Race Report: 2015 runDisney Castaway Cay Challenge 5K
The Castaway Cay 5K Challenge was announced by runDisney in 2014 between registration for 2015’s Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend and the announcement of the Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend. Unfortunately, because the Inaugural Castaway Cay Challenge 5K 4-night sailing was Monday, January 12th on the Disney Dream, the boat would not arrive back into port until Friday, January 16th the day of the Star Wars 5K. Regardless the WDW Inaugural Castaway Cay 5K Challenge sold out in record time.
Being a huge Star Wars fan, I didn’t want to miss the race. So when the Princess Castaway Cay Challenge 5K race was announced for a sailing directly after the runDisney Princess Half Marathon weekend, I needed to earn the Challenge medal.
I had run the Castaway Cay 5K during my April 2013 7-night Disney Fantasy sailing. The cost of the race was included in the sailing and same-day registration was offered. Children weren’t allowed to participate, there was zero entertainment and the course was an uneventful 2-laps around the “loop of death” and hot airstrip. However, finisher “medals” were awarded to those brave enough to run 3.1 miles in the hot sun and humid air. Click here for a video recap.
Cut to 2015 – at a $65 entry fee (not including Active.com’s fees), plus having to run at least 1 of the Princess Half Marathon races (along with Travel & Expenses) AND the price of a 4-night Disney Dream sailing, this runDisney Challenge would top the list as THE most expensive runDisney race I have ever run (cue Disneyland Paris 2016).
A registration confirmation number for the 4-night Disney Dream sailing was required to register for the Castaway Cay Challenge. Plus registration of a Princess Half Marathon weekend event was also required to receive the challenge medal. Runners could run any of the runDisney races including the Princess 5K, 10K, Half Marathon or Glass Slipper Challenge.
Packet Pick-up for the Castaway Cay Challenge 5K was during the Princess Health & Fitness Expo. At the one booth labeled Castaway Cay Challenge – runners received race bibs, Challenge tech shirts and swag. We also received the official Challenge brochure detailing:
- Packet Pick-up Schedule
- Cruise Schedule
- Packet Pick-up and Waivers
- Race Day Schedule: start, spectator viewing, timing, wave starts, bibs, bag check, safety, costumes, weather, photographers, speaker panel
I’ll recap our Disney Dream sailing in another post, but our sailing dates were Monday, February 23 through Friday, February 26.
Castaway Cay Challenge Speaker Panel:
The Castaway Cay Challenge Speaker Panel was held on Tuesday, February 24 from 4 to 5pm in the Buena Vista Theatre. January’s Inaugural speaker’s panel included Runner’s World editor Elizabeth Comeau and runDisney nutritionist Tara Gidus. February’s Princess speaker’s panel included Jeff Galloway, Official runDisney Training Consultant and a less than enthusiastic runDisney cast member.
Race day information was provided including a Runner Checklist, Pre-race schedule, course overview and Post-race information. Then Jeff Galloway took the stage. He gave us a pep talk and then took questions from the audience.
Cabanas was open for continental breakfast at 5am. Runner’s call time was 5:45am in the Walt Disney Theatre. Outside the theatre fruit, coffee, tea and water was provided. Normally the Disney Dream does not dock in Castaway Cay until the morning. Usually guests are not allowed off the boat until 9am for Castaway Cay 5K (the island doesn’t officially open until 8:30am). On this day, runners and spectators were off the boat at 6am to walk the mile to the 7am start on the airstrip.
We were in Corral A (of only A & B). The Princess Castaway Cay Challenge had not sold out according to the runDisney representatives. We guessed there were less than 250 running. Once at the start there was an inflatable start/finish arch, a DJ, announcer/cruise director and Princess Minnie Mouse. Jeff Galloway also gave us a motivational greeting and then we were off…
Having run the regular Castaway Cay 5K, I was happy the sun wasn’t up yet. Running the airstrip without sun at 7am was delightful! The course had us head west towards Serenity Bay. There we approached our first character stop – Princess Daisy Duck! Unlike the regular Castaway Cay 5K, ship photographers were also on course taking official photos which could be purchased along with your other ship photos.
Not far from Daisy was Pluto – both within Mile 1. The course ran along the Serenity Bay bike path. At the end we turned and ran back. On the same stretch of path, the characters were switched out to Goofy and Donald! Back east on the airstrip we ran until we came to Mile 2 and our first water stop. Then we took the Observation Tower bike path loop (of death). No Disney characters, only cast member characters, were on the loop’s path to cheer us on to Mile 3 and the turn to the finish. We finished the 5K in 37:26 (according to my Garmin since the race was not timed). Considering we stopped for 4 character stops we made EXCELLENT TIME and it was a runDisney 5K #ALLTHEPHOTOSTOPS PR!
Since we had to board the boat and pick up our new bibs for the 2nd race of the day, we decided to change out of costume. We headed down to Evolution to pick up our new race bibs and disembark. The 9am 5K was going to utilize the same course as the 7am race, but now the entertainment was gone. The sun was also up and the temperature was rising quickly. The race began with little fanfare and we repeated our steps from earlier. We finished and picked up our 2nd Castaway Cay 5K medal.
Back on the boat we went to apply sunscreen and to eat breakfast!
The following day Castaway Cay Challenge participants were invited to a celebration reception in Evolution. Both Cinderella and Minnie were there for photos. Jeff and the Captain congratulated the crowd. There were small bites and treats provided. The rooms were decorated with an impressive runner ice sculpture. It was a nice touch to close the event.
But what was most interesting was the Captain asked if we enjoyed the event and if we should have additional runDisney Castaway Cay Challenge events in the future. Considering the success of the Walt Disney World Marathon Challenge cruise and the lower number of runners with the Princess Challenge cruise, it will be interesting to see if runDisney and the Disney Cruise Line expand the challenge to the other race weekends. I had received a survey asking my interest in a post Wine and Dine cruise. And the Challenge is not currently listed on the 2016 Princess Half Marathon event page.
I like the Castaway Cay 5K and the Castaway Cay 5K Challenge. However, the Challenge race was more exciting with the characters, the support and entertainment. I felt the additional $65 cost was justified and warranted for the level of runDisney support and entertainment I received.
I would like to participate in a Castaway Cay 5K Challenge again. However, I would ONLY participate if the sailing did not conflict with another runDisney race. I would also like to be able to earn the challenge medal without having to cruise on a specific sailing date. For instance, I like to cruise with my family during spring break (when the kids are out of school) and would like to earn the challenge medal then.
Also, the race weekend/cruise burns a lot of vacation days. Taking 10 days off in January to participate in both the runDisney Walt Disney World Marathon “weekend” and Castaway Cay Challenge 5K or taking 7 days off in February to participate in the runDisney Princess Half Marathon “weekend” and Castaway Cay Challenge 5K cruise is hard to justify every year, but definitely is a special way to celebrate a major accomplish with family and friends.
Did you run the Castaway Cay Challenge in 2015? What did you think? Would you run again in 2016?