Everything Happens For A Riesling: Wine and Dine Half-Marathon Review

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.

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2017 Half-Marathon Route

Race:

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?

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Running through Animal Kingdom 

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.

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Hanging with some of my favorite bears! 🙂

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.

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Flying 

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.

Finish Line:

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.

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Photo Courtesy of RunDisney

Post-Race Party:

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.

The Runologist

Late For A Very Important Date: Disneyland Paris Semi-Marathon Recap

I channeled my inner white rabbit on Sunday and ran like I was late for a very important date! Waking up on race morning I was overcome with a feeling of excitement. I felt so lucky to be back in the french countryside running one of my favorite half marathons.

After pulling on some Lulu tights, a red shirt adorned with accents giving subtle hints to the Alice’s Wonderland trapped rabbit, a tutu for extra race strength and speed, I was out the door. I followed the path along the water’s edge, walking up towards the event hall which was just minutes from my hotel.

I passed through some security guards and was happy to see my corral was fairly empty. Forty minutes of standing usually feels long to me but with the help of pre-race speakers, music and group stretching, it was go time!

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Dazzling fireworks at the start!

Race

Being in France made me miss the usual anthem sung start but the fireworks exploding into the sky, sending runner’s through the start line was spectacular. The beginning of the course prompted runners through the Studios park first. The path took competitors into a slightly different entrance than the 5 and 10k races, still going through the Toy Story and Ratatouille themed areas as well as along the Tram Tour path.

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KM markers for 25th Anniversary!

While I had run through the main park the morning before, I could run through it a thousand more times and still feel the same level of excitement! Runners entered through the backlot leading them through the ranch area and around part of the Thunder Mountain waterfront. Finally we hit Main Street U.S.A featuring many ecstatic cast members landing high-fives, wiggling handmade signs, and cheering in metachronal rhythm. The genuine feeling of excitement could be felt by all. Mickey and Minnie were stationed at the top of the avenue, decked out in their glittering blue suit and dress. I have to say it is a fun sight to see the castle in all of it’s sparkling 25th anniversary glory at the end of the iconic street, as you bound towards it.

After a quick loop through Adventureland where runners could pose with Captain Jack Sparrow and all three hyenas from The Lion King (Shenzi, Banzai and Ed) it was time to pay a quick visit to Fantasyland before running through the castle. Rapunzel and Flynn Ryder were posed with chariots just by the It’s a small world attraction. Runners went into the extensive backstage area but it was not long until we found ourselves back in Tomorrowland. Nick Wilde from Zootopia greeted runners as well as Sadness from Pixar’s Inside Out.

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All ears 🙂

After exiting the parks, the course continues onto the farmland ring road, Boulevard du Grand Fossé which cradles the outskirts of the resort. It is hard not to enjoy the picturesque shades of green and yellow fields which form Coupvray. I feel the scenery gives me a little extra vigor! While this stretch is long, local high school bands were playing music and cheering the runners up a gentle elevation gain. (Pro tip: Sunglasses are highly recommended for this portion if race staff recycles this portion of the course for future years.)

A left hand turn takes runners into the residential area of Magny. There is lovely new architecture in this area showcasing charm with the sun’s glow. Local families line this section of the course with signs and enthusiasm (Most of the kids were yawning but when listening to music, it appears they are participating in some hard-core acclamation :))

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Town of Magny

Once leaving the residential roads, asphalt turns to dirt and short loop takes runners around a pond. More french students dressed in cheer attire complete with luxuriant pom-pom’s gave a much-needed boost.  A man I had recognized from the previous year had once again set up his kite display. While these don’t draw breath from the wind, metal stakes plant them in place. The array of colors and patterns is beautiful and they seem to wave runner’s onwards creating a tunnel of zest.

It was just about the half-way point and I glanced at my watch to get a feel for the time since non of the kilometer markers on course have timers. I had to do a double take! My watch was displaying a time that was a similitude to some of my faster 10k’s. With another 6.5 miles to the finish, I was determined to keep up a good pace!

