Zydeco Half Marathon 2018 Review

Our choice for Louisiana was a no-brainer since Spencer is actually from Lafayette, Louisiana!  The Zydeco Half Marathon boasted a wonderful course and Spencer was thrilled to run through his hometown.  If you’ve ever been to a Fais Do Do – that was the entire vibe of this fun and community-involved race!

Our Tony Chachere’s and Slap Ya Mama costumes spiced up the Zydeco Half Marathon!

Zydeco Half Marathon Course

This was another race that boasted both a Full and Half Marathon distance.  The two courses actually stay together for the first almost 13 miles and then half runners turn towards the finish line.  The course winds through the entire Lafayette area, starting downtown and running past local icons like the Cajundome and the University of Louisiana campus!

About two-thirds of the way through the course, we entered a residential area.  At first we were skeptical because those areas can typically be a little dull, but we were quickly proved wrong.  Many of the homeowners were out in their lawns and on the side streets having a full cheering party!  We were even offered some boudin and cracklins!

Spencer’s family went to several spots on the course to cheer us on!


Zydeco Half Marathon Festival

This race wasn’t kidding when we were told there would be a party after the race!  Runners had 5 Food and Beverage tickets attached to their bibs to be used at a variety of vendors serving some real Louisiana cooking.  There was also the opportunity to try some local brews.  Tony Chachere’s was there and they loved Spencer’s costume!

The real highlight was the music.  Zydeco is actually a genre of music that was created in Southeast Louisiana.  It was a really great way to incorporate the race name and local flair into this race.  Katie had never been to Louisiana before and she left this race with a comprehensive tour!

Spencer with the Tony Chachere’s food truck at the Zydeco Half Marathon after-party! They made a mean gumbo!

Zydeco Half Marathon Medal

Keeping in line with the theme, this race offered a musically themed medal.  The medal featured a large accordion – an instrument largely featured in Zydeco music.  The medallion was the same for both race distances, with the ribbon designating which race was completed!

The Zydeco Half Marathon medal featured an accordion!

Overall, we had a great experience with this race.  The party atmosphere and hometown feel made it extremely enjoyable.  We would definitely recommend this race to anyone looking for a Louisiana race because you get a real hometown feel (and not in a commercialized Mardi Gras way).  We will be back to run again in the future!

The community support along the Zydeco Half Marathon route was fantastic! Training Wheels Personal Fitness loved our costumes so much they asked for a picture!

Gusher Half Marathon 2018 Review

Well the old Texas saying “bigger is better” absolutely held true at this race!  The Gusher Half Marathon in Beaumont, Texas actually boasts a Full Marathon, Half Marathon, 5K, Cycling Time Trial, and a Fitness Competition!  This means there was a huge variety of athletes at this event and something for everyone in the community!

Our fossil fuel costumes for the Gusher Half Marathon in Beaumont, Texas!

Gusher Marathon and Half Marathon Course

The course for this race is 13.1 miles, meaning marathon runners will complete two loops of the course.  The course time limit is 6 hours, which is perfect for beginner runners to try their first half marathon.  It is extremely comforting to know that even if you finish in 4-5 hours, there will be a marathon runner coming up behind you (no one needs to know they ran twice as far).

The course followed what we like to call a “balloon” shape.  Meaning there was a there and back section with a loop around the middle.  The there and back was way more manageable as both sides of the road were closed so you had a different view on the way back.  Our favorite part of the course was running past the world’s largest working fire hydrant!

Gusher Half Marathon sponsor Exxpress Mart brought out their mascot for the race!

Gusher Marathon and Half Marathon Aide Stations

The absolute highlight of this race was the Aide Stations.  We didn’t keep count, but we believe we passed 15 stations over the course of 13.1 miles.  Not only were they plentiful, they were extremely well stocked.  Each station boasted water and sports drink, plus gels and other nutrition.  Many of the stations had fresh sliced oranges and bananas and we even grabbed some Funyuns at Mile 12!  The icing on the cake was the dozens of motivated volunteers along the course.  We never felt rushed and always felt appreciated – every mile was easier because of these volunteers.

The post-race festivities at the Gusher Half Marathon included local ciders!

