Sunday, February 4, 2018

2018 Walt Disney Dopey and Castaway Cay Challenge

The 25th anniversary of the Walt Disney World Marathon was held from January 3rd through 7th 2018.  This also included the 5th anniversary of the Dopey Challenge which was the event I chose to pursue for the second time.  You can read about my first running in 2016 here.  In addition, the family decided to take a Disney Cruise the Monday after the event, so I signed up for the Castaway Cay Challenge.

Expo and Packet Pickup -- Wednesday, January 3rd
When you pursue the Dopey Challenge you need to attend packet-pickup on the first day of the Expo, Wednesday.  Since you are running all four events starting on Thursday you need your bibs.  For the Dopey Challenge you get two bibs. One bib is for the 5k and 10k event, and the second bib for the half marathon and full marathon.  Each bib will have a corral letter corresponding to your starting corral for each of the events.  Your slotted into your corral based on your specific qualifying time.  Your corral placement may not be the same on each bib. For me, I was in corral A for the 5k and 10k and corral B for the half and full marathon.

The expo opens on Wednesday at Noon and you can expect it to be very crowded early.  While the only "required" runners that need to attend are 5k and Dopey Challenge runners, what you will most likely find are thousands of runners and non-runners looking for unique runDisney merchandise.  While the quality and design of the items are fine, they aren't over the top in my opinion.  But for Disney fans around the world, they are highly coveted items.  In fact, it isn't unusual to see shoppers taking multiples of each item they like.  Either for personal use, gifts or even perhaps eBay sale.

Now, here is an interesting tip if your doing either the half marathon, marathon or even one of the two challenge events; the VIP Race Retreat.  Not only is the Race Retreat great before the half or full marathon, it also gets you into the Expo 2 hours early.  So instead of waiting until Noon on Wednesday with the masses you can get in at 10am.  So, if you are interested in runDisney merchandise, expo vendors or simply want to get your race packet early, this is a great and easily missed bonus of Race Retreat (more on Race Retreat later).

The Expo takes place at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.  This is a huge complex of buildings and sport fields.  Much larger than you would probably expect if you haven't been there before.  Disney hosts many events here throughout the year and over the past few years it has grown tremendously.  There was heavy construction around the entrance during the event clearly indicating some improvements to ingress and egress for the larger events.  If you decide to run the full marathon event then you'll have the opportunity to do about 4 miles within the confines of this venue.

The expo is split up across three different buildings, and with the events I have participated in over the years, they do change the setup.  For this particular event the challenge events had their packet pickup in the HP Field House which also housed the runDisney merchandise.  The main event packet pickup (for 5k, 10k, half and full marathons) along with Castaway Cay pickup was in the Visa Athletic Center.  This also housed the various vendors participating in the event.  Champion Stadium held other various pickup locations for the kids run and for the chEar Squad.  If you purchase a VIP Race Retreat for either the half or full marathon (or both) you picked up your wrist band in the round Welcome Center building.

I did walk through both the runDisney and main vendor expo areas and thankfully refrained from purchasing too much.  I did get a new Dopey Challenge car magnet since my previous one was all faded.  I also splurged and got another shadow box for the Dopey Medals from Lasting Commemoratives.   While I have completed back to back half and full marathons at least four times so far, the Dopey Challenge is unique in a few different ways, so I felt it was nice to do something special again for this event.

The weather the entire race event week was very cold, windy and rainy, but it was a complete downpour attending the Expo.  Since we were arriving as part of the early VIP crowd, we had to go to the Welcome Center first to pick up our wrist bands so we could get into the Expo area.  This is a small building so the line was outside in the rain.  By the time I got into the expo building I was completely soaked.  My shoes squishing with every step.  I spent the first hour after returning to the hotel in the Laundromat drying my clothes and winter coat.

Walt Disney World 5K -- Thursday, January 4th
Now that you have your bib, and all that runDisney merchandise its time for the first of four events.  As I indicated in my last blog the hardest part of the Dopey Challenge is really getting up early four mornings in a row.  Given this is the first one, it wasn't too difficult to get moving when the alarm went of at 2:45am.  Yes, you read that right, 2:45am.

