DisneyBride's recap: Walt Disney World 10K

On January 10, 2014, Walt Disney World held it's Inaugural 10K event during Marathon Weekend. 

The misspelling of "Inaugural" on the bib was the subject of much amusement that day.  At least they got it right on the medal!

The Dopey Dynamic

This year's Marathon weekend was also the Inaugural year for the Dopey Challenge, a four day running event requiring the Dopey Challengers to complete the 5K, 10K, Half Marathon, and Marathon events. I hope you read DisneyGroom's recaps of his Dopey Challenge journey.  If you haven't, please check them out.  His recaps are much more entertaining than my own.

DG's 2014 Walt Disney World Weekend Recaps:
Day 5: DisneyGroom's #DopeyChallenge Weekend: Marathon
Day 4: DisneyGroom’s #DopeyChallenge Weekend: Half Marathon
Day 3: DisneyGroom’s #DopeyChallenge Weekend: Inaugural 10K
Day 2: DisneyGroom’s #Dopey Challenge Weekend: The Family Fun Run 5K
Day 1: DisneyGroom's #DopeyChallenge Weekend: Expo

There were 7000 Dopey Challengers. I mention this because adding the Dopey changed the dynamic of the entire weekend including the 5K and 10K events in a few ways.

The 5K and 10K events each have 10,000 spots. The runners are split up into 5 corrals, with 2000 runners each in Corrals A - E.  With 7000 Dopeys, this left only 3000 bibs for us 'non-Dopeys'.  If you wondered why these two events sold out lightning fast, and will continue to sell out lightning fast in years to come - this is why. 

The 5K is designed to be a 'Fun Run', an untimed family event. For Dopey Challengers Only, this was actually a timed event.  They received a special bib with a B-tag that recorded their times at the start and finish. 

Race Info

The 10K is a timed event.  This event require runners to maintain a 16 minute per mile pace, at a minimum.  If a runner does not maintain that pace,  said runner might be 'swept' from the course and transported to the finish area.

Brand New Course

This course is newly certified by USA Track and Field and is labeled EPCOT 10K.  This is the course that will also be used by the new Enchanted 10K next month during Princess Half Marathon Weekend.

Click to enlarge course map

My Race, My Pace

My race experiences are not those of the typical runner. My pace hovers in the 16-18min/mile range putting me in imminent danger of being swept at a runDisney event.  If you are faster than this, and nearly every runner is, you will probably not relate to my experience.  But if you too fear the sweepers, then some of this will ring true.

Disclaimer:  I am not a big fan of TMI (Too Much Information) - but this post does contain a bit.  

Before Marathon weekend, I received a few messages from blog readers.  These two women expressed concern over being swept at an upcoming runDisney 10K and hoped for some insight into the course.  If they reached out to me, it had me thinking there are others out there too - that just didn't ask.   

It is a very brave thing to admit your fears. When I was preparing for the Princess Half last year, I was too shy to ask these questions.  It was a public admission to a stranger of my actual snail's pace. So after completing the event, I did go TMI with my recap: Close Encounters of the Sweeper Kind - in hopes of addressing some of those concerns unique to a Back of the Pack runner.  And I was surprised at the positive feedback.  So fair warning if you are not okay with oversharing, don't read further. And to my lovely readers that took the time to message me and to share their worries - I thought about you two this entire race.  This post is especially for you.


My DisneyGroom was ready to go. My costume was ready to go. My shuttle to the start line was ready to go. But I wasn't.  I had began to freak out the night before about being swept.  You see, the previous Saturday, I had done a single-track trail half-marathon, the event was called the Swamp Forest Trail Marathon, Half Marathon, and 1/4 Marathon.  I finished, but I came in last... really really last, as in after the last full marathoner.  I haven't done a recap of this yet, as the trauma is still too fresh. Suffice to say it was the toughest race I have ever done, and my confidence was completely shattered.  Also, I was only just getting over the muscle soreness.  So here I am heading to the race and my head is all screwed up. NOT the best way to start.


All four races during WDW Marathon weekend start in the same location: the EPCOT parking area.  I was grateful for this, as by the second race, it all felt familiar.  Unlike 5Ks in years past, there were no characters out for photo ops.  There had not been characters at the 5K the day prior also.

