Wine and Dine Half Marathon at Disney Guide

In 2018, I participated in the Disney Wine and Dine half marathon, which also happened to be my first half marathon ever. I have been running races for three years and being able to complete a runDisney event has been a huge motivator for me. If you are a Disney World fan, then I highly recommend putting a Disney half marathon on your bucket list because it is a truly unforgettable experience!

Wine and Dine Half Marathon Disney

This event takes place during the Food and Wine Festival every year in November. You have to register in March, which leaves you a good amount of time to train. This post walks through everything from registering and preparing, to getting there and running the race! Disney races are really different from any other so I’ll explain everything you need to know before signing up for one.

Registering for the Wine and Dine Half Marathon

Registration opens in March and for the 2019 race you can register starting March 19th at 10:00 AM ET. I would recommend registering as early as possible because races do sell out. Annual passholders can register a week earlier, but there will still be plenty of spots for the general public. Your options for registering this year are:

  • Fall Feast 5k on November 1st: $85 + processing fee
  • Wine and Dine 10K on November 2nd: $127 + processing fee
  • Wine and Dine Half Marathon on November 3rd: $205 + processing fee
  • Two Course Challenge on November 2nd and 3rd: $347 + processing fee
  • runDisney Kids Race: $20-$30 + processing fee
  • ChEAR Squad Package: $65 + processing fee
  • Just Post Race Party, no running: $85 + processing fee

Last year, the processing fee was $13 for the half marathon, so you can expect a fee around that price. The main event is the half marathon on Sunday, November 3rd, but Disney has many participation options! If you rather not run 13.1 miles, a 5k takes place on Friday and runs through Animal Kingdom and a 10k on Saturday which goes through Hollywood Studios and Epcot.

Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon

If you are feeling very ambitious, you can do the two course challenge and participate in both the 10k and the half marathon. I thought you would have to be crazy to do this, but then I saw the medal they give out and am debating trying it next year! There is also a kids race at Wide World of Sports for kids for ages 0-13. Participants in the half marathon have to be 14 years or older, 10 years or older for the 10k and 5 years or older for the 5k. All races also include a finisher medal and a participant shirt.

If you aren’t a runner, but want to cheer someone on, you can watch for free from a number of viewing spots. However, you could also purchase the chEAR squad package, although it seems a bit unnecessary to me. For $65, you get a seat in the bleachers near the finish line, a bag, a blanket and a cowbell, as well as free nonalcoholic beverages. I would much rather my loved ones purchase the $85 post race party ticket instead and celebrate with me at Epcot from 8 PM – 1 AM. This post race party is included in registration for the half marathon and I’ll go into the details about it in my next post.

Wine and Dine Half Marathon Disney

Preparing for Your runDisney Event

Once you register, there’s not much to do until November besides train! If you live in Florida like I do, you will have grueling summer weather to deal with. I had a brutal time training in the 100% humidity in August and September, but once it started to cool off in October, I found I was in better shape than I thought! There are a variety of ways you can train for it, but I followed a routine similar to this. I go to Orange Theory twice a week for cross training, and then I try to do two 5k runs and one long run per week.

I got a few emails from Disney leading up to the event. The first was a couple of weeks later reminding me to submit my proof of time (for Corral placement) and book hotel reservations if needed. I would highly recommend booking a hotel for it unless you live less than half an hour away. We stayed at the Swan and Dolphin the night before and night after, and it made the event a lot less stressful. Book your hotel reservations early though because a lot of hotels sell out!

Wine and Dine Half Marathon Disney

Then about a month before, they email you an event guide with information regarding everything you need to know about the weekend. This includes when the expo is, how to pick up your bibs there, and how and what time to get to the races. You can usually find this information on the website ahead of time.

You are also emailed a $15 Disney gift card a week in advance! They say this is for buying food and wine at the post race party, but it’s a normal Disney gift card that you can use anywhere on site. I find that since you get $15 to spend and a post race party included in the registration, the wine and dine half marathon is the best deal of the four different races! None of the other events have a post race party in the parks and they definitely don’t send out a gift card!

Wine and Dine Half Marathon Disney

The Wine and Dine Expo

In order to pick up your bibs, you need to attend the Wine and Dine Expo at Disney’s Wide World of Sports. This takes place on the Thursday, Friday and Saturday of race weekend from around 10 AM to 7PM (last year it opened and closed earlier on Saturday. I did not realize everything that would be involved in the expo and you really can spend at least a couple of hours here.

All the runners start by going through the process of picking up their bibs and signing a safety waiver. When we went on Saturday morning they had tons of workers and we didn’t have to wait in line at all. Keep in mind you have to pick up your own bib and you can;t pick up anyone else’s.

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Then you are led to a huge area with all the race merchandise. They have everything from shirts and hats to pins to glassware and so much more. I debated getting a wine glass or something, but it was all extremely expensive, even for Disney standards. A lot of the pins and some shirts are limited edition, so if you want to see the full selection, get there first thing on Thursday! Plenty of eBay sellers will be there to snatch it all up, so you can always look on eBay if you want to pay even more.

