Latest reviews by Kevin
Even though my race didn't go as planned, I loved almost everything about this race
The race expo/packet pickup is at Celebration Town Hall about a mile from the race start. It runs Friday and Saturday afternoon, and packet pickup is available on race day as well, but it's discouraged, mostly due to the size/amount of runner schwag and having to take it back to your car. Packet pickup was well organized and broken into 3 steps. Outside, you presented your ID and received you Bib and a bag that could be used for bag check. Inside the bag were various flyers along with a Buff Multifunction Headwear with the race logo. Once inside, the expo spanned 2 small rooms and a hallway. In the first room, you picked up your race shirt. The race shirt is a really nice shirt from Raw Threads. Their shirts are moisture wicking, made with bamboo, and very soft. Each year the race changes up their main schwag. In the 3rd room you picked up this year's schwag which was a giant blanket. I ended up using the blanket that night after the race and it is very soft
My wife was nice enough to drop me off, so I didn't have to worry about parking, but based on the description in the runners guide and what I observed, I would recommend planning on being there about an hour before the race and be prepared to park around 1/2 - 3/4 miles away from the start.
From where I was dropped off, I first walked past the finish line area in downtown Celebration. There were about 5 portalets here. Since the lines weren't too long and I wasn't sure what would be the at the start, I waited about 20 minutes for one and then headed to the start. In the starting area, there were many more portalets available.
The half and full marathons start at the same time and run the same course until the marathon splits off a little after mile 12. I was concerned it would be crowded at the start, but things seemed to open up quickly. In addition to having pacers, the race directors put up large signs encouraging racers to self-seed based on pace and for the most part, people seemed to comply
The course is split up between quiet neighborhood roads through the town of Celebration, the main road Celebration Boulevard, and a path consisting of a mix of boardwalk and concrete. For the most part, the race is shaded, but the part on the main roads, there is little to no shade. This shade free section was around 4 miles. During the section on Celebration Boulevard, there we many humerous and or inspirational signs about every 100 feet. These made me smile on the first loop and when I was struggling on the second loop, they gave me markers to run between. Running on the boardwalk wasn't as crowded as I expected, and it was a nice running on softer terrain.
There were water stops around ever mile and a half and portalets every other stop. The water stops had both water and Gatorade and Cliff Shot gel was available at miles 6,4, and 19.
Another plus on this course is that it's very spectator friendly. Because the way it meanders through the neighborhoods, spectators could walk or bike to various places on the course in a short period of time.
The race finishes in downtown Celebration. Runners are presented their medal and given a bottle of water and a banana. After walking down the chute, you are given a card that you can use to collect various food and drink options. While the food all looked good, the only option I was interested when I finished was the pancakes, and some OJ. While the other food would probably been great any other time, maybe even if I had only done the half, it really wasn't what I was in the mood for after running a marathon. They also offer free post-race massages, but I didn't make it over to that area to see how the lines were
I ended up grabbing a bagel with cream cheese, a cookie, and a coke zero from the bakery next to the finish line and they were just what I needed. If you are visiting for this race, there are several shops and restaurants near where the race finishes and I'd highly recommend spending some time exploring
I was going to be back in town for the Thanksgiving holiday and decided I would run a half marathon on Thanksgiving as part of my training for my January marathon. I chose this option based on running races in the past put on by North GA Running Co. The race is low key with decent swag.Runners of all distances receive a hooded long sleeve tech tee and a medal.
Expo - There is no expo, but packet pickup was available at North GA Running Co for several days leading up to the race as well as race morning.
Pre Race – There were several parking options all within a half mile of the start. The pre race instructions gave clear directions to one of several nearby parking lots once the lot at the start filled up. There were about a dozen porta potties available, which was enough given the small field. The half marathon started at 730 and the other races started at 8
The race course was an out and back with a loop at the end. The first 4 miles running down Peachtree Parkway were flat to downhill. At mile 4, the course turned onto Mathis Airport Parkway where the steepest portion of the course was. There was a good climb to the turnaround at 5.6 miles and again at around 6.4. Just after mile 7, the course turned back onto Peachtree Parkway and headed back towards the start. This section from miles 7 to 11 were mostly false flats to slow climbs around 1 – 2 %. Miles 11 to the finish were an out and back loop around the school that had one small hill that you ended up running up twice.
