Second Annual Expedition Everest Challenge Washed Out

| September 30, 2009

Saturday, September 26, over 3,500 runners gathered en masse at Disney’s Animal Kingdom to take on the sold-out Expedition Everest Challenge.  Unfortunately, as the evening wore on the weather turned treacherous and race officials were required to shut down the course due to lightning.  Many competitors who started in the rain could not complete the entire race.  The challenge was a 5k race through Disney’s Animal Kingdom, followed by an obstacle course, and ending with a scavenger hunt.  Disney also announced next year’s Expedition Everest Challenge will move from its September slot to June 12, 2010.  You can read details of this year’s version below, and find a review of last year’s inaugural race here.

The majority of entrants for this urban adventure race competed in teams of two, but there were individual racers as well including defending individual women’s division champion Lisa Ngai of Scottsdale, AZ who won last year’s race.  Motivational speaker, professional mountain climber and Mount Everest “summiteer” Jamie Clarke also returned to run his second Expedition Everest Challenge.

Chester Scott (username rKyDeX on the DISboards) from Sarasota, FL ran the race with his daughter Miranda, and gave us the racer’s perspective inside this year’s event.  Similar to last year, the race start was divided into waves with individual runners going off first.  The 5k started promptly at 7:30 pm, and each successive wave followed at five minute intervals.  Staging the race in waves helped prevent overcrowding on the race course, but also meant the final wave did not start until after the rain had begun.  The fastest of the individual runners completed the 3.1 mile course in around 16 minutes, before many of the waves had even started.

A little after 8:30 pm, as Chester and Miranda finished the 5k, a light rain started to fall.  During the obstacle course the rain began to intensify.  The first obstacle was a series of three 4-foot high horizontal beams to vault.  The second challenge was an 8-foot high “A” frame cargo net, third was a long balance beam, and the last was a 50-foot belly crawl under netting.

After the obstacle course, racers picked up a passport clue book for the scavenger hunt in the theme park.  By this time the skies had opened up to rain of Biblical proportions.  Large, pond-sized puddles formed in the walkways of Animal Kingdom.  The scavenger hunt clues were similar to last year’s inaugural race, and Chester said he and Miranda chanced it and guessed on the first two questions without going to the actual clue locations.  Once they completed all four questions, they headed to the finish line and had the passport checked.  Three out of four correct answers…  not too shabby for guessing on half the questions.

After Chester and Miranda finished the race, it was a steady, driving rain, and they did not stick around for the post-race party.  Instead, they opted to head back to their ark at Fort Wilderness.  As they walked to the parking lot, lightning storms rolled in, and they overheard the race was abandoned due to lightning for some of the later finishers.

Sources at Disney’s Endurance Series commented that race officials were required to close the course at 9:15pm due to lightning, and participants still on the course were asked to proceed to the main entrance of the park.  Disney posted on their website that all participants who started the race will receive their finisher’s medal, and listed an e-mail address to contact them to receive your medal.  They also assured if you could not finish the Expedition Everest Challenge and are registered for Disney’s Race for the Taste 10k on October 11, you are still eligible for the new Fall Race Challenge medal upon completion of the Race for the Taste.

Next up on the Disney Endurance Series calendar is the Race for the Taste 10k on October 11 followed quickly by the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 13k on October 24.  Next year the Expedition Everest Challenge will be moved from its traditional spot on the first weekend of the Food and Wine Festival to June 12, 2010, and Chester Scott says, “we are already looking forward to it.”

Did you run the race this year?  What do you think of Disney moving the race to June in 2010?  Please share your thoughts and comments below.

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  • jodi

    I’ve heard nightmare stories here on the boards about the race this year, what a shame. We had such a blast last year. I thought Disney would have been more prepared for such a monsoon-like storm. Makes me shudder to think what would happen if this occurred during the marathon or 1/2 marathon.
    Also, what in the world (no pun intended) possessed Disney to move this race to June ($$$$)?? Can you say hot? Doesn’t the sun in FL stay out until, like, 10 p.m. or something in June? For me, the draw was to come down in the fall & go to Mickey’s Halloween party. Oh well.
    I know they’re announcing a big new fall event in October, but I still wish they hadn’t moved EEC.
    Thanks for the blog, Dave.

  • figment82

    The idea behind this race was a lot of fun, and the rain turned it into an adventure. However, the communication was HORRENDOUS – no one could direct the racers to where they were supposed to go once the race was cancelled, or even tell the racers that the race WAS cancelled and there was no one to direct people to the correct buses once the race was over. The DJ gave bad information about still being able to get passports scored. The bags that were shipped to the end of the race were left in a pile in the downpour, ruining most of the items inside. The obstacle course was left open WAY past the time it should have been shut down for safety reasons, especially given the limited volunteers that were still out on the course at that point. And worst of all, the medals that people paid $100 to earn fell apart in the rain!

    I probably would have given this race another shot to see how it works in (hopefully) nice weather – but JUNE?!?!? Whoever made that decision hasn’t spent time in the Florida heat/humidity.

  • rKyDeX

    I have competed in this race last year and this year. I do wonder why they are moving the date. I don’t have a problem with the heat and humidity because I live in it. Maybe they are attempting to make it more accessible to families that have school age children?

    I’ll be back for it next year.

  • bamaburgess

    This was an extremely disappointing and disheartening event, as I’d looked forward to it for a while and had high hopes. I’ve probably completed over 200 races over the years (including 8 marathons), but this was my first race in a number of years. This was also the first race of my fiancee’s life. I’m 41 and she’s 42, and we had really hoped to soar in this event.

    We were in wave 10, which had us a ways back. We were going at her pace and about 1/2 mile into the run when the rains hit. We completed the run (with water about a foot deep just prior to the finish) and obstacle course.

