Disney offers several half-marathons throughout the year, each with slightly different themes and details. The last of the half-marathons of the year is the Wine & Dine Half Marathon in Walt Disney World. Last year, the event was on November 9, while this year's happens on November 8.
Having had a chance to complete all the Disney half-marathons last year (the Walt Disney World Half Marathon and Tinker Bell Half Marathon in January, the Princess Half Marathon in February, the Disneyland Half Marathon in September, and Wine & Dine), I've come to the conclusion that the Wine & Dine is my favorite of the runDisney races.
Early registration for the 2014 Wine & Dine starts next Wednesday, on February 26, with general registration opening a week later, on March 5. If you were considering signing up but hadn't made up your mind, let me give you my list of why I like this race.
Reason #10 – The Event Does Not Sell Out Right Away
Maybe you were thinking of doing a Disney half marathon but couldn't because the event sold out within the first day that registration opened. If so, consider signing up for the Wine & Dine Half. Things may change in the future, especially if Disney introduces additional races around event weekend, but for now, the Wine & Dine Half Marathon does not sell out right away.
Note: The 2014 edition is this event's fifth anniversary, so you can expect an updated finisher's medal. Some runners like to register for the big anniversary years, so this year's half-marathon may be more popular. If you decide to register, I still suggest you register as soon as you can. Nothing like finally committing to running a race, and then finding out it's sold out. That means if you want to convince family members or friends to join you, talk to them now, before registration starts.
Reason #9 – Character Meet-and-Greets at After-Party
If you don't like stopping during the race to take pictures at the character meet-and-greets, whether because you don't like to carry your camera or because the queues are too long, you can wait to take pictures with characters in Epcot after the race. This has the added benefit of your being able to take photos while wearing dry clothes and showing off your well-earned finisher's medal.
Reason #8 – Perfect Time of Year; Not Too Warm, Not Too Cold
The January time frame for the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend is a real pot shot. Runners a few years ago had to brave hail and icy road conditions, while in some years, the mercury has risen so high that race officials announce warnings about staying hydrated. The same could be said for the Disneyland Half, which is held over Labor Day Weekend, which means the heat could cause all sorts of issues for participants.
Early November in Florida, though, is a tad more predictable. It's still warm, but no longer sizzling, and you're no longer in hurricane season. Chances are, the weather will be mild. For the 2013 race, the temperature was a little on the warmer side, but not anywhere near levels that would cause heat stroke. In addition, running at night means that even if the weather's warm and humid, you don't have to contend with the sun.
Reason #7 – Combine Two Events Into One Trip With the Epcot Food & Wine Festival
A lot of people combine a runDisney event with a Disney theme park vacation, but with the Wine & Dine Half Marathon, you have the additional draw of the Epcot Food & Wine Festival. Wine & Dine serves as the anchor for the popular festival, so you can enjoy the festival even if you just go to Florida for a few days specifically for the half-marathon. Should you wish to make a bigger trip out of it, you can arrive days before the race and enjoy your fill of good food at the festival, and chalk it up to carb loading. Should you wish to hold off on going to the festival until after the race, you still have a couple of days. No other runDisney half marathon is timed with other special events or festivals (although some of them coincide with holiday weekends).
Reason #6 – Free Beer or Wine After Race
How many half-marathons do you know that give out a free can of beer or glass of wine after you finish? After you cross the finish line and get your medal, you are moved through a chute where you can have your pick of adult beverage. Just be careful; guzzling booze right after finishing a half-marathon and being on an empty stomach may cause some issues for some people.
Between the late-night start and after-race adult beverage, this event is definitely designed for the adult. The runDisney races have age requirements, but you're still likely to see a lot of children and teens before and after the races. If you're interested in a more adult-oriented race, Wine & Dine is a good candidate.