On the course there were water stations around every 2 miles. As far as I know, they only had water, no sports drinks or gels, but I’m not 100% certain as I carry my own Nuun and Gels in my Orange Mud hydraquiver
Finish – There was a photographer taking photos as you approached the finish. Once you crossed the finish, you had to walk over to a tent to get your medal and there was a table with granola bars, bananas, and water. I didn’t stick around for the awards, so I couldn’t comment on that.
Overall – This is a low key no frills race, but I would certainly do it again. I shocked myself that I not only ended up with a shiny new PR, but I ended up placing 3rd in my AG, which I picked up the next day at the running store. If you’re looking for a flashy race with big crowds, this isn’t your race. If your looking for a low cost, high quality race with decent swag, this is it. The race shirt is comfortable and not too heavy. I will certainly be wearing it when it cools down here in Florida.
Expo: The expo was at the host hotel and was fairly low key. There were a few exhibitors, including a couple local shops, the Jeff Galloway Race in Atlanta, and the stick. There was no line for packet pickup, so I picked up my bib, race shirt and race hat and headed back to my hotel
Pre-Race: There was some confusion about when the marathon would start. While the website always stated the race would start at 6am, the official race guide email said 6:15. After initially announcing around 5:30 that we'd still be starting at 6, they announced at 5:45 that we'd actually be starting at 6:15. Since the race was fairly low key (219 started the marathon), there were no lines for the porta-john
Race: The full marathon essentially runs 2 loops of the half marathon course. Other then the bridges, the route is pancake flat. It starts out of a small park and quickly heads towards US-1. The first 3 miles had two lanes blocked off to run in. After about mile 3, the race heads through a quiet neighborhood for a mile before going back out to US-1. Around mile 6, the race goes up the first of two bridges on each loop. This was the shorter of the two bridges and easier because there was a tail wind. After the bridge, the course runs out onto the island and runs along a residential road. At 11.5 miles, you hit the second bridge. This one was a little steeper, and had the added bonus of a 25 mph head wind. It felt like running uphill through a wind tunnel. For both loops, I was reduced to a walk since it was just so windy.
Through the second loop, It mostly felt like I had the course to myself. I knew the race was small, but didn't realize how small it was. There were 219 who started the full marathon and 213 completed the race. I finished second to last in position 212 at just under 6:40
Aid Stations: The aid stations were situated every 1.5 miles and were well stocked.All aid stations had water and Gatorade I carried my water bottle knowing my hydration needs and had no issues refilling it along the way. While I carried my own nutrition, 2 of the aid stations (4x on the marathon) had cliff gels along with bananas and cliff bars.
Post Race: Finishing just 5 minutes before the cutoff, there was almost nothing left. The facebook page suggested there would be Pollo Tropical, Pizza, Beer, and fruit at the finish. By the time I got there, all that was left for me was a few pieces of pizza. I was disappointed, but grabbed a few pieces to hold me over till I could get something else
Would I do this race again? Hard to say. I can't blame the race director for the weather. I suspect wind may often be an issue given the location at the coast. I also understand this is a small race, which sometimes is a good thing, sometimes is a bad thing. The volunteers were great, there were musical acts every mile or so, and some of the locals came out to cheer the runners on. If I didn't have so many choices here in Florida, I'd certainly go back, but there are many more full marathons for me to run first
This was my 8th half marathon and by far it was my favorite. The race runs through scenic downtown Orlando's many shaded residential neighborhoods. All along the course, the residents came out to cheer us runners on.
The race is mostly flat, but includes occasional elevation changes which keep things interesting. At various points through the race, you will run on cobblestones, but I found they were well maintained and weren't too bad as long as you stayed towards the middle of the road. Around mile 11, there was a section that clearly needs to be re-paved, but it was mostly easy to avoid the holes. In addition, there was on-course entertainment every couple miles. There were DJs and various bands that kept the runners moving.
