One of the fun little extras offered by Disney Cruise Lines is a complimentary 5K on their private island, Castaway Cay. It’s one of those things that isn’t heavily publicized or promoted. In fact, I am willing to bet that there are many cruisers who don’t even realize a race is going on unless they see a group of people, wearing numbered bibs getting on or off the ship. Runners can only register on board, and there are limited slots available.
Obviously, for a runner, the idea of getting to run a 5K on an island in the Caribbean (especially for free), was pretty enticing, and I made plans with Mr PugRunner for me to scoot off on my own on our Castaway Cay day to participate.
The very first thing I did upon boarding the Disney Dream was visit Guest Services to register. All I had to do was provide my name and my state room, and the Cast Member printed out a ticket with instructions for the day of the race.
We were scheduled to meet in the Evolution club on Deck 4 at 8:15 on Sunday morning. Of course, I had planned my outfit out, just like I would for any other 5K.
I was anxious to get going, and I had read on some blogs that sometimes things started a bit ahead of schedule so I was waiting at the doors at around 8:00. I couldn’t help myself.
The doors did open a few minutes early and we were each handed a bib and safety pins and took a seat to wait for the course and safety briefing.
There were quite a few stragglers, and we had to wait for all of them to get settled, but we accumulated a pretty decent-sized group. I would say there were maybe 75-100 runners. It was a motley crew: most of the crowd was attired in traditional running clothes and shoes, while others were in things like khaki shorts and sports sandals. Not the most comfortable, but I guess they didn’t want to miss out, either.
We had two Cast Members who would be with us for the event. They were lovely: chipper and enthusiastic and ready to cheer us on.
They talked a bit what would be happening once we got off the ship. We had all been instructed to make sure we had a photo ID (a driver’s license was sufficient) and our Key To The World card.
And then they did an overview of the course.
We would leave from the start line, follow the path (we would be sharing the road with trams so we needed to be sure to stay to the side), then enter the bike loop. We would continue around the loop and at the exit, would be the water stop. We were encouraged to drink up, but to please be sure to throw our cups in the garbage and not on the ground or into the foliage. We would then run down to Serenity Bay, make a u-turn, and come on back. We could hit the water stop again as we re-entered the bike loop (and again on the way out, if we so desired). And then back to the finish line.
By this point, it was about 8:30 and we were finally able to start leaving the ship. I had been under the impression that we would be the first ones off the boat, but lots of guests were exiting to claim their places on the beach.
The first thing I noticed when we set foot on Castaway Cay was that it was hot. Really hot. And sunny. And there wasn’t the slightest hint of a breeze. Awesome.
There was about a mile walk to from the boat to the start line. I really should have timed it. We stopped a few times along the way: once for guests with children to make a stop at Scuttle’s Cove to drop their little ones in the onshore version of the kids’ club, and then again for a restroom stop before we arrived at our destination.
There was a big trunk-like box available for runners to drop off personal items. It wouldn’t be locked or secured, but was fine for a running bag or something of little value.
We didn’t have timing chips, but there was a clock to help everyone keep track of their time. It was a nice touch.
Our Cast Members gave a few last minute instructions and reminders, and then, at just after 9:00, we were off.
I have exactly zero pictures from the course. My camera decided to act up again and I didn’t have time to mess with it.
I can tell you that it was so freaking hot and the sun was just beating down and reflecting back off the pavement, making it close to unbearable. The first half mile was very pretty with lots of landscaping, but the main road was rather boring.
One Cast Member had ridden a bike to the water stop location and was setting up when we entered the bike loop for the first time. It would have been much nicer on a bike to at least get some whisper of a breeze. I got a quick sip of water upon exiting the loop the first time – hydration was the theme of the day – and started down the main road again towards Serenity Bay and the turnaround. The frontrunners were already looping back and we applauded each other, and then quickly tried to follow in their footsteps.
Re-entry into the bike loop was… confusing. It seemed that people went into it from both sides, and I got all turned around. At one point, a runner coming back towards me pointed me to another path, maybe, and a group of us went that way. I don’t know if we ended up going longer or shorter, or what, but eventually, we were back to the water stop and in the home stretch.
I was able to kick it up a notch for a finisher’s photo!
We were awarded our (rubber) medal and I headed directly to the water coolers near the finish line.
There was also a little store conveniently located a few steps away. Entry into the 5K gets you a Castaway Cay 5K bib and medal, but if you want any other kind of souvenir, including t-shirts, they are available for purchase.
The heat must have gotten to me, because I happily shelled out $39.95 to add this to my collection.
And then it was time to head back to the ship. I had debated bringing my bathing suit along so I wouldn’t have to go back, but I was so gross and sweaty that I couldn’t imagine proceeding without a shower, even if it was just going to the beach.
Event though I was without a camera, there were some Shutters photographers along the way, so I was able to get a few post-race pictures with my new bling.
I checked back on board without much issue (most people were getting off, so the line to show ID and go through security was nonexistent) and got back to our stateroom in record time.
This was certainly not my best effort. It was just way to suffocatingly hot to push it all the way especially in a “fun run.”
I would like to say that this was as one and done for me, especially since I don’t think they will really change the medal or the bib much, but I’ll be honest. If we cruise again, I will probably want to do it again. I’m silly that way.
Have you ever run a destination race? Where was it?
What conditions in a race are the hardest for you to overcome?