I started off 2015 by completing the Dopey Challenge. Participating in a runDisney weekend really emphasizes that this is a (half) marathon not a sprint! While I am not an expert at all things runDisney, I thought I would share my tips for having a successful race weekend as well as a vacation!
Stay at a Disney Resort (if you can). The primary reason is transportation to and from the race. Buses get fast tracked (and sometimes there still is a decent amount of a wait). You don’t want to miss your start because you couldn’t make it to the parking in time. There are also hotels near Downtown Disney that also offer race weekend packages, which includes transportation to the start.
Book your dining reservations yesterday. Know when and where you are going to eat. Especially for you Dopeys out there. If you’re staying and eating at Disney this is key. This includes dining at Downtown Disney.
Go to bed at a reasonable hour. If you’re running just one race, you might be able to get away with a later evening. But if you’re running Goofy or Dopey, multiple early mornings will catch up to you.
Prepare for early wake-up calls. You have to be at the races no later than an hour before the start. You need to budget time for breakfast, morning routine and transportation to the start area.
Plan for breakfast. The resort cafes will not be open when you would like to enjoy your pre-race meal. Some of the Downtown Disney hotels did offer special grab-n-go meals to their runners.
Be mindful of when the buses stop running for road closures. Also keep in mind that as it gets closer to last call, the buses will be more crowded and even stop accepting riders (for safety reasons). Off-site hotels sometimes make you schedule a bus time as well.
Plan to be at the start area for an hour. This might mean an extra snack and a bottle of water. Don’t worry there are plenty of portable restrooms for you to use and space to do your warm-up strides.
Pack for the weather extremes. When I started stalking the weather report for Dopey 2015, the projection was for 60 degrees at the start. As the races approached, the 5K was going to be in the 40s, but the rest of the week would be 60s. And as the race drew closer, it appeared that all races would be a bit cold! This might mean packing a variety of race (and throw away) gear.
Understand that there are 20,000+ runners for the half and full marathons. This means that the course might be crowded at various points. The corral system is efficient for handling this, but there are points where the course narrows and can cause temporary clusters.
Embrace the excuse to run in a costume. Seriously. The best part of running Disney is planning my race costume then being in awe of all of the other costumes out there. Just make sure that the costume is something you can run in (and won’t cause chafing) and doesn’t involve a mask (since that’s against the rules).
Enjoy the magical miles. Running through the parks is quite an experience. You’ll see the lighting and so many things that you don’t notice during the day. Plus many Disney employees are out there cheering for you. Every race has something different that makes me feel like a kid at Christmas all over again.
Stop for character pictures. I don’t follow this advice and every time I always regret it.
Slow down. If you’re a serious runner, this is your chance to stop racing and take it all in. I have issues letting my competitive side go, but Disney is the perfect excuse to allow yourself not to be chasing a PR. This also means that if you’re a 4 hour marathoner, pack enough fuel for 5 hours because it’s better to be safe than sorry. (NOTE: I am not saying to add an hour on to you run time, but just to plan to be out on the course for a little bit extra than normal!)
Pack your medals. If you’re doing Dopey or Goofy (or even later in the year doing Coast to Coast), if you want an Official photo of you with all of your medals, you’re going to have to run with them. If you want an unofficial near the finish photo, then just pack them in gear bag. I wrapped mine in the race tee, so that they wouldn’t get scratched while being carried.
Plan on enjoy all that Disney has to offer. This means plan a day or two at the parks. Utilize the fastpass+ system so you’re not spending half the day on your feet in lines. If you book your meal reservations, this also means you’ll eat on your own personal schedule too. If you’re like me, I can be a bit hangry if I don’t eat on time prior to a race; so bring snacks too!
Know that it’s okay to enjoy Orlando outside of Disney. Head over to Universal Studios. Or anywhere. Just because you’re running Disney does not mean you’re confined to the Resorts.
Head to the Expo. This is a given since you need to get your bib. But one tip first. If you spy anything you must-have when runDisney posts preview pics on their facebook, plan on being at the expo when it opens. Official merchandise sells out fast. I would suggest skipping the line for bib pickup and go directly to the Expo Merchandise area. Come back and do the bib thing after you’re done shopping.
Budget accordingly. Expo shopping, park souvenirs and meals can add up quickly. Have a budget planned in advanced so you don’t have a mild heart attack when you see your credit card bill!
Lastly, keep in mind that these are just my tips for a successful runDisney vacation weekend. These tips are primarily aimed at travelers like myself coming in from out of state who plan on enjoying a vacation while running Disney. I would like to note that I am not an expert. For that I will defer to Megan Biller who is the author of Magical Miles: The Runner’s Guide to WDW.
I am not an expert. I will defer to Megan Biller author of Magical Miles The Runner’s Guide to WDW.
You can always review my Race Recaps from the 2015 Dopey Challenge. Or Leave a Question in the comments!