The Walt Disney World 10K on Friday, January 10, 2014 was the second of four races at the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend: the 5K, 10K, half-marathon and marathon.
runDisney invited me to be their guest at the race. Some 7,000 runners were completing all four races as part of the Dopey Challenge. Another 3,000 runners, like me, were just along for the ride.
It was the inaugural Walt Disney World 10K with a brand new race patron and medal: Minnie Mouse.
I can’t believe Minnie is only just now getting her own race. (UPDATE: A few readers have pointed out that Minnie Mouse used to host a Women Run the World 15K, known as the Minnie Marathon, that was eventually replaced by Disney’s Princess Half Marathon in 2009. Glad this isn’t Minnie’s first race!)
Of the three races I was running at the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend—the Disney Family Fun Run 5K, Walt Disney World 10K, and Walt Disney World Half Marathon—I was most excited to earn that Minnie Mouse medal.
Going into the Walt Disney World 10K I had just two letters on my mind: PR. I desperately wanted to break 54 minutes and my personal best of 54:09. I was well trained and ready to run. But I had four things working against me come race day.
- Sleep deprivation
- A blister
- Dopey Challenge runners
More on that after a breakdown of the race itself.
Walt Disney World 10K Course
The race started just outside Epcot and took runners along Epcot Center Drive for the first three miles.
After the three-mile mark, runners entered Epcot’s World Showcase near Norway and ran around the world, past the four-mile mark, to the International Gateway just past France
From there runners took a tour of Disney’s BoardWalk area, where many spectators congregated. You ran past the BoardWalk Inn, Beach and Yacht Club Resorts and the five-mile marker.
Then it was back into Epcot near Imagination! for the final stretch past Spaceship Earth and to the finish.
There were four water stations on the course, which was plenty for me, and as always, the volunteers were awesome.
DJs and Disney characters dotted the course. I saw Captain Hook and Mr. Smee from Peter Pan, Genie from Aladdin, Mushu from Mulan, Sports Goofy, Tweedledum and Tweedledee from Alice in Wonderland, and a Green Army Man. My favorite was a jumbo screen playing rock tunes set to classic Disney cartoons.
I actually loved the course itself. Except for one highway overpass on Epcot Center Drive and a few bridges on the BoardWalk, the course was pancake flat with lots of entertainment. Running through Epcot and, especially, the BoardWalk area was really invigorating with lots of people cheering you on. I thought the entertainment was great overall.
Walt Disney World 10K Start
Taking the bus from Disney hotels is really easy. I was staying at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. The bus was waiting when I stepped outside at 3:45 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 went through a security check.
Once I dropped my bag at gEAR check, I was on my way to the starting area.
There were so many bathrooms that I never waited in line behind more than one person, and I used the bathroom three times (pre-race jitters!). Water stations were right near the bathroom 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. I really appreciated not being alone in my head as I counted down the time. Race announcers asked runners to be in their corrals no later than 5:15 before the 5:30 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.
Walt Disney World 10K Finish
runDisney has the finish line experience down to a science.
After crossing the finish, runners get a medal before being ushered through 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.
After that, photo lines with Disney characters await near the area where buses take you back to your Disney hotel.
Because I finished so early, the lines for characters were short, much shorter than they were when I finished in the back of the pack for the 5K.
I got a shot with Daisy Duck and Pluto, and bumped into reader Katherine, who recognized my costume. She looked pretty cute herself. I love meeting readers and fellow bloggers at races.
Running in Costume
Just do it. Make sure you’ve got lots of glide to cover any spots that might potentially chafe. But running in costume, and seeing all the other costumes, is one of my favorite parts of Disney races.
I dressed as Belle in her provincial garb, chosen for its simplicity and pulled-back hairstyle.
My costume didn’t disappoint. It let me run fast, without any chafe. I got lots of generic “Go Princess!” cheers and compliments on my sparkles, thanks to Sparkle Athletic (a company I freelance for).
But I was also mistaken for Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella and a milkmaid. Some of the spectators clearly do not know their Disney princesses. But, hey, they were out there cheering for us runners, so I’ll take any cheers that I can get, even if it’s for a milkmaid.
Thankfully, plenty knew I was Belle.
2014 Walt Disney World 10K
I was out to break 54 minutes over 6.2 miles. I was well trained after 44 days of a consecutive running streak and hungry for a personal best. Despite my game day gusto, it was not to be.
The following are not excuses. Let’s call them factors. If I’d been on my A-game, I don’t think any one of them would have stopped me from PR-ing. But put together, they got the best of me.
