Well this was one for the record books…
The 2015 Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon held special promise to those runners who, like your humble narrator, ran the 2014 Wine & Dine Half to something of a disappointment. You can go check out my review, but in a nutshell it was like this: everything was going great until 10 minutes before race start, when the heavens opened up and it started to freakin’ monsoon. With temperatures in the 50s and a steady rainfall, people were just cold, wet, and exhausted by race end, and really couldn’t enjoy the evening as much as they hoped to. Many if not most people skipped out on the After Party in favor of a nice warm bed. Blerg.
And if you’ve never run the Wine & Dine Half before, it is considered by many Run Disney fans to be one of the best — if not THE best — of all of the Run Disney races. This race has simply got it all. It’s a nighttime race! It’s held in November with cooler fall temperatures! You get to run through three (count ’em, THREE) Disney theme parks! And it’s held during the Holiday season, which means lights and decorations and holiday music and everything! Plus at the end there’s an after-party at Epcot featuring all the food, booze, music, rides, and attractions you could hope for, going strong until 4 in the morning!
So this race has everything a Disney runner would ever want, doesn’t it? On paper, it most certainly does. And after the terrible weather of last year’s so called “Splash and Dash” Half Marathon, many of us looked forward to returning in 2015, to triumphantly redeem the bummer of a time we had the year before. We were there to bring Honor and Glory back to the Wine and Dine! Praise be!!
Enter Mother Nature again, whose nephew Humberto loves a good practical joke of sorts…
But even if you had a great time or a terrible time, there can be no doubt that the 2015 Wine & Dine Half Marathon will not be forgotten by any participant, anytime soon.
First off, let’s talk a bit about
Boots and I arrived at Walt Disney World on Thursday night. We were meeting our buddies Jennifer and Ann for dinner at Jiko, a fine African-inspired restaurant over in the Animal Kingdom Lodge. Afterward we checked into our room at Pop Century and crashed hard. The next day we planned to hit the Expo over at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex, but this could only come after a most enjoyable ridiculous breakfast buffet at Boma with the Mickey Milers crew:
Roll-call shout-outs to Jeff, Kat, Reese, Jennifer L, Jennifer T, Ann, Boots, Dale, Jackie, Fun-Sized Jennifer, and Bill. Also Jackie’s friend, whose name eludes me as of this typing. I’d like to say that we were well-behaved, impeccably mature, and reasonably poised for such a respected group of adults as we were. *SCHNORGLES* Let’s just say that I’m glad Jennifer’s children were at the far end of the table. And that there’s also a reason they don’t let Floridians sit together at Disney restaurants anymore.
Afterward we motored over to ESPN Wide World Of Sports to pick up our registration materials. Boots and I were both picking up our bibs for Mickey’s Jingle Jungle 5K, while I was also grabbing my Wine & Dine Half race packet. The pickup was the same as it ever was: bib pickup in the Field House, shirt/swag bag pickup in the Josten’s Center (which also housed the vendor expo, guest speakers, and so forth). One major difference this year was that those who had pre-ordered commemorative items like pins and necklaces did not receive them with their bibs; instead they had to wait in an extra line to retrieve them. By the time we arrived late Friday morning, the wait was nearly an hour long. I don’t know why they decided to separate these two pickup events, but I don’t think it was the wisest of ideas. I decided to blow off the pin pickup line, go pick up my shirt and swag, and return in about an hour. It was a smart move. By then it only took just over five minutes from soup to nuts.The 5K race shirt was a red cotton Christmas shirt, and not gross at all! The Half Marathon one was a dark navy blue, long-sleeved tech shirt, with a really tastefully designed Wine & Dine logo. Ann noticed that they didn’t have the three theme park logos on the sleeve, which was a bit of a bummer. I always kind of liked that addition. Anyway, the vendor expo was the usual vendor expo. It had pretty much anything and everything race related that you could want or need, from shoes to clothes to accessories and electronics. We spent some time looking around, bumping to Jeff Galloway and Rudy Novotny along the way, but other than picking up some GU gels there wasn’t much there that I really needed or wanted. After leaving the Expo, Boots, Ann, and I trekked on over to the Magic Kingdom. Boots wanted to find a duck bill for her Daisy costume, while Ann had some choice FastPasses that she wanted to utilize. Me, I just enjoyed some corn dog nuggets and soaked up the atmosphere. But as much as I’d love to engage in an overall Disney Trip Report, it lies outside the scope of this race recap, so let’s just fast-forward over 24 hours so we can go straight into our…
Here we are, late afternoon/early evening on Saturday, November 7th, 2015. Most of us had run/walked/stumbled through Mickey’s Jingle Jungle 5K that morning (review forthcoming) to much fun, had a big celebratory brunch at Kona, and returned to our respective resorts to rest, relax, maybe nap for a bit (I got all of 15 minutes). Boots, Jennifer, Ann, and I hit the Pop Century food court for dinner, where I engaged in an entirely reasonable pot roast dinner. Nothing to heavy, nothing with a ton of fiber, nothing too greasy or spicy. I even grabbed dessert because, hey, I was running a Half Marathon right? HAH!
