10 Things You Should Know Before Your First runDisney Race

Thinking about participating in a runDisney race? Here's what you need to know.
Cinderella's Castle at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in Orlando (Photo: Kent Phillips)
Photo: Kent Phillips

Running through the Walt Disney World Resort theme parks in Orlando isn’t just for the fans trying to get to Star Wars Land first thing in the morning—it’s also a major part of any runDisney event. Every year, runDisney hosts multiple race weekends with all kinds of exciting themes and unique medals.

While it might seem daunting to run a half or full marathon, runDisney has a race for everyone, even untimed 5Ks for kids. If you’re thinking about participating in a runDisney race or have already registered and still have questions, here’s what you need to know.

1. RunDisney Race Themes

RunDisney hosts four race weekends at Walt Disney World, and each has a different theme and distance. The runDisney season starts in November with the runDisney Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend and runs through April with the all-new runDisney Springtime Surprise Weekend, though most participants go by the calendar year for runDisney, where races go from January to November.

January brings the runDisney Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, where runners have the opportunity to run a 5K, 10K, half marathon, and full marathon. Runners who participate in all four races in the same weekend complete what’s known as the Dopey Challenge and get a special medal just for participating in the challenge. Each race is themed after a classic Disney character like Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Mickey Mouse, and Goofy.

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Every February, runners get decked out in tulle skirts, tiaras, and glittery everything for the runDisney Princess Half Marathon Weekend. This event includes a 5K, 10K and half marathon themed to favorite Disney heroines like Moana, Mulan, and Tiana. Runners who participate in both the 10K and half marathon often are attempting to complete the Disney Fairy Tale Challenge, which will take them through 19.3 miles of Disney over two days.

The newest race theme is the runDisney Springtime Surprise Weekend in April, which is meant to change themes each year. As with other runDisney weekends, the event includes multiple race distances from 5K to 10K to 10 miles, including a nighttime run. Runners can register to do all three races as part of the runDisney Springtime Surprise Challenge and get an additional challenge medal.

The final race of the year is the runDisney Wine and Dine Half Marathon, which takes place in November. This race weekend includes a 5K, 10K, and half marathon. Runners can also choose to sign up for the Disney Two Course Challenge, which includes the 10K and half marathon.

2. RunDisney Registration Tips

Besides the actual training for your runDisney race, the hardest part of any runDisney event is getting registered. The best way to guarantee a spot in the race is to have an active runDisney account and be logged in when registration opens. The time is always posted on the runDisney social media pages and on the runDisney website weeks before any event registration.

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You can register more than one person at a time, but you will need to be quick because races often sell out quickly, especially challenges and new races. You are not officially registered until you get a confirmation email from runDisney with a confirmation number and a receipt.

Pro-tip: You may want to try registering on multiple devices and browsers at the same time. After you get in on one, close down the other tabs and windows so you can focus on getting your information in quickly.

3. Booking a Hotel and Packing for a runDisney Weekend

Rooms at the Disney World hotels in Orlando often fill up quickly for runDisney weekends. The best way to guarantee your spot is to book your room right after you register for a race. If you plan to stay at a theme park hotel that’s not affiliated with Disney, booking a room right after registration isn’t always necessary.

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Packing for a race can also be stressful, especially if you’re flying into Orlando. One way to ensure you have everything you need is to pack all of your race gear in one carry-on bag and pack everything else you may need for your trip in a checked bag. If you’re driving to Orlando, the same idea applies, but you can bring as many bags as you want.

4. RunDisney Costumes

One of the best parts about a runDisney event is the costumes. Yes, costumes. Runners make elaborate costumes for everything from a quick stroll through EPCOT to a full marathon through all four Disney parks. While runDisney does allow almost anything when it comes to costumes, there are a few things that permitted, such as masks that cover the entire face and capes that drag on the ground.

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When making costumes, you should always consider how comfortable it’s going to be on race day. The untimed 5Ks are best for large, bulky costumes that are a little harder to run in, while a themed tank top and shorts are going to be more comfortable for longer distances.

5. RunDisney Health and Fitness Expo

After arriving at Walt Disney World, the first place you’re going to want to go is the runDisney Health and Fitness Expo. The expo is where you’ll find official race weekend merchandise, pick up your bibs and race T-shirts, and have time to do a little shopping with other running vendors and companies. The operating hours of the expo vary by race and day, so be sure to check the runDisney website for the most up-to-date information.

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If you’re most interested in official runDisney race weekend merchandise, make sure to get to the expo early on the first day it’s open. Oftentimes the expo runs out of merchandise for the larger races early in the weekend, so getting to the event early allows you to have the best options for merchandise, including pins and magnets.

6. Transportation to and from the Races

When it’s finally race day, there are a few ways to actually get to the start line from a Walt Disney World hotel—you can drive yourself or take a bus. Depending on what time the race starts, buses may be operating as early as 2:30 in the morning.

If you prefer to be in your own space before or after the races, consider driving yourself. Most runDisney races start and end at EPCOT, so you’ll be driving to the EPCOT parking lot, which is fairly easy to get to. Driving also saves time because buses will often wait to be full before leaving for pick up or drop-off.

7. Corrals

Once you get to the race staging area, you’ll notice the lit balloons marking each corral. Your corral number is on your bib, and that’s where you should head once you get to the race. If you’re in an early corral you will want to get in it about 30 to 45 minutes before the start of the race, because corrals do close and you will have to move to the next open corral.

8. The Racecourse

All along the racecourse there’s plenty of entertainment from Disney characters to DJs and even gospel choirs to keep runners encouraged. Participants are allowed to stop at any time to snap photos or take videos with characters and the entertainment.

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And if you’re looking for photos of yourself running, runDisney has you covered with Disney PhotoPass photographers snapping away along the course. When the races are done, you can link your bib number to your My Disney Experience account to see your pictures. Full instructions on how to do that are located on the back of every bib.

9. Crossing the Finish Line

The best part of any runDisney race is crossing the finish line, which is always a big celebration. There’s music playing, Disney characters cheering everyone on, and plenty of volunteers handing out medals. There are also Photopass photographers here, so be sure your bib number is clearly visible to get the best photos you can of your accomplishment.

10. After the Race

When the race ends, be sure to take time to celebrate, whether that means enjoying some Disney thrill rides or by treating yourself to a nice meal.

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As an avid runDisney participant, I’ve run in my fair share of races. In fact, this April I’m set to cross the finish line of races 49, 50, and 51. There really is nothing like a runDisney event. The memories made on the course will last you a lifetime, and some post-race Mickey waffles are pretty great, too.

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Megan duBois is a freelance writer who covers theme parks, cruising, food and drink, and family travel. Her work has appeared on Buzzfeed, Popsugar, Insider, Orbitz, The Daily Meal, Family Vacation Critic, TravelPulse, and more. Megan has been quoted as an expert and thought leader on theme parks for Forbes and other outlets. Follow her on Instagram @MinglingwithMickey and Twitter @Megand513 for theme park travel tips and tricks, and email her at megand513 [at] gmail [dot] com for story ideas.

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