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If you ever thought about running, why not consider running in the magical place on earth? (And if you haven’t thought about running, Mickey and Minnie can be inspirational!) Read on to learn all about runDisney.
The Complete Guide to runDisney
Don’t you just love it when two things you really, really love collide? Like chocolate and peanut butter or baby goats and yoga? Okay, maybe not that second thing because no matter what you say, I think goat yoga is just plain weird. But how about running and Disney? I love both of those things and Disney has brought them together for me with runDisney.
Read More: 13 Easy Ways to Stay Fit on Vacation
I get that not everyone likes running. I’ve also heard a rumor that not everyone likes Disney, but I still believe there’s hope for those people. One of the cool things about runDisney is that it inspires people who might not otherwise sign up to run a race to get moving. I don’t have stats or anything, but I’m willing to bet that runDisney has made runners out of people who might not have taken up running had they not been enticed by an oh-so-magical location.
If you’re not sure if runDisney is for you (spoiler alert: it is, because runDisney is for everyone), I’m breaking it down with all the info you need to make your decisions and to make a plan for a successful race.
What is runDisney?
runDisney is a premier destination race series. Currently, all runDisney destination races take place at Walt Disney World and Disneyland Paris. In the past, Disneyland Resort in California has held runDisney events. I hope it’s something they bring back one day, because Southern California has some amazing running weather.
Exceptions to Walt Disney World are the 5K held on Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island in the Bahamas, and the Virtual Race Series. Castaway Cay is only accessible via select Disney Cruises. I’ve heard some debate in runners circles on whether Castaway Cay really counts as a runDisney race. I say it does. The virtual series is an opportunity to officially participate (and get medals!) without traveling to Walt Disney World.
For the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on the races at Walt Disney World, but know those other options are out there.
If you want information on runDisney at Disneyland Paris, you can find more information here.
About the Races
runDisney has races for every level, from kids’ races to full marathons. Yep, all 26.2 miles. The whole enchilada.
The races at Walt Disney World currently happen four times a year. Keep in mind, though, Disney likes to keep things fresh through constant changes and updates, so you never know what changes are just around the corner.
runDisney races at Walt Disney World are divided into four separate race weekends: Walt Disney Marathon Weekend (the only race weekend offering a full marathon); Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend; Star Wars Rival Run Weekend; and Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend. Race weekends are in January, February, April, and November.
Note that the ultra hot summer months don’t have races. If you’ve never been to central Florida, there’s year-round warm weather (although it can get cold in December and January) with high humidity in the spring and summer months. All the races start early (and I do mean early) in the morning, so no matter what race you sign up for, you’re getting the best running weather the area has to offer. Unless it rains, which is also a common thing in central Florida, but who can control that? Mickey can make a lot of magic happen, but that doesn’t extend to controlling the weather. If only, right?
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So…What Kind of Distance are We Looking at?
There really is a race for everyone. Even if it’s your first time, there’s something for you here. With the exception of Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend (I’ve broken that down below), all race weekends include kids races, a 5K, 10K, half marathon, and a challenge race. The 5K is held on Friday morning, the 10K on Saturday morning and the half marathon on Sunday morning, so you can run all three races if you want to. The challenge consists of the 10K and half marathon for one registration fee. You get an additional medal for completing both races when you register for the challenge – more on the medals in a minute.
The Walt Disney World Marathon weekend includes a 5K, 10K, half marathon, full marathon and two challenge races. Since there’s an extra race in there, the 5K is on a Thursday, with everything else following the same order as the other race weekends.
The Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge consist of the half marathon and the full Walt Disney World marathon. Finishers get an additional medal for completing the challenge. The Dopey Challenge consists of the 5K, 10K, and both the half and full marathons. Y’all. People are crazy, aren’t they? Dopey finishers get a total of six medals. One for each individual race and one for completing the challenge. They also get the Goofy’s Race and a Half medal.
The Starting Line at runDisney
The runDisney races mentioned above take place on the Walt Disney World Resort property. Their starting line is typically in the Magic Kingdom parking lot and runs through the property, across public roads and through the Disney Parks before they open, which is very cool.