I started towards the back and I found the first four miles to be a little crowded, but after that it opened up. It seemed the 2:30 pace group was rather large and I never had a chance to get past them before my pace fell off. I tried to stay in front of the 2:45 pace group, but they passed me when I had to stop to take my socks off since they were too tight
There were aid stations about every 1.5 miles with both water and powerade.It was a little humid that day and I found myself wishing there were more. Next time, if it's humid, I'll bring a handheld and carry water on me. At mile 8 they had various flavors of gu available. At mile 9, there was a group with several kegs handing out free beer.
The race medal is a big shiny piece of bling that I look forward to hanging on my wall. The race shirt was a super comfy raw threads long sleeve bamboo tech shirt. Now that it's getting a little cooler here in the evenings, I look forward to wearing it again.
At the finish, they handed out water, powerade, bagels and bananas. I had two tickets for free beer, but I skipped it since I had to drive home right afterwards. I skipped the post race party area, so I'm not sure if anything else was offered in addition to the free beer. There is a panera shop right there at the start/finish area so I was able to grab a quick bite and something to drink before heading home
One thing I would definitely recommend is not trying to park at the closest parking deck. It was the one listed on the race info email. I initially headed there since I wasn't familiar with the parking situation. After waiting in traffic for 10 minutes going nowhere, I decided to move on and I lucked out and found a private parking deck only charging 5$.
I have nothing but praise for this race. It was well put on and I will definitely be back. If you are looking for a half marathon in the Orlando area, you'll want to do this one.
Saturday morning, I parked at the Pop Century and hopped the bus over to the expo. My room wouldn't be ready for a couple hours, but I wanted the freedom to hop on the Disney buses to kill some time till the room was ready
I was pleasantly surprised when I walked into the HP field house for packet pickup that it was fairly empty with no lines. I had seen photos from Friday and it was a much different story
After picking up my packet, I stopped to get my complementary Run Disney photo. In exchange for following Run Disney on Instagram, you can stop and get a free green screen photo themed for the event. It's a nice photo, though I need to see if I can hide the ugly sweat marks with Photoshop.
Once I picked up my race number, I headed over to the main expo area in the Jostens Center to pick up my race shirt and peruse the expo. I wasn't overly impressed with the expo, but there really wasn't anything in particular I was looking for. The expo was smallish, but a few of the vendors such as New Balance and Fit to Run had large areas which made it feel bigger. I did notice that the official merchandise area was fairly picked over with most of the limited items long sold out. If you were looking for one of those items, you had to go on Friday, or I'm sure many will be for sale on eBay with a hefty premium.
I did get a free CD of Irish music courtesy of Raglan Road. There was a booth at the expo showcasing some of the new venues opened or coming soon to Disney Springs. I have been a big fan of Irish music for years and have many rousing Irish drinking songs on my running playlists, so this made me happy. The other thing I was glad to find was one of the coveted souvenirs at the expo, the refillable Run Disney beer cup. I had a PR Pilsner by Concrete Brewery brewed specially for Run Disney. It was a decent beer with a strong citrus flavor, almost like Blue Moon. I was in and out of the expo before Noon. I was getting hungry and still had a few hours to kill, so I decided to hop a bus to the beach club and walked over to Epcot.
I stopped into one of my favorite counter service restaurants in Epcot, the Tangerine Cafe in the Morocco Pavilion. They serve a variety of Mediterranean dishes. My favorite is the Chicken Shawarma Platter. It includes Rotisserie Chicken, Naan bread, hummus, tabbouleh, and a couscous salad. It was delicious as always and I knew it would give me energy and be safe on the stomach. As I was finishing up lunch, I got the email notification that my room was ready, so I headed back to the hotel to unpack and get some rest before the night's festivities.
The buses from the host hotels for Wine and Dine run for a single hour from 7pm to 8pm. I knew if I got to the bus stop after 7, there would be a long line, so I went ahead and got there at 645 , but not before first having to run back to my room when I realized I forgot my gear check bag with all my stuff for after the run.
The first stop when you reach the start area is through security to have your bags checked. The security at the race is just like any of the parks. If you don't have any bags, you are directed through a separate line and waved right through. Once through security, my first stop was bag check to dropoff my post-race bag
Prior to the race, I had read several blog posts to determine what I needed in my bag to enjoy the after party. Here is what I packed in my bag which worked well
Clean clothes including fresh underwear - who wants to party late into the night in stinky sweaty run clothes
Towel - you'll want to dry off to avoid any blister or chafing issues
Spray deodorant - so at least you don't smell horrible
Sandals or flip flops - You'll want to air your feet out in your most comfy open footwear.
