Night Running At Disney’s Wine & Dine Half Marathon

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The 2010 Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon. (Photo: runDisney)

Disney and nighttime just go together: Cinderella at the ball running to escape to her pumpkin carriage before the stroke of midnight; Lady and the Tramp sharing a plate of spaghetti under a starry night; Peter Pan flying to the second star to the right. But how about night running?

It’s Week 6 of my half-marathon training schedule for the 2011 Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon, and I’m jumping out of my skin. The half marathon is still five weeks away, but I’m already as excited as I’ve ever been for a race. I’ve been channeling that energy into my half marathon training with pretty good results, focusing on one of the race’s key features: the 10 p.m. start.

I’ve never run a nighttime race. But running under a cloak of darkness was one of the things that attracted me to the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon. I’m a night owl, and find that I’m generally more productive once the sun sets. Like Cinderella, my favorite Disney character, nighttime is when my magic happens. I hope that translates to races too, and that my race on October 1 will be more Cinderella at the ball and less Ichabod Crane in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, another Disney favorite from my childhood.

The Disney parks are breathtaking at night. Dressed in lights, they are whimsical and transporting, more so than during the day. At night, I’m more apt to believe Cinderella will really emerge from the castle before the stroke of midnight. And I hope I’ll be more apt to cross the finish line before the stroke of midnight as well.

The cooler nighttime temperatures should also make the race easier than running under the Florida sun. With only the moonshine and the second star to the right to guide us, it will feel even more magical.

But training for night running at a half marathon with a late night start has its own challenges. My running routine is usually set around the assumption that on race day, I’ll awake to an early alarm for a morning start with nothing in my belly but the English muffin I put into it just two hours before. With a nighttime start, I’m turning my half marathon training upside down.

For starters, I’m doing as much night running as possible, completing training runs in the evening. I want to get my body used to working hard at the end of the day, instead of the beginning. After all, Cinderella had to clean all day and then dance her shoes off at night. So I’m heading out at 5, 6 and 7 p.m., often finishing in the navy hues of twilight. I hope this will train my body to put in a solid day of fun at Disney—or at least a day by the pool—and then be ready to perform after a little afternoon siesta. That way my body won’t be shocked when I task it with carrying me 13.1 miles between the hours of 10 p.m. and midnight.

My most recent 10-miler along Chicago’s lakefront in the late afternoon proved that my mad-hattered plan might just be working. I hit my target training pace without a problem and felt like I could have keep chugging for another few miles at least.

As a result of running late in the day, I’m also being much more conscious of what I eat all day, not just race morning. That chocolate milk shake I had a few hours before my evening speed workout didn’t sit so well. Blech. Suddenly, my day is not a feeding free-for-all but a carefully measured course of small, bland meals that won’t upset my rumbly tumbly. As a result, I’ve even lost a few pounds despite rewarding myself with a heartier than usual post-run dinner. After all, that’s certainly what I’ll be doing at the half marathon’s finish line party at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.

So bring on the darkness. Rather than worry about a 10 p.m. start, I’m embracing and training for night running. With luck, or maybe a little bit of magic, I’ll cross that finish line before the stroke of midnight. Unlike Cinderella, I don’t have a carriage. I’ve got to carry myself with my own two feet. Let’s hope it’s a “Bella Notte.”

Disclosure: As part of the running media, runDisney is providing me with complimentary race entry, hotel, park tickets, and some meals for the 2011 Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon. But as always, all opinions are my own. For more information read my Disclosure Policy.

Karla Bruning


Karla Bruning is a race announcer at the TCS New York City Marathon + other major events, TV host for the New York City Triathlon + contributor to Shape, Redbook, Runner's World + other publications. She used to report for Newsweek but spent her free time squeezing in workouts. Now it's her job. She's run 8 marathons, 30 halves, 10 triathlons + open water swims. When she's not running, talking about running or writing about running, she's snuggling her baby, spoiling her dog + compulsively traveling.


09 2011