Afterward it was back to the room and changing time. Running Buddy Kristi had also arrived that evening, and we planned to drive over to Epcot together (all runners had to arrive at Epcot to take a shuttle over to the Race Start area at ESPN WWoS). Originally Kristi and I had planned to dress up as the Alligator and Hippo dancers from Fantasia, but it was just way, WAY too hot for that kind of nonsense. The weather forecast promised a very hot, humid, possibly wet and steamy evening, and there was just no way in God’s Green Grass and High Tides that I was gonna put on that much extra clothing. I called an audible and pulled out my backup attire, which was just compression shorts and a yellow tech shirt (the Dumbo Double Dare race shirt from the 2015 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend), pinned on my bib, grabbed my GUs and electrolyte pills, and I was good to go.
We arrived at Epcot at just before 7:30, were parked, and on our way to the buses when I noticed a trio of women deep in costume: Princesses who had been woken up from their beauty sleep and were none too pleased about it. I didn’t even recognize them as our buddies Gail and Kimberly from Run All The Races, who not only bring their absolute A-Game to every Disney race when it comes to costuming, they utterly wreck the grade curve for the rest of us shlubs! After chatting for a bit in the bus line, I asked to grab a pic of them (with their buddy Rebecca), to which they immediately jumped into character, as you can see here:
Yes those are Starbucks red cups. For those of you reading this blog in the far future, red Starbucks cups were “a thing” in the late fall of 2015. Kerfuffle doesn’t even begin to describe it…
Anyway on the bus and off we went to Wide World of Sports. It was hot in that tin can and the bumper-to-bumper traffic made it a long, slow haul to get there. But we indeed got there in time to make it through Security (they were checking any and all bags) and into the Staging Area. Here there was plenty to be found: concessions, character interactions, photo ops, water, dancing and stage entertainment, and of course Bag Check. Krist and I had stuffed our check-in bags with a change of clothes, towels, deodorant (thank Jebus), handi-wipes, and of course my new glasses. We’d need those for the after-party.
We then met up with the Mickey Milers for a team pic:
And then a whole bunch of random selfies and photos and what-nots:And for no reason at all I decided to start dancing like some kind of jackball having a seizure: The weather was still very warm and a little more humid than before, but there was also a wind beginning to pick up. A cool wind, actually. And then suddenly the temperature nose dived a good 7 degrees or so. Any and every Floridian knows what that means: HEAVY RAIN IS IMMINENT. But while a few drops fell from the sky, there wasn’t much of a steady rainfall going down. That didn’t stop this quizzical group of women to decide to pack it in and commit to group suffocation: I walked over to the Main Stage to grab a pic of our race announcers Rudy and Carissa, but strangely enough by the time I got there they took off in a mad hurry: This was odd… and odder still when the inevitable occurred. Lightning had been spotted and a thunderstorm was heading our way. A voice over the PA came on the line to announce that the race was being delayed, which was then followed by an emergency announcement that everyone was being evacuated to the Field House or Champions Stadium for their own safety. You don’t mess around with lightning. Don’t tug on its cape. Don’t pull the mask off. Just git runnin’!
