Thursday, January 31, 2019

2019 WDW Marathon Weekend: Health & Fitness Expo

This recap covers the Health & Fitness Expo. See the Cigna Blogger Meet Up recap here and even more runDisney recaps here!

Y'all. This year's WDW Marathon Weekend was The. Best. It. Has. Ever. Been.

Seriously, we typically spend less than an hour at the expo because it's usually insanely crowded with long lines everywhere. Last year, we didn't even go into the official merchandise area because the line to get in was so long it was outside the building- over a two hour wait time!

2018 WDW Marathon Weekend expo line- the one that almost convinced us not to come back to race weekend.

But this year, man, did they get it so right. For 2019, the expo was in three separate buildings: bib pick-up in the HP Field House, shirt pick-up and outside vendors in the Visa Athletic Center, and official merchandise in The Arena. By spacing these areas out, it eliminated much of the congestion of previous years.

Expo day is one of our favorite days!

Additionally, there was so much merch in the official merchandise area. By the time we went to the expo on Friday, even two days after it opened, there was still plenty of shirts, magnets, and other good stuff available.

Brand new Arena stocked with official race merch.

We easily spent 3+ hours wandering around the expo, trying out free samples, and enjoying the tons of photo ops in all three buildings. Honestly, it was an absolutely wonderful experience and everything I'd ever wanted a runDisney Health & Fitness Expo to be.

DJ welcoming fans into the Visa Athletic Center. 

All parts of the expo were organized with signs and multiple volunteers directing folks on where to go. I cannot say enough good things about how enjoyable it was to be able to walk around with no crowds, take our time, and see all the cool vendors and merch.

Jeff Galloway gave us some last minute race tips, I tried on lots of SparkleSkirts, and we spent a significant amount of time looking at all the witty race shirts in the official merch area.

The things we do for the mouse. 😉

The legend himself. Oh, and Jeff Galloway, too!

Oh Mickey, you're so fine!
Absolutely LOVED this black and white photo op with Oswalt! 
runDisney stepped up their shirt game this year.

I ended up buying a really awesome runDisney pullover, some beautiful new SparkleSkirts, and a few gifts for runner friends. No doubt, we spent more money at the expo this year because we ended up staying there for so long. Good move, Disney, good move. 😜

Expo haul. Look at those skirt patterns. 😍

After the expo, we headed to Animal Kingdom so we could explore Pandora at night. We also had Fast Passes for Kilimanjaro Safari and Expedition Everest- which were both completely different rides in the dark!

Pandora at night really is spectacular.

Ya'll, it was cold.

The lanterns at AK are some of my favorite in all the World.

All in all, our expo and park day was pretty damn awesome. Major props to runDisney for putting on an organized, fun, and well-stocked Health & Fitness Expo. It was such a great start to our WDW Marathon Weekend!

Did you go to this year's Health & Fitness Expo? What did you think of the changes?

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

2019 WDW Marathon Weekend: Cigna Blogger Meet Up

Earlier this month I was invited to the Cigna Blogger Meet Up at the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend.

Each year, the wonderful folks at Cigna partner with the WDW Marathon Weekend to bring a whole host of activities to the race weekend, including an always-interesting blogger meet up.

From a cook-off, to a scavenger hunt through the parks, to minute-to-win it games complete with karaoke, Cigna somehow manages to keep the meet ups uniquely creative year after year!

What's happening here?? Read on for the details! Photo courtesy of Cigna.

This year, the meet up was focused on one of Cigna's services: health screenings- in fact, you could get your free health screening at the expo, courtesy of Cigna. I actually get a screening every year for work but did it again at the expo. With just a little pinch of blood from my finger (and a few other biometrics), I got a full run down of all my health "numbers" including BMI, blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol, and more. It was a fun way to make sure I was in good health before I tackled 26.2 miles later in the weekend!

Anyway, back to the blogger meet up!

This year, the meet up was held in the GM Conference & Training Center inside Test Track- yes, you read that right, the meet up was INSIDE the ride! Well, the building that houses the ride, but you know what I mean.

Bloggers, start your engines... or vegetables? Photo courtesy of Cigna.

What a view, right?!

So, this year, the gist of the meet up was similar to year's past- bloggers team up, answer trivia questions, and then face off in some kind of crazy competition. This year? Race cars made out of vegetables!

After joining my team and actually dominating the trivia portion of the event, my team quickly started building our car, "The Health Nut," built out of a butternut squash.

Planning our course of action. Photo courtesy of Cigna.

