20 Ways to Make the Most of your runDisney Race Experience!
runDisney runDisney Tips Running & Fitness

20 Ways to Make the Most of your runDisney Race Weekend Experience!

With the Disneyland Half Marathon just around the corner, another runDisney season is about to begin! Are you registered for an upcoming race weekend? Awesome, you’re in for an amazing adventure! To celebrate, here’s 20 tips and suggestions to help you make the most of your runDisney race weekend.

Oh, and if you’re not yet registered but have your eyeball on an upcoming race weekend, here’s some runDisney registration tips as well as a video! Now, grab some coffee in your favorite Disney mug, throw on some Mickey ears and let’s go!

20 Ways to Make the Most of your runDisney Race Experience!

Before your trip!

1.) Enter a Proof of Time

Or POT for short. If you’re registered for a half marathon and believe you’ll be able to finish in less than 2:45 hours, then you’ll want to enter a proof of time for start corral placement. Otherwise, you will be placed in the last corral, meaning you’ll have a much later start and lines will be longer for character photo stop. Have a POT that’s more than 2:45 hours? That’s okay, I’d enter it anyway since it might move you up a corral.

To do so, submit a proof of time by your race’s deadline which you can find on the runDisney website under “Runner Info” and “Proof of Time.”

For a Half Marathon, the accepted distances are  10K, 12K, 15K, 10-Mile, Half Marathon or Marathon from an officially timed event that posts results online for verification. For a full marathon, it’s 10 Mile, Half Marathon or Marathon.

2.) Make a costume!

If you’re worried about feeling out of place by wearing a costume … trust me. You won’t be out of place.

Like, seriously. You won’t.

If anything, you’d be the outcast since you’ll be surrounded by excited runners wearing costumes. Some of which will be very elaborate, some will be simple and comfortable. Even a colorful Sparkle Athletic skirt and visor paired with a tank top will get you by. So go ahead and join in the fun by wearing a costume and if you have other friends going, do something awesome as a group!

If you need any tips on how to make a running costume, check out this post, this post, or this video.

Group Running Costume from Disney's Cars Movie

How to make the most of your #runDisney Race Experience! #werunsocial #DisneylandHalf Click To Tweet

3.) Join a runDisney-based Facebook group

One thing I love about these race weekends is how the excitement starts long before the event in many different runDisney-based Facebook groups. There, you can meet fellow participants, encourage each other throughout training, share and give race tips, and plan meet-ups!

To find one, simply enter “rundisney” or the name of your race in the search and you will find several to choice from.

4.) Train!

Yeah. You gotta train. There’s always a catch, right? And while I’m a big fan of Pixie Dust … aka adrenaline, crowd motivation, and runner inspiration … you can’t rely on it to get you to the finish line. Plus runDisney races are different from other local ones because not only must you be in shape enough to finish, but you also want to feel good enough afterwards to celebrate in the parks.

So yeah. Get the miles in. Cross train. Strength train. Stretch and foam roll. Learn about nutrition and what kind of fueling needs work best for you. You’ll be glad you did. Not only will your race experience be better, you’ll also have little to no pre-race anxiety. After all, runDisney races are expensive. You want to make sure you’re conditioned enough to fully enjoy it!

If you are a fan of interval training, then check out the many training plans Jeff Galloway has designed on the runDisney site. Hal Higdon also has several training plans that tend to be more for experienced runner plus there are countless others!

5.) Study the Official Digital Event Guide

I have to admit, this is something I’ve mostly failed to do in the past. For this reason, I had no clue there would be no Powerade offered during the 2016 Disneyland 10k.

Now I make sure to read of runDisney’s Official Event Guides that come out roughly two weeks prior before a race weekend. (Here’s 2017’s Disneyland Half Marathon’s.) Inside, you’ll find starting times for each race, bus schedules, course maps, etiquette tips, and other important information customized for your race. For the expo, they’ll also list starting times, expo and vendor maps, speaker descriptions and times.

At around the same time, they will also release a Virtual Goody Bag filled with offers and special items just for race weekend participants.

Now. About those course maps. If you have any anxiety issues or think you might be overwhelmed, study them to get a feel for water stops, time spent in the parks, and where the real bathrooms are.

6.) Watch Video Recaps or read Blog Recaps!

If you’re feeling tired and unmotivated to train, then watch a video race recap or read a blog recap from the runDisney weekend you’re signed up for! This will most definitely get you excited about your upcoming race all over again and get you out the door.

Not only do recaps give inspiration, they’ll also give you a feel for the course and a lay of the land for those of you who are first-timers. We have recaps from nearly every runDisney weekend over at our YouTube Channel or you can find a complete list of blog recaps here!

