So when I got an alert that Universal was starting their own running series this year, I immediately signed up Thatkid and I to run together. He was equally as excited.
As background info - The Universal 5k is not cheap. However, I found that it was comparable to the Disney races in terms of price, so there wasn't a ton of sticker shock. Unlike Disney, we don't have the luxury of staying at my mom's house, so we did need to factor in the extra cost of a hotel. We chose to drive up Friday afternoon for the Saturday race. Originally the race was requiring packet pick up on the day before anyway, so this gave us the chance to pick up our packets, grab dinner, and theoretically get an early night's sleep before an early race morning.
Friends, we did not get an early night's sleep. But Thatkid and I were up bright and early anyway. You have to be 5 to run, so Thatboy and Thatbaby stayed in bed while we drove to the race.
Right from the start I was impressed by the race's organization. Unlike the Disney races I'd done, parking was complementary. And parking at a theme park means that it was easy breezy. While I'm used to cars backing up from race entries onto freeways and byways, there was no line to get in. Everything just moved very smoothly. Not knowing how things were going to be, we had gotten there early, and we used the time to sunscreen up and use the bathroom before heading to the start line.
The start line was at the entrance to the park, so Thatkid and I took advantage of the time to snap a quick picture with the globe before finding our corral.
The corrals weren't seeded, they were first come first serve, which I heard bothered a lot of people. I get it - faster runners don't want to have to weave around all the slower runners ahead of them, but since I was doing the race with my kid, I liked not having to wait as long before actually starting.
For never having organized a race before, the Run Universal people were on it. Their wave starts were one of the best I have taken part of. Maybe it was due to the course route, but it felt as though you waited for a very short time between waves, and you entered a virtually empty park.
We began by running through the streets of their little Europe area, a nice reminder that you're at the Studio.
And it led us directly into the Minions area of the park - Minions Mayhem and Super Silly Fun Land. Along with the first character stop.
We passed by the entrance to Wizarding World of Harry Potter,
And then we were at Hogwarts.
With a jaunt through Hogsmede - you can see how excited Thatkid was for this part.
After that, we were running in the backstage part of the backlot area. On our way to the tour route. There were a lot of hills here and Thatkid took a couple spills while walking. He's not a hill runner and he was happy to get to the bottom of a big one and take a break to watch a little shark action over and over at Jaws Lake. This was his favorite part of the race.
Then it was back up the hill and into Whoville.
There was a motel on the course if you decided you were done running. Funny thing is, no one who checked in came out again. I guess a stay there is killer.
I thought the coolest part of the race was getting to run through the War of the Worlds set and see it up close.
Overall, I would say it was a really amazing experience for an inaugural race. Sure the course was hilly, but it was really neat to be able to experience the park so empty and to be able to walk places that you usually only get to see from the tram.
There also was no shortage of characters to stop and take pictures with. Thatkid wasn't interested in stopping, but he's not really a "picture with characters" kind of guy.
The character stops were also neat in that they were very themed - like the tourist minion at Jaws Lake, the Evil minions at War of the Worlds, or the prisoner minions at Fast and the Furious.
Even the supporting players chipped in - Voodoo Doughnuts featured minion shaped doughnuts during the weekend we were there.
Thatkid complained a lot during the race. It was not an easy course. But he claimed to have loved it and begged me to sign us up for the next one before we even left the park. So we'll be back in November, Run Universal! This time, running from DINOSAURS!