Ziploc bag, garbage bag, or some other plastic bag for your stinky clothes.
Drawstring bag big enough for all your stuff - The supplied gear check bag is flimsy and doesn't transport well. A good drawstring bag can be folded up in the gear check bag and is much easier to haul around Epcot
Wet wipes - the one thing I didn't have which I wish I did have
Once I dropped off my bag, I wanted to hit one of the photo ops. All of the lines were a little long, and Mickey was clearly the longest. I decided on the Goofy line since I'd be doing the Goofy Challege in January and well I am kinda goofy myself. It took about 30 minutes to move through the line and around 8 I got my picture. As I was waiting in line, I could see lightning off in the distance. There was no thunder, but it definitely wasn't too far off.
In the week leading up to the race, I was checking the hourly forecast a couple times a day. It seemed like the weather reports went back on whether there would be thunderstorms that night. By race day, that chance had gone down to about 30%.
I decided to settle into the runners only staging area to wait out being allowed into our corrals. I found a open spot on the pavement and tried to relax while waiting to be allowed in the corrals. It continued to lightning in the distance, but there still was rain and no thunder.
Just before 9, runners began to assemble at the exit point from the staging areas into the corrals. At 9, the crowd began moving out of the staging area and into the corral area. While many of us thought we we being led to our corrals, it turned out we were actually being evacuated back to the safety of the main ESPN WWOS complex. At this point we weren't sure what the plan would be.
After a quick stop at one of the nice clean bathrooms, I settled into a spot against the wall with a view of the outside. For an hour we sat and waited. Outside, there was no rain, no lightning, we didn't know what was going on. Occasionally they would make an announcement that we were stil in a holding pattern. Just after 10PM, there was the first sign we might get to run the race: a mass exodus of Run Disney volunteers. A few minutes later we were officially given the all clear and allowed to walk back to the staging area. Following along on twitter, the rumors were swirling that we'd be running a shortened course, but it wasn't until 10:30 we got the first official word that the course would be modified
Having looked at the course map, I had a pretty good idea of what the course would be and my hunch turned out to be right. Once out of the Wide World of Sports, the original course heads down Oceola Parkway into the Animal Kingdom Park. The course then exits the park back onto Osceola until you reach World Drive just shy of mile 7. The new course, officially measured at 6.72 miles, would omit the Animal kingdom and make a right onto World Drive and head towards Hollywood Studios. While I was sad the course was being shortened, I completely understood and was just happy to be running the race at all. The first corral went off around 11pm and it would be another 45 minutes before our corral, corral K took off.
Originally, my plan for this race was it would be another long training run for the upcoming Space Coast Marathon. I was going to work on maintaining as steady a pace as possible for 13 miles and maintain my 45 second run / 30 second walk intervals.
After the delays and the shortened course, the plans went quickly out the window. For the first 5 minutes or so, I ran the whole way just to try and make it through some of the crowds. I tried my best to get back into the pattern, but it often ended up being 2 minutes run / 30 seconds walk just so I could get around the hoards of walkers. That was alright for the shorter distance, but for the marathon, there's no way I'll be able to keep up that pacing.
The first mile of the race takes you out of the ESPN WWOS and onto Osceola Parkway. The first half mile down Victory is constrained to a single lane so I did much bobbing and weaving to make it through the crowds. Once you turn onto Osceola Parkway the course opens up a bit with two lanes. There was plenty of entertainment over the first 2 1/2 miles leading up to Hollywood Studios. It included a DJ, Lilo and Stitch, and one of my favorites, two of the army men from Toy Story. I debated stopping for photos, but wanted to bank some time until I got into Hollywood Studios hoping for Star Wars photo-ops
At mile 2.5 I saw a familiar site, the Hollywood Hotel from the Tower of Terror Ride. I was excited to be heading into Hollywood Studios, which would be the real bright spot in the shortened race. After passing the Tower of Terror, you'll pass by the giant guitar for Aerosmith's Rockin Roller coaster, one of Disney World's best rides. One of the greatest sites was turning onto the main drag of Hollywood Studios and seeing the Replica of the Chinese Theater in all it's glory. I was never a big fan of the Sorcerer's Hat and was glad to see it go and the original view return.
