Twilight Races

by Mike Scopa, contributing writer

Twilight Races

I've been lucky to have run and finished nine Walt Disney World-sponsored races. These races have varied in distance from a 5K (3.1 miles) to as long as a half-marathon (13.1 miles). In all cases, there was a common denominator and that was that each race began in the early morning. The starting time ranged from 6-7:30 a.m.

This allowed for the participants and race personnel to wrap up and clear out before the heavy traffic time of the day arrived for the theme parks.

Some different kinds of races will be taking place at the end of this month in Walt Disney World (WDW); unlike those ever sponsored by the resort. In fact these races will be taking place next weekend.

I'm talking about the Walt Disney World Tower of Terror 6.5K (4.1 miles) and 13K (8.1 miles) races to commemorate the 13th Anniversary Celebration of the opening of the Tower of Terror attraction at the Disney Studios theme park.

Let's talk about the particulars.

The two races will take place at the Disney/MGM Studios theme park on the night; yes I said "the night," of Oct. 27. They are both slated to start at around 9:30 p.m. They both have the same completion time requirements, but more of that later.

The shorter of the two races, the 6.5K run, will take place in and around the theme park and it looks to finish in the area of Sunset Boulevard and more specifically near the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror area. Click here (PDF link) for the 6.5K course map.

The longer race, covering 13K, will also start near the Disney Studios theme park, make its way out to Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex, and then return to finish at the same location as its shorter cousin race. Click here (PDF link) for the 13K course map.

What's very different about these races as compared to other WDW-sponsored races is the generous time constraint of 2.5 hours allowed to complete either race.

This equates to just more than a 36 minutes per mile pace for the 6.5K race and just over an 18-minute-per-mile pace for the 13K race.

Why the lenient pace requirements?

Well I can make a few assumptions.

First, having such an easy pace requirement opens up these races to more participants who may have refrained from entering other WDW races because of the fear of not being able to comply with the respective race's minimum pace requirements. That "sweep bus" strikes fear into many.

Secondly, if you take into consideration as to the time of the races, there is no need to hasten the event along in time for a theme park opening; it's the end of the day. Also, the courses indicate that there will be very little inconvenience to motorists in that area of WDW.

Finally, it's an event with races but also a party and slapping on a very challenging pace requirement would take away from the festive atmosphere.

That is just my humble opinion.

Runner Concerns and Issues

These races look to be quite popular. However, some issues have been expressed by some runners who have signed up to participate in these races and I've been thinking about them too such as:

  • Weather – We are talking about a race that takes place during hurricane season. This year has been a quiet year for hurricanes so far and as it looks right now there are no tropical depressions that would generate runner depression, so we are safe for now; but I'm sure those running will be looking to the skies between now and race day. What if the forecast calls for rain that evening? Will the race be called off? Would you run in the rain? A 4-mile jaunt in the rain may not be too uncomfortable, but 8-plus miles is a bit different.

    If you plan to run that evening, play it safe and bring some running gear that is waterproof if possible and bring a hat to keep the rain from running down the front of your face. Here's a trick. If it rains and your running shoes become soaked, before going to bed stuff them silly with newspaper. The newspaper will wick the moisture from your shoes so that when you wake up, the newspaper will be very moist and hopefully your running shoes will be just a little damp. As far as temperatures go, late October can bring some very warm days, but it could be safe to assume that a 9:30 p.m. start will see temperatures falling somewhere in the 65- to 75-degree range.

  • Lighting and Footing – Well I can tell you anyone who has suffered an injury to their foot, ankle, knee, or leg will be very concerned about the lighting for the courses. My guess is that the race coordinators will go to great length to make sure that the courses are well lit so that the participants can see where they are going. Here's hoping that all the runners will focus on their footing and where they are running and not worry too much on their time. Running at night may not be conducive to setting a personal record for any distance. Save that personal record stuff for those daytime races where you have daylight to guide you.

    Did I mention footing? Oh yes. Footing is tied into both the weather and the how well the courses are lit. Obviously a wet surface is a slippery surface so keep in mind that if it's raining on race day, I mean race night, that you may want to shorten your stride a bit and make sure you are concentrating on every step...also, slowing down should decrease your chances of slipping as well.

  • Race Time – The actual race time is 9:30 p.m. That's right. So how many of you runners out there run or train at night? No, it doesn't count if you are in your family room, basement or gym running on a treadmill. I mean out on the roads at 9:30 at night. Show of hands please. Yup. Thought so.

    This could be a real concern for those runners who historically run in the morning; especially the pre-dawn runners. Do the math. If for instance someone runs at 5 or 6 a.m., then think about how early they need to get up to put their gear on and warm up before starting their run.

    These morning runners will need to make quite an adjustment.

    Not only that, but for everyone participating in the race one would guess that park touring on race day will be very much in slug touring fashion and trying to avoid the sun. I would think that the last thing a runner would do that day is run around the theme parks.

  • Pace Requirements – As I said earlier the pace requirements for these two races are very lenient. Participants in both the 6.5k and 13K race must complete the course in less than 2.5 hours. It seems odd that with those requirements that we are still referring to these two events as "races." These requirements are responsible for making these races very popular so anyone attending should expect to see many people in MGM/Studios that evening.

I would hope that all the participants approach these races as an opportunity to get in some exercise and a run that perhaps fits into their training for another race down the road. Running through Disney theme parks is a unique experience and hopefully the runners will enjoy these two special races.

If you are interested in participating in either of these races I have bad news and good news.

The bad news is that the 13K race is closed.

The good news is that as of the time of my writing this the 6.5K race was still accepting applicants.

For more information on these races click here (link).

Party Time

Well, regarding that party, it is very much treated as hard-ticketed events such as Pirate and Princess, Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, and Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party only those with tickets can attend. Admission to the party comes with the entry fee for the races so runners are fine. You do not have to participate in the race to attend the party. You may purchase tickets for the party at the special ToT race site listed above.

The party will go until 1 a.m. and if you enjoy sitting next to sweaty runners while dropping 13 stories or rushing across town in a stretch limo that does a few loop-dee-loops then this is the party for you.

MousePlanet Will Be There

For the runners it's a different type of WDW race. At least at the other races, despite starting in the dark, every stride was a step toward daylight. For this race, every stride will bring us closer to midnight.

MousePlanet will be well represented at this event with Stephanie Wien, Lani Teshima, Alex Stroup, Jennifer and Andrew Rich, and your humble sore knee author also participating.

This unique set of races will be something most of the runners will never forget and I'm sure we will chalk it up to just another way of the folks at Disney putting something together to help us ... Remember the Magic.

Next Time

Ah, it's that time of year. Traditions abound. First we have Halloween, then Thanksgiving, and then of course there's that special time in December.

No. I'm not talking about Christmas but now that you mention it, Christmas IS coming.

I'm talking about something that has taken a life of its own and it's just around the corner. Are you strapped in? Are you well rested? Are you ready?

It's time to talk Mousefest '07 and we certainly will when next we meet.

Class dismissed.