You’ll often hear that runDisney races aren’t for PRing, they’re for fun. But with the right training and preparation, there’s no reason why a run Disney race can’t be both a chance to earn some cool medals and a great race. These are my runDisney Top Tips.
RunDisney Top Tips
My first half marathon was a runDisney race, the Princess Half Marathon. My sister and I decided to train for a half and I said only if we could do the Princess Half, she said sure and once I crossed that finish line I was hooked. Since then I have done almost every race at Walt Disney World, many of them multiple times, and even ran the inaugural Disneyland Paris 5k and Half Marathon. My favorite distance is the half marathon and, although I’ve run other races around the US and international, for me nothing keeps me motivated like being registered for a Disney race.
Training is Key
Of course with any race training is key. When you register for your race count back and create your training plan to increase your miles gradually, don’t forget to add in shorter runs, taper weeks and building speed if you need it. I usually give myself twice as many weeks as the race is to train, so 26 weeks for a half and a whole year for a full, but this is me and there are training plans that differ. What’s important is to find a training plan and stick with it, count your milestones and maybe add in a fun local race that’s a shorter distance to practice for the start line.
Training means not only training for the miles but training for your pre-race routines. I never want to risk being sick on race day so make sure the meal you have the night before is the same type of meal you’ve been eating before your long training runs. My running partner always eats alfredo pasta and steak and no vegetables the night before a race, this works for her but not for me. I usually go with a portion of pasta and chicken but no cream sauces. You know your body best so make sure that you incorporate how you fuel your body into part of your training.
Fueling before and during the race is very important too, and figuring this out is all part of your training. Which fuels work for you, which don’t. I like to have an Uncrustable sandwich and a banana in the morning before a run along with water. I also prefer to use Nuun tablets over other sports drinks to cut down on sugar. I have several running friends who swear by pickle juice, which you can buy on Amazon in convenient pouches.
On runs over 10 miles I like to have at least a tiny bag with pretzels, they help get me over the wall and add a different texture. But all this being said there are plenty of runners who only drink and eat what is offered on the course, the key is to do what works for you and finding out what works is what training is for.
What to Wear
My first runDisney race was the Princess Half Marathon and I was super excited about wearing a costume opting for a full tutu. This didn’t work for me. The tutu was too long and my arms chaffed rubbing against it as it was flying everywhere. There are definitely running tutus out there that would have been a better option. But the biggest lesson is to do a training run in what you’re wearing.
I’ve worn, hats, tiaras, headbands, and everything in between with no problem. Personally, I like to wear a running skirt, like Sparkle Skirts brand, and build my costume around that as a Disney bound rather full costume. But I’ve seen runners at the half in some pretty amazing works of art, just make sure it’s comfortable before race day.
Another tip is to go buy a cheap throw away jacket or blanket in case the start line is cool. There have been plenty of races where I’ve done this and dropped it at a mile marker. Disney typically picks these up and donates them to a local charity so they don’t go to waste. The same goes if it’s raining, I’ll have a dollar store poncho in my running bag that I can use at the start line to stay dry before the race, I don’t mind getting wet while running but prefer to stay dry when I’m waiting before the race.
All About the runDisney Expo
The race Expo can be a scary experience, especially for runDisney events, because there is so much going on. Typically I go and pick up my race bib and packet before tackling the Expo just because it is so big and can be a pretty tiring experience if you’re doing the whole thing.
The biggest rule that I cannot stress enough is nothing new on race day! This means you may see some great new product that’s going to decrease your pace by 100%, buy it and save it for your next training run. If you didn’t train with it then don’t use it just because they have it at the Expo. That doesn’t mean it’s not a great place to shop for new running gear or try new products but unless you trained with it and are just picking something up at the Expo because you forgot it or ran out then anything you buy stays in the bag until after the race.
