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The SATURDAY SIX Looks at Running Universal’s EPIC CHARACTER RACES

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This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Running Universal’s Epic Character Races! Many theme park fans enjoy the increasingly popular runDisney races, but for the most part there hasn’t been something equivalent at the Universal Orlando Resort. There have been many 5K races held at Universal, going all the way back to the 1990s, but almost all of them were related to various charities or conventions in town. This past weekend, Running Universal took a major leap with theit inaugural Epic Character Races, which included the first ever 10K at Universal. Today we’re going to look at our favorite parts of the entire weekend, starting with…

# 6 – Voodoo Doughnut

The amount of synergy that our beloved Voodoo Doughnuts has had with Universal is incredible. Voodoo has baked up specialty donuts made for all of the resort’s signature events, including Halloween Horror Nights, Mardi Gras, and Grinchmas. There have also been donuts made to honor Jurassic Park, major holidays such as Easter, and even others to work hand-in-hand with Universal for charity.

So it was no surprise that Voodoo would come out with a specialty option for the Epic Character Races; in fact they came out with two! The creme-filled and frosted donuts had decorative “medals” for both the 5K and 10K races.  The 5K  had vanilla frosting while the 10K donut was chocolate frosted. The creme inside  both was peanut butter & banana flavored. The donuts were available to anyone, but guests participating in the events could bring their bib to the store and receive 15% off.

When they say you have to “carb load” for races, I’m imagining this is what they mean. Right? (photo by Captain Cruiseline Scott Sanders)
Sitting on a throne of donuts while holding donuts is the ultimate FLEX. (photo by @TheDCLBlog)

# 5 – The Merch

For those of us who love theme park-related merchandise, Running Universal had a decent sized lineup of items to purchase. These were available on check-in day when runners picked up their registration and bibs.

Running Universal arch with Rip Ride Rockit in the background. (photo by @TheDCLBlog)
The 5K shirt featured Shrek and Bumblebee. (photo by @TheDCLBlog)
The 10K shirt featured a Minion and a velociraptor. (photo by @TheDCLBlog)
Running Universal cinch sack. (photo by @TheDCLBlog)
Running Universal branded visors and drinking containers. (photo by @TheDCLBlog)

Other shirts included more options for Running Universal along with Universal Orlando properties such as the Minions and Transformers. One Running Universal baseball cap quickly sold out.

Shirt selections. (photo by @TheDCLBlog)

# 4 – The Characters

We here at the SATURDAY SIX love meeting characters when we go to both Universal and WDW, so of course one of the things we enjoy most at the various races is the opportunity to get photos with little to no wait. There’s also the benefit of seeing some characters that you rarely see in the parks.

A velociraptor at Jurassic Park is one of the best meet-and-greet experiences in all of Orlando. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
While Scooby and Shaggy are generally available for meets pretty much any day at Universal Studios Florida, the other members of Team Scoob can be hit or miss. Running Universal guests got to not only meet the whole team, but in their “cold” weather gear. (photo by @TheDCLBlog)
Animal Actors on Location! is a true gem at USF, and runners got a chance to take a pic with an animal during the 10K race. (photo by Megan Stump)
Megatron. (photo by @TheDCLBlog)
Rare opportunity to get pictures with both Optimus Prime and Bumblebee at the same time. (photo by @BazTastic77)
The Blues Brothers. (photo by Megan Stump)
Shrek and Donkey. (photo by @BazTastic77)
Lisa and Marge Simpsons. (photo by Emily Sanders)
Whos from Whoville in Seuss Landing. (photo by Megan Stump)
Puss in Boots and the rare Kitty Softpaws. (photo by Emily Sanders)
You could even get a photo in front of a parade float from the Mardi Gras celebration. (photo by @bioreconstruct)


# 3 – The REAL Characters (the Runners)

The races at Disney and Universal show how passionate and creative theme park fans can be. “People watching” can be fun during an average day at the parks, but seeing the great costumes guests come up with for the racing events is a true highlight. Here are some of our favorites from this year.

