RunDisney for Beginners

The marathon is done. But the running at Disney World is not. I’m hooked. I loved the spirit and excitement of running the race, and also, NO HILLS. After training in the land of hills (Austin) this was a more than welcome course. It’s quite possible that I may be having a girls’ weekend with my running partner in crime at Disney for the Princess Half Marathon Glass Slipper Challenge next year. Can you imagine Disney WITHOUT kids? Oh my gosh. So exciting. Nothing is firm, but I’m all about girl trips after Blissdom last year so who knows what’s in the works.

Bring money. The expo is so awesome you’re gonna wanna buy it all. Sweaty bands, official shirts, running belts, you name it and they sell it. ESPN is a cool venue so there’s probably something for your family to do while you drool over all the nerdy running stuff. They can always go eat or hang out playing at the arcade.

There’s only one catch to running Disney. You want to do all the things and that means that you’ll be walking miles (literally, I clocked us at 12 miles one day). This is obviously a wee bit of a complication if you are getting to run a half or full marathon. Typically you take it easy the couple days before the race. BUT IT’S DISNEY! Magic Kingdom! Epcot! Animal Kingdom! Hollywood Studios!

Let’s be real, you’re gonna explore the parks, especially if you have an entourage with you. So here’s my advice for doing a runDisney event:

1) Bring comfortable shoes. It may be hot or it may not be. Regardless, bring tennis shoes or some other shoe that will make you feel comfy and won’t tear up your feet before the race (blisters are very very bad).

2) If at all possible, try to get a separate room for the night of the race. Or be sure you have very patient and tolerant people in your room because you have to be out the door by about 4:30 and that means that you will be up by 4:00. Luckily my brother came to Disney so I just camped out in his room. It was kinda awesome sharing a room with my brother after like 80 million years.

3) Lay out everything the night before. Bib, running headband, hat, sunglasses, anything you plan to check, you name it, put it in a pile and make sure you check and recheck. Getting ready at 4 am, you’ll be wired and also tired so you don’t want to forget something. It’s a pain taking the bus back to get something you forgot.

4) Call it an early night the day before the race. You’re getting up early. Seriously, this is a no brainer. You may have to miss the Disney Electrical Parade that you haven’t seen since you were 16, but that is what you’ve gotta do. Eyes on the prize people. You are there to run and if you’re gonna run you’ve gotta give it your all. I stayed back while everyone went out around 5 and relaxed (spazzed), had dinner at the hotel (pizza and carbo loaded on cookies), then just listened to music while I wound down. Realistically I didn’t sleep but I did nap. Do what you can.

5) If you have kids, bring back up. Be sure you have people who can keep them busy and can maybe even get them out on the course. If you don’t have your chEAR squad with you, your friends out of town can track your progress by signing up for texts or emails. It’s pretty awesome and gives them a push to text you with encouragement.

6) Get to the buses early. They fill up quickly. The race starts at 5:30 technically, but depending on the corral you end up in, you’ll start way later. I didn’t start till 45 minutes after the race started. I was M group and there was A-P. The cool thing is that they kick every group off with fireworks and an intro from Mickey. Be sure you take video of the kickoff, it’s unforgettable and you’ll be glad you did. *see also #8

7) Be ready for the weather–duh, this is any race. It’s Florida. Have a contingency plan that includes a waterproof windbreaker in case it’s raining (or a disposable poncho), a long sleeve shirt and leggings, or a short sleeve and shorts. And always bring your compression socks for after.

8) Charge up your phone. Like a lot. And then turn every single thing off so that you have enough battery to get you through the race, especially if you have people to meet up with. You definitely want a camera–there are tons of opportunities for incredible pics! I turned off my GPS and pretty much everything. I let the official chip time do it’s job and didn’t even bother using my interval timer. The awesome thing was being able to get texts from friends and family. Talk about motivation!

9) There are tons of water stops. I hate running with water and it wasn’t an issue. They had water and Powerade. They even had it available if you needed a refill. Refreshing, literally.

10) After the race: have Tylenol on hand. I took some before too. I wish I’d brought an ice pack with me too. My knee flared up and it was not pleasant. The cool thing is that there are medical tents all over the place and they will douse you with Biofreeze if you want them too (think Bengay but colder and more awesome). Don’t be afraid to stop and ask for your help when you need it. There are fire department officials riding bikes all along the way.

Oh, but the course and spectators.

Running through Magic Kingdom and Epcot was awesome. By the time you are finishing, Epcot is open. Animal Kingdom was meh. Hollywood Studios was kind of cool and you get to see a lot of the backlot stuff. You also run a lot of nothing. But after the nothing you get to run the race tracks at ESPN and the Richard Petty Experience racetrack. Pretty cool.

But my one gripe about doing a runDisney event. There are very few places to watch your runner while on the course. You either get out at the crack of dawn to see them along certain routes, or you have to get to a hotel to watch them from a certain area–if you are staying there, or you have to watch them from a park–which means you have to use your pass that day in the park (unless you have a park hopper).

Unfortunately because of the horrible logistics, I asked my family to stay back. Trying to coordinate where I’d be and when would be a nightmare. Not to mention they’d be at the mercy of buses getting there on time.

The cool thing though was that because most of the parks weren’t open yet, there were tons of cast members along the way that were cheering you on. And the areas where there were spectators was awesome because some of them had really good signs. These were my two favorites:

When you’re done, grab your medal and wear it loud and proud. EVERYONE wears medals and shirts all over the park all weekend. If you don’t, you’ll feel left out. But if you’re like me, people will know you did the race because you’re gimpier than a lame horse. But damn was it worth it.


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