runDisney Tinker Bell Half Marathon Review

This was our final race in our quest to run all of the Disney Race Series in a year.  It was a little bittersweet to step off on what could be our last Disneyland race for a while.  The Tinker Bell Half Marathon never sold out.  It was surprising to have only 6 corrals for the Half Marathon!

Security was still a nightmare.  There were still only two Security Cast Members wanding runners at the entrance closest to Katella Ave.  We opted to go around that, walk all the way past Earl of Sandwich and enter Downtown Disney by the Disneyland Hotel.  Security was only checking bags at that point and since we had none, we were waved through.  The backup at security was severe enough to delay the race start by over 10 minutes!

As for the course, it stayed true to a Disneyland Half Marathon.  There was ample park time in the beginning and then you ran around the streets of Anaheim. We felt like there was a strong Anaheim Police presence for this race to block off side streets and maintain safety.  The downside was the serious lack of on course entertainment.  There was only one Marching Band, no Cheerleading or Dance Groups, and no Red Had Society Ladies.

The highlight of Tinker Bell Half Marathon is the time of year and weather.  It is easy for us, and many families to travel in May because there are not a lot of other obligations.  If we do go back for a Disneyland race in 2018, it will likely be Tinker Bell Half Marathon because it doesn’t conflict with any of our other planned races!

runDisney Tinker Bell 10K Review

Our Lost Boys costumes were perfect for this race, since it ended up being the Lost Boys 10K!  We ran this race with Katie’s parents.  Spectators loved our costumes!  They even shipped over the Festival of Fantasy Lost Boy costumes to Disneyland for photo ops during the race!

Our first challenge was getting to the race.  We typically leave our hotel room one hour prior to race start to have plenty of time to walk over, go through security, and find our corral.  The entrance for security closest to Katella Ave had hundreds of people funneled into a tiny path with two Security Guards wanding everyone.  This process took at least 20 minutes for us to go through.  After security, race staff directed us straight to our Corral and never visiting the pre-race area with the DJ.

The course for the actual 10K was different than normal, but still had plenty of in-park time.  Our only complaint was that it seemed really confusing to weave in and out of the park so many times, but Katie’s parents (who had nothing to compare it to) loved the course!  Even though the 5K had no character stops, there were opportunities to take photos on the course.  Aside from the Lost Boys selfie stops, there was Pirate Donald and Chip & Dale, and Captain Hook and Smee.  Wendy and Peter Pan also made an appearance as a hybrid Selfie Stop/Character Stop.

We were a little nervous going into this race that there would be challenges.  Disney recently switched from Volunteers for water stops, gear check, and the expo to Temporary Hires. They were all still extremely motivating and had water ready!  The shirt and medal were both fantastic, especially since the characters we ran as were featured!  Overall, we had a great time and are actually considering making the trek to California again for 2018.

Orlando Lung Force 5K Review

This weekend we participated in the Lung Force 5K at Baldwin Park.  For us, this was a no-brainer because Katie actually suffers from chronic asthma.  We made a team with us and Katie’s parents back in October and received lots of awesome communication up until race day.

We originally thought this would be a low-key Run & Walk for charity.  It was shocking when we learned this was actually a chipped race.  Before the race started they had volunteers with signs for self seeded corrals based on time.  The volunteers provided ample space for runners pacing a 6 Minute Mile and left everyone after a 10 Minute Mile scrunched together.  To add to the confusion, there was no Walker division so somewhere around an 8 Minute Mile were families in jeans holding Starbucks Cups.

The course itself was a standard loop around Lake Baldwin with a little neighborhood time in the beginning.  The race touted two water stops, but the first one wasn’t set up until about 25 minutes into the race.  Luckily, we had a freak cold front, but this left runners disappointed.  Volunteers quickly handed us a sweat towel at the finish line.

Katie’s mom placed 2nd in her age division so we stuck around for awards.  There were plenty of vendors at the expo, so that made the time pass by quickly.  We got lots of nice swag like water bottles, back packs, and pens.  The award ceremony moved very slowly and only 1st place in each Age Division got an award.  That was a little disappointing because typically races give Top 3 Finishers a medal.

