Friday, May 17, 2013

2013 Expedition Everest Challenge Recap

On Saturday, May 4, I competed in the 2013 Expedition Everest Challenge. The last time I ran this race, it took place in September. September 26, 2009, to be exact. Other than the month change (runDisney changed the month to June in 2010, then to May the following year), the new experience for me was the redesigned course. When I ran the race in ’09, the obstacle course came after you completed the 5K. Now (and since 2010), the obstacles are interspersed throughout the 3-mile run. They’ve also gotten easier.

My medal from the 2009 race

One other huge difference for me this time was the weather. This time it was close to perfect, whereas in September of ’09, I had to battle not only a Yeti, but a monsoon. That race predates this blog, so I’m afraid I don’t have a recap for it. However I can tell you that before the start of the ’09 EE they were warning us the race may be stopped depending on the proximity and frequency of the lightning, and as it turns out, many runners weren’t allowed to finish. I was lucky enough to finish that night, and actually at the time I believed it would be my first and last Expedition Everest Challenge. I can honestly say now, I’m glad that didn’t end up being the case.

I ran my first full Marathon in January 2013. I was eager to take a break from running, with my next race scheduled for late August (the Disneyland Half). Enter my friend Stacey, and the peer pressure that can only be applied by fellow Disney runners. “Let’s do the Expedition Everest Challenge!” she said. There needs to be a scientific study done on the level of difficulty present when attempting to resist a friend’s offer to do a Disney race.

My shirt for this race

What I knew going into this race: next to nothing. I didn’t even glance at the course, nor did I do any specific training (other than my standard workouts). All I knew was the obstacles were during the 5k this time. I just wanted to use this as a fun race, no competing. I even decided I would take video during the run (the video is at the end of this recap).

2013 Expedition Everest Challenge Course Map
photo courtesy of Disney Every Day

Since the race portion was only a 5K, the expo technically wasn’t an expo. There were basically just a dozen or so booths set up at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, and they were all outside.

My friends and I were staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, which we felt was a good idea, since it was a host resort for the race. Well, apparently everyone else had the same idea. The race started at 10pm, so we decided to catch the bus to the race just after 8, thinking that would allow us plenty of time. It did not.

The line was huge, and buses weren’t coming fast enough. We contemplated taking a taxi, but other people in line were in communication with their friends who had, and as it turned out, the people in taxis were stuck in traffic trying to enter the race area. It was getting down to the wire. Finally, we were towards the front of the line at about 9:36. I knew we’d fit on the next bus, but that wasn’t the concern: when the next bus was coming was.

At the last minute a Cast Member came out and started yelling, “Corral A! Anyone here in Corral A?” My friends and I, who were in fact in Corral A, skipped on over to him. He had us stand in a separate line, and more runners gathered behind us. Within one minute a seven-passenger van pulled up, and seven of us piled in as the driver rushed us to the race. It was true that traffic was still backed up, so he took us through the Cast Member parking lot and got us as close as he could to the race area (about 200 yards away). We ran over, and entered our corral just minutes before the start! I managed to find my friend Katherine, who may have participated in every runDisney race possible in the past few years, and posed for a quick photo. If you look behind us, you may even spot the “snow” in the air. Very Everest-y!

My friend Katherine and I in Corral A

The fireworks went off, and thus began the 6th annual Expedition Everest Challenge. It is always a treat starting in Corral A. The weaving through runners required when starting in a later corral really does take a toll. I had a mini burst of energy at the start, so I ended up towards the front of the pack. I ran off to the side a little however since I knew I’d be sporadically filming, and planned to slow down a bit during those stretches. The first mile was easy, but it didn’t take place in the park. We ran along the perimeter of the Butterfly parking lot, and runDisney put out a few decorations (I seem to remember a glowing glacier like structure in the water along the course), and speakers pumping out sounds of a growling Yeti (that part is audible in the video recap). I had incorrectly assumed that the obstacles would all be at or around each mile marker. Obstacle #1, jumping over bales of hay, appeared about three quarters into Mile One. The bales weren’t very high, and jumping them was relatively easy (and surprisingly fun).

The first mile marker came just as we entered the park. The path took us up through the Oasis, past the Tree of Life, through Africa, and over to Asia. There was a decent amount of backstage running on this course, and at one point we were actually behind Expedition Everest, which was kind of weird. It was at about Mile Two and a quarter that we finally hit the second obstacle: tires. This was technically the most difficult of the three. There were more tires than I had anticipated, and they were wet. Plus, I was trying to film my feet the whole time. I managed to not fall, however, and pressed on.