At DisneyGroom's urging, I got into my corral very early - and while that served me well to get me to the front of my Corral (D), I sat there quite a while and drank almost my entire bottle of water.  (Rut Roh!) But now I was stuck and didn't want to leave my corral just to get to a portalet. I prayed that we would pass one early on.  Alone, with so much time in the corral, I fidgeted and screwed up my GYMBOSS settings, I panicked and spent 15 minutes trying to get it back to my usual intervals.  (I actually did this exact same thing right before the Space Coast Half Marathon in December - you would think I would learn to just leave the settings alone!)

The corrals were lined up from right to left: E, D, C, B, A - with a buffer of space in between - shown here.  Runners were let out the backs of their corrals and A ran past B, C, D, and E.  This is B shown above running past C, and me in D, and so on.  Each corral ran past the remaining corrals just to get to the start line. Except E of course.

    Once the corrals were at the start line each got their own wonderful countdown and send off by race announcers, Rudy Novotny and Carissa Bealart.  And of course, our very own fireworks.  

    All other Disney races I have done, the stage was on the left - the races this weekend, the stage was on the right.  Also this 10K (and the 5K the day before) did not have characters onstage to 'start' the race.  I actually missed this piece.  (The Half and Full did have characters onstage for the start, in case you were wondering.)

    Mile 1: 

    The first mile of the course loops around the parking area then heads out to the Epcot Center Drive ramp.  The entertainment on this mile was a DJ on the overpass.  He interacted with the runners and was very encouraging in between playing some great tunes.  There was no scenery to enjoy so this was a high point on the first mile.  There were no portalets along the first mile, much to my chagrin.  I had to go bad, I couldn't run at all... only a sort of half trot/shuffle thing.  I kept calling out to all the volunteers, spectators, and cast members along the course "Where is there a potty?!"  (There weren't any!)  I was hoping there would be one at the toll plaza as we approached, but was told no.  At this point, I was doubled over from having to go so badly, so I found some hedges.  I'm not proud of this - and even though I've seen literally hundreds of women do this at runDisney races, this was my first time doing this during a race. But I immediately felt a lot better afterwards.   Now I could do my normal run/walk!

      Mile 2:

      I was just past the mile 1 marker when DisneyGroom caught up to me. Through a error on the part of Track Shack, he had been placed in the last corral for all his Dopey Challenge events.  While they did correct this for the Half and the Full, moving his corral, they wouldn't do this for the 5K and 10K.  So he actually started in E.  I haven't told him this, but at that moment I was very grateful that he started behind me.  I know he was determined to stay within the pace requirements for all the events and did not intend to stick with me, but I asked him to get me to the beginning of the ramp - and he did. It was the only chance I got to run side by side with him all weekend.  And though it was only about 1/5 of a mile, it really meant a lot to me. I was still concerned about the sweepers, but finding him on the course gave me a huge mental boost and he reminded me that this is supposed to be fun for both of us, so I momentarily pushed them to the back of my mind.

      If you look at the course map above, that portion labeled T/A  SPR,  that is where the first hill begins.  As you climb Epcot Center Drive you are overlooking all the runners behind you.  This is a long, gradual climb.  Not at all steep - so even if you struggle with hills like I do, you should still be okay. I was nearing the first waterstop and first portalets (only TWO - WTH???), when I saw the Balloon Ladies (these are the 16 min/mile pacers that walk the following Walt Disney World races: the Tower of Terror 10 Miler, all the Half Marathons,  the full Marathon, and now the 10Ks ) crossing through the toll plaza.  They were still nearly one full mile behind me - but seeing them this early in the race...  ugh. That was quite the downer.  The entertainment on this mile was a Peter Pan, Wendy, and Captain Hook character stop.  It was still very dark, and the line was crazy long, I didn't even think about stopping.

        Mile 3:

        After passing the second mile marker, it is a long slope of gentle downhill. Nothing to see, but this is a golden opportunity to take advantage of gravity and open up your pace.  There aren't many downhills in flat Florida, so when you find one, definitely use it.  I definitely did my best to put as much distance between myself and the balloon ladies as I could.  The slope ended and the remainder of the mile was flat along Epcot Center Drive eastbound.

