Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Slowpoke's Guide to the runDisney Castaway Cay 5K

No, I didn't steal that 5K Medal. I (unbelievably) ran a race.

Ah, Spring Break — that heady time of year when you can cast off your normal persona and try on a different one while you are away from home. It's the only explanation I can think of why I, a person who loathes running, would voluntarily do the runDisney Castaway Cay 5K while I was on vacation. Long ago during my business trip days, I would hit the hotel gym before attending a day of sitting at conferences or conventions. Now that my travel is for pleasure and with my kids, I like to save my energy for marathon sightseeing rather than actual marathon running.

When our January 2014 stay at Walt Disney World happened to fall during Marathon Weekend, I was a little envious of all the people proudly wearing their race medals. Just walking around the parks all day was exhausting enough. How in the world did people do it after a race? Anyways... I kind of wanted a runDisney medal of my own.

Have you watched Netflix's Unbreakable Kimmie Schimdt? Kimmie offers the advice, "You can stand anything for 10 seconds. Then you just start on a new 10 seconds." I think the show's writers (hello, Tina Fey) have been spying on me at the gym. That is how I get through workouts. 10 seconds at a time. So, the chances of me legitimately getting my hands on a medal were about as good as snowman Olaf surviving a day in the summer sun.

Disney Cruise Line has a little private island in the Bahamas called Castaway Cay.  Every time one of their ships docks there, they hold an unofficial runDisney 5K. The registration fee is FREE which is nice in comparison to the $65-$75 for a 5K race at the Walt Disney World themepark. They give you an official race bib, but there's no chip timing. Best of all, racers receive a medal when they cross the Finish Line. Yes, there was finally a way for a cheapo slowpoke like me to earn a runDisney medal.

How to Sign Up

The 5K race is considered a Port Excursion, but you have to wait until after you've boarded the ship to register. All you need to do is visit Guest Services, and they give you a ticket with the meeting time and place. The race is, according to the official description, for passengers ages 12 years and older. However, I noticed many older elementary school aged kids passing me, so I don't think Disney enforces the age limit. Younger kids can be dropped off on the island at the Scuttles Cove childcare on the way to the starting point. Strollers were allowed on the racecourse. I waited until the day before we reached the port to sign up, figuring that if the race was full, it was a sign that I was never destined to do it.

Practically the First Ones Off the Boat

Racers meet in one of the lounges before passengers are cleared to disembark and then head out as soon as the all clear is given. The 8AM meeting time was a major downside for me and practically a deal breaker. This girl likes to sleep in. While we waited for permission to get off, a crew member went over the route and procedures. The delay gave me time to finish the donut I was eating for breakfast. I had truly meant to grab a pre-race banana from the breakfast buffet, but they were all out. My best portable food choice was a donut. Seriously! I figured that the sugar rush would help me get through the race, and then I could just lay down on a lounge chair on the beach once my energy crashed. 

Eventually, we headed down the stairs to disembark. As with all other ports, crew members check your stateroom key card and picture ID when you get off or on the boat even though you're on a private island. 

Some people brought along all their gear for the day so that they wouldn't have to retrieve it from the ship after the race. This probably gave them a precious extra hour of  beach time. Keep in mind, though, that there are no lockers on Castaway Cay, and your bags will be unattended unless you plan on carrying them while you run.

1200 Steps to the Starting Line

The Unofficial Guide to the Disney Cruise Line erroneously states that a tram takes you to the Starting Line by the bike rental stand. After we walked right past the tram stop, I realized that this was not going to happen. We walked and walked and walked. Yes, I'm complaining that I had to do more exercise than I had planned. After 1200 steps, according to my pedometer, we had finally arrived.

I positioned myself at the back of the pack to make sure I wouldn't be stampeded over. Looking around, I could see lots of serious runners with lean, sinewy calves. Other participants were a few decades younger as well as a few inches shorter than me.

And We're Off

A crew member gave the signal, and the pack was off and running. The overall course wasn't all that hard. It was flat and paved. The path was wide enough so that I didn't feel too crowded, especially a few minutes into the run when the group really spread out in front... and behind... me. Much to my surprise, I wasn't the slowest person there. The route took us partway down the airstrip, around the loop to the Observation Tower, and to the end of the airstrip near Serenity Bay. Then, we retraced our steps back to the Starting Line which had, abracadabra, transformed itself into the Finish Line. 

A Happy Sight -- both the Finish Line and a Cocktail Bar

Crossing the Finish Line

I made sure to glance at the clock by the Finish Line sign to get my time. Just over 41 minutes. Not bad for me considering that my only other race had been 5 years prior. Runners with a runDisney race bib were handed a medal as they crossed the line. I noticed that a crew member stayed there until an hour after the race began so that runners walkers would have plenty of time to complete the course. As with many other Disney experiences, there was both an official photographer and a gift shop with souvenirs so people could remember the experience. I bought a Castaway Cay 5K performance Tshirt for about $40. Cotton Ts were cheaper. There's also a cocktail bar if you need a little refreshment. Who cares that it's only 10 o'clock in the morning?

