runDisney runDisney Tips

Tips for runDisney’s Tinker Bell Half Marathon!

Gather your wings and sprinkle on some fairy dust because it’s almost time for Disney’s Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend! When I first ran the Never Land 5k and Pixie Dust Challenge last year, I must admit to going into it with a one-and-done attitude. But now that it’s almost here, I want to fly out and do this great race weekend again!

Instead, in the spirit of better late than never, here’s some tips for those of you who are. Be sure to also watch the video version over at Joyful Miles’ YouTube Channel!

Tips for runDisney's Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend!

First off, if you’d like to hear my casual chat with my friend, Becky at LAX Airport after last year’s races, then be sure to watch this video. I also have full blog posts…

… and video race recaps as well!

Now, let’s get into some…

Differences between DW and DL races

For me, the biggest difference between Disney World and Disneyland races is the vibe. West Coast runDisney events are a lot more chill and laid back in true California style, with less participants and more locals coming out to run. Still, it is held on Mother’s Day Weekend, so expect higher crowds in the parks.

Depending on where you are staying, it’s a very close walk for those on-property guests and a short walk for surrounding Good Neighbor Hotels. Also, unlike Disney World, there are no pre-race festivities, such as character photo or refreshment stands. Add that to the close distance and you don’t have to leave mega-early like for Disney World. I was not convinced of this fact last year when my roommates suggested we leave 45 minutes before the 10k and half marathon when we were staying at the Grand Californian.

This East Coast gal was like, beg pardon?? Only 45 minutes???

But they were right. Because there was no pre-race festivities, we had plenty of time and I was able to get a rest spot near the front of Corral A. Quick note for you coffee addicts: Starbucks was open early last year, I’m thinking at around 4:00am, so you can get your morning java. Expect long lines, however.

Regarding  post-race festivities, there are no characters out for photos and no refreshment stands as well. You also can’t sit near the finish line unless you have a cheer package. They did have a tent for massages and medal engraving, plus there was a band out last year, but it’s definitely more scaled back than Disney World events. We could have gotten our picture in front of a Tinker Bell Half sign, but the line was crazy long, so Jackey and I used the stage’s backdrop instead that was quite vibrant and pretty.

Tips for runDisney's Tinker Bell Half Marathon!

But regarding the vibe, there’s definitely more of a party-vibe at Disney World, feeling more like a social event. Quick Note: If you would like to have a beer afterward, head to Earl of Sandwich where you can get a drink and then sit near the windows with a view of finishing runners!


Be sure to carefully read through the entire Event Guide, especially if you’re staying off-property and plan on taking advantage of their free shuttle service. You will find complete instructions in the guide, plus a list of participating hotels as well as race hours, course maps, etiquette suggestions and lots of other good info.

One thing I like to do is view the guide on my phone and then take screenshots of each race’s start times so I’ll have it on hand for quick reference.

Don’t forget about the Virtual Goodie bag that’s on the runDisney website!

Also, while the weather in California is mostly gorgeous, it did rain before the 10k so be prepared with some disposable ponchos and a phone cover. For more packing tips, be sure to check out my runDisney Packing Tips post!

Tips for runDisney's Tinker Bell Half Marathon!

The Expo

Because many runners are locals, the best time to hit the expo is during the day on Thursday and Friday. There will be a rush for runDisney merchandise at the 10:00am opening on Thursday, but from what I’ve heard, it’s not nearly as chaotic as the Princess Half Marathon. At PHM this year, there were also less items selling out, so I’m hoping this trend continues for Tink runners! In Disneyland, there’s also a limit of 10 per item in an attempt to keep eBay’ers and personal shoppers from wiping the shelves clean. Still, if you’re hoping to buy runDisney merchandise, try to get there as early as possible on Thursday!

Also, for us East Coast folks, take note that there is no discount offered for Disney World Annual Passholders, only those with Disneyland ones. You can get a 10% discount with your Disney Visa card, however, for orders over $50.00.

As usual, I would recommend going to the runDisney merchandise area first that’s located on the first floor. Then go back out side and head down the ramp to the lower level where you can get your bib, commemorative items. This is also where they sold the Dooney & Bourke bags last year. They’re really cute this year!

Tips for runDisney's Tinker Bell Half Marathon!

Take note that if you did not pre-print your waiver, there will be computers there to do so. Be sure to get this fun photo along the way!