Of course one of the best parts of a runDisney race is the merchandise, and they do merchandise well. There’s usually a line so go with plenty of time to spare, don’t be disappointed if you show up and something has run out. They do try to forecast and have been limiting people to only buying so many of the hot items but even Disney isn’t perfect and it’s about the race, you’re getting a fabulous race shirt.
Now I will admit to being one of those people in line before the expo opens just to get in line for the runDisney merchandise, there is no shame in this. Just be prepared if you make this choice, it’s going to be crowded and you’re going to wait. Be polite to the cast members working the expo and don’t forget to use your Passholder discount!
The Morning of the Race
By now you have your bib and know what corral you’re assigned to, now you have to get to it. if you’re staying on Disney property most of their resorts will provide bus transportation to the race. A few of the partner hotels also provide transportation of some kind. But you can also drive yourself and park. Just make sure you give yourself plenty of time.
When staying on property I like to get the first or 2nd bus when they start running them as lines can get long and buses can fill up before your stop if there’s more than one at your hotel. There are no hotels that you can walk to the start line from, sorry.
When driving myself I pad extra time into my morning to get through the traffic and park. As a “slower” runner I know I won’t be in an early corral so I like to get there as early as I can to get to the front of the corral.
I bring my banana and uncrustable with me and they usually have water that you can get in cups or fill your own water bottles with. Since I’m picky about my sports drinks I always carry my own bottle, even for a 5k, to make sure I have what I want. Just remember your training.
The corral is a time to make friends, stretch, go over your race plan in your head and have fun. I met the same couple in the corral at 3 different races and have become friends with them, I know others who have done the same. If your running by yourself this might be a good time to find the pace group you want to stick with or another solo runner who is looking for someone to pace with. What the corral is not the place for is stressing, judging or being rude.
runDisney Race Tips
Part of my training is planning for the race from the start. Because I’ve been pretty stationary at this point I plan to start off slow, I want negative splits anyway so this is ok. I use a timer on my watch for my 2-3 minute warm up, otherwise I get bad calf cramps, and stick to this. It’s really tempting to want to start running full out right away but these aren’t sprints so remember your race your pace. Once I’m warmed up I start my intervals, this is also part of your training finding out what interval works for you and the speed you want to achieve.
Now if you’re in a later corral there will be bottlenecks on the course due to the nature of running through theme parks and places that just aren’t race courses. Be patient with your fellow runners, pushing past someone who is trying to go as fast as they can in a crowded area isn’t nice. No one likes the bottlenecks, but it’s something you have to know is going to happen when you plan to run at Disney. Use these areas to rest your muscles and give them a chance to move in a different way.
One of my friends runs intervals of a 4-minute run and a 1-minute walk to help his muscles just have that change and he’s pretty fast. You might be thinking but with these bottlenecks and interval runners there’s no way I’m going to PR, well the PR comes only in part from the race, it mostly comes from your training. If you trained correctly and understand that there will be bottlenecks then there’s no reason you can’t PR. Remember it’s your race and your pace!
runDisney OnCourse Entertainment
Characters on the course are a huge bonus of runDisney races. You never know who you’ll see cheering you on, and Photopass photographers will happily take your picture if you feel comfortable with your pace. There’s always entertainment on the course, everything from DJs to drum groups and marching bands. My favorite, of course, is the Gospel Choir singing as I run out of Epcot and into the finish line chute, Alleluia for sure!
The most amazing thing of any race, whether it’s runDisney or your local road race, is crossing the finish line. Enjoy that moment, that perfectly indescribable moment. And whether you’re first, last or somewhere in the middle just enjoy the victory that you made for yourself. Oh and don’t forget to hi-five Mickey as you cross the line!
Craving More runDisney? Check out these posts:
- I Didn’t Finish my Disney Marathon, Now What?
- runDisney Racing Tips for Diabetics | Cheryl Murphy’s Story
- Princess 10K Experience | A Plus-Sized Princess Story of Accomplishment
Have you ever run a runDisney race? I would love to hear about it in the comments. What is your best race tip?