This gives me enough time to get dressed, get the bib on, grab a banana and yogurt that I bought the night before and head out to the bus area.  The first buses departed the hotel around 3:30am if I remember correctly.  Then its just a short ride to the Epcot parking lot where the festivities are held and the waiting begins.

There is a live DJ, a few character opportunities and photographers milling around if you want your photo taken.  As I mentioned it was cold.  On this particular morning it was one of the colder mornings with temperatures hovering around the low 30s and some wind.  Realizing it was going to be cold for runners, the runDisney staff had several portable propane headers sitting around the parking area to huddle under.  Since I arrived relatively early I was able to stand right up front as the crowds began to fill in around us all.

You can see the temperature differential with the heated resort pool

As always I found the runners polite, friendly and all too eager to share their running stories, favorite shoes and dislike of the cold.  I waited there until about 5:10am when I headed off to my corral.  At 5am they open up the corral areas, but I knew there wouldn't be any heaters there so I waited about as long as I thought I could before making my way to the corral.  By the time I got there they had already released the corral to the starting line, so at least I didn't have to stand around in the corral long.

As always they let the wheelchair participants go a few minutes early, and then we were off promptly at 5:30am (the starting time for all the races).  What was a little different for me at a runDisney event was that instead of letting all of corral A go at once and then waiting about 15 minutes to release corral B, they broke corral A up into about 3 or four waves separated by 3 minutes.  I ended up being in the third wave since I took my time getting up to the starting area.  I have to admit that I do like this change.  It really helped the spacing of runners (and walkers) such that I didn't have to zig zag too much between people for the first mile.

The 5K event is a fairly simple course as you can see from the Strava map that takes you around the back side of Epcot so that you enter into the World Showcase area near Mexico, work your way around the countries clockwise, do a quick out and back around The Land the The Sea, out past Spaceship Earth and then to the finish line back into the Epcot parking lot.

There are a few photographers on the course as well as a few character stops around the course. Since the run is so early in the morning many of the photographers on the course have bright LED lights that can blind you, so you should always be careful not to look at the lights.  Hard to know who or what you night run into.

In fact, a few of us had an interesting thing in common on the bus during the return trip to the resort.  After coming around The Seas area there was a photographer right before you turned left to go under the covered area between buildings towards the fountain.  Also right at that corner is a large palm tree that a few of us almost face planted directly into.  Curious if the three of us who just happened to be sitting near each other experienced this phenomenon how many others did as well, and did anyone actually run into the tree.

Strava map of the Walt Disney 5K

After crossing the finish line your are greeted with a very large number of very helpful and happy volunteers.  You are given your medal (and since 2017 the 5K is a real medal and no longer a rubber medallion), a mylar blanket, various drink choices, a snack box and a banana.  After that you make your way back to the main parking lot and waiting area to meet up with any family member or fellow runners before heading back to your bus to return to your resort.

2018 Walt Disney World 5K Medal

Since the 5K is such a short event, the last time I did this race I found myself waiting for a relatively long period of time to return to the resort as the corrals were still being released.  The buses actually share part of the course with the runners so they can't start moving again until the last runner goes by.  Again, thankfully, runDisney was very in tune with the cold temperatures and allowed us to wait on the buses for departure versus standing in a line outside as with my previous run.

I think I was back at the resort a little before 7am, grabbed a shower, changed, then had breakfast and the rest of the day to enjoy Disney World.

Walt Disney World 10K -- Friday, January 5th
As with the 5K, the 10K event starts at 5:30am, so once again the alarm goes off around 2:30am or 2:45am.  Time to get ready, have something quick to eat and then off to the bus for the ride to Epcot.  The morning air was chilly again, but was about 2 degrees warmer.  The big difference in weather was the wind. It was extremely windy on this morning compared to the 5K.  In fact, it was so windy they couldn't light the portable propane heaters.