The runDisney kids races consist of a series of dashes. They have a Diaper Dash for crawlers, a 100 meter dash for kids ages 1-4 and a 200 meter dash for kids ages 5-8. Start ‘em young!
There’s also a kids one mile race for ages 4-13. All kids races take place at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
If you are interested in having your kids run the adult races, there are some age restrictions to be aware of:
- 5K – 5 years old on race day
- 10K – 10 years old on race day
- Half Marathon – 14 years old on race day
- Full Marathon – 18 years old on race day
The Race to Registration
But first, a word about planning. It’s virtually impossible to decide to do a runDisney event spur of the moment. These races are very popular and they sell out very quickly. My best advice is to become intimately familiar with the runDisney website and know when the sign ups open. I recommend making your plans well before the sign ups open, marking your calendar and setting your alarm and registering as early as possible. If you are a Disney Vacation Club member, Walt Disney World Annual Passholder, Disneyland Annual Passholder or Golden Oaks resident, you can take advantage of early sign up.
In my experience, the 5K tends to sell out the fastest, followed by the 10K. When I’ve registered late, I’ve usually registered for one of the 10K/half marathon challenges because that has been the only thing open. Make your plans early.
How to Sign Up for runDisney Races
You can sign up for all races via the runDisney website. Registration is pretty straightforward and you’ll get a confirmation via email. You’ll receive more information and instructions closer to the race. Keeping up with the runDisney website between registration and race day is a good idea. I’ve also found specific runDisney runners groups on Facebook to be helpful and a fun way to connect with other runners before the event.
When you’re completing your registration, you’ll get the option to pre-purchase any runDisney merchandise, including commemorative pins, which you’ll probably want if you’re into Disney pin trading or collecting. You can purchase these items at the Health and Fitness Expo when you pick up your race packet, but I like to go ahead and pre-order. My husband and I are big Disney pin collectors and we were crushed one year when one of the commemorative race pins was sold out by the time we got to the Expo. If it really matters to you, go ahead and pre-purchase – just don’t forget to pick it up when you get to the Expo.
Registrations are non-refundable and non-transferable. One exception to this is that you may be able to transfer to a longer race within the same race weekend, provided that race is not sold out. For example, you may jump from the 5K to the 10K provided the 10K isn’t sold out. The “I changed my mind, I want my money back” or “I can’t run but I want to transfer my bib to my friend Shirley” won’t work for you here, pal.
My best tip? Put a lot of thought and planning into whatever race you want to sign up for, sign up for it and once you do, treat that date like it is written in stone.
Pace Requirements at runDisney
My favorite saying when it comes to running is “You don’t have to go fast…you just have to go.” You definitely don’t have to be fast to participate in runDisney races, but there is a minimum pace you have to be able to keep. If you’re going slower than 16 minutes per mile, you run the risk of being picked up and transported to the Family Reunion Area.
The runDisney website has this to say about pacing requirements and warnings:
“Pace cyclists will be on the course waving light wands or flags to indicate when runners are behind pace at each mile marker in accordance with the official pace time. If you reach a mile marker with a waving light wand or flag, you are behind the required 16-minute-per-mile pace and can be picked up at any time and taken to the tent in the Family Reunion Area.”
Being picked up on the course because you are running too slow is known as being “swept.”
runDisney lore is full of tales about the infamous “Balloon Ladies.” If you search the runDisney website, you won’t find a thing about Balloon Ladies but you’ll hear people talking about them in the corrals (the place where runners line up before the race starts) and out on the race course. I’ve even seen tee shirts with the phrase “Back off, Balloon Ladies” on the back. I have never seen the Balloon Ladies but I have no doubt they exist.
Rumor has it the Balloon Ladies start at the very back of the pack and keep a steady 16 minute mile pace. The idea is that if you are going slower than they are, you’re in danger of being swept.
The Balloon Ladies are referred to as such because they carry Disney Balloons. Since there’s no information on the runDisney website on these unofficial pacers, we can assume they’re not Disney employees. Whatever and whoever they are, you know you don’t want to be behind them. Shoot for a training pace of 15 minutes per mile or less and you’ll be fine.
