This is a review of the inaugural Tower of Terror 10-miler race. This runDisney review is written from the perspective of two individuals having run their first race, so it’s our initial impressions without the benefit (or hindrance) of comparison to other events.
The Tower of Terror 10-miler race occurred on September 29, 2012 and was (big shock) a 10 mile race. A few miles shorter than a half marathon. We registered for this race months in advance with the intent of training vigorously for it, and for a couple of weeks back in May 2012, we did exactly that. Between May and September, we did pretty much nothing to train for it. On the day of the race, we had Tonga Toast from Captain Cook’s and followed that up with a preview of Food & Wine Festival. To our credit, we didn’t have any wine, but the point is that we didn’t really take pre-race preparations seriously. Neither of us had ever run any sort of marathon or competitive race, so we were a little worried about being swept…but not so worried that it caused us to actually train.
Besides our glorious breakfast, race day started out with us heading over the Health & Fitness Expo over at the ESPN Wide World of Sports. We had absolutely no desire to do this, but we didn’t know anyone who was going who could pick up our race stuff for us, so we went. I’m sure it’s standard procedure, but it was a bit time consuming and tedious to head out there to grab packets that we probably could have picked up just prior to the start of the race. I’m sure serious runners enjoyed the Expo, but to us it seemed like a place for vendors to pitch their overpriced products. Judging by how chaotic the starting area was at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, maybe it simply wasn’t feasible to add another element of chaos to this by having bib pick-up there, too. Given that a lot of runners are pretty serious about this stuff, I’m sure many would’ve attended the Expo regardless.
After an afternoon back at Epcot, we headed back to our hotel to get changed and then headed back out. After getting a bit lost (and pulling a total n00b move with Walt Disney World transportation that is too embarrassing to share) we finally made our way to BoardWalk Inn and walked to Disney’s Hollywood Studios from there. Bus service to Disney’s Hollywood Studios was running waaaaaaay too early for our liking, and by the time we arrived at BoardWalk, it had concluded.
The pre-race area at Disney’s Hollywood Studios was controlled chaos. This isn’t a knock on organization at all. There were simply so many people there that it was difficult for any order to come from the herd of people. We met up with some friends at this point, all of whom were in the D Corral with Sarah. I was in the B Corral. Corrals are assigned, I guess, based upon questions you answer during race registration.
Sarah was convinced that I was a bit overly (uhh…) “confident” with my answers, and convinced me to drop back to the D Corral with them. (Prior to the race and finding out we were in different corrals, Sarah and I had agreed to run together, too.) This pre-race area was pretty fun, with a DJ and hosts, and the time it took our corral to go flew by, despite being relatively long.
Once we were able to finally start, I found myself spending the first 45 minutes of the race dodging slow movers. The course was incredibly crowded, and many people were moving really slowly. I’m obviously no marathon runner, but I was a little surprised by this. I suspect that runDisney events appeal to more casual/non-runners than normal races, so if you’re a “real” runner who is reading this, prepare for that. Then again, if you’re a real runner, you probably won’t find yourself in D Corral.
Compared to photos from other runDisney events I’ve seen, the course seemed fairly uninspired, with a lot of empty areas. It was still really cool to run through Walt Disney World’s roads at night and there were things to see along the way, but when I do another runDisney race, I’m making sure I like the course before registering. We got to Animal Kingdom, but basically turned right around upon arrival. The only park we entered was Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and that was absolutely awesome. It was especially great to have this at the end of the race, as the last mile or so was easy thanks to being in a park. The pressure of having people watch you run also helped keep me going strong at the end.
The other great area of the course was running through the ESPN Wide World of Sports. I didn’t anticipate enjoying this section, but it was a lot of fun. Part of this might have been seeing so much of this area for the first time, but it was also pretty invigorating to run on the baseball field and around the track. My favorite little touch here was a reference to the Twilight Zone episodes “A Stop at the Willoughby” and “It’s a Good Life” on the scoreboard. References like these were scattered throughout the course, and not having seen the Twilight Zone in a couple of years, I’m sure there were plenty that I missed. Still, really cool for the planners to toss in these “Easter Eggs” that I’m sure only a handful of participants picked up on.
In addition to the Twilight Zone references, the overall mood on the course was dark and spooky. Music, ambient lighting, props, and fog all added to this. At one point, we even ran through the woods (which was a plus on the ambiance side of things, but a con from the perspective of having a narrow path that caused more congestion). Character meet and greets seemed sparse, and we didn’t stop for any of them because the lines were really, really long and we feared being swept if we stopped. Again, though, I’m sure the lines would have been much shorter had we started in the B Corral.
While Sarah and I didn’t run together for much of the race, we finished it together, both clocking in at 2:00:24. That’s about a 12 minute mile pace, which I don’t consider all that good as compared to how quickly I can run a single mile…but running 10 miles as compared to 1 mile means a slower overall pace. Still, it would have been nice to run a sub-10 minute mile pace. Since our original goal was to avoid being swept, I really can’t complain.
The glow-in-the-dark medal was pretty cool, and frequent runners commented that it was their favorite medal ever. In addition to the medal, we got a post-race lunchbox filled with all sorts of recovery foods. Most of these were great and high quality.
By the time we got to the post race party, a lot of attractions had long waits. Tower of Terror was the longest of these, unsurprisingly, as people wanted their photos with their medals. We were fortunate that we did not do a bag check at the beginning of the race, as we heard the lines for that were pretty bad. We spent most of the time during the post-race party just wandering around and talking to friends. The only attraction we ended up doing was Great Movie Ride. I think if you finished the race early or only went to the party, you probably could have done a lot of attractions with minimal waits. We were by no means disappointed with the post-race party–we had a ton of fun despite not doing many attractions. I just mention the lines to anyone considering the 2013 Tower of Terror 10-miler and thinking everything will be a walk-on. It won’t.
Overall, we had a blast at the Tower of Terror 10-miler, and I’ll definitely be doing another runDisney event (Sarah had fun, but doesn’t want to do another). Next time, I’ll stay in whatever corral I’m assigned, and I’ll pick an event that has a better course. In terms of value for money, I think the race was overpriced at $90 and the 2013 Tower of Terror 10-miler is significantly overpriced at $135. For that amount, you get the race itself, a fairly nice athletic shirt, a medal, and the post race recovery pack. Keeping in mind that many of the people working the race are volunteers and the recovery pack and shirt are at least partially subsidized by sponsors, $90 seems pretty expensive, especially with course costs spread out over so many people. In my mind, I was basically paying for the experience, as I didn’t care about the other stuff…and $90 is a hefty price to pay to run 10 miles at Walt Disney World! That said, the price (and the price increase) makes complete sense to me because demand was so high for the race. I don’t begrudge Disney the price it charged for the event, as clearly runDisney fans are willing to pay high amounts. I’ll be willing to pay a high amount for a race in the future, too, but that race will have to include running through Magic Kingdom and/or Epcot for me to be able to justify the cost. Otherwise, I’d rather put $90-135 towards a meal at Victoria & Albert’s!
Have you ever done a runDisney event? Did you have fun? Did you think it was worth the money? Share your thoughts on these questions and anything else running at Disney related in the comments!