How runDisney races work

This is a guest post from Cheryl Koren, one of the co-owners of Key to the World Travel. She has participated in 13 runDisney events so far and is already signed up for 5 more. Now, here's Cheryl...

runDisney races are some of the most popular weekend events at the Walt Disney World Resort, but what are they all about?

Let’s me fill you in on how to sign up, where to stay, and how they work.

runDisney Races

runDisney events are held at the Walt Disney World Resort throughout the year, and beginning in spring 2016, anywhere you want it to be with their first virtual 5K series.

Here is a list of the upcoming events:

Virtual Running Shorts Series
Event Dates: May 15 – June 30, 2016
Yellow Shoes 5K | Red Pants 5K | White Glove 5K | Virtual Running Shorts Series

Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend at Walt Disney World
Event Dates: November 4-5, 2016
Half Marathon | Disney Wine & Dine 10K | Lumiere's Two Course Challenge | Mickey's Holiday 5K | Kids Races

Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend
Event Dates: January 4-8, 2017
Marathon | Half Marathon | Goofy | 10K | 5K | Dopey | Castaway Challenge

Disney Princess Half Marathon at Walt Disney World
Event Dates: February 22-26, 2017
Half Marathon | 10K | Glass Slipper Challenge | Princess 5K | Kids Races

Star Wars Half Marathon
Event Dates: April 20-23, 2017
Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side | Dark Side Challenge | Star Wars 10K | Star Wars 5K | Kids Races

With the exception of the Virtual Running Shorts Series, each event takes place at one of the Walt Disney World Resort theme parks. Mickey’s Holiday 5K is held at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the kids races take place at the New Balance Track & Field Complex at ESPN Wide World of Sports, and the rest of the races begin at Epcot.

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Depending on the length of the race, runners may pass through all four theme parks before crossing the finish line. Each event also features a runDisney Health & Fitness Expo where runners can pick up their race bibs, attend seminars, and shop for all sorts of running gear (more on this later). These are held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

In addition to runDisney events at Walt Disney World, there are multiple races at the Disneyland Resort, there is a 5K during every Disney Cruise Line cruise that stops at Castaway Cay, and this year there will be one at Disneyland Paris. See runDisney.com for information.

Runners who participate in multiple races have the opportunity to earn additional medals. You can use the same race to qualify for multiple challenges, but all races must be completed in the same calendar year.

Here is the lineup for 2016/early 2017:

  • runDisney Coast to Coast Race Challenge
    Complete a runDisney 1/2 marathon or marathon at the Walt Disney World Resort and a 1/2 marathon at the Disneyland Resort and receive a Coast to Coast Race Challenge Medal.
  • runDisney Coast to Coast Race Challenge - Pink Edition
    Complete the Disney Princess Half Marathon or Glass Slipper Challenge at the Walt Disney World Resort and the Tinker Bell Half Marathon or Pixie Dust Challenge at the Disneyland Resort and receive an exclusive pink edition of the Coast to Coast Race Challenge Medal.
  • runDisney Kessel Run Challenge
    Complete either the Star Wars Half Marathon/Rebel Challenge at the Disneyland Resort and the Star Wars Half Marathon at the Walt Disney World Resort and receive a Kessel Run Commemorative Medal
  • runDisney Castle to Chateau Challenge
    Complete any half marathon or greater at the Walt Disney World Resort or the Disneyland Resort and the Disneyland Paris Half Marathon and earn the Castle to Chateau Challenge Commemorative Medal.
  • runDisney Castaway Challenge
    Combine one 5K event or longer during the 2017 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend (January 4-8, 2017) with a Castaway Cay 5K on Disney Cruise Line's private tropical island in the Bahamas the following week while on Disney Cruise Line 4-night Bahamian Cruise January 9-13, 2017. You must have your cruise reservation number when signing up for this challenge.

Each of these challenges must be registered for in advance. Contact runDisney for specifics.

Where do I sign up?

Registration for runDisney is done via active.com. You must have a user name and log in to sign up. The registration dates for upcoming races are listed below. If you are an Annual Passholder or a Disney Vacation Club Member, you are able to sign up before the general public.

Spots open up at noon EST and sell out very quickly so it is advisable to have your active.com login information created before you try to register. Please note these dates are subject to change (as they did recently for the Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend), so refer to the runDisney.com website for the most up to date information.

Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend at Walt Disney World
Event Dates: November 4-5, 2016
General Registration: March 29, 2016 @ 12:00 PM EST
Passholder Early Registration: March 22, 2016 @ 12:00 PM EST

Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend
Event Dates: January 4-8, 2017
General Registration: April 26, 2016 @ 12:00 PM EST
Passholder Early Registration: April 19, 2016 @ 12:00 PM EST

Disney Princess Half Marathon at Walt Disney World
Event Dates: February 22-26, 2017
General Registration: July 12, 2016 @ 12:00 PM EST
Passholder Early Registration: July 5, 2016

Star Wars Half Marathon
Event Dates: April 20-23, 2017
General Registration: August 9, 2016 @ 12:00 PM EST
Passholder Early Registration: August 2, 2016 @ 12:00 PM EST

Here is a list of the information you will need to sign up:

  1. Active.com login
  2. Demographic information
  3. Shirt size
  4. You will be asked if you will be participating in a wheelchair division
  5. Your anticipated pace per mile (for a marathon you will be asked to provide a total time). Proof of time is required for half and full marathons for correct corral placements, or else you will be placed in the last corral. Your corral placement will be based on your anticipated pace, with faster runners being placed in the earlier corrals.
  6. If you are an Annual Passholder, DVC member or Cast Member, if this is your first race and your first runDisney race.
  7. Emergency contact name and phone number
  8. Credit card to purchase optional add-ons and commemorative items
  9. Agree to waivers and policies
  10. Payment – please note runDisney and Active.com does not take American Express, so plan accordingly.

Be prepared to log on exactly at noon. The servers may be busy, and you may be placed into a queue. If you are DO NOT close your browser, you will lose your spot and may not get it back. If it says ON HOLD, just keep trying, it may just mean that they are working on getting through the queue before releasing additional spots.

If it is sold out, then you can always look into charitable organizations who are participating. You will have to do fundraising, but you will have a guaranteed spot in the race.

Once your registration has been processed, you will receive a confirmation email from Active.com. This email will serve as your only confirmation of registration.

A word about pacing
With the exception of the kids races, the stated pacing requirement is a 16-minute mile for all runDisney events. For any race 10K or longer you will get a chip in your running bib that will track your times.

If runners fall behind this pace, there are Cast Members who do a sweep behind and will pick you up. However - and this is important - the 16-minute mile pace is based on when the last person crosses the starting line, so you will not be picked up if you stay ahead of this.

So, there are many participants who walk a portion or the entire race, but it must be at an athletic pace, not a leisurely stroll. For any Challenges racers your overall pace must still be faster than a 16-minute mile.

Where to stay

You are all signed up for the race, and now you need a place to stay. runDisney events start REALLY early in the morning, and if you don’t have your own car in the area, staying on property is the best way to go.

Each of the on-site Disney resorts (as well as the Swan and Dolphin Resorts) offers bus transportation to the races. The Quick Service restaurants also have “runner packs” available the day before for you to purchase so you have breakfast before the event, which is handy since nothing will be open yet when you are leaving.

It is recommended that you arrive at the race at least an hour before the race is set to begin. Each of the hotels will have a list of times that the buses run, so check at your hotel for the individual race and bus times listed.

If you are staying off property or just don’t want to take a bus, then you can certainly drive yourself, take a cab or Uber. Please be aware of road closures that occur as a result of the race, so allow yourself extra time to maneuver these. Take it from my personal experience - this can be a headache! Another issue is that there may not be as many Uber’s available to pick you up at 4 a.m.

Interested in booking a trip? Submit a quote request to Key to the World Travel.

Training for a race

10481988 836768116367464 6853692578637081205 n - How runDisney races workIf you are not already a runner, there are plenty of training programs out there to help you become one, or a better one! The one that runDisney recommends is Jeff Galloway's. Just click on your race, and everything is spelled out in terms of when to start training, and how far to go each day.

Couch to 5K is also a great program to get you ready for your first race. Keep in mind that the weather in Florida may be different than your weather at home, so think about your liquid and nutritional needs as well.

Costume please!

The big day is coming….you are training, you have a place to stay, and now the important question – what are you going to wear?!?!

First, cover the basics and get your feet fitted at a running store with a good pair of running sneakers. While you are there, get some socks that fit well and a good running bra. Some people swear by compression socks, so maybe try those and see if they are right for you. While you are there, consider picking up some Body Glide - you will need it.

And now for the fun stuff! Costumes are a huge part of any runDisney race. Depending on the theme, you have everything from Stormtroopers and George Lucas impersonators to Disney characters and running Santas.

For the February Half Marathon the place is overrun with Disney princesses – with many a male runner donning his tutu for the event! Groups pick a theme and go all out – it is fantastic!

