This race is one of the few “one-ways” that Disney does throughout the year. The majority of them are loops for the most part. basically beginning and ending in the same general area. On these, if you are driving, you’ll park at Epcot and bus over to the start near Magic Kingdom. Remember to build in some extra time when you attend of these races.
It’s always nice to see the WDW Radio Running Team to start your morning out right!
I was looking forward to this race mainly because Jeff and Barb were going to run with me and it had been so long since we got a race in together. They are truly a joy to hang out with and I was going to appreciate the company on this very hot run.
There were not many photographers out all on the first half of the course and to make matters worse, the sewage treatment plant was in rare form that morning. I stand in awe of the volunteers that help out in that area. Getting to run through Pandora for the first time was fun though and then it was off to race the sun up.
Once we hit Hollywood Studios it was a different story. There were photographers everywhere! We try so hard to get group pics but they rarely come out. I can’t really blame the photographers. They are taking a million pictures and its hard to tell who is solo and who is together most of the time. We did get a few group ones in Studios.
We tried again in Epcot was another good group of photographers.
Barb and I started calling out that we were together to get a good group shot. He took perfect shots of Jeff and I…… poor Barb in the middle was left out!
The next guy got us though!
It was a very hot and humid run that day. Even still, it went by too fast with these great people. Afterward, we got our medals, took our finisher shot and headed back to get cleaned up.
I celebrated the run by visiting Animal Kingdom for its 20th Anniversary. It was great to see some friends, take some pics and enjoy some food before flying out that day.
Next Up: Peachtree Roadrace!
It’s day three of the Dopey Challenge. It’s still freezing cold out. The January race series has turned into a wildcard weather wise. The last three years have been consistent in their inconsistency.
The Half Marathon
I like this half marathon OK. I think I would like it more if I were just doing this race. There is typically one super rare character stop on the half route, so I was hoping to have better luck than the 10k the day before. This was also the first day that our little running group was fully together and without costumes.
The trip into the Magic Kingdom was your typical marathon weekend route. You get a couple of few characters stops in the parking lot area before you head towards the results. These are usually mid-level rare characters, If you’ve never run one of these races, you’ll want to plan to stop around the 5k mark.
There was a slight change to the route as it entered in the park. Instead of veering to the backstage area and then unto Main Street, you now come in through the bus drop off area. It made for a nice buildup as you crossed under the train station. It was great to see the cheer group and we got the crowd hyped up as we proceeded towards the castle.
Once you make it into Tomorrowland, you’ll typically find some characters from that area. As you turn into Fantasyland, you’ll get a second shot at mid-level rare characters. Typically an Alice theme, Ariel theme and Beauty and the Beast theme. They are always a good stop and only the Ariel theme gets crazy backed up. We turned the corner to go through the castle and I finally get my rare find! The mice from Cinderella! They are really hard to get a hold of but you can actually meet them in MK if you are lucky. If the Fairy Godmother doesn’t make it in the park that day for meet and greets, the mice will sometimes fill in. It’s always unannounced and the Fairy Godmother is the healthiest person in the park, so she rarely misses a chance to greet guests.
I love this picture of Danielle and I. Her and Chris are easily our favorite thing that we love about Atlanta. This picture does show a new tip that I need to add into the Tips for great pics at Disney. The lightning? Perfect. The background? Perfect. Both are uncontrollable though. The lesson is the importance or edge you get with a running buddy. As great as this picture is, Danielle wouldn’t have gotten it because her running belt covered up her number slightly. I can’t tell you how many times a picture has been saved because just one person had a bib that showed.
The sun always beats us to the finish on half marathon days. It makes for a good mix of pics but it also makes us look like we’ve been running forever. I took the opportunity to pocket for a few solo shots. Even when running in a good size group, you can get pics like you are solo.
The pace of everyone usually picks up on the backside of the ball. You’ve got the choir singing and you know that you are just a couple of turns away from the finish.
See there were a bunch of us!
Now that that’s done, we just have to double it the next day….
I was a little nervous about this day. My body crashing after the last time I did Dopey was ringing in the back of my head. Sharon and I had a plan to combat that though; I would build us an aid station and she would bring it to Animal Kingdom so that we could resupply halfway through. Now there was no need to worry about the 20-degree change in temp from beginning to end or worry about carrying too much stuff on us.
