Blood, Sweat, and Halloween Fears

by Lorree Tachell, contributing writer

Depending on how you look at it—the Inaugural Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10 Miler or a new version of the previous Tower of Terror 13K—happened on the evening of  Saturday, September 29. Either way, a good (but not great) time was had by all.

Showing up fashionably on time

The weekend started on Friday morning with a quick trip to the Animal Kingdom prior to the race expo's late opening. It was a gorgeous but humid morning that provided some outstanding photo opportunities.

Expedition Everest looks misty in the morning light. Photo by Lorree Tachell.

I was very fortunate to score a pair of Oswald ears, which—much to my amazement—were only available there at Animal Kingdom. They very rarely left my head during the remainder of the weekend and apparently caused all sorts of chaos for the many of the park cast members who hadn't yet seen the ears and had no idea where to locate them when they were asked. Sorry!

After visiting Animal Kingdom, it was off to the always fun race expo, where we you can usually find the most wonderful runDisney-branded items and race accessories to purchase. This time around, signs were located at each of the host hotels that explained the event bus schedule. This was a very nice addition that seemed to alleviate some of the now-infamous "where do I catch the bus" confusion. Of course, those who thought to catch an earlier ESPN bus from the hotel and/or drove directly to the expo had the luxury of being first in line for the opening, which meant there were a lot of folks there for the noon opening.

The women's "I did it" shirt is a short-sleeved grey T-shirt with bellhop Stitch on the front and a drawing of the course on the back. Photo by Stephanie Wien.

I managed to grab a couple of shirts, including an "I did it" long-sleeved shirt featuring bellhop Stitch, and got through the line with little waiting. Within minutes of opening the doors, those same folks who waited so patiently in line had stormed the tiny runDisney merchandise booth (less than half the usual display space) and totally overwhelmed it with bodies. Within 15 minutes, the check-out line snaked through the booth and around the outside. Those in line for packet pickup, which was located in the back of the building, soon found themselves stuffed into exhibitor booths as the allotted space just wasn't enough. Shades of the first Princess Half Marathon race expo all over again—welcome to the wonderful world of lines.

Boo to you!

Friday evening was time for fun at Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party in the Magic Kingdom. If you haven't yet experienced one of these ticketed events, it's a pricey but enjoyable way to see the park differently.

The Haunted Mansion dresses up for the Halloween party. Photo by Lorree Tachell.

Adults as well as kids wore costumes (it was apparently "bring your pirate night," as everyone seemed to be swashbuckling their way down Main Street) and everyone was in a spooky festive mood. The night started out with trick-or-treating at various stations set up around the park followed by one of the best Halloween parades I've ever seen. Leading off the Boo-to-You Halloween Parade is the Headless Horseman, a site that draws gasps and applause from the spectators.

All the Disney Villains are in the parade, as are the infamous precision Gravediggers, who always put the "spark" in the show (by striking their shovels against the pavement and causing small sparks). After the parade, it was time for the Villains Mix and Mingle featuring wonderful dancers as well as Cruella, the Evil Queen, Maleficent, and a host of other Disney heavyweights. While the party ended way too early for me following a showing of the Happy HalloWishes fireworks show, many lucky revelers continued to party into the night.

Up at the crack of yawn

Bright and early Saturday morning, I donned my florescent orange braids (accessorized with a stylish green pumpkin stem) and headed out on the 5:30 a.m. bus for ESPN Wide World of Sports to run the Disney Happy Haunted 5K Trail Run. While there was no rhyme or reason to the corral placements (first-come, first-served on sign-up perhaps), the start was actually very orderly and smooth. And yes, we did actually run on a trail (or dirt roads) around the ESPN grounds.

Rae Mills discovers that yes, the bugs are indeed bigger in Walt Disney World. Photo by Lorree Tachell.

May I say it was a very, very muddy trail around the grounds; I am so thankful I brought extra shoes with me, as they were trashed by the end of the run. Unfortunately, shortly after the start of the race we noted the first injury of the course: a fellow athlete was unfortunately sidelined with a twisted ankle. We were extra careful and actually walked much of the course to avoid a similar fate, which gave us a chance to just enjoy the morning. While there was a serious lack of entertainment and/or characters along the course (the gravediggers were the highlight), it was still a very enjoyable way to start the day. And as always, the little rubber medal is wonderful.

I mentioned there was blood, right?

After the 5K, I spent the day wandering around Epcot taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of the Food and Wine Festival. It is always amazing to see everyone noshing and drinking their way through the park; it's so different from the West Coast parks.

The cranberry bog at the Food and Wind Festival in Epcot. Photo by Lorree Tachell.

Much too soon, it was time to head back to the hotel to prep for the night's big event—the Inaugural Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10 Miler. Unfortunately, the exceedingly hot and humid weather from the day continued on that evening, making the night even more challenging. As with the 5K in the morning, there was a significant lack of on-course entertainment, which was surprising and rather sad, especially along the long boring stretches of roads outside of the park. The hyenas from the Lion King were great and the ghost puppets from the Halloween party were awesome, but otherwise, is was really just a lot of road. Other villains out along the course included Dr. Facilier from The Princess and the Frog, the gravediggers from the Halloween parade, and the Big Bad Wolf.

Unusual characters, like the Big Bad Wolf, greet runners along the course. Photo by Brightoom Photographer.

The course started outside Disney's Hollywood Studios under the main parking entrance, then headed out along the Osceola Parkway before taking a u-turn right before entering Animal Kingdom to double back toward ESPN Wide World of Sports. Just before mile 5 the course headed off-road down a dirt and gravel path through the woods, emerging into the sports complex near the outer sport fields. Runners wound through the complex for approximately 2 miles, including a partial lap around the running track, and a loop around the Atlanta Braves' practice field, where runners could see themselves on the stadium's large video screen. After exiting the complex, the course headed back to Disney's Hollywood Studios, where runners passed through the Lights, Motors, Action! stunt show area, up around the hat, back through Pixar Place, then into the tram tour path to finish back behind the Tower of Terror.