You have to go to another building to get your free shirt, and this was where all the different running vendors were. We actually had a lot of fun in this section! They had a DJ playing music to pump you up and a lot of interactive exhibits. If you need any running gear, you can easily find it here, including shoes, clothes, and accessories. I recommend having all your gear ready ahead of time and doing a long practice run with it, but you can always pick up some cool accessories for future runs.

Wine and Dine Half Marathon Disney

There are also a few fun photo-ops and some food and drinks for purchase at the expo! You might want to get a picture with your race bib here instead of after the run when you are all sweaty. Some expos have character meet and greets, but I did not see any at this one. All this information can change from year to year, so please be sure to check over your event guide for the latest information! Once you have your bib and shirt, all you can do is get some rest before the race!

Wine and Dine Half Marathon Disney

The Morning of the Half Marathon

The Wine and Dine Half Marathon starts at 5:30 AM, but you should plan to get there before 4:15 AM. I woke up for the half marathon at 3 AM which might be the earliest I have ever woken up! The one positive thing is that this run usually takes place on the day we turn our clocks back for Daylight Savings, so it will actually feel like an hour later than it is!

If you are staying at a Disney hotel (including the Swan and Dolphin), buses will leave from the resort from 3:30 AM to 5 AM, but they severely warn you to be on the bus by 4 AM. We were staying at the Swan and Dolphin and at 3:30 AM there were five buses lined up. Andrew, my dad and I got on the bus first bus and five minutes later, it left with only us in it. I am not sure how many buses they have going back and forth, but i would recommend getting on one early like we did.

Wine and Dine Half Marathon Disney

If you are staying at a non-Disney hotel or driving from anywhere else, you park at Epcot and then take a bus to the start line at Magic Kingdom. They do not allow you to park at the Magic Kingdom parking lot where the race starts.

Our bus dropped us off at about 3:50 AM and there were less than a 100 people there. Because of this, we breezed through the security line and then immediately got on line to meet Lumiere! You never see him in the parks, so I was very excited to get a picture. They also had Chef Donald meeting people and then Chef Minnie and Mickey greeting together.

Wine and Dine Half Marathon Disney

After we met Minnie and Mickey, we still had an hour until the race started. The Swan and Dolphin had a bunch of chia granola bars out for free, so we nibbled on those and just kind of sat around waiting. They had some water cups available and then coffee and breakfast food for purchase. There were at least a hundred porta-potties and we used those once before the race and they were surprisingly very clean. By 4:30 AM there were long lines for security, the character and the porta-potties, so it definitely pays to get there early!

The Starting Line

Finally around 5 AM it was time to line up in our corrals. If you submit your past time from a 10k or a half marathon ahead of time, you will be placed in a corral for your speed. This is highly recommended, because it can take over an hour for all the corrals to start running. Andrew regularly runs 7 minute miles so he was in Corral A, whereas my Dad and I were in Corral C for our 10 minute mile pace. You should probably get in your corral even earlier than 5 AM because then you can be closer to the head of the pack.

At 5:15 AM, announcers get on a stage to soon announce the start of the race. There’s a big TV screen so you can kind of see what’s going on, but there’s not really much to see besides a few people and the characters. The anticipation is very palpable at this point!

Wine and Dine Half Marathon Disney

At 5:30, the race begins and they set off fireworks to launch the first corral, as well as every corral after that. I assumed they would release each corral at once, but they actually break them up into multiple groups. Andrew was close to the front, so he started running right at 5:30! We didn’t start until around 5:50, so I can’t even imagine what time the runners in the last corral started. It goes all the way back to corral H.

Of course, right when the first corral started running, it started pouring! I absolutely hate rain, and spending the race soaking wet was worrisome to me. My goal was to run the full distance and not walk any of it. Luckily, right before our group was due to start, the rain stopped and the air was nice and cool!

Wine and Dine Half Marathon Disney

Running the Wine and Dine Half Marathon

My Dad and I ran the half marathon together and enjoyed pointing things out along the way. The race starts out a bit boring just running on the road from the Magic Kingdom parking lot to Animal Kingdom. It was dark at this point, but they have a decent amount of lighting for the roads as well as the water stations and bathrooms.

The first three miles aren’t that exciting, but they do have some cool characters to see and DJ’s playing music to match the characters in the area. The first one I saw was Louis the alligator from Princess and Frog and they had some songs from the movie playing. There was about one character meet and greet per mile. They have photopass people to take your picture, but there are often lines. Apparently they go quick, but I was not stopping for anything!

Wine and Dine Half Marathon Disney

The one character I was tempted to stop for was Stitch dressed up as Elvis! That is a character you don’t see often. I also saw the penguins from Mary Poppins, the Incredibles and Edna, Dinosaur Chip and Dale, Flik, Marie and Mushu. Although by far the most amusing character experience were the green army men from Toy Story along the course. They told one guy to “drop and give me ten” and I was shocked to see him start doing push ups right there! I guess it was harder than he expected because he dropped an f-bomb, and then the army men made him do ten more for bad language! It was hilarious to see.