Tips for runDisney's Tinker Bell Half Marathon!

Oh, and about waivers. If you are staying off-property and plan on taking advantage of the free shuttle service, you will need that waiver for transportation to the expo. (Afterward, your bib will act as your pass.) So make sure you print it before leaving home.

Also, for those who will be earning the blue Coast to Coast medal by participating in the WDW Marathon Weekend, Star Wars Light Side or Dark Side, or if you also completed the Princess Half Marathon and will be earning your pink Coast to Coast medal, make sure you get your wrist band. (There will be a separate band for each one.) This should be automatically presented to you while getting your bib, but just take note.

One thing I like to do before leaving is make a list of everything I need to collect or buy at the expo so I don’t forget anything, including a C2C band.

Now about the C2C medals. If you have participated in a third 2017 runDisney race, (WDW Marathon Weekend, Star Wars Light Side, or Star Wars Dark Side,) AND you ran the Princess Half Marathon, then as of today, you are eligible for both the blue and pink C2C medals. Just make sure you get both bands!

Once you’re done on the lower level, you will be directed to a ramp that will lead you back to the upper level to collect your race shirts. As I’ve mentioned before, if you are doing the challenge, be sure to check all three of your shirts to make sure they’re sized correctly rather than just one. They are not produced at the same time, so one shirt could be smaller and shorter. There will be shirt exchange, but you can’t exchange only one of the three shirts, you have to exchange the whole bundle. So be sure to check all three again!

Afterward, it’s time to check out the many vendors and booths on the main level! Sparkle Athletic will be there with lots of skirt, shirts, and wings to put something together last-minute. (For other costume tips, be sure to check out this post.)

Now, on to the races!

The Never Land 5k

Oh. My. Gosh. You are going to LOVE this 5k! The Disneyland 5k’s are way better than those at Disney World since the course is nothing but park. Nothing but park! And for the Never Land 5k … you start in Disneyland. In front of the castle. With Tink flying out to greet you … and when I say flying, not just in one straight line like she does at Disney World. No, Tink circles the castle and does all sorts of zip-zags, so yeah …

You’re going to LOVE THIS 5K!!

Because the Never Land 5k does begin in Disneyland, there are no corral assignments. Instead, it’s first come, first served basis, with corrals filling as runners arrive. So if you’d like to be near the front of corral A, then you will want to get there at least an hour before the 5:00am start.

To give you a rough estimate, the time stamp on this photo is 4:23am and we ended up being at the front of Corral B.

Tips for runDisney's Tinker Bell Half Marathon!

On one hand, this was a benefit for me since I got great video for my recap! But next time, I plan on getting there early so the line won’t be as long for the first character photo.

Also, I recommend skipping bag check, since you will have to first take your gEAR bag to the finish line, and then walk to Disneyland’s entrance.

For this race, there are no firework send-offs. Instead, one of the announcers, (last year, it was Carissa,) will greet each corral before sending you on your way with a big blast of confetti!

Last year, the first character we came upon with was Captain Hook and Smee in Toon Town was ridiculously long, but so, so worth it. Since I was the fastest runner in our group, I booked ahead and then Sara and Robyn caught up with me. *Note, I think holding a place in line when you are getting a group photo only is totally cool. But then getting individual pictures as well? Not cool.

Tips for runDisney's Tinker Bell Half Marathon!

The lines were long for every character, but again, worth it! I also was surprised at how long the lines were for mile marker photos. Some were even longer than for the characters! But the fact that they had the absolute prettiest mile markers had something to do with it! They were gorgeous for all three of the races. So definitely slow down for this race and take it all in because it will go so fast!

Here's some last-minute tips for those lucky #runners doing the #TinkHalf Enjoy! #runDisney #PixieDustChallenge #werunsocial Click To Tweet

Disneyland 10k

Like the 5k, you will be running through both parks for the 10k so once again, be prepared for a fabulous time! As mentioned earlier, we didn’t leave Grand Californian until approximately 45 minutes before the race, giving us plenty of time, (although I would have still preferred leaving earlier so there’d be more time to visit with friends.) There were no fireworks again, but the starting banner was among one of the prettiest I’ve seen!

