Monday, October 4, 2010

Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon


Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon

This is the inaugural year for the Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon.  This is a unique race because it is held at night and it takes you through Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Epcot.  After the run you get free tickets into the Disney Wine and Dine Festival.

The Disney Wine and Dine Festival is held at the Epcot theme park and offers tapas-sized appetizers, wine and beer from around the world.  There are 27 different food stations with each representing different nations (Argentina, Australia, Chile, Poland, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, U.S.A, Belgium, South Korea, etc).  There is also live entertainment at the event.

Half Fanatic #394 (and one hot dude)

My Race Results
The day before the race a swam 2000m and biked 40mi so I was doing this more as a training run than a race.  I ran strong and never took a walk break.  I did great controlling my heart rate and breathing so the race felt wonderful and I completed it without much effort.  I ran a 9:50 pace with a chip time of 2:08:59.  The race had many small hills and a monstrous crowd. This was my first half marathon of the season.

Click to enlarge

Race Review (Race Grade: C+ and Wine and Dine Party grade: D)
Everyone raves about the Disney running events so I got suckered into signing up for this race.  At face value it looked to be an awesome event and loads of fun.  In my opinion it was not worth all the hype. 

Bonnie and I planned our day around this event.  The race started at 10 PM at night and was followed by the food party so planning your meals for the day can be tricky.  We did not eat much of a lunch or dinner because we were planning to eat a lot of the great food at the after run party.

Only part of the crowd

You had to be at the race early because the required shuttles only ran from 6pm to 8pm.  The race also had over 11,000 participants so you needed to be early to avoid the long wait times.  This meant that you had to sit around and wait 2 to 4 hours before the race started (10 PM).  Disney tried to make this go quicker by providing a DJ that played the usual songs “Electric Slide”, “I Got a Feeling”, etc. 

In addition to the DJ they had ONE vendor cart selling drinks and one water area for 11,000 people.   People ended up raiding the first aid tent for their water.  Not great planning on Disney’s part.

After waiting around for 3.5 hours we lined up for the start of the race and waited for another 45 minutes.  Then the race started for the wheelchair riders who got a very boring start.  All they got was a quick count down while the regular race start got fireworks.  I understand there are not many wheelchair racers but they should get at least someone lighting off sparklers for their race start.  This always kind of annoys me and I am sure it annoys the wheelchair runners.  They should get a proper start also.

There were four corrals and I have a feeling a lot of people lied about their finish times because there were a TON of people in the A corral that could not even run a mile without running out of breath and walking.  It took about 2-3 miles to get around all the people who obviously did not belong in the A corral. 

Osborne Spectacle of Lights

Once I got past the mob I was able to stop weaving and get a nice steady race pace.  Along the run you got to see some Disney characters (Minnie, Mickey Mouse, Russell and Dug (from Pixar’s Up), Pluto, Darth Vader and my personal favorite the plastic green army man who encouraged you to take the hill).  In Animal Kingdom you got to see some of the big animal puppets.  There were also about 4 bands that played ethic music.  The coolest part was running through the Osborne Spectacle of Lights in Hollywood Studios.  It was like being a kid again.  All the buildings were covered in Christmas lights.  It was really pretty.

Most of the race course was kind of boring.  They advertise this race as running through the parks.  Technically you do this but the majority of the run was on the dark narrow roads and the employee areas of Disney.  Very little of the race is actually in the nice parts of the park.  Most of the run is in the behind the scenes area (i.e. the employee parking lot, trash area, costume changing area, etc). The first half of the race is the Expedition Everest race which is a pretty darn boring route that often smelled like rhino poop.  Then you ran through Hollywood Studios which was boring except for the really cool Osborne Spectacle of Lights.

Lastly you ran through Epcot which did not seem like much of anything to me.
It seemed like this race drew many very amateur runners who had not trained to run a half marathon.  At the end of the race many people had to go to the hospital tent.  People were throwing up, heat exhausted (the temperature was a nice 70 degrees) or had to have their legs seriously iced down.

After the race is where Disney really missed the mark.  To begin with, the bag pickup was a chaotic mess.  It was not well organized and the poor volunteers had to hunt to find your bag.  Many bags were lost or in the wrong section so it was a long and drawn out process.  The worst part is it was done in a very small room that was hot and crowded.

Disney also only gave you ONE water when you were done with the race.  At the end of the race all waters were about $3 and Poweraids were $6.  Ouch!!