Back to the course, halfway through mile three is where is starts to get exciting. You run through the backstage areas of Animal kingdom where they keep the animals and we got a glimpse of a few. The you are led through the park starting in Africa, then to Pandora and then out through Dinoland. It was amazing seeing the parks at dawn without anyone on the rides or anything! This was just when the sun was rising and it all looked so peaceful, with the exception of all the runners.

Wine and Dine Half Marathon Disney

After exiting the park, you run through the Animal Kingdom parking lot for what feels like an eternity! Making it worse, was my Dad and I were stuck near a “run-walk-run” group around this time. This is a running technique that Disney promotes where groups of alternate between almost sprinting and walking for the entire race. They have different paced runners leading these groups and anyone can follow along with them. These pacers have a flag with a finish time on them, so if you are near a pack, you can have a good idea of your finish time at your current pace.

It is a huge pain to be near a pack of these runners if you are running a consistent pace! We were near around twenty people doing this for a couple of miles and they were constantly passing us, then would walk and we would pass them and then again. We just kept feeling in the way, and it sucks to have a group of walkers to dodge. It seems like an interesting technique and some of the runners have great results with it, but try and stay away from the groups if you aren’t also doing “run-walk-run”.

Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon

Miles 5 through 9 are the most challenging because you are just running in the Animal Kingdom parking lot and the road towards Hollywood Studios. There is not much to see besides characters. They do hand out jellybean energy beans around mile 8, however it can be good to bring your own gels as well.

Finishing the Wine and Dine Half Marathon

Once you pass mile 9 and enter Hollywood Studios, you can feel the race coming to a close and I got a great burst of energy here. You enter back near Tower of Terror and then run down Sunset Boulevard and out the park entrance. Then you follow the path past the boardwalk to the International Gateway at Epcot. There are a lot of spectators at the boardwalk cheering you on which doesn’t sound that helpful, but it is actually surprisingly motivating!

Finally you enter Epcot in between the United Kingdom and France and have to run all the way through the World Showcase to the entrance. My legs were killing at this point, but it felt so cool to run by all the different countries! They have music playing all throughout and I was just pushing so far to finish.

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Finally you get the park and make your way to a giant finish line in the parking lot. This is where the bleachers are for any chEAR squad participants. Andrew had finished like an hour before me, so he grabbed a few pictures of me going by! I finished with a time of 2 hours and 18 minutes and just felt amazing when crossed the finish line and was handed my medal! It was really such an accomplishment for me and I was just so glad I didn’t walk at all during it.

That amazing feeling was quickly replaced by leg pain and chafing burns. They have a medical tent and I went right to it for some Vaseline. They have these every 2 miles on the race course, but i had really not wanted to stop. Then I proceeded to make my way through the parking lot, where there was a huge procession to follow. They end up handing you two waters, a snack box, and a towel. I could barely hold it all so I ditched one of the water bottles. That was not smart because that is the only place for water and you cannot go backwards. So definitely grab as much water if you can hold if you are thirsty!

Wine and Dine Half Marathon Disney

Once we reunited with Andrew, the three of us got a picture from one of the many photopass people there. They also had the characters from the morning greeting, but they still has long lines. If you checked a bag, there was tent to pick up your gear and right next to it is the buses to the resort. We had no problem getting on a bus to the Swan and Dolphin, where we were just about ready to take a nap!

That had to wait though, as we had a reservation at the Ale and Compass brunch to celebrate! After that we took a nap. The party goes from 8 PM to 1 AM, and since you have to wake up at 3 AM, a nap is basically necessary. It ended up raining from noon onward, so it only made sense to rest. My next post will have all the details regarding the post race party!

Wine and Dine Half Marathon Disney

Know Before You Go

  • The Wine and Dine Half Marathon weekend takes place in early November
  • Registration for the half marathon and other events opens in March
  • The distances available are a 5k, 10k, half marathon or the 10k and half marathon on back to back days
  • If you want to be placed in an earlier corral, submit your time from a 10k or other half marathon race when you register
  • Your half marathon registration includes a shirt, a medal, a $15 Disney gift card and access to the post race party at Epcot from 8 PM to 1 AM
  • You will need to attend the Wine and Dine Expo at Wide World of Sports to pick up your bib. It is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday
  • The race starts at 5:30 AM and you should plan to be there before 4:15 AM
  • All Disney hotels and the Swan and Dolphin have race weekend transportation, but are also a lot more expensive that weekend
  • You need to keep a pace above 16 minutes/mile to avoid getting swept
  • Friends and family can cheer you on at the Boardwalk or the Epcot parking lot or purchase the chEAR squad package
  • There are photopass photographers on the course that take your picture and then are available to purchase via your bib number
  • The race goes through Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Epcot

Despite the rain and the early wake-up, this was one of my favorite Disney World experiences ever. I think any Disney World fan would have an amazing time just like we did. I have since done another half marathon and it doesn’t even compare to the fun and excitement of a Disney race.

Wine and Dine Half Marathon Disney

If you think I’m crazy, just know that only a few years I thought you would have to be insane to pay over $200 to wake up at an ungodly hour and then run 13.1 miles. But now I am dying to do it again! Just a couple of years of running have really completely changed my mindset.

If you have done a runDisney event, let me know in the comments! I would love hear how your experience compared to mine!