Gusher Half Marathon Medal

With “big” expectations in Texas, this race came through!  The medal featured the Oil Gusher theme and was race specific with a big 13.1 in the middle.  We really appreciated that the ribbon listed all three race distances so we can remember that in the future.  It met our expectation of either the ribbon or the medal being race distance specific!  It also featured a bottle opener, which some may like to versatility.

The medal for the Gusher Half Marathon is big and awesome!

Honestly, there are a lot of races to consider in Texas.  This race should absolutely be on the top of any runners list for Texas.  With a great time limit for the Half Marathon, extraordinary aide stations, and a well established race staff – this race runs like a well-oiled machine!

runDisney Princess Half Marathon 2018 Review

With one of the most popular themes for a runDisney race, the Princess Half Marathon continues to sell out, even in its 10th Anniversary this year!  With over 200 runners completing every race, it is easy to see why this race is on many runner’s bucket lists.  Another unique feature of this race is that it attracts a large amount of newer (and potentially under-trained runners) which means it also boasts one of the highest counts of non-finishers.

Our costumes for the 2018 Princess Half Marathon pay homage to the original Mickey Mouse Club!

runDisney Princess Half Marathon Course

The Princess Half Marathon Course closely aligns with the Half Marathon race from January’s runDisney Marathon Weekend.  The main draw of this course is that runners actually run through Cinderella Castle.  For many, this is the highlight of the whole race!  For others, this is a heavily congested area that might ruin a PR.

The course begins in the EPCOT parking lot, runs out to Magic Kingdom, passing through the Ticket and Transportation Center, and then back to finish in EPCOT.  This course arguably seems longer because it is harder to divide it up into chunks.  Miles 7-10 are back down World Drive and the straight path with no real attractions seems long.  Also, at this point of the race (for many) the sun is up and there is little shade to be found.

Running through the Magic Kingdom park is the highlight of the Princess Half Marathon 2018 Course!

runDisney Princess Half Marathon Photos

Like we said, running through the castle is one of the main reasons people are willing to drop the serious cash for this race.  When we made it through the castle, PhotoPass was having “technical difficulties” and a manager was there to pull the two photographers off course.  This lead to the bottom photo area of stationary photos to get huge lines!  We were able to snag some photos exiting the castle, but we always enjoy the typical castle shot.

There were plenty of photographers spaced out around the course.  We did see other Cast Members struggling with their cameras, and we even got a full set of blurry photos.  One PhotoPass Cast Member refused our photo because too many people were near her.  We were running at this point and maintaining pace with the runners around us.  This was the first time we have seen major challenges since the switch from MarathonFoto.

Here is one of the only photos we have from in front of Cinderella Castle during the Princess Half Marathon.

runDisney Princess Half Marathon Costumes

Katie’s favorite part of this race series is the number of costumed runners.  Of course, we always run in costume, but at this race you would be out numbered if you didn’t wear one!  Don’t stress if you are not a costumer, plenty of runDisney Expo vendors offer themed shirts, skirts, and accessories to make a quick and comfortable costume before the race!

Elsa was one of the 8 princess characters in the DJ area before the 2018 Princess Half Marathon!

runDisney Princess Half Marathon Medals and Swag

Let’s be honest here, would we drop this much money on a race if the bling was sub-par?  Absolutely not!  For the 10th Anniversary of the runDisney Princess Half Marathon, runners received a very glittery Snow White spinner medal.  Unfortunately, we saw a spinner piece on the ground only feet away from the medals!  They seem to have some quality control issues.  Fairy Tale Challenge participants received a much more lackluster Cinderella Coach Medal with no glitter, no jewels, and no spinner.

Our big swag complaint though… NO BACKPACKS! Seriously, where were those amazing drawstring backpacks?!  Traditionally, runners for the Half Marathon distance have received drawstring bags at the completion of the race.  On race day they are fantastic to help with juggling your snack box and drinks.  Throughout the year, we use them to separate pieces in our luggage, pack gym clothes for after work, and even for long walks or hikes.  We were majorly disappointed.

The 2018 Princess Half Marathon medal inspired by Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs!

The 2018 RunDisney Fairytale Challenge Medal inspired by Cinderella!











Overall, we were disappointed with this race.  The congestion continues to get worse and the etiquette is lost on many new runners.  While we know this is a popular race series, it doesn’t allow for enough time to run freely and the entertainment was less than in the past.  Next year, we will be considering the 5K and 10K only.