While I was skeptical that they really couldn't be lit, it didn't take long for the tops of the heaters to become UFOs and fly across the parking lot.  It was a very good thing that no one was really standing under them trying to get warm.

A few of us ended up standing behind the coffee truck and while we had to deal with diesel fumes but we didn't have to deal with as much wind.  I stayed there until about 5am when the corral waiting area opened and then worked my way to corral A.

Once again I was on the third "sub wave" to be released and really appreciated the new way runners were being released.  While I love the fact that Disney races are great for runners of all abilities, I do find it frustrating that for 5K and 10K runs that people in corral A will walk right out of the gate.  And worse yet, they don't move over to the right, or even worse stop in front of you and get annoyed if you run into the back of them.  Not much anyone can do about this behavior, but you have to understand it will happen, get through it and enjoy the run.

Strava map of the Walt Disney World 10K

As you can see from the Strava map of the course, to get the extra length in, you work your way out of the park and then back around Epcot Center Drive.  I accidentally started my watch as a bike ride instead of a run, so after a couple tenths of a mile when I realized it I stopped the activity, deleted it and restarted which is why this doesn't show the same starting point as the 5K.  You do indeed start in the same location for the 5K and the 10K.

The other big change in the course for the 10K is the loop around the boardwalk area.  This is actually one of my favorite places to run, and one I do often when we stay at the Beach Club Resort.  Early in the morning the lights are really great to see around the water and there are a lot of spectators from the various resorts and DVC areas outside cheering you on.

You enter back into the world showcase the same way you do for the 5K, the only difference within the Epcot park is you don't do the loop past The Land and The Sea.  After you leave World Showcase you simply run past the fountain, down past Spaceship Earth and out towards the parking lot area to the finish line.

2018 Walt Disney World 10K Medal

As with the 5K, after crossing the finish line area you are greeted by a volunteer that will present you with your medal, followed by a mylar blanket, beverage area, snack box and banana.  At this point you are back out where you can get your checked bag if you had one, meet up with friends and family and then work your way to the buses to take you back to your resort.  Since the distance is longer, the corrals will most likely be all released by the time you finish, so there is no waiting on the bus.

Just as with the 5K there are plenty of water stops for this event, more than normal and an abundance of photo opportunities with or without characters around the course.  I had heard a rumor of Colonial Mickey being at the America pavilion in Epcot, but unfortunately I didn't see him during any of the runs that passed through that area.  That is one I would have probably stopped for.

Walt Disney World Half Marathon -- Saturday, January 6th
Day three of the Dopey Challenge is about to be under way.  Since this is a much larger event, buses do start to run a little earlier to the starting area at Epcot.  I set my alarm for 2:30am and headed out to the bus pickup area a little before 3am and boarded.  We left just a hair before 3am for Epcot.

One of the reasons I was willing to leave so early from the resort, probably earlier than I had too, was because I had opted to pay for the VIP Race Retreat for both the Half Marathon and the Marathon.  I knew I would get something to eat, drink and get mentally ready in the Race Retreat facility.  And as a bonus, I wasn't waiting outside in the cold. Over the 3 years or so I have really been running, I have learned that I waste a lot of energy pre-race shivering in the cold. I also have a tendency to tense up, especially around the shoulders and neck.  Neither of which is conducive to a good run.

VIP Race Retreat Tent

As you can see this is a rigid tent with plenty of room to sit, relax, grab food and hydrate. There is even a DJ and photo available.  The food in the morning prior to the Half Marathon is comprised of a Continental Breakfast including Bagels with Peanut Butter, Cream Cheese, Butter and Jellies along with whole bananas and oranges.  There is also tea, coffee, hot water, bottled water, sodas and sports drinks available.

In the back of the tent through separate doors are "private" port-a-potties for both men and women along with changing rooms.  In the back on the right is the private bag drop area.  When you enter the tent you can get a sticker to put your bib number on which you apply to the clear bag you get at the expo.  When you're done with your things, you just drop the bag off and it will be waiting for you after the run.

