Nearly 14,000 runners stormed Walt Disney World Saturday night for the third annual Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon. The half marathon is unique for it’s 10 p.m. start and a private after-party at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival that lasts until 4 a.m.
It’s also a race that holds a special place in my heart. It’s the one that started my tumble down the Disney running rabbit hole.
For the third year in a row Florida’s own Anton Van Zyl ran away with the Wine & Dine Half win. The Fort Lauderdale native even managed to stop for more than a dozen photos along the course, which winds from the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex through Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios before finishing at Epcot. Van Zyl finished in 1:14:19, just 8 seconds ahead of the runner-up Rolando Cruz Castro of Puerto Rico who finished in 1:14:27. Michael Creason of Charlotte, NC was third with a time of 1:15:48.
The women’s division also had a repeat winner in Carrie Majeranowski of Satellite Beach, Fla., who won for the second consecutive win year in a time of 1:27:16. Meaghan Munroe of Brookline, Mass., finished second in 1:28:43, and Samantha Helgesen of Bristol, Wis., came third with a time of 1:29:46.
While I have no idea what it’s like to win, I’m no stranger to Disney running and the Wine & Dine Half Marathon. In 2011, it was my very first Disney race. But it was also something much more. After finishing the race, my boyfriend proposed at the after-party while our finisher’s medals still hung around our necks. We had so much fun running the Disney parks and then celebrating into the wee hours of the morning at Epcot, which remains open exclusively for runners and their guests, that we quickly became Disney running fans.
We followed up Wine & Dine with the inaugural Tinker Bell Half Marathon at Disneyland in California in January 2012. Then we ran Disney’s Princess Half Marathon at Walt Disney World in February dressed as Cinderella and Prince Charming no less. We even earned our Coast To Coast Race Challenge medals by completing a half-marathon at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World in the same year. Talk about falling down the Disney running rabbit hole.
Now the guy and gal who got engaged at a Disney race are gearing up for our fourth runDisney event, and our first as husband and wife—the Walt Disney World Marathon on January 13, 2013.
I can’t decide what I’m most excited about—dreaming up another set of costumes for us to wear, running the race track at the Walt Disney World Speedway, or the after-party at Downtown Disney. The Wine & Dine Half after-party at Epcot is, without question, the best race after-party I’ve ever been to. We’ll see if Disney can top themselves.
The Walt Disney World Marathon will be my sixth marathon and my husband’s fifth. And we’ve already decided to run it together for fun. No PR attempts, no intense racing strategies; we’re saving that for the Philadelphia Marathon next week. For us, the Walt Disney World Marathon will be a fun winter break doing what we love—running just for running’s sake.
Disclosure: As a member of the running media, runDisney is providing me with complimentary race entries, hotel, park tickets and some meals (like the Pasta in the Park Party). But as always, all opinions are purely my own. I really do believe in being honest about my experiences and Disney is no exception. For more information read my Disclosure Policy.