Katie holding up the big 2-0 after finishing her 20th half marathon at the 2018 Princess Half Marathon!

runDisney Princess 10K 2018 Review

The Princess Half Marathon Weekend is arguably the most popular runDisney weekend, especially since the addition of the Princess 10K.  With the temporary loss of Disneyland races in California, it is no doubt that this weekend will sell out again next year.  The big question is if runDisney will continue to increase the number of bibs sold, out on the course this year – it sure felt like it!

Katie’s super adorable Autograph Book costume for the Princess 10K!

runDisney Princess 10K Course

We’ve said it a million times, but the EPCOT 10K course is still one of our favorites.  You spend about 5K out of the parks and 5K around the resorts and through EPCOT.  The course is wide enough in the beginning to knock out an easy first mile.  You go through a water stop and blink and you’re in EPCOT!  Running through the park at sunrise is always stunning and with the Illuminations Torches lit up around each country, you are in for a real treat.

The best part of running around the Boardwalk Resort loop is the spectators!  Cast Members, ChEAR Squad participants, and locals alike all come out with fun signs and a great attitude.  It seriously feels like the easiest section of the whole course because the spectators are so motivating.  We do advise slowing down your pace or walking on the actual boardwalk portion as it may be slippery.  Don’t worry, you’ll hear “Caution Runners!” before you get to that section.

The course then takes a quick jaunt through EPCOT with just enough time to reach Mile 6 before exiting the park into the finish line area.  It is easy to have a confident run that hardly feels like a 10K with all of the excitement and the easily broken up course!

Figment is our favorite Disney character, so of course Katie had to get a photo of his topiary on the Princess 10K course!

runDisney Princess 10K Entertainment

While we can be a little critical with on-course entertainment, this race had a great quantity and maybe not so great quality.  The characters, DJs, and photo opportunities were well spaced around the course.  There was only one spot where speakers may have been placed incorrectly with some clashing music next to a video screen outside of EPCOT.  Everything was spaced out enough that it was easy to run or jog in between stops!

The character selection was a little lackluster.  Seriously, who decided to have ESPN Goofy out for a Princess Themed race?!  Pocahontas with Meeko was the clear winner for Character stops, but she meets daily at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  Overall, Katie only stopped to have her photo taken with the Figment Topiary in Future World.

Disney’s PhotoPass during the RunDisney weekends does a fantastic job of catching runners mid-stride!

runDisney Princess 10K Medal

Photos do not do this medal justice!  The featured princess for the 10K race was Merida from Brave!  It was nice to see a “less popular” princess featured!  The medal was a spinner (which we don’t always get for the 10K distance) and had really nice engraving around the edges.  It really embodied the spirit of Merida and had a simple elegance to it.

The medal for the RunDisney Princess 10k 2018

Overall, we would absolutely recommend this race.  If you are a 5K runner looking to up the ante, this is a solid choice of a 10K.  The way the course is broken up makes it very manageable.  If you are set on the Princess Half Marathon and considering a challenge, it is a no-brainer to add this fun 10K and collect a third medal.  You will see us at the runDisney Princess 10K next year!

You can see our race review and recap on YouTube here!

Daytona Beach Half Marathon 2018 Review

Ready to hit the road in our authentic NASCAR pit crew costumes for the Daytona Beach Half Marathon!

Since our main goal is to travel the country while running, it is a nice change of pace to experience a local race!  The Daytona Beach Half Marathon is a well known race – with many runners traveling from other states just to experience running on the Daytona Speedway!  Runners can also partake in the Speedway Challenge by running a 5K just after the Half Marathon for 16.2 miles total! (Note: Half Marathon must be completed in 3 hours).

Katie revving up her engines for the Daytona Beach Half Marathon relay!

Daytona Beach Half Marathon Course

The big draw for this race is the first two miles.  Runners start next to the checkered line and are led by a real pace car!  Even though the track is extremely banked, there is a flat circle around the middle with plenty of room for a less congested start.  Running on the Daytona Speedway also has a cool adrenaline factor and the first two miles were a breeze!

Runners then exit the track and complete 4 miles through neighborhoods heading towards the beach.  There were some spectators around, but nothing extremely notable during this portion of the run.  While less exciting, it was shaded and safe so really no complaints!

