2013 Walt Disney World Wine & Dine Half Marathon Race Recap

Last week I participated in my favorite of all races, the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon in Orlando. It shines as the top race in my book, not just because it was the first half marathon I ever ran (in 2011), but also because it’s at night when most of the tourists have dived back into their beds and us runners can take over.

For this trip we stayed at the Boardwalk due to its close proximity to Epcot. For every Wine & Dine we’ve always booked close to the park (Beach Club, Swan, Boardwalk) so when the night ended, we could get home as quickly as possible without having to deal with people and buses, etc. Among all of the Epcot resorts, the Boardwalk is my favorite, with its spacious rooms and numerous amenities (I sound like a brochure). Especially the exceptional Belle Vue Lounge, complete with its vintage radios broadcasting radio shows from the 1930’s. The resort also has a special place in my heart from back my Disney days, when a group of us would hit Atlantic Dance nearly every night to dance and take in the sounds of swing bands like Swingerhead, Eight to the Bar and the Swingtips.

This trip would be our first experience with Magic Bands, which are really impressive despite my initial objections (I’m a purist and the thought of planning everything while at home seemed like cheating). It was a nearly seamless experience throughout our vacation, and I really like the FastPass+ and room key features. I highly recommend giving them a try if you get the chance. 
Definitely a good idea.
We had checked in online, so when arriving at the Boardwalk we were taken aside by a castmember with an iPad that had all of our information. Before we got started I asked the CM for a room away from the elevator, since we had run into that issue at DLR and then a month later at the Chicago Marathon. She looked down at the iPad, paused and told us to wait a second as she headed back behind the front desk. After a few brief minutes, she came back and resumed our check in, leading me to believe we may have again incurred the wrath of the elevator gods. We headed up to our floor and found our room was away from the elevator. However, our jubilation was short-lived, as upon opening our balcony door we discovered a fabulous view…..of the parking lot. What a day. I didn’t mind that much, though since we had skirted the elevator room.

After settling in, we decided to hit the expo at the Wide World of Sports. After the absolute melee from the Disneyland Half Marathon and WDW Marathon weekends, I couldn’t remember if Wine & Dine would be similar. Luckily, the place was absolutely deserted and we waited no more than 2 minutes to pick up our bibs. I had to visit Runners’ Relations to switch corrals due to a glitch and even that was empty. There was also plentiful merchandise, with hats, shirts and brick-a-brack galore. I could care less about most of the stuff since it just ends up sitting in a box somewhere with my medals, so I didn’t really buy anything except the race magnet, which we collect. It was nice to run into some Twitter friends, I hope you all did well. 
Computer glitch put me in B, yeah that's it.
Run then eat. Sounds like a plan to me!
We had dinner at Cape May at the Beach Club. If you haven’t eaten here, I highly recommend it, especially if you are a fan of eating, well, everything. It’s a buffet style restaurant that covers all the food groups. Clams, roast beef, mussels, salad, pizza, paella are just some of the tasty morsels you will find as you make the loop around the kitchen. The restaurant has recently undergone a bit of a menu enhancement. They once had ribs (which weren’t that good), but had replaced them with crab legs. Upgrade!

The next day was very low-key. With the race starting at 10p, I wanted to take it easy and be rested for the race. We mulled around the hotel a bit and took a lap around the boardwalk to ease the prerace jitters. Around 7:00, we hopped on a bus and headed out to the race start. I was especially excited for a night race to finally try out my New Balance High Vis 1400s that glow in the dark. Don’t believe me….?

This was after they were sitting in the sun for 2 hours. I think it's pretty cool.
Comfy clothes for a hot night. I probably could have done a singlet, though.
At the WWoS, basically there is a gigantic pen that holds all the runners and their friends until they open up the corrals. It’s usually quite a sight, since so many runners these days run in costumes. You can always bet to see a cast of runners dressed like Disney characters or folks donning waiter/waitress outfits. I even saw a runner in a toque. To each his own I guess. We met our friends, who we have known for a really long time. They had just taken up the sport and were running their first half marathon. I was excited to see them and inundate them with a ton of race strategy. “Don’t go out too fast, sip water don’t gulp, make eye contact with the water person, have fun, etc.” To which they replied, “We just want to finish.” They all finished and it made me happy to hear that.