    Just as we headed to the scavenger hunt, we heard that everyone had to head to the park- didn’t hear a reason why. We also tried to get our passports for the scavenger hunt, but a lady wouldn’t give them to us and told us the ones she had would be carried into the park. Either that didn’t happen or we just couldn’t find them, but it was disappointing.

    We did get our bags OK, but we now have to wait on medals. I realize God’s the only one controlling the weather, but the folks at Disnety surely could’ve done a better job here.

    My fiancee’ worked her tail off, and I’m more proud of her than I could’ve ever imagined I’d be. It’s sad that even though we crossed the finish of the run and obstacle course, we don’t even have results from those stages to look at.

    Don’t know if we’ll be back.

  • hungrygreenhippo

    I did EEC last year and this year and I loved the late September timing of the event because it’s a great time to visit WDW. I’m hesitant about June but will still be back for year 3 of EEC.

    Some of my thoughts:
    - It would be nice to see some different obstacles next year.
    - I caught part of the kids race while I was on the bus coming into the parking lot. It looked like a lot of fun and a great addition to the schedule.
    - Either I got a super easy version last year, or the scavenger hunt questions were a lot harder this year.
    - I was surprised that the first clue was in Camp Minnie-Mickey because of the extra distance to cover, but I think it was a good change. This year it seemed more of an effort was made to keep the scavenger hunt and 5k course from overlapping so much, which was good.
    - I liked that splits were available for the three different portions of the event.
    - Disney really needs to tell people not to tear off the bottom bar code strip on the race bib. I didn’t know last year and had to turn in my entire bib. (I’m sad that I don’t have the bib as a souvenir of my first ever Disney race.) Luckily I knew better this year, but I talked to other people who didn’t.
    - I liked the little brochure that explained what would be open during the post-race party. That was a nice addition for this year.
    - I stayed at the party until about 10:30 and had a good time despite the rain.
    - I don’t remember the walkway from Asia to Discovery Island being closed during the party last year. I tried to exit that way, only to have to backtrack the other direction through Dinoland.

  • dismikki

    This was my first race ever and I had a blast! I was lucky to be in wave 4 so I finished the 5k and the obstacle course before the rain. I agree that communication was extremely poor. The volunteers checking answers left right before we got to the table because of the lightening. That was fine, but we had no idea if the post party was cancelled, delayed or what. We might have stuck around to ride EE if we would have known it was going to run again. I also would never run this in June. September was hot enough! Also we really enjoyed combining the Food and Wine festival. We’ll see what Disney announces as the new fall race.

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  • DogWalker

    We were in wave 13 this year, and got to “enjoy” the full rain experience. It was fun in a way that maybe only a bunch from the Pacific Northwest can appreciate. It was wet, but not cold. I agree with figment82 said. It was very poorly organized, with little communication. Even though we were in the last wave, we did manage to finish the obstacle course before it closed, and the scavenger hunt before they stopped giving out medals. Most of the writing on the ribbons fell off before we left the park. We did wait around long enough for the Expedition Everest ride to re-open. It was unthinkable to complete the challenge and not go on the ride.

    We got an e-mail today offering to replace the ribbon, or even the entire medal, so I guess they are trying to make sure we got everything we paid for.

  • Motomiker

    Last year’s race was my first organized 5K race ever! I ran it with my wife on our honeymoon and we had a great time! I came back this year on my own as my wife currently has a torn acl.
    I was lucky enough to be in the first wave this year (compared to wave 11 last year), it was great not having to wait around for almost an hour to start.
    I avoided the rain but it was really hot and humid. I still had a great time and will be back next year. Disney obviously cannot control the weather, but they should have been checking the radar and forecast and making annoucements before the race to let people know what was coming. They also should have moved the resort return buses closer to the park exit and not way out in the flooded parking lot!
    I must admit that I had fun getting caught in the rain, it felt good after the heat and it added to the adventure for me.
    I am dissapointed as to the moving of next years date. I liked having the Food and Wine Festival at EPCOT as my reward for all my training! I assume that they are having the Men’s softball tournament the same September weekend again next year and needed the room in the schedule. I hope they have a later start for the race to avoid some of the heat. Also, doesn’t it rain like everyday in the summer months? And won’t the park crowds be bigger?
    As I said, I will be back next year, but I’m a little skeptical as to how much fun it will be! I am running the Race to the Taste 10K and hope I do well.
    Oh, and near as I can tell, I went through the list of finishing times and I think I came in 31st in the individual men. I just wish they would list how many scavenger questions everyone got correct. Not to bad for a fat guy from Illinois!
    PS one minor complaint- the directions on the compass finishing medal would get me lost- NE and SE are reversed!

  • mausmu

    This was our first time running a 5K run by Disney. We have done the TOT 13K twice. I understand they are trying to spread out the racers but 5 minutes between waves is just to long. We were wave 14. Obviously we all stood around for an hour before we were able to start the race. I could deal with the rain as it was nice and cooling. I could do without the extra 10 pounds of water as I run slow enough when I’m dry. I will tell you that it something we will talk about for some time as I have never run in a torrential downpour before. We got through the obstacle course as they shut the course down. We still did the scavenger hunt in the rain. We got our medals but the ribbon text came off in the rain.

    I wear a GPS watch. When we finished it said we had run 3.26 miles. Anyone else get the extra distance on there watch? Judging by the time, I’m not sure whether I should use the extra weight in the water excuse or the extra .15 miles I ran.

    Overall we had a great time, but it was a little pricey for what we got. We have annual passes so we couldn’t use the free day passes they gave out, and with the rain we weren’t able to stay for the after party. I would give it another try. Depending on what Disney decides to add, will determine if we do this race or the new one.