The course is largely flat and fast with the exception of a there and back over a large bridge.  If you are familiar with this area, it is the bridge along International Speedway Boulevard connecting to A1A.  Runners had a full lane of traffic to use, so they weren’t close the edge.  Normally, runners would have a stint on the beach in between the bridge runs, but due to high tide they were diverted to A1A.

Being on the world famous Daytona International Speedway was so cool!

Daytona Beach Half Marathon Relay

Since Katie’s dad was running his first Half Marathon, we decided to participate in the relay to coach him through the race.  It was our first experience doing a Half Marathon Relay, but we have experience from the Cocoa Beach Half Marathon when we ran the full distance and Katie’s parents completed the relay.

At packet pickup we were instructed on how to use our disposable shoe chips (the ones that loop through your laces like a bracelet).  For some reason, about half of the relay runners never got that memo and kept them behind their bibs.  We were also given one rubber bracelet to hand off at the switch-off, we assumed this was like the baton in the Olympics.

While Katie ran the first half, Spencer took a bus (30 minutes before the race even started) to the halfway point.  There was a tent there with chairs that were notably facing the wrong direction.  A nearby water stop, for the active runners, was all that was offered as far as hospitality.  Volunteers provided little communication or assistance in the transition.

After we switched, Katie took a bus back to the Daytona Speedway.  There was no bottled water, bananas, or any such amenities for relay runners who had completed their portion.  Everyone was also confused the location for medals.  After some sleuthing, Katie found a tent located just before Mile 13 on the track where she waited for Spencer to reach her.  The runners who completed the first half of the race had to wait and finish with their partners for their medals.  Needless to say, that last chunk was really slow since Katie had already rested for so long!

Katie and Spencer finishing the Daytona Beach Half marathon relay together!

Runner Perks and Amenities

After reaching the finish line together, we received our medals.  It was a little disappointing that there was no designation for the relay division.  We only ran half of what everyone else completed, yet still received the same perks.  Runners also recieve a really nice Beach Towel with the race logo emblazoned on it.  This is a sweet perk for a beach race.  Plus, it is a common item for runners to have in the back of the car!

The race shirts were also an all over print design with a checkered flag design swooping down half of it.  While the women’s cuts were once again inconsistently sized – we really like this shirt and will definitely keep it in rotation for a while.

Even though the race didn’t go on the beach, it was so close we couldn’t not go!

Overall Experience

Our review of this race is really in two parts.  The overall race is well thoughtout with adequate communication and course support.  The organizers are no stranger to putting on a solid race.  Our disappointment lies in the Relay Division.  We hope the race directors consider adding some hospitality to the tents, such as bottled water and bananas.  They should also have more volunteers at the switch to assist with directions, shoe tags, and bracelets.  We would recommend this race absolutely at the end of the day and hope that Running Zone continues to take feedback and improve on an already great race!

Big Beach Half Marathon 2018 Review

For our first new state in 2018 we went to Gulf Shores, Alabama.  Coming from Central Florida, we picked this race for its close proximity (driving), beach views, and promised swag and after party!  Unfortunately, the race only lived up to about half of the hype.

Big Beach Swag and Runner Perks

While we don’t only “run for the bling”, the course and swag are equally important to us.  We want to have a fast race, but we also want to have a fun race.  The Big Beach Half Marathon coincides with the Big Beach Marathon, and a lot of the perks were the same.  Our Half Marathon Medal was smaller, but with the same design and the nice touch of real sand in the letters!

Before the race, we opted to do our packet pickup the day before at The Hangout.  We were extremely disappointed when our promised long sleeve technical shirt turned out to be a short sleeve blend.  Seriously?  This shirt went straight to the back of the closet.  Race Directors should know that polyester technical shirts get more wears, which equals more free advertising!

We had received two emails from the Race Director about Pasta Specials at The Hangout and The Diner.  Since we were already at The Hangout, we decided to see their specials.  We were quickly informed that the Pasta Special didn’t begin until 4PM (even though packet pickup was 12PM-6PM).  Of course they could just make plain pasta we thought, but were told they wouldn’t even cook pasta until that time.  We bailed and went to The Diner down the road to enjoy their runner specials.  It is important for us to support small businesses, especially ones that have runner perks!

The Gulf coast offers beautiful views of white sandy beaches

Big Beach Half Marathon Course

If you had blindfolded us before the race, we would’ve never known we were anywhere near the beach.  The course was entirely through a wooded and swampy trail that had no views of the Gulf of Mexico.  While the course was nice and shady and free of cars, we assumed there would be some killer views.  We were wrong of course.

