If you are a fan of both running and Walt Disney World, there’s a runDisney race for all seasons. Fall is a great time to visit Walt Disney World, with both the Halloween parties and the Food and Wine festival happening during the autumn months. But athletes may find even more reasons to visit the first weekend in October, as that is typically when the Tower of Terror 10 miler is held.
Started only about 4 years ago, the race originally began as a 13K distance, but was recently increased to 10 miles. The event is a nighttime race; with the first heat taking off at 10pm. Runners begin their spooky journey at the Disney Hollywood Studios parking a lot. Soon, they exit onto the expressway, and begin the trek to the Animal Kingdom parking lot.
After reaching Animal Kingdom, racers will loop around the parking lot and head in the opposite direction. Along the way, they will pass by Blizzard Beach on their way to the ESPN Sports Complex. Here, the terrain, changes as you enter via a wooded area, complete with eerie fog and a Wicked Witch.
Runners continue around the running track and onto the baseball diamond where the Atlanta Braves hold their spring training. After you exit the Sports Complex, your final destination is back to Hollywood Studios. Here, you enter the park via the now closed Backlot Tour, and on through the Lights Motor Action Stunt Show. Next you’ll travel down the streets of America and past Pixar Place. After that, you head backstage past the costuming department formally seen on the Backlot Tour, and finally finish the race behind the Tower of Terror, exiting the course via the path to Fantasmic!.
Of course, with any Disney race, characters can be found every few miles along the course. The Tower of Terror race exclusively features villains. There were a lot of rare characters out for photos, including the Big Bad Wolf, the Old Hag, Jack Skellington and Sally, Haunted Mansion Ballroom Dancers and Lotso Huggin’ Bear.
My wife and I ran the race for the first time this year. We had both previously participated in the Marathon Weekend in January, and we were looking for a Disney race to run. Overall, we both agreed we much preferred the races we ran in January (she did the 10k, and I did the Half-Marathon). The course itself wasn’t very exciting. In previous races, we both ran through the Magic Kingdom and Epcot. The Tower Race only ran through the Animal Kingdom parking lot, and the sort of dull ESPN Sports Complex. Running on the track gave me flashbacks of highschool gym class, and not a fun Disney race. And even when we reached Hollywood Studios, I was pretty disappointed with the areas we raced past. I have zero love for the Backlot Tour and Lights Motors Action, which seemed more like running backstage, rather than in a theme park. The streets of America and Pixar Place were great, but brief. I think my biggest disappointment was not getting to run down Sunset Boulevard and up to the Tower of Terror, as the title of the race would suggest. Instead we came around the rather dull backside, and had to walk an additional mile to exit the course, to even get a glimpse at the Tower. The night of the race, a hard-ticketed Villains party was also happening at the Studios, which is the reason they couldn’t close Sunset Boulevard, which I felt took away from the race for the sake of additional ticket sales. It also made the after-party fairly crowded with lots of non-racers.
I also found some of the race wasn’t well organized. The lines for pictures were very long compared to the marathon weekend. At the Tower race, we waited over 15 minutes for a photo with the Lion King Hyenas, which threw off a lot of people’s pacing. Also, the wooded path into the ESPN Sports Complex, while visually interesting and a nice change of terrain, was very narrow and resulted in a very dangerous bottleneck.
I don’t want to come off as saying it was a poor race. Running at Disney World is fun regardless of the parks you go through. The characters they had out were unique to the event and terrific if character hunting is your thing. Running at night was very cool, and there were a lot of interesting light effects and fog to set the mood. I also appreciated Hollywood Studios remaining open until 3am for runners to enjoy select attractions that were still open. But, it seems like Marathon Weekend is the pinnacle of the Disney [ORNAMENT] Race calendar, so it’s hard to compete with. I’m glad I did the race once, but that was probably enough for me.
A 10 miler is a good distance between a 10k and a half-marathon, in case you’re not ready to make that jump yet.
It is still pretty hot at night in Orlando, despite being October. Dress accordingly and hydrate.
Lots of people wear Halloween costumes during the race, so if you were considering it, I say do it!
There are multiple kinds of terrain on the course, so train on both paved surfaces and wooded paths
Rest up the day of the race, so that you can enjoy the extended park hours, where additional characters are out and attractions have minimal waits.
Consider staying at a host resort. Only a select few of the Disney resorts have transportation to and from the Expo and Race. Before booking, check if that hotel provides transportation. Coronado Springs, where we stayed, did not and getting to and from the race was a giant hassle, compounded by running 10 miles and it being 2am with no way of getting back.