Run Disney is a Disney entity that hosts races in the Disney parks. At this time races are taking place in Walt Disney World, and Disneyland Paris.
This entry will cover only races at Walt Disney World.
The races take place during “race weekends” where a series of races are held in the mornings over a few consecutive days. These weekends draw large crowds and each race has thousands and thousands of runners.
They range in length from a 5K to a full marathon. There are also kid’s races that take place at Disney’s Wide World of Sports in Disney World. In addition there are several virtual races that go on each year.
All races have to be registered for and are paid for ahead of time. Registration typically opens up about 9 months prior to the race. The races can and do sell out, particularly the shorter distances. I suggest planning ahead and knowing what day registration opens up then registering ASAP that day.
All races welcome runner, joggers, or walkers. You just have to be able to keep up a 16 mile per minute pace.
Every finisher will earn a medal at the finish line.
The race offerings stay fairly consistent year to year. In 2020 there will be 4 race weekends. While each weekend has a theme each race will also have a theme. For example at Princess Weekend the overall theme is Disney Princesses while the half marathon theme may be Cinderella. The specific race themes change yearly.
Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend – January
- Half Marathon
- Full Marathon
- Goofy Challenge – Half Marathon and Full Marathon
- Dopey Challenge – 5K, 10K, Half Marathon and Full Marathon
Princess Half Marathon Weekend – February
- Half Marathon
- Fairy Tale Challenge – 10K & Half Marathon
Springtime Surprise – April
- These races theming and distance change up every year.
Summer Virtual Races
- A series of three 5K will be offered as well as a challenge of running all three 5Ks
Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend – November
- Half Marathon
- Two Course Challenge – 10K & Half Marathon
If you really want to challenge yourself and earn an extra medal at the final finish line you can sign up for a challenge. In a challenge you run multiple races back to back on consecutive days. The ultimate being the Dopey Challenge where you run a 5K, 10K, Half Marathon and then Full Marathon over the course of 4 mornings.
The race courses will take you through a Disney park, for the longer races through several. While your time running in the park will be memorable and thrilling the vast majority of the race will be on highways and roads throughout Disney property.
Starting lines and finish lines are in parking lots. Most typically at EPCOT with the view of Spaceship Earth in the background.
The highlight of many half and full marathons is running in Magic Kingdom down Main Street and through Cinderella’s Castle.
The day before or a few days before your race you will have to visit the Expo. The Expo is held at Disney’s Wide World of Sports and is accessible by bus from your Disney resorts.
Here you will pick up your bib which you will wear during the race. As well as drop off your safety waiver and get your included t-shirt. You will also have the opportunity to purchase additional Run Disney merchandise, or shop at one of many third party vendors.
There are also running seminars you can attend free of charge. This is also where the kids races are run.
Disney provides free bus transportation from all Disney hotels to the race start. But be sure to get in line early for the bus. I suggest getting there at least 15 minutes before the first bus is scheduled.
The busses will also run later on to bring you back to the hotel after you finish.
The monorail will also be running.
You can also drive to the starting area and park. Make sure you get there early as roads will close to allow for the race to start.
** Always double and triple check your bus and start times the day before and follow Run Disney on social media for any updates or day of emergency changes **
The Race Itself!
Be ready for large crowds!
You will see lots of running outfits and costumes. Almost everyone has a themed outfit or their race shirt on with some even wearing elaborate costumes.
Expect a long wait at the starting line. The busses drop you off near the runners welcome area. Here you will find porta potties, character meet and greets, and bag check. From there you will walk to the starting area. It is about a mile walk by the time you get to the start line.
Every runner is assigned a starting corral (group) based on their submitted expected finish time. You will then line up at the start based on that group. Runners are released onto the course in waves to prevent any stampeding free-for-alls at the start. This process can take some time, about an hour for a half marathon, for the entire field to start.
While on the course make sure you are keeping a pace of 16 minutes per mile. Disney starts the pacing count when the last runner crosses the starting line, so if you started 20 minutes before them then you have some cushion in the pace. The “balloon ladies” are a group of volunteers who are the last to start all Disney races and they keep to the exact 16 minute pace. As long as you are in front of them you are on pace. If you fall behind pace you are in danger of being removed from the course by Run Disney and placed on a bus to be driven to the finish line and not allowed to finish.
You will see lots of run/walkers. This is a style of running where you run for a set interval of time and then walk for a set interval of time. You will see a lot of groups and individuals on the course employing this method. Disney offers training programs on the Run Disney website that include this method.
** Race Etiquette – When taking a walk break make sure to keep to the right. If you are going to stop running raise your hand to let those behind you know. **
Photographers will be all over the course and at the finish line. You will notice their brightly colored vests or chairs to be able to spot them. If you have Memory Maker you can link these photos to your account using your bib number. Or you can purchase them individually. I recommend purchasing memory maker in advance of your trip for the discount and so you can share you photos on social media ASAP.
Tons of on course entertainment:
- Character Stops – Get a photo with your favorite character mid run
- Music – DJs , drum lines, choirs and more are along the course.
- Mile Markers – Every mile is a mile marker featuring a Disney character
At The Finish Line
Seeing the finish line finally in front of you is an amazing feeling. You did it! The crowds are cheering, Characters are high fiving runners and the announcers celebrating. All while photographers get that perfect shot of you crossing the finish line.
Then you will be given your medal, a snack box, water, and the chance to take photos with your medal.
You are then ushered to the reunion area where you can meet up with your friends and family, as well as meet some more characters, shop for last minute merchandise, grab some light food and hope the bus back to your hotel or walk to your car.
If you have someone with you who would like to cheer Disney makes it easy to do.
You can cheer at pretty much any point along the course but some are easier to get to then others.
While you can not cheer at the starting line you can take the bus to the EPCOT parking area with your runner then hop on the monorail to Magic Kingdom to see them run down Main Street. A ticket is not needed to get into Magic Kingdom for cheering.
Other great places to cheer, depending on the course are at the Ticket and Transportation Authority, the Polynesian Resort, the Boardwalk Area, and Future World in EPCOT.
At the finish line there is limited viewing of the actual finish but you can see them right after the finish. You can also enjoy the reunion area out of sight of the course, where there is some seating available.
If you want to see your runner go through the castle or the finish line you will need to join the Cheer Squad.
Cheer Squad is a package that can be purchased through Run Disney. It allows you access to prime cheering area, seating at the finish line and some merchandise. While this is an added expense I highly recommend the Cheer Squad package especially if this is a special race for your runner.
You can take the bus back to the hotel with your runner.
After your race, and some rest time at the hotel this is the perfect oppurtunity for a special meal, or to hit the parks wearing the brand new medal.
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