The Wine and Dine Half Marathon is held every November during the Food and Wine festival that takes place at EPCOT. The race is now the only runDisney race held at night. There is also an after party after the race at the Food and Wine festival. I began working with Track Shack at the Rock n’ Run last September and when I was asked to work at Wine and Dine I jumped at the chance to work at a Disney event. I was going back to Boston to work, so I bought planes tickets for that weekend.
On the day of the race, Saturday the 7th, I woke up at 4:45 in the morning so I could catch my shuttle to the airport. I wasn’t able to get a direct flight, making me stop in New York city before I made my way to Orlando. I was so happy to make it back to Florida, even if it was for a short time. Chris picked me up from the airport, I spent a few hours at home to eat and visit my kittens, and then I was off to the ESPN Wide World of Sports, where the race started.
When I arrived, we were all given a tour of the starting area and were told how everything would work before and during the race. Most of us were what they called corral leads. We wore reflective safety vests and were in change of our own corrals. I was in corral “I” and was given four volunteers to help me out. They were very friendly and this was their first runDisney event. I had my work cut out for me because this was the first time I was working at a runDisney event and I was in charge of a whole corral and four volunteers! Our job was to make sure the right people were in our corral and then to lead everyone to the start line.
The weather had been acting weird all night. There were gusts of wind as I stood in the corral waiting for the runners, and flashes of light all around us. At about nine o’clock when the runners were supposed to enter the corral area, I noticed the other corral leads and volunteers walking up to the field house. I was told that we were evacuating. All the runners were already up there when we arrived and we just waited around until we heard word on if the race would be canceled or not.
I felt really bad for the runners; they should have been training for this race for months and what if it was cancelled? All of that hard work would be for nothing. Some runners were still arriving on the buses and were very confused as they were ushered inside instead of towards the starting line. We were watching the weather radar on our phones and it showed us surrounded by storms. After a while we were told to head back to our corrals and we would find out if the race was canceled in about ten minutes. I waited at my corral and then my volunteers showed up. I guess this race would be happening after all! It turned out that the course would be shortened by about 6 miles! The part that ran through Animal Kingdom would be taken out completely.
A little while later I see thousands of people heading our way and a lot of them running! The runners were on their way and they were ready to race. This was probably the hardest part as the volunteers and I had to check everybody’s bib to make sure they were supposed to be in “I” as they hurried into the corral. They could also belong in a higher corral and be in “I” to run with someone who belonged there. The entrance to the corrals were at the back of each corral so that caused confusion as well as I had to direct people to the different corrals that they were looking for.
Eventually everybody made it into a corral and the race started about eleven o’clock, an hour late. After corral “A” started I had two of volunteers hold up a runDisney ribbon while I took off the mesh gate that separated corral “I” from corral “J.” The ribbon then separated the corrals as we moved toward the start line. Each corral started a couple minutes apart and then that time increased as it got into the latter corrals, so it was a slow progress towards the start line. While we proceeded, the other two volunteers stayed at the gate to direct runners to the last corral if they showed up late.
I could feel the excitement as we made our way to the start line. It made me excited for my Disney half marathon in February. I kind of wished I was running with all of the Wine and Diners when the fireworks went off. At the starting line the volunteers and I moved to the side so as not to get trampled by all the runners. Immediately I was told that it was time for us to head to EPCOT, where the finish line was. This wasn’t supposed to happen until later, but because of the shortened race length, we had to get going.
When we arrived at EPCOT, we made our way straight for the finish line. There was a huge finishing chute at the end where runners get various items, took photos, and made their way to the family reunion area to meet their loved ones who didn’t run. We were each stationed every so often in this area to make sure runners kept moving to avoid over-crowding. That was the hardest part of the entire day because my feet were killing me and I had been up since 4:45 am. While I stood there I was asked to take photos with people’s phones and asked different questions.
I was so glad when they finally released us to go home. I drove very carefully and made it back in time to take a shower, get a couple hours of sleep, and then head back to the airport for my return trip to Boston. It was such a long day, but I am so glad that I did it. Next time I will make sure that I can rest the day after the race.
I would like to say that I think runDisney and Track Shack handled the situation very well. Their number one priority was the safety of the runners. There were storms all around, so the race had to be delayed. They also had to shorten the race because roads had to be opened up. Sometimes things just happen and there is no controlling it. They did everything in their power to make sure the race went on and everybody had a great time. I was very impressed with how fast the corrals were loaded and the race started. Disney races are some of the most organized and fun races out there and I am very glad that I got to work at one.