Race Report: runDisney’s Inaugural Castaway Cay Challenge

Disney Dream in port at Castaway Cay

Disney Dream in port at Castaway Cay

Sometimes it is not possible to #runalltheraces!  This was the case with the scheduling of the Inaugural Castaway Cay 5K and the Inaugural Star Wars 5K.  The Castaway Cay challenge was announced and sold out in record time.  A week later, the runDisney Star Wars races were also announced and we soon realized the boat would arrive back in port in Florida the same day and time the 5k would be starting in California.  Gail & I decided to forgo the cruise in order to #runalltheraces at Star Wars Weekend and asked our friend, Carol Smith, to fill in #runningalltheraces and #drinkingallthedrinks aboard the Disney Dream.  Here’s her report of the Inaugural Castaway Cay 5K:  

Both the Castaway Cay 5K medallion and Challenge Medal

Both the Castaway Cay 5K medallion and Challenge Medal

Go on a cruise after running 48.6 miles and do a 5K? I’m in! Get more bling? I’m really in! With even more Disney? I’m definitely in! I’m Carol Smith, and Kimberly asked me to blog about Disney’s Inaugural Castaway Cay Challenge 5K which was held after the Disney Marathon weekend in January 2015. Thanks Kimberly for letting me do my first ever blog post! To learn more about Kimberly and me see her post of the 2014 Disney Marathon. I’m the one whose name she couldn’t remember!

Fish extender is hung and ready for goodies...

Fish extender is hung and ready for goodies…

To participate in this Disney Castaway Cay Challenge 5K you had to participate in at least one of the races during Disney Marathon weekend, register for this race, and then sail on the Disney Dream cruise that left the day after the Marathon. For doing the Challenge you got the new Castaway Challenge 5K plastic medal and a spiffy inaugural Challenge medal.  I did the Dopey Challenge, so I earned 8 medals for the 5 races. There will be another cruise after Princess weekend. I don’t know if the Challenge medal will be the same, but the plastic medal will be. Disney hasn’t announced any additional special Castaway Challenge events, but the regular 5K will still occur on cruises that go to Castaway Cay.

The line to purchase the official merchandise.

The line to purchase the official merchandise.

Before I get into the race itself I want to share more information about the cruise and onboard shopping for the Challenge.


shirt 3 shirt 4 shirt 2

Disney Cruise is a Dream

The cruise was on the Disney Dream, one of the newer of Disney’s cruise ships. As this specific cruise was geared towards people who had run at least one race during the Marathon weekend, there were a lot more adults on the cruise than usual. The crew seemed ready for the “older” crowd with a lot of chairs in the adult pool and staff in the spa, as well as bartenders for beverages. As with other Disney cruises, people decorated their doors to celebrate the cruise and their running. I cruised with a cruise veteran who did the Goofy. The baskets hanging from our door number are for little gifts or swaps (“Fish Extenders”) that we traded with other pre-arranged cruisers. Doing Fish Extender gifts was a great way to meet other cruisers ahead of time and on the cruise. I highly recommend finding a Fish Extender group if you go on a Disney cruise.


Bondi Bands


During the four-day cruise we spent most of the first day at sea, a day in Nassau, The Bahamas, a day on Castaway Cay, and a day at sea. This length was enough time to relax and enjoy the cruise without being gone too long from work or other obligations. Onboard there were tons of activities, from bingo and scavenger hunts to massages and movies. We even watched the National Championship football game on the big screen by the main pool. (Go Buckeyes!)




Shopping! (“Expo”)

Since we had picked up our bibs and t shirt at the Marathon weekend, there wasn’t a full expo on the cruise. One of the stores on this ship had exclusive Castaway Cay 5K merchandise for this cruise. Many of the cruisers were afraid that there would not be enough merchandise, so we lined up an hour before the store opened to make sure to get our items.  Our fears were unfounded, however, as there was plenty of everything. There were a few different t-shirts, a medal pin, head bands, and a magnet. The store staff saw the crowd and quickly brought up more merchandise and staff before opening the store. They did an excellent job handling the crowd and ensuring everyone was able to purchase what they wanted. I bought a t-shirt, pin, and car magnet.

Over 700 runners assemble in the theater pre-race...

Over 700 runners assemble in the theater pre-race…

Race itself

After a day at sea and a day in Nassau we had to be in one of the theaters at 5:45am for the race, which started at 7. Compared to the other races during the Marathon weekend this was sleeping late! There were 3 corrals, and each one was in a separate section of the theater. On the screens were pictures of the course map and other race information. A cruise cast member told us what the process was to get off the ship – we needed an ID (driver’s license) and our room key to get onto the island. They were well-organized. runDisney people had come down on the cruise to help run the event, which was needed since there were over 700 runners!

At about 6:15 each corral got to get off the ship to walk to the start.

The sunrise when we got off the boat was spectacular.

The sunrise when we got off the boat was spectacular.

We had to walk about ¾ of a mile to the starting line from where the boat docked. For runners who had done the half or full marathon this walk felt shorter than the walk to the starting corrals of those races, but for the runners who had only done the 5K or 10K during Marathon weekend the walk seemed long. With the sun coming up and the boat in the background, however, the walk was nice and a good way to warm up for the run. The boat is docked to the right of the picture. This was a new route for the 5K and it seems that this is the new route going forward. It is flat, so if you wanted to go really fast you could. For the rest of us, the race had a race clock but no chip timing. They wanted us done in the 16-minute time-frame so we could get back to the boat to change before they let everyone else off the boat, but weren’t strict about it. Thanks to The Kessel Runner for this map.

The NEW course

The NEW course

Since the race was small (for Disney) I got to do things I never get to do. I was in Corral B! I’m never that close! Here I am with Angela Austin Rubright, who had also done the Dopey and was going to California for Star Wars weekend after the cruise!  I got to see actual corral tape!  I was close to the starting line at the actual start of the race! For a true middle of the pack runner these experiences were awesome.


The race was announced not by Rudy, but by one of the ship’s officers. He’s the one who also stars in many of the safety and information videos on the ship’s TV. Mickey was also there! There weren’t any fireworks for the corral starts and no national anthem, but we were in the Bahamas. I don’t think we would have recognized the Bahamas national anthem if it were played.


After working up the crowd the first corral went and then we were off! There were a few characters on the course. I’ve never run a Disney 5K where I’ve been able to take pictures so I took full advantage this time!  The cruise director and another cast member were also on the course “cheering” us on.    The “balloon ladies” were in the first corral instead of the back of the race and tried to take me off the course! But at the end I got my medals! We also got water, Powerade, and runDisney snackboxes. Then back to the ship for a shower and to change into beach attire for the day. The race backdrop was available that evening (pirate night) for pictures.

balloons bondi band

Overall the race was well run, the cruise was fabulous, and everyone seemed to have fun. I certainly did. I’m jealous of everyone going on the cruise after Princess weekend. Maybe Kimberly will let me stowaway in her suitcase.




Did you run the Inaugural Castaway Cay 5K?  What was YOUR experience?