This year, I took the name of the Disney Family Fun Run 5K seriously and did it with my family—my mom to be precise.
runDisney invited me to be their guest at the race. When I asked her if she wanted to join me at Walt Disney World, she jumped at the chance and quickly pronounced her desire to do her first 5K.
The Disney Family Fun Run 5K on Thursday, January 9, 2014 was the first of four races at the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend: the 5K, 10K, half-marathon and marathon with some runners doing all four for the Dopey Challenge.
The 5K was the first of three races for me. I was doing everything but the marathon, and in costume, of course.
My Mom’s First 5K
My mom is a lifelong Disney fan.
She dressed as Tinker Bell for Halloween when she was a little girl, and read Cinderella and Snow White to me at bedtime when I was a little girl.
When I was 5, she let me name our family dog Bruno, after Cinderella’s dog.
And she took me to see the classic Disney films when they were re-released in theaters. Then, she bought them for me on VHS once VCRs were invented. (Yes, I was born before the VCR came about.)
She took me to Disneyland as a baby, Walt Disney World as a kid and put up with hours of me screeching songs from The Little Mermaid over and over and over when I was 11-years-old. The list goes on and on.
But in addition to my Disney inspiration, my mom was always my fitness inspiration. She signed me up for swim lessons as a baby, then swim team as a kid, and she’s been my number one cheerleader ever since, whether I was swimming, rowing, or running. I’ve always looked up to her, even once I grew taller than her. I’m 5’8. She’s 5’3.
Now, my mom reads every single blog post and column that I write. And after watching my coverage of the 2013 New York City Marathon with New York Road Runners’ On The Run, she got inspired to start running herself.
Over Thanksgiving, I went with her to get fit for her first proper pair of running shoes and she downloaded a Couch to 5K program. My mom is already an avid walker, so sprinkling in some short running bursts with her walking seems like a natural progression. I told her I’d do her first 5K with her.
Well, my mom decided she wanted to do it at Disney. “I feel like Disney is the perfect place to do your first race,” she told me. And I couldn’t agree more.
She was worried that she wouldn’t be able to finish in the allotted time, maintaining a 16-minute per mile pace. I told her not to worry, that I knew she could do it. She was especially worried because she’s been having problems with her knee since a dog bit her on her there over Christmas.
The day before the 5K, we went to the expo and did lots of walking. By the end of the day, she was limping, her knee very sore. She iced it, took some ibuprofen and hoped for the best. I’d been planning to tape her knee with KT Tape, something I do for myself when my arthritis flares up. But we hit a snafu: Disney’s Magical Express, which is operated by Mears Transportation, lost out luggage.
Land of the Lost Luggage
For anyone who’s never used Disney’s Magical Express, it’s a complimentary airport shuttle for guests staying at Walt Disney World Resorts.
Not only will they transport you, but they’ll even pick up your checked bags for you and magically transport them to your hotel room 3-4 hours after you land. All you have to do is either attach a special Magical Express luggage tag to your bag when you check it or simply give Magical Express your baggage claim numbers.
We had everything we needed for the day on us, so we decided to let Magical Express get our bags.
Off we went to our hotel, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, where we checked in and quickly headed off to the expo.
But when we arrived back at our room at the end of the day, far longer than the 3-4 hour time frame Magical Express quoted, our bags were nowhere to be found. I quickly dialed the bell desk to inquire after them. They hadn’t reached the hotel yet. From there, the bell desk’s liaison to Magical Express took over the case.
Our appointed bedtime of 8 p.m. ticked by and we still had no bags. Magical Express had not yet located them at the airport. They had record that they were supposed to have two bags for us, but couldn’t find the bags anywhere.
Did the airlines lose them? Doubtful. My mother and I flew two different carriers. What are the chances that both JetBlue and Southwest lost our bags?
By 10 p.m., there was still no sign of our bags and the kind woman at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge bell desk named Suzie didn’t want us to wait up any longer. She was a runner too, had done the 5K in the past, and wanted us to get to bed.
There was just one problem: all I had to wear were the jeans on my body. I really didn’t want to do a 5K in skinny jeans with zippers on the legs.
So Suzie, God bless her, took an inventory of everything my mom and I had to make sure we had everything we needed to run. My mom was set. She’d worn workout clothes, right down to her sports bra, on the plane.
I’d worn sneakers and bought the New Balance runDisney Cinderella shoes at the expo. So I was set with shoes.
Luckily, I’d also bought a sports bra at the Champion booth at the expo. Phew. I wore a strapless bra on the plane and really didn’t want to run in that.
I had my Walt Disney World 10K and Walt Disney World Half Marathon tech shirts that I got in my race kits, so I was set there.
I just needed a pair of bottoms other than jeans.
Suzie said she’d sort something out. “You can’t run in jeans!” she said.
She went to the hotel gift shop, found a pair of pink leopard print pajama shorts and a cute Mickey ear tank top that matched and brought them to me, complimentary of the hotel. My Esmeralda costume was in my suitcase, but I’d wear pajamas to the race if I had to. They were soft and fit perfectly. I thanked Suzie profusely for her help and we finally got to bed around 11 p.m.
Luckily, Magical Express located our bags and delivered them at 3:30 a.m., 30 minutes before our 4 a.m. alarm. Before we went to bed, Suzie asked what we wanted done with our bags if they did find them. I told her to deliver them no matter what time it was. And so we had our running costumes after all. But we barely slept. I tossed and turned, last looking at the clock at 1:30 a.m. before I finally dozed off. So I got about 2 hours sleep.