Shortly after Mile Marker 9, we started on some open slat bridges that spanned close to two miles total.  They were not extremely high, but they had enough turns to make you feel completely alone in the swamp.  Also, it is important to note that this race was open to wheelchair athletes, but I am not sure they would’ve enjoyed this terrain.

After the bridges and a quick stint through the RV park, we arrived at the most daunting part of the entire course – a pedestrian bridge.  This massive bridge had almost everyone walking up the steep inclines to the top (even some fast marathoners)!  This bridge really wore us out, and we all but made it to the finish line in one piece.  Before the race, the DJ made an announcement about “Marathoners” being cautious on the bridge – so naturally we assumed it was during the portion that we were apart.  A little heads up would’ve been nice!

While beautiful, the slat bridges were not the best for running

The Hangout After Party

The clear highlight of this race was the After Party at The Hangout.  The venue was spacious and high energy.  We were welcomed by volunteers with Pom Poms and a genuinely good live band.  Our bibs had coupons for food and two drinks.  We received a box with a chicken wrap, chips, and a piece of fruit.  They also had two beers to choose from, or you could get one of each!  Aside from that, volunteers had set up a table with candy, PB&J sandwiches, and little snacks!  It was incredible and the variety seemed to satisfy many dietary restrictions.

The after party was the best part of the Big Beach Half Marathon!

Overall Review

Looking at all the pros and cons, we probably wouldn’t recommend this race.  Essentially, we paid to run on a running trail with no views for a medal and a lackluster T-Shirt.  Arguably, the whole time we felt like we were on a training run and it was east to forget we were even in the middle of a race.  The Race Director made promises for a smoother race next year, and we wish them the best of luck!

The medals for Big Beach were very nice and had sand in the letters!

runDisney Castaway Cay Challenge 2018 Review

Our costumes for the 2018 Castaway Cay Challenge

After running Pink and Blue Coast to Coast Challenges, the Kessel Run Challenge, and the Castle to Chateau Challenge – there was one Challenge left.  It is hard to compete with Disneyland and Disneyland Paris, but WOW did we have an amazing time on the Disney Dream and at Castaway Cay!

The Castaway Cay Challenge has been around for 4 race weekends now.  Runners complete any of the distances at the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, then immediately board the next cruise out and complete the 5K on Disney’s private island in the Bahamas – Castaway Cay.  This is a great option for runners who feel more comfortable with shorter distances.  Other challenges required two Half Marathons to be completed, but this has a minimum of two 5K races (separated by almost a full week)!

Our veranda on the Disney Dream was seriously enormous!

Day One – Arriving at the Disney Dream

For this cruise, runners leave from Port Canaveral which is just about an hour outside of Disney World.  You can drive and park at the port, take a private car, or utilize Disney’s Ground Transportation from your Disney Resort.  We were able to board around 11:30AM and went quickly to Cabanas for a buffet style lunch.  Our room was available at 1:30PM and our luggage had already arrived!  It was such an easy and smooth process.

Our fabulous servers Nenad and Santiago! Our cruise definitely would not have been the same without them.

Cruisers can choose one of two seatings for dinner.  We opted for the first seating at 5:45PM.  Keep in mind that on race morning, you will be waking up VERY early so you might want to have an early dinner.  Our first night was in the Enchanted Garden and we met our Servers, Nanad and Santiago.  We really hit the jackpot with servers and you keep the same team for the whole cruise!  After dinner, we went to the theatre to watch The Golden Mickeys!  It is a nice way to unwind and relax after dinner.

Day Two – Nassau, Bahamas

We docked early the next morning in Nassau, Bahamas.  Since we wouldn’t be able to leave the ship until later in the morning, we decided to see what the fitness center had to offer.  We took the 7:00AM stretching class.  This is a nice option for runners, but it is a very basic class for anyone who is fitness minded.  We might’ve been upset if we had paid for it, but it is a free option!  We then took advantage of the treadmill and bikes (since Katie is still not cleared for full running).  The fitness center overlooks the ocean for some breathtaking views!