After passing through a water station, I found myself on the backside of the pond, a canopy of trees pitching shadows to the rising sun. The course here becomes more rugged with wet grass and potholes. This short stretch of varied terrain requires the brain to be sharp for optimal foot placement.

Soon my feet were striking pavement once again and the course herds runners back towards the resort. Letting the momentum pull me forward, runners turn off down an avenue, a straight shot to the hotels and parks. Fields of green and yellow line either side of the road and towering trees provide nice shelter. It had the appearance of an avenue fit for Austria, harboring climbing von Trapp children.

A sharp right turn takes runners into the entrance of the Hotel Santa Fe, one of Disney’s themed hotels playing tribute to Cars. With beige tones and cacti every few feet, I kept my eyes peeled for any troublesome tumble weed threatening my path. Running around the backside of the hotel, runners came up on Hotel Cheyenne, modeled after an old western town.

Food and water were stationed by the entrance into this particular property. After weaving around the Saloon and Chuck Wagon, runners soon tipped their hats to Butch Cassidy and followed the river leading back to Lac Disney.

We hit the Lac and a quick loop would take participants back into the Village and backlot before I arrived at the finish line with a twelve-minute PR.

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Traversing the line!

Finish Line

I was misty-eyed. Last year this race mean’t so much to me to be able to travel solo from the States and create friendships and experience what it means to be a runner. Once again, this year demonstrated the love and strength found within the running community between the competitors and those on the sidelines rooting us on. While I was never shooting for a PR, I sure can see how my Dopey training is allowing me to find my stride.

After throwing my hands up and hearing the announcer state my name as I traversed the line, I went to receive my finisher medal. I got into another line to receive my Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo challenge medal since I completed the 10k the morning prior as well as the Castle to Chateau medal for running a half in Paris and the U.S.

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Earned my medals this race weekend!

I wanted to savor the moment, not sure if I would ever be that fast again! I texted that to my best friend who stated that I wouldn’t be. I would be faster! With my medals clanging victorious chants from around my neck, I made my way back to the hotel all smiles from a perfect morning.

The Runologist

Disneyland Half-Marathon 2017 Recap: Buying Stock in Gatorade

The weather in Anaheim for race weekend made Hades and the Underworld seem a bit chilly. After a fun course, running primarily through both Disneyland as well as California Adventure on Saturday, I was ready to tackle thirteen miles the following morning adorned with a red cowgirl hat and cow print chaps!

Another early wake up call, prompted a protein bar on the go, and a zombie-esque crawl to my corral. A trumpet sounded the anthem, queuing runners from their corrals onto the first mile of the course.

RACE

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Disneyland Half-Marathon Course 2017

Similar to the 10K, the half-marathon course had us starting in California Adventure.  Runners legged it past the Guardians of the Galaxy ride, through Hollywood Land and towards the Ferris Wheel. The water was dramatic in vivid colors portraying a World of Color performance as I looped around the boardwalk. After seeing Russell, Mr. Fredricksen and Dug greeting runners by the Redwood Creek play area, the course took participants into Disneyland.

The route passed through a backstage area where cast members stood with the horses that pull the trolleys up and down Main Street each morning! As a horse lover, I loved seeing them on course! After entering the park just behind Splash Mountain, runners were greeted by Woody as he waved from the balcony of the Saloon! I loved seeing the newly remodeled area where the Big Thunder Ranch BBQ and petting zoo used to be, now transformed by unfamiliar caves and abandoned train mines beckoning explorers.

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All smiles running through the castle!

After bounding through the castle, around the Matterhorn and through Tomorrowland (Note: Distance sounds far superior than actuality) runners hit the streets of Anaheim. This is the point in the race where runners usually take it to a walk once photographers are out of sight. Due to the heat advisory, I noticed the energy was low and many runners  were taking breaks less than a mile into the race. It was unusal not to have that excitement from atheletes around you, but luckily the cast members and course entertainment made up for it!

