Tower of Terror 10-Miler RunDisney Race Review
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!
I just completed the 2013 race and wish I had paid more attention to your excellent summary. I was very disappointed. All of the Disney-provided stuff, like the fireworks, characters, etc. were fine. Everything organized by the race director’s company was, in my opinion, pretty much amateur hour. I’ve seen better logistics, recovery packs, etc. at church sponsored 5K’s.
The course was truly disappointing. I didn’t pay enough attention and thought we would be going through some interesting Disney locations. The public highways weren’t interesting at all. The total length of the run inside Disney attractions couldn’t have been much more than a mile. For $150, this was a bad value.
My wife spent $67 for the privilege of waiting outside the theme park from 8:45 until 10 p.m. and then she could pretty much sit on a bench and listen to music. The actual finish line wasn’t even accessible to spectators.
I’ve been told that the half marathon course is much better. I might try one of those, though my wife will never return as a spectator. I won’t do the Tower of Terror again, though.
I completed both the recent Tower of Terror and the half marathon last January. The half marathon definitely had a better course, going through Magic Kingdom and ending in Epcot. There were also more spectators along the whole route instead of just at the end in Studios for Tower. The half marathon course also had a gospel choir, a few marching bands, a kite flying company, etc. I thought the spider and Malecifent were nice surprises on the course. I enjoyed the TOT as something different and it was interesting to compare with the half. My dad and I agreed we would do the half again before running the TOT again unless we went down with a large group for TOT. The party afterwards was great but I was exhausted and sore! As many people have said, I wish that the milder rides were open to ride first.
After all of the positive comments about the Marathon/Half Marathon, I really want to try another runDisney event. It sounds like our one experience was one of the worst events…
The Disney Princess 1/2 was my first Disney Race and I loved it! I agree it is overpriced but everything at Disney is. Disney races are more an event so unless you are an elite runner dismissed in corral A, there is no possible way to make good time. Same thing goes for the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta. With 60,000 runners it is impossible to get around so many folks. I would definitely sign up for another race because even though it is overpriced it is worth the experience.
Thanks for reposting your review. I am excited to run this race next Saturday! It will be the “warm-up” for the Hershey Half Marathon (my first!) two weekends after.
I am most certainly not defending the cost of the race, but keep in mind that Autism Speaks is the beneficiary linked to the event. Not sure what percentage goes to that great organization, but the fee is not all pocketed by Disney.
Are you telling me that you ran a 10 mile race without training? I am impressed. Whippersnappers!
Do you have to have a ticket for the rides after, or is that included in the price of the 10-miler?
This was my first Disney race and i enjoyed the overall experience. $90 was ok since it was a destination race. I was somewhat disappointed by most of the course however The ESPN Zone was great to run through. I was most disappointed by the finish line hidden in a back alley, warm drinks (come on, I know Disney has ice and coolers) and a box of tasteless treats. The high heat along with way too much alcohol had people passing out everywhere. While we waited in line for the Rock-n-Roller Coaster, 4 people were taken away by paramedics while they stopped the ride because people kept throwing up. We were in corral “A” so we walked onto the Tower of Terror 2 times. We plan to try another Disney run, but not this one.
I have run 3 half marathons at Disney. Disney is the whole reason I started running. I use the Galloway run/walk method. If you are waiting for an interesting course at Disney, you will be waiting forever. Most of the run is out on the highways. Since they want you out of the parks before they open, the night races are more fun with the after party. I runDisney so I can eatDisney. The princess & wine and dine are less crowded with 15K people. The half marathon was so packed with 30K people that I was weaving to pass people & it never thinned out. I think Disney definitely draws the casual runner. Out of the 30K who ran the half in January, 7K did not finish. No, you do not receive the medal if you do not finish. The reason I pay the outrageous price for a boring course is b/c the races are just so much fun!
Seems like there’s conflicting info on the medal for not finishing. Does anyone have a link to a resource on this? I can’t find anything official.
I don’t have anything official, just anecdotal, but a random stranger was complaining to me about being swept and had a medal on after the Princess Half a few years back.
I was also in D Corral !!! Wish our paths would have crossed 🙂
LOVE all your pictures !!!
D Corral was the place to be, it seems! 🙂 Glad you like the photos!
