On Thursday, January 8th I woke up at 3am and quickly got myself dressed in race clothes. Soon after I found myself waking up my 6 year old son and my 8 year old daughter and getting them dressed in running gear. My weather app on my phone said it was 46F outside but predicted it would get colder. In the weeks leading up to the race, we had carefully planned cute outfits. Jessica and I were going to dress as matching Elsa’s – matching capes and all – and Zachary as Bumblebee from the Transformers. Unfortunately a cold snap in Florida meant dressing for warmth before cuteness.
We hopped on the monorail from our lovely Villa over to the Ticket and Transportation Center where we were sad to learn that the Epcot monorail was stopped. We waited in the cold wind for Disney to send over bus transportation. Eventually a Disney bus (one of the typical theme park buses, not a race transportation bus) arrived and we were happily on our way to the start.
One downside to running Disney races with younger children is that you have to get to the starting line very far in advance. I’m sure for a typical local 5k you can arrive soon before the race starts. But at Disney the huge race size and complicated logistics mean that you are there at least 60-90 minutes before race start. Add cold and windy weather. Super early morning starts. And it’s easy to have some unhappy children.
We were lucky to hear from a friend that there was room in an unused massage tent for people to wait out of the wind. The tent wasn’t heated but since it was filled with people and relatively wind-proof (if people would remember to close the darn door behind them!), it was still a welcome reprieve from the cold wind. We were starting in Corral E so I wasn’t in a huge hurry to get to the starting area so we waited inside as long as possible. It did mean missing any runDisney team meet-ups but it was more important to keep my children from being miserable.
We finally headed towards the starting area and I encouraged my children to use the porta-potty before getting to the corral. They were reluctant but fortunately agreed. As we were waiting in line for a bathroom, corral A started. Luckily for the 5k the corrals are only a short walk and we were in the corral when corral B was released.
Another downside to the Disney 5k is that there is a relatively long time lag between starting corrals. With children I have always started in a late corral and many people have already finished the race before we started. This, combined with the cold wind and the early hour, meant that my 6 year old was ready to give up the race before we even started. With some coaxing and a reminder of the cool medal he would be getting, he agreed to wait it out.
The children and I had chosen a run 30 sec/walk 60 sec strategy for the race. We had practiced at a run 15 sec/walk 60 sec interval but I thought the race-day adrenaline would win out. Jessica was given her own run/walk timer in case she got frustrated with Zachary’s slow pace but she decided to stay with us the whole time.
Zachary has mild cerebral palsy and didn’t walk until age 2. Physical activity remains difficult for him although his disability is subtle and wouldn’t be noticed by a casual observer. The early hour and long wait to start had made him a bit cranky and he got fairly whiny early in the race. We had a difficult race during Wine & Dine Weekend (Mickey’s Jingle Jungle 5k) with lots of whining and he had promised this time would be different. I gently reminded him of his promise (ok, it might not have been very gently). After expressing some anger and frustration at me, he soon changed his tune and decided that we were going to have fun.
We passed the 1 mile mark before entering Epcot and by the first water station, Zachary had apologized for being crabby. He soon invented a fun game where we had to jump over any lines in the sidewalk and we started singing and dancing our way around World Showcase. We were a little disappointed as we were belting out “Let it Go” along with Demi Lovato and the music started to skip and have problems. But mostly we just had fun.
Here we are singing along….
The course then heads into Future World. Jessica loved running by Nemo where she was yelling “Mine. Mine. Mine” along with the seagulls. We came around by the iconic “golf ball” before heading to the finish line.
Zachary is trying to catch up!
One of the amazing things about running Disney over and over again is the special people that you get to know. For me a huge highlight of this trip was meeting famed runDisney race announcer, Rudy Novotny, at the Race Expo. I told him a bit about my kids running the 5k and especially about Zachary’s disability. My friend was waiting for us at the finish line with instructions to text Rudy as we were getting close. My kids were thrilled to get a special shout-out from Rudy as they were finishing! Definitely a highlight of the race!
I was SO proud of my kids for finishing with big smiles on their faces!
I think the Disney World 5k is a really fun race. I’m not sure it’s worth the HUGE price tag now attached to it but I’m glad that my children have had the opportunity to run this race. While we didn’t stop for character photos along the course, we still enjoyed seeing the characters. My best advice for this event is to HAVE FUN!