A couple of miles along the Anaheim roads brought runners to wonderful and much-needed entertainment. I enjoyed the marvelous Mariachi band and dancers around mile 7, shortly followed by hula dancers, rolling their hips and hands to He Mele No Lilo (Main Title) from Lilo and Stitch.

I always look forward to seeing the Classic Car Row during the run! This year did not disappoint. Many eager car aficionados were waving runners on and even honking their horns in acclamation.

I could see the giant symbol for Angel’s Stadium growing closer with every stride. After a few minutes, I had finally reached the stadium. This was the stage of the race I was most excited for, waiting almost two years until I would run past the dugouts, along the field! An announcer read names from bibs, as young kids and family members waved outreached arms, hoping to snag a high-five. The energy was contagious and it really helped with the last few miles of the half-marathon.

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Home run!

After exiting the stadium, shortly after, volunteers were passing out mini bags of Jelly Belly’s Sport Beans. Each small packet contained an assortment of flavors, containing electrolytes and both Vitamin B & C. While easy to consume, I appreciated the sodium and potassium but found myself missing the usual Clif gels found on Disney’s half courses.

I carried onwards, seeing a freeway overpass coming into view. I had to laugh as Endorphin Dude behind me was commenting to a volunteer stating how he thought the course was supposedly flat. As I trotted up the “mountain” I could not take advantage or gather any momentum heading down towards the finish.

Just within the last two miles it started to rain. When I thought it could not get hot enough, the combination of water and hot asphalt made the air more muggy. Finally hitting Katella and seeing the tops of attractions, I finally found the push I was looking for many miles back.

I sprinted past the Disneyland Hotel, along enthusiastic cheerleaders with amusing signs, and clanging cowbells. I could not wait and get to the finish to enjoy a tall, cold , refreshing WATER! Did I mention it was hot?

FINISH LINE AND BEYOND

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As I crossed the finish beside runners who looked as if they had just gotten out of a swimming pool, I could only eagerly anticipate the next twelve months until Disneyland half-marathon weekend would roll around again.  While the temperature was much warmer than anticipated, I thought the race staff, volunteers and cast members went above and beyond to make an enjoyably fun weekend.

After a hot weekend of running, I now have a new appreciation for water and Powerade! I made sure to hydrate just after collecting my medals.  For completing the half, I received a Toy Story themed medal as well as the Double Dare medal for running the 10k Saturday and the half on Sunday. This medal displays Luxo Jr. and Pixar’s famous brick architecture!

This will continue to be my favorite weekend of all the Disney races due to course entertainment and pure bliss of running down car row and through Angel’s Stadium. It is always a pleasure to reunite with friends and make some new ones with each race I run. I am enjoying this run journey thus far and cannot wait to see what the remainder of the year will bring!

Hope to see you out on a course soon!

The Runologist

Disneyland 10k Review: Earning My Ellie Badge

Post race sadness is real, especially when you had as fun as a racecation as I just did. I spent most of the weekend in Anaheim running Disney’s Double Dare challenge. The weekend events dedicated themselves to famous Pixar films such as Up, The Incredibles, Monsters University and the beloved classic, Toy Story.

Expo

I started my weekend by picking up my bib and browsing around the expo on Thursday morning. I was happy to find minimal crowds and was able to walk straight up to the volunteer and show her my ID. I received my bag tag, a small pamphlet on the weekend’s events, and an adorable luggage tag that resembled the Double Dare medal, commemorating the five-year anniversary. After taking a couple of pictures with fun backdrops, I headed upstairs to retrieve my race shirts and check out a couple of the vendors.

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Expo Selfie!