About the runDisney Medals
Finally, I’m getting to the part about the bling. In running circles, finisher medals are sometimes referred to as “hardware.” Whatever you call them, runDisney has some of the best around and people get very excited about getting them.
The finisher medals are themed for each race and are different every year. There’s a lot of buzz when the medals are revealed. Here are the ones for the 2020 Disney Marathon weekend. I don’t know what it is about these shiny bits of bling that we get so excited about, but I do know it feels pretty darn good to wear them after the race. Lots of runners wear their medals to the parks and around the resorts. I contemplated wearing my finisher’s medal to bed one night. I ended up not doing it, but no shame in your game if you do. A finisher’s medal is included in your race registration fee and in the case of challenge races, as described above, you may be awarded multiple medals. Bragging rights are a big deal, so the medals are as well.
What Is and Isn’t Included in a runDisney Event?
Included in your registration fee: a medal, a commemorative tee shirt, and a race bib. A race bib is a piece of paper with your a number on it that corresponds to your registration. You have to wear your bib when you’re participating in the race so race officials know you’re a proper (AKA paid) participant. Unless you register ultra late, your bib will also have your name on it, which makes it easy for strangers standing along the sides of the road to cheer for you by name.
So About That Bib…
You affix your bib to the front of your shirt with safety pins. Nothing says “noob” like a runner with her bib pinned to the back of her shirt, although I’ve seen plenty of runners affix their bib to the front of their shorts. This is usually people who take their shirt off at some point during the run or ladies who run wearing just a sports bra. Your bib also has a timing device embedded in it so when you cross the start and finish lines (and potentially other points in the race) your official time will be recorded.
P.S. If you put your bib on your backside, you will have a very hard time finding your pictures later. You’re welcome.
Although not listed on the runDisney website, your registration also includes hydration on the race course and a snack box at the finish line. The snack box typically includes a banana, corn chips or pretzels, some type of granola bar or fruit leather, a sports drink and a cup of salty nacho cheese product. I’ve never read the label on that cheese and I probably never will. I can tell you that sometimes, that cup o’ cheese waiting for me at the end is probably what gets me through the last couple of miles. If they ever stop handing it out, I might stop signing up. Seriously.
What You Don’t Get
There’s a much longer list of what isn’t included. The big ones are theme park tickets and resort stays. Unfortunately, the rest of your Walt Disney World experience is on you. There’s no discounted tickets or hotel stays for runners, which I think is unfortunate, but it is what it is.
Have a solid understanding about what is and isn’t included well before your trip begins, make your peace with it, and make your plans. You’ll have a much better time if you refrain from grumbling “they could at least give us one free day in the parks.”
Get Ready for Early Start…Like Really, Really early
runDisney races start at 5:30 a.m. but that doesn’t mean you can just sashay up to the starting line at 5:25 and call it good. If you’re staying at a Walt Disney World Resort Hotel, they provide free transportation from the resort to the start line (more on that in a minute.) The window for bus departures is posted in the lobby. Your mileage will vary depending on how far your resort is from your hotel but be prepared to be on that bus as early as 3:00 a.m. No, that wasn’t a typo.
runDisney requires you to be at the start line an hour before the race. They start ushering you into your corrals 30 minutes prior to start. We’ve always arrived on the earlier side, so I’m not sure what the experience is for those who are dashing up to the security lines at 4:35. On the upside (because getting out of bed at 2:30 a.m. is a definite downer for me), there is entertainment at the start line, to include high energy music and character meets. Wanna know how to pass the time while you’re waiting on the corrals to open? Have your picture taken with some Ewoks.
The Not So Minor Details
There are also portable toilets and concessions available. You can use your Disney Magic Band at the concession, so that eliminates the need for carrying cash.
If you’re not staying on the Disney property and if your hotel doesn’t offer transportation to the start line, consider taking an Uber, Lyft, or other ride share. I like using Lyft because it allows you to reserve a ride in advance and see confirmation that someone indeed is coming to pick you up at the crack of dawn to transport you to the starting line.