Tips for other Slowpokes like me

  1. Bring athletic shoes on the cruise. I almost forgot since I had no intention of doing any other exercise on the trip.
  2. Wear sunscreen and sunglasses because this tropical island is, unsurprisingly, bright and sunny. If you're the hat-wearing-type, bring one of those along, too.
  3. Don't stop to take pictures no matter how many cool flowers you see. This was hard for me. Or else decide that time doesn't matter, so you can stop and smell photograph the roses.
  4. If you get tired of running or jogging, there's not shame in walking. At one point, I decided that I would only run if I were in the shade and walking in sunny spots was totally permissible.
  5. Bring music and headphones to listen to. It will drown out the sound of heavy breathing as your lungs begin to wonder why you are torturing them.
  6. When your motivation starts to sag and you consider hopping on the Serenity Bay tram to catch a ride to the finish line, imagine all the extra food you'll get to consume because you did the 5K. I bet it's burning at least one day of calories consumed from free flow soft serve ice cream and a four-course dinner. (Ok, it's probably not, but a nonrunner like me must sometimes lie to herself to get her feet moving.)
  7. It can get hot and humid on the island. Take advantage of the water stop but please throw your trash in the rubbish bin, not on the ground.
  8. You'll eventually have to share the course with racers who have already reached the turnaround and are headed back as well as with families on bicycle outings. Stick to the right of the path, and you'll be fine. Don't try to weave in and out of the people going in the opposite direction.
  9. Remember that I am neither an athlete nor medically trained, so these tips should not be considered to be professional advice. It's worth every cent you paid for it.
  10. Have fun. You're on vacation.

Are you the type of person who exercises on vacation outside of all the sightseeing you do?

Check out the following link ups for more around-the-world travel inspiration:


  1. I think that I would've signed up too, not everybody can say they did a Disney run. #worthit even though.. no, i am not the type of person who exercises on vacation.

  2. Exercise?? What's that? On vacation we do walk miles and miles though.

  3. Haha great title! I never exercise while on vacation, apart from some morning yoga. I have done a few of the fun 5K runs (warrior dash, color run), but that's as far as my running ability goes. Ps. Great advice on the 10 second thing, it's so true!

  4. 41min, with five years between races, isn't too shabby. You should be proud. :)

  5. I think you did great! I walk almost everywhere when I'm on vacation/traveling, so yes, I do exercise :) Thanks for linking up this week. #TPThursday

  6. I usually use holidays as an excuse to have a break from any kind of exercise, but I can see that doing an event kind of thing would be fun. Or at least, rewarding.

    Not sure how I;d feel about running on a tropical island though. I usually don't even set out until it's dark in rainy London in winter.

  7. I always mean to exercise when traveling but I never get round to it. I would definitely do that 5K though, it seems less like exercise and more like a fun excursion.

  8. I never do "exercise" on holiday but like you I walk everywhere and end up taking much more exercise than at home. I'm loving the idea of setting off for a run with a donut, that's my kind of girl! Well done for getting up early and achieving your goal.

  9. A cocktail bar at the end? Why did you not say that up front? It might get more people sign up he he he!

  10. I had no idea this was even a thing and I would totally be down if I had even one athletic bone in my body. I'm more of the resting/drinking type cruiser. But if that changes I'll defiantly have to look into this!

  11. Haha - at first I thought you did the run ON the ship which seemed really weird and not very practical but I got it in the end.

  12. Congratulations! I am totally impressed. I always say I'm going to exercise on vacation - but I end up so worn out from walking around, my motivation is kaput.

    I do think the Disney races are the only kind of races that have ever tempted me - Disney somehow manages to make even running look fun.

  13. I've never run a 5k and I don't really enjoy running, but I would TOTALLY do this. I like the idea that there's no pressure to have to finish in a certain time, and you can walk some of it if you'd like. Congrats on doing this while you were on holiday and I'm sure you felt great that you ended up doing it! :)

  14. That's very impressive! I've never run a 5k and I'm definitely not a vacation exerciser - despite the best laid plans it never happens! But I think I might give this a shot if given the opportunity. Will wonders never cease!

  15. I'm trying to run more and I go with the run and walk thing too. I haven't been able to run 5K yet, but I'm working on it! I don't know if I could do it in that heat though. Good for you for doing this on your vacation! Though, for a medal I'd probably sign up too. I'm a sucker for extrinsic rewards hah!

  16. I think 5k for a non runner is a lot, congratulations! At least it sounds a lot to me, since I have never run. I'm not a sporty person either and I never exercise apart from walking a lot. I can imagine how rewarding it must be at the end, specially when you hold your medal!

  17. No, I don't excercise on vacation...ouch! I would be a slowpoke...mabye the pokiest!


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