After munching on the 10k the previous morning, I was ready to take on the main course of the Wine and Dine weekend. I put on a white shirt, tights and a bavarian hostess dirndl to complete the ensemble. While it is not an iconic Disney character, I dressed to support Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival!
I walked to the front of my hotel and once again found a bus waiting to take me to the Magic Kingdom parking lot! I managed to arrive even a couple minutes earlier than the morning before, giving myself plenty of time to listen to the DJ, gaze at the event stage before parking myself on the ground of my corral. There was talk of the previous morning’s lip-sync battle and I easily could have enjoyed a second round, but pretty soon it was time to start running.
I was excited! It was a new day with a different course and my first stop would be Animal Kingdom, giving my eyes the opportunity to take in what they could of Pandora.
4 miles stood between the start line and entering into Animal Kingdom. These first few miles took participants along tree-lined back roads. While the sun had no quite woken up yet, I felt energized with grass and trees surrounding me, unlike the rubble and machinery that had lined the 10k course.
Fairly early into the course came the first character stop, Fairies, from Peter Pan and Tinkerbell’s spinoff adventures. I carried on, running into Captain Jack Sparrow and Captain Barbossa before seeing King Louis and Rafiki. Can you tell I was nearing Animal Kingdom from the genre of character stops?
I entered the park, running through Harambe Market, getting a quick taste of what is modeled after Africa’s informal sector. Themed markets lined our path and dancers from Festival of the Lion King greeted me with smiles and waving hands.
Eroding marketplaces soon turned primitive with a wooden walkway being the only natural thing amongst a sea of jungle. The path changes to asphalt as I entered the Valley of the Mo’ara. Still surrounded by jungle, the path opens up and the Ayram, (which is Na’vi for the floating, “Hallelujah Mountains”) come into view. These lofty rock formations, tower over-head and certainly take your breath away! (Was it the Ayram or the last four miles I had run?)
I was so excited to run through Pandora and every detail exceeded my expectations. While I did not receive any Banshee assistance to the finish line, I carried on towards the Tree of Life, then into Dino territory.
A quick exit into the parking lot, led runners to a couple of longer stretches along the highway. With the sun trying to peek through the fog, it was hot and I now had an explanation to why I could not find a drive.
I stopped for a quick photo with the Country Bears and wish I had done the same for Mary Poppins’ Penguins. As we approached mile 9, we came onto a circular on ramp that would take us on an overpass towards Hollywood Studios.
Just as the morning before, Oswald greeted runners as they entered the Studios behind Tower of Terror and onto the boulevards. Runners followed the same path towards Epcot, so I could find relief in the familiarity of the course.
Instead of going straight into the theme park as we did the morning before, runners took to the water’s edge and followed the path along Disney resort hotels. Genie greeted runners by the Boardwalk and the course finally entered into Epcot.
I was hoping for the shorter route by the U.K. and Canada to take us to the finish but realized we were running all the way around World Showcase. I had to walk a few steps, devastated by the realization of the lengthy world travels ahead. I kicked myself into gear with only a mile left, Dopey and Mushu cheered me along.
I was relieved when I was practically under Spaceship Earth, a short sprint to the finish line. In a little over two hours, it was nowhere near my P.R. from the beginning of October but a few minutes faster than last year’s Wine and Dine. I can blame my head cold and the humidity but I am okay that this was not my race. All runners will have those days and this journey is about realizing the worst has not yet happened and the celebration of victories are just on recess.
This course has been my favorite I have run at WDW thus far. While I am partial to Disneyland races as they supply more park miles within their courses, this race returned a similar vibe to those events hosted in California.
I collected my half medal as well as my Two Course Challenge passport, commemorating nineteen race miles, and multiple countries visited. I replenished with water but left the contents of my snack box (Oreos, applesauce, tortilla chips, cheese, dried fruit) to be consumed at a later date, as I had scheduled a rendezvous with some sweet potato pancakes.
What makes Wine and Dine race weekend extra magical, is the Post-Race Party which is held Sunday evening after the race. All half participants received a complimentary ticket and had the option to buy additional tickets for non-runner family members and friends.
As this would be my only visit to a theme park for the Wine and Dine weekend, I was especially excited. While the party did not officially start until 10 to give the kiosks time to restock and employees to kick the non-runners out, early entry started at 8. I arrived a little before and was able to get into the park.
I visited some of the International booths making sure to replenish my muscles with protein and carbs and of course some libations! 🙂
As the park slowly started to clear out, I headed towards Norway to get in line for Frozen Ever After. I only had to wait about twenty minutes while the ride normally boasts an hour at the least.
On my way to ride Test Track, a line was forming to take pictures with the Three Cabarellos. Between minimal wait times for rides, special character photo opportunities and a DJ to keep the evening fun and alive, the party proved to be a sweet, final course to a decadent weekend.