So Friday morning was another really early day. Earlier in the week a few of Team AllEars had stalked the RunDisney twitter account and got accepted into the WDW Marathon Meetup with Jeff Galloway. It is a marketing/social media event that RunDisney does for all of their races. Basically certain prominent bloggers get invited with the media and then RunDisney does a first come first serve for the rest. They invite about 100 people. We were asked to show up at Disney Hollywood Studios at 6:30 am. Once they got us checked in they gave us special 20th anniversary marathon t-shirts. Four of my running team were invited to be there, myself, Eddie McCoy, Christine Griffin and Heather Melito-Dezan. The sun was still down so the park was almost completely dark.
The crowd for the marathon meetup
After checking in and talking to Joe Taricani from the Marathon show for a bit, we got to line up and get pictures with Mickey, Donald and Goofy in their RunDisney costumes. Also there were a few other running celebrities around to mingle with including Jeff Galloway, Desiree Davila (Olympic Marathoner), and a 7 time winner of the WDW marathon, Adriano Bastos. After pictures and such, they divided us into two groups. A 9 minute pace group and a 12.5 minute pace group. Then we set off on our run.
Me and Runner Mickey racing
We ran about 2.4 miles around Hollywood Studios. I wasn't wearing my Garmin but I was told that we were running much faster than a 9 minute pace. Ended up stopping in the middle to get a picture outside of Toy Story Mania with Woody and Buzz. Then we ended up finishing the race in Light's Motor Action.
Christine Griffin's boy band idol, Joey Fatone
By now it was about 9:00 am and they had some water, juice, coffee and tea set out. Also they had the food truck from the Wide World of Sports there as well. While it was nice that they fed us, the food that they served was not the best. We then sat down and they started bringing up the speakers. At this point I'd say it was half good information, half their sponsors getting to talk. I felt like especially since it was free, that was fine as there was some good info. Joey Fatone (from N'sync) came out and actually spoke for a while. His wife usually runs the Goofy but she injured herself so he decided to run it for her. It was actually a really cute story. I was never a N'sync fan and I didn't watch dancing with the stars but Joey was really entertaining to listen to.
I'm not going to go through everyone that came suffice to say that there were two other notable standouts. First, Drew Carey ended up coming up to speak. Normally he runs the marathon but this year he had injured himself so he couldn't do it. He ended up telling a really funny story about the Price is Right that was a bit dirty. It felt like the Disney people running the event were trying to usher him off the stage but he kept on telling the joke. He's a really funny guy and I'd love to see him in person doing standup one day.
Lastly they had a panel of running legends including Bart Yasso, Jeff Galloway and 4 others. This part of the meetup had the most "meat" in it for me as a runner. Unfortunately we were running out of time so by the time they all introduced themselves we only had about 20 minutes of questions with them.
Since this meetup was fairly last minute for me we had scheduled the Animal Kingdom Wild Africa Trek at 10:20. So as soon as the meetup was over, I ran over, grabbed my goodie bag that they provided to us which was very generous. It had a brand new Ifitness belt, some H20 products, a one day park hopper pass usable that weekend and a few other goodies. I then raced to my car and headed over to the Animal Kingdom.
Shane, Steve, Richenda and Joelle were already checked in an waiting for the Wild Africa Trek. I won't go into details of the trek (there are numerous blogs about the trek) but I did want to quickly weigh in on it. It's a paid 3 hour trek where you get to go backstage of the Animal Kingdom and get some up close look at the animals. They had rope bridges that we had to cross as well as some really neet roped-in experiences where you can hang out and look down at alligators and hippos. Then you board a special bus and get to go out on the Savanna.
Me on one of the bridges at the Wild Africa Trek. I was scared of the alligators below.
After cruising around for a bit on the savanna, you stop at their hut and they serve you a little snack (actually it felt like a full meal and was quite delicious). You got to hang for about 45 minutes out here in a nice relaxed setting.
Grubbing out on the savanna at the Wild Africa Trek. Yummy!
All in all I felt like the Wild Africa Trek is expensive, but I'm glad I did it. I probably would not ever do it again on my own volition but like most tours at Disney, I think they are worth doing at least once. You really did get some up close experiences with animals that you normally wouldn't be able to. Standing on a rope bridge over alligators is also another experience that I'm not sure you'd be able to ever do anywhere else.
After the Wild Africa Trek I stopped off at the Dawa Bar and got a mojito. This is turning into a tradition for me. While the drinks aren't quite as good as at La Cava, I'm now a huge fan of stopping here when I'm in the Animal Kingdom and want to relax a bit. I highly suggest it. After getting my mojito and getting my wife a iced chai, we headed back to the hotel for a much needed shower.
Shane and I toasting the lovely mojitos at the Dawa Bar (I love this place)
After showering, we headed out to the Mickey Miles Podcast meet. It was over at the Beach Club and I am so happy they are doing so well. I expected a turnout for the meet, but I didn't expect as many people that actually showed up. They are on episode 33 or so and if you are planning on ever running a Disney race, I suggest taking a listen. I was really happy to meet Steve Bernhardt, one of the co-hosts. He turned me onto the idea of walking from Port Orleans French Quarter to the corrals for the marathon. Also he has this pretty awesome website called sockgeek.com that has pretty much any type of running sock you might want. We hung out there with a bunch of our friends for a while but eventually left and headed over to Sunshine Seasons for dinner.
At Sunshine Seasons we met up with two of my most favorite people that I've met doing RunDisney races, Lee Zimmerman and Laura Gilbreath. I met Lee and Laura a few years ago but it really was at the Tinkerbell half marathon last year that we got to spend some quality time with them. They hosted some of the meetups there and ended up spending some good quality time with them throughout the weekend. Since then whenever we go to a RunDisney race we try and fit in at least one dinner with them. In fact, we had a wonderful meal at Kouzzinna last November for my birthday. Lee and Laura were also the two people (along with Michelle) that peer pressured me into doing the Princess Half Marathon this Feb. After a lovely dinner we strolled out of Epcot and headed back to our hotel for an early night's sleep.
Next up - Disney World 1/2 Marathon