It was hard to find many details online about what to expect. But as I wrote before, I like to “race blind” so it didn’t bother me. As the race hour came near, I started perusing brochures in the race packet for basic information and realized, oh shit…. I should have read the fine print.
Bus transports to start line were no-wait, very quick, clean, and efficient. Transportation to ESPN start line runs from 630pm til 800pm. Mind you, the race start is 10pm. All of a sudden I was seeing a 3 hour wait in my future. Oh wait… turns out my race corral, the LAST corral, starts at 1025pm. Add another half hour to my wait time. The start line area was a comfortable field of grass with music, concessions, and a bunch of people on a stage getting the crowd hyped. Porta potty lines were quick, and runners could use separate porta potties in the designated “runners only” area. If you’re into people watching, there were a ton of people in costumes (tutus, mickey ears, lights etc).
The people at Disney are a less trusting sort than some other races with regard to pace predictions, so if you don’t have proof of your run time within the last 2 years then you are delegated to Corral F – the last corral – aka the corral that starts 30 minutes after the first corral. I hadn’t run a race in the past 2 years but the last half I did was at an 8:24 pace. Obviously a lot can (and did) happen in those 2 years (2 babies!) so I understand why they need more current proof. But I spent the entire race trying to pass thousands of walkers and slower runners. Even at mile 9 I was passing really large people walking and jogging at 14+ min paces. How did these people start in the faster corrals? It was so frustrating, especially when I crossed the line at a 9:40 pace, way slower than my training pace. Still, after just having a kid only a few months before, I could live with 9:40.
That bottlenecking… wow. You know how you see ads saying “Come run Miami! Fast course!!“? Well they could put an add on the Disney Wine and Dine Half saying “Come run Wine and Dine! Slowest course of your life! Guaranteed to slow your half down by 15 minutes! Sign up today!!” I lost count of all the times that the route became 3-6 feet wide. I also lost count on how many times people were walking 3 abreast on the left side of all the narrow course paths. My race buddy missed the 5k run tracker hit because she was too busy going cross country off the course to get around people.
Then there was the chaotic and twisty turny finish line. This isn’t a big deal I suppose, except that my plan to “punch it after mile 11” was impossible to execute. There were so many turns and loops and 90 degree turns that you were just trying to keep from injuring yourself. That being said, I still managed an 8 mile pace the last 2-3 miles (tempered by the 10 mile pace of the first 3 having to get around everybody). And then you see the Epcot ball and there is a huge crowd of people and you figure, here it is, the finish line! Nope. You still have half a mile to go. Pretty demoralizing when you’re at the end. I do realize this is nitpicking though.
And the hills… Did NOT see this one coming. No, there aren’t hills in Orlando I don’t think. But there are overpasses on the highway, and you’re on them a lot. And since I loosened my laces at the last minute (yes, I’m the idiot who changed something up race day), my feet were thrown all around inside my shoes on those hills and I ended up with two huge blisters on each foot, starting at mile 6. That meant six miles of pretty intense pain at the end.
It was a good event overall. Then there were a lot of great visuals in the race itself, especially around miles 8-11, which was a great distraction right when you needed it. And the weather in Orlando is perfect this time of year.
If you don’t start in the last corral and you don’t have a race time over 2 hours, you can really enjoy a lot of the after party at Epcot. If you are like me and finish at 1230am and then limp through the long receiving line after the finish and then wait to meet up with spouses and race buddies, then you’re basically getting to Epcot at around 2am. Add more limping around the park and you’re hard pressed to hit up all the sections before the 4am finish time. But that’s just an issue for people like me who were in the last corral and who ran slow and got injured. Everyone else looked like they were having a blast!
Bottom line: Run this race, run it with friends, and run it not caring about time.