Thursday, September 26, 2019

So, You Want To Run Disney?

So, you've decided to participate in a runDisney event but have no clue where to start? Well, look no further! This comprehensive guide will give all the details you need to know to make your first runDisney event a hit!

Run Disney events come in all shapes, distances, and sizes. In fact, it was runDisney who inspired me to re-lace up my running shoes in the first place. For those who are new here, I used to run cross country in high school. Our distance limit was 2 miles and I thought anyone who ran over that was crazy! Little did I know, nine years later, I would get bitten by the running bug while spectating at the full marathon during Walt Disney World's Marathon Weekend. What began as a "I'm just going to run the half marathon next year and call it quits" has turned into 6 full marathons, 30+ half marathons, and many 10K's and 5K's over the following 10 years.

Once you've made the decision to go for it, where do you begin?  There are several races offered at Walt Disney World throughout the year, races in Disneyland Paris, and a couple of virtual race options to run at home. Once you've decided which race you want to run, the fun can begin!


Registration for the various runDisney races opens approximately 9 months prior to the date of the race. This has been different in the past and is subject to change, so keep an eye out for the individual race you're wanting to register for. A race calendar is usually released by runDisney with all the important dates, so be on the look out for that.

Having an online Disney account will help in the registration process as you will be able to sign in and be ready when registration to opens. (The same login ID used for your Walt Disney World account is the same you will use for runDisney.)

Also, it's important to be online at the start of registration because a lot of these races sell out quickly. For example, my husband likes to do the 10K's (which sell out fast) and I almost missed the window with him on the last registration round. The 10K was literally full and closed for registration within two hours of registration opening - be quick!!

Disney also offers opportunities for the whole family to run! If you have a little one that would like to participate (even infants who crawl), there's literally a race opportunity for everyone!


If you're in need of a training plan, runDisney has connected with Olympian Jeff Galloway and offers different training plans for different experience levels/distances. By utilizing the run/walk method, Jeff has helped many many runners cross the finish line and reach their ultimate goal!

Runners World is also another great place to look for tips, advice, and training plans. In fact, RW is where I started when I began running again.


Apart from the many many race packing tips out there, my main advice to anyone who is flying in for a race is to keep your running shoes on your person - either in your carry on or on your feet. Also, I prefer to pack my race specific outfit in my carry on, just to be safe (because you never know).

If you're planning on participating in a runDisney race challenge (2 races back to back), I'd also suggest bringing along two pair of running shoes. You never know what the weather will be like on race day and if it rains on your 10K day, there's nothing worse than running in soggy shoes on half marathon day.

I've also included two posts - one on packing for a race with air travel and one on packing for a race without air travel.


Apart from the race itself, the Expo is one of my favorite parts of a runDisney weekend. The excitement in the air for the upcoming race weekend is literally palpable and I love it! Oh yes, and who could forget shopping? There's definitely shopping - and lots of it!

When you first arrive at the expo, I suggest heading straight to the bib/shirt area to pick those up first.

Also, if there's a piece of runDisney merchandise you really just have to have, you should arrive early-like opening day of the expo-because merchandise can sell out fairly quickly (if you're into that sort of stuff). Our travel plans have always varied on when we arrive - sometimes things are sold out and sometimes they have plenty of merchandise. You really never know what you're going to arrive to. Apart from runDisney merchandise, many other running companies are out there selling theirs as well. Who knows, you might even find a new piece of gear you didn't know existed!

It's so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the expo because it really can be overwhelming. This happened to me at my first expo and honestly, I did not get to enjoy it much at all. So, go into it knowing there's going to be a lot going on, relax, take your time, and enjoy it!!

The Race

You've made it this far, now it's time for the race itself - the highlight of the runDisney experience!

If you're using runDisney transportation, you'll need to be on a bus early! If the race begins at 5:30 a.m., you'll likely need to be on a bus no later than 3 or 3:30 a.m. Insane, I know - but it's their only way to ensure that all 25,000 (ish) runners make it to the start line. During the Princess Half Marathon last year, I attempted to push the time closer to 4 a.m. and what a mistake - we were caught in terrible traffic and it literally took 45 minutes for us to pull up at the start line. I was definitely cutting it close to the start of the race.

Also, the buses don't drop you off at the start line. For the half and full marathons, you still have about a half mile mile walk ahead of you to the starting corrals, so don't get on a bus too late!

Unless you're planning to PR your runDisney race, don't take it too seriously. I have had some of the best "race moments" of my life, playing around in the Magic Kingdom, taking pictures, and just having fun with friends!

Speaking of pictures, be on the lookout for race photographers. They will be located along the race course, at character stops, and in the parks. If you're an AP holder or you purchased Memory Maker for your trip, these photos will be included on your My Disney Expeirence App at no extra charge! 

As far as characters go, the lines might seem long, but they typically go pretty quickly because runners are basically jumping in, snagging a picture, then running off again. Character interaction is a super fun part of a runDisney race! Also, take the time to enjoy your surroundings. Not many people can say they ran a race through an actual Disney park!

Despite this, I do need to warn that you still need to be mindful of your time during the race. A 16 minute per mile cutoff is put in place as soon as the last runner crosses the start line (which calculates out to a brisk walk.)  Throughout the race, just be mindful of the time, your mileage, and be on the lookout for the balloon ladies! (If you're unfamiliar with the balloon ladies, you can find out all you need to know with a quick google search!)


A few years back, I asked Jason for his best spectator advice and put it all together in a "spectator viewing tips" post. While that post is focused mostly on Marathon Weekend (January races) itself, a lot of the tips remain true for other runDisney race weekends as well.

So, as you can see, runDisney holds a very special place in my heart. Their races are seriously like no other and I'm super excited for those of you who are embarking on their very first runDisney experience! Please drop me an email or message to let me know how your race went and your thoughts regarding the event! I'd love to hear all about it!

Happy running! Have a magical race!

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