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Race review: Wine and Dine half marathon

Disney-Wine-&-Dine-Half-Marathon-Weekend

This past weekend, I ran the Wine and Dine Half Marathon in Walt Disney World. It was a unique experience to say the least! It was my first night race, my first half marathon during pregnancy, and the first race I’ve run that served wine at the finish line (though obviously I couldn’t partake in that activity). It was a blast!

The Wine and Dine half marathon is a flat, fast point-to-point course. The event starts at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and finishes outside of EPCOT. If you stay on Disney property, you receive free transportation to and from the event.

The one negative was that we had to be on the buses to the start more than two hours before the race began — it had a 10 p.m. start time. But, unlike the morning Disney races, there wasn’t a long walk to the corrals. And in true Disney fashion, there was plenty of entertainment in the staging area and in the corrals, so the time went by really fast.

RunDisney implemented a new corral system this year – there are more corrals with fewer participants in each one to help with course crowding (more than 12,000 runners completed the race). The corrals start every two minutes, and each one gets its own special fireworks send-off.

The course itself was really enjoyable. There was on-course entertainment, like DJs and cheer squads, character photo ops beginning at mile one, and plenty of runners dressed in costume (I was Mike Wazowski and my friend dressed as Sulley). There were also plenty of fluid stations (nine total and one food stop) and medical tents. There were tons of port-a-potties and real bathrooms open in the park – something really appreciated by this pregnant lady!

The first few miles were on roads. Right before mile 4, we entered Animal Kingdom. Running through the parks is truly what sets Disney races aside for me. There’s truly nothing like it. Mile 5 to 8 were on roads again, and there were some very slight hills — really just overpasses.

At mile 9, we entered Hollywood Studios. Hollywood Studios was the highlight of the race. We ran through the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights – a section of the park literally covered in Christmas lights. It literally took my breath away and made many runners stop in their tracks to take photos.

After Hollywood Studios, we ran on the path that connects the park to the Boardwalk area resorts. There were so many spectators out in front of their hotels – something I really appreciated at close to midnight!

Then we looped into EPCOT where we were greeted by tons of screaming spectators. And before we knew it, we turned into the finish line!

The real highlight of this race actually comes after the finish line. There’s an after party, and EPCOT is open only to runners. The real treat is the food and wine festival– offerings included lobster rolls, pork sliders, bratwurst in a pretzel bun, and berry Belgium waffles – not to mention the wine – there was even vegan wine. I don’t think anyone has ever eaten so well after a race! The food is available for purchase, but runners receive a $10 gift card with their registration fee.

As for my personal race experience, although I finished 22 minutes slower than my PR, I was happy with my performance. I ran a 2:02:29, kept consistent splits, only walked through the fluid stations, and finished with a smile on my face.

I’d definitely recommend runDisney’s Wine and Dine half marathon to any runner looking for a fast course with a party at the finish line. I can’t wait to run it again next year!

Written by Jen Matz