able to get our packets, affix our race bibs, and check our bags very quickly. The bag check was most convenient. No one wants to have to run with their room key and cell phone, let alone that plastic bag that contained all of your race things. By the time we had all made one final “pit stop”, it was time for us to line up.
The Family 5k was not a chip timed event. This means that you are not competing for anything, it is really just for fun. However Disney does require a 16-minute per mile pace and if you are unable to maintain that pace, you will be picked up and transported to the end of the race. Disney’s pace requirement is more generous than most 5k races in order to allow participants to stop for character photos.
|We don't know these folks, but don't their costumes look great?|
We were well entertained during our wait for the start. There were so many unique costumes. I was actually surprised by the number of participants in costumes. Personally, I get too hot and sweaty while running, but if the mood should strike, and you wish to wear a costume, rest assured you will not be the only one. Just remember, Disney will not let you run with a mask. That is for safety reasons and quite honestly, masks are creepy anyway.
The appeal of doing this race, other than the obvious “I’m running at Disney World and I get a really awesome t-shirt that I can use to brag to all of my friends back home” appeal, is that the race course took you through the Magic Kingdom. There were of course, along the way, many opportunities for a meet and greet with beloved Disney characters. There were quite a few Disney Villains on the course, keeping with the Halloween theme. The main appeal, at least for me was being at the Magic Kingdom while the park was closed. Even with all of the participants, the park seemed empty, quiet, and pristine. It felt as though you had the park all to yourself. It was really a unique way to experience the Magic Kingdom. Even though I was running, I could see things without the distraction of hundreds of people in front of me and was able to experience the park in a way that I had never before.
Since this was a looped course, we finished just about where we started. At the finish line, we were handed our Mickey pumpkin Halloween finisher’s medals and refreshments. The medal was made of rubber and had a pumpkin Mickey. The Medal itself said Mickey’s Halloween 5K and hung from a green fabric lanyard which also had the race info and the date. The REALLY cool part of the medal was that it had an orange flasher that joined the Mickey medal to the lanyard. It was quite the quality flasher, as the ones on the boys’ medals still work (and I know Nolan turns his on every night when he should be sleeping)
|The author and her four "Prince Charmings" after their 5K.|
Upon crossing the finish line, it was quite easy to find my dad and Nolan (they had run ahead of us), which was great because we did not designate a post race meeting spot. When all of us were reunited, we were able to get a post-race photo of all of us with our medals. The post race refreshments were decent. There was plenty to drink, bananas, and we each received a bag with some candy and a muffin. Our transportation back to Jambo House was covered by Disney since the busses were then operating. It was a quick monorail ride to the Magic Kingdom where we were then able to board a bus back to the resort.
It was a fun experience, so fun that we have signed up to do it again this year. This year’s course, however, takes you through Animal Kingdom. Having run another race through Animal Kingdom at night (Expedition Everest Challenge, 2009), I am excited to see what it will be like to run through during the day, although I am sure that no other race will ever compare to running through the Magic Kingdom.
So important things to remember when it comes to Disney races:
- Sign up EARLY. Races tend to sell out quickly. At the time of this post, the 2011 5k is 60% full.
- Read and re-read your pre-race instructions. Print out a copy to take with you to the race (you can toss it out when you get there). That way you know, without a doubt, where you’re going and when to be there.
- Make a transportation plan if you are not staying at a host resort.
- Utilize the bag check area. That way you do not need to run with, or worse lose, your “Key to the World” card and cell phone.
- Make sure, if you are running with others, that you designate a meeting place at the end. You don’t want to miss your post-race photo opportunity to capture this experience.
- Have fun and savor this experience—it will be like no other.
Faith Trust and a Little Pixie Dust would like to thank guest blogger Marge for her contribution. You can see myself, Marge and our families at this year's 5K. You can find Marge on Twitter at @RNawaymama.