For us to do this race again next year, they will have to fix their identity crisis.  Are they a Walker Friendly race with no medals and no strict rules or are they a certified chipped race with the focus on elite runners?  Either they focus on the running and give everyone medals, ban strollers, and have better corral areas or they encourage walking and give up awards completely.

 

runDisney Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon Review

This race is very special to both of us.  The inaugural Dark Side Half Marathon was Katie’s first and Spencer loves Star Wars.  The big changes for this year were the course and the corrals.  They made no change to the character stops and only lessened the on course entertainment.  The thing that remained constant was the heat!

The course remained a point to point race, but the starting point changed to the Magic Kingdom Parking Lot (TTC) and ended at EPCOT.  Runners parked at EPCOT and bused over to the start line.  The course ran on roads for the first major portion of the race and then entered Animal Kingdom.  This is always a great part of the course and has nice Photo Pass opportunities.  We then traveled again on the road into Hollywood Studios and through the Boardwalk into EPCOT.

We enjoyed the course and thought it had an ample amount of in-park running.  There were some challenges like how dark the first 5K portion was.  The first water stop around Mile 2 was in total darkness and the volunteers were struggling to poor drinks.  This caused most of the runners to stop and hunt for water and cross back and forth across the path.  We hope Disney addresses this major safety issue.

Another major change was the Corral structure.  There were only 7 Corrals, with the last 2 being saved for runners with no Proof of Time.  Because of this, the bottom two Corrals were massive with hundreds more runners than usual.  We started in Corral F and stayed near the front of the gate as usual.  We chose to wait near the left side and they opened two small gates on the right side to let all of us attempt to get through.  Each corral was then sectioned off into smaller waves, which we like the idea of.  The issue was our friend who was in the back of Corral F was two waves in front of us because of how they opened a tiny gate.

The goal of this new system was to alleviate congestion on the course.  Did it help? Absolutely not!!  First, the congestion in the Corral was stressful and hard to move in.  That set the tone for the rest of the race.  As a result, we were surrounded by people the the entire time on the course until the last half mile through Future World in EPCOT.  This meant if we wanted to run we had to weave through throngs of people and waste tons of energy to move forward a few tenths of a mile.

After as many Disney races as we have done, we have never felt defeated during a race.  There were portions where we gave up and walked for long distances because there was no where to go.  We are hoping that moving forward, runDisney learns from their mistakes and organizes the corrals a little better.  It looks like they are trying the same system for Tinker Bell Weekend so we will be updating you shortly on how that goes!

runDisney Star Wars Dark Side 10K Review

We were so excited to return for the Second runDisney Star Wars Dark Side Challenge.  This year they updated the course to start at the Magic Kingdom Parking Lot (TTC) and finish at EPCOT!  Last year was a point to point race as well, but thank goodness the bus transportation was at the beginning.  Last year, there was a huge fiasco with runners having to take the bus AFTER they ran!  Living locally, it did mean we had to park at EPCOT and wait for a bus to take us to the start line.  Our only complaint with that was having to wake up earlier and spending a much longer time waiting in the corral.

We found these amazing Football jerseys and though they would be perfect for a Dark Side theme!  The crowd loved them and they were easy to run in.  A great tip is looking for Sports materiel to wear in a run, its already breathable!  We added some eye black to make the outfit pop (and hopefully help with the sun)!

It was a nice course that was about half out of park and then half in the park and resort area.  We ran into Hollywood Studios and EPCOT.  We enjoyed being able to run in two parks.  The big downside of the course is the narrow pathways between Hollywood Studios and EPCOT.  It is almost impossible to run through there because everyone slows down and bunches together.

Our only other complaint was how dark the course was in the beginning.  There were a few times where bright lights were shining at us, which made it harder to see the people around us and the ground.  Safety is a high priority for Disney and I hope they make this change in the future.  Next year, Spencer will run both races for the Dark Side Challenge and Katie plans on completing the Half Marathon.

Pig Run of Lake Nona 5K Review

This is our second year running the Pig Run of Lake Nona 5K!  It is a great race with a lot of participation that sells out quickly.  The unique part of the race is halfway through, you have to stop in the “Pig Pen” and eat donuts!  We loved themed races and especially ones for a great cause.  This is a must-do for anyone in the Central Florida Area.