They start to move the runners out of the tent at 4:45am to be ready for the 5:30am start.  Obviously depending on your corral you may or may not need to be at the starting area so early.   Since I was in corral B I knew I had some time to make my way there, so I stayed in the tent to just before 5am.  I made it to my corral area with about 10 min before the race started.  Corral A was released in about 3 waves and I was released in the second wave of corral B.

One of the things Disney does so well are fireworks.  I have run a lot of races in a lot of locations and still to this day, only Disney starts them off with fireworks.  I don't always have a phone with me, but I did for this race so I could try and capture a shot.  I do think it is funny that the fireworks are as spectacular by the time the last wave is released.

Let the Half Marathon Begin!

The half marathon route, like most Disney races, is mostly flat.  There are a few small elevation changes with the larger ones belong on/off ramps and bridges.  None of the too long compared to most races.  Again, this makes the course favorable to runners tackling the half and full marathon distance for the first time.  Between the flat course, the scenery and the energy around such a large event it's hard not to be motivated.

Strava map of Walt Disney Half Marathon

The first five miles are fairly mundane.  You start on Epcot Center Drive and then head up World Drive towards Magic Kingdom.  The course has changed some, at least for this particular event.  There is a lot of construction around the entrance which might have contributed to the changes, but frankly I like the new route a lot.  While largely the same as I have seen in the past, you enter the park from a different perspective.

You still pass through the car entrance gate, through the parking lots, under the Seven Seas Lagoon past the Contemporary Resort, but instead of continuing around the to right of the park and entering between the candy shop and Tony's Town Square, we actually came through the bus drop-off area and into the front entrance of the park, then up Main Street,  From there it continued as normal around Tomorrow Land, past Fantasy Land, through the center of the Castle, out towards Frontier Land and out the park onto Floridian Way.

Once you leave Magic Kingdom you stay on Floridian Way past the Grand Floridian Resort and the Polynesian Resort.  Of course there are more photo opportunities here along with DJs.  You just don't get entertained in the parks, but I would say about every mile or so there is something to help keep you moving forward.

Once you pass the Polynesian Resort your back on World Drive heading to Epcot.  Right around mile 10.5 you are faced with the first of two real hill climbs.  This first one is the on-ramp to get you from World Drive back onto Epcot Center Drive.  Of course you'll find a green army man (a Sergeant no less) making sure you "get up that hill" or face the consequences.

Around mile 11.9 you face the final climb of the race.  After making a U-turn on Epcot Center Drive, you head up a hill to cross over some park entrance roads and make your way into Epcot.  You enter the park from the right side of the park (if standing at the entrance looking into the park), and come out near the bathrooms next to Spaceship Earth.  At this point you only have about a half mile to go.

You run past the fountain towards World Showcase, turn around just as you enter World Showcase and head back towards the fountain, this time going past Spaceship Earth on the other side and then out into the parking lot to the finish line.  There are some really good photo locations within Epcot, so make sure you are smiling, no matter how tired you are.  Having Spaceship Earth as the backdrop can make a great photo.

Of course the post finish line area works as with the other races.  The major difference being that the medical area is more heavily staffed, and frankly more heavily used.  As I mentioned this is a large race and a half marathon is a series distance.  That being said, you will find a lot of runners taking advantage of ice packs, Tylenol, bio freeze and other items.

2018 Walt Disney World Half Marathon Medal

As you leave the runners chute you will have your medal, a mylar blanket if it is cool outside, a drink or two, a snack box and your banana.  If you checked a bag you pick that up as you exit the food area or head back to the VIP tent to grab it.  You can then meet up with friends and family and then grab the shuttle bus back to your resort.

While I have talked with runners that are local or even visiting for the race, that do drive in on their own and stay with friends or hotels off property, I wouldn't recommend it.  The races are crowded, the event is early and having the bus service to and from the resort is a major stress item you don't have to worry about. One of the runners I talked with in the VIP tent lived 20 miles from Disney and he was staying on property so he didn't have to deal with the drive each morning.  He was also doing the Dopey Challenge.