It was so cold that we got in the tightest ball that we could and used body heat to warm each other. It was ridiculus!
So everything is going fine once the race started. A couple of us start out with a friend of ours that is injured and let our group sweep us. Still, things are going just great. The same character stops are out in the MK parking lot and we eventually make the turn towards the Magic Kingdom. It’s cold, so I’m bundled up knowing I’ve got a clothing drop in 9 miles.
We go under the train station and there is our cheer team going nuts! Its a large group, so we are all spread out giving hugs to everyone. Then I hear a bunch of people yelling my name and see my wife there crying.
This can’t be good for anyone.
It turns out Ben is feeling really bad and she is worried. She’s also feeling like she is hugely letting me and my group down because the plan for the aid station at Animal Kingdom will not happen now. Two things immediately begin happening. Danielle is reassuring Sharon that we’ll be OK. She’s telling Sharon that as my running wife, she knows what my limits are and will make sure I’m taken care of and will finish. Meanwhile, I’m doing something that I would never have thought in my whole life that I would do.
I strip all the way down to my underwear on Main Street to change into my day clothes.
I was thankful for Danielle to help calm Sharon and I realized the humor in being just in my undies in front of hundreds of people and just had to laugh out loud as I changed. Changing clothes meant that I was going to severely underdressed for a while, but it would hopefully pay off once the sun came up.
People say that they have trouble hitting pockets for good pics in their particular coral. Let me encourage you that you can still get them if are aware of your surroundings. Main Street was packed, but I was able to find about a 3ft pocket for this one. It doesn’t look like I’m by myself like they typically do, but it still turned out good.
They had some good characters back in Fantasyland again, but I was actually thankful that I didn’t need any of them. I set the team back about 5 minutes getting changed and trading things out.
The sun came up at about the same spot that it did the day before. It’s at this point after MK that the course deviates from the half. You go down a service road that cuts straight to Animal Kingdom. Now there is nothing back here, so they will often load this with the best rare characters that you’ll find for the day. Jen and I stopped for the Adventurers Club and then we stopped at a spot where they had the rides from a bunch of retired attractions. Of course, our selfie covers them all up except the sub from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
At the end of the stretch, I see something glorious. It’s the #1 character off of my character hit-list! 38 races, years of going to Disney and I had yet to meet Hades. I was super hyped up about it. Pain and Panic were a great bonus.
Right around the corner was one of the worst things about the course. They set up a water station directly in front of the water treatment plant. I felt bad for the volunteers. It was like they were handing out water and free poop biscuits out there. This was also some symbolism for what we were about to go through. In the next 5 miles here is what happens.
- I’m worn down from hopscotching the team trying to play catchup after character stops.
- One of my best friends on the team, Luke, is hurting bad….and we don’t know why yet.
- Steve is feeling it. Sandra is feeling it. Everyone is feeling it.
- In Animal Kingdom, every photo pass person we ran by was messing with their cameras instead of taking pictures, so the guy known for race photos manages to make it out of the park without a single photo.
- The temperature is cranking and we still have 9 miles left.
Most people consider the ESPN area Purgatory. It’s over a 5k in distance where you are just weaving back and forth and it seems like you never get out of there. The first time I ran it, I stopped for all the characters which broke it up. This time we just barrelled through and it was brutal. Thankfully Beth was in the last stadium to give us a quick cheer and some treats. She was a lifesaver!
Things took another turn as we hit the 35k mark. Luke was definitely sick. We make it through Hollywood Studios which had a chocolate stop….that included candy corn M&Ms? Nothing like leftover Halloween candy in January!
After Hollywood Studios, you take a very small path over to the Boardwalk area. There is a transition that cuts a hard left, declines, and narrows all at once. Poor Sandra takes a spill, but gets up like a trooper and keeps going. At this point, I’m just trying to make sure that we all make it across the finish line alive!
We run across our cheer team again. I love them. They waited for everyone at MK and then picked up and moved to the end to cheer for us again. Cheering is not easy. If someone comes to cheer for you. Thank them, give them a hug and take them out to a meal.
Epcot is hard, but you know that you are close to the end at this point.
I think we are going to make it!!!!!!
We all make it across the finish line and evidently nearly murder this young man in front of us.