However you’re getting to the start line, allow yourself plenty of time. These races involve closures of local roads, and you want to be safely inside the start line area before that happens. You paid too much for your entry fee and worked too hard (hopefully) on your training to be “locked out” because you didn’t give yourself enough time to get there.
Disney Transportation To and From runDisney events
If you stay at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel, transportation to and from the Health and Fitness Expo and the races is included. Some off-property hotels may offer this as well. Whatever you choose, make your reservations early so you know how you’re getting to and from your race events.
Bus transportation is provided directly to and from the ESPN Wide World of Sports, where the Expo is located. The Expo bus will not take you to the parks or Disney Springs. You’ll have to take a bus to one of the resorts and catch the park transportation from there. So…if your plan is to catch a ride from the Expo over to Epcot or Hollywood Studios, you’ll have an extra stop first.
There will be a display in the lobby that gives bus departure times and other race information during race weekends. As I said above, be prepared for early on race day and note the ending window of your departure time to make sure you don’t miss your ride.
When you are done with your race (yay!), look for signs in the parking lot that correspond to the resort you’re staying in. It’s all very well-organized and easy.
If you are not staying at one of the Walt Disney World Resort hotels, check with your hotel to see if they offer transportation or other benefits for runners. If the answer is no, figure out how you’re going to get places ahead of time.
Tips for Navigating the Expo
The Health and Fitness Expo held at ESPN Wide World of Sports is a mandatory stop for you. After you get to Orlando and check in to your hotel, this is your first order of runDisney business.
You’ll get the hours of the Expo in one of your pre-race emails. Make a plan for when you’re going to go and prioritize it. My husband and I typically do the 10K and half marathon, so we usually go to the Expo as soon as we arrive on Friday.
Hint: The Expo has lots of shopping opportunities. My best advice is to not forget why you are there – and that is to pick up your bib (that thing you can’t run the race without) – and not get distracted by all the shiny stuff and “good deals.” I put “good deals” in quotes because I don’t really think anything you’re going to find at the Expo is a great price or that unique. The cute running tees can be found on Etsy or Amazon and the medal racks can be purchased lots of other places for better prices. The exception is the section where the official runDisney merchandise is offered and believe me, you will know the difference. That section is separate from the running tutus and the post-run bath bombs.
Merch and More
Before you buy, you’ll want to make sure you have room in your luggage to take all your treasures home (or make some kind of other plan for your merch). Also, if you’re an inexperienced runner, don’t get caught up in the selection of new shoes and apparel. Run your race in something you know you’re comfortable in. Mile three is not the place to be when you discover your new sports bra chafes. Besides, you’re not going to find super deals on running merchandise at the Expo…you just aren’t.
If you didn’t download, sign, and print your waiver before you left home, you’ll be able to do that when you get there. I’ve done both. When I’m organized, I remember to take care of it in advance of the trip. When I’m not, I stand in line with everyone else and use the computers/printers runDisney has set up. Either way, you get it done.
Your tasks at hand are to pick up your race bib, your race tee shirt, and any commemorative items you pre-purchased, such as pins, mugs, or magnets specific to your race. These will typically be in different locations, although the process can change from race to race.
There are signs and lots of nice people to direct you. Just know that when you leave the Expo, you need to have your race bib, your race tee shirt, and anything you pre-ordered and paid for. Everything else is gravy.
Things to do at the Expo
There are lots of fun things to do at the Expo. If it’s your first one, I recommend carving out a couple of hours to see everything. There’s merchandise for sale…everything from running apparel, to things you might have forgotten, like gel nutrition, lip balm, or pain relieving gel.
The Expo will also have character meets and photo opportunities as well as food and drinks for sale. The character meets are typically themed with the race theme. For example, we met Chef Mickey at the Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend Expo. The race sponsors will also have a presence and usually some fun give-a-ways.
If you’re a seasoned runner, the Expo is pretty typical of race expos anywhere, with the exception of the Disney magic. It’s also fun to explore the ESPN Wide World of Sports and all they have to offer. If your kids are signed up for any of the kids races, this will be where you take them. Also? Have a Wetzel’s Pretzels pretzel dog. You’re welcome.