The course is paved trail running and blocked off streets.  It starts out extremely congested, but opens as soon as everyone makes it to the road.  This is strictly a fun run and has no chip timing.  The course is three big loops that don’t overlap so it has nice variety.  There are also tons of residents in the neighborhood out on their front lawns cheering!

Every year they change up their donut challenges.  Last year, Spencer competed in the “Hog” division and ate a dozen donuts!  This year he did the “Surprised Swine” and ate 6 different flavors of donuts.  He recommends this level to runners because it was enough to be a challenge without feeling sick at the end.  Katie maintains her two year streak of eating just one donut.

The race comes with a nice tech shirt and a fantastic huge sparkly medal!  Before the race, there is an expo with lots of great vendors and giveaways.  Our only complaint is parking, which is far away from the actual event.  This is largely out of the Race Directors hands and they do a great job communicating to runners ahead of time.  This race is on our list for next year for sure!

If you’re wondering why most of our photos have the border, it’s because we actually made a custom Snapchat Geo-Filter! Spencer is super tech-savvy! It was available for everyone at the race to use it, so let us know if you see it on social media anywhere and we’ll give you a shout-out!

Storm the Campus UCF 10 Miler Review

The University of Central Florida boasts some unique views and a great 10 miler course!  Ten miles is a great distance!  UCF’s circular shape led to confusing paths and intersecting with other runners often.  The mile markers ended up being very confusing, with some up to a quarter mile off or missing completely.  In the end, the finish line was perfectly accurate at 10.0 miles according to our watches.

We were lucky to have a beautiful morning in April and the first half of the race was pure bliss with cool breezes. As expected, the sun was in our eyes for the second half of the course.  Water was available every mile after Mile 4.  Volunteers were helpful with filling water bottles and pointing runners in the right direction.

The course had a variety of terrain with bricks,sidewalk, and road running.  Unfortunately, not all of the roads were closed. Hopefully next year the race director can cone off half of the two-lane roads for runners.

Post race refreshments were the best part of this race.  There were small smoothies, full bottles of lemonade, and pickle juice.  For food, we could have Domino’s Pizza, Jimmy John’s Subs, and two different Protein Bars.  We took full advantage of all the food! Spencer even won a Corkcicle insulated bottle from the raffle! They had several raffle prizes that all runners were entered in, including a couple of Fit2Run Gift Cards.

The price point for this race was high for us, with the lowest rate at $60. We were disappointed to see the shirt was 100% cotton and it immediately went into the back of the closet.  The giant medal was a great touch!  We really appreciated the large Florida shape too!  Overall, we would consider this race next year if it lined up with our training schedule. It isn’t a must-do for us with all the confusion in the beginning and no tech shirt.

Riverside Dash 5K & 15K Review

Downtown Sanford is the perfect background for a Spring 5K and 15K race in Central Florida.  The Riverside Dash is one of the very few 15k races in Central Florida that has continued year after year, and we can see why!  We chose to participate in the 5K length, because we have a 10 Miler and a Half Marathon later this month. We enjoyed an early start to stay cool.  The 15K began at 7AM with the 5K just 10 minutes later.  We took advantage of the early packet pickup on Friday and Saturday so we could sleep in a little later.

The course is flat with beautiful scenery of the lake and well managed with Police Officers and volunteers.  Some of the course doubles up in the beginning and the end (think of a giant letter P).  We ran about about of third of the course on well maintained bricks.

The best part of this race was the after party.  There were at least a dozen vendors in the expo area, a PR bell, and a great race announcer.  Every runner also got fresh pancakes and beer!  We took advantage of the free food, for sure.

 

Runners also got buttery-soft tech shirts at packet pickup.  We like that the men’s and women’s cuts had different colors, so we can tell them apart in the closet! A great perk was the bibs and race info coming in a drawstring bag!  We like to use these for Gear Check at other races. Overall, definitely one of the best swag grabs we’ve had at a local race!

Overall, our only complaint was that we didn’t do the 15K!  We love a good distance race and the 15k course had more water views and ran all the way up to the Central Florida Zoo.  We are adding the 15K to our Must-Do List for next year!

So cool! They had a custom Snapchat geo-filter just for the race!