The girls and I cry for just a second (I’m secure enough in myself to say it) and then immediately take Luke to the medical tent. Final verdict: Kidney Stone.
The man just ran a marathon with a kidney stone.
I’ve said time and again how much I love this team. They have gotten me through thick and thin. they have been there for me when I needed it, and I hope that I’ve been an encouragement to them when they could use it.
We all went our separate ways, but my personal adventure was not over. Sharon couldn’t make back into Epcot, so I was stranded. I took the time to get a message. (Always get the message after the half or full!) and got on a bus with no line. I don’t even know what resort it took me to. I dropped my location to Sharon’s phone and set on a bench somewhere. I thankfully made it back to my real hotel a bit later.
So that’s it! Another race series in the books! If you are on the fence about doing the challenge, let me encourage you; you can do Dopey if you put your mind to it and train.
The hip was holding somewhat steady from the 10K yesterday, but I was still a little anxious. It was also back to team running. If you’ve never done a Disney Race with a team, I would highly suggest it. It’s a totally different experience than running solo. Here are my two highest recommended options:
- WDW RADIO RUNNING TEAM This team has over 500 members from all over the world. All skill levels, ages and experience are welcome. You’ll likely find, and can run with, someone that is exactly like you. This group is highly social with a facebook page, meet-ups and park time gatherings.
- JEFF GALLOWAY PACE GROUP These are more loosely affiliated in that you run with people that have the same time goal as you. They don’t have the social aspect, but it’s a good way to meet others on the course. This is a run walk group and the benefits of doing a race this way are plentiful. You can sign up for these groups for free by signing up at Jeff’s table at the expo. You can also jump in to a group if you see them out on the course.
I got there super early again. They were busing people from the end to the start so you just never know if there is going to be a logistical glitch. Transportation went off without a hitch and we got some more characters.
Rub Jabbas belly for good luck!
We still had quite a bit of time left so many of us sprawled out on the parking lot as the time passed. You had to get up earlier than usual for these races because of the shuttle situation.
It was finally race time and everyone parted ways. It’s always a bittersweet moment. I’m ready to go to the corral, but I know I’m going to miss my team in the months between races.
They did a great job getting everyone out in a timely manner and went all out on the fireworks for each start. I link up with Jeff and Barb and we start doing our thing. A lot of people normally stop us for pics with Jeff, but we did a 5K without being stopped once. I realized later that it was because the course was so dark and they couldn’t see him. It definitely paid off to bring a lightsaber with you on the front part of the course.
RunDisney did use the darkness to their advantage. On one of the stretches they set up a simulated battle on Endor with lasers, sound effects, fire plumes and smoke. It was really impressive use of the environment. At the end of the battle were the Ewoks, alive and well, for photos.
They did miss out on another environment opportunity. They had a trash compacter photo op on the course. It would have worked perfectly right in the middle of the water treatment plant. I mean you might as well embrace it!
Animal Kingdom was beautiful as the sun came up, although I forgot to get pictures until the end.
The London Marathon was also this day, so we took a moment to send some encouraging words over to them. I thought it was really neat that we are connected through our team and can run races (And encourage each other) at the same time across the world.
This is what your photos look like when your phone is covered in sweat.
It was really hot….like really really hot. My sweat was sweating kind of hot. At this point the sun was out good and we were running right at it. I had to stop at the medical station just to get some paper towels to wipe ourselves down. People were now recognizing Jeff so he was having fun letting us get ahead and then catching back up to us. We were also cheering on the Galloway pacers as they came through. I believe two groups caught us before we made it to Hollywood Studios.
What do you do when Jeff is making a pit stop? Do a character stop, of course!
Kudos to Disney for having a ton of water stops out there on the hot course. You didn’t go very far without a chance to refuel.
We had unofficial roles in our run. Jeff kept up with our intervals, Barb set our speed and I was the lookout for the photopass people. It worked beautifully once we hit the second park.
We remembered from previous races and seeing the photographers today that it was going to be tough getting a picture with all three of us in it. I can’t totally blame the photographers. Imagine yourself in a little green tent looking through a view finder for three hours as thousands of people run right at you. You are just going to shoot as many pictures as you can get and it would be hard to discern who was with who unless it was blatantly obvious.