The final leg of the 5K had us run along a small body of water outside of the park. The third and final obstacle, crawling under a cargo net, came pretty much at the end of Mile Three. Like the hay it was pretty easy, and upon completing it, the race portion of the event was pretty much done. As you crossed the finish line, folks that would normally be lined up to hand you your medal or a banana, were passing out clue cards instead. The scavenger hunt begins.

I hate to admit it, but the first clue took me a few minutes to figure out. As soon as I saw numbers I got flustered, since Math was never my strong suit (I am an English major!). But after staring at it long enough, a pattern emerged.

I highlighted each zero to reveal the pattern

The next clue was decidedly easier, as it was impossible to miss the letters in all caps.

Apologies for bad quality - but check out all of the capital letters

Clue number three was tricky at first, since I again thought it was some sort of Math equation. But then I started to think, “What is 26?” The first (and only) thing that came to mind was the letters of the alphabet, and from that point it was simple.

19 = S and 23 = W

The last clue was a bit confusing. I knew it was a direction however, since we already had Northwest, Northeast, and Southwest. I was going to just guess Southeast, but as I arrived to the location, I heard one of the volunteers giving other runners a clue. “New England,” he said to them. Well that answered that. I grabbed the first available volunteer and said, “Northeast.” I was handed the final clue, which basically instructed us to piece our previous clues together, and look for a pattern that would match one on our bib. My first instinct was to piece the clues together as they would be on a map (Southwest would be lower left, Northwest upper left, etc), however that proved incorrect once I realized two of the answers were Northeast. It took me a few minutes, but I eventually realized that there were little letters on each side of the puzzle pieces. What were the letters? Why N, S, E and W, of course. After arranging the respective piece to match its clue answer, I came up with this…

Disclaimer: That lower-left piece is actually wrong, but I could still see the symbol

I identified the symbol on my bib (the white one, although when I tried to point to it in the video recap I accidentally pointed at red), picked up my puzzle pieces, and began the run back to the finish line. I remark in the video how it felt like running a 5K (three miles) all over again. It turns out I was close. Another runner who was tracking his distance said all told we ran about five miles that night.

I came to the finish line, and just before crossing, a volunteer made sure I had the answer to the final clue. I stopped and pointed to the white symbol on my bib, and she ushered me along. I crossed, received my medal, snapped a pic, grabbed a Powerade and a banana, and waited for my friends to finish. Physically I felt really good. Five miles is hardly a significant amount of running, and again, the obstacles were pretty easy. In fact, that’s really only one of two things I didn’t care for.

In 2009 we had to scale a wall, and also climb a cargo net. I later heard those were too difficult for some people, so that explains why the obstacles are so easy these days. However when the obstacles are too easy, they barely feel like obstacles. I don’t know if this would be feasible, but I wonder if they could somehow have two separate divisions, easy and hard, with two different sets of obstacles? That would be a good solution, as that brings me to my only other knock on this event: the price. Races have become quite trendy as of late, and registration fees have been increasing to the point of, “Is this race worth that much?” In the case of the Expedition Everest Challenge, I have to say it was a really fun event. I didn’t get to enjoy the 2009 race at all, due to the monsoon. With great weather, I was able to appreciate all of the elements that went into this challenge. I love the physical/mental combination required, but again, the distance was short, and the obstacles were easy, making the physical part not much of a challenge. For the price we paid ($110 to $130, depending on when you registered), I would have liked to see either the aforementioned tougher obstacles, or perhaps the race distance being doubled to a 10K.

The post-race party was pretty fun. We danced a little, and rode Expedition Everest. It's always cool getting to ride that at night.

Showing our bling

Again, I would like to point out that this was a very fun event. It’s just at some point you have to start looking at overall value for your money. But runDisney did a great job structuring a fairly complex course. There were plenty of Cast Members out to cheer us on, and all of the volunteers who guided us through the scavenger hunt portion were wonderful. This race definitely gets a thumbs up from me.

Jenna, Keith, Stacey, Katherine

And if you’d like to see the obstacles and course for yourself, check out the video below!


  1. Thanks for the nice recap! I felt a little silly getting there so early (7:30) but reading about your close call I don't feel quite as Type-A crazy about getting there as early as possible! I had an awful time with the fourth clue too.

    Sounds like you had a great time!

    1. Thanks April! And if you had asked me to be there by 7:30 I WOULD have said that was silly! Now it just proves that you are much, much smarter than me.

  2. What a great race report. I have Expedition Everest on my bucket list of races to run soon!

    1. Thank you, Sarah! Yeah it was a lot of fun. I hope you get to experience it soon!

  3. Thank you for all the great info! I'm running this race for the first time this May (2014) and this really let me know what to expect.

    I am trying to get a group of runners to meet up the night before the race. I set up a post here -> if anyone is interested!