Running on a cruise ship is a bit of a mixed bag. Sure, you get the beauty of the sea, the fresh air hitting your face, the kind words from fellow passengers. You also get rocky treadmills, distraction from every corner as you try to weave your way around the ship’s designated jogging track (why do they put that inviting bar so close by?) and crowds.
I’m an avid runner, but when I’m cruising, I typically plan to lace up my sneakers just often enough to assuage any guilt from overindulging during the previous sea day and prepare myself for another day of often-irresistible temptations onboard. I considered it a special treat when I learned that Disney Cruise Lines offers a free 5K race during stops at its private island Castaway Cay in the Bahamas.
I’d read about the 5K on Cruise Critic’s message boards and thought it sounded like a perfect plan for my cruise on Disney Dream. I even talked my husband into joining me, figuring it would be a great way to squeeze in a vacation workout. Still, when we woke up to rain and cool temperatures on the morning of our day at Castaway Cay, I was ready to can it. The idea of running a race on a tropical island won out, though, so we grabbed our gear and headed to the designated meeting place, Evolution, where we joined 90 or so other early-morning (8:30 a.m.!) risers who were also participating.
We received instructions and bib numbers (yep, this race is for real, except it’s not chip-timed) before heading off the ship as a group.
Despite the rain, the first order of business was a group photo — with Goofy, of course. He showed up in his tracksuit just as we left the ship. For all his stretching, though, he never made it to the start line. Photo complete, the peppy staff of two led us to the line, a 10-minute walk away.
Soon, we were off and running.
I purposely left my GPS watch onboard. The event was casual, and, despite the official clock at the start/finish line, it was not designed to be competitive. In fact, it drew a wide range of participants, from the large group of walkers to the ultra-jocky guy who couldn’t seem to find his shirt throughout the whole cruise.
The route was simple: a quick jaunt to a landing strip, a loop around a bike path, out to the adults-only beach turnaround, another loop around the bike path, then back to the start/finish line. In true Disney style, props along the route — cannons, “old” crates and heavy bundles of rope — blended with the natural abundant foliage. At the halfway point, our two guides served water and surprisingly inspiring support.
The rain, it turned out, barely mattered (OK, it made my sunscreen run into my eyes, but somehow the sting made me feel even tougher). The camaraderie among strangers was fun, and the shared sense of accomplishment — doing something different and special — was evident at the finish line, where one participant excitedly said, “This was my first 5K!”
For our effort, we were awarded certificates, signed by The Mouse himself. We also could pick up finisher T-shirts at a nearby gift shop for a cool $22, and many participants did just that.
The race was just what we needed after the previous night’s over-the-top visit to Disney’s Remy.
The Castaway Cay 5K advantages are unique and numerous. You’re on the course early enough to avoid the hottest time of the day, working up a sweat that will soon be cleansed by a dip into the inviting blue waters (and yes, the rain was replaced by sunny skies by mid-morning). The steps just clip past as you breathe in the salty island air and take in all the beautiful scenery. Best of all, by 10 a.m., you’ll have seen parts of the island most other passengers will never explore.
Tell us how you work exercise into your cruise by leaving a comment. One randomly selected commenter will win a Disney canvas bag, book and Castaway Cay 5K T-shirt (size large). Comments must be left by noon, November 30, 2012, to be eligible for the giveaway.
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