If you've never heard of Run and Ride events, they are various race distances sometimes spanning over the entire weekend that visit a select few Cedar Fair parks. In September 2015 I ran the Carowinds Half Marathon and will run it again this fall. I have a full list and description of all locations and distances available on my blog as well. Included in race registration is a park ticket for participants to not only run through the parks in the morning, but to also stay and ride coasters all day (for race distance of 5K and longer, only). In some cases, race registration is less expensive than a one-day admission. In the two Run and Ride events I have run, I have discovered a tremendous value as well as an extremely well-coordinated race.
I live approximately four hours away from Doswell, VA- home to Kings Dominion. Rather than get a hotel the night before, my group decided to leave early in the morning and drive straight to the theme park. It was a rough wake-up call followed by a tiring four hour drive. I do not recommend doing this and would not do it again.
With a 7:40 start time, we pulled into the parking lot just before 7:00 AM. Parking is free for participants on race morning and Kings Dominion parking attendants directed us right up front. Packet pick-up was available the morning of the race as well as the previous two days. I prefer to not pick up my race packets the day of the race- another reason I would choose to arrive the day before and stay the night in a hotel.
The weather was cold! It was overcast and in the 50's with a chance of rain all day. I decided to run in a zip-up which I started to regret just one mile into the race. The 10K took off first and featured a 5K loop around the park, requiring two loops. I questioned why Kings Dominion didn't offer a Half Marathon and after running the course I understood why. Unlike Carowinds, there wasn't enough property to send runners on a 13.1 mile loop. The great thing about the Kings Dominion courses though is that the entire time is spent in the park. Runners get view of The Eiffel Tower (a 1/3 replica of the Paris landmark) as well as the chance to run through Dinosaurs Alive and the water park. After lifeguarding in a water park for three years, I always think it's cool to see an empty water park.
5K runners took off shortly behind us. Before I was able to finish my first lap there were 5k runners passing me. The second lap was much less crowded, though. It was lightly drizzling for the entire race, barely getting my clothes damp. The one mile race took off at 8:30 and took runners into the park and down the last stretch of the 5K loop.
As I was approaching the finish line, I saw my boyfriend cheering for me on the sidelines. Upon finishing, I was awarded my 10K finisher medal and proceeded to get bagels. I must say that with three race distances staggered to finish around the same time, the lines for food were long and the picnic table area was crowded. I remember having the exact opposite thoughts after the Carowinds Half Marathon, however, that day featured a half marathon and 10k. Starting only a few minutes apart, the crowds were spread apart and left runners plenty of room to eat.
The park opened at 10:00 AM, so we had time to warm up in the car before heading out to the cold park. For mid-May I am still surprised with how uncharacteristically cold it was that day. I was initially bummed the race took place the weekend before the water park opened, however, we wouldn't have enjoyed it in 50 degree weather so it worked out favorably.
The park was not crowded at all. I believe the longest wait time we experienced was about 20 minutes for Volcano. Intimidator and Volcano are my two favorites but the park has many great roller coasters. Their newest ride, Delirium, is a great high-speed thrill ride too!
The course: 7/10
Although I loved that the entire course was in the parks, I didn't like having to loop the exact same 5k twice. I would've rather ran in the parking lot for the first few miles before going into the park. While there weren't many hills, there were some really slick areas runners had to slow down for. Had it not rained, these areas wouldn't have even been issues though. The start/finish line area was also really small for the amount of runners. Starting in the parking lot may have been a solution to this problem.
The swag: 10/10
Very rarely will I award any category a full 10 but Run & Ride knows what they are doing when it comes to swag. As if the free park admission and day's worth of riding attractions weren't enough, they included a fast pass for me to skip the line at the attraction of my choice! I of course used it to ride Volcano a second time. All runners also receive shirts and breakfast, too. During Kings Dominion packet pick-up, the first 100 runners also received a free buff. I got one last year at Carowinds and wished I had picked up my packet early to receive one at Kings Dominion, too.
The medals: 9/10
I was ecstatic at the unique medal concept for the 2016 Run & Ride series. All race distances boast a different Peanuts character in a roller coaster train. The medals connect to each other, creating a train for runners who participate in multiple distances! Literally the only criticism I have is that the park name and date are not included on the ribbon. Other than that tiny feature, these medals are absolutely adorable!
Overall Experience: 8/10
Aside from the less-than-perfect weather conditions, this was a great race. The ability to run through a theme park and then enjoy rides afterwards is a unique experience that I really enjoy. This was the first year Kings Dominion hosted a race and I'm suspecting there may be a few changes to next year. Overall, this was a wildly-popular race selling out in 2 of 3 distances and a great story to add to my medal collection.
There is still time to register for any of the remaining 2016 Run & Ride races. Use code RUNBARBIE15 during registration to receive 15% off any distance! Also, feel free to join my team "Will Run for Beer" for Carowinds in September. I'm looking forward to seeing many of you there!