No panic ensued. Everyone began to exit the Staging Area in an orderly fashion as we slowly made our way into the Wide World of Sports Complex. Our group was herded into the Field House, and we were the lucky ones. I heard that those who had been shepherded into the Stadium were forced to stand for nearly 45 minutes, shoulder to shoulder, with no resources available like bathrooms, water fountains, or vending machines. Yikes. Over in the Field House, we had plenty of seats, room to stretch, bathrooms, water fountains, soda, whatever was needed. A big group of Milers were able to secure a bunch of seats in section 206 and we waited it out there.I put our chances of having the race canceled from underneath us to be around 84%, and rising. Even if a thunderstorm hit hard and exited quickly, there still might be slippery streets, debris, overturned hydration stations with lost supplies, etc. We heard from friends who were volunteering that they had to abandon their stations until they received an all-clear sign. People were confused and rumors were flying around madly, but I think most people were handling it very well. Time to make the best of a bad situation. As far as I was concerned, while I still wanted to run the race, I would have been equally content with going straight to the after-party, or at least to a resort lounge on Disney property somewhere for a stiff drink and some appetizers. Eventually I got super bored and started recording an audio log of my non-activity, as if I were relaying our final messages that would someday be heard after future explorers discovered our corpses. One of the very respectable co-hosts of The Mickey Miles Podcast asked me if I was”going to science the s***out of this”. Michelle’s a scientist, so she’s allowed to say that. Me, I’m doing my best to use my inside voice.
Overall we waited probably just over an hour until it was announced that the inclement weather had passed and we were being returned to the Staging Area. Huzzah! We shuffled our way out of the Field House and back towards the corral. Krist and I stopped to grab some water and hit the portos before hitting corral D. Everyone was talking about how the race was going to be significantly shortened, but by how much? No one knew anything. But we got to our corral and waited patiently. An announcement was made that the race was definitely on, but that it was to be shortened by about 6 miles. There was some moaning and groaning by many, but I honestly didn’t care. It just got me that much quicker to the Finish Line and After-Party. Meanwhile, I did some quick mental calculations in my head and realized that taking 6 miles off the course probably meant we weren’t running through Animal Kingdom at all, that we’d probably be turning directly off of Osceola onto World Drive right out of the gate.
This later turned out to be exactly the case. Man I’m good! Actually, I’m not that good. This is pretty much what everybody was saying.
Anyway here are some corral pics:Along with the requisite, man-aren’t-we-sick-of-this-yet selfie: Finally we had a spirited rendition of the National Anthem, and the race started just before 11 PM, starting with the wheelchair athletes (and a couple of elites who were way too eager to jump the gun and were duly admonished for it) and followed soon after by Corral A. We in Corral D started right around the 11:10 PM mark — probably an hour later than we originally planned, but that’s OK. I clicked my Garmin on as I hit the Start Line and with that we were duly on our way with…
THE 2015 WINE & DINE QUARTER MARATHON!
Yes, Quarter Marathon. About a half mile longer than a 10K, but it brought us to cold beer that much faster. Deal.
Here was the revised course, courtesy of Google Maps and my well-trusted Garmin 920XT watch:
The course took us north out of the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex, turning left onto the Osceola Parkway. Just past the 1-mile mark, we turned north on World Drive and ran up to Buena Vista Drive, turning to the East and looping into the entrance of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. We wound our way through the Studios for about 2 miles, exiting onto a roughly 1.5 mile walkway that connects the Studios to Epcot through the Crescent Lake resort area. The last 0.7 miles took us backstage behind Epcot, emerging into Epcot through the Imagination Pavilion, through Future World, and exiting into the Epcot parking lot where we found the Finish Line.It was a very easy, very spirited, and very energetic run for me. Freed from the expectations of having to run any kind of “competitive race”, Kristi and I simply ran for fun and silliness. The race was later measured at 6.72 miles, which barely rates more than a short training run. I found the weather to be very warm but, for me, very comfortable and easygoing: 72 degrees, with 94% humidity at the start. Steamy to be sure, but acceptable. This didn’t stop the race from issuing a Red Flag weather warning, indicating that it was going to be an unseasonably HOT race — there went our cool winter wonderland — and from what I’ve heard, they were debating up until race time (before the lightning evac) whether or not to Black Flag the race (turning off the clocks, possibly even cancelling it outright) simply because of the heat.
The way I viewed it, I was just making my way to a cold, cold beer. On foot. At night. For nearly 7 miles. Very do-able. With this attitude, while I didn’t want to actually stop for photo ops, I decided to snap pics of all the available characters I could find. In order, we had The Country Bears:
Lilo & Stitch:
Buzz & Woody:
and The Incredibles:
I saw a few others, like the Green Army Men, Neon Glow Fairies, Little Mermaid characters as puppets, and others, but this should give you a general idea of what could be found out on the course.