Bottom line: carve out time for the Expo like it’s your job. Look around or not – best to have a plan either way – and have fun.
Pictures on the Race Course and at the Finish Line – Disney PhotoPass is there for you
The photographers will be wearing bright green hats and standing near bright green tents. You can’t miss them.
Smile for the camera and ham it up if you want to. Just be mindful other people around you are doing the same thing and that the greatest pictures of you might have other people in them. If you’re wanting your picture taken with your running buddies, just be aware of what’s going on around you and try not to impede anyone who is more interested in powering through than stopping for photos. You may want that perfect photo, but the next guy or gal might be want that perfect finish time.
Event photos are available in the My Disney Experience app within 48 hours after the race. To link your race photos to your Disney account, log in at DisneyWorld.com/PhotoPass, select “Link Photos,” and enter your 16-digit code, which is the 11-digit RaceID, plus your 5-digit bib number.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but the pictures are not included. If you’re combining the runDisney event with a family vacation and plan on being in the parks, I strongly recommend looking at Memory Maker before your trip. Memory Maker is a service you can purchase that allows unlimited downloads of pictures taken at Walt Disney World for 30 days after activation. Advance purchase is $169 and if you think you’re going to want to buy a few of your race course pictures plus pictures in the park, it might be worth the spend.
Training for runDisney
runDisney endorses the Galloway Method. There’s a tab on their homepage about training. If this is your first race, I recommend taking a look to see if this training plan appeals to you.
The content is broken up in two sections – novice runners and experience runners. You’ll find downloadable plans for each race distance runDisney offers.
The Galloway Method is a walk/run combo. I see a lot of people out on the race courses using this method successfully. Whatever method you pick, make sure you pick one! If the Galloway Method doesn’t appeal to you, there are a lot of other plans out there. A Google search will bring up lots of options. I personally like Hal Higdon’s training plans. The “Couch to 5K” is always popular if you’ve been a fairly sedentary person in the past.
Putting Your Best Foot Forward
A quick word about shoes: Make sure you get (and train in) a pair of proper running shoes. Not basketball shoes or cross training shoes or your all purpose sneakers that you wear with jeans. Real. Running. Shoes.
My best advice is to visit a running store and get properly fitted. I’m not talking Foot Locker or Academy or any big box store that sells athletic goods, but a store that specializes in running shoes and apparel. I’ve been running long enough that I know what types of shoes work for me, and I’ll order them online to get a better price. But if you’re new to running, I recommend taking the time to get the right shoes.
And, whatever you do, don’t run your race in new shoes. As I write this, my next half marathon is in (gulp) five days. My training hasn’t been what I wanted it to be, but my shoes are nice and broken in, although not worn out. I’ll replace them after this race and break in a new pair before my next.
Costumes are very popular with runDisney races. People’s creativity and levels of craftiness I don’t possess never ceases to amaze me. Watching all the great costumes almost makes that 3:00 a.m. bus ride bearable.
A lot of the costumes will reflect the theme of the race, i.e. princesses or Star Wars characters, although you will see a little bit of everything at each race and you’ll always spot several Mickeys and Minnies. If you’re looking for inspiration, a simple search of “runDisney costumes” will start you off.
I am not a “run in costume” person. I love to look and ooh and ahh at the costumes (especially the group costumes) and every race day, I say to my husband “We should do that next time,” but we never do. Some of it is lack of planning, but some of it is my belief that runners should wear comfortable running clothes that they’re used to running in.
I know that makes me sound a little bit like a spoil sport, but I promise I’m not. But. If you’re not used to running three or six or 13 miles in a tiara or carrying a light sabre, then why would you do it on race day where you’re dealing with a crowd of runners, possibly an unfamiliar climate, and diminished sleep?
Costume Suggestions for a Successful RunDisney
If you’re going to go the costume route, I’d recommend it for the 5K versus one of the longer race distances. The 5K is more of the “fun run” distance and if your costume is uncomfortable, you won’t be wearing it for super long. I can’t imagine running 26 miles in a Tinkerbell costume. Then again, I can’t imagine running 26 miles at all. The half is enough crazy for me.
