The inaugural Springtime Surprise is behind us and it was such a fun – but different!! – sort of race weekend! I have so so many thoughts on each of the races and cannot wait to recap them with you and hear YOUR thoughts on the events of the weekend, too.
The Expedition Everest 5K
The first big difference of the weekend was, of course, that we kicked off with a Thursday night race instead of a Friday morning one. And even though the distance was the same as usual, it felt so much different for so many reasons.
A three race challenge!!
For starters, for the first time we got a three race challenge!! Before now, the only race challenge that involved running every race of a runDisney weekend was the Dopey Challenge – wherein we run a 5K, 10K, half marathon, and full marathon over the course of a single weekend. The other race weekends typically offer a standalone 5K on Friday morning and a 10K and half marathon (on Saturday morning and Sunday morning, respectively) that can be done on their own or together as a part of a two-course challenge.
This was more confusing for me personally than I’d care to admit. I’m so used to seeing multiple registrations in my runDisney account for any given weekend that I logged into my account the morning of Expo and literally had a mini panic attack when I saw only one registration before I remembered that it covered all three races. (But, embarrassingly, after sending a frantic text to a group of runDisney friends that OMG I think I forgot to register for the 5K….)
All of this being said, it’s worth noting that this weekend’s challenge was actually the same distance as a usual challenge. Normally the challenge is a 10K and a half marathon, for a total of 19.3 miles. This time, instead, we completed a 5K, a 10K, and a 10 miler, again for a total of 19.3 miles!!
A Night Race!! And related weather and transportation issues…
Normally we run the 5K of a runDisney race weekend on Friday morning. While it’s tough adding that additional middle-of-the-night wake up call, I do like that this sort of gets your body on track for the rest of the weekend.
That said, there’s just something very cool and different about a night race. The energy is so much different. Running after a normal day that started with Expo is so much different than running after your alarm goes off at 2 o’clock in the morning like it does for every other runDisney race.
That said, this was the first night race since the 2015 Wine & Dine half marathon – and it was a reminder of the many reasons that night races at Walt Disney World are challenging. There are more regular park guests out and about in cars, buses, and other forms of transportation – so getting the buses from the resorts to the race was more of a challenge. (And I will say that not starting to run those buses until 8:30 p.m. for a 10 p.m. race was cutting it very close. I was really surprised when I heard that was the plan and was really NOT surprised when things ended up running behind….)
Also…this is Central Florida – and weather is really unpredictable here. Especially in the evenings during warmer months. Planning an April night race at the scale of runDisney event had to be nerve wracking. As the weekend got closer, the weather looked like it had the potential to be really bad. And while we ended up getting really, really lucky all weekend, we were missing major storms throughout by minutes or miles. The closest of which was before the 5K on Thursday night.
While the weather ended up holding out, the threat of storms and nearby lightning were enough to cause the race organizers to put off the planned scavenger hunt portion of the race (I still haven’t done it so I can’t comment on it) and cut the course by about .6 miles, making for a distance of around 2.5 miles instead of 3.1. In all honesty, though, we barely noticed. All of the characters and PhotoPass photographers seemed to have been packed into what was left of the course. We took our time enjoying every stop. And the humidity felt like a balmy 150%. All this together made for a group of runners that could have cared less about the actual length of the course. We were just out there sweating and having fun.
Running through Animal Kingdom
And just where were we having all of that fun?? Disney’s Animal Kingdom!! I’ve missed the old Wine & Dine 5K that would go through Animal Kingdom so it was so so nice to be able to do a dedicated race there again. We got to explore so much of DAK, on and off stage – from backstage areas with the animals to the Tree of Life and a beautiful, glowing Pandora. As I mentioned above, the course was cut a bit, from 3.1 miles to closer to 2.5, but I don’t think anyone missed the bit of additional mileage.