Now, I don’t know if it was the change in the elevation compared to Maryland or the humidity, but I had a really hard time catching my breath at first. Same thing happened during the Disneyland 10k and Half Marathon, although that could have been from Rob and me starting off to fast with a 7.45mm pace! Regardless, it took me about a mile to finally breath comfortably and another mile to recover. So take caution when you first start.

(Later on, I was also EXTREMELY sore despite training on lots of Maryland hills at home. So flat doesn’t necessarily mean easier!)

As far as characters, last year they mostly had fairies out, so if you’re like me and aren’t up with your fairy knowledge due to having older kids in college, you might want to do some research! The lines weren’t as long as the 5k but for the mile markers, there were still some lines. But again, the mile markers were beautiful! And the run through Radiator Springs? Oh my gosh. AMAZING!! Be sure to really slow down and take all that in because it does go by way too fast.

One thing to take note of is that there will be no Powerade at the water stations, so if it’s hot and humid, be sure to bring along some kind of electrolyte replacement.

And if you wear wings … make sure to pin then well so they don’t end up catawampus like mine.

Tips for runDisney's Tinker Bell Half Marathon!

Half Marathon

Time to move on the the big she-bang, the Tink Half! Last year, we met up with Becky and Jackey at Downtown Disney at around 4:50am. Again, there was no pre-race entertainment so this left plenty of time to get to our corrals.

Tips for runDisney's Tinker Bell Half Marathon!

Now. About the course. You first travel through Disneyland and California adventure, and wow, running through the castle was simply amazing! And Paradise Pier. Oh my goodness, besides Radiator Springs, that part is my favorite for Disneyland races. Running down Main Street … a place where Walt, himself, once walked was also amazing!

But from mile five to twelve, it’s highway time. Lots of highway time, due to construction at Star Wars Land. Out of my 32 runDisney races, I’ve only worn ear buds twice: the 2015 WDW Half Marathon when I was in a mental tizzy from getting zero sleep the night before and needed a huge pick-me-up, and this year’s Princess Half Marathon where I only listened to one song. Instead, I enjoying listening to my surroundings like park music, conversations from the runners around me, music coming from the mile markers and the sound of pounding feet on pavement.

But I must admit to wishing I could listen to music during the Tink Half … and that I had moved back to run with Jackey.  There were TONS of spectators out last year plus on-course entertainment from local clubs! Last year, there were dance clubs, cheerleading squads, bands, and the Red Hat Ladies.

The wonderful, amazing Red Hat Ladies.

Tips for runDisney's Tinker Bell Half Marathon!

That part was spectacular, seeing hundreds and hundreds of gals out there cheering us on in beads, boas, and of course, those red and purple hats! I must admit to getting a little teary afterward … like that is hard for me. 😉

If you want to see full coverage of the Red Hat Ladies, then check out Jackey’s video.

Take note, however, that if you want a picture of the Mile 8 marker, then it will be on the right. Last year, I ended my perfect mile marker photo streak by being too distracted by the ladies cheering! (Of course, it might change this year, but I’m throwing it out anyway.)

Oh, and if you see this fantastic lady on the course between mile 9 and 10 on the right, be sure to stop! She had just about anything you could need: sunblock, paper towels, baby wipes, candy … so sweet!

Tips for runDisney's Tinker Bell Half Marathon!

At around Mile 12, you are back on Disney property for a fantastic finish before gathering you well-earned bling, woo-HOO! For those who are also earning Coast to Coast medals, there will be a separate line for you in the race chute. (I must admit to getting teary again after getting that gorgeous pink one.)

Here's some last-minute tips for those lucky #runners doing the #TinkHalf Enjoy! #runDisney #PixieDustChallenge #werunsocial Click To Tweet

Best of luck for those who are participating in this year’s runDisney Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend! If you get a jumpshot, please use the hashtag #joyfuljumpshot so I can give it a repost. I’ll also repost any bling photos with the hashtag #joyfulmilestones. HAVE FUN!

For today’s post, I’m joining the Tuesdays on the Run Blog Link Up that’s hosted by My No Guilt Life, Marcia’s Healthy Slice, and MCM Mama Runs.


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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  1. I loved traveling west for this since I didn’t have to get up as early, and my body clock was already two hours ahead anyway. I feel like I’m part of the living dead going to the buses at WDW, it’s so early!

  2. This sounds like a great race! Based on how you described them I think I would like a Disneyland race better than a Disney World one!

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