Saturday, November 16, 2013

Wonka's Factory: the RunDisney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Meet-up

I had such a great time last week at my first RunDisney events. You might think it impossible that they'd live up to the hype, but they really do. It's no wonder the races sell out so quickly.

My race weekend began with an exclusive opportunity to participate in a RunDisney Meet-up. It's really tricky to get invited, but I managed to be one of the 125 lucky participants! After finishing up some work appointments, I hustled over to Epcot around 8pm on Thursday night of race weekend. This is the first evening Meet-Up RunDisney has ever put on.

At the check-in table they gave me a shirt to change into, a FastPass for Test Track and instructions to report to a special viewing area by 8:45 for Illuminations.

I changed into my shirt and went over to Test Track, spotting some other people in the queue with the same shirt and exchanging knowing glances. After the ride we gathered near the Mexico Pavilion and I had the chance to meet some super nice people like Wendy (a.k.a. MapsGirl) and Carrie (who I didn't even realize was a member of the Disney Mom's Panel). I also recognized a ton of bloggers who post about RunDisney events. It was by reading their sites that I even knew about these Meet-ups and how to get in!

At 9pm the fireworks started, and we had the best seats in the house.

After Illuminations we had a little more time to mingle as guests exited the park. When the coast was clear we walked up to the America Gardens Theater where they had some fruit, wine and a sample of the Trick'n Chick'n with Curry, which is one of the vegetarian dishes served at the Food & Wine Festival. We also had a chance to meet the head chef.

The speakers included Faron Kelley, Director of Marketing & Communications for Disney Sports. He had the line of the night: "We've got Epcot to ourselves, we left the torches on, and we're going to run. How cool is that?!?" RunDisney Training Consultant & Olympian Jeff Galloway and Nutrition Consultant Tara Gidus shared some advice about getting ready for a night race.

We got to hear from another Olympian, Jenny Simpson, who holds the record for the fastest women's mile in 2013 at 4:19. That's very fast.

A pair of chefs and Disney's head Sommelier gave us some recommendations for what to try at the Food & Wine festival

And then it was almost time to run. But first, a couple more photo opportunities. Jeff Galloway again...

...and some other folks who need no introduction.

We split into two groups for the approximately two mile run around Epcot. I went with Jeff's group which used the run-walk-run method I've been using in my training and races since early this summer. The other group did a straight run led by Jenny Simpson.

The two groups met up for a huge group photo. Can you spot me?

Faron Kelley then led us in a champagne toast.

It was after midnight when we left Epcot, but the experience was so exciting I had trouble falling asleep when I got back to the room. RunDisney treated us all as VIPs and did a first-rate job of handling the logistics. I'm excited to try to get into the Meet-up for the WDW Marathon Weekend in January!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Golden Ticket

It’s no surprise that the most exclusive events at Walt Disney World tend to have the highest demand, and on race weekend, there’s no tougher ticket than the runDisney Meet-Up.

These events fill up in literally just a few minutes after they’re announced. To get in requires stalking the runDisney Twitter Feed and Disney Parks Blog in the weeks leading up to a race. Shortly before they begin taking RSVPs (sometimes a day or two prior, sometimes just an hour or two) they’ll put out a little teaser indicating that something’s coming. Then with a post to their blog, they take RSVPs on a first-come, first-served basis.

Since I was going to be in Orlando a couple of days before the Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend, I knew I’d have time in my schedule to participate in the runDisney Meet-Up – but first, I’d have to get in.