runDisney races are my absolute favorite. The atmosphere, the sights, the people, and of course, the location are amazing.
But they can be overwhelming. Navigating through registration, the expo, and the starting line can be a lot, even for a seasoned runDisney runner.
So what do you need to know to make your life a little easier? I cover the entire process, from registration to the finish line here.
Disney races tend to sell out quickly. You have to know you want to run these races and register quickly (think hours, sometimes!).
You also have to know you want to run them about 8 months ahead of time.
The 10k and 5k tend to sell out fairly quickly, with the longer races (half marathon, full marathon, and challenges) not selling out quite as quickly.
When registering, you are able to pre-purchase some of the gear from the weekend. I ended up buying a runDisney jacket and a shoe ornament. You then pick up your gear at the expo when you arrive for race weekend. More on that in a minute.
If the race you want to run is sold out, you can opt for a charity bib. In those cases, you will instead raise money for that charity. Each has their own set amount you have to raise to get your bib.
I actually ran with RODS Racing for the marathon in 2018 and loved running for a charity! It’s like a brotherhood coming together for a great cause. If you are willing and able to get charitable donations, I’d totally recommend going that route!
Quick note on training
There are a lot of great training programs out there. One that I love is the Jeff Galloway training plan.
Jeff Galloway is an Olympian who made the run/walk program famous. The great thing about Disney is that it is one of the friendliest, if not the friendliest, races to run/walkers. I’d bet they make up for at least half of each race!
And I was one of them.
Galloway’s program is known for cutting down chances for injury, in case you are prone to it. He offers programs for anything from 9 minute/mile all the way up to the max recommended pace for the race, 16 minute/mile.
The Expo, merchandise, and bib pick-up
I’m just going to start by saying: Disney is excellent at keeping race weekends organized.
It would be so easy to get lost, turned around, or confused because of the sheer number of people flooding the Wide World of Sports and the starting line. But Disney has a way of organizing foot traffic and placing signs and volunteers exactly where they’re needed.
The expo is held at Disney’s Wide World of Sports (WWoS), and it’s super easy to navigate.
If you are staying on Disney property, there are special buses just to take runners and their families to the expo and back (also to the race, but more on that later).
We stayed at the Art of Animation, so the bus to take us to the expo was at the very front of the bus line, ahead of the buses that go to the parks. The bus will drop you off at the WWoS, and there will be temporary signs all over the drop-off area to see where you catch your return bus.
Disney had the entrance to bib and merchandise pickup super easy to navigate. They had a sign indicating which entrance to use for what you needed, and clearly marked signs along the way to guide you.
*One important note is that you cannot bring strollers into the expo/bib pickup areas. There is stroller parking outside of the doors, and about half of it is covered.*
We first picked up my bib, then headed over to the merchandise counter for preorder pickup (again, this is clearly marked, so it leaves little room for confusion!).
The great thing about merchandise pickup is that, if you preordered the wrong size, you are still able to switch it out for the correct size. You just let them know, they’ll look up your order, then head to the bin that holds your correct size. Super easy.
Now, if you did not preorder merchandise, they still have shopping available. They have a limited stock however, and things sell out quickly.
We went to the expo on Saturday (last day) in the morning, and there were only 2XL and up available in clothing. I’d highly recommend preordering your clothing when you register, or else you could run into the same thing!
Once we checked out, we headed outside and around the corner to go into the expo.
Disney’s runDisney expos are packed with a lot of great stuff. Venders have booths with everything from bib snaps to running shoes to bluetooth headphones to running fuel available for purchase.
Even if you do not have the intent to purchase anything, it’s still fun to check it out.
My absolute favorite thing to do at the expo is go to the KT Tape booth. They have a few people that actually tape you up – for free! The only downside is the line can get rather long, but it’s something I recommend doing.
You mention what is bothering you, they prep the area with alcohol pads, and apply the tape so that it actually stays put while you race.
Jeff Galloway also typically makes an appearance at the expos, so it’s great to go chat with him. He’ll even sign your bib!
The expo is a pretty fun, high energy gathering of runners and venders who love runners. Don’t miss it!
Okay, the part I’m most excited about!