Walt Disney World Marathon -- Sunday, January 7th
Here we are at day four of the 5th anniversary of the Dopey Challenge.  Three events down with only one left, but we haven't even completed half the milage yet.  We have 26.2 to go and have only run 22.4 to date.  Waking up early is starting to catch up with me along with days in the park or in Disney Springs.  While I am cautious not to do too much on the day or two leading up to the final event, it's hard not to take advantage of what Disney World has to offer.  That, plus the fact that you have to eat right.  That means the right mix of carbs and protein for all the running, and nothing too unfamiliar that could upset your stomach or cause other issues.  Even during a runcation the motto "nothing new or different on or in your body before a race" is still key.

Morning routine for the marathon was the same as the half marathon.  Once again I had the VIP Race Retreat so I woke up early, caught the bus and got the tent to grab something to eat and mentally prepare.  I grabbed a couple of Tylenol from the medics in the tent to help with any soreness that might crop up.  They will mark the back of your hand with a black "X" using a sharpie to indicate you had a dose already and are only allowed one more during the event.

The morning food options for the marathon are the same as the half marathon.  However, the marathon also provides a brunch for after the race and the tent will remain open until 1pm.  I took a picture of the marathon food and timeline.

VIP Race Retreat Marathon Day Food and Timeline

I left the tent just before 5am and made it to my corral just as the first wave of corral A was released.  I did cut it a little close, but it was nice not having to stand around and wait and just get started.  The weather was still very cool, but about 6 degrees warmer than the 5K morning and not a lot of wind.  The temperatures were suppose to climb into the high 50s by the time I finished, so I dressed in long thin pants and a light long sleeve shirt.  I was cold when I started but I knew I would heat up.  Fact is I got hot near the end, but there wasn't much I could do about that.  The weather change really warranted two different outfits, but obviously that isn't feasible.

Strava map of Walt Disney Marathon

What I found interesting was that after the first two tenths of a mile my TomTom indicated that I had reached my 10,000 step goal for the day.  What!  I was about to run a marathon and already walked about five miles?  Yes indeed.  There is a lot of walking from the moment you leave your hotel room until you cross the starting line.

One interesting fact about the marathon race is the quality of the runners.  I don't mean they are all really fast.  What I mean is their etiquette.  The Disney races are crowded, and you get runners of all types and abilities.  To that end, you will find a lot of walkers and a lot of participants who aren't very concerned about other runners around them.  They will walk 4 or 5 across.  They will stop in the middle of the course without warning for any number of reasons.  You definitely have to pay attention.  Breaking the corrals up into several "releases" did help a lot, and there isn't really anything Disney can do about this, but the marathon is clearly different.

My guess is that for the most part the marathon course is made up of runners who run a lot.  Have run many events, perhaps multiple marathons and they are familiar with how things work.  I rarely saw people walking side by side taking up the course.  Runners were also very courteous to raise their hand before stopping.  And they did their best to get to the right side before trying to slow down or stop.

The first 8.6 miles of the marathon course are identical to the half marathon route.  As you come up Floridian Way, you make a right onto Bear Island Road instead if getting all the way back to World Drive.

Strava detailed map of Walt Disney Marathon Magic Kingdom section

I have to admit that Bear Island Road is probably my least favorite portion of the marathon course.  While there are a few photo opportunities and some music, there isn't much to look at.  You also run past a waste treatment plant which isn't the nicest smelling experience.  After that is an out and back section along Western Way that is just over a mile long.

Around mile 12.5 you start to enter Animal Kingdom.  You are coming in from the back side where most of the animals are kept out of the weather.  So, you will get to see the Rhino House, the Elephant House, the Cheetah House and several other buildings before entering the part near the Harambe Market.

Strava detailed map of Walt Disney Marathon Animal Kingdom section

Running through Animal Kingdom is great.  It is a beautiful park to begin with, but following the lack luster scenery this is really a welcome change.  You make your way past the Yak and Yeti restaurant, past Expedition Everest, the Theater in the Wild, past Dino Land and then out of the park.  Depending on when you run through this section, you may have the opportunity for a quick ride on Expedition Everest if your in the mood.  When I went by it was still closed.

