10 Things to Know Before Your First runDisney Race

10 Things to Know Before Your First runDisney Race

This weekend, thousands of runners and Disney fans will take to the streets of Anaheim, California for the Disneyland Half Marathon weekend. While I am not there this year, I have been in previous years. As someone who didn’t start running until the age of 49, the fact that my very first race ever was at Disney was a little daunting – after all, I am a middle age woman, I was not an experienced or fast runner, and I was there with thousands, yes thousands of people! But, that’s the thing about the running community. They are, for the most part, very supportive. And, after all, you are running at Disney!

After my husband and I got signed up for that first race (months in advance!) I knew I needed more information. Before that first race, I studied. I searched the runDisney website, I Google searched for blogs about the run, I anxiously waited for that first race. So, here are a few things I learned during my research and during the numerous runDisney races I have participated in since then.

1. Plan to spend some time at the Race Expo.

Disney race expos are large, can be crowded, but most of all they are fun! Especially if you are interested in special race merchandise (Dooney’s anyone?) you will want to attend the expo and devote at least 3 to 4 hours to getting through everything. In addition to the Disney exclusive themed merchandise they have for each of their races, there are numerous other running related booths. Shoes, socks, running apparel, belts – those are just the beginning. There are also what I like to call the keepsake type booths – jewelry, shadow boxes for your medals and other memorabilia, medal holders – and lots more. If you are interested specifically in the Disney exclusive specially themed race merchandise I highly suggest you get to the Expo on the first day it is open. Many of the more popular items will sell out, and you don’t want to find yourself trying to track it down on eBay at a premium price. Also, just a little FYI, annual passholders do get their discount on the Disney merchandise at the expo. There will be lots of merchandise for you to choose from, so plan your souvenir budget accordingly.

2. Costumes are a huge part of Disney races, but make sure you know the rules.

 For example, masks are not allowed. This is their official policy:  “Costumes cannot interfere with the safety of you or other runners. If a costume is questionable or offensive to others, we reserve the right to either have you change into something more appropriate or remove you from the event.” Obviously, there is some gray area here. But, you won’t be allowed to run with a prop (like a spear or something!) if it is possible you might fall and impale yourself, or someone else, or if it appears to look like a weapon. Costumes are a fun way to be a part of the race. Just a word of caution, however. If you are running a half marathon or the full marathon, plan your costume accordingly. You may want to go a bit more subtle with your costuming, like using the same color scheme as the character you are representing, but still actually wearing running attire. Here is the full costume policy:

Disney reserves the right to deny admission to or remove any person wearing attire that is considered inappropriate or attire that could detract from the experience of other Guests. All participants and their Guests may dress as their favorite character, but must follow these guidelines as determined solely by Disney.

  • Costumes must be family-friendly and may not be obstructive, offensive, objectionable or violent.
  • Guests who dress like Characters may not pose for pictures or sign autographs for other Guests.
  • Costumes may not contain any weapons that resemble or could easily be mistaken for an actual weapon.
  • Costumes may not contain sharp objects, pointed objects or materials that may accidentally strike another Guest.
  • For runDisney participants ages 13 and under:
    • Costumes and some masks may be worn, as long the mask does not cover the entire face and eyes are visible.
  • For runDisney participants ages 14 and older:
    • Layered costumes, that could conceal prohibited items, are not permitted (e.g. Jedi robes).
    • Costume props, including those that surround the entire body (e.g. Death Star, UP House) are not permitted.
    • Costumes may not reach or drag on the ground. (e.g. full-length Princess dresses)
    • Capes may be worn if the length does not go below the waist.
    • Themed T-shirts, blouses, sweatshirts, and hats are acceptable.
    • Acceptable accessories include: transparent wings, plastic light sabers, toy swords, and tutus. Headwear may be worn as long as it does not cover the face.
    • Guests may not wear masks of any kind.

Please note that while costumed attire may be worn during runDisney events, Guests 14 and older are not permitted to wear costumed attire in the theme parks. As a result, Guests may need to change their attire prior to visiting the parks after participating in a runDisney race.