Characters on the Course
Throughout the weekend there was a lot of character repetition, so we definitely got pickier over time about whom we’d stop for. We’d see members of the Fab 5 again and again but outfitted in different ways – in mountain climbing gear for the 5K, chef’s hats for the 10K, and Hollywood glitz and glamour for the 10 miler. These were all cute…but I don’t necessarily *need* pictures of Pluto in three different hats. Hoping that we get a bit more variety back in future races.
And all of that said, it was all new and fresh at this inaugural weekend’s 5K, so true to habit we stopped at every stop and made the most of every mile. We were so excited to see Divine – not to mention Mickey and Goofy in their mountain climbing gear. They were trading places in a single photo spot so we waited in line TWICE to get both of them!
This race was so much fun and I can’t wait to see what they decide to do with it (or whatever theme replaces it) next year. Don’t get me wrong – it wasn’t seamless. I didn’t love the fact that when you arrived beforehand, you were corralled into an area just outside the main gates of the park – where we waited until we were whisked in and directly into our starting corrals not too long before the race actually began. Bus transportation from the resorts required a little extra time, and I still don’t know how the scavenger hunt portion would have gone since it was canceled due to weather concerns – but all of that aside, this race was just plain fun.
And all of that said I’ll just offer up my unsolicited opinion that if we want runDisney (or anyone or anything, really) to dare to try new things, we need to allow them a learning curve in making them happen. If we want people to take risky moves, we have to understand when they don’t play out perfectly. This race was a blast. I loved the course. The characters. The fact that it was at night and not a cookie cutter version of every 5K I’ve done on Disney property in recent years. If this is the first sign that runDisney is ready to try new concepts and courses, then I’m here for it and will enjoy every minute while they take what they learned this year and apply it to everything that’s coming in the 2022-2023 season and beyond.
Springtime Surprise – Expedition Everest 5K Tips & Tricks
And if you’re skimming for some quick tips, here they are:
- Pay attention to email communications about this (and any) runDisney event! For this inaugural 5K night race, email communications told us all the things we needed to know about a new race, as well as what we’d need to do to be ready for the phone-based scavenger hunt that was supposed to be a part of the event.
- Tape your bibs at the corners!! Especially if you’re doing a challenge. Disney’s current bibs tear very easily when you pin them. And you only got one bib for all three races if you were doing the challenge. (And you had ONE section assignment that applied to all three races….) So the first thing I do when I get home from expo these days is reinforce all four corners of my bib with packing tape. I’m careful not to cover the chip at all when I do this just in case it could interfere with it reading correctly.
- Allow plenty of time for travel!! If you plan to ride a bus, get in line early enough to board early in the process. If you are driving, leave early enough to get yourself parked and settled in in plenty of time.
- We probably could have assumed this since buses started at 8:30 p.m. and the race started at 10 p.m., but there was no real pre-race setup, which was very different from normal runDisney races. Plan your arrival time accordingly – especially if you’re driving and have a bit more flexibility. That said, definitely don’t cut it too close due to the aforementioned traffic… – so if you’re like me and would rather relax after you’re where you need to be, plan to leave early to beat the traffic AND to have to occupy yourself for an hour or so once you arrive. And note that the 10K and 10 miler *did* have the usual couple of hours of pre-race entertainment, photo ops, etc., so if you choose to arrive a bit later for the 5K, I’d still plan to arrive a bit earlier for the other races of the weekend.
- Be ready for any weather. I always keep mylar and cheap ponchos (get the ones with a drawstring – they’ll be so much better in the wind!) at the ready for races and definitely brought one of each to the events this weekend in case of rain or related extreme temperature changes. (Temperatures tend to drop and wind picks up when inclement weather is rolling in.) For something like a night run with even more unpredictable weather, it’s all the more important to be ready for anything.
And that’s a wrap on this one!! Did you run the Expedition Everest 5K?? If you’ve run a night race, how does it compare to morning races for you??
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You can find my complete guide to making the most of your runDisney race weekend RIGHT HERE and my guide to running trails on Disney World property RIGHT HERE.
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