As you can see from the photo above you run right by the main entrance area of the park.  This is a great place for spectators if you have friends or family that will want to cheer you on.  It is also right around mile 14.5 so this is a perfect place to have someone hand off some substantial (or at least different) food.  Disney has plenty of water and food stops on the marathon course, and of course you can carry stuff with you.  But at this point in the race, if you're like me, you are kind of sick of gu's, had enough bananas and probably would appreciate something a little different like potato chips.

After leaving Animal Kingdom you head down what is probably the only other section of the run that is frustrating.  You take the up and down hilly Osceola Parkway towards the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex.  You will find two water stops on this section, some loud music, some spectators and large screens showing music videos.  It all does help, but this is a brutal section of the course.

Strava detailed map of Walt Disney Marathon ESPN Wide World of Sports section

At mile 17.5 you turn right into the Disney ESPN Wide World of Sports complex, where you will spend the next 4.5 miles weaving round ball fields, tracks and parking areas.  One cool part is running through the baseball stadium with spectators in the stands.  You'll also find yourself on the jumbotron TV screen as you run around the home run wall.  This is another cool photo opportunity with the stadium as a backdrop, so be sure to smile.

After leaving the ESPN area you make your way back down Osceola Parkway, take the exit onto World Drive for a short while and then turn right again onto East Buena Vista Drive.  After turning right onto Cypress Drive you will find yourself coming in the back of Hollywood Studios by the Tower of Terror.  I was totally impressed by the amount of detail on the building from angles that most visitors could never see.

Strava detailed map of Walt Disney Marathon Hollywood Studios section

By the time you reach this park, odds are it will be open to the public already.  They will have the "course" conned off and have cast members helping ensure the path is clear for the runners.  You aren't in this park for long at all before you find yourself exiting from the front and making your way into the path leading to the Boardwalk Area.  At this point you are around mile 24.5 and are basically safe from getting "swept".  This is the last area where buses can pick up runners.

Once you get to the boardwalk area you run in a very similar fashion to the 10K course past the Yacht and Beach Club Resorts and into World Showcase near England.  This time however, you run counter clockwise around World Showcase by several photo opportunities before entering Future World.

Strava detailed map of Walt Disney Marathon Epcot section

As you come up through Future World you will find a lot of spectators as this park is most likely open as well.  The cheering and energy really help you get through that last mile or two as you pass Spaceship Earth and head out into the parking lot, past the grandstands and across the finish line.

Overall the race went really well for me.  I had slowed down the 5K since I was concerned about getting sore right away and it paid off.  Well, that and taking care of the tightness in my legs after each race with a hot shower and a rub down.  I had run the 10K about a minute faster than 2016, the Half Marathon about 12 minutes faster than 2016 and the Marathon about 50 seconds slower than 2016.  I would have liked to come in faster, but I have to admit that the Dopey Challenge is really about all four races, and not about the time for any one race.

After crossing the finish line, I happily accepted the beautiful 25th anniversary medal, grabbed a water so that I could mix it with the Skratch Sport Recovery I had in my dropped off bag in the VIP Race Retreat.  I skipped the food since I was going back to the tent for brunch and just went through the challenge area to get the Goofy Challenge medal and Dopey Challenge medal.

2018 Walt Disney World Marathon, Goofy Challenge and Dopey Challenge Medals

I made my way back to the VIP Race Retreat tent, but as I walked there I could tell my muscles were getting sore and starting to tighten up.  Once I got to the tent I stopped by the medic table and grabbed some bio freeze to try and get ahead of things.  I sat for a few minutes and ate a wrap and drank the Skratch.  I have to admit that for longer runs, the Skratch recovery drink really does help.  It has all the same benefits as chocolate milk, but I find it much easier to drink.

