*When vacationing at Walt Disney World, you are instantly immersed in an atmosphere of wonder, imagination, and the fulfillment of dreams. Visit any of Disney’s theme parks and you may run into Mickey and Minnie Mouse or have your picture taken with Disney Princess Tiana, you can shop, eat, and enjoy your favorite libation at any of the numerous restaurants featured at Disney Springs.
Once you have indulged in all the gourmet delights that Disney has to offer and your hearts and eyes are full with all theme park’s dazzling entertainment, there is no better way to fast-track your fitness than by participating in runDisney’s racing series. Yes, not only does the happiest place on earth seek to be your ultimate vacation destination but also your “runcation” where your health and wellness take center stage.
This past weekend more than 34,700 runners were registered for the ninth annual Disney’s Wine and Dine Half Marathon, presented by Misfit, held on November 1-4, 2018 at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. As one of the largest and most popular race organizers in the United States, runDisney events attract more than 168,000 runners from across the country and the around the world who participate in themed weekend races.
To kick off the Wine and Dine Marathon event, runners were welcomed at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex for the runDisney Health and Fitness Expo where they could purchase merchandise to wear in the races like sunglasses, footwear, tech gadgets, healthy products, and festive Disney themed fitness apparel. In addition, participants had the opportunity to win prizes, receive massages, chomp on specially prepared food and beverage offerings, and engage in pre-race preparation by joining in complimentary yoga sessions in the interactive zone.
Taking in all the hustle and bustle of the expo ignited my anticipation for the event which I initially intended to be a spectator of the races. However, runDisney presented me with the opportunity to fully experience the race series by allowing me to choose to run or walk one of the three courses, the Disney Fall Feast 5K, Disney Wine and Dine 10K, or Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon. Considering I am a work in progress when it comes to the improvement of my physical fitness, wisely I opted for the Disney Fall Feast 5K which equates to 3.1 miles. On Friday morning around 4:30 a.m., still rubbing away the sleepiness from my eyes, I was in the Animal Kingdom parking lot alongside other runners and ended up waiting in line for a quick pick me up from Joffrey’s a Coffee and Tea Company food truck. Whatever tiredness I was fighting against quickly dissipated as my attention was immediately focused on the other runners flooding the parking lot who were wearing the most elaborate costumes like colorful tutus with lights, two friends were dressed like Chef Tony, which went along with the theme honoring the big-hearted cook from Disney’s Lady and the Tramp. Another group represented the Seven Dwarfs from Snow White and it was at that moment I could not help but smile when I saw the enthusiasm and cheerful nature of the participants, I learned not only is maintaining my health my wealth but it can also be fun.
The official time for the race to commence was 5:30 a.m. and I still had some time to wait so I made my way to the starting line where there was a colorful, well-lit staging area and three MCs entertained the crowd with pulsating pop music, witty and comedic zingers, and they also led the crowd in fun line dance routines. Adjacent to the stage was a considerable line of runners eagerly waiting to take their pictures with Minnie and Mickey Mouse. With all the activity that was happening in the parking lot, time magically flew by and we were instructed to go to our respective corrals. Each group of runners was ushered to the starting line and then a burst of fireworks near the overhead banner set the races off.
The beginning of the course took us around the Animal Kingdom parking lot and as we were coming around a bend, there was a DJ on top of a monster truck playing high energy music and encouraging us along the way. As we entered the Animal Kingdom, we were greeted by excited Disney cast members clapping and cheering words of affirmation as we ran by them, which was needed and much appreciated especially in the early morning. After passing through the gates of the theme park, I was immediately stopped in my tracks when I stood at the base of the Tree of Life. Various scenes from the Disney movie classic Bambi were projected on the tree’s trunk, combined with the beautiful music emanating from the surroundings instantly brought me back to my childhood summer memories of eating breakfast at noon while watching various Disney movies like Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, and Cinderella. After few moments reminiscing, I snapped back to the mission at hand and continued on my trek. As I kept a brisk pace throughout the park, a runner outfitted in glowing tutu stopped in a line to capture the moment of completing the first mile and a few minutes later I noticed another line of runners waiting to take their pictures with Meeko from Pocahontas. Throughout the course, various Disney characters popped up like Russell and his dog Dug from Pixar’s Up, Rafiki from the Lion King, and Pluto, to take a quick snapshot with the racers.