Some really great friends.
I love this guy.
Race time, betches!
About 20 minutes before the race, I crammed into Corral A with 500 or so other runners (the corrals were smaller this year, kudos Disney!), and then the fireworks shot off and out we went. 

As I turned left on Osceola Drive, I settled in for the seemingly endless sea of pavement heading towards Animal Kingdom. I don’t really mind the long stretches since you kill nearly 3 miles in each direction, which is nearly half the race. Granted their isn’t much to look at, so you have to rely on watching runners and hope there are some worth viewing along the route. There was some sparse entertainment scattered about, but nothing really noticeable though.

I like the run through Animal Kingdom, as quick as it is. Since I rarely visit that park, it’s nice to hit it at night when the Tree of Life is lit up and all is quiet. I made my way through Harambe, Asia, Dinoland and backstage towards the parking lot. I was running about an 8:30 pace per mile and had yet to find a groove. Not to mention the weather was a bit warmer than I had expected, affecting my ability to speed my pace. No matter, though, I was enjoying the race.

After the trackback on Osceola Parkway and the short stint on World Drive, I headed into Disney MGM Studios (refuse to call it by the new name) through the Tower of Terror gate. I love the Studios. Not so much for the rides, but just because I spent so many years as a castmember at the Great Movie Ride and in my production role. Plus, the facades are so great. Once thing I notice that I believe was new this year were the addition of smoke and disco balls in the costuming tunnel. To say it was an unpleasant distraction is an understatement. It’s already hot and humid in there, why add disorienting disco balls and fog? Anyone else notice this? After a little more backstage running, we happened upon the Osborne Spectacle of Lights in New York Street (Streets of America) and it was glorious as always. I really miss the early days when they covered Residential Street in the lights and let everyone walk through. For those who’ve never experienced Residential St., it was a street of facades from famous television shows and movies. There were houses from the Golden Girls, Empty Nest, and the dog-shaped diner from The Rocketeer. But, I guess progress is progress and there’s no turning back.

Leaving MGM, I traversed the stretch between the Studios and the Epcot resorts. Here, I ran into Jeff Galloway, who was jamming at a pretty good clip. This must have been the fourth or fifth time I’ve run into him on the course at a Disney race. But, usually he was coasting and this time he was cranking a really good pace. I told him to finish strong to which we replied the same and then I took off for the Boardwalk, entered Epcot strong, and finished just outside the park in the Imagination lot.

The run felt good, but I just never got into a groove and it affected my time. I ended up finishing in 1:54:05, nearly 10 minutes over my PR. I finished 711th place in a field of nearly 13,000 runners, so I guess it wasn’t too terrible. This is still my favorite race and next year, I will hit my goal of 1:42:00. 
Beer &Bling
My wife finished in a pretty good time, and for the third year in a row she got sick. While waiting for her to finish, I hopped on Spaceship Earth and just kept riding until she texted me (I got through 4x around). When we met up, she looked a little peaked so we had medical take a look at her and then headed back to the hotel. Wine & Dine is the only race that affects her like this, wondering if it’s night racing.

As mentioned earlier in the report, it was good to hear all of my friends finished. As we were leaving, I saw my good friend Chad on the course and I nearly accosted him with positive reinforcement to finish strong. “Get the Hell off me, man!” he exclaimed. Sorry Chad, I was just really excited for you.

This race is nearly perfect. I know people bitch about the lack of entertainment on the course, but I don’t care about any of that. I just like running through the parks and you definitely get your money’s worth in that aspect. The one thing that is absolutely terrible is crosswalk in Future World where you move a little bit and then wait as they change the running lane. It’s in a terrible spot and ineffective, as it bunches guests in a very tight location, many of who are in wheelchairs. You should have learned that last year, Disney.

During this trip we also made a trip to the newly renovated California Grill. I will save that for tomorrow’s post.

Did you run Wine & Dine? How’d you do?
See you next year!