One of the most campy moments of any theme park attraction has taken on a life of its own with Universal park’s fandom. The pre-show and end-of-ride video with Mummy star Brendan Fraser has him “complaining” about not getting his cup of coffee. Here is a runner dressed as Fraser, another as a mummy, and a third as a cup of coffee. Just incredible. (photo by @skippershauna)
Spencer and Katie from Run the Impossible are well known for their cute outfits at every runDisney event. Here the two are dressed as Minions in front of Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem.
Two agents from Men in Black, along with a plush Frank the Pug, plush Orion the cat, AND a neuralyzer . (photo by @kellykkroberts)
Spencer and Katie dressed in their Mardi Gras best in front of the French Quarter Courtyard. (photo by @RunImpossible)

# 2 – The Courses

For theme park fans, a good part of the allure of doing running events at Universal or Disney is being able to experience racing inside the actual theme parks. Both the 5K and 10K races had guests going through areas of Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida.

Before getting to the parks, runners first made their way through Universal CityWalk. One thing runDisney runners may appreciate is that  Universal gave guests enough space to actually run if they preferred. Another difference between the races at Disney and Uni, is that while you’ll often find volunteers throughout the courses at WDW, Universal used paid Team Members at all the positions.

Universal CityWalk. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Early morning at The Incredible Hulk Coaster. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Each of the mile markers had a Universal park character on the signage (photo by Emily Sanders)

The races allowed guests the opportunity to get some extremely rare photos at the Universal parks, including this sunrise photo taken in Diagon Alley.

As the sun rises, the dragon atop Gringotts Bank is probably thinking “if you’re seeing this, you’re already too late in getting a boarding group at Rise of the Resistance. Try again tomorrow. Have a magical day!” (photo by @bioreconstruct)

The races also offered a look at some back of house items that day guests never see (or at best get quick glimpses of). This includes the track for the Hogwarts Express. Notice the spacing between the runners.  You’re not packed together like sardines, making the Running Universal races a good alternative for people looking for something more like their local races.

(photo by @bioreconstruct)

Here’s a great shot showing the section of track that splits, allowing two Hogwarts Express trains to be running simultaneously. One train going to Islands of Adventure, with the other making its way to Universal Studios Florida.

(photo by @bioreconstruct)
Mile marker featuring Optimus Prime. (photo by Emily Sanders)
Super rare early morning shot featuring the sunrise behind the Universal Studios Florida lagoon fountains. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Of course the one thing runners look forward to seeing the most….the finish line.

Another major difference between Universal and Disney running events is the amount of places for non-runners to cheer on the participants. For runDisney events there are a lot of areas, but for the Universal races it was pretty much just here at the Finish line. (photo by Emily Sanders)

# 1 – The Medals

Runners who are used to the high quality medals that runDisney awards finishers are going to be fans of the Running Universal hardware. Both the medals given to 5K and 10K participants were large, decorated with characters, made out of medal and were spinners.

5K medal featuring Shrek and Bumblebee. (photo by @TheDCLBlog)
10K medal featured a Minion and a velociraptor. (photo by Megan Stump)

The heart of a champion and the medal to prove it. (photo by @TheDCLBlog)
Contents of the Running Universal snack box given to participants when they finished. (photo by @bioreconstruct)


So there you have it: The SATURDAY SIX looks at Running Universal’s EPIC CHARACTER RACES! See you next weekend for the latest installment of the SATURDAY SIX, where we’ll look at something fun from the world of Disney and Universal. If you enjoyed yourself, be sure to check out The Magic, The Memories, and Merch! articles covering the latest from the Disney Outlet Stores. You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan).

If you enjoyed this article, you will surely like the following: 

The Best Meet and Greets at the UNIVERSAL ORLANDO RESORT

The Best Meet and Greets at Disneys’ MAGIC KINGDOM

SATURDAY SIX SPECIAL INVESTIGATION: An in-depth look at theme park photography

Special Thanks to The Elite Brandon Glover, the bio-est of all reconstructs @bioreconstruct, Captain Cruiseline Scott Sanders of the world famous Disney Cruise Line Blog, my personal protege Hunter “Elvey” Underwood, the SAT SIX Fun Squad of Parkscope Joe and Nick, hot shot Michael Carelli, and Hermione Granger’s tutor Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. The SAT SIX is inspired each week by goofballs Aengus Mackenzie and LitemAndHyde and you Potterheads will  enjoy Meg’s other blog work over at the Central Florida Slug Club.

Running is Universal.

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