Reason #5 – Free $10 Gift Card
If free admission into Epcot after the race weren't enough, the cost of race registration includes a free Disney gift card for use during the after-race party. The gift card comes preloaded with $10 worth of credit, enough for couple of small snacks. This is in addition to the regular snack boxes you get at the finish area. This is a regular Disney gift card and not restricted to use at just the Food & Wine Festival, so essentially you can calculate $10 off the cost of race registration when you're putting together your budget.
Reason #4 – Changing Stations
If you're worried about going to the after-race party in sticky, sweaty race gear, don't fret. Race organizers offer official changing stations after the finish line area, both for men and women. These are essentially very large tents with side panels so you can't see in. The interior is just an open space but it's gender-separated and offers you lots of room in which to wipe yourself down and change into dry clothes. If you've never had a chance to completely change into "civvies" after a race, it's like night and day even if you can't take a shower. I really wish they did this with the other runDisney races; it was an exceptionally nice service. One tip: Consider packing a damp washcloth in a ziplock baggie, and a dry towel in your race-day bag. You can wipe the salt off your skin and dry off completely before getting into your clean clothes.
Reason #3 – Check Out of Hotel on Sunday
If you just want to sneak a quick trip to a runDisney race, the Wine & Dine is a great candidate. Because the race happens on Saturday night, it's pretty easy to turn Sunday into travel day. Check out of the hotel on Sunday, fly home, and you can be back at work on Monday. Have the hotel's bell desk hold your bags until you need to leave, and you can even enjoy a few hours in the parks on Sunday. While it's possible to do this with a Sunday race if you're fast, you would likely need to request a late check-out and be a real rush to get going as soon as you're done with your race.Being able to check out on Sunday means saving an extra vacation day for another trip, and saving money on an additional night's accommodation.
Reason #2 – No Getting Up at 3:00 a.m.
All runDisney half-marathons happen very early in the morning. The Wine & Dine is the sole exception, with a 10:00 p.m. start time (a few other events, like the Tower of Terror 10-Miler and Expedition Everest are also at night, but are not half-marathon distances). If you're not a big morning person, or are traveling from the West Coast, those 6:00 a.m. start times really mess with your body. For example, in order to get to the starting corrals by 5:00 a.m. (although Disney would prefer that you get there much earlier), you need to set your alarm clock to 3:00 a.m. For those who live on the West Coast, that's midnight.
A 10:00 p.m. start time, on the other hand, is closer to a night run (it's 7:00 on the West Coast at the start of the race). So while there are some adjustments to make, like when to eat (especially if you typically run in the morning), overall I really like the late start.
On a related note, one big advantage for those traveling from west of Florida, is that you don't need to adjust your body clock to East Coast time just for the race.
There are some disadvantages to such a late start time: You should probably do some evening training runs to know how your body responds; if you normally exercise in the morning, your body may be unaccustomed to the late start.
Reason #1 – Free Admission Into Epcot After Race
Hands-down, the single best perk of the Wine & Dine Half Marathon—and personally, what I think makes the race the best deal of all runDisney races—is that the price of race registration includes admission into Epcot after the race. No other runDisney half marathon offers free entry into a theme park after the race.
And unlike the Tower of Terror 10-Miler, which also has an after-race party (in Disney's Hollywood Studios park), the Wine & Dine Half Marathon gives you access to the food stalls at Epcot's Food & Wine Festival, which remain open during the race's after party. Although most regular restaurants close up shop, the stalls remain open, as do the attractions. If you can manage to stay awake (and on your feet after 13.1 miles), you can have your fill of yummy food and zero wait times for many of the park's popular rides. Tickets to the after-party are available for purchase by themselves so that your friends and family can join you in Epcot after the race.
The 2014 Walt Disney World Wine & Dine Half Marathon is scheduled for the weekend of November 8. If you get Veteran's Day off (Tuesday, November 11), you can take Monday, November 10 off and have yourself a nice long weekend of running a half-marathon and enjoying the last of the Epcot Food & Wine Festival, which ends on Veteran's Day.