My competitive spirit, however, forced me to remain focused on completing the course in a reasonable amount of time which was not difficult to do since the 5K course is a perfect introduction into the Disney races. The Disney Fall Feast 5K accommodates various fitness levels and as I approached the finish line I became even more motivated to improve my physical endurance. Making my way across the finish line, we were brought back to our original starting point and the MCs congratulated all the runners on our completion of the race as we were given finisher medals.
On Saturday at the crack of dawn, runners were up and ready to tackle the Wine and Dine 10K which started at Magic Kingdom parking lot and guided the runners on a 6.2-mile course through the Walt Disney World Resort, complete with entertainment and Disney characters throughout the racing route. Later that morning, after the adults finished their event, the kiddies had the chance to flex their athletic abilities in two events; each race was themed in the honor of Chef Linguini from Disney-Pixar movie Ratatouille. The first event was the runDisney Kids Dashes which took place at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex that included Diaper Dash for 12 months and under babies, the 100-meter dash for one to four-year-olds, and the 200-meter dash for five to eight-year-olds. The second event was the runDisney Kids One Mile Run for children between the ages of 4 to 13 years old; both races presented each child with their own finisher medallion.
To conclude the advantageous weekend, most serious runners signed up for the Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon, a race that consists of a 13.1-mile run beginning in the Magic Kingdom parking lot and concluding at Epcot. The first male and female to cross the finish line were Tyler Wasieleski and Megan Curham. Tyler’s background is full of life experiences and adventure; he grew up in Tampa, Florida and he interrupted his studies at Duke University, as well as, put aside his dream of becoming a lawyer to pursue a life of an esports gamer and as a result, he moved to Korea to join an esports team. Presently, he lives in Union City, California where his wife is a pediatrician and he is a stay at home father. They both recently changed their married last name Wasieleski to Watson this year so their infant son would have a surname that is easy to pronounce. Tyler, 32, was not an avid runner since his college years, he began running again three years ago but did not take it seriously, yet he set a race record by finishing the race in 1:11:48 ahead of more than 14,000 runners, one second off the fastest time ever. “I’ve run a few [races] before, I’ve never won one, this is the first time I’ve won. I’m just happy that I didn’t mentally give up,” says Tyler. He finished nearly a minute ahead of second-place finisher Samuel Fazioli of Salem, N.H., (1:12:34) and more than seven minutes in front of Roger Hildago of Auburndale, Fla., who was third (1:19:00).
Megan Curham, who grew up in New Jersey but now lives in Tampa, just graduated from Princeton and currently works for Johnson and Johnson in a human resources leadership program. She previously ran the 5K, 10K, half marathon and full marathon during the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend this past January. She won the Wine and Dine 10K held on Saturday and was the first female to cross the finish line in Sunday’s race. She crossed the finish line in 1:19:59 – almost 10 minutes faster than Amanda Beal of Ellicott City, Md., who was second (1:29:09) and Valery Perry of Oviedo, Fla., who was third (1:29:26). “I was actually running with a couple of the guys in the beginning so I wasn’t completely by myself and that helped a lot. Once you get to mile eight and you are alone it is pretty tough but I had people around me so it was really nice this time. I just really love running in general, I’m always running so it is nothing I training specifically for, I just like it and Disney is like my favorite place so there is no better place to go and run,” says Curham.
To commemorate all the hard work, dedication, and accomplishments the runners displayed during the weekend, Disney hosted a post-race party held after-hours at the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival where the runners could indulge in cuisines and beverages from around the world, enjoy live entertainment, and have select access to Epcot attractions.
The Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend is the first of four runDisney race weekends at Walt Disney World Resort during the 2018-2019 race season.
Next up is the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend presented by Cigna (Jan. 9-13, 2019)
Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend (February 21-24, 2019)
Star Wars Rival Run Weekend (April 4-7, 2019)
For more information and registration visit www.rundisney.com.