I woke to my alarm at 3 a.m. to catch a 3:45 a.m. bus to the start. I’d gotten 5 hours of sleep. The night before, thanks to a luggage snafu and lots of tossing and turning, I got just 2 hours of sleep before the Disney Family Fun Run 5K.
It meant that I didn’t start with a lot of energy in the tank. I like to go into races well rested. I always perform better on lots of sleep, and this just confirmed that.
Soup. That’s what I thought about as I ran. It was like running through lukewarm soup. It was 68 degrees with the humidity hovering near 100 percent.
Every inch of my body and every centimeter of clothing was soaked in sweat by the second mile. It actually started misting at one point, which would have felt good if I wasn’t already completely wet. Oh, the humidity!
Coming from the polar vortex and historically cold winter in New York City, I was neither prepared nor conditioned for this. I actually ran outside when the wind chill was 4 degrees. That’s how cold it’s been in NYC. I fear the humidity got the best of my lungs and me.
I’m a glide fiend. Whether it’s BodyGlide, Gold Bond Friction Defense or good old Vaseline, I slather the stuff on my feet. Most of the time I’m lucky and escape races blister free. But not this time.
After about a mile, I felt the familiar pain welling up in my big toe. It felt like a giant rock was lodged in my shoe. There was no rock. But the seam of my sock—socks I’ve worn time and again in training—rolled under my toe and started rubbing. By mile two, I winced with every step. Was it debilitating? No. Was it distracting? Oh, yes.
I felt like pulling a Ringo Starr and screaming, “I’ve got blisters on my feet!”
Dopey Challenge Runners
With 7,000 of the 10,000 runners doing the Dopey Challenge, it made for a tough run for anyone like me who actually wanted to race.
Anticipating a sea of runners, walkers and run-walkers going slower than they usually do, I got into my corral early to get a spot in the front. I started in perhaps the fourth row of runners in Corral C, and when the starting fireworks sounded, I made my way to the front. The first few minutes were a breeze with plenty of room to run.
But it didn’t take long for me to catch Corral B. That’s when the weaving started. It didn’t prove too problematic for the first three miles when we were on the highway. But as soon as we entered the park where the course narrowed, things got hairy.
By the time I finished, I’d picked through much of Corral B and finished with a mix of runners from Corrals A and B. I weaved through runners, run-walkers, and walkers for the entire race. It was fairly exhausting, both mentally and physically.
Was the course too crowded? No, definitely not. I’ve run in worse. But the key word there is run. If all those people were actually running or run-walking at the same or a similar pace to me, it wouldn’t have been a problem at all. We would have been flowing together, as usually happens at a race.
The issue was that many, if not most, of them were taking it easy and I was racing. I’d weave around walkers and tuck in behind runners only to have them halt to a walk too. That was the challenge. There was no consistency to the speed of the people around me.
I don’t mean this as a knock on run-walking at all. I’m a big fan and have done run-walk-run many times myself. I want to be clear about that. If I’d been surrounded by runners and run-walkers moving at the same overall speed as me, it wouldn’t have been a problem. My issue is that I was trying to move faster than the people around me.
Before you say, “Silly Karla, don’t you know you’re not supposed to PR at Disney races?” I’ll say this: I did PR at the 2012 Disney Princess Half Marathon. I even started in Corral C when I had a Corral A bib because I was running with my husband. C was the first corral men were allowed to start in. This meant we weaved our way through runners in Corral C, Corral B and even Corral A for the first 6 miles of the race. The difference was that my husband ran offense for me. All I had to do was tuck in behind him and follow his lead. This time, I had to break my own trail, so to speak.
I know that many Dopey Challengers were upset by how they were corralled for all of the weekend’s races. But after the Walt Disney World 10K, I totally get it. Sorry guys. Perhaps race organizers over corrected by putting Dopey runners a bit too far back in the half-marathon and marathon. But after my experience at the 10K, I get what they were aiming for. They were trying to manage precisely the situation I found myself in at the 10K.
As a non-Dopey runner who submitted a 2:00 half-marathon proof of time, which correlates to a 54:00 10K according to the McMillan Running Calculator, I really needed to be in the first corral of 2,000 runners, not in the third amongst all the Dopey Challengers. Case in point: I finished 1,073 of 9,234 finishers; 272 of 5,193 women. I don’t usually finish that high. It was because so many people weren’t racing, but understandably saving their legs instead.