We started trying to make it obvious. We talked about locking arms at one point to make sure we got at least one photo of us together!
We really do have a a great time when we run together. We laugh, joke, I get to hear so many crazy and funny stories about the Galloway’s past running adventures, and I’ll usually be the hype man when we are going through a group of people cheering. We also have a great time cheering on those on the course.
Speaking of cheering, we had hit the boardwalk. It’s the golden standard in my team’s cheer group. I think the bakery and ample seating here might have something to do with it! We stopped and snagged a picture with both groups together. I absolutely love this picture. It represents so many friendships that I hold very dear. The coolest part? I didn’t know any of these people before running with Disney. It really does bring people together.
We made the turn in to Epcot and several cast members from the different countries were out cheering. It was so fun to see them out! There were also photographers galore, so we squeezed and hit as many pockets as we could.
It wasn’t long before we were crossing the finish line. It was another great race that went by quick because of the company I was honored to run with. I love the picture below. It was another bittersweet moment. Since I’m not doing any other West Coast Races this year, the next time we will connect on the course will be their race weekend back home in Atlanta.
- The course was much better this year over last year.
- Bummed I missed Carissa both races.
- To the little boy who smoked us at mile 9…you are awesome sir.
- To the very hairy man in only a speedo. I salute your bravery.
A runner told me afterwards that they were disappointed about the lack of character changes between races. I was disappointed last year as well because I was expecting more. Here are the races that rarely change out or add additional characters over the weekend.
- Star Wars Lightside
- Star Wars Darkside
See you out on the course.
Princess Half Marathon Recap 2017
Does it still stand up as the best?
Here we are again! I was still learning the lay of the land this time last year. (The half was my 9th Disney race at the time). It was my favorite race then, so I was excited to see if it held up this time. (This year it marked my 31st Disney race)
Well last year it was Hunger Games style. I got there a day later this year and it was actually very calm and orderly. They even still had everything that we were looking for. I heard positive things from people who attended on the first day. Hooray for progress! Of course, we stopped to see our friends the Galloways. We had just run together a few weeks ago out on the West Coast, but it seemed like a long time had passed.
I actually cheered for the first time as Sharon completed her first 10k. I was so proud of her and I enjoyed cheering more than I thought. I didn’t even miss not racing, knowing that she was out there doing her thing.
I don’t want to say there is a wrong way to run a Disney race, but there are better ways to run them. I typically run the big races either with the Galloways or my race team, the WDW Radio Running Team. Running these races with friends is always a great way to experience them.
This time I went out with our running team. Donnie and I got a head start on our group so that we could get some character stops and let them catch up to us. Last year had a killer group of characters so I was pumped to see what was out there.
We got the Pirates, Princes crew and made it to the Magic Kingdom gate before the group caught up to us.
The advantage to running all the races is that you learn where they drop the same characters over and over and where they like to drop in the rare ones. Right when we were about to link up with the rest of our group we hit the rare spot this year. Malificient! 31 races, and over 600 characters and I had yet to meet her. You can pay a good bit of money and get her at a dessert party, but I couldn’t justify almost $100 for one character I need. I was freaking out and Donnie was just having to put up with me. She alone would have made this race.
We finally linked back up to our group right before entering the park and then it was straight up party time! We caught up to the WDW cheer group and my family right in the entrance to the park.
Can you tell we were having a good time? Those pictures were pretty typical for us; having a great time with each other and those around us and Donnie running around everywhere with his hands up in the air.
There were lots of characters, but we chose to keep on going since we had all of them. In the park was Buzz Lightyear, The Queen of Hearts, Belle and Beast, Cinderella and her prince, Woody and Jessie.
I also really enjoy the backside of the park too. It goes by the Magic Kingdom resorts before heading back to Epcot. We stopped for the penguins and one of my favorite stops; the wedding party. The Bride was not there when we came through, so we just celebrated without her.
From there it was just a little over a 5K left in the race. One of the good things about this race is if you are quick enough, you can actually catch the first couple sets of characters twice. Once in the dark and once after the sun comes up. Both groups remembered me and “Donna” which was fun.
The background was great. It really looks like you are on an island instead of a median of a road.
