Wednesday, December 23, 2015

2015 Wine and Dine (Half of a) Half Marathon Recap

It's taken me a while to get around to it, but I am FINALLY sharing my experience on the 2015 Wine and Dine Half Marathon at Walt Disney World.  I debated on whether or not I would ever participate in this race weekend again because of how miserable the weather was for the 2014 Wine and Dine Half Marathon.  I ultimately decided to register because the weather of a race shouldn't determine how fun it is. Because of that mentality, I STILL had a blast during the 2015 Wine and Dine Half Marathon weekend!  The heat/lightning/humidity never bothered me anyway!

I arrived on Disney property around 4:00 pm on Friday and headed straight the the expo at ESPN Wide World of Sports.  I picked up my packet, shirt, and Coast to Coast Challenge bracelet.  I did a little bit of browsing through the expo too!  I stopped to talk to Olympic runner Jeff Galloway, bought a Castle to Castle tank from Raw Threads (which is the tank I wore during the race), and admired the Marathon weekend medal display.  I can't wait to receive the six medals for Dopey Challenge next month!  I then headed to Epcot to get my first stamp in my passport towards earning the Annual Passholder wine glass!  Speaking of wine glasses- I had a hunch the Wine and Dine Half Marathon wine glasses would be sold out by the time I arrived at the expo, especially since I arrived on day two.  What do ya know?  They were long gone by the time I got there.  Luckily a friend of mine picked one up for me.  I am now 2 for 5 on snatching wine glasses for the runDisney events I've ran.  I could complain for hours about the wine glass situation but I just won't go there this time.  At least I got one!

We spent the rest of the night walking around Disney's Boardwalk and Downtown Disney.  I also carbo-loaded up on pizza.  I say you can never go wrong with pizza, pre or post-race.  

The day of the race, I headed to Magic Kingdom with my boyfriend and cousin.  We woke up around 8:00 am and planned to spend the entire day there.  Not the smartest thing I've done...  The best piece of advice I can give to you when participating in a runDisney night race is to take it easy during the day.  More specifically: avoid the parks.  I logged an extra six miles just casually walking around MK that day.  Plus, it was HOT.  Record-breaking hot.  I mean, it was in the 80's.  Splash Mountain would have seemed like a great idea if there wasn't a 50 minute wait- that's how hot it was.  Moral of the story: save the parks for after your race.

The race takes off at ESPN Wide World of Sports and ends at Epcot.  Runners can park at Epcot and take a ride to ESPN on one of the many buses, so that's what I did.  I rode with several other runners, some anxiously talking about their excitement for their FIRST EVER runDisney race or half marathon.  I remember how excited I was for my first half marathon, The 2014 Disney Princess Half Marathon so I LOVE seeing people experience it for the first time.

When our bus arrived at ESPN, the driver announced we would be staying on the bus until further notice and that runners were being "evacuated" from the starting area due to weather.  We saw lightning on the way from Epcot so none of us were really surprised at the decision.  After approximately 30 minutes, they allowed us off the bus but instructed us to take cover at The HP Field House.  I headed upstairs to sit and charge my iPhone while we waited for the weather to pass.  At this point, runners were either getting anxious because they were eager to start or they were getting tired because, like me, they had walked all over the parks that day.  I was a combination of both with a mix of FOMO that the delay would take away from the post-race party at Epcot.

I never heard an official announcement but everyone suddenly stood up and made their way to the starting line.  When heading up to corral G, I heard several announcements being made about changes to the race.  I was on Twitter so I had already seen the tweet about a shortened course.  They announced that approximately five miles were being cut from the course.  After running the course, it was apparent that 6+ miles were actually cut.  No changes were being made to the end time for the after party!  I went from mile marker 1 to mile marker 8 with approximately 3/4 of a mile in between.  I'm totally NOT complaining there! Corrals started approximately two minutes apart.  In my experience, corrals are five minutes apart on average.  I believe runDisney did whatever they could to ensure we took off as soon as possible.  With all the commotion, the race was only delayed just under 60 minutes. 

Although it never rained during our evacuation, there were rumors of fallen branches and debris on the course.  Either Disney did an exceptional job clearing everything out or the affected areas were cut out of the course because I luckily did not run into any problems.  The course was clear and although it was humid, there was no rain.  The only extreme weather condition that posed a threat to our safety was the heat.  I think runDisney communicated the dangers of the unusually high temperatures well, also reminding us to hydrate appropriately.  I definitely stopped at every Powerade/water table to stay hydrated.

The best part of this course for me has always been The Osbourne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights.  It was announced earlier this year that 2015 would be the last year the light show was featured at Hollywood Studios.  I think all runners were really anticipating this part of the race.  The music was blaring and the lights were twinkling as I turned into Hollywood Studios to see the lights one last time.  Every step was bright and cheerful.  Despite the unusually warm temperatures, it actually felt like the holiday season.

I finished this "half marathon" with my first sub-2 hour time!  LOL.  I knew there was no chance at a PR on this run because of the odd distance, so I just had fun with it.  I stopped to take pictures and recorded a video while running through the lights show.  I took my time because of the humidity, but I didn't take TOO MUCH time.  I was ready to drink around the world at Epcot! I quickly accepted my finisher's medal and proceeded to the Coast to Coast tent.  Beside it was the Perfect tent for Legacy Wine and Dine Half Marathon runners.  Both tents were small, as there weren't many participants running for the Coast to Coast Challenge or legacy status. 

Upon crossing the finish line, runners can accept a glass of wine or a beer.  I absolutely love wine so I went with the wine.  Lesson learned- it was Chardonnay and it was nasty and I should have gone with a Michelob Ultra.  I don't think I'm the only one who disliked the wine because I saw many full glasses overflowing the trash cans outside the entrance to Epcot.  Next year, I'll run for beer.

We entered the park and hopped right on Spaceship Earth without a wait.  All of the rides had short lines so it was a great opportunity to get on park favorites like Test Track and Soarin'.  We then proceeded to "drink around the World" with our first stop in Dominican Republic.  After getting over his disappointment that they weren't serving Brahma, my boyfriend and I drank a Presidente.  I was on the search for food after that and headed to Ireland for the Lobster & Scallop Fisherman's pie.  OMG.  It was worth every hair-frizzing mile to get to enjoy that delicious dish.  Other options that caught my eye were the Reisling flight in Germany, the lobster roll in Hops & Barley and the DOLE WHIP SOFT-SERVE WITH BACARDI COCONUT RUM.  To my disappointment, the Dole whip machine was out of service when I went to order this long-awaited frozen concoction.  I guess that means I HAVE to run Wine and Dine again in 2016... We didn't leave the parking lot until around 4:30am.  You could definitely say we got our money's worth out of the race and after party.

I know there was a lot of negativity surrounded by this race, but I had a blast.  It's not every day you get to run around Disney and drink around the world.  For me, half the course still delivered all the fun.  I'm actually kind of relieved it was a 7-miler because I got more time to experience Epcot with my boyfriend.  We rode Test Track, drank around the world and celebrated the holidays early.  I also want to remind everyone that this race sold out in under 30 minutes.  If you're looking to run it in 2016, good luck with registration!  As an annual passholder, I couldn't get in during early registration and had to wait for it to open up to the public.  I really learned how to avoid letting weather ruin a race for me and I can't wait to experience many more Wine & Dine Half Marathons at Walt Disney World! 

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