- 3 miles/5K, 6 miles/10K, 13.1 miles/Half Marathon
- Road Race
By this point, I'm sure many of you heard about what happened at the Wine and Dine half marathon at Disney World but for those of you that haven't, I don't want to bury the lead. The half marathon was shortened to about 6.7 miles because of weather and timing concerns.
But first things first, the expo. We got to the expo pretty soon after it opened and the crowds were pretty big. The expo is split into two buildings, one for bib pick up and the second for buying stuff. So we went to pick up our bibs first. There was a huge line, but before I waited too long it was announced that the line was just for people who had pre-ordered merchandise. I don't know why they had to wait in a separate line instead of putting that stuff with their bibs. But thankfully for me, it meant I could get out of that line and instead go straight to the bib pick up line, which was only a couple people in front of me. I had to wait in two lines since I did both the 5k and half marathon, but both were relatively short and moved quickly.
There was also some official race merchandise for sale here, but the line was really long so I decided to go buy the stuff in the other building instead. This would turn out to be a mistake because the crowds were even worse! We went to the area to pick up our included race shirts first, and that moved quickly. But then we went to look at the official race merchandise and the crowds were crazy. I found the shirt I wanted and thankfully, Mike and my dad agreed to wait in line for me. It took them more than an hour :(
I was at the race start early and wanted to minimize time on my feet so I just found an empty spot and sat on the lawn and listened to the DJ. Around 8:30 or so, I went over near the area that opened up into the corrals because I figured they would open that up around 9. Shortly after I got there though, the temperatures dropped petty drastically, the wind picked up, and we began to feel a couple raindrops. I also saw some flashes of lightening. We then started moving and I just assumed that they were letting us into the corrals as I hadn't heard any announcements saying otherwise. But as I passed one of the volunteers, I heard her saying we were being evacuated due to the Lightning. I think this was around 9.
I ended up in the baseball stadium, seated on one of the steps. And we continued to wait. There were some announcements but we couldn't really hear them at all and I had no idea what was being said. But I figured it was ok because I'd see other people moving once it was announced. So I followed along with the crowd, back to the corral area where we were earlier and we were held there again.
I had put my phone on airplane mode as I was trying to conserve battery but other people around me were checking Twitter and the rumors were flying. This is where I first heard someone say Run Disney had tweeted that the race would be shortened, but still no details on what that meant. Most people around me assumed that meant Animal Kingdom would be cut out, but how much of the highway section would be cut out? We were guessing it would be somewhere between 6 and 10 miles but that's a pretty big range.
I think it was around 10pm when we were allowed into the corrals and this was a giant mess. Everyone just streamed towards the corrals en masse and it didn't seem like anyone was cracking whether people were going into the proper corrals or not. Now, runners obviously have to take some responsibility for this. You know where you belong and you deliberately chose to take advantage of the chaos and try to sneak into an earlier corral. Not cool.
Once we were in the corrals, more waiting and more listening to people getting information from the Internet. We were in corral H and so we couldn't hear any of the announcements back where we were. I later heard that the speakers where we were had malfunctioned, so maybe that's why? Nonetheless, we felt pretty left in the dark.
The good news is that people and me were pretty positive the whole time. I think people felt disappointed but able to roll with the punches. This helped me put a good face on it as well. At that point, I and most of the people around me, just wanted to start running whatever race ended up in front of us. Also, we were laughing about being pretty hungry so I think we just wanted to get to the food too!
I think the fireworks for the first corral start went off and 11:00 or so. By that time, we were pretty sure thanks to social media that the race would be between 6-7 miles. Things moved pretty quickly after that and I think our corral started around 11:30 or so.
Ok, so the shortened course at least included the best parts of this half marathon course. The out and back on the highway was cut out, as well as running in Animal Kingdom. There was tons of entertainment on the course, including the characters, DJs, the green army man motivating people, etc. And the best part of the race was running through the Osborne Family Christmas lights at Hollywood Studios.
After the lights, we left Hollywood Studios and ran on a path going toward Epcot. This part was very narrow. There were loud announcements warning that the case was going to narrow, and I was glad of the heads up. It was narrow enough that I had to walk a lot of this section. It turned into run when I could but walk when I had to due to the congestion. We got to the area by the Epcot hotels and the course widened a bit so I was able to run again with my normal intervals. And this section was nice because there were cheering spectators hanging out to encourage us on.We then entered Epcot and I knew this meant the end was near. We ran about a mile through the park. There were a lot of spectators and runners that had already finished cheering. And then it was out to the Epcot parking lot and the finish line!
The finish line area was pretty chaotic. Thankfully, I hadn't checked a bag. Therefore, I didn't have to stop in bag check or the changing tent. I just trudged past to get some water and a banana. I didn't take the food box since I was planning on getting food at the after party in Epcot. I did get my free beer and this is the first race where I've been able to do that! It was too cold at my first half marathon and too rainy at my second. So yay for finally getting my free beer. When I saw the line to get into Epcot, I was again glad I didn't have a bag. There was a giant line to go through bag check, even with the clear bags that you had just gotten from the race bag check :(. I was able to skip all that but I felt really bad for the people who had to wait in that line. I think I would have given up on the party if I had to wait in the line.
The party was a bit disappointing if you finish toward the middle or back because the lines made things seem inaccessible. But Mike said it was great for spectators. He was able to get into the park at 7, see Big Bad Voodoo Daddy in concert, catch the fireworks show, sample the food and wine booths using the $15 gift card I was given with race registration with very little lines as well as several of the rides. He said the character lines were also really short at the beginning. I heard the same from the faster runners, the party was great at the beginning.
Overall, I think Run Disney did the right thing. There was definitely lightning in the area and I was feeling nervous about running in those conditions. And I heard afterwards that there was a lot of debris on the ground in Animal Kingdom from the rain, so that part had to be cut out. I was obviously disappointed, but I understand why it had to be done. It was also really hot and humid, and I had a hard enough time with the shortened course.
The only thing I wasn't happy about was the communication to people in the later corrals. The majority of our information was coming from social media and the few people who were able to get service in the crowd were kind of reporting out to all of us. It would have been nice if the official race communication could have been filtered back to us somehow.
This race, more than any other I've done, felt like a really different experience for the back of the pack than the front of the pack, especially with the communication difficulties, the lines to get into Epcot and the lines at the after party.