You’ve taken the plunge and registered for your first runDisney race. Now what?
If you’re like us, you probably are a combination of excited and nervous. Rest assured, 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, visit our review of the Star Wars Rival Run Half Marathon.
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 at 3:00am. Considering you don’t want to miss the transportation to the race, you’ll probably have to get up around 2:00am.
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 per mile 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 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. 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 well before the race. You won’t want to run 13.1 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 some 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 at the expo. There may even be spots along the course where things get quite congested. Weaving around people is almost a guarantee.
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!
Weather can be Unpredictable
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 proved impossible to prepare for the heat and humidity that would be waiting for us in Florida.
The temperature was 72 degrees on the morning of our run. Not too bad, we thought, but we had no clue how bad the humidity was going to be. That humidity was close to 90% and was a total shock to the system. Things only got worse once the sun started coming up. Need motivation to finish? Consider the day is only going to get hotter and you may find some extra pep in your step.
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 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. We’re not saying you shouldn’t take it seriously – those miles are still tough! – but be aware that these are light-hearted events.
Remember – 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 of it.
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 before you even make it back to your hotel.