          Mile 4:

          It was after the 5K marker and before entering World Showcase that the final major sweep occurred.  And this included those that were only 1(one) minute behind pace.  All reports I've heard from runners on that day and since - is that no sweeping occurred past that point. I don't know how many runners actually started that morning, but out of 10,000 bibs - only 9234 runners crossed the 10K finish line.

          Approximately the final 1/3 of mile 4 and the first 1/4 of Mile 5, you run through World Showcase.  It was  finally getting light, and there were a number of character stops - including the rarely seen Mushu in China.  The backdrops are lovely, so many stopped to take photos of the scenery.  It is impossible to not slow down - there are just so many runners walking around through here.  I'm lucky that I've been to EPCOT many times and plan to go many more times - so while I had the 'want', I didn't feel the 'need' to stop. I stuck to my strategy and just waved to Mushu and the others.  I'm so glad I did.

            Mile 5:

            I was nearing the end of World Showcase when two girls ran past me screaming at the top of their lungs "THE BALLOON LADIES ARE COMING!"  "THE BALLOON LADIES ARE COMING!"  There were like two modern teenage Paul Reveres coming to warn us of our impending doom. At least that's how I felt.  It was certainly my wake up call - to pick up the pace.  So since I was leaving the park anyway, I did just that.

            Around 5.5 miles, you've exited the International Gateway and approach the Boardwalk.  I saw the fast moving stream of runners coming around, having finished their loop past Yacht and Beach Club and readying to re-enter EPCOT through a different gate.  These runners are somewhere in the first quarter of the 6th mile.  

            While  I did not personally witness this, I was told by numerous people that several westbound runners cut the course here and just jumped into the stream of eastbound runners, skipping the Boardwalk/Yacht and Beach Club loop entirely.  I didn't want to believe this was true, but DisneyGroom also told me he saw it happen.  This was very disappointing to hear. :(

            As I entered the Boardwalk, I noticed the ground was very slick. While normally, running and jogging along this bouncy wooden surface would be a welcome respite from the concrete, this was not to be the case today.  The early morning rain had made it slippery - and I saw a few unfortunate wipeouts.  Not wishing to be one of them, I slowed down and finally allowed myself to walk through a few of my run intervals.  

            And it was through here that the Balloon Ladies caught up, and in an embarrassingly short distance passed me.  This isn't my first encounter with these pacers.  In fact, I've even got a little notoriety in this respect with an October 2013 Wall Street Journal article: Dodging the Balloon Ladies.

            Balloon Ladies in the center of this pic

            I know they aren't the actual sweepers, but I still felt crushed and deflated.  I didn't expect to beat them to the finish, but I though I would be closer when they caught me.  In one way, it was a relief, since I could finally stop looking over my shoulder.  I couldn't think clearly at the time and for some reason I remember thinking I was only at the halfway mark... but of course, in retrospect I was actually at about Mile 5.5.  Funny how your brain plays tricks on you.

            I did my best to cheer up and was able to snap a run-by photo of the rarely-seen Sports Goofy at ESPN Sports Zone. 

            Mile 6:  

            We've just entered the Yacht and Beach Club area and there were a number of spectators.  Here several runners slowed down again for photos.  The ground is still slick through here too.  I chatted with another runner for a while about the other races, her recovery from an injury, and our Dopey husbands. After a few minutes, she asked me if I was DisneyBride, and discovered she reads my blog.  I'm always pleasantly surprised when this happens, so I really got a boost here.  She ran ahead and I continued on - now back on my run/walk intervals.

            At the Wooden International Gate, we re-entered EPCOT.  I finally allowed myself to stop for characters here.  

            Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum

            Chip!  I asked him where Dale was - but he just shrugged.

            Once inside EPCOT, I just ran without walking, waving and high-fiving everyone that was cheering.  My second wind had arrived.

            This was only my second time running through this portion of EPCOT and I half expected to see the Gospel Choir at the end of Mile 6.  It wasn't there of course, but I was running and chatting with a few other ladies and we still had a great time.