The Bahamas was arguably not our favorite option.  If you are in the market for some inexpensive diamonds, bamboo sheets, or watches then check it out.  If not, we recommend hitting the pool to ride the Aquaduck with a short wait!  We were on the clear slide that goes over the side of the ship in under 10 minutes!  Another great option for this port day is the Mixology class offered in one of the bar areas.  It is $25 per person and must be booked in advance.  This was one of the highlights of our trip!

A runDisney executive led the runner chat that also had luggage giveaways!

runDisney offered a runner chat in the afternoon.  This was where we learned when and where we would be in the morning, view the course, and have an opportunity to ask questions.  After the chat, our second meal was in the Royal Palace.  This restaurant has a really nice atmosphere and had Katie’s favorite food options.  We probably overdid it on dessert that night.  After dinner, we decided to go to bed in preparation for the early wake up call the next morning.

The Disney Cruise Line staff definitely made the runners feel at home on the ship!

Day Three – Castaway Cay Challenge 5K

While arguably later than a normal runDisney wake-up call, we needed to be in the Theatre area at 5:45 AM seated in our assigned corrals.  A light breakfast was offered starting at 5:00AM in the Cabanas buffet area – this was great!  We left one corral at a time for each of the three corrals and made the almost a mile trek to the Start Line area.  We waited in the corral for a decent amount of time until the 7:00AM start time.  The course was a large L-shaped there and back with a one mile loop at the end.  The course was VERY narrow with minimal views.  If you hadn’t told us we were on a gorgeous tropical island, we might’ve never known.

The course for the runDisney Castaway Cay 5k. This is a different course than the usual Castaway Cay 5k offered on every cruise. (click to enlarge)

The course did have some fun characters like Genie, Timon, Smee, and Stitch.  Goofy was also there to cheer runners on in the beginning, and Mickey and Minnie were meeting at the finish line.  There were also runDisney staff set up to cheer and Disney Cruise Line staff there as well.  The Finish Line boasted snack boxes, Powerade, Water, and Beer/Champagne.  Clayton, the Cruise Director, promised us free drinks at the start line, but we were so sad to learn the drinks were not free.

There is a decent amount of time after the race to head back to the ship to prepare for the second 5K (hosted by cruise staff and not runDisney).  Since we are both recovering from injury, we opted for a full breakfast and getting dressed to go back to the island!  We enjoyed a rainy day at Castaway Cay and stayed on the island through the BBQ lunch served at Cookie’s.  Taking advantage of the many cruisers still on the island, we raced back for another spin on the Aquaduck and some time in an empty hot tub.

We met Goofy in front of Mount Rustmore at Castaway Cay!

This night on our cruise was Pirate Night!  We dressed up in our best pirate gear (T-shirts) and donned the bandannas provided for every Guest and enjoyed Pirate Trivia and a special menu for dinner.  Our location for dinner was still at the Royal Palace, but the menu was the same across all three venues.  After dinner is typically a late firework show, but due to weather it was postponed.  We enjoyed the Beauty and the Beast Stage show instead.

Arrrrr! Pirate night aboard the Disney Dream was a swashbuckling good time.

Day Four – Day at Sea

The big difference between the 4-night cruise and the 3-night cruise is the Day at Sea.  This literally means your ship is hanging out in the middle of the beautiful blue ocean for you to enjoy everything that is offered on the ship.  We took this as an opportunity to hit the spa for some relaxation.  After a tip, we pre-ordered our Senses Spa Rainforest Room Day Pass for $16 a person.  We were able to enjoy three different saunas, fun rainforest showers, private hot tubs, and warm stone loungers.  Runners – this spa option is a must do!

runDisney Trivia boasted some… interesting questions, along with some not so correct answers.

Keep in mind that since everyone is stuck on the ship, things are going to be crowded.  We spent most of the day at Trivia and other events, plus saved some time for a nap and Room Service in our Stateroom.  This is also a great day to take medal photos with the characters around the ship!

Our last dinner was at Animator’s Palace – the place we were most excited for!  Crush from Finding Nemo visited our table and we learned his surfing dance.  The servers also seem to enjoy this night (or maybe they were just excited it was the last night, hah!).  After another amazing meal, it was time to say goodbye to our favorite duo.  Nanad and Santiago were the best server team we could’ve ever asked for.  They took the time to learn about us, watch for food preferences, and give some killer recommendations (seriously, we just ate what they told us to)!

