One of the highlights of our honeymoon visit to Walt Disney World was our first runDisney event! After doing a couple local races in our hometown this year, we were primed for Mickey’s Jingle Jungle 5k.
We were out late the night before with Sarah, Nora and Nick at bluezoo, so dragging ourselves out of bed before sunrise for the 5k was a Herculean task. The race started at 7:00 AM, so I woke up at about 4:30 to get ready and make sure we had plenty of time to get from Old Key West, which was not a host resort for the Wine & Dine race weekend, to the Animal Kingdom.
Dawn was just breaking as we arrived at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park by taxi. We didn’t know what to expect of ourselves when we registered for this 5k, so we put ourselves in the slowest bracket, which ended up being corral D for this race. Already, thousands of people were lined up in the corrals in the parking lot, decked out in holiday-themed race gear.
We shuffled toward the start line as corrals A, B and C received their starting guns. Finally it was our turn, and we ran through the “snow” in the parking lot toward the gates of the Animal Kingdom.
About two thirds of the race takes place in the parking lot areas, and you don’t meet your first character until you actually get inside the park and head toward Discover Island. We skipped the first few characters because lines were long and we were worried about time. After we looped around the park and headed toward the exit, we had to stop for Chip and Dale.
Upon exiting the park, you’re greeted with another mile or so of parking lot, and at one point the race course doubles back and you’re running past people a good kilometer ahead of / behind you. That back section of parking lot is rewarding, though. There are character photo spots for both Donald Duck and Pluto.
A funny aside: Pluto was really energetic! He was dancing and fist pumping along to the music as we walked up for our picture. His dancing was so zealous that he didn’t even see Danny approaching. Seconds before this photo was taken, Pluto accidentally punched Danny in the chin! I’m of the opinion that he was probably asking for it.
I’m not sure what our official time was when we crossed the finish line, but I have to think we were pretty close to 50 minutes with all the character stops we made. I thought we might be in danger of getting swept toward the end. Some of those lines were really long, and Chip and Dale went on a break for a couple minutes while we were still waiting for them. If you’ve never done a runDisney event before and aren’t sure if you can keep up with their required 16 minute/mile pace, I’d definitely recommend that you pick and choose your photo spots. We skipped a whole host of characters from The Jungle Book, The Lion King and others so that we could get the photos we did with the characters in their holiday gear. We also skipped Mickey and Minnie at the finish line because the wait looked to be at least an hour long by the time we got there.
All in all, it was a successful race, and we look forward to longer runs in the future. Danny is looking ahead to the Wine and Dine Half Marathon next year, and I’m planning on running the Tinkerbell 10k the January after that. For any runners out there, we’d love to hear your tips and feedback about the longer runDisney events. Merry Christmas!