Disney, Race Report

ESPN The Weekend 5k 2009 – Race Report

My sister and I arrived at WDW on Friday afternoon and since we had no other plans, we went to the Wide World of Sports to pick up my race packet. (I also had the option to do packet pick-up on race morning.) It was a (not very fun) adventure trying to navigate the bus system. I knew the Caribbean Beach resort wasn’t a host hotel for the race. So the only way to get to WWoS was to transfer at Hollywood Studios. It took some hunting to find the right bus stop, but the bus came pretty quickly.

Packet pick-up was easy with little fanfare. I signed a waiver, got my race bib, goody bag, and t-shirt and that was it. As usual, the t-shirt is too big, but it came in handy because I ended up wearing it to bed the rest of the trip. The goody bag had a Clif bar, a hand towel marked with the Cigna logo, and an air freshener.

I hadn’t read the final race instructions clearly, and didn’t realize there were no designated buses from WWoS to the host hotels on Friday. The original plan was for us to take a bus from WWoS to one of the hotels, then transfer to Downtown Disney. But after a long wait and no buses, we just went back to Caribbean Beach via the Hollywood Studios bus. Unfortunately I stayed up later than I would have liked that night and didn’t get to bed until around 11.

Saturday morning, I got up around 5am. I had arranged the night before with the concierge to have a taxi pick me up at 5:45. I got a little nervous when there was no taxi waiting for me, but a phone call to the taxi company (with no help from Disney) got another taxi over to me in only a few minutes. Even though it was early, I was (unnecessarily) worried about traffic. But it only took about five minutes to get to Hollywood Studios. I think I paid $10 for the ride, including tip.

The start and finish for the race was in the Hollywood Studios parking lot. Even though there weren’t very many participants, I thought Disney did a nice job setting up the facilities. There was a large tent for packet pick-up and bag check, an area with jugs of water, and plenty of port-a-potties with hand washing stations (a very nice feature). After seeing how this was done for the ESPN 5k, I was a little disappointed with the set up for the Princess races.

I went to an empty area of the parking lot for a short warm-up. I was surprised at how long it took my Garmin to start up… at least ten minutes. Then (in no particular order), I stretched, checked my bag, and visited the port-a-potty. I also had a short chat with a lady I sort of knew from the WISH team on disboards.com.

I think they had some famous sportscasters say a few words before the race, but I wasn’t really paying attention. Since I’m always by myself, I tend to wait until the last minute to head for the corrals. And this race was no different. I squeezed myself in somewhere around the middle of the 9-11 minute corral. The race started promptly at 7am.

The first mile was an out and back along a road outside the park. There wasn’t much to see, other than some type of toll booth area. In hindsight, I probably should have started further up in the corral. The course wasn’t jam packed, but for that first mile there were enough people that I couldn’t really run at my own pace without doing a lot of weaving. I wasn’t trying for a PR, but I did want to push myself a little to see how well I could do. I planned to be a little more competitive for the ESPN 5k and then take it easy for the Princess 5k.

There were two water stops on the course, but I didn’t stop at either. I never do at 5ks because the distance is so short. I didn’t remember this until I read someone else’s race report, but there were trivia signs set up along the course. I vaguely remember seeing them, but didn’t really pay attention because 1) I’m not a sports fan and 2) I was focusing on my running.

Miles two and three were almost completely inside the park. We ran through the Lights, Motors, Action area and as we ran past there was a person videotaping us and displaying the video up on the big screen that’s part of the attraction. I thought this was a really neat touch, even though I didn’t actually look up to see myself. Then we ran through an area that I think is part of the Backlot Tour. There was a tunnel with windows into the buildings where cast members work on costuming. Next was the “streets” area where we ran up the road and made a turn at the last minute right before the backdrop depicting the big hill.

The next part of the course took us past Muppets and the Miss Piggy fountain and Star Tours. Then we went around the lake and behind the sorcerer’s hat. I have to admit that I’m actually looking at the course map as I write this because nothing about this part of the course really sticks out in my memory. Mile three took us down Sunset Boulevard, the street leading to the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror. This was the only place on the course where I remember seeing official photographers. We ran around the back of Tower of Terror and there were a few very small slopes here, but nothing to cause any difficulty.

The course went back down Sunset Boulevard and then toward the entrance. But just before the entrance it veered off into a backstage area (I think it’s where the parade floats come out.) with just a short distance to go before the finish line. Spectators were not allowed into the park to view the race, but there were a few cast members at different points of the course cheering us on. The finish line was a bit of a fanfare with members of the Harlem Globetrotters and the Miami Dolphin cheerleaders to encourage and congratulate the finishers.

I think this was the first Disney race to use the disposable orange D Tag. I’m glad Disney is adopting this new technology because it’s great not having to stop right after the race to remove a timing chip. The medal is a very nice silver medallion with a cut-out at the top shaped like a Mickey head. My only criticism is that it doesn’t say “inaugural” anywhere on the medal. At the finish area they had oranges, bananas, and muffins (I think) along with bottles of water and a sports drink. My official time was 27:42, an 8:55 minute per mile pace.

I stuck around afterwards to watch the kids races and the awards ceremony, while waiting for Hollywood Studios to open. Then I made may way over to the front of the park to catch a regular WDW bus back to Caribbean Beach.

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