With 2,000 runners per corral, there were 4,000 people in front of me. Theoretically, I passed almost 3,000 of them. I recognize that there might have been other runners in the same boat as me in further back corrals who might never have passed me, but still had a faster net time. But when I look at the clock time vs. net time of the women who finished ahead of me in my age group, only three had a slower clock time/start time than me. So I really did weave through almost 3,000 runners. That’s 500 runners a mile, 53 runners per minute. That’s a lot of weaving.
Did it completely stop me from running the race I wanted to run? No, certainly not. Was it an added challenge? Most definitely. Every good runner knows that running tangents is the fastest way through a course. Not only was that not possible, but I actively ran a series of squiggly lines or faced being boxed in by slower runners.
Now, this was the very first Walt Disney World 10K and the first Dopey Challenge. I’m sure there will be changes for 2015. I know that the runDisney team takes runner comments seriously (I’ve interviewed enough of them to know) and that there are always growing pains the first time any event is put on. Remember how much people complained about the finish at the first Wine & Dine Half Marathon? All the problems were fixed the second year. If you don’t remember, read this and this.
My recommendation to runDisney for the 10K would be this: have two separate waves of runners, non-Dopey and Dopey. Send non-Dopey runners off first, broken into corrals spaced 2-5 minutes apart and seeded by time. Then have a second wave of Dopey runners 15-30 minutes later with their own corrals, also seeded by time. Basically, just separate the two groups completely. That way non-Dopeys don’t have to weave through Dopeys and Dopeys don’t have to be handicapped. They can just be seeded according to how fast they really are.
Or just even out the field between Dopey Challengers and non-Dopey Challengers. I realize that might mean either making the overall field larger or the Dopey Challenge field smaller, each of which comes with its own challenges.
But unless the 10K is meant to be a fun run with “fun run” in the name like the 5K, instead of a timed event, I don’t see any way around it. As it stands, unless you start in the front of Corral A, the Walt Disney World 10K is more of a fun run than a race. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. I love a fun run. But I was looking forward to a race. I guess it’s hard to be all things to all people.
As it was, the cards were really stacked against you if you were one of the 3,000 runners like me who wasn’t doing the Dopey Challenge.
Despite the factors mentioned above, I really did enjoy the race. I’m a runner. I like a good challenge. And I always love the vibe out there on Disney courses. My smile in most of my race photos says it all.
I bumped into Danielle of LiveRunGrow.com the second I stepped off the bus. We walked into the race together and snapped this cute pic: me in my Belle costume, she dressed as a Newsie.
Love it! Somewhere on the highway, I saw Danielle again with Jenn of EatSleepRunDisney.com and the rest of their Newsie crew. I shouted hello and they gave a few cheers as I ran by.
In the starting corral, I saw Heather of ThroughHeathersLookingGlass.com before the start. She wished me luck on my PR attempt.
My strategy was to start slowly and then crank it up, finishing with an overall goal pace of 8:30. It was a conservative goal for me; my 5K PR pace is 7:58 and half-marathon PR pace is 9:10.
Things went according to plan for the first three miles. I ran Mile 1 at a 9:11 pace, Mile 2 at 8:53 and Mile 3 at 8:38 (by my watch, which logged me running a bit more mileage because of all the weaving). I crossed the 5K mark in 27:58 at an 8:59 pace. I knew I’d have to shave two minutes off of my second 5K to come in under 54 minutes, averaging an 8:22 pace. It was doable for me, but a tall order under the conditions.
I pushed hard in that fourth mile, but there was no gas in the tank, and as we entered Epcot where the course narrowed there were more and more people for me to weave around. Mile 4 passed in 9:03 and I knew my PR attempt was all but over.
But I kept pushing. That was my mantra for the whole race. I just kept repeating “Keep pushing, keep on pushing” in my head. It worked well. I knew I wouldn’t PR, but I didn’t want to quit. I still wanted to run the whole race as hard as I could, whatever finish time that meant. The last two miles I averaged a 9:15 pace. It just wasn’t my morning.
I finished still under the cloak of darkness in 57:07, 2:58 behind my PR. I may not have met my goal, but I’ll give myself an A for effort. I finished with nothing left in the tank. I can’t ask any more of myself than that. And I got the coveted Minnie Mouse medal that I wanted so badly.
I made my way through the finish and treated myself to photos with Daisy Duck:
Despite the humidity, tiredness, blister and sea of Dopey Challengers, I still really enjoyed the Walt Disney World 10K at the Walt Disney World Half Marathon Weekend. I loved seeing all the characters, I loved the camaraderie of the runners, I loved the party race vibe, and I especially loved the course. I would absolutely run it again. I just might not set my hopes on a personal best unless I know the conditions are in my favor.
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.