If you’re a runner, you know the excitement that fills race morning and leading up to the start line. If this is your first race, oh boy. Are you in for it! I’m pumped full of adrenaline just thinking about it!
Transportation to race
Disney races start at 5:30am, and it is very important to get there with plenty of time to spare. The 2019 Wine and Dine Half Marathon had about 13,000 runners cross the finish line, so there are a good number of people wandering around the start line. (There are even more at some of the larger races, like Marathon Weekend and Princess Weekend).
If you are staying on Disney property, there will be transportation provided to and from the start line. These are typically the large Motor Coach buses, so everyone who boards should have a seat available, unlike Disney transportation to and from the parks.
The buses start picking up from the resorts at about 3am, and the last bus picks up around 5am (I would NOT recommend leaving this late!).
Before the race amenities
The drop-off is a walk from the main area, mostly because of the sheer number of people being dropped off at once.
There is a checkpoint where you choose one of two sides: if you have bags with you or not. If you have a bag to check, you will head over to gEAR check. It’s recommended to use the clear bag given to you that you receive at bib pickup.
After gEAR check, there is a large area with food trucks (stocked with muffins, bagels, bananas, coffee, etc.), entertainment, character meet-ups, aid tents, charity tents, and most importantly, the porta potties.
At the 2019 Wine and Dine half marathon, the characters available for meet-up before the race were Goofy, Mickey, Minnie, Donald Duck, Anna, and Elsa. Depending on when you get there, the lines can be almost an hour long!
The porta potty lines were very well managed and moved quickly. I’d say I was through the line and moving on in about 10 minutes’ time.
The corrals open at 5am, and once you’re at your corral, the first in get the front of that corral.
The corrals are let go in waves. The first few corrals are typically let go in their entirety at once, but as the larger corrals start lining up, they are split into several smaller groups.
Where you land depends on how early you walked into your corral. The earlier you were and farther in front you landed, the earlier you will start your race.
The starting line was constant high energy and excitement! When each wave was let go, a small fireworks display shot up and music played.
Fuel along the course
At each runDisney race, there are water stops around every mile to mile and a half. At each water station, they offered both water and watered down (my opinion) Powerade.
As for food stops, there are 1-2 in the half marathons and about 5 in the full marathon. When I ran the 2019 Wine and Dine half marathon, there was one food stop around mile 8 with Sports Beans. And when I ran the 2018 full marathon, there were 5 food stops. Food varied with bananas (two of the stops), Sports Beans (two of the stops), and chocolate (near the end!).
There were also several medical stops, about as often as you find water stops, where there were bandaids, Biofreeze, over-the-counter pain medicine, and vaseline readily available.
They even preloaded vaseline onto popsicle sticks so you could keep moving!
And the characters!
Characters sure are plentiful at runDisney races. You’ll spot several before, during, and after the races.
And bonus: the lines go super fast! I waited in line a max of about 5-7 minutes at character stops during the race.
The cool thing about the character stops at runDisney events is that you oftentimes see some rare characters out there.
There are PhotoPass photographers all over, including character stops, to take your picture for you. Once you link your bib to your PhotoPass account, the pictures are yours!
Of course, like any Disney pictures, you’ll have to have Memory Maker for the pictures. They are also totally willing to use your cell phone to take your pictures, if you don’t want the professional picture.
THE FINISH LINE
YOU DID IT! You made it to the finish line, where there are ample photographers, volunteers holding medals, and a crowd of people cheering you on.
It gets me every time.
After you cross the finish line and grab your medal, you continue through the barricaded area to grab your food and drink (free), an optional picture holding the “I DID IT” sign, and then over to gEAR check, if you checked a bag.
There are first aid tents, where the volunteers have small bags of ice they can tape to you. Lots of people took advantage of that! Also, if you need it, there is a baby care tent available with private nursing areas.
There’s also a family meet-up area and food/drink tents. And LOTS of people go for a beer at the food tents. Like, almost everyone. No shame that it’s morning time; you’ve been up for a while.
From there, you can head straight for the buses to take you back to your resort.
Lastly, display that medal
If you decide to stay at Disney after your race, be sure to wear that medal proudly to the parks!
Wearing it shows off your accomplishment, and almost every cast member will smile and say congratulations.
No matter the race you did, wear it proudly! You’re part of the club now!