After running past the Toy Story Midway ride, where many stopped for a photo-op with Woody and Buzz, we headed into the disco tunnel. With all the changes coming to Hollywood Studios, I expect this may be the last year for the disco tunnel. This tunnel was previously part of the studio back lot tour tram ride. The disco tunnel is like a run through dance club which includes lasers, fog machines, and a DJ spinning tunes. When I ran through it, they were playing a techno version of "Let it Go" from Frozen.
Once you exit the disco tunnel, you run about a mile through the service roads in the back of the park. This is where I had an unfortunate incident. Just shy of mile 4, I encountered a pack of walkers taking up most of the road. I attempted to pass them via an opening on the right and found out the hard way that the pavement was uneven there. As I moved to the right, I rolled my left ankle on the uneven pavement. It wasn't really a curb, but more like when one side of the road was an expansion and the two sides didn't line up. What I didn't understand was that there was a volunteer standing there just saying be careful, but nothing specific. There was no recorded announcement announcing the uneven pavement, there was no spray paint or cone marking the spot, it was poorly lit, and the volunteer was not specific as to an obstacle to avoid.
I was so upset. I walked to where there was a good place to stop and stretched out and tried to determine how bad it was. Luckily, I've got good at balancing and avoiding sprains from running trails. I tested running and was surprised that I was still able to run without pain. Later on I would have some minor pain, but noting that stopped me from running.
I was quickly able to get back up to speed and from there headed towards the highlight of the night, the Osborne Family Christmas Lights. Sadly, this will be the last year of the lights, so I was glad to be able to run through them one last time. They are truly a spectacular site, and if you have a chance to see them before they are taken down, you shouldn't miss it.
I made a quick stop at one of the bathrooms before we exited the park. Exiting the park, I was surprised at the lack of any Star Wars photo ops such as Darth Vader or Storm Troopers. That would have been the one photo-op I would have waited for no matter how long.
From here the race course follows the path between Hollywood Studios and Epcot. Other then running by the water treatment plant in the marathon, this is one of my least favorite parts of all Run Disney courses. For a about 3/4 of a mile, the course runs down a narrow sidewalk the runs along the waterway for the Epcot resort boats. This makes it difficult to impossible to pass anyone and I often found myself with no other option but to join the herd and walk. Once you get to the Dolphin & Swan Hotels, things open up from there. Running past the Yacht and Beach Club resorts, there were actually several spectators out with signs cheering on runners. The course then crosses Epcot behind Spaceship Earth and then finishes in the parking lot just outside the park
Once finished, I was glad to be done. My ankle felt good, but I was afraid how it felt in the morning. Once I received my medal, gear check bag, and one free beer, I headed into the park to change and get something to eat. One tip I was glad I read prior to the race was to skip the changing tents and change in one of the bathrooms inside the park. I chose the first one inside the park since there was no line for the men's room. Ladies may want to go further in since they had a line.
It was still hot and steamy and the first few lines for food were pretty long. I stopped in Germany since the line wasn't too long grabbed a brat, a beer and a bottle of water. I could tell I was overheating and needed to get more water in me. I felt much better once I had some food in me and made it through the bottle of water. I stopped in America for a beer flight, slider and a yummy piece of carrot cake. When I finished there, I was exhausted, so I headed back and called it a night.
When I first finished the race, I was of the feeling I would never sign up for another Run Disney race, after I finished those I've already signed up for. While I agree 100% with the weather decisions they made I have real issues with the course and course congestion. After having time to think about it, I will certainly be limiting the number of Disney races I do, but I won't completely stop doing their races. If anyone asked, I would certainly recommend these races, especially for first timers. I just won't be rushing to sign up for every Disney race. There are many half and full marathons here in Florida within a couple hours drive I really want to try out.
I've realized that part of the magic in the past wasn't just the race, but the whole race weekend vacation. Now that we live here locally and the race isn't a vacation like it used to be, it loses some of it's magic.