7.) Make ADR’s and Fastpass+ Reservations

runDisney weekends can be pretty hectic as well as tiring, considering how many early morning wake-up calls there’ll be. And the parks! Of course you want to spend time in the parks! So make your touring time less of a hassle and more relaxing by booking ADR’s up to 180 days in advance and for those with park tickets or annual passes, Fastpass+ reservations up to 60 days.

To do so, go to My Disney Experience and either log in or create an account. A qualified travel agent can also make this a breeze! For some great restaurant suggestions, we chat about some of our favorite pre and post-race places to eat in a previous Question and Answer podcast.

8.) Pack EARLY!

“Early” is a word you’ll hear me say often when it comes to runDisney. This is especially true when it comes to packing. Getting back to the topic of early morning wake-ups, you’ll have plenty, especially if you’re running all the races. Add to that the possibility of having to wake up early for a morning flight. The last thing you want to do is leaving packing until the night prior, making you stressed out and unable to sleep.

No, by packing early, you’ll be able to spend that evening resting, taking it easy, and gearing up for a great adventure! For packing tips, be sure to check out this blog post that comes with my own packing list as well as this video over at YouTube.

While at Disney!

9.) Go to the expo at slower times

This tip applies to those of you who aren’t as worried about getting any of the official runDisney merchandise before it sells out. If you are … well, good luck to you, mate, because it will be crowded!

Like, really crowded.

Those who arrive at the expo’s opening time will have to compete with eBay sellers and personal shoppers as well as other runners who will make a mad dash to the runDisney merchandise area as soon as the doors open. If crowds don’t scare you and you have your heart set on a certain item, then be sure to arrive AT LEAST an hour early to get in line, preferably more.

Those who’d like to forgo the insanity want to go to the expo during the afternoon or early evening. Yes, there is a possibility that certain items will be sold out, but you’ll have a more relaxing, enjoyable experience.

1o.) Forget about a Personal Record (PR)

If you’re a competitive runner whose main goal is a good race finishing time, awesome! Thanks to relatively flat courses, you’ll certainly be able to achieve this if you:

  • Put in a good POT in order to secure better corral placement.
  • Arrive at your corral early enough to secure a spot at the front.
  • Bypass character and other photo opportunities.

For everyone else … relax! Forget about your time because the race is going to go by fast enough as it is! Disney races are a completely different breed from other local races. You’ve got fireworks, character stops, awesome spectators, and other entertainment along the course. So be sure to not miss a thing by worrying about your time! You can always do that later at a local course … one that didn’t cost you a small fortune to travel to.

11.) Get there EARLY!

Yep. Here we go again with the early. But there’s a reason why I preach this often. For my very first runDisney race weekend, the bus service started at 3:00 so I thought I’d be okay to get to the bus stop at around 3:20.


Big mistake.

By then, the line at Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside had already snaked several times in front of the main building. Panic. Once I finally got on a bus, the traffic was horrible, with us often stuck at a standstill. More panic. As a result, once we got to Epcot, I had to sprint all the way from the bus to the starting line in order to reach my corral in time.

Tons more panic.

So yeah. Get leave EARLY. I’m talking, if the buses start at 3:00, then be at the bus stop by around 2:40 – 2:45. Sure, you’ll miss a little more sleep. But you’ll also:

  • Have more buffer time if there’s heavy traffic.
  • Hopefully avoid any major hold-ups at the security check-in.
  • Be able to socialize with friends, hit the port-o-pots, check in your gEAR bag and walk to the corrals without feeling rushed.
  • Get character photos! If you’re a character photo junkie, you definitely want to be on the first bus or drive there early because the lines will get tremendously long. (Take note that as of now, Disneyland does not have any pre or post-race character opportunities.)
  • You can dance if you want to … you can (not) leave your friends behind! The DJ will be getting the crowds pumped with an energy so electric, you just gotta get there early to experience it.

12.) Turn off the tunes…

… especially when running through the parks! I’ve a LOT of runDisney races. How many? Well, I’m about to earn my 50th medal with the 10th Anniversary Coast to Coast medal I’ll hopefully get after the Disneyland Half Marathon. In all these races, however, I’ve only worn ear buds twice, once of which was because I had gotten absolutely no sleep the night prior and needed a pick-me-up.

Otherwise, I never wear earbuds because I love listening to park music, conversations around me from other runners, the sound of pounding feet on pavement and cheers from the spectators! So unplug, especially while running through the parks. Soak in every sensation!

How to make the most of your #runDisney Race Experience! #werunsocial #DisneylandHalf Click To Tweet

13.) Stop for pictures!

And not necessarily just character photos. Mile markers make for fun photos as well as selfies with joyous cast members, awesome signs being held by spectators, and cool things of interest. This is an amazing perk you can’t find at most other races so enjoy!

Just be cautious of your time, however. Jackey and I got way too carried away when I had to walk the Wine & Dine 10k and ended up having a Balloon Lady encounter! The last thing you want is to be swept because you stopped too often, so be aware of your time by tracking your time with a Garmin or other device. (Make sure you’re Garmin isn’t set to pause when you stop, however, so you have an accurate count.)