            Mile 6.1

            RunDisney does a lot of things to make this day special for their runners.  One of these is calling out your name and your city as you approach the finish. Yes, just like an Ironman event! Your B-Tag registers on the chip timing mat, prompting the announcers with this information.

            They called out my name and I raised my arms high.  Then the announcers said I was from Tallahassee, home of the National Champions Florida State Seminoles, and the crowd started cheering louder.  So I began to do 'The Chop' all the way down the finish chute.  

            I didn't go to FSU, but DisneyGroom did - and he's taken me to home games.  I know the drill.  People stood up in the crowds and began doing 'The Chop' and singing the 'war chant'.  I kid you not. It was surreal - and almost too good to be true.

            I sprinted that last stretch and finished feeling on top of the world.  It was perfect.


            I got my medal and was bursting with happiness. I made it. I didn't even SEE the sweepers this time.  And I hadn't been swept!

            In the finish area, I found my DisneyGroom and we posed for photos with Minnie Mouse and Daisy.  The lines were very long and snaked back over each other (400+ people deep for Minnie) but since this was my only race this weekend, I wanted to get a few photos with my medal.

            We saw some running friends and chatted a bit before taking the bus back to our resort.  DG had to take it easy for the Half the next day.  We had a nice swim, I had a nap - and later that day I felt refreshed and great.

            This was my third 'timed' runDisney event.  Princess Half 2013 was the first, Tower of Terror was the second.  All the others were untimed Fun Runs. Even though this race started out so poorly for me, it actually turned into my best timed runDisney event. My results were not impressive in the least, and I was nowhere near my previous 10K PR (not at Disney of course), but I crossed the finish line, and for me - just getting to do that was enough.

            Apparently Tinker Bell's Inaugural 10K this weekend was sweeping pretty aggressively - picking up runners as early as Mile 1.  This worries me quite a bit regarding my plans to do a Disneyland runDisney weekend.  Some of my tips here may apply to a DL event, but not all.

            My first year of running was all about finding my way:  getting to a half marathon distance injury-free, at a steady pace.  I was able to accomplish this.  But while I am happy with my form and distance, my pace is as slow as ever.  So this year, I'm going to drop back my distance to 10 miles and less, but with a focus on improving speed.  I'm hoping this will allow me to enjoy the new runDisney 10Ks without having to look over my shoulder for the dreaded sweepers.

            I'm definitely feeling more confident about the Enchanted 10K during the upcoming Princess Half Marathon weekend now.  Now that I have done the course once, it has become a lot less scary.

            Takeaways: (on Staying Ahead of the Sweepers)
            • Be well rested and well-hydrated.  Tough as it will be, don't go crazy at the parks and tire out your legs.
            • Don't eat anything that might upset your stomach the night before or that morning.  Disney food is so tempting, but I'm glad I stuck to a boring breakfast shake.  You can eat later - I promise.
            • Do your best to push out negative thoughts.  I struggled with this - so when my energy was fading, I just starting repeating to myself: I am Strong. I am Strong. I am Strong. Cheesy? Yes. But it worked.
            • Know your anticipated pace and finish time.   Don't let this be the first time you actually do the 10K distance.  It will weigh on your mind. I'm very slow - but I am very comfortable with distances beyond 6.2, so I knew I could complete it.  (My big worry was completing it during the allotted time - based on my corral placement, crowds, necessary and unnecessary stopping, etc.)
            • Start as near to the front of the corral as you can.  Those extra few minutes can make the difference. Especially in a shorter distance race like a 10K.
            • You can skip the water stations if you carry your own water (or powerade).  Just don't drink it all before the race starts.  Take a sip or two every 5 to 10 minutes.  If you have been hydrating properly the week leading up to your race - these small amounts spaced out evenly will keep you hydrated, yet not having you looking around wildly for the nearest portalet.
            • If you run/walk, plan to do the first three miles at your 'best performance' ratio.  For me, my pace is the fastest at 30/30, this is run 30 seconds, walk 30 seconds.  Once inside the parks, I run at a more comfortable slower pace - so as to enjoy the views more.
            • Take advantage of the time you are on the wide open areas like Epcot Center Drive to pick up distance and speed.  There isn't a whole lot to see outside the parks, so this is a good chance to 'bank' your time and create a buffer between you and the sweepers.  It is boring - but you have two or more lanes of traffic to spread out without being crowded in on all sides like sardines.  Once you are in a bottleneck or crowded area, you won't be able to move fast, even if you want to!
            • Wait until you hit EPCOT, Boardwalk, or Yacht and Beach Club for potty breaks (REAL bathrooms - not portalets) and character stops.  You may get told to hurry along - but I have never heard of sweeps occurring inside the parks or through this resort area.  This event was no exception.
            • Remember, when you see the Balloon Ladies - don't panic.  Hopefully you won't get teenage girls raising the alarm and scaring you like they did me.  The Balloon Ladies do not sweep you.  They are a reminder that you need to stay with them or ahead of them.
            • The actual sweepers are men and women on bikes - often wearing a black outfit with orange reflective vests.  I chatted with many at Princess and Tower of Terror since I was all the way in back.  Fortunately, this time, I did not see any. WOO HOO.
            • For more tips, if you haven't already read it, check out my 2013 Princess Half Marathon recap.

