I love a good race in a cool spot. And so when I heard that Universal Orlando was testing out some inaugural runs, my interest was more than piqued. And when they reached out to invite me to run them, I was incredibly excited to have the chance to check them out for you.
And before I dig in, I want to make something very clear: There is room for everyone on the nice list!! When it comes to race options, the more the merrier. I'm always thrilled when we have new, healthy, active ways to experience the places that we love.
I'm also going to throw out one thing, lest it not get lost in the shuffle. And this applies to runDisney AND these new Universal races. When thinking about the cost of them, you cannot compare them to your local runs. I would, instead, think of them as a pre-opening hard ticket event in the parks. Because that is precisely what they are: A unique way to experience a park (or parks) that you love, typically starting before sunrise. So do they tend to be expensive? Compared to a typical local race: Yes, of course. Will they work for everyone's budget? No, of course not. But think about that cost like you'd think about, say, tickets to an After Hours event. If that works for your interests and your budget, then go for it!! If not, then don't distress.
With that out of the way, here's the quick run down of details and my thoughts as a whole!!
- Races: Universal Orlando's Epic Character Race Weekend, including a 5K and 10K
- Dates: February 1st (5K) and 2nd (10K), 2020
- Times: Both races began at 6:15 a.m.
- Prices: The 5K was $82 and the 10K was $121. There was no single challenge that provided for special pricing and medals for running both. I'd love to see this added as an option in the future.
- Course Maps: Both courses included a TON of park miles. They each started with about one mile of road time before entering Islands of Adventure, and then moved over to Universal Studios. The 10K included time in both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, which was AMAZING. I might have run my slowest 10K ever because we ended up just wandering Diagon Alley blissfully for like 7 minutes in the middle of the race.
- Age Requirement: You only needed to be 5 years old to run either race. This is a very low threshold for a 10K!! It will be interesting to see if this remains the case. If so, it's a great option for little runners who can handle the mileage and want to get out there more.
- Pace Requirement: Both races required an average 17 minute mile pace. This is one minute slower than runDisney's typical 16 minute mile requirement (though runDisney 5Ks are untimed).
Simplest Answer: We had so. much. fun. at these races. They were like a low key local race that just happened to be in a theme park loaded with characters and entertainment. The races started at 6:15 a.m. and, while I'm sure this will change as the numbers of runners grow, you really could just roll up not long before the start time and head to the start line. And I kid you not, I was sad when I saw the finish line at each race. We were having such a blast out there that I didn't want it to end.
A quick count from my race pictures gets me about 8 character photo ops at the 5K and about 15 character photo ops at the 10K – Betty Boop, the Simpsons, Shrek and Donkey, Puss in Boots, baby dinos, the Blues Brothers, King Julien, Scooby and Shaggy…and on and on. You also had the option to add a very generous post-race breakfast at Antojitos on CityWalk and there were more characters there.
There are definitely areas where I look forward to seeing growth as they move past these inaugural events. Corral placement will need to get a bit more careful and, while these were shorter distances, I'd love to see them make bag check an option. I'd also love to see some more entertainment in the pre-race area. It would have been fun to have some music and character meet and greets while we waited. That said, I also very much didn't mind how chill the start area was or the fact that we didn't need to get there hours before run time.
Bottom line: I had a blast this weekend and am so very excited to see where these new races lead Universal moving forward.
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P.S. – If you were into my race outfits, please check out DreamItShoppe on Etsy. I've worn her stuff before and she was kind enough to send me these running dresses for this weekend's races. I love her race clothing because it's incredibly creative and the fabric is like butter.
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And, as always, while I am incredibly grateful to have been invited to experience these races as Universal's guest, all opinions are my own. I have nothing if I don't have your trust, and that's something that I will never violate.