Otherwise, if you do have plenty of time, stop for a photo! Or do a “run-by” by snapping a quick selfie over your shoulder. We’ve done that plenty of times! And if you’d like more tips on how to get great race and character photos, be sure to check out this blog post. I’ll also have a video up soon!

14.) Interact with the spectators!

Ah, Disney race spectators. They arrive early on the course securing great spots and standing for hours while shouting just to cheer on thousands and thousands of strangers. So give them some love in return by thanking them for their efforts and if you see a particularly awesome sign? Stop for a photo! They will appreciate you acknowledging their efforts and oh … if you truly want to make the crowds go crazy? Holler “THANK YOU FOR BEING HERE” as you run by!

15.)Know that it will be crowded.

runDisney races are huge, with up to 20,000 or more runners, especially at Disney World. So there’s going to be times when the course gets congested or lines get long or hairpin turns make running challenging or when someone cuts you off by accident. Unless you’re an elite athlete near the front of the pack, these moments of chaos comes with the territory.

But it’s all good.

Take a deep breath, relax, and remember … you’re at Disney! If someone does cut you off, there’s no need to be nasty since most likely, it was unintentional.  Also, if you’re a faster runner, know that if you do stop for character photos, then you’re placing yourself in slower pace groups. So if dodging walkers or slower runners is something that would cause you stress, then consider getting your character photos before and after the race instead.

Otherwise, relax!

16.) Be aware of Photopass Photographers!

For both Disney World and Disneyland, there’s going to be a ton of Photopass photographers lining the course, waiting to get awesome pictures of you. So take advantage of this by being camera ready when you see them, with a big smile! Be sure to have your bib placed on the front of your shirt so it’s visible and also be aware of your surroundings. You don’t want to ruin another runner’s photo by jumping in front of them.

Finding photopass photographers will be easy. They’re the ones in the lime-green pop-up tents! When they turn the camera toward you, strike your happiest post, mixing things up so your pictures aren’t always the same!

17.) Hit the Bathrooms!

Okay, so this might be an oddball tip.

But for Disney World races, most of the races will end after running through Epcot. So once you get into Epcot, (beyond the sweep point,) hit one of the real bathrooms there rather than waiting until you finish. After crossing the finish line, it will take you a while to get your medal, gather water and PowerAde, get your finishing picture and collect your snack box and gEar bag before you reach the port-o-pots. You don’t want to have to rush it because you gotta go! So hit those bathrooms. You’ll thank me later!

For Disneyland, it can be more of a challenge since some races bring you through California’s backstage or Downtown Disney, but you’ll get through the finishing area much quicker. If there are port-o-pots at the last water station, I would definitely hit those!

18.) Hang out afterwards and DANCE!

I never make brunch ADR’s on race day because hanging out after a race is way too much fun! After earning your medal, there’s such a feeling of excitement in the family gathering area with characters out for photos, the DJ cranking out music, and folks enjoying a beer or glass of champagne. Leaving right away feels like walking away from a great party so enjoy every single moment of your race experience by hanging out!

Oh, and DANCE! It’s a great way to shake out that lactic acid so you’ll be less sore later. And come on. That beer is going to taste so good!

19.) Take it all in!

Thanks to my anxiety issues, I was too overwhelmed to truly enjoy my first runDisney 5k. So for the half marathon on the next day, I forced myself to relax, to take a deep breath and take it all in because otherwise, I was going to miss it!

You never want to miss it.

So take it all in. Yes, there are moments when Disney races don’t go as planned but it’s all good. You’re in Disney World! Or Disneyland! Don’t go home feeling regretful over being overwhelmed. Smile. Breath. Savor your finish and be proud of your medal. It’s all good!

20.) Wear your bling!

Now. About that medal. For Jackey’s first runDisney weekend, the folks she was with didn’t want to wear their medals after the races. This is something she deeply regrets because she didn’t get any pictures of her at the castle wearing her very first medal.

Obviously, she didn’t know me back then.

So wear your medal, for every day of your vacation! Be proud of your accomplishment because you earned it! Wearing a medal is also a great conversation starter with other runners. You never know where that could lead or the friends you can make!

And if somebody tells you not to wear it … you send them to me. 🙂


There you go, how you can make the most of your runDisney weekend! If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below. You can also go here for more runDisney tips or subscribe to our YouTube channel for video notifications! Until then, I hope you have the most amazing runDisney experience. Come back and tell us how it went!

Laura Bowers

Laura is a writer, runner, reader, runDisney addict, blogger, vlogger, wife to an amazing guy for 26 years, mom of two wonderful boys, excellent chili maker, and obsessive list keeper. She still thinks Spice World was an awesome movie and feels no shame about that plus she can quote most lines from Talladega Nights. Shake and bake!

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