Of course, easily the main highlight of the race simply had to be:
This annual tradition of Christmas lights, music, and celebration on New York Street in Disney’s Hollywood Studios is going away. This year (2015) is its final presentation at Disney, so seeing it was an absolute must this time around (I saw it last year during the race, but it was so cold and rainy I just skipped right by it). It didn’t disappoint. You could see people grinding to a halt to take pictures, gazing in wide-eyed amazement, and taking in every moment of it. Kristi and I stopped and did all of that. I think that mile took us about 20 minutes and change as a result. Well, it wasn’t like we were running for time anyhow, so we took advantage of the opportunity.
Here are some highlights:
After leaving Hollywood Studios, there was nothing left but a quick trip down the walkway linking the Studios to Epcot via the Crescent Lake resort area (Swan & Dolphin, Boardwalk, Yacht Club, Beach Club). I was in entirely loopy spirits by then, enjoying the ridiculousness of it all. Embarrassing Kristi to no end, I started talking loudly like Paul Lynde, at one point actually singing ‘The French Mistake’ from the classic Mel Brooks flick Blazing Saddles.
A woman running next to me laughed loudly and complimented me on my sass. I think Kristi wanted to jump into the lake. You can’t take me anywhere.
But never mind all that, because right around the Yacht Club was when I bumped into this Sasstacular Lady right here:Yes yes, I finally got a chance to meet up with my buddy Krissy from Shiawase Life. We’ve been online pals for awhile now but hadn’t met face-to-face until I saw her cheering on the sidelines. I ran over for a quick sweaty hug (sorry about that K) and some brief, excited small talk before I had to make a gracious exit. I probably came off a bit too fanboyish. So be it. Krissy is a month and change from giving birth so she can be excused for not wanting to jump in and run those last 0.7 miles with me in a measure of cross-bloggometric synergy. Is bloggometric a word? It is now…
From there, it was just a straight shot to the Finish Line. The course curved behind the International Gateway and backstage behind Epcot, emerging next to the Imagination Pavilion. I spotted my friend Tracie holding up a sign cheering by Spaceship Earth. She yelled out “TWO BIRDS!!!” as I passed. I yelled out “TRACIE!!!” in response. Why Two Birds? Because giving a deserving schmuck only one middle finger just doesn’t get the point across.
The laser tunnel to the Finish Line wasn’t there this year. There wasn’t a gospel choir by the Finish either, but I think that’s standard. Either way, Kristi and I crossed the Finish Line (I didn’t get a name shout-out, but Kristi did) and didn’t even take notice of the time. We had way too many stops and a huge delay by taking time to enjoy the Osborne Lights. It was worth it. Easily.
After grabbing our medals, Powerade, and snack box, we went to our respective Changing Tents, filled to capacity with hot, sweaty, stinky naked people, because that’s exactly what you need after a run. Nonetheless, we knew we were heading for awesomeness because we were right about to enter the Booze Line:
Sadly unlike last year, when I enjoyed a frosty Yuengling, the only beer they had was the usual craptacular Michelob Ultra. I drank it anyhow. Heck, I drank two. Can’t we get Funky Buddha to sponsor races or something?Afterward it was After-Party time, which meant hot delicious food, frosty cold beers (Beer Flight #2 at the Craft Beer stop, thank you very much), hanging out with great friends until the wee hours, even a 4:15 AM trip to McDonalds because why not, and a massive coma crash session upon returning to our room at Pop Century. I think we needed it. I probably got about 4 1/2 hours of sleep over the past two nights. Pixie Dust my ass, I needed Morpheus’s dream sand. Boy did I get it.
So overall, what’s the verdict? On paper, it’s easy to call the 2015 Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon a bust, since it was really only a quarter-marathon at best, and we didn’t get the “whole Wine & Dine experience” we signed up for. If you’re keeping track, this makes me 0 for 2, two years in a row, for this race. So I have yet to really get to really know and experience everything the Wine and Dine Half Marathon has to offer. On the OTHER hand… I had an amazing time, despite the setbacks, delays, confusion, and modifications. For better or worse, this was certainly a unique event for me; in nearly five years of running and four years of racing, having an event evacuate runners, delay, and finally shorten a Half Marathon is a first. But you make the best out of a bad situation and enjoy it. I certainly feel for those who planned this to be their first Half; that had to be a bit disappointing. But I’d rather have a disappointing Quarter Marathon than a permanent orange afro from a lightning strike. Or would I? Hmmm… ponder that one for a while. And here’s the video from the absolutely inimitable Tony Joe White: