Thursday, April 11, 2013

My Fake-Africa Run: Route Review, Animal Kingdom Lodge

Everyone has a fantasy run, right?  Maybe it’s a race of special significance.  Or hitting a super-fast personal record. Or, perhaps most often, a picturesque location far from home.

My fantasy run falls into that last category – and it looks like this:

“If I know a song of Africa, of the giraffe and the African new moon lying on her back, of the plows in the fields and the sweaty faces of the coffee pickers, does Africa know a song of me? Will the air over the plain quiver with a color that I have had on, or the children invent a game in which my name is, or the full moon throw a shadow over the gravel of the drive that was like me, or will the eagles of the Ngong Hills look out for me?” 
- Isak Dineson, Out of Africa

Yes, I dream of running in Africa.  So, when a quick weekend trip to Walt Disney World landed Leo and I at the Animal Kingdom Lodge for our lodging, there was no question that I’d put in my scheduled Saturday run.

For those who’ve not yet been, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and Villas includes two large buildings constructed and detailed in a meticulously rendered African theme, Jambo House and Kidani Village.  Both are nothing less than stunning.  (For a full array of photos, I highly recommend a visit to’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and Kidani Village pages.)  The public spaces, rooms and eateries are all gorgeous in their own rights.  But.  The outdoor space is what really sets Animal Kingdom Lodge apart from other resorts – how’s about an African savanna right outside your window?  In Central Florida?!

Okay, okay – this is not a trip report and it’s not an advertisement for a hotel; it’s a running route review, right? On with it already…

Now I knew I wouldn’t be running with the giraffes.  And I’ve stayed at both Kidani and Jambo House often enough that I don’t need a map to get around.  But I’ve never before run there.  And I might have been a teensy bit excited about the prospect of doing so.  Remember – my African running dream?

My convoluted route - Jambo House on the far right, Kidani Village to its left, illicit trespassing on the far left.

I began in the porte-cochere of Jambo House and followed the paved path from there to Kidani Village.  This seemed like a loooong walk when Leo and I shuffled back from Jambo to Kidani after our Expedition Everest Challenge, but it fell far short of “long” while running – only a quarter-mile before I hit the Kidani parking garage.  Knowing that the garage traveled a decent distance under the Kidani building, I ducked into the garage and ran its length and back.

Not real exciting.  Certainly not Africa-like. Hmph.

Emerging form the parking garage, I hadn’t yet hit a mile, so I followed a path leading to the pool and circled back, outdoors, to a sign that pointed to the barbeque and sports courts across the drive from Kidani.  And I still hadn’t hit a mile.  And it still wasn’t feeling very Africa-ish.

But… a road leads to the sports courts.  And… it keeps going beyond them.  Okay, there’s a sign warning that only WDW vehicles are allowed past that point… but I wasn’t in a vehicle, was I?  So it didn’t apply to me.  I kept going.

Hey, this is kinda Africa-like!

MUCH better!  It was silent back there, apart from the tweets and twitters of birds and the occasional splash of a fish or turtle in that small pond.  The road was “paved” in the sense that there had once been a layer of asphalt poured down, but is now sun-bleached to light gray, beleaguered with pot holes and dusted with dirt.  It felt more like “trail” than “road” especially coupled with the wooded area to my left.  A truck full of hay bales passed me as I reached a fork in the road, but it didn’t stop and no one admonished me for being there.

At the fork, the truck entered a fenced-in area while I turned left, deeper into the woods.  Or so I thought.  Bleh.  A big, dirt patch with a handful of truck trailers in the middle.  Time to turn around.

I followed the road back to Kidani, took another loop around the pool, and then followed the path back to Jambo.  Just over two miles.  My goal was four. GAH!

Down to the bus stops, back up to the Jambo lobby.  Through the lobby (walking, not running – though I powered down the stairs…), around the pool deck, out to the savanna overlooks, back around the pool, through the lobby…

Three miles.

I thought about heading back down to Kidani, but opted to run a few speed laps up and down the parking lot.  When I finally made it to 3.75, I called it good and did another walking lap of the lobby and pool to cool down.

My feeling about running Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge?  Meh.  There just isn’t enough prime real estate to make more than a mile or so happen easily.  I really enjoyed the road away from the buildings… but I wasn’t supposed to be there, right?  Guess I’ll continue to fantasize of a run in real-Africa; fake-Africa just didn’t cut it.

However, never before have I had such a nice post-run snack/rest period.

View from our studio villa's balcony!

1 comment:

  1. Ahhhhh! My favorite resort EVER!!!!! Love me some AKL! Naughty you, how fantastic to run behind the scenes for a bit. I can see how it wouldn't be the greatest area to run, can you imagine if they had sunrise RUNS?!?! I would PAY BIGTIME to do that. I think I need to email Disney! ;)