Luckily, the fireworks were rescheduled for right after our dinner.  We were able to walk up to Deck 12 and view the entire show.  Some other blogs suggested we might be disappointed after watching them so many times at Walt Disney World, but we were still really impressed!  We were also thankful they were early so we could get back to the room and finish packing.  If you want assistance with your luggage, you have to have it packed before bed time!

A little cloudy, but a gorgeous day at sea on the Disney Dream!

Overall Castaway Cay Challenge Experience

Overall, we were expecting a nice vacation with some relaxation.  In the end, we were completely blown away.  The ship is kept in immaculate condition that we could not have dreamed of.  It was spotless!  The food was amazing and went above and beyond our wildest dreams.  The Castaway Cay Challenge was a nice option to have an (almost) entire cruise of runners and their families.  We made new friends and had lots of laughs with like-minded people!  It was so amazing, we have already put a deposit on the Castaway Cay Challenge 2019 Disney Dream Cruise.  See you there!

Spencer made these custom magnets for our stateroom door!

runDisney Walt Disney World Half Marathon 2018 Review

With a foot injury just healing, Katie wasn’t sure if she was going to finish the Half Marathon.  Luckily, we took our time and both finished!  It was really weird not running the 10K the day before, since we are so used to runDisney Challenges.  We are so envious and proud of all of the Dopey Challenge and Goofy Challenge runners.  We met so many of you out on the course and still are amazed!  What a feat!

runDisney Half Marathon Course

runDisney alumni know that Princess Weekend and Marathon Weekend are extremely similar in course layout.  Of course, there are always minor changes with construction – but you can expect to run from Epcot over through the Magic Kingdom and then back to finish in Epcot.  It is largely a giant there and back, with less than two miles total in the Theme Parks, but you shouldn’t expect to see too many runners ahead of you.  We saw some of the Wheelchair Athletes and Elite runners finishing the race just before we hit Mile 2.

Running through Cinderella Castle is chaotic at times, but still fun!

runDisney Half Marathon Characters and Entertainment

Honestly, we were a bit shocked with how many characters that were out.  During the short mile stint through Magic Kingdom, we saw loads of characters.  This helped even out the lines too.  Runners could pick and choose their characters instead of stopping for the first one they saw.  Our favorite characters that we saw were Jack and Sally, Perla and Suzy (the mice from Cinderella), and Woody with his trusty sidekick Bullseye.

Between the parks there were some character stops and nice entertainment.  We’ve said it a bunch, but we love Marching Bands on the course!  Since we were only in Epcot for a short turnaround, there were limited character stops.  Epcot had loads of PhotoPass opportunities, which is great to ensure you get that amazing photo with Spaceship Earth in the background!

Disney’s Photopass photographers take amazing photos!

Finish Line Experience and Perks

Big improvements were made from the 5K race to the finish of the Half Marathon during Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend.  Getting a medal was easy with tons of volunteers eager to hand you a sparkling Finisher’s Medal!  The medals are shiny and loaded with glitter! There were also plenty of mylars to grab as you strolled past and snack boxes prepped and ready for you.  We opted to bypass the finish line photo area.  Katie was in some pain and we wanted to hustle home.

The medals for the 2018 Walt Disney World Half Marathon were large and glittery!

Overall runDisney Half Marathon Experience

Near the end of the race, we actually took the time to discuss our plans for next year.  Keep in mind, last year’s Half Marathon was rained out.  That was a logistical nightmare and overall just frustrating.  This is a solid weekend with lots of support; however, the weather is a huge gamble.  This year was freezing (literally) and we found ourselves running to Walmart the night before for extra jackets.  If you are set on 13.1, prepare yourself for the weather and you’ll have a fun race.  If you just want to participate during the weekend – run with us at the 10K next year!

runDisney Walt Disney World 5K 2018 Review

Katie’s outfit for the Walt Disney World 5k

Due to my foot injury, I decided to purchase a last minute entry into the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend 5K through the Teaching & Learning Collaborative. Since we are participating in the Castaway Cay Challenge, I was concerned about finishing the Half Marathon and wanted to make sure I earned my challenge medal. Being a charity runner, I decided to support the charity and did not wear a costume. Thanks to everyone who voted for which Sparkle Athletic skirt I should wear!

Running through Epcot’s World Showcase is always a blast!