All the runDisney expos are similar for the most part, give or take a booth or two. I enjoy the familiarity because I know where I can purchase items when needed. The Anaheim expos always have many vendors handing out fun freebies. Booths such as Goodsense and Raceguards were giving out handy medical items such as band aids, ice packs, samples of Biofreeze, first aid pouches and water bottles. ABC had items to be enjoyed by younger ones such as inflatable beach balls and a mini notebook and colored pencil set.

While first aid items are handy, there were edible freebies too! GoGo SqueeZ apple sauce was handing out pouches of their product. For those desiring a natural option, Zespri was handing out their gold variety kiwi to eager expo attendees. Jelly Belly also handed out mini sample packages of their Sport Beans.

After paying a quick visit to Fit2Run to buy some last-minute Gu, I took a picture with the Pixar Ball wall before heading back to my hotel.

Monsters University 10k

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10k Course

While I was hoping to add the 5k to my itinerary, it had sold out, leaving my weekend to start on Saturday with the 10k race. Every Disney run starts out with an early alarm, so I was off and running, well walking to the start at 4 a.m. With my badge adorned sash draped over my shoulder and my Wilderness Explorer flag hanging from my hydration pack, I headed to my corral. It is not every Saturday morning that I dress like a boy scout, so I wanted to make Russell and all of Troop 54 proud!

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Pre-Race entertainment from Carissa and Kevin made the time spent in my corral fly by. While I was hot in my polo shirt, I just tried to focus on the energy around me. Before I knew it the anthem led us to the start and it was time to run 6.2 glorious miles in celebration of Monsters University within the boundaries of Disneyland and California Adventure Park!

Once I broke away from the pack, I was happy to find slightly cooler temperatures. Maybe it was the breeze as I flew towards California Adventure or the fact that I was no longer being sandwiched between runners, but I was determined to have fun and beat the rising temperature.

Just as I entered the park behind the California Screamin’ coaster, I heard a clink and could see my grape soda pin plunge to the road. (Note: While not an avid pin collector, this one struck a chord with me when I bought it a few years back, so it was a tough one to hear clash against the asphalt.) Instead of stopping and squatting to pick it up and risk injuring myself and other runners behind me, I sighed and let the metal badge start it’s new life, lost to the graveled roadway.

I charged on, entering the park by Radiator Springs, the sound of revving engines made my feet want to move faster. Numerous Pixar characters adorned the boundaries of the course. I saw Flik and Atta from A Bug’s Life, Russell from Up, Lightning McQueen and Mater from Cars, Mike and Sully from Monsters University as well as many dancers from various parades. The course did not dismiss classic characters such as Mickey and his friends which were found in Disneyland a few miles in.

My favorite aspects of any Disney race are running through the parks and seeing the energy of the cast members, throwing high fives (complete with a Mickey glove!) at runners, and all the lively rides and lights operating before the sun.  The race crew did a wonderful job having music and various cheer squads in the backstage areas, making every mile of the course spirited and vivacious. Special shout out to the course designer who opted not to use any of Anaheim’s streets for the 10k and kept all the magic and mileage within the two theme parks!

After running past the Rivers of America, I bounded across the drawbridge of the Castle, onto Main Street! A couple of minutes after I had passed the mile 5 marker, I found myself behind the roller coaster once again, looping back towards the finish. I did a quick glance at the ground and saw my pin! A few runners were a couple strides behind me so I was able to grab my pin and sprint towards the finish. While the backing was bent and the image scratched, it was a favorable return. I guess I needed to run five miles before I could truly earn my Ellie badge! 🙂

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Graduating to a Senior Wilderness Explorer!

The weather was not ideal but I always love catching up with friends on course and seeing the creative costumes. Running through Disneyland at 5 in the morning never ceases to put a smile on my face!  I had a monstrous good time at the 10k but after collecting my medal, water and a snack box, I was off to rest my feet and seek some air conditioning before running the half-marathon on Sunday.

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All smiles after the 10k!