Whether you’re a serious runner or a newbie who wants to experience the thrill of finishing a race, I believe the best place to accomplish that goal is at a runDisney race! Over the past five years, my husband and I have finished over 10 runDisney races and have learned a lot of tips & tricks for having the best race! We've created our Ultimate runDisney Guide to help you have the best runDisney experience and avoid surprises along the way.
Pick Your runDisney Race
Throughout the year, runDisney holds multiple races and challenges at Disney World and Disneyland Paris! All of the races are centered around different themes and have multiple length races to choose from. Check out all the great options and see what one is best for you.
Here are the current runDisney races:
- Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend in November: They offer kids races, a 5k, 10k, half marathon, and the two course challenge (where you run the 10k and half marathon over two days). This was my 2nd half marathon I finished and it was a blast! I share my favorite parts here.
- Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend in January: They offer kids races, a 5k, 10k, half marathon, marathon, Goofy Challenge (half marathon and full marathon over two days), Dopey Challenge (5k, 10k, Half Marathon, and Marathon over 4 days), and the Castaway Cay Challenge (one race during the marathon weekend and a 5k on Disney Cruise Line's private island, Castaway Cay).
- Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend in February: They offer kids races, a 5k, 10k, half marathon, and the Disney Fairy Tale Challenge (10k and half marathon over two days).
- Star Wars Rival Run Weekend in April: This weekend offers kids races, a 5k, 10k, half marathon, and the Star Wars Rival Run Challenge (10k and half marathon over two days).
- Disneyland Paris Run Weekend: This awesome run is at Disneyland in Paris, France and offers kids races, 5k, 10k, half marathon, 31k Challenge (10k and half marathon over two days), the 36k Challenge (5k, 10k, and half marathon over 3 days), and the Castle to Chateau Challenge (one runDisney half marathon or marathon in the USA and the Disneyland Paris half marathon within one calendar year).
- Disney Virtual Races: If you aren't able to make it to one of the races, runDisney also offers virtual races.
Participating in a runDisney race is a memory you will NEVER forget! Not only do you have the fun of getting to visit Disney World, but the magic of getting to run through the parks early in the morning is pretty special. Plus, there are always extra characters and entertainment set-up along the course that's only available during races. Whether you're going for a personal record or you're just enjoying the course, make sure to take the extra time to enjoy the perks along the course. It's what makes the runDisney races so unique!
Over the past six years, my husband and I have become runDisney junkies! My husband has ran 4 Disney races and I have ran two, with plans to eventually run every race weekend they offer! Because runDisney races are at their parks, there are usually a lot of logistics that go along with participating in a race like this.
Here are some of my top tips and tricks for having the best runDisney Experience!
#1: Sign Up ASAP!
Don’t wait to sign up for your desired race! Although not all of the races sell out the day registration opens, a lot of them do! I always set an alarm for the exact day and time the races become open for registration and register right then. These are highly sought after races and a lot of them sell out fast! If you know you want to do a specific race or challenge, my best advice is don’t wait! Sign up right away and secure your spot!
#2: RunDisney Races Are Spendy
If you’ve been to Disney World before, then you know Disney isn’t cheap and runDisney events are more expensive than a typical race. Although the races are spendy, I believe that Disney provides the extra value to offset the price. If you stay at a Disney World resort, you are able to take advantage of their transportation to the expo, start, and finish line. This alone is worth its weight in gold! Other great perks include, great finish line amenities and food, gorgeous medals, and the experience of running through the parks.
#3: Official Disney Merchandise
If you’re like me and you want that special shirt, hoodie or other runDisney merchandise to commemorate your race, the expo is the best place to pick it up! After receiving your bib, you'll walk through the official runDisney merchandise area and find countless items to stock up on, all things related to your race! For the Wine & Dine half marathon, they had cute wine glasses and all things wine & dine! Remember, it’s Disney! They’ll have tons of awesome things to buy!
There is merchandise available at the finish line at Epcot, but in my experience, the last thing you’re thinking of is buying merchandise after your race! Stock up at the expo! Plus, because there are typically thousands of runners for each race weekend, there is a good chance that items will sell out. Don't take the risk if there is an item you really want! Just buy it at the expo and enjoy your race.
#4: Stay At A Disney Resort
It is typically a bit more expensive to stay at a Disney Resort compared to a normal hotel chain. But remember, it’s Disney! You may be tempted to stay off site and save a few dollars, but I would highly advise staying at a Disney resort! Disney has a wide variety of resorts that ranges in price and you may find that when you add everything together, it's actually more expensive to stay off-site hotel/resort.
The biggest reason I suggest staying at a Disney resort is because they provide free transpiration, to and from the airport on the Magical Express, to and from the race expo at ESPN, and to and from the start/finish line. This is the most valuable part because Disney races start super early! I mean SUPER early! You are running through the Disney parks early in the morning, before anyone else is allowed in the park! That means that the races typically begin around 5:30 am but the buses leave the resorts typically between 3:00 am - 3:30 am!
On the morning of the race, you want plenty of time to get to the start line, pass security and get pictures with your favorite characters before the race begins! I haven’t driven to the start line myself, but I can’t even imagine how hectic it would be! At the Wine and Dine half marathon, over 20,000 people ran that race alone and there are typically over 60,000 runners for the marathon weekend! That's a lot of people to facilitate!
If you have the option, I always advise to stay at a Disney resort! Disney knows how to do transpiration and they know how to do it well! Let them worry about getting you to and from the start/finish line! You worry about running and enjoying the race!
#5: Course Restrooms
It's going to happen! You're going to need to use the bathroom during the course of the race and when you're part of a big race, this can eat up a lot of time. After you cross the start line, the restrooms stops are typically very busy for the first half of the race! Sometimes you can loose 10-15 minutes just waiting to use the bathroom. The worst part is that the bathrooms in the beginning are port-a-potties. If you are concerned about your time, try waiting to use the restrooms later in the course. Plus, if you wait until you are running through a park, you usually can find a close park restroom to use instead of a port-a-potty. Just make sure you don't wonder too far off of the course. If it's directly off of the course, then you should be fine.
#6: gEAR Bag Drop
Having a bag drop is pretty standard for running any race, but Disney does a great job at bag drops. They call it their gEAR bag drop off! Cute, right? Because the races are held early in the morning, it’s usually still cold when you get to the start line around 3:30 am. Most likely you’re going to want a jacket or blanket for a while, so make sure to utilize the convenience of the bag drop!
My gEAR bag usually contains my jacket, a shaker bottle filled with 8oz of water and a zip lock bag containing my protein powder. Trust me, you’ll want inhale the protein shake fast after your race!
After you finish your race, you typically receive a water, Powerade, banana, and box of food after crossing the finish line. There are also food and beverages for sale at the finish line by the family reunion area. Along with a DJ, dancing and the best post race atmosphere ever! 😊
#7: Family Reunion Area
You did it! You've crossed the finish line and are wearing your finisher medal proudly! Now it's time to grab your gEAR bag and reunite with your friends and family. After you exit the runners finish line area, you can arrange to meet your family by the massive letter signs. This makes it easy to reunite with your loved ones and enjoy the post-race activities together! Don't forget to get your picture taken with your favorite characters with your finisher medal!