January 23, 2014

Marathon Weekend Race Retreat Recap

As you all know, we decided to splurge for Dopey Challenge and purchase Race Retreat.  Wait, let me re-phrase that.  Mom gave me my Race Retreat for Christmas with my stuffed Dopey!  The Race Retreat for both Dopey and Goofy Challenges included access to the tent for both the half and full marathon days.  Many of you have asked us for our opinions on this add on option for race days, so we wanted to be good bloggers and oblige!  So let's get started!  And for those of you who aren't familiar with Race Retreat, it's a chance to relax in a climate-controlled tent before and after the race with some food and other amenities.  Access to the Race Retreat tent is also available for spectators who purchase the platinum ChEAR Squad package.

The view inside the tent before the half
I have to admit that I have always been a bit skeptical of Race Retreat.  I perceived it to be a silly waste of money and time that I could otherwise spend on a Disney vacation.  I saw it as a way for Disney to make more money and of course, that's a factor here but I am pleased to report that both of us were very pleased with our Race Retreat experience!  It was a great way to relax before and after the race in a comfortable place.  I also appreciated that it was a great way to see some friends.  We saw old friends, finally met several online running buddies and made friends with others sitting at our table.  And particularly after the marathon, it was a fabulous way to celebrate our 48.6 miles with friends!


I generally feel like runDisney events can be a bit high on anxiety because of the amount of travel and logistical coordination required on race morning and the very early race start times.  I found Race Retreat to be a very relaxing experience...it was incredibly simple to check my bag, there were short lines to use a porta potty and I was able to stretch my legs a bit on the mats before the half when I was feeling stiff.  Overall, the mood in the tent is pretty light and the volunteers definitely help keep it upbeat!  After the race, when you arrived back in the tent, there was a line of volunteers cheering you in and handing you a small gift (more on that in a moment).

Bag check area
So let's get to the details, shall we?

Logistics
- Cost for a single day/race: $120
- Cost for Goofy or Dopey challenge (2 days): $200
- Admission is through a wristband that's picked up at the expo
- Hours for half marathon: 3:00-5:30 AM for runners only; 5:30-10:30 AM for runners and ChEAR Squad members.
- Hours for full marathon: 3:00-5:30 AM for runners only; 5:30 AM-1:30 PM for runners and ChEAR Squad members

Pre-Race Amenities
- Cold breakfast with bagels (PB, jam and cream cheese), bananas, coffee, water and Coke.  Note that PowerAde was advertised but I never saw it in the food area.
- Private bathrooms (basically a sectioned off area of porta potties)
- Private bag check
- Character meet and greet.   Note it was the same character(s) before and after the race and for both the half and the full.
- Stretching area with mats
- Kiddie Korner with bean bag chairs and Disney movie playing on a large TV (it was Mary Poppins this time)
- Self treat medical station with band-aids, biofreeze, Tylenol, etc.

Post-Race Amenities
- Hot breakfast after the half including: scrambled eggs, potatoes, sausage, bacon, muffins, cut fruit, bananas, water, coffee, hot chocolate and regular and Diet Coke
- Hot breakfast/lunch after the full including: scrambled eggs, potatoes, sausage, bacon, muffins, cut fruit, bananas, sandwiches, pasta salad, water, coffee, hot chocolate and regular and Diet Coke
- Gift when you arrived in the tent.  We received runDisney socks and a towel for both races and the socks were white for the half and black for the full.
- Private bathrooms
- Private bag check
- Character meet and greet.  Note it was the same character(s) before and after the race and for both the half and the full.
- Massage area - I believe it was $1 per minute
- Kiddie Korner with bean bag chairs and Disney movie playing on a large TV (it was Mary Poppins this time)
- Self treat medical station with band-aids, biofreeze, Tylenol, etc.
- Live Results area with printer
- TV streaming live coverage of the finish line
We had a practically perfect marathon!
Race Retreat swag: socks and hand towel
Celebrating before heading into the tent with Dani
As I've already said, we found this to be a good value considering other costs for the weekend and we'd highly recommend it.  Here are a few final takeaways, weighing the pros and cons.

Pros
- Very relaxing pre- and post-race environment.  Sure we still had to make the long walk to the corrals...an upgrade for next year's Race Retreat would be private golf carts to take us to the starting area!
- Chance to meet up with friends, new and old
- No pressure to plan a pre-race breakfast while away from home, assuming that a bagel and banana works for you
- Great opportunity to refuel after the races, especially if you're completing a challenge
- Great way to reconnect with family members in the ChEAR Squad after the race
- Incredibly simple bag check - no lines!
- Stress-free porta potty experience with very short lines!

