Some people may think dressing in character and running around Disney is silly, but as Walt said, “That’s the real trouble with the world. Too many people grow up.”
Plus, the best reason to do a Disney race? Visiting the parks afterwards!
Running a Disney race is unlike a typical road race. I’ve done quite a few Disney races and can tell you first hand, they’re all about the experience.
How Disney races I’ve run have stacked up for me:
- Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend: I did the 10k and half marathon in 2016, and ran the full marathon in 2014. The marathon experience was great and served as a catalyst for me getting back into running Disney events. However, while I liked these races, they didn’t hold the same magic as my favorite runDisney event does- the Princess Half
- Tinkerbell Half Marathon Weekend: Held on Mother’s Day in 2015, I enjoyed running with other runners dressed as princesses or fairies. However, I did enjoy the 2014 Disneyland Half Marathon course more- it felt like we were in the parks longer and we ran through the Angels stadium. Overall, I’m hesitant to do another Disney race in California because travel costs are higher than in Florida (cross-country plane ticket, fewer resort/hotel options, crowding more people into a smaller space, etc.)
- Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend: Ran the half in August 2014 and really enjoyed the experience. Loved the course at the time, not sure if it’s still the same, but there’s also something to be said for the level of support from the town of Anaheim- really motivating!
- Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend: I did this race in 2015 when severe weather cut the course short by 6 miles and resulted in some pretty frustrating organization issues. While we didn’t get to run the half distance, the after-party at the Wine & Dine Food Festival was still a lot of fun. I’d give this race another chance- it feels less “Disney” than some of the other themed runs, but it’s fun in its own way. And, you can’t beat a race that ends with wine and food bites from around the world!
- Princess Half Marathon Weekend: After running the half marathon for the first time in 2012, doing the Glass Slipper Challenge in 2015, and running the half again in 2017, I can honestly say this Disney race is my favorite. The course goes through the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, and there may be a lot of highway in between, but there’s also a lot of spirit from other runners and Disney’s entertainment. Also, I loooove that so many people dress up as the different princesses for this event (including men in tutus!)
- The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10 Miler: Sadly this nighttime run through Walt Disney World, ending in Hollywood Studios with a villain themed after-party is no longer offered. If it was, I’d definitely recommend doing it- I ran it in 2014 and loved the experience
- The Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend & Disneyland Paris Half Marathon are both on my list of races I’d like to do in the next two years
Tips for Running a Disney Race:
- Choosing to run a Disney race is really about expectation setting. When you look at runDisney’s site, it’s easy to get caught up in what your experience will be like: Pictures of runners high-fiving characters, confetti tossed at the finish line. The truth: Unless you’re the first to finish, it’s going to be just like any other race finish, and there will likely be lines to take a photo with characters. Don’t expect it to be a perfect experience. Go into it with the mindset of having fun.
- Plan early, entry feels go on sale 6-8 months before the races and usually sell out within hours or days. The Disneyland Half Marathon weekend sold out in a single day, and the Princess Half Marathon has been known to sell out in hours. Registration fees are also pricey, so start saving early.
- Most Disney races start early (5 am), so I recommend staying at a host resort or a good neighbor hotel the night before the race. WDW provides buses to the start line/from the finish line back to the hotel, so it’s one less thing you need to worry about. At my first Disney race, I stayed with friends in Orlando and tried driving to the start. My friends live 20 minutes from Disney and we sat in traffic for almost 2 hours on the way there.
- Whether it’s your first race or ninth, take advantage of the training plans Disney offers.
- If you’re flying, pack your running gear in a carry-on bag so you have it when you land.
- Since Disney races start so early, it’s often chilly at the start line. Bring warm clothes (garbage bags work well) to take off when you start running. Disney donates clothes left behind to charity.
- Experience is what sets a Disney race apart. Yes, you’ll likely pay a lot of money in registration and travel fees (not to mention cost for hotels or time spent in the parks), but the expos are some of the best I’ve ever attended, the medals are beautiful and t-shirts are top quality. There’s also great on-course entertainment, and something to be said for the level of organization throughout (it’s top-notch).
- Wear a costume or at least a fun running outfit. Trust me, everyone runs in tutus or dressed as characters. Pinterest is go-to for inspiration, but I like this Etsy shop for ordering character skirts, this Etsy shop for custom mouse ears, and this store for wings/sparkling skirts.
- Try to get to the expo on the first day it’s open. They’re great expos, but usually pretty crowded and official race merchandise sells out quickly.
- If you’re checking a bag at the race, dry socks and a shirt change can make the post-race experience much more enjoyable (especially if you’re running one of the nighttime races and going to the after-party).
- Take pictures with the course characters. Make sure you have your phone and camera ready, stay charged throughout the race with a back-up battery.
- Spend some time at the finish line– Disney provides water, Powerade and a box of snacks. There are also fun photo opps with characters.
- More so than at other races, Disney runners are so encouraging. My first half marathon was the Disney Princess half in 2012. Around mile 9, I just wanted to sit down and give up. The runners around me wouldn’t let that happen. Even though I didn’t know any of them, they challenged me to run with them when I slowed to a walk.
- Don’t forget your confidence. When in doubt, I always tell myself: The voice in your head that says you can’t do this is a LIAR.
- Obviously, you’ll be bringing a photo ID and running clothes/shoes, but there are a few other things I bring to every race: energy gels (obsessed with these salted caramel gels); hydration belt; mini foam roller; headphones, sunscreen, chapstick; flip flops to change into post-race.