From there is was up the dreaded curved ramp at mile 10.5. It actually wasn’t too bad this year and we even stopped and did push ups for the sarge army man from Toy Story. (He’s the only one that you’ll find that talks)
We met the second WDW cheer group right before Epcot and several of them beat us from the Magic Kingdom to this point. I think they were using some magic to get there. Once in Epcot things got a bit….rowdy. First up was the dance moves pose with Mushu….
I’ll pause here and say I’m happy that my Post on how to get great Run Disney Pics has helped people get the pictures that they want to get. So what happens when your running buddy “Donna” decides to try to ruin your pictures in Epcot and enlists the help of your other running buddy? A new category emerges: Shielding.
Then it was 38 attempts at a jump photo. I’d like to point out that my head is slightly higher in the air than Donna’s.
I peeled off for a quick Daisy photo and then caught back up to the group.
It was at this point that Donna and I got in a wrestling match/dance off as payback for his shielding earlier. This was the only one that came out because both of our numbers were covered for all the others. We had the photographer cracking up!
After pulling it together it was time to hit the finish line!
Is it funny that Donnie and Nicki almost perfectly match? Yes. Yes it is.
So here we are at the end. Does it live up as the best Disney race in the US? Yes it does. The vibe is so cool, you don’t have a marathon to run the next day, the weather is great and more predictable, you run through the castle and some of your best friends show up to run a race together.
I love you Princess half marathon, but I’ve got to say that I love my friends and running team even more.
See you at the Castle.
Wine and Dine Half Marathon Recap 2016
Where running dreams do come true.
Here we are at the last East Coast race of the year. 13 races in the Disney World segment of the US challenge was ending after today. The race was different; now a morning race as opposed to the historical night run. The course was also vastly different because of construction for Toy Story Land/Star Wars Land. We would run to what amounted to the reverse backside of the marathon route.
I started the morning kissing the family good-bye and hopping on a bus with Beatrice. She’s an east coaster who went coast-to-coast with me at Tinkerbell in California. She’s also a great member of our running team.
We immediately jumped in line for some characters and I was finally able to knock Chef Goofy off my list. The lines were crazy long last year and got cut quick and we haven’t made it to any of the character meals where you can meet him like this yet.
It was then off for the team picture. Deanna and Lou were out having a blast on the WDW E Ticket Cruise event so Jimmy and I pitched in to coordinate things for the weekend.
I love this team!
After time with the team, I headed off to the corral (They pulled the first few groups early to take their places) I needed to get there early anyway to see if it was possible to link up to the Galloways. Jeff had told me about some of the x factors so I wasn’t too hopeful, but I was going to try.
After giving his talk to the crowd, they stuck Jeff and Barb in the corral before me right before they went off. Then they took off…… Now there was an added challenge, catch up to and find an Olympian in the hundreds of people that left before me.
I only had 120 seconds to decide what to do and my brain was playing the whole, “Be stupid/don’t be stupid” game. As you know by now I usually choose “Be stupid” in these scenarios.
The fireworks go off and I’m running in full stupid mode. A sub 8 minute mile for a half marathon.
I feel like I’m probably making good progress towards them when I make another “stupid” move. I decide I’m stopping for characters too?!? I mean it’s the country bears so why not.
Right before mile two I see them…. the Galloways doing their thing tearing up the course. I pull up beside Jeff and I’m genuinely in shock that we linked up. (I think he was surprised too.) After linking up with them I tell them I’m not stopping for characters unless there are some that I don’t have. I didn’t want to risk getting separated after putting so much work on the front end.
Barb was our pacer and I spent most of the time running alongside her. She’s hilarious and such a blast to run with. Jeff and I had fun making jokes of how beautiful the sunrise was over the water treatment plant. It was picture perfect exept for the location we were running through at the time.
On the back side of Animal Kingdom, I see the first characters that I have not gotten yet. Chip and Dale in a cool Western overlay. Luckily there wasn’t a line, so it only took me a couple of minutes to catch back up.
Many of my Disney and running friends know about my obsession with trying to find Darkwing Duck. He was the whole reason that I started this crazy journey in the first place. I barely missed him during the marathon weekend because of rain. The people that got out later after the rain stopped got him, which only put salt in the Darkwing wound. A friend told me that this was going to be my shot today….sure enough he was out there!