Walt Disney World 5K Course

If you’ve ever run a runDisney 5K at Walt Disney World, you’re familiar with the course through Epcot. Runners begin in the parking lot and complete the first mile before entering the park. The big downside to this race was that we had to run past the finishers from the early corrals for about half a mile. This can really affect your motivation in the beginning of the race.

After entering the park, it is a beautiful loop through the World Showcase and exiting through Future World by Spaceship Earth. There were plenty of characters and PhotoPass opportunities inside the park. I didn’t get to stop for any characters because the lines were extremely long! Horace Horsecollar waved at me, though, and that made my race!

Like a grand and miraculous spaceship, Spaceship Earth always makes for excellent photos!

runDisney Finish Line

After running quite a few runDisney races, I can easily say this was the most congested finish line experience I have ever had. It took close to five minutes just to get my finisher medal; I believe this was due to a lack of volunteers. After that, I moved over to get a runDisney mylar blanket, and there was almost an altercation with some runners waiting to get blankets! Luckily, there was not issue in getting my snack box! It was also very easy to find Spencer in the family reunion area, and I was so thankful that he was there to cheer me on.

Showing off my Pluto medal after finishing the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend 5k!

Overall runDisney 5K Experience

Overall, this race was my insurance policy for the Castaway Cay Challenge. If this was my only race during Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, I would be disappointed. The course and finish line were too congested and running past finishers was disappointing. The characters have improved and the course is still stunning during sunrise. If you are planning on running next year, I would recommend the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend 10K or Half Marathon.

runDisney Wine and Dine Half Marathon Review

Our Walt Disney World Road Signs costumes for the 2017 Wine and Dine Half Marathon!

For the second half of the Two Course Challenge, runners must complete the runDisney Wine and Dine Half Marathon!  This is after they have already completed the Wine and Dine 10K.  Since this is only the second year with a 10K for the weekend and a daytime Half Marathon, there are of course some kinks to work out.

Running through Dinoland USA during the 2017 Wine and Dine Half Marathon!


Wine and Dine Half Marathon Course

Just like for the 10K the day prior, the course was dark in many area.  Luckily with Daylight Savings Time, it was a good brightness for our theme park time!  The course was almost identical to the Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon Course.  Parking was at EPCOT and runners were transported by bus to the Ticket and Transportation Center (Magic Kingdom Parking Lot).  Runners then continued on to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, around some roads to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and then through the Beach and Yacht Club Resort area to finish at EPCOT.

Running around the World… Showcase that is! During the 2017 Wine and Dine Half Marathon!

Wine and Dine Half Marathon Characters

runDisney continued to impress with the Characters for the Wine and Dine Half Marathon.  Runners were pleased to see Tinkerbell and her Pixie Friends, Jack Sparrow and Captain Barbosa, and Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.  There was also characters you can regularly meet like King Louie, Rafiki, Pluto, and the Country Bears.  Katie’s favorite character was the Mary Poppins Penguins and Spencer was thrilled to see characters from the Adventurer’s Club (Pleasure Island memories!).

Adventurer’s Club characters during the 2017 Wine and Dine Half Marathon!

Running Through Walt Disney World

Obviously the main perk to run a runDisney Half Marathon is venturing through the Walt Disney World Theme Parks before they are open to guests for the day.  For the first time ever, the Wine and Dine Half Marathon took runners through AVATAR: The World of Pandora!  While we have visited there before, it was wonderful to enjoy the land in a much less crowded setting.

Sunset Boulevard all decked out for Christmas during the 2017 Wine and Dine Half Marathon!

runDisney Finish Line

When Mickey cheers you through your last 10th of a mile, it is a truly special experience.  With bleachers full of cheering supporters and Race Announcers with tons of energy, a runDisney Finish Line is the place to be!  For this race there were loads of volunteers to hand out medals and plenty of medial volunteers ready to assist in any scenario.  Obtaining Challenge Medals and snack boxes was a breeze as well.  Our only complaint is the complicated chute to leave the finish area, which we understand is for security!

We do it for the bling! Both the 2017 Wine and Dine Half Marathon and Two Course Challenge medals!


Overall, we were pleased with the Wine and Dine Half Marathon.  We have already started planning for 2018 and intend to run the Two Course Challenge again.  If we could change anything about the race it would be to offer the After Party earlier.  For the second year in a row, we have slept through the party!  Let us know in the comments if we will see you in 2018!