I decided to grab my drop bag and change cloths as I started to chill out. It took me a few minutes and tries to get off the chair.  Sitting down too soon isn't a good thing for sure and I probably should have kept moving and changed first.  At any rate after I changed clothes and ate a little more I packed up and headed to the bus area for the return trip to the resort.

Disney Cruise -- Monday, January 8th
As many of you reading this probably know Disney has many different kinds of Challenge runs. There are the ones that occur during a race event like the Dopey Challenge.  There are also ones that are accomplished by participating in more than one event within in a certain amount of time or at specific locations within a particular calendar year.  These include challenges such as the Kessel Run, the Coast to Coast Challenge or the Castaway Cay Challenge.

The Castaway Cay Challenge is fairly simply in nature.  You simply take a Disney cruise the Monday following Marathon Weekend.  You then sign up for the Castaway Cay 5K that takes place while the ship is docked at Disney's Castaway Cay island.  For this particular cruise that would be Wednesday the 10th.

Early Monday morning we checked out of the resort and drove to Port Canaveral to board the ship.  We arrived at the terminal around 11:30am and were on the ship by 12:30pm.  We checked our baggage with the porters and we took our carry on items with us to get lunch.  You can't get to your rooms until about 1:30pm to 2pm.  It's always a good idea to have what you think you might need with you as it can take to early evening before your bags arrive in your stateroom.  Any medicines, bathing suites, etc. you should have with you so you can start enjoying yourself as soon as possible.

Since you pick up your bib for this event during the main expo there isn't really anything you need to do.  Along with your bib you will also receive some information on the event logistics and timeline.  There is also information left in the stateroom in their daily newspaper.  They also held a Q&A session in the Walt Disney Theater if you wanted detailed information.

Castaway Cay Challenge -- Wednesday, January 10th
You would think that running a 5K on Disney's island would be a leisurely event, but no, you have to meet in the Walt Disney Theater at 5:30am and sit with your other corral members,  I was in corral A which sat in the front of the theater.  At 6am they gave some instructions on how the event would work.  We were to leave the ship by corral and make our way to the starting line.

Getting out on the island when it is still completely dark was really interesting.  Almost like you were a real castaway lost at sea. Everything was so quiet and calm.

Strava map of Walt Disney Castaway Cay 5K

The race started promptly at 7am.  For some reason my GPS hadn't synced up when I first started so the map is somewhat inaccurate.  The start/finish line is at the same point, so basically what is missing is the section from the starting line to the top/left and down the beach where you see the starting point.

The route is actually very nice with amazing scenery.  The start and finish line is actually on an airplane runway.  You then turn right down a small bike/running path along the cabanas and beach until you turn around and come back the same way.  Just before getting to the finish line you make a left and do a loop clockwise past the lookout tower before coming back to the runway, turning left and crossing the finish line.

2018 Walt Disney World Castaway Cay 5K Medal

2018 Walt Disney World Castaway Cay Challenge Medal

While we were listening to the DJ waiting for the event to start the ship's cruise director made a comment that there would be free beer and champaign at the finish line.  While that seemed unlikely to me, it was obvious that folks got somewhat excited by that prospect.  I did indulge, and purchased a glass of champaign with raspberries in it when I finished.  And, not to my surprise, it cost $15.  But after all the running, and another early morning, it was a very nice treat.

The End
That wraps up the 5th anniversary of the Dopey Challenge and the Castaway Cay challenge.  Overall it was a great event.  It is tiring, it is a lot of training and you can't really take advantage of the Disney parks too much, but in the end it is certainly something to add to your bucket list.  Wrapping it all up with a cruise, a few runs on the ship and the Castaway Cay 5K is icing on the cake.

2018 Medals for Walt Disney World Dopey Challenge and Castaway Cay Challenge

The volunteers and event coordination are all top notch.  There were over 20,000 runners in the Marathon alone, and the Half Marathon is the largest event.  The logistics involved in getting all these runners to and from the event, feeding them, providing the water stops and managing the traffic is incredible.  So, thank you to everyone involved in putting on this event.

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