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There are plenty of ideas on Pinterest, and Etsy, and my favorite www.sparkleskirts.com – so go crazy! Just remember that comfort is the name of the game, and there are some rules to follow. Disney recently updated their costume policy. They take these rules very seriously, so don’t even bother to try and break them!

Race weekend expo

It is finally here – race weekend! First things first, you need to pick up your race number, shirt and gEAR bag at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. You will need to have your signed race waiver and a photo ID to pick up your gear. If you haven’t already printed out your waiver you may do so there.

Booths will be set up for each race, and they each have a number designation. Look at the number on your waiver and go to the appropriate booth. If you are registered for more than one race you have to go to each booth individually.

There you will get your bib, any commemorative pins, vouchers for other commemorative items, and a copy of the event booklet. Please note that you have to pick up your own bibs and shirts and you cannot send a friend to do it for you. If you can not attend the Expo before your race, runDisney now has the option of picking it up on race day. See runDisney.com for details.

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Next you will head over to pick up your shirts. They are given out at the back of the Expo Center where you will also find a runDisney Store, New Balance shoe market, as well as a plethora of booths selling everything from shirts and apparel to displays to hang up your new shiny medals. I recommend spending some time there going up and down the aisles; it is worth your time. But then head back to the hotel and get some sleep because tomorrow is an early day!

Race weekend - time to race!

When you arrive at the race you will have to go through security. There are two lines – one for people without bags and one with. It is recommended that you do not bring a bag to the race with you, as you will just have to check it anyway before the race.

There will be a gEAR bag check tent inside the secure area, as well as charity booths, a place to get some coffee or snack (for a charge), lots of port-a-potties, a DJ getting everyone pumped up, and places to take pictures. Family and friends can be in this area with you, but then once you get near the corrals, you have to have a runners bib to continue on, spectators will be sent to the viewing area.

Locate your corral letter on your bib because that's where to head to next. You can always go to a lower letter corral, but not a higher one. So, for example, if you are in corral B but you are running with friends who have corral C, you can go with them, but they can not come with you. Once everyone is in his or her corral, then it is time to start!

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The national anthem is sung, some fireworks explode, and the wheelchair division is off – followed by corral A, then B, etc. There are a few minutes in between each corral to give the runners time to get past any bottlenecks and spread out.

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Volunteers will be set up along the way to point out any hazards ("caution: speed bump ahead" is something you will hear often), give out water, and cheer you on your way! There are also character photo opportunities along the way, so if you do decide to stop for a picture be sure to stand in line off of the course.

Each mile of the course will be marked with a time clock. This is also a very popular picture spot! Be courteous to your fellow runners; if you are walking stay to the right, if you are passing someone make sure you look behind you so you don’t run into someone else, and if you stop get off of the course so you don’t get hit yourself.

Medals are given out at the end of the race – all finishers receive one – as well as bottles of water, Powerade and snack packs. Family and friends can meet you after you pass through the picture area and gEAR pick up tent. There will be more character photo opportunities, you can sit and rest and then take a bus back to your hotel. First aid stations are also located at the end of course.

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Park days during race weekends

runDisney races are scheduled early in the morning so that the runners are done before the parks open for the day. This gives participants plenty of time to go back, get cleaned up, eat breakfast, and hit the parks wearing their new bling!

Listen to your body, and use that as a gauge for long to be in the parks, and how much to push yourself. If you are doing more than one race, I don’t recommend staying until park closing, since you will be getting up really early again the next day. Drink extra water, take breaks if you need to, and just enjoy yourself.

******************

Congratulations on finishing your race, but be warned that runDisney events are very addicting, so I am sure this will not be your last. See you at the next one!

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Jaime

It’s funny I just started running this year and decided that trying to complete the glass slipper challenge is going on my bucket list. I figure the only way I’d run a half-marathon is if I can go through Disney World to do it.
Some day….

My friend said that Disney used to give park tickets to the runners after the race. Too bad they don’t do that anymore! I’m training for he Princess Half next year!
Great info!

EMily

I am signed up for races that will qualify for the coast to coast challenge, how do I relay this to rundisney to be eligible for the medal?

Tina

So, we will be at WDW during the wine and dine half marathon. We are not participating. How does this event effect the crowd levels and the parks?

Kris P

I’m also wondering about how the races will affect the park crowds. We are planning to be in Epcot the evening of the Star Wars half marathon on April 23rd. Are the crowds higher due to the race?

Shannon Phillips

Great info!! You don’t need a park ticket to run, correct?

You do not need a park ticket to run, but if you go to a park afterwards you will need one.

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