You’ve taken the plunge and registered for your first runDisney race. Now what?
If you’re like us, you are probably a combination of excited and nervous. Don’t worry – you’ve made the right decision and will have a blast running around Disney property. But, there are some important things to know before you head to the starting line.
For more detailed thoughts on our race experience, visit our review of the Star Wars Rival Run Half Marathon. We miss those Star Wars races.
You’ll Get Up Early
Hopefully you’re ready to wake up early on the morning of your race. Very, very early. Our half marathon race at Walt Disney World started at 5:30am and required runners staying at a Disney resort to be on a bus no later than 3:00am. Considering you don’t want to miss the transportation to the race, you’ll probably have to get up around 2:00am if you’re staying at a Disney hotel.
Crazy, right? It takes a rare breed to do this kind of thing for fun.
This may mean a bedtime before the theme parks shoot off their fireworks. It also means you’ll be trying to sleep while the rest of your resort is still up and about. Consider bringing ear plugs, Melatonin, or whatever else helps you sleep in order to get enough rest before your run. Don’t let noisy neighbors ruin your much-needed sleep.
Know Your Pace
Excluding the kids races, all runDisney events require runners to maintain at least a 16-minute pace. That’s an important figure to remember as you’ll be at risk of being swept off the course if you fall too far behind the 16-minute pace.
Keep an eye out for the balloon ladies, a group of women who maintain the 16-minute-per-mile pace during every runDisney run. You’re at risk of being removed off the course if they pass you up.
It’s worth noting that the balloon ladies start in the final corral and then maintain their 16-minute pace. That means you’ll have more time for a relaxed pace or for a character photo if you start in a further up corral and get off to a good pace of your own.
Wear Something Fun AND Train in it
The runDisney races all have unique themes such as classic Disney, Princesses, and Wine and Dine, and more. We participated in a Star Wars run and had heard that most runners celebrate the theme with fun shirts and costumes. That really proved to be the case as it was rare to see someone in anything that wasn’t themed to the event.
We played it relatively safe and wore Star Wars running shirts (Kylo Run!), but we saw some spectacular and incredible costumes during the half marathon. How the heck do you run dressed as the Swedish Chef from the Muppets carrying a Porg in a giant metal pot? Absolutely amazing. We highly recommend joining in the fun, but make sure you train in whatever you decide to wear before the race. You won’t want to run a bunch of miles around Walt Disney World wearing something for the very first time.
Expect Crowds and Lines
A trip to Walt Disney World isn’t complete without large crowds and long lines. The same rule unfortunately applies to most runDisney events. These are very popular events and usually attract large groups of runners.
Now, while that sounds like a big negative aspect of a runDisney event, Disney does an outstanding job of managing the crowds and runners. They have crowd management down to a science. However, you should plan for the crowds when it comes to character lines, photo opportunities, and merchandise lines. There may even be spots along the course where things get congested. Weaving around slower runners and walkers is common at runDisney events.
It’s also worth noting that the character lines during the race can take a significant amount of time. Make sure you keep an eye on your time before stopping as you don’t want to get swept waiting for a photo!
We personally encountered this problem while preparing for the Star Wars Rival Run Half Marathon. The run, which occurred in early April, forced us to train during the cold winter months. That alone was a challenge, but it also made preparing for the Florida heat and humidity impossible.
The temperature was 72 degrees on the morning of our run. Not too bad, right? Unfortunately, the humidity was close to 90% and was a total shock to the system. Things only got worse once the sun started coming up. We tried to use the increasingly-brutal heat and humidity as motivation to finish the race as quickly as possible.
Florida’s climate can be a challenge all on its own. Be prepared and stay hydrated. Listen to your body and slow down if needed.
You Probably Won’t Set a Personal Record
Thanks to the format of the race, the opportunity to stop for photos, and the risk of unfriendly weather, you should go into a runDisney race with the mindset that you’re there to have fun. Any personal records set should be viewed as a bonus.
We think runDisney races are more fun than they are competitive. They’re an opportunity to dress up, run through unique locations, and have some fun with some great people. There’s something very special about the runDisney community.
We’re not saying you shouldn’t take a runDisney event seriously – those miles are still tough – but be aware that these are mostly light-hearted events.
Enjoy the Race!
Remember that you’re in Disney! That’s a fact you can remind yourself if you’re enduring some grueling miles in the Florida heat. It’s also worth remembering you paid a hefty fee to race with runDisney, so you might as well soak in the experience and enjoy every moment.
Your runDisney event will be over before you know it. And, if your experience is anything like our experience, you’ll be planning your next runDisney race shortly after crossing the finish line.