Race Report: Wine and Dine Half Marathon

On the first bus out of Pop!
As I mentioned in my expo post, I miss when the Wine and Dine half was at night.  It used to be so fun to start at ESPN, hit up a bit of Animal Kingdom, and then arrive at Hollywood Studios and run through the Osborne Light Show.  There was something so magical about turning the corner and just being completely immersed in Christmas lights and cheer.  It was a great way to start the last third of the race.

Then the race got moved to the morning, and with all of the construction in Hollywood Studios, the course has changed drastically, with the start moving to Magic Kingdom.  I wish there was a way you could actually run IN Magic Kingdom for a bit.  It’s like they taunt you a bit, brining you so close to the park, but then have you running away from it towards Animal Kingdom.

This race always has characters out dressed in restaurant or chef gear, and it’s fun to get prerace pictures with them.  We were able to get Donald, Minnie, and Mickey before we decided to jump in the bathroom line.  This seemed to be a bit of a mess.  there was a cue for the portapotties that wrapped back and forth and ended in the middle of the line of portapotties, rather than the lines that people usually form.  This wasn’t working well because there were often bathrooms left empty because you couldn’t tell from the middle if they were open or not.  It moved slowly and I don’t think this was the best thing.  Usually you can jump in line and get through relatively quickly prior to the race, but this time I was not overly impressed.  The castmembers were telling us there were available bathrooms once you went into the corral areas, but after being in line so long we didn’t want to get out of line in case it was just as chaotic in the other area, which still ended up being congested when we got in line there later.  I’m a nervous runner and usually have to use the bathroom A LOT before a race, so these long lines stressed me out.

I raced into corral A after they had already left the corral and walked to the start line.  I lined up at the back of the corral, which I’m not really used to, and tried to tell myself it would be ok, that I wasn’t going for a PR and it was okay if I got caught in some congestion.  Luckily, as the front corrals have become smaller in recent races, I really didn’t have a problem with too slow of a start or getting trapped like I used to.  I watched the usual announcers discuss the race, invite Minnie and Mickey up, and then send us on our way.  The fireworks at the start were awesome and we began our 13 mile trek around Disney.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I feel like Disney did a better job of placing characters and entertainment on the course.  I never felt overly bored, which I have on some of their more recent courses as they have had to divert around various construction projects.  They had some bigger names out, like Tink starting the list of characters, though her line was already long when I passed by in the middle of the A corral, and I chose not to stop.

You didn’t get to Animal Kingdom until around mile four, and you only got to be in the park for about one mile, but it was cool to run through Pandora.  It looked pretty neat in the dark.  I was excited to see Rafiki in the park, and I stopped for a quick picture because there was no line!  I was a little disappointed at the lack of picture opportunities during this segment of the race, but it was still fun.  The course was pretty curvy at this point, and I noticed my pace dropped a lot while in the park, and this is also where my knee became a bit more noticeable, so I had to pick it up once we got back onto access roads and then the main roads.

Mile 5 looped around the from of Animal Kingdom and the parking lot, then 6 took us back to the highway. Miles 7, 8, and 9 all were pretty much on the main roads.  There were some characters and entertainment, like the Green Army Man who yells at you as you get closer to Hollywood Studios on one of the few hills.  I love when you see the Green Army Man because it signals that you are closer to Hollywood, and I like the course after you hit Hollywood Studios.


We spent a little time in the park, where they had some of their Christmas stuff up.  It wasn’t nearly as cool as before when it was the Osborne Lights, but it was exciting after being out on the roads for awhile.  As we went into the park, I noticed a “set” off to the side and a camera person, but no character.  I was a little disappointed, and as I started to pass it I suddenly saw Oswald coming out.  I cheered and turned around and quickly got a pick before continuing on.  Shortly after the Oswald stop I saw the Genie coming back out and counted myself lucky as I stopped to snag a picture with him, too.  You looped out of the park, as usual, and started down the walkway towards Boardwalk.  The walkway had these big green fences up, which disappointed me because I’ve always liked the view through that area, as it follows the waterway.  Luckily they eventually stopped, so you could see the scenery and get a breeze again.  There were a fair amount of spectators out as you neared the Boardwalk and circled around through the Beach and Yacht Club areas, which made it more fun.  One of the negatives about Disney races is the lack of crowd support because you spend so much time out on the roads, so that is probably one of the reasons I love the stretch from mile ten to the end, since it tends to have more spectators and things going on.

Once you neared the back entrance to Epcot, we looped around through the back area, and then came out and followed the marathon route around the countries.  Remy and his brother were out from Ratatouille, so I made a quick stop to snag a picture there, and then just enjoyed the trek through the countries and around the lake.  It’s always so pretty and there were cast members out cheering us on.  After the countries you loop up near the ball and head out a back way, towards the parking areas.  I was a little sad that the choir that usually sings around mile 13 weren’t there.  I always enjoyed them and they’ve become almost an expectation for me.  There was another group there that was good, I was just surprised.

The finish line area is always exciting.  I love that the announcers call out your names as you approach.  Confetti covered the ground when the first finisher crossed, which I was pretty psyched to hear was a girl!  I didn’t see any characters at the finish line, which I thought was weird because usually someone is there and you can snag a high five as you cross the finish line.  Instead I just celebrated as I crossed the finish line, though my race photos show some pretty creepy faces, which I’m going to not include in this post.

