Some of my RunDisney tips for first-timers that you may not have heard much about before:
Whether you’re someone who’s done a ton of races and is now thinking about trying RunDisney, or you’re a Disney fan who hasn’t run much at all, there’s a lot to know about a RunDisney race. The events are pretty different than many other races in a number of ways, so there are some important things I thought I would point out which might be useful!
There’s plenty to know when heading into a race, and there are lots of RunDisney tips and information out there. If you’re looking for basic info about what time the races start, how transportation works, pacing requirements, etc., I put together my Beginner’s Guide to RunDisney. But for this blog post I wanted to share some of the things that might be a bit of a surprise or a bit different about a Disney race compared to other events that you may not hear about all the time. Perhaps you’ll know some of these but hopefully there are a few useful RunDisney tips here for any of you planning to do one of the RunDisney race weekends!
Be prepared for race congestion, especially in the beginning
There are a lot of people who participate in the RunDisney events. The last time I ran Princess in 2020 I believe they said there were about 25,000 people running the half marathon. Disney does assign corrals based on expected finish times, but it’s still a lot of people starting at once (and sadly not everyone is always honest about their expected pace). So when you start you’re going to be surrounded by a lot of other people who may or may not be slower than you. This can feel frustrating, but it’s just part of running Disney.
Realize you probably won’t PR
This is in large part to what I just mentioned above (unless this is your first race of this distance, in which case congrats! You will definitely PR. And if you have no idea what I’m talking about, “PR” is a term many runners use for their “Personal Record”. So they keep track of their best times for various distances). The congestion and amount of people running will definitely slow you down. Plus there’s lots of going on during a Disney race, so you may just want to soak it all in and take some time to enjoy it! There have previously been character stops, so if you’re interested in doing that it will certainly add a good chunk of time to your finishing time.
That being said, it’s certainly not impossible – as someone who runs a few half marathons a year my PR was actually Princess 2019 for a little bit. But overall I wouldn’t go out trying to PR at Disney if you’re a serious runner. You’ll probably have lots of other races to do that, and Disney is a unique experience.
Know that the weather can be unpredictable
Florida weather can be so unpredictable when the RunDisney events are held. They try to schedule them for the winter or late fall/early spring so it’s not a billion degrees. Marathon weekend is in January, Princess is in February, Wine and Dine is in November, and the new Springtime Surprise is in March.
You might be expecting it to be super hot even in January or February – and depending on the day you could be right. But Florida can get cold, especially early in the morning when the race begins. I’ve done the full marathon in January twice. When I ran in 2017 it was about 35 degrees at the start. When I ran it in 2020 we were pushing close to 85 by the time I finished. So don’t go in expecting certain weather and be prepared for anything.
Also know that humidity can be killer
Going along with the temperatures above – don’t underestimate the humidity either! Florida is almost always very humid, and that will affect your running. Be smart and safe, and slow down if you feel it getting to you. You might be used to running in 70 degree weather somewhere else, but if you’re not used to the humidity that 70 degrees in Florida can feel A LOT different. Having one of those cooling towels was a huge lifesaver for me during the hotter races.
Realize you really do need to get there super early
The races typically start at either 5am or 5:30am, which is early enough – so when you hear the buses to the race start sometimes start running as early as 2:30am, you might be tempted to wait a little longer. After all, how early do you really need to be? Don’t mess around with this – Disney schedules the buses this early for a reason. As mentioned above there are a lot of people doing these races, which means a lot of traffic all going to the same place. Even at 3am I’ve sat on a bus waiting to get into Epcot for a very long time. They will also close off certain roads before the race starts.
Once you arrive you can’t just roll up and start either. Depending on the distance there’s a bit of a hike to get to the corrals (more on that later) and they will close off the corrals at certain times too in order to keep things organized.
Be prepared for a LONG walk from the bus drop-off to the corrals
This has at least been the case for the half marathon and full marathon in recent years. The race actually starts pretty far from the parking lot where you’re dropped off, which means you have to walk to the corrals. It’s almost a mile from bus to start, so keep in mind you’re adding on a little warm up (and that this will take some time!).
Factor in the character stops, which can add a lot of time to your total
One of the major appeals of doing a RunDisney event is the fact that they have characters along the route and you can stop for photos. This is a really fun and unique aspect to running at Disney, but be aware that many people are thinking along the same lines – so the wait to get your photo with a character can be quite long, especially if it’s a rare or popular character. The lines also get longer the further back you start. If you have a time goal or you’re worried about staying within the time limits you might want to skip the character stops or just pick one or two.
Bring a throwaway jacket
As someone who gets cold easily, this is one of my personal top RunDisney tips! If you’re not sure what this is, a throwaway jacket is basically a very cheap jacket, sweatshirt, or blanket that you bring with you to the start of the race, but then discard just before running or shortly after you begin your run. Especially in Florida in the cooler months, it can be a bit chilly when you’re standing around waiting for the race to start – but once you start running you’ll warm up, so you don’t want to overdress. A throwaway makes sure you stay warm beforehand. Disney actually collects all of the throwaways and donates them as well. I’d recommend checking out places like the Dollar Store, Five Below, or a thrift store for a cheap item you don’t mind paying a few dollars for. Even if you don’t think you’ll need a throwaway jacket I highly recommend bringing it. The mornings can sometimes be quite cool (I’ve had it be 35-40 degrees on a Disney race morning!), and you have to get there early and wait for a long time so there’s a lot of time spent just standing or sitting in one spot.
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As someone who has done a lot of Disney races I’ve learned a lot about what to expect and some things that I think it is useful to know, so I hope that helps out others too. If you’ve done a RunDisney event before – are there any other tips or tricks you know that you’d like to share? If you are preparing for one, do you have any other questions about anything?
What are your best RunDisney tips? What questions do you have if you’re doing a Disney race for the first time?