Cons
- Added expense on your race weekend
- May not be a great option if you plan to run with a group and all members aren't doing Race Retreat
- If you want to take advantage of the amenities before the race, you'll likely arrive at the start before you normally would.  We arrived about 30-45 minutes before we normally would arrive.
- If you are in a later corral for the event and tend to be a slower runner (ain't no shame in that game!), you may not have much time in the tent after the race.  For example, if you started in the last corral at the Donald Half this year and ran a 3:30 half marathon, you would only have about an hour from the time you finished until the race retreat tent closed.  Definitely a consideration if you're worried you may be finishing later.
- If you have a spectator in your party, they will not be able to join you in the tent before the race.
Celebrating Dopey Challenge with our Race Retreat crew:
Scot, Natalie, and Megan
Please let us know if you have specific questions via the comments on this post and we're happy to update the post with additional information!
{Christine}

**Note we updated this post after receiving some feedback about the timing of the event.

22 comments:

  1. I LOVED the race retreat and thought it was definitely worth the price! Great to see you there :)

    Karen @karenlovestorun

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  2. Thanks!! My father has cancer and we bought the Gold Cheer Package for my parents to have private bathrooms and such. Having the bathrooms alone were worth it and the hot chocolate was yummy! Race Retreat sounds like what we really needed! My parents get up early and could have gone to the race retreat tent instead of just hanging out in a huge loud parking lot. My dad could have a nice and sane place to take breaks from it all. :)
    I have a couple of questions - each runner and additional person in your party would need to pay the extra $200?
    Do you still get reserved seating in the Cheer Squad finish line area with Race Retreat?
    Thank you for sharing! Amy

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    1. One caveat is that the chEAR squad folks can't access the race retreat tent until 5:30am on half and full marathon mornings. So don't expect to travel to the race retreat together before the race.

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    2. Yes, great point about spectators not being able to enter until 5:30. Just added that to the post!

      Amy - Good to know about the Gold package...we've never done any of the ChEAR squad packages so it's always good to hear feedback on the various levels.

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  3. I have very mixed feelings about Race Retreat. Last year when my husband ran the marathon we got Race Retreat for him and Platinum ChEAR Squad for myself. He was in Corral A last year, so we were able to thoroughly enjoy all the benefits of the tent because of his early finish time. However, this year with me running the half and him doing Dopey we got Race Retreat for both of us. We finished the half very close to the tent's published closing time of 10am, and there was very little food left and I felt as though I was punished for being a slower runner. They actually cut the food line off two people after me, and if I hadn't gone to get food when I did we wouldn't have gotten any food at all. If that had happened, I would have been requesting a refund from runDisney. Sorry for the rant, but the lesson we learned was that if you're in a later corral and/or know you're a slower runner then you probably won't be able to benefit from Race Retreat like other runners can.

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    1. Thanks for your feedback Kathryn! Tried to capture some of that when I updated the post tonight. I would have been a crazy face if they had closed the food before I got any!

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  4. Sounds like a perfect way to start off both days of the Goofy challenge!

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    1. Definitely! You girls would really like it, I think :)

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  5. My husband got the race retreat when he spectated the Princess Half in 2013. He said it was really nice! I think the only way I would get it though is if I feared it would be really cold on race morning. I always enjoy the pre-race dance party with the DJ outside the tents!

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    1. Lauren, That was always my thinking - I'll only like this if it's cold, but I have to say that I was very pleasantly surprised. And yes, I'm a dance party girl too :)

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  6. I'm mixed about the Race Retreat. I did it for my first half, Princess 2012, and it was great, but I also didn't miss it this year for the Donald. 4 of us were running the half and no one did the retreat. Plus I can't really eat a whole lot after a race since my stomach has to settle. I never feel sick, but I can't sit down and eat a lot of the hot food the retreat has. The box of treats was perfect but I had to wait until I was on the bus back to the resort before I felt ready to eat.

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    1. I can totally see that if your group didn't do it, it might not make sense. I usually have trouble eating after a race but particularly for the challenge, it was a good forcing function for me to eat after the half. I picked at my food for sure, but I got some calories down.

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  7. My husband did the Goofy Challenge so we got him the race retreat for both races. However, I was running the marathon and had to buy the Chear Squad package plus the cost of the marathon race retreat if I wanted to spend time in the tent on Saturday with him. Great experience overall and offerings inside (character greeting w/Mary Poppins/Burt/Penguins, comfy couches, warm and cold food/drinks, massage area, easy bag check in, porta-potties, changing area, etc.) made the investment worthwhile. Only thing I would recommend is that they consider a package where you can buy Chear squad gold or platinum entry plus race retreat together for applicable run/non-run days and at a decent price.

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    1. That's really interesting feedback Celia...never occurred to me that there might be people both running and doing ChEAR squad as well. Might be something to suggest to runDisney for their consideration.

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  8. One day when I'm fast enough, I'd love to add this. But I'm slow and I don't think I'd have enough time after to enjoy it.

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    1. Abby - Totally a legitimate concern...we heard from a few people that they felt rushed after the race to try to get to the tent and get food.

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  9. I've always wondered about the race retreat and if it was actually worth it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! :-)

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    1. Of course! We have read lots of mixed reviews on the "add ons" for the race weekends...Race Retreat, breakfasts, pasta party, etc. but were so happy with this!

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  10. Great recap-thanks for all the info on the retreat!

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  11. Even though it is a little pricey, we did the Race Retreat when I ran the Disney Marathon--I purchased the platinum cheer squad package for my hubby. So I asked him if he wanted to do it again this year and he said yes--so we did it for the half and marathon. I like the private facilities (porta potties), stretching area, bag check and food prior to the runs and the food, massage and opportunity to relax comfortably after the runs. Will probably do it again when I decide to do another Dopey Challenge--not next year though!!!

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  12. Thanks for this post . Was helpful in my deciding whether or not to get the race retreat. I think I will register for it:)..Doing the Dopey, so what's a $200 more, I guess lol. Thanks again!

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