Did the ToT 10 miler this year! My first RunDisney event and first “long” run. I enjoyed it even tough my husband wasn’t able to walk the next day 🙁 His first race also. We did train but his arthritis got the better of him… no more races for him (Drs. orders …no more high impact jogging/running). Price was steep BUT obviously people are paying it … CRAZY! I am one of the crazies as I hope to do a Princess Half with my daughter. I was in WDW this past weekend. Saw many wearing their Princess Half shirts/medals & tiaras … Oh how I wish I would’ve run that race !!! Totally jealous as I loved the BLING!!
If people are having a blast doing it, and keep signing up for subsequent events, is it really overpriced? It’s not like demand is artificial due to limited slots in the races…
(I still do think it’s overpriced, but many people clearly feel they’re getting enough value for their money.)
I didn’t know you all were runners! I did the half marathon in January and will be doing this years TOT event.
Describing us as “runners” would be overly generous. We’re lazy people who happened to run once! 😉
I’ve been waiting for this review to surface as this was my first runDisney event also. I’m hooked and just finished the princess half last weekend and will be doing the new Dumbo Double Dare Labor Day weekend. I also did the 5k princess weekend and have never had that much fun in a 5k. The princess had far more course entertainment, but was also more than double the number of people signed up !! These races are huge & coming home my friends are all super jealous of my medal & swag I acquired.
Having run the Goofy twice at WDW, and being a legacy runner for the Disneyland Half Marathon, it’s all about the experience now for me instead of a race for time. The Disneyland Half Marathon has become insanely popular (selling out this year in just over 24 hours) despite the price increase to $186 including all the fees. I shutter to think about what the price increase will be next year as a result.
I’ve always enjoyed stopping for pictures with all the characters that are out in the parks. Getting an early corral placement has been critical to having enough time to wait in those long character lines without getting swept.
Yeah, the experience of these events seems to be pretty awesome. If that’s your one Disney “thing,” I can see not batting an eye at the prices. We enjoy a lot of things at Disney that are fairly pricey, and it’s tough to justify continuing to do one of those things where value seems out of whack when we could be putting that money towards others. Who knows, maybe I’ll do the full marathon, have a blast, and totally change my position.
BTW – what’s a “legacy” runner? I assume that means you’ve done it every year since it started.
I ran Wine and Dine 1/2 in 2011 and did the Tower of Terror in 2012. I’ve also run 5K’s, 10K’s and a 1/2 Marathon at home. RunDisney events are way overpriced, but they are by far the best events i’ve ever run in!! just the general vibe for the race is better and the energy level is top notch! And the on course entertainment can’t be beat! My favorite part of the race was ESPN too, I liked running on the dirt path into the complex. Right now I am in training for Tinkerbell 1/2 and Princess 1/2 in 2014 for the Coast to Coast.
I’ve done the Neverland 5K in each of its first two years and completed the Tinker Bell Half Marathon this year and loved each experience! Of course, these were done at Disneyland. However, I loved running through Disneyland and DCA. As a cast member who knows you can’t take pictures back stage, I also loved that we could take pics when the course veered back stage. In addition to these fun things, I really appreciated how many people lined the course to keep you going. Even when the half marathon took us off Disney property, there were plenty of marching bands and cheer leading squads to keep you moving forward.
I do agree that the cost of the runDisney events is a little high. However, I think that the extras that Disney puts into their events makes it worth it. Running the Neverland 5K last year, motivated me to start running. Through the other events I ran in, I could see how much more enjoyable the runDisney 5K was. After completing the Tinker Bell Half, I signed up for the Disneyland Half and am seeing if I can put together the money to do the Disney World Marathon next January. I love runDisney events!
Do those races go through portions of Anaheim outside the parks? If so, how was that?
If I’m not mistaken, the course technically goes through three different jurisdictions. After looping the perimeter of the parks then going through the parks, the course takes you out to the Mighty Duck Pond (it will always be that to me!), then through Angels Stadium before returning you through DCA and finishing in Downtown Disney. Anaheim certainly isn’t as picturesque as the parks, but the wide variety of entertainment (bands, cheerleaders, hula and more), plus the cool factor of running through the stadium and seeing yourself on the megatron and they announce your name and where you’re from was pretty darn cool! I also couldn’t believe that the Guest Services Manager from the Grand, who had initially welcomed us to the hotel, recognized me on the course and gave me my last personalized cheer before the finish line. I thought Disneyland did a phenomenal job, and can’t wait to run it again.