But I was able to tape my mom’s knee and transform into Esmeralda before the race. My mom was a trooper. She took it all in stride. What a way to start your first race!
Running in Costume
Last year, my mom, sister and I took a Bollywood dance fitness class together. They gave us coin skirts to wear that made it so much more fun. After the class, my mom ordered two skirts. Yes, the apple does not fall far from the tree. I get my love of clothes and costumes from my mom. So I thought they’d be the perfect thing to build costumes around.
Immediately, one Disney gal came to mind: Esmeralda of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, who wears a coin skirt. So I put together an Esmeralda costume with items I already had in my closet and a skirt that the girls at Sparkle Athletic sent to me (I do some freelance work for them).
Since it was my mom’s first race, she didn’t want to go full costume. She wanted to make sure she was in something comfortable. But a Sparkle Running Skirt and sparkle Power Wristbands from Sparkle Athletic were no brainers along with her coin skirt. Then we found something new and fun at the Sparkle Athletic booth too: Princess Crown Schwings for our running shoes. She we Schwinged my mom’s shoes up.
And we topped it off with 5K Sparkle Athletic tattoos. Yes, I love me some Sparkle Athletic.
These gypsies were ready to run.
The Disney Family Fun Run 5K Course
The course started just outside Epcot and did a 1-mile loop around some back roads before entering Epcot’s World Showcase in Norway.
Runners ran “around the world” exiting at the International Gateway just past France, near the Mile 2 Mark.
We re-entered Epcot near Canada and ran a loop around Spaceship Earth before exiting Epcot at Mile 3 heading into the finish.
The Disney Family Fun Run 5K Start
Taking the bus from Disney hotels is really easy. We were staying at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. The bus was waiting when we stepped outside at 4:45 am and took about 20 minutes to shuttle us to the start.
It was short walk to the race staging area where runners without bags were ushered in right away, and those of us with bags through to a security check.
Once we dropped our bag at gEAR check, we were on our way to the starting area. There were so many bathrooms that lines weren’t long. Water stations were right near the bathrooms and a concession stand was available for anyone who wanted to buy food or coffee.
My favorite part of the runDisney starting area is the DJ that plays music to pump the crowd up. Race announcers asked runners to be in their corrals no later than 6:00 a.m. before the 6:15 a.m. start.
Five corrals, A through E, of approximately 2,000 runners each went off in waves spaced 5 minutes apart, each with a blast of fireworks. The race and each corral started precisely on time.
The Disney Family Fun Run 5K Finish
runDisney has the finish line experience down to a science. After crossing the finish, runners get a medal before being ushered through to the chute to the photo stand. From there it’s on to get a box of snacks, a banana and water or PowerAde and finally on to the baggage tent if you checked gear.
From there, photo lines with Disney characters await near the area where buses await to take you back to your Disney hotel.
By the time we finished, the lines for characters were pretty long, especially for Pluto, who adorned the race’s medal. Some of the other character lines weren’t too bad, but my mom didn’t want to wait. So we boarded the bus back to our hotel, where food and a nap awaited.
We boarded the bus to the start, made our way through bag check and into the starting area.
We made our way into Corral E, the last corral, where we met Mark and Danny, friendly guys who were running the Dopey Challenge, like 7,000 of the 10,000 runners there that morning. The four of us chatted and joked all the way to the start. That’s one of the things I love about runners and the running community. By and large, people are friendly, supportive and high on life. Mark and Danny, if you ever read this, I hope you had a great weekend!
Soon enough, our corral was off. We were doing a run-walk-run method to get through the race, as was the vast majority of our corral. I wanted to take things easy in case my mom’s knee started hurting. But she was a trooper.
We ran in 30-40 second intervals and later in the race she wanted to run more, so we did as much a 1-minute at a time.
Our skirts jingled whenever we ran and we got lots of compliments on them.
My mom was worried about finishing in the time frame. We were moving right at a 16-minute per mile pace by my GPS watch. But there were still lots of runners behind us and it was clear that runDisney wasn’t enforcing the time limit for the 5K.
We passed tons of people on our run intervals and even more people who were waiting in line for pictures with characters. The line for Dopey in Germany was insane! We also saw Daisy Duck in Norway, characters from Ratatouille and A Bug’s Life, but we didn’t stop for any character pics. We did stop for a picture with Spaceship Earth in the background.
My mom never got to the point where she couldn’t talk and her knee held up. It started to drizzle near the finish, so we took it slow, lest we slip. With the finish line in sight, we grabbed hands and ran the rest of the way.
My mom gave me a big hug at the finish and thanked me for being by her side. I had so much fun doing the race with her and seeing her achieve a huge milestone: her first 5K.
She says she’s going to keep doing them. I can’t wait to tackle a few more by her side. Congratulations, Mom!
As a member of the media, runDisney gave me complimentary race entries, hotel, some park tickets and some meals for the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. I bought my own airfare, most meals, additional park tickets, etc. As always, all opinions are purely my own. Disney does not give me talking points, post requirements, story suggestions or the like. As with everything, I choose what I write about, when I write about it, and always give my honest opinion. I firmly believe in being honest about my experiences and Disney is no exception. For more, read my Disclosure Policy.