While we were building our cars, we had the chance to compete in more trivia questions to win additional car parts. I honestly learned so much about health screenings from the trivia part of the meet up. For example, did you know that while 85% of pet owners know when their pet is due for shots, less than 20% actually know their own health numbers? Or that while 80% of Americans know preventative care is important, only 53% get their annual check up? We have a long way to go in this country with regard to preventative health care and I'm glad that Cigna is helping folks know their numbers with their free screenings- they've done over 25,000 free screenings since they started the Health Improvement Tour in October 2016!

Picking out the fastest gourds. Photo courtesy of Cigna.
Emelia's got a hunch on a fast one. 😉 Photo courtesy of Cigna.

After we'd created our cars, each team got the chance to present their car and some information about health screening. Then we raced them against each other tournament style to figure out who among us had the fastest vegetable race car.

TFW you realize your car is going sideways on the track. 😆 Photo courtesy of Cigna.

Needless to say, our poor car didn't even make it down the track! 😜

Though we didn't win, we had a blast hanging out with each other, learning more about health screenings, and playing with our food, literally.

The main mice and the bloggers who love them. Photo courtesy of Cigna.

As usual, it was a blast seeing all my blogger/social media friends: Emelia from Half Crazy Mama, Gelcys from Runner Unleashed, Justin from Always Running Forward, Anne from Out Running The Fork, Gail and Kim from Run All The Races, and Kristin from Bama Girl Runs. Runner friends are what make this weekend so incredibly great.

💜 Photo courtesy of Gelcys.

Photo courtesy of Emelia. Photo bomb courtesy of Gail. 
Two of my favorites. Photo courtesy of Cigna.

Every year, the blogger meet up gets more competitive, more interesting, and more fun. Thank you, Cigna, for the free health screening and the awesome meet up! Hope to "see ya real soon!"

All the blogger race cars. The cucumber on the bottom right won! Photo courtesy of Cigna.

After the meet up, I met Matthew in the park, snapped a few quick pics with some friends, and then headed back to the resort to rest before Matthew's half marathon on Saturday.

Any day spent with friends and friends with "character" is a day well spent. 😍

Stay tuned for recaps of the WDW Marathon Weekend expo, the WDW Half Marathon, and the WDW Marathon!

Friday, January 4, 2019

Five Things Friday: WDW Marathon Edition


Image result for disney celebration gif

This marathon has really crept up on me- it feels like yesterday Matthew and I were debating about which races we wanted to do this year. Despite feeling a little unprepared, I am so excited for all the fun that comes along with the WDW Marathon Weekend. Without any other fanfare, here's a quick Five Things Friday all about my favorite things at one of my favorite race weekends of the year!

1. The Expo

2018 Expo.

For as crowded as the expo has been the last few years, I still absolutely love checking out all the booths, looking at all the unique Disney and runDisney merchandise, and browsing all the cool running-related vendors. This year, I'm excited that they've made some changes to the layout of the expo (added another building) and I'm hopeful this will cut down on some of the congestion... and maybe have added some new vendors! 

2. Cigna Blogger Meet-Up

Racing through a scavenger hunt in Hollywood Studios in 2017.

For the last few years, I have been invited to the Cigna Blogger Meet-Up at WDW Marathon Weekend. This event is always a blast and I love hanging with new and old friends. This year, we will be in Epcot for the afternoon- keep an eye on instagram and twitter (both @sparklyrunner) for updates about the event!

3. Running Ohana

Meet-up before the 2018 marathon.

Even though we get to see our running Ohana a few times a year, meeting up at Disney is a special event. We met the majority of our crew for the first time during the inaugural Dopey Challenge in 2014 and that's when we established the pre-race meet-up. It's become one of my favorite parts of our "routine" during Marathon Weekend and always helps calm my pre-race nerves when I can hang with dear friends beforehand. 💜 

4. Spectating at Disney

Spectating at Cinderella's Castle in 2015.

Spectating races is fun already, but when you add in thousands and thousands of runners and Mickey Mouse?! So. Much. Fun. Because I'm only running one of the four races this weekend, I'm looking forward to cheering on runners during the other three races. 

5. Running Down Main Street USA

TFW the castle comes into view.

Nothing compares to running down Main Street USA during a race. The picture above is from my first marathon- I'll never forget the overwhelming emotions I experienced when I ran towards the castle back in 2014. It's still one of the main reasons I love this race so much- I can't wait to see it again in just a few days!

Will you be at WDW Marathon Weekend? What are you looking forward to?