Sounds about like my experience with the RunDisney events. They are fun but if you are out there to run a serious race either be an elite runner so that you can end up corral “A” or find another race…or readjust your expectations and just enjoy the heck out of this.
For a 2 hour finish, “C” would have probably been the best choice for you two. Not just to be free of having to dodge people but when you are grouped with people running the same speed, you strike up conversations and some amazing bonds happen over the course.
I’m delighted to hear you both had a great time though.
I’m with Sarah – I had fun, and even though I really enjoy running events in general, the ToT Inaugural Ten Miler was probably my first and last run Disney event. As someone who has run 1/2 marathons in Philly, Baltimore, and DC, I was really impressed with Disney’s overall race organization and sheer quantity of clean and available bathrooms. I was pretty disappointed with the race course – it seemed boring compared to what I’ve read about/seen pictures of in other runDisney events.
This next sentiment may sound strange, but I was really unnerved by the after party. I know this had something to do with the heat, but it seemed weird to see so many people sprawled out on benches and walkways – some of them vomiting or passing out. There was also post-race trash all over the place – which is typical for any running event, but obviously atypical for Disney. This isn’t Disney’s fault at all, it’s just the nature of a running event. It made DHS seem more like the streets of a real city, and I felt like one of my favorite places had suddenly been violated by the real world! I know that may sound like a strange sentiment, but it bothered me.
I had a great time, and I’m so glad I finally tried a runDisney event, but it’s probably my last.
Oh, and in terms of the pricing, $135 is out of control for a 10 mile race. The Baltimore and Philly 1/2 marathons are both about $75, and the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler in Washington, DC cost me $40 this year.
I am not familiar with the term “swept” do they pull you off the course if you are far off pace? Do you still get the medal?
They have a bus pick you up and take you to the finish line. I don’t think they give you the medal, but that may vary from race to race. I’ve heard the pace to avoid being swept is 16 min/mile.
It’s a big source of controversy, but anyone who gets swept (transported to the finish) still gets a medal at Disney.
I didn’t realize that. Personally, I think that’s lame.
Then again, I’m the type of person who thinks it’s ridiculous that schools make sports less competitive and do away with dodge ball. I love competition.
If they do, that’s super lame. I thought the materials were pretty explicit that the medal is for finishers, and not a guaranteed part of your entrance fee. I could see Disney management giving an irate non-finisher a medal just to shut them up, but wow…what a breathtaking absence of personal integrity!
I ran in the 2013 Disney Half-Marathon and had a blast. I heard complaints from more serious runners about the amount of weaving and bottlenecks during the course, and especially near the Castle. However, for my first half marathon and not being a runner, it was an awesome experience. I would definitely do the Half Marathon again. Waking up at 2:30 in the morning is not super fun, but I can’t imagine doing a half marathon anywhere else but Disney. The Disney aspect of the race gave me all the motivation.
Yeah, I highly doubt I could have kept going if it were just an “ordinary” track. Even though the course wasn’t great, it definitely played a big part in keeping me going!
Right now I’m training for the Wine and Dine half… Does anybody have experience with that? How crowded is the post-race party and how engaging is the running route?
I’ve done both Wine and Dine (2011) and the Tower of Terror (2012), with the Wine and Dine being the clear winner for course, after party, and total experience. The post-race part for both fill up quickly so run fast 🙂
However, the post-race party opens well before anyone finishes the races. My wife went at opening and had walk on and stay on for more for most rides.
Good info to have… I probably won’t be an early finisher, but I want to at least do Soarin’ post-race without having to wait forever. The rest of it, for me, would be more about ambiance and maybe a character or two.
How aggressive is their sweeping practices? I’ve heard it varies from aggressive to much less so if the race is sold out/oversold.
I’ve heard that the track is better and the post race party is really crowded. WDW Today has done a couple episodes on it that are pretty good.
I’ve only done two Disney 5K’s and both times I had a lot of fun. I’m aiming for the Disney Princess Half next year, but have no desire for any marathons. These runDisney events are definitely on the pricey side, but I must say that I love them due to the fact that they are not intimidating to slower runners as other races tend to be. Being a new runner, I’m definitely not fast and just want to cross the finish line. With the very conservative pace requirement, I know I won’t have any issues and this puts my nerves at ease and I’m able to just run and have a great time.
I agree that the races are definitely less intimidating than a non-Disney marathon. In retrospect, we should have had no concerns about being swept. Some people do get swept, but it’s not nearly as strenuous of a pace as other races.