runDisney’s Wine and Dine Half Marathon was a race that I’ll never forget. Has it replaced my favorite runDisney race (Tinker Bell)?
It was the first Wine and Dine Half for me. It’s a night race and I had to switch my thinking and planning. I’m used to carb-loading the evening before, waking up at 4 AM, or in runDisney’s case, 2 AM, etc.
Flew out Friday to Orlando and stayed at the Magical Disney’s Polynesian Resort. Just the thought of having Tonga Toast (Kona Cafe), Dole Whip (Pineapple Lanai) and Stitch (‘Ohana) in the same resort made me feel giddy. I’m a kid at heart! 🙂
Went to the Expo on Friday afternoon at ESPN Wide World of Sports and to my surprise it wasn’t overly crowded. I didn’t have to wait in line for anything – packet pickup, race shirt, or even the runDisney Merchandise area. Considering that all of the runDisney Expos I have attended have been agonizing, hours-long events, I was more than delighted to be in and out.
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Since I had to switch planning, we planned on sleeping in Saturday and going to Epcot for lunch at Tutto Italia to carb-load, followed by a nap until it was time to take the bus to the race start. My friend Becky and I headed to the buses and hung out at the corrals for a while before separating – I was in G, she was in K.
It started to rain around 9:30 PM and I was just hoping it would stop. It was 63 degrees at start time and drizzling. Corrals crossed the start five minutes apart; I think the G corral crossed around 10:35 PM or so. We exited ESPN Wide World of Sports and made a left out of the complex into Osceola Parkway and run there for about 3.5 miles before entering Disney’s Animal Kingdom. In the parking lot before entering AK, there were two characters from Disney’s Electrical Parade – the turtle and the bumblebee, all lit up and glowing.
Animal Kingdom was beautiful. I stopped once to use a real bathroom and to warm up a bit. AK was dark, with paths so narrow you were forced to walk at times. I remember turning the corner and seeing the Tree of Life all lit up. I didn’t take pictures because I didn’t want my phone to get wet, but the sight was gorgeous. We ran past Expedition Everest and then back out on the highway. AK is one of my favorite Disney Parks, and I truly enjoyed how magical it was to run through it. Took a picture with Pluto on my way out.
Back on the highway, we ran opposite direction in which we entered AK. The rain got heavier, yet we saw some folks in the middle of the highway, cheering with signs for us. That was amazing! The spectators make such a huge impact on us runners. My friend Becky, when she finished, she said that there were times when she felt she couldn’t go on, but it was those spectators yelling out her name, encouraging her that got her to the finish line.
We ran another 4 lonely miles in the dark on the highway before entering Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The rain wouldn’t let up. I kept hearing people yell, “puddle”, but it just didn’t matter anymore. My clothes were soaked and my feet were wet and cold. I’m pretty sure I stepped on at least a dozen puddles. My headphones kept sliding out of my ear canal.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios – I believe we ran through the whole park. We passed Toy Story Mania and Woody and Buzz were out but the lines were too long. Once you got into the Streets of America, it was all lit with holiday lights, music and even snow, which took my breath away. Seriously, the most beautiful scene in a race, EVER.
Exited DHS and ran through the DHS/Epcot connector. Into Boardwalk (where it was a bit slippery!), past Yacht and Beach Club, when I found the best spectator ever, Peggy Sue, sitting in her wheelchair in the rain, with her bag of Starbursts and Twizzlers, God bless her! I just started bawling; she truly made my day!!
Entered Epcot, where we ran past the United Kingdom and Canada, into the main corridor, past Spaceship Earth (you awesome spectators were loud, thank you!!!) to the finish. I love how you can’t see the finish line but it’s so close you can feel/hear it. There was a beautiful light display right before you made a left turn into the finish line.
Heard the announcer call my name and that got me pumped up. High-fived Mickey at the finish line, grabbed my medal and determined that having finished this race meant much more to me than any other race. The dark course, the rain and the cold didn’t stop me, even when I was heavily tempted to get inside the sweeping buses that idled on the highway.
I was less than pleased when finishing the race, cold and shivering, we had to wait over 20 minutes for gear pickup. The voluntEARS were awesome and trying to expedite the process but that didn’t really help. The changing tents were crowded, with another long line to enter, so I skipped it. Here’s when the situation got even more annoying – to enter Epcot, you had to have your bag checked, again! Yet another crowd of long lines for bag check and another to check wrist bands for the finish line party. If you got a drink at the finish from your voucher, you had to dispose of it before entering Epcot. This made a lot of sense to me…sigh.
My friend Jillian was waiting in front of Soarin’ and I changed in a bathroom there and went into Soarin’. There was no line/no wait for Soarin’ and that made me really happy. One girl who’d finished the race was waiting to get on the ride when she passed out. Nurse instinct was to run over and help her. I think she was dehydrated and hypoglycemic. I hope she ended up ok.
The finish line party would have been awesome had it not been for how miserable the weather was. My left ankle was swollen, with pain radiating to my shin. I had tostones with mayo-ketchup in Puerto Rico in Epcot and waited for Becky, who was limping from the blisters on her feet. No food and drinks around the world for us as planned – ugh!
Did it replace my favorite Disney race, Tinker Bell? Maybe. I loved Tinker Bell because it was a smaller race, but Wine and Dine was smaller as well. I’d say that out of all the runDisney races, Wine and Dine Half’s course was my ultimate favorite. I think that I would’ve enjoyed the race much more if it wasn’t for the weather (nobody’s fault, really, and besides Florida hadn’t had rain in close to a month!) Needless to say, I’ve decided that in California, Tinker Bell is my favorite runDisney race and in Florida, Wine and Dine.
I must admit, that the most rewarding highlight of the race was seeing my friend Becky finish. This was her first half marathon, and she finished in the cold rain and with blisters on her feet. I loved hearing how much I’ve empowered her to get started with running and I couldn’t be prouder. It’s rewarding to learn how much of an impact you can make in someone’s life on a daily basis. I don’t blog too much and I know not too many people read this space, but I hope that even if it’s one person who’s life I’ve changed, that I continue to have the ability and the means to do that.
Celebratory Post-Race Meal: Cinderella’s Royal Table Lunch
With a swollen left ankle (me) and painful foot blisters (Becky) we can say, we did it! See you next year, Disney!
P.S. Thank you to Jillian for being such a good supporter, to the voluntEARS and spectators for making this race magical.