I get hyped up and tell the Galloways that I’ve got to stop for this one. As soon as I get there they go on break. Normally not a big deal, but I can feel the Galloways’ feet pattering further and further away with each moment. After a few minutes Launch Pad and Darkwing make it back out and I finally can check him off my top 10 list.
The problem now is that I’m a good 5 minutes behind. Time to get stupid and try to catch an Olympian for the second time today. The adrenaline from the characters and the task of catching them put me back in a sub 8 mile. It takes a mile to catch them and it was thankfully right before a water station.
We had a great time knocking off the rest of the distance to Epcot. There was another rare stop just inside the gate with no line, but there also wasn’t much distance to catch up if I got behind again. That’s why I look like I’m getting ready to shove them both down and sprint away in the picture below….because I am.
The short run in Epcot was great. The park was still closed so it was all cast members cheering us in the final stage. There were also several good characters stuck in here as well. Scrooge Mcduck and Vacation Genie.
We saw Sharon and the kids a little before the finish line, I was so excited!
We even got some shout outs from Carissa at the finish!
That was it. It was finished! I couldn’t have wished for a better run. The weather was great and I had the honor to run the race with the Galloways. I even picked up a few great characters along the way. There was no way to top this race right? I was going to find out soon enough. It was time to go home, wash clothes and catch a flight to California. We do this all again in the last West Coast series of the year that starts in just 5 days.
UP NEXT: AVENGERS EXPO AND 5K RECAP!
Star Wars Half Marathon Recap 2016
The WDW Radio Running Team is genuinely one of the best things that I’ve encountered during my years of running. It’s a great group to be a part of because not only do you build relationships with people all over the country, but the team also raises money to send families dealing health issues to Disney World.
We have a philosophy of togetherness and support each other in our different running styles. Some of the team runs for time. (And have placed in the top spots before) Others like myself run fast so that we can get a bunch of pictures and character stops. Others run in groups for the social aspect and to support their friends on the course. In the end we all wear the Lou blue.
Today I was nearly certain that there were not going to be any characters that I needed, so I decided that I would enjoy the race with a group of my friends. I’d never run with a group before and was actually a little nervous that I would somehow slow them down. I ended up learning that there was a whole different experience that you can have at these races.
Off we went to conquer three parks and ESPN before breakfast. There wasn’t anything going on differently in Epcot and they had very few photographers out here for some reason. R2 and Chewbacca were still manning their spots on either end of the park. Most of the cheer squad from yesterday was either running or had other obligations, so it was up to Valerie to hold down the fort. She was awesome out there cheering the group on!
Next, it was on to Hollywood Studios where there were none of the 501st greeting us today. They did have Kylo Ren talking on the stage and some good photographers out. I love the picture below. We were all in the zone evidently. (I’m also a big Frank Hart fan!)
They did have the 501st tucked back in toward the exit of the park. This would be one of two areas that they were at.
By now, I had realized that I wasn’t going to sabotage the team on time and I was really enjoying being with the group. I had conversations that would have never of happened off the course about things only said on the course. I’ve never laughed so much at a race before for sure!
The sun was starting to break as we entered the backside of Animal Kingdom. I will say I have a genuine dislike for that parking lot. It’s brutal during the marathon and today there was even more of the course covered in this lot. It’s not hilly or extremely bad, but it always seems never-ending.
There were several good photo spots in the park this time.
I did stop for one of the 501st groups. How could you not stop for an 8ft tall wookie?
One the way back to ESPN, I saw James on the other side. We yelled at each other and then he bolted over to do one this trademark selfies. I think he took 40 pictures and they illustrated the train wreck that happened when we all plowed in to each trying to stop for the picture. This is the best one right before some of us go down.
From here it was really just to push on to the finish. We did make one stop on the dirt road for a picture with the speeder bikes.
The crowds were back out along the course at the end cheering on our group. It was very encouraging and I think we all picked the pace up a bit towards the end. The crowds definitely help in the final push to the finish.
I was going to say that if you had an opportunity to run with a group to take advantage of it. You can just join our group instead! You can get information about the team here: http://www.wdwradio.com/running/ I had a fantastic time enjoying the company and it totally changed the race for me. It’s obvious that I enjoy hauling tail and picking up a bunch of characters, but I’ve got to say that I enjoyed this group just as much. I’m looking forward to running with them again in the future!
Next stop: Tinkerbell series in California!