Most people did not get to the Wine and Dine Festival till around 1-2 am.  The festival was set to close at 3 am.  So you had about 1 -2 hours to eat and drink. The festival was a crowded mob scene. There were the 11,000 runners, their family & friends and the normal tourist crowd.  Each country had ONE small 15 x 15 ft food tent and there were only 22 tents to feed all these people.  Every line was about a 20 – 40 minute wait.  With only about 1 -2 hours to eat you clearly were not going to be able to sample much food or beverages.
Disney provided each runner with one drink voucher and one appetizer voucher.  These vouchers look like all the other thousand coupons/flyers in the race packet.  Because of this many people did not bring them to the race (including me).  In races previously the coupons were attached to your race bracelet or running bib.  I have a feeling that was too convenient and Disney would make more money if they made the coupons less obvious.

Polish Kielbasa and Potato Pierogie with Caramelized Onions and Sour Cream
I was not impressed with the tapas I received.  I had the Polish Kielbasa and Potato Pierogie with Caramelized Onions and Sour Cream.   I also had the Argentina Roasted Corn and Cheese Empanada and the Grilled Beef Skewer with Chimichurri Sauce and Boniato Purée. The tapas were good but were small and tasted average.  I am a beer snob so I was not impressed with all the beer selections.  But for your average Miller Lite drinker it was a great selection.  The menu can be found here (see the Marketplaces & Promenade section):

Grilled Beef Skewer with Chimichurri Sauce and Boniato Purée

Roasted Corn and Cheese Empanada
The food and drinks were small and expensive.  Example: the kielbasa and potato pierogie was about $6 and it only included one pierogie and about 2 inches of kiebasa.  Power-aid was $6, waters $3 beer and wine I assume were $6 or more.

Many people brought Disney’s small and convenient credit card system so they would not have to carry their credit card while running.  It was a nice system if it worked.  It was failing at many cash registers leaving many people upset.

Bonnie and I left the event at about 3 am and got to bed around 4:30 am.  The whole rest of Sunday was shot because of the lack of sleep.  Disney really needs to move the start time of the race down to maybe 7 pm.  That would give the parks some time to clear out and for the participants to enjoy the festive more (and not to mention spend more money).

Overall it was a fun race but I would not do it again.  The race:
1.    Costs too much at $135
2.    Was too crowded
3.    Started and ended too late in the night
4.    The festival part was too crowded
5.    The food lines were really long.  This would not be a problem if the race started earlier because you
would have more time to wait in the lines
6.    There was not enough time left after the run to enjoy the festival

Well, another race in the books (not the record books).

The medal was cool. SOURCE

Please, leave me a comment and let me know what you thought of the race.


  1. I wondered how this race would be. I have to say I've just never had the desire to run a Disney race. I feel they are just way too overpriced and after spectating the Disney Marathon in January and really looking at the course, I was incredibly underwhelmed. Great job keeping on pace and great recap. I hope it helps others decide if they really want to put down the cash or not. I'm sure Disney realizes they have a lot of work to do to make next year better, your race recap will help when they use their listening tools to put together feedback. Congrats on the first Half of the season!

  2. What a bummer! When I first started reading your post, I thought, "How fun!" But then I read your report...ugh! That must have been so frustrating! It sounds like it definitely was not organized very well. Congrats on your run though! That's a great time considering all the workouts you did leading up to it!

    I saw your comment on my blog about the Cherry Energy bars. I'm not sure why yours didn't stick together. :( I'm sorry they didn't work out. It sounds like maybe there wasn't enough liquid to keep it all together? I don't know. Maybe I'll make them today or tomorrow again and shoot you another email.

  3. @Aimee: I think I went into the race with too high of hopes for the festival. I love ethnic food and beer. I also do not like when things become large and overly commercialized. I just got the feeling Disney was trying to cram as many people as humanly possible into a race so they could suck as much money as possible out of you. (As they should because they are a business but they could be more subtle about it).

    You either LOVE or HATE Disney races. I have read other reviews and some loved it and others hated it. I am in the middle. The race was OK and to me the festival stunk.

    The granola tastes AWESOME but did not stick together. I used 100% maple syrup and I do not think it was sticky enough and I think I needed to add more than what you recommended. I will try it again soon


  4. I am really glad I didn't stay for the after party. We decided not spend the $35 dollars for my husband to come to the after party so he could spend more money. But without access to Epcot, spectators could not see any of the race. So that wasn't great either. I don't plan on doing it again for many of the reasons you mentioned.

  5. @Kelley. I think you made a wise choice. The next day was shot for us. We did not get home till 4:30 AM. The festival was not worth it.