One of my complaints about RunDisney races is how far you walk immediately after the finish and how much stuff they give you, with no bag.  I walked pretty slowly through the chute because I knew my husband wasn’t too far behind me as I was tracking him through the runner tracking system on my phone.  I stopped and got some ice for my knee, which they strapped on quickly and sent me on my way.  As you continue to wind through the chute, you got a cooling towel, water, PowerAde, a banana, the coveted RunDisney food box, and THEN they stop you for pictures, so you have to put everything down if you want a finisher picture.  I feel like that should be sooner in the line up so that you don’t have to juggle everything, or they should have a bag they give you so you can actually carry everything without a struggle.

They make you keep moving through the chute, so I had to wait for my husband outside the finisher picture area.  They let us both go back in so that we could get pictures together.  Then we grabbed my bag from the bag check, which is quick and easy, and we went back to the merchandise tent to see what was left.  There was tons of stuff, but nothing new, so we went and got a picture with Chip and Dale and then caught the shuttle to go back to our resort since we had a breakfast reservation at Cape May at the Beach Club and needed to get moving.

Wine and Dine Half Expo Review: Changes galore

Thinking I’m so cool at my first Wine and Dine Half in 2012
I did my first Wine and Dine half in 2012 and have gone back every year since.  That year I had just gotten into running and was intrigued by the Disney races.  My in-laws had never been to Disney, so my husband and I decided to bring them down with us.  We stayed at All Star Music in a cute suite, and I got to see RunDisney in all its flash and glory, which obviously got me hooked.

This was back when you could register for RunDisney races a few weeks in advance, rather than getting on the computer right when the regi

This year
stration opened, praying that you’d get in.  I think my husband and I both registered for the 5k about a week before the race, which would be my husband’s first ever race and start his slow pull into running.  A lot of changes have happened since that year.  Overall, RunDisney became really popular, making registration stressful and forcing people to register nearly a year in advance.  This definitely could be a turn off to people, and it seems that race demand is in decline. RunDisney has already moved next year’s marathon registration back to April, versus the February it was this past year.  That’s helpful, particularly if you don’t allow for transfers, deferrals, or refunds, and makes it nicer if you want to try to make a more “last-minute” trip to do a race.


The Wine and Dine Weekend has also changed, now offering a challenge for completing the 10k and half.  When I started running it in 2012, it was the 5k on Saturday morning with the half marathon that night, finishing with a party at Epcot, where runners could stay until three or four AM.  There was something really neat about starting a race at 10 pm and running through Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, the Boardwalk, and Epcot at night, but that has changed.  Now the race weekend extends over three days, with the 5k on Friday, 10k Saturday, and the half Sunday afternoon, with the party that night, which can be difficult to take off of work for another day if you are an out-of-towner.   This change, to me, has decreased the uniqueness of the Wine and Dine, and I think the fact that registration was still available going into race weekend shows that I am not the only person who feels that way.  However, I digress.

I brought up change because the expo underwent many changes for this race weekend, which were obvious from the start.  My husband went down early this year, and he texted me from the expo, telling me how different it was.  I didn’t really know what he meant until I got there.  First of all, the buses drop you off in a different spot, likely due to construction, but it seemed substantially closer than the old locations.  You used to walk a fair amount just to get into the ESPN complex.  Now it wasn’t so bad.  The first stop to get your bib was in the same building, but here’s where the changes started. When you walked in, going one way would take you to bib pick up, the other way would take you to a merchandise location.  There was always an area to get the coveted RunDisney race merchandise near bib pick up, but now it was in a different room.  As we walked to the race merchandise, my husband warned me how different it would be.  I couldn’t even fathom it when we walked in.

You used to be crammed into little areas with people pushing each other just to get to items.  I’ve seen people yelling, throwing things, and breaking things in order to get stuff.  Usually this behavior was more around Princess weekend, but I’ve seen aggressive shoppers during other weekends as well.  It was always drama filled.

This year the merchandise was basically in its own level of the arena, in a sprawling area where people could easily navigate and pick out the items they wanted.  There was a section of generic RunDisney stuff, an area for men and women apparel for each race, and miscellaneous drinkware, with the preorder stuff along the back wall.  I couldn’t believe it!  It used to be very stressful to get your merchandise, and this was so peaceful and laid back.  I was able to look at everything and really see it, instead of being jostled over items that were the most wanted.  People were milling around rather than rushing to get things.  I don’t know if the fact that RunDisney didn’t release any race merchandise previews helped, but it was a totally different atmosphere.  My husband had been there right when it opened Thursday, and we were both there right when it opened Friday.  There was no overcrowding or issues at all.  I also feel like they are doing a better job with ordering enough stuff.  There were a few things that sold out, but some of the more popular items were still available at the end of the weekend, such as jackets, Tervis mugs, and other race shirts.  I know this is a smaller race, but I was still so surprised by the positive changes.

After the merchandise and bib pick up, we still had to go to the other building to get the shirts.  They still have it at the back of the arena, forcing you to walk through the vendors to get there.  It’s good marketing, but still is a bit of a pain to have to go over there.  There wasn’t any race merchandise in this building like there normally is, so everything was much more spread out in there and made it easier to walk around and browse the various stalls.  We quickly picked up my shirt and shopped, before stopping for a drink to get the RunDisney cups that you can get when you purchase a beverage.  This time they were clear with glitter, and we’ve gotten a number of different colors over the years.  We were able to enjoy our drinks outside, people watching and musing over how much easier this expo had been than previous years.

So, while I discussed some changes that may not have been for the best at the beginning of my post, I do have to say that the changes made to the expo this time around are very positive.  Kudos to RunDisney for addressing a problem that has been building up for awhile now.  I hope that they use this system for marathon weekend.  I’ll report back for that one and let you know how that expo goes in two months!