Try to incorporate real technical/performance clothes into your costume. For example, if you’re going to go as Princess Aurora, a pink technical (wicking) top and a pink running skirt, and run in them before the big day. There’s a site called Runningskirts.com that has some cute, Disney-themed running skirts with pockets, although they tend to be out of stock and out of everything except XS most of the time.
One of the most fun and unique things about Disney is the character stops along the race course. Even someone who doesn’t like to run can make it “just one more mile” if they can pose for a picture with their favorite Disney character, right?
In addition to the characters you will see before and after the race in the Family Reunion area, there are characters out on the course you can take pictures with. It’s one of the things that makes runDisney super unique. What I love most is that you’ll see characters that Disney doesn’t typically bring out or characters wearing costumes that you don’t see very often.
We saw Chip and Dale in their running gear during the 10K last year and it was stinkin’ adorable. I don’t have a picture so you will just have to trust me. It. Was. Adorable.
We also saw Oswald at one of the recent races – I can’t remember which one it was – and that is a character you don’t usually see at Walt Disney World. He typically hangs out at Disneyland, so a Florida Oswald sighting was pretty special.
Photo Stop Etiquette
You won’t have the official Disney photographers at the character stops, so you’ll have to rely on having the runner in line behind you snap your picture (a good reason to have shorts or a running skirt with pockets so you can carry your phone.) That works pretty well and the lines move reasonably fast since everyone wants to get on their way.
A word of warning about character stops: make sure you’re not going to risk being swept because you’re standing in line to get your picture taken. If you’re a slower runner or if you’re starting near the back of the pack, you might run into a problem if you stop for every character.
If you are near the back, just make sure you can keep well above that 16 minute per mile pace or limit the amount of stops you make.
Why I Don’t Stop (Much) for Characters
I know the character stops are a big draw for a lot of people, but we don’t typically make a ton of stops for pictures. If I stop and start too often, I get leg cramps, so I try to only stop if it’s a character I’m really excited about getting a picture with.
My husband and I start and finish all of our races together, but we typically split up during the middle part of the race. He does more potty stops than I do and I’m slower than he is so we’re not together the entire time. He knows there are certain “don’t miss” characters for me, so we’ll wait for each other if we see one of them. We usually have a discussion about it beforehand so we know but any Disney villains or any Chip and Dale sightings will usually warrant a stop for us.
What can Non-Runners Do?
Most people combine participation in a runDisney race with a Disney vacation, although you certainly don’t have to. You can drop into Orlando, go to the Expo, run your race and go home, the same as you’d do with any other destination race series, such as the Rock n’ Roll races. Most people use the excuse “Well, we’re already here, so…” and book those extra days and buy those park tickets (yep, the ones that are not included in your race fee, ahem).
I mean…why not?
Unless you have a really supportive family who wants to get up before the chickens and stand on a public road and hope they’re not looking somewhere else when you breeze by so they can clap and cheer for you, your family or travel partners will enjoy some sleep while you’re doing your thing.
If your family wants to cheer for you along the course, they can study the course map ahead of time and plan how they’re going to get from point A to point B. They can also purchase ChEAR Squad tickets if you’re running the half marathon or marathon.
What is the ChEAR Squad?
The ChEAR Squad provides designated spectator seating along the course and at the finish line, as well as beverages, and designated port-o-lets. This also usually includes some swag, such as a blanket and a cowbell. Learn more about the ChEAR Squad on the runDisney website; you can register when you register for your race. Buy ChEAR Squad tickets at the Expo if they’re not already sold out.
If your family decides to cheer you on in person, there are usually sign-making stations at the Expo. Hey, if a sign that reads “Go Mom Go” will help fuel your run, slap some crayons in your kids’ hands and let them get after it.
If your loved ones want to support you, but not enough to get out of bed that early, they can track your progress from the comfort of their hotel. You can sign up for this feature at the Expo or online. It’s usually available about a week before the event.
