5 Lessons Learned From My First runDisney Race

The Magic of Disney exists is many forms other than visiting the parks. Guests can find character interactions at Disney Resort Hotels and Villas, the growth and development of the use of imagination in shows, movies, and music, and, believe it or not, through the love of exercise encouraged by the runDisney brand. There are many reasons that these races regularly reach capacity and I just had to see for myself why runners of all ages return again and again to complete courses of various lengths at The Most Magical Place on Earth.

runDisney takes place during 4 weekends throughout the year, each with its own theme.

My recent experience during runDisney’s Wine and Dine Half Marathon weekend brought about a lot of camaraderie, joy, and lessons learned! Here are 5 unexpected things that I discovered during my first runDisney race.

1. Plan to walk a distance to the start line.

Whether you drive yourself to the start line or take Disney transportation, you can expect to walk a distance to the race entrance and corral holding areas. With the magnitude of participants in each race, runDisney needs quite a large area to accommodate all of the participants, food vendors, bag checks, port-a-potties, and pre- and post-race entertainment. As a result, your first warm-up of the morning is waking up your mind, spirit, and body with a walk that will be well-over ½ mile.

After parking our car, we walked through the entrance of EPCOT and then back out to the opposite side of the EPCOT parking lot to the race entrance and corral holding area.

2. Bring layers and fuel to your corral.

No matter which corral in which you are placed, if you enter near the time of corral opening, it is likely that you will have a wait of 45 minutes or more before you actually cross the start line. This is a great time to fuel and hydrate before the race if you ran out of time before leaving your resort in the wee hours of the morning. Speaking of wee hours of the morning, you may also want to bring a throwaway layer (that will be later donated) or mylar blanket to keep from getting too cold before the race.

While you may warm up doing the race, it is likely that you may feel chilly waiting for the race to start since many corrals open around 4:00AM!

3. The character meet and greet lines can be long.

The first surprise to me was how frequent the character stops appeared along the race course! The second surprise was that in order to meet these exciting and sometimes rare characters, you could wait 10-15 minutes for the most popular ones. Characters at each stop also take brief breaks like they do when meeting in the parks, so this could also add extra time in line if you happen to catch them during a time of transition. It was still 100% worth stopping for as many characters as I did since my goal for the race was to experience it all! However, if you are focusing on finishing under a certain time, you may need to be choosey about which characters you stop to see.

The character lines during runDisney races move quickly, but be prepared to wait for rare characters like Panchito and Jose Carioca.

4. Purchasing PhotoPass is totally worth it.

When running a race, it is usual for runners to have the option to purchase photos of them running along the course and crossing the finish line, but with runDisney races, purchasing PhotoPass either for your race day or the entire weekend will allow you to get your money’s worth. Besides providing a meaningful souvenir, the ability to utilize PhotoPass begins at the race expo and extends to character meet and greets during the race, photos with icons along the route like Tour of Terror and Spaceship Earth, and opportunities to pose with your medals after finishing with additional props, backgrounds, and characters relevant to the race weekend themes. While I only ran in one race, I gathered well over 50 photos just from runDisney experiences and many more with my trips to the parks over the course of the weekend. It is important to note that you may also take your own photos with your own device, but the convenience of utilizing the PhotoPass makes your stops quick and easy.

Runners will be provided with a variety of PhotoPass shots fron the finish line and many places along the race course.

5. The course can become crowded during the race, no matter from which corral you start.

Since there are literally thousands of runners spread over 5 corrals and a lot of participants stopping and starting along the way for photo opportunities and for run/walk intervals, there are inevitably more narrow pathways that can be difficult to navigate at your own pace. Be prepared to slow your pace for walkers at any point, but show courtesy when passing by saying “on your left.” It’s also a reminder that if you are running and are going to walk, alert the people behind you by raising your hand before you begin to walk and make your way to the righthand side to avoid any collisions and to help prevent bottlenecks.

Running on Disney’s BoardWalk is one area that can be very congested, but be patient and enjoy the views!

My first runDisney race was overall a magical experience and one that I would most definitely do again! I look forward to participating in the encouraging environment, running on the fantastic race course, and reliving the experience with exceptional race weekend photos, but perhaps be a little more prepared with the lessons that I learned above. Do you have any tips or lessons learned from your experience at runDisney races? Let us know in the comments below!

Written by

Shelley Wehler

Contributing Writer

Shelley is a stay-at-home mother of two girls living outside of Charlotte, North Carolina. Her love of all things Disney has grown even more as she sees the magic come alive through the lens of her young daughters. She spends her free time keeping up with the latest in Disney news and daydreaming of her next trip to the parks!

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