It’s the most magical place on earth, and it’s also the most magical finish line you’ll ever cross. To keep the magic alive through all the miles, here are some things you need to know so you can runDisney the right way.
I completed the Disney Princess Half Marathon a few months ago. I was blessed to be able to run with my sister (and her husband, who left us in his much faster dust) and have my mom and baby girl there to cheer us on. The Princess Half Marathon is the most popular of all the runDisney races. Even though a friend shared some pointers, there were still things I wish I’d known beforehand, and things I want you to know before you runDisney!
But maybe you’re still on the fence and need a push in the right direction. In my opinion, every runner (or even walker!) should do a runDisney race, and here’s why:
Five Reasons to runDisney:
1. You get a glimpse of behind-the-scenes action.
You can pay big bucks to see a glimpse backstage in one park, or you can runDisney and see more parts in more parks! Every race has a different course, but I saw the storage areas for all of the parade floats for Magic Kingdom. We also ran through some back areas of Epcot and got to see the backside of some rides, which was really cool.
2. You won’t forget these views.
I usually hate having my phone out to take pictures, but I couldn’t put it down for a few miles. I took pictures of EVERYTHING. There were fireworks for every corral start, fireworks along the course, characters along the course, and don’t get me started on Magic Kingdom. I mean who could forget running down a (mostly) empty Main Street and then through Cinderella’s Castle? It was also epic to run through Epcot.
3. You’ll stay entertained with all the people-watching.
RunDisney is all about the costumes, and people go all out. I thought I pulled out the stops for my Ariel costume, until I saw everyone else. There was even a group of men in full princess ball gowns with wigs! To take our minds off of running when we started to get tired, my sister and I played a modified game of I Spy: “I spy someone who has a large stuffed animal sewn to her shirt” (which applied to more people than you’d think running a half marathon!).
4. Any runner or walker can do it.
A famous running coach, Jeff Galloway, is a partner of runDisney, and his run/walk method of training is promoted on the race’s website. His stance is that anyone can complete any race using run/walk intervals. I call myself a runner, but even I can’t run more than a few miles without stopping. So for all the distance races I’ve done, I have completed them by using intervals. As long as you walk faster than an 18 minute mile, you can do any Disney race you want!
5. It’s totally acceptable (and encouraged) to wear your medal all weekend.
This is almost the best perk of all. Not only do cast members and strangers alike congratulate you, but you also get discounts all around Disney World. If you’re like me, you wear your medal all day at home while recuperating on the couch, and even for days after while in PJ’s. You earned it after all!
Five Things to Know Before your Disney Race
1. You don’t need to be there at 3:30 a.m.
All the runDisney literature will tell you to be at the start line at 3:30 a.m. Which, if you are in a car trying to get to the start line, that’s actually a good thing to strive for because of the obscene amount of traffic. But if you are staying at a Disney resort, you can sleep in just a bit longer and plan to be on site at 4:45/5:00 am.
2. Don’t strive for a personal record.
There are so many people! I know the Princess Half Marathon is the most popular of all runDisney races, but there were more than 20,000 runners this year. In certain places where the course narrowed, we were crammed in like cattle and unable to go faster than a brisk walk. I also was around others who were run/walking, so I hear it didn’t get as bogged down farther ahead where most people were running.
Also, Orlando is not like many places in the country which actually experience a real winter. My sister swapped freezing temperatures and three feet of snow on the ground for 80 degrees and 80% humidity. It was quite a shock to her body, and we needed to go slower to not overheat. There’s no telling how you might get slowed down, so it’s best to be mentally (and physically) prepared to run slower than you’re used to.
3. Time your bathroom breaks appropriately.
Because we were in the middle corral, 10,000 people started the race before us, and it took one hour and fifteen minutes to cross the starting line. The first finishers were done as I was crossing mile marker two! I had been warned about this, but assumed I could use the bathroom as I was waiting. Wrong. They did have port-a-potties by the middle corral, but even if I could have squeezed my way to one, there would have been no way to find my way back to my sister. I can tell you that starting the race with an exploding bladder is not good for morale! I wish I would have stopped drinking water the second I got out of the car instead of as I was walking up to the corrals.
4. Be prepared for narrow and slanted roads.
When you’re inside the parks, it feels as if you’re walking forever. But in reality, the roads are very small. So to fill 13.1 miles, most of the race is on the roads and highways that connect the parks. The roads are well-maintained, but when you’re going in and out of parks or on back service roads, they can be very narrow. Not only can it slow you down, but people try to pass on the grass, which is uneven and can be treacherous.
Many of the roads also have a pretty serious slant, which my ankles and hips just can’t handle. Running on either side of the road was better, but because of the crowds it was hard to navigate my way to the edges. But if I could see that a narrow or slanted section was ahead, it was easier to proactively make my way to the side of the road.
5. Have a plan to meet up with family afterwards.
Don’t rely on the “I’ll see you after” or “I’ll call you after” method. Because not only were there 20,000 other runners, but also their family and friends were ALL at the finish line. Even my mom, who I paid to have the best seats, didn’t see me finish. And because there were so many people all trying to use their phones in one tiny area, cell service was very, very spotty. It took nearly 45 minutes to actually connect with my mom after we finished. So, I wish I had a plan of where to meet to expedite our post-race brunch plans.