But think about it: If your 5K race starts at 5:30, you’re probably looking at about a 7:30 finish. Depending on where you are in the corrals and depending on how fast you run and how much you stop, two hours for three miles, give or take, is probably a reasonable expectation. If you have a non-running adult to sleep in with the kids, or if your kids are old enough to stay in the room alone, you might be back at your resort hotel with your medal before everyone’s up.
While the temptation to chillax at the resort after a longer race is strong, I recommend at least a partial park day after the race. Walking around Disney Springs is another option. If you have sore legs, walking around is actually good for you. Even if you’re planning a sedentary day, get up and move at least once an hour. It might hurt but it will hurt less the next day if you keep moving. Promise.
A few words about race etiquette…
If you are a seasoned runner, you probably know what race etiquette is. If you are not, do yourself and your fellow runners a favor and learn before you go.
Here are a few tips that stem from a few of my pet peeves, but it’s easy enough to search for running or race day etiquette online:
- Don’t run more than two abreast. Yes, I’m talking to the four ladies who were walking and holding hands while singing “It’s a Small World.” Yes, I know that makes me sound a little grouchy. I love all the Disney things just as much as the average gal, but this is still a race and there are still people behind you that are moving.
- Don’t come to a complete and sudden stop. Raise your hand (yep, like you’re in third grade and want to ask the teacher a question) as you slow. Yelling “stopping” might help, too.
- Smile and say thank you. The people handing out water are probably volunteers who got out of bed while it was still dark. Be nice to them.
My Top 12 runDisney Takeaways
- Register early – like really early – on the first day registration is open to you.
- Plan, plan, plan. As soon as you’ve registered, make your travel and lodging arrangements. runDisney events are popular. If you wait until the week before the race and remember “Oh yeah…I need a room,” you’re going to have very limited choices. Also buy those park tickets and be aware of the timeline to book dining and FastPasses.
- Make your plans for after race day (or days). You don’t have to have a by-the-minute itinerary, but have an idea of how you’ll spend your time. If there are any special events going on, such as Epcot Food & Wine Festival, make sure you factor those things in to your plan.
- Download the My Disney Experience App and set up an account.
- TRAIN. I’m not here to give training advice or evaluate one method or plan over another, but make sure you have a plan in place, especially if running six miles or more is a departure from your usual routine.
- Be accurate about your anticipated finish time. If you’re slow, don’t lie and say you’re fast so you can be in one of the front corrals. The people who are legit faster than you won’t appreciate it and might even trample you, which would is very un-magical.
- Keep up with the runDisney website and/or subscribe to their newsletter. Once you make the decision to register and pay for that race, do your part to keep in the know.
- Decide (or at least think about) how many character stops you’ll make or which characters you have to see. If you’re slower or in the back of the pack, you might not have time to do everything you want. Or if you’re faster and starting near the front, timing won’t be as much of an issue.
- If you’re a novice runner, learn race etiquette. Even if you’re a seasoned runner, understand that runDisney races are popular with novice runners and people who love the Disney part better than the run part. Even though I’ve stressed learning race etiquette, not everyone will. It is tempting to get angry with those people out on the course but that will get you nowhere. Bring your patience with you and be a little more forgiving than you normally would.
- If you’re flying to Walt Disney World, consider putting your running clothes in your carry-on. This is especially sound advice if you’re planning on hitting the ground running. (Like flying in Friday afternoon to hit the Expo to pick up your packet for Saturday’s race.) If you don’t have a lot of time to mess around with lost luggage, don’t chance it.
- Smile for the camera! The photographers will be wearing bright green hats and standing next to bright green tents. Make sure your bib is visible and that you’re looking at the camera, but be mindful there are other people doing the same thing as you are. True story: I smacked someone in the face trying to get my perfect “arms flung wide running like the wind” photo.
- Keep it magical. It doesn’t matter if this is your first race or your 101st. runDisney is Disney and the element of magic and wonder never get old. At least, they don’t for me. runDisney remains one of my favorite running events. The magic keeps me coming back. That, and the medals.