RunDisney is back, and I couldn’t be happier. This was my first RunDisney event since the Princess Half Marathon in 2020, and I didn’t realize quite how much I missed it until I was running the half marathon this year. I’ve been fortunate to go to Disney a number of times since they reopened, and I’ve also been able to do lots of smaller, more local races. So I’ve been lucky enough to have both Disney and running still in my life – but I forgot how truly amazing it is to combine the two!
Not quite as amazing is the early morning wake-up call that goes along with RunDisney, however. I was “only” running the half, as this half marathon is part of the Walt Disney World marathon weekend which has 4 races (as you might remember from my Dopey Challenge back in 2020!). I set my alarm for 2:30am and got up way earlier than any human being should. It was going to be a pretty warm morning, with the temperature at the moment at around 55 degrees. I put on my race outfit, grabbed my throwaway jacket and stuff, and headed for the race transportation.
I was staying at the Grand Floridian this time, which meant that the race transportation to get to the start for the half marathon was actually the monorail. I really enjoyed being able to take the monorail rather than a bus. Everything went smoothly and I was there in plenty of time. If you’re like me and want to know the exact time schedule, this is how it went for me that morning:
3:03am – got on the monorail at the Grand Floridian
3:15am – boarded the Epcot monorail at the Ticket and Transportation center
3:27am – got off the monorail at Epcot
3:34am – arrived in the first race area
4:02am – got to my corral and settled in
If you haven’t done a Disney half marathon or marathon that starts at Epcot, you want to allot plenty of time to get there because it’s a LONG walk from where the race area is to where the corrals are (actually, the renamed them “staging areas” this year). I think it’s close to a mile walk. I was in staging area 2, and I was early enough that I was pretty close to the front. I did some stretches and texted a bit with my one friend who was actually awake at 4am! Then I kind of just enjoyed the RunDisney atmosphere. As much as I’ve gotten a bit annoyed in the past with the chatter and time killing bits, I enjoyed the cheesiness this time around. It probably helped that it wasn’t freezing, either.
Then at 5am the race began the best way you can possibly start a race – with fireworks! I was in the first section of staging area 2 and started pretty early – I believe my official start time was 5:05am. It was great weather at that point for running and I was feeling good. I went into the race with the mindset that I wasn’t going to stress myself out about getting a great time. I was going to enjoy running at Disney, take it easy, stop for photos, etc.
The first few characters I passed had long-ish lines and were ones I’d seen before or weren’t that interested in, so I kept going. Then I saw Judy Hopps and I love Zootopia! So even though there was a bit of a line I jumped in for a photo anyway. And before I knew it we were entering Magic Kingdom!
Both Jason and my dad had gotten up early (though not as early as I did!) to get to Main Street in time to grab a spot and cheer me on. When Jason comes on my race trips it’s one of the parts I look forward to the most. Even when I don’t have a spectator there, the atmosphere when you enter the Magic Kingdom is just so exciting. There’s tons of people cheering and the castle is there, and it’s truly magical.
I took my usual selfie in front of the castle and then continued around the Magic Kingdom loop. I was both surprised and impressed with how many characters there were in Magic Kingdom (and throughout the whole race!). It definitely felt like more than other years. I passed by Buzz Lightyear and then stopped for a quick pic with the White Rabbit by the teacups.
Sebastian was out in Fantasyland but I had a great photo with him from the marathon so I decided to keep an eye out for other characters. Through the castle (always a great place for photopass to grab some pics!) and then into Liberty Square.
In that section Colonial Mickey was hanging out which I thought was very cool! Once I made my way through Magic Kingdom Jafar was just outside that area and with only about 2 people in line, I figured why not stop for a bunch of character photos?
That turned out to be a theme because I encountered a lot of short lines so I managed to stop a decent amount. There was plenty of characters in that stretch by the Grand Floridian and Polynesian too. I stopped for photos with Horace Horsecollar, Clarabelle Cow, Lilo, and Stitch. I noticed many characters that would normally be together, like Lilo and Stitch, had their own areas spread a bit apart. I’m guessing that’s a social distancing thing.
Around mile 9 or so I started slowing down a bit more – but it was a conscious choice, not because I had to. I’m getting over plantar faciitis right now and have been having some quad issues, so I didn’t want to hurt anything by running too fast. Around mile 10/11 is where you go up a ramp before returning to Epcot, and in the past I remember it feeling difficult going uphill. I think it shows how far I’ve come as a runner (and how many hills we have running in Pennsylvania!) because I felt good and strong going uphill.
I did have to stop for a moment from the overpass to take a picture of Spaceship Earth though. The sun was rising at this point and Spaceship Earth was all lit up with its pretty new 50th anniversary lighting. The timing was just perfect for an amazing sight and I’m so glad I could soak in something beautiful.
Towards the very end of the race Wilbur from Meet the Robinsons was out, and he’s one you never see – so even though I was almost done I had to stop here again!
Running through Epcot at that moment just hit me with such a rush of joy. The sun was coming up, I was almost done with another 13 miles, and I was in Disney running again. I had this just moment of real happiness seeing Spaceship Earth and being in Epcot that early in the morning. It may have taken me a long time to truly find the joy in running, but now I’m there.
Then it was on to the finish line. I knew Jason and my dad were planning to go from Magic Kingdom to Epcot to be there so I kept an eye out. Luckily Jason is tall and I managed to spot them before I crossed the finish line!
I got my gorgeous medal with Donald and Daisy on it and then headed for the necessary post-run refreshment: beer, of course. It might have been 7:15 in the morning but I had run a half marathon in 2 hours and 12 minutes with 11 character stops, so I deserved that beer. In the interest of science and all that. Cheers, to the professor!
It was also nice to be able to take the monorail back to the resort rather than wait for a bus. I was only mildly sore and very happy. It’s making me look forward to princess race weekend in February even more!
Characters at the Disney World half marathon (as best as I can remember):
- Mary Poppins and Bert
- Mary Poppins penguin
- Judy Hopps
- Nick Wilde
- Buzz Lightyear
- Sebastian the Crab
- Colonial Mickey Mouse
- Horace Horsecollar
- Clarabelle Cow
Have you done a RunDisney event? Which character would you most want to meet?