The weather got to me early, which caused me to give up on trying for a decent run time and just concentrate on having a decent time. That is, until around mile 8.5 when I was knee-capped by a speed bump—I took a dive at full speed and scraped along the ground doing major damage to my knees, hand, and poor little camera. At that point, I was too close (and too stubborn) to stop, so with blood running down my legs, I headed off to the finish. I was so intent on getting to the end that I totally missed passing the Sorcerer's Hat or even seeing the Tower of Terror at the finish line. But bloody legs and all, I very happily collected my medal (incredible as expected) and made my way to the medic tent. I didn't get to ride any of the rides (Tower of Terror, Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, Toy Story Mania, Star Tours, Muppet*Vision 3D, and The Great Movie Ride were open for the party), which was a bummer, but I'm happy to have yet another inaugural runDisney event under my belt.

Got my Tower of Terror finisher's medal what else can you ask for? Photo of the author by volunteer medic.

Juan Morales from Huntington Beach, California was the overall winner in 58:00; the women's winner was Kimberly Mueller from San Diego, California with a time of 1:04:50. Approximately 10,000 runners participated in the event.

Worth it?

Time heals all wounds, and similar to my experiences at the first Princess and Wine & Dine half marathons, I truly thought I would never do another Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10 Miler. The expo was a mess. There were not enough characters on the roads, and frankly, too much time on those roads (including an out-and-back section as if you weren't feeling bad enough). runDisney couldn't help the heat and humidity, but it sure made conditions miserable. From the stories I've heard, the biohazard teams had a very busy night.

It's now been a little over a week since the event. The knees are healing nicely, and I'm softening on my option of the event. It's got some bumps to iron out as do most inaugural events but with a little more thought and effort, I think this could be yet another stellar runDisney event. Will we see you there next year?

The race medal features an elevator that moves up and down, and glow-in-the-dark lettering. Photo by Stephanie Wien.


  1. By stan4d_steph

    I also participated in the run (that's me with the Big Bad Wolf), and have to disagree slightly on the lack of entertainment. The 2012 Tower of Terror race was light years ahead of the 2008 race, where the on-course "entertainment" consisted of people pretending to be mental patients (I think?) banging on pots and shouting as we ran through the wooded section toward Wide World of Sports. The addition of Disney characters, and theming to villains was what I was hoping for from the 2008 race.

    Yes, there were dead spots along the course, but that happens at other Disney races too. It's possible that the perception of there being more due to the darkness, and also the hot, humid temperatures. I'm sure the challenge will be to figure out how to fill in some of those perceived dead spaces given that it's a night race and not everyone (like school groups) is available from 10 PM-1 AM.

    There's not much that runDisney can do about the weather except move the race closer to Halloween, and then it starts to cut into the potential repeat business for the Wine & Dine half marathon.

    Some improvements I would suggest for next time:

    - More park time. The race only goes through Hollywood Studios, and that's right at the end. Either add more park time, or jazz up the section through Wide World of Sports more. The addition of a spooky props, smoke and lighting effects in the wooded section was great. More of that if we can't have more park time.
    - Cool towels at the finish. I know it's a night race, but those chill towels they handed out at the Disneyland half marathon would have been extremely welcome at the finish area, especially since it was a long walk from there (behind Tower of Terror) to pick up my checked bag at the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular.
    - Vent the tents. The changing tents were a nice alternative to changing in bathroom stalls, however they were like saunas. Lights inside plus hot runners made them almost unbearable. Find some nice fluorescent lights that don't give off so much heat, and have some fans running to pull the hot air out.
    - Change the bag check area. I didn't encounter horrific lines at the bag check pick up like some did, however, having to walk down the stairs to the stage area of the stunt show, then back up to exit was not what I wanted to do after having run 10 sweaty miles. I'm not sure where else they could logistically do this, but the narrow stairway combined with slow, tired runners created a big backup toward the end of the night. You do not want hot, tired, cranky, sweaty runners waiting in long lines. They get pissed.

  2. By Drince88

    Quote Originally Posted by stan4d_steph View Post
    - Vent the tents.
    Change the bag check area

    I sure hope they do something with the tents for the Wine & Dine. I know the first one (I cheered for my sister) the restroom lines were horrendous with people changing in the stalls - to the point she called me from one restroom line before we met up to check out the 'next' restroom around WS to see if it was bad too.

    And that's RIDICULOUS to have to go up and down those steps to retreive your checked bag! I would have seriously considered paying someone to get my bag to avoid those stairs after 10 miles. My knees have issues with stairs anyway, so doing that AFTER tiring my muscles for 10 miles in the heat/humidity - yea, it would have been worth some money to avoid it!

    I'm thinking maybe they 'made it just 10 miles' instead of a half marathon to account for the time of year - and then moved the Wine & Dine to the end of the festival to allow both to be run, and to (hopefully) have cooler weather for the 13 mile event. But really, does 3 miles shorter make it that much better in the heat? Not in my book. So I'm glad I did the first ToT event so I don't have to have medal envy (though I still think my ribbon should at least been a different color since I did the 6.5K event!)

    Regarding the dirt areas in both the 5K and 10 miler -- did Disney 'advertise at sign up' that part of it would be trails? I'm really uncomfortable with going offroad for a race, especially at night, and honestly if I knew that ahead of time, I wouldn't sign up for a race.

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