This past weekend, my wife and I took part in the 2nd annual Wine & Dine Half Marathon Relay at Walt Disney World. The event is part of the hugely popular runDisney series of races, and is timed to coincide with the kickoff of the Epcot Food & Wine Festival. Over the last couple years, I have mastered the art of spectating runDisney events in which my wife is running, however this time around-after much arm twisting on her part-I agreed to be a contestant for the first time. What follows is my perspective of the Wine & Dine as a first-timer, to help provide guidance for those who's spouse, family, or friend have convinced them to run 5, 8, 0r even 13.1 miles against their will.
Let's get the dirty part out of the way first, shall we? This is not the Robert F. Kennedy Middle School 5K Fun Run for Toys 4 Tots. This is Disney...everything is expensive here. Perhaps the biggest grumble I heard from fellow runners, and my biggest gripe upon registering, is the cost. A runDisney half marathon is going to set you back in the neighborhood of $140, causing just about anyone, myself included, to question why they would pay so much for a few hours of self inflicted torture. What I came to learn however, is that there is some value in what Disney provides beyond the race itself, such as transportation, race course entertainment, and of course, the customary t-shirt. For many, a free bus ride to the course, a high-five from Goofy during the race, and a t-shirt do not justify the premium that Disney commands, but for me, it proved to be totally worth it...
The decision of where to stay and how to get to the various race festivities is one of the more important things to consider for any runDisney event, but especially the Wine & Dine. This race is unique because not only does it start and finish in two different places, but also takes place in the middle of the night, with an ending in the wee hours of the morning. My suggestion: Fork out the extra bucks and stay at one of Disney's "host resorts" for the race. Transportation is provided from these hotels to the pre-race expo, the starting line, and perhaps most importantly, back to the hotel after the event.
For last weekend's race, I failed to listen to my own advice and decided to stay "off property" at the Hilton Bonnet Creek. While this awesome hotel saved us a few bucks, and even provided transportation to the "start," in the end not being at one of the Disney resorts proved to be a bad move. Those who drive to the race, or are taking alternative transportation like us, first are directed to Epcot to park. From there you board one of Disney's 837 buses for the the short ride over to the starting line at the Wide World of Sports complex. The system was a logistical marvel which would give UPS a run for their money, but it was still an extra step and time killer that we otherwise would not have had if we had stayed with Disney. Not wanting to deal with the stress of finding our hotel shuttle post race, we wound up taking a cab back to the Hilton and blowing some of our perceived savings. Lesson learned: Follow my own advice.
One of the highlights of most runDisney events is the Pre-race Expo. It's here that you'll pick up your registration materials for the race, and if you're not careful, blow all of your vacation money on souvenirs. All of the major running brands are represented, and one can walk out with anything from a commemorative t-shirt, to a new set of Ginsu knives...no joke. This was my first expo as a contestant, so I took advantage of the new found opportunity to buy some gear, free from the usual feeling of being an imposter.
Once you've completed your epic mission, it's time for the Wine & Dine After Party. I'm reserving my thoughts on the party for a separate post, but I will say that Disney instituted some much needed changes over last year, however there is always room to improve.
Overall, I could not have asked anything more from my first experience in a runDisney race. Perhaps the biggest thing I took away from my experience at the Wine & Dine is the need to be in the moment during the race. Weeks, if not months, of preparation leads up to an event that for most will be over in just a couple hours, and even less for relay runners like myself. I actually credit my wife for this piece of advice, and I'm grateful she passed it on to me before the race. Otherwise I would have been lost in the zone of running, and failed to capture the mental snapshots I took along the way. In a nutshell, to quote a phrase I heard many times this weekend, you paid a lot of money to run this race...Enjoy it.
~Insert Dude-like Closing Here~