Excalibur 10 Miler Review

 

Excalibur 10 Miler On CourseFor the second year in a row, we have raced in the Excalibur 10 Miler in Viera, Florida.  This is just over an hour from Disney property.  We choose to drive over for this one because there are not many hotels close enough to the race for it to be worth it for the night.  We are running in the Game of Stones series.  Next year, we will receive a Golden Crown. The following year, we will get a Chalice!

This race offers the full 10 miles, a 5 mile partner relay, and a 2 mile dash.  Due to its unique distance, we participate in the 10 miler.  The course is mostly a giant circle with only one short there and back between mile 8 and 9.  The downside is a large dirt/sand path from mile 3.5 to 5.5.  That means the first relay partner does most of the “dirty work”.

Water stops are every even mile marker with Gatorade. Mile 6 has fuel provided as well.  There are plenty of port-o-potties at the stops as well, with short lines that move pretty quickly.  Volunteers wear some pretty neat medieval costumes!

This race boasts a lot of amenities.  After the race their is a “feast” with pizza and dragon soup.  We’ve never experienced it because by the time we finish, the lines are too long.  There is a McDonald’s down the road that we stop at before the long drive home!  There are also free race photos for the event.  You have to manually sort through thousands of race photos and the photos cut off before we reached each of the photo stops.  Looking at our results, that means 10-15% of runners also didn’t get their promised photos. Update: After communicating via Facebook with the Race Director more photos were added.  Lucky for us, we were one of the last 5 photos taken at the finish line.  This means 200 runners were left without finish line photos.

For us, we are committed to the challenge of this race and will complete it for two more years.  After that, we will move on to another challenge and leave this one to focus more on their amenities.

 

Best Damn Race Orlando Review

This was our second year running the Best Damn Race – Orlando.  In 2016, we ran the 5K distance and were extremely jealous of the runners with 3 medals.  This year we were able to run the 10K+5K Challenge for $30.  Best Damn Race uses a tiered pricing system to open races starting at $1.  The prices goes up with the quantity of runners, not by date.

This race series starts with the 10K start, shortly after that the Half Marathon runners leave, and later in the morning the 5K begins.  There is plenty of time between the 10K and the 5K so you would need to maintain a 16 minute mile to be safe, but could extend over that time to make the 5K.  It is a unique challenge to do two races in one day.

10k Medal!

During the 10K, Katie had an injury shortly after mile 1 and we had to walk through mile 2 to recover.  We looked for options to pull from the course, and found nothing.  We were walking and maintaining well under a 16 minute mile when the “sweeper” police car arrived.  This car loudly told us we needed to get on the sidewalk for over a mile and a half.  The crowd had not thinned out and many runners were using intervals and we were all pushing around each other on the sidewalk.

It doesn’t matter if you are an elite runner, first timer, walker, or using a baby jogger, we want you to have the best DAMN race experience.

Falling to the back of the pack made us quickly realize that this race focuses on elite runners, fast runners, and does not care about walkers or slow interval runners.  We switched back to intervals and finished the 10K in under a 15 minute mile overall. Even with a strong finish, it didn’t feel great at this race.  We would not recommend this race to new runners.

Katie’s parents joined us to start the 5K.  We had plenty of time to refill our water bottles, put our medals in our pockets, and hear the national anthem again.  Over 75% of the 5K course mirrored the end of the 10K course.  We were just excited to be on the shortest portion of our journey.

5k Medal!

Course support was still strong during the 5K, with the exception of water stops running out of Nuun.  As big supporters of that product, we were excited to have it on the course.  With over 9 miles of running, we only had two cups of it.  For the 5K distance, we took it very slow and just focused on finishing injury free.

At the end of the course, you stop by the registration tent for your challenge medal. Our first stop was the athlete food tent.  Last year we had a variety of options with Hungry Howies Pizza and Pollo Tropical chicken and rice.  This year we had cold pizza, small brownies, and guava bars.

We pride ourselves on spoiling our athletes. Every race entry includes: race shirt, finisher medal, bib, goodie bag, free food, free beer, free massage (based on volunteers availability at expo).

We left with our nice tech shirts, three finisher medals, a great bib, and a nice goodie bag.  We did not leave with full stomachs, alcohol (lines were outrageous), or a massage.  Compared to last year, we were disappointed.  Next year, we will leave this as a backup option.  If we were to return, it would be only for the 10K.  The earlier race provides easier parking, less traffic to leave, and less lines at the beer tent!