3. Runners do get swept at Disney races if they don’t maintain a 16 minute/mile pace.

Yes, there are people who follow the last corral of runners and will pick up anyone who falls below the 16 minute/mile pace. Disney suggests, as do I, that you train for at least a 15 minute/mile pace or faster. The course can get crowded in places, we don’t always do our best in race atmosphere, etc. That 1 minute/mile cushion gives you peace of mind – and keeps you ahead of the sweepers. And, if you have any plans to take advantage of the many photo opportunities with characters, you will need to factor that into your time.

4. You must pick up your own bib and shirt at packet pick-up.

And you will need a government issued photo ID to do so. Previously, you could sign a waiver and have someone else pick up your bib. Now, however, you must appear in person with photo ID in hand to pick up your bib. There is a waiver you should download and sign before you go to packet pick-up. It will save you some time if you do that at home before heading to the expo. The race waivers are usually available about two weeks ahead of each event. This just gives you another excellent reason to attend the Race Expo!

5. Disney races take place rain or shine, so plan accordingly.

During the 2014 Wine and Dine Half Marathon (or now affectionately referred to as the Splash and Dash) my husband and I stood in our corral in the rain, and ran 13.1 miles in the rain. The race began at 10 pm, and I got pretty soggy by the time we were done. Many, many people stepped off the course at the first mile and waited to be picked up. But, it was only raining, so as Disney states on their website, the race will go on. Lots of people weren’t happy. We finished – wet, cold and not in any mood to enjoy the park – but we finished. However, races have been cancelled due to lightning or storms. The 2017 Disney World Half Marathon was called off due to the threat of lightning. Again, there were lots of unhappy people, but the decision was made in the interest of safety. Disney offered several different options (refunds, another race registration, completing the half on full marathon day). Just keep informed and watch the weather for your race.

Just another thought about costumes here. Whatever you choose to wear, if there is the threat of rain, keep in mind how it will feel, or how heavy it will be, if soaking wet.

6. There are awards for the top finishers, but don’t plan on a PR in a Disney race.

Unless you are in the first or second corral, the course will be extremely congested. Rather than enjoying yourself, you will be frustrated because you can’t get around a large group of people running together, the course is too narrow, etc. If you do happen to PR, then consider it a happy coincidence. Your award in a Disney race is the sheer joy of being able to run through a theme park or parks, enjoy the on course characters and entertainment, and spend time with family or friends who are crazy enough to run with you.

7. Disney races require proof of time.

You will need to provide a valid chip-timed race result to Disney prior to the race in order to be placed in an earlier starting corral. Otherwise, you will be placed in the last corral. Your proof of time will need to be submitted on your Active.com account, and usually needs to be done three to four months in advance of the race. They will not accept proof of time at packet pick-up, for example.

8. Plan your race day transportation carefully.

For the Disneyland races, this is not as critical. All the races start near the Disneyland Hotel, so most of the Good Neighbor Hotels are within walking distance to the starting corrals. At Disney World, however, this can be issue. Some races start at ESPN, others start in the various parking areas of the parks. If you are staying on property, you will want to check to be sure that the buses are running at the time you need to be in your starting corral. And, not all races are a loop. The Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon, for example, started in the Epcot parking lot and finished at ESPN. Runners were bused back to Epcot, and let me tell you, it would have been less smelly for everyone if they had bused us before the race!

9. Get to your assigned corral early.

Yes, you will spend some time just sitting or standing waiting on things to get going. But the last thing you want is to be running up to the starting area and not be allowed to enter your corral. Plan to arrive at least an hour ahead of the scheduled starting time. You will need time to get through the lines for gear bag drop-off, bathrooms, and finding your starting corral. Remember, there are thousands of people at the same race, trying to do the same things you are at exactly the same time.

10. Enjoy the race!

That’s what makes Disney races so special. There is a ton of on-course entertainment, including characters, music, and even Green Army Men motivating you on those last miles. You get to run through one or more Disney parks while they are closed to the public. One of the most incredible sights for me was seeing Cars Land in California Adventure before sunrise, all lit up and decorated for the holidays, and running past It’s a Small World in Disneyland. During the Princess Half Marathon, we got to run through Cinderella’s castle.  Running down Main Street in Disneyland or Disney World is amazing.

So there are just a few things to know before you run your first Disney race. I’llbe running in the Disney World Half Marathon in January, I look forward to seeing you there!


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