Running with RunDisney
After seeing my good friend, Sara, run several RunDisney races, I decided to register for the Wine and Dine half marathon in November of 2015. I’ve now completed a combination of 11 races with RunDisney, both in the parks and virtual summer series, as well as races at Universal Studios Orlando. I wanted to share my experience through a series of blogs that will cover the basics, as well as compare and contrast these experiences (as well as compare them the dozens of other races experiences I’ve participated in.)
Once you’ve decided to participate, we’ll discuss your plans and figure out which resort you’d like to stay at. Then I’ll do the leg work to book your room and buy your race bib through RunDisney before the event registration date!
Doing this actually gets you the ability to officially register for your races before it opens to the general public! Booking as early as possible is critical because they have limited spots for each race for those that book a room first. However, be aware that once you purchase your bib it is non-refundable and non-transferrable, as it is with all major races.
Once I book your room and secure your bib, you will get an email link so you can register a few days before registration opens which is awesome since these events sellout within hours once they’re open to the public. Also be sure to submit your proof of time if you have one to ensure you’re as high up in the corrals as possible! It just makes for a more enjoyable experience overall.
Then training begins if it hasn’t already. RunDisney does have some great training plans from beginner to expert with the help of racing expert Hal Higdon who does every race with his wife at his side!
The rest of planning your trip is quite similar to planning any trip to Walt Disney World. You plan your parks, FastPass+ selections, meals, etc. Once your race weekend has arrived, you will need to go to the Expo to get your gear and pick up some swag! This is where RunDisney is set apart.
The Expo is at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in WDW. Packet pickup is in one building while the Expo portion is in another. My biggest tip for you, other than to book your room early, is to get there before it opens and head to the Expo FIRST! They have race specific “I did it” shirts, ornaments, headbands, jackets, shorts, wine glasses, etc., and that’s just the RunDisney stuff which can sell out if you don’t get there in time.
They have many other vendors there with some great products for you to check out. I personally love Raw Threads for their super soft bamboo shirts! And they have experts there to help you put on KT tape should you need it, which is awesome because they can reapply it should you be running in more than one race over the course of the weekend.
The morning of your race is EARLY! We’re talking “getting up at 3:15am to head to the start line early.” But there’s something really awesome about getting up and seeing your fellow runners. Every person there has a reason they could have used as an excuse not to run, yet they chose to take time for themselves to prove how awesome they really are. And then there’s the costumes! I’m not a costume person, but I can say I have seen a costume for Every. Single. Disney. Movie. Ever. as well as a person running as Spaceship Earth and a group as a monorail.
Each corral is given its own send off with fireworks and music, which means if you’re more of a turtle than a hare, your start is just as special since they wait several minutes between starts so everyone can get as close as possible to the start line. My tip is to get as close to the front third of your corral, and you do that by getting there early. Yes, you’ll be in the corral while, but your race experience will be nicer. Corrals are difficult to manage at any race, and the announcements and entertainment can be frustrating when all you want to do is start your race. Just remember that they’re necessary for organizers to try and pace the race effectively for everyone and that once you begin your race and find your groove, it will be worth it!
During the race there are stops at every mile for entertainment such as DJs, characters you can opt to stop and take a picture with, and even some backstage areas with cast members cheering you along the way. You also get to run through the parks which is spectacular as you remember your times there whether it was going as a small child or what you happened to do the day before.
Mickey and Minnie take time out of their busy day to be at every finish line and welcome you back. Then you’re given your medal, water and snack box which is preassembled to ensure everyone gets food which is so nice since there are some races where the bananas are wiped out before the middle of the pack gets through.
People have asked if I think these race experiences are worth the money. Honestly, as an avid Disney fan, yes I do. There are enough unique experiences that are associated with it in addition to fulfilling goals I set for myself. There’s just something about running at Disney that makes it worth the early morning runs, the long runs after work, the money spent…because you’re getting souvenirs that, in the grand scheme of things, few people actually get and that makes it all the more special.