            See you at Princess next month. Until then...

            Run Happy!

            Race Recap Roundup on Runners Luck


            GREAT report!! I always thought that running a disney race would be so fun!! :) Hey.. if you want you can linkup your race report on the Race Recap Roundup #Linkup!!
            Great race and congrats!


            Well done. I want to do what you did one day. Thanks for the post and motivation!


            Congratulations! I really appreciate your candor about being a back of the packer. Keep on running girl - you're doing amazing things! We loved seeing your Groom on Saturday morning before the half - definitely a highlight! -Christine

            Anonymous mod

            Such a great report - I appreciate all of your honest thoughts. I started in Corral B, and with how spaced out the corrals were didn't realize that the Balloon Ladies were out for the 10k. You stayed ahead of them though - way to go!


            Congrats on your race! I'm so sorry about those girls, we had a similar situation at the DL 10k and hearing the yelling is quite jarring. Great tips!

            Hope our paths finally cross at Princess weekend!


            I love your recap! Those are fantastic tips. I'm already having anxiety over the balloon ladies for the upcoming Enchanted 10K. My friends keep telling me I have no reason for worry, but I can't help it. LOL


            That's crazy about the misspelling! I guess even Disney makes mistakes. Looked like fun. I have a Disney race on my bucket list....I hope to do one someday soon!

            Anonymous mod

            I was at mile 2 when the balloon ladies showed up. The big bus pulled up at mile 3 and I was told I was a minute behind pace. But I made it. When I was at the end and was I. Sight of the finish line, one of the sweepers on a bike came up to me to ask how I was doing. Then I heard him say he was a sweeper. I just kept going and finished.I don't think I was going to get swept so close to the finish but it did scare me.


            Thanks so much for the Linkup invite. I joined! And I do hope you get to do a runDisney event. There is nothing else like it!


            It wasn't too long ago that I thought it was impossible. When I am surrounded by thousands of fast runners, I can't believe I am still doing the same race. I don't like finishing so far back, but I am grateful to even be a part of it. If I can do it, you can too. :)


            Thank you Christine! I saw the photo from when he met you. I hope I can finally meet you at Princess weekend.


            Thank you. The corrals were spaced out very well. I think that is how I stayed ahead of the Balloons until I was into the 5th mile. Congrats on your first HALF, and at Disney too. :) It really is the best place for milestones like these.


            Yes, I'm so bummed we didn't connect. We will at Princess for sure, Abby!


            I know that anxiety all too well. We'll get rid of it, Michelle. You will be awesome. And ... if you don't mind hanging with a slowpoke like me, let's run together.


            I hope you get to do one too. These events got me to start running, and to continue running - so I'm something of an enabling evangelist about runDisney events.


            That can be scary. And even though I know the sweepers are actually very nice helpful people and they just want to make sure you feel well enough to finish, I still try my best to avoid seeing them. This is the first race that I did not encounter them at all. Congrats on your finish!


            Love seeing all the costumes in these races! Looks fun!


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