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runDisney 101 – The Basics of Running Disney

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runDisney 101 - The Basics of Running Disney

My post “How to Start Training for a runDisney Race When You Have Never Run a Day in Your Life” did so well, I decided to write another post about runDisney basics! I asked for your questions via Facebook and received an overwhelming response. It seems a lot of you out there want to try a runDisney race but are concerned about what the experience is really like. While my last post focused just on training and how to prepare your body for a race, this article will answer some general racing questions – such as what to eat after a race and how to keep yourself from getting bored during 13 miles – and also cover some Disneyland-specific runDisney questions, such as where to stay and how much time you actually spend on Disney property. To be honest, I had all these same questions before I completed my first event, and it would have been helpful to have a little FAQ like this. So I hope this helps a lot of you runDisney dreamers out there! And if you have any additional questions, please share them in the comments or head over to my Facebook page.

The races sell out so quickly, how do you even get a spot? As runDisney grows in popularity, this is becoming a huge problem. Annual Passholder and DVC early registration often sells out within 15 minutes; the challenges (Dumbo Double Dare, Dopey Challenge, etc.) sell out even quicker. Disney QUADRUPLED the amount of run weekends at Disneyland, from one to four, to help alleviate the crush, but guess what happened? Everyone wants to run all four races! So it didn’t help much with demand.

Registration generally opens up on a Tuesday at noon Eastern, 9am Pacific. Which means if you have a day job you can’t break away from, you’re kind of out of luck. It’s technically a no-no (so you didn’t hear it from me), but you can ask a trusted friend or family member to register on your behalf.

If you are lucky enough to be at a computer when registration opens, here’s my strategy: Obviously have your credit card ready. Have two different browsers open. I’ve found the Disney websites in generally work best on IE. I always have both Chrome and IE open and loaded on the runDisney event page. I also have another tab open with the runDisney Facebook page. When registration time hits, I refresh like crazy, until I see the registration link. If you are having trouble getting the page to load, check out what people are saying on the runDisney Facebook page. Are other people able to get in? If so, just keep trying. It may take several minutes but eventually you’ll get in!

What’s the minimum training I can do to run a race for the purpose of just having fun? A lot of people participate in runDisney events just “for fun” with no intention of winning or even coming close to winning. The runDisney events have a very generous time pace of 16 minutes per mile, which for most people can be met with brisk walking and no running at all! However, to avoid being “swept” (removed from the course for falling behind the pace), you should train at a 15 minute per mile pace to give yourself some cushion. What does that mean? That means you should should be able to walk or run one mile in 15 minutes or less. The tricky part is maintaining the pace for several miles (~3 for the 5K, ~6 for the 10K, and ~13 for the Half Marathon) without burning yourself out. How much training you need to do is different for everyone. Some people are naturally athletic and can run several miles in a row without much effort. Some people need several weeks of training in order to run/walk a mile in under 15 minutes. You won’t know until you try! And as always, be sure to consult with your physician before starting any new workout regimen.

I have trouble with getting bored during training. After a mile or two, the boredom kicks in. What are your tips/tricks for tackling the monotony of mile after mile after mile, particularly for training? I feel ya. Training *is* super boring, at least way more boring and dull than the actual Disney race. When I first started training and doing distance run/walks, I found listening to music just wasn’t cutting it, so I started listening to podcasts during my runs. I found podcasts were really great for me, because I could find one that matched the amount of time I planned to be out. If I had to get in four miles, I know that takes me an hour, so I would look for a podcast episode that was at least an hour long.

For the actual race, if it’s a short distance like a 5K or 10K, I find I don’t need to listen to anything, especially if I’m running with friends. For the Halfs, I made sure I had a few power songs loaded up, and also a couple podcast episodes. But in general, I found that there’s so much going on around you, it was tough to focus on podcasts. It’s good to be prepared, though!

I know runDisney places the race participants in groups based on how long it would take you to complete the race. What is each group like? Are you really packed in? I think I would have a problem being so close while also walking/jogging. Is there enough room? When you register for a runDisney race (at least for 10K or longer; not sure about 5K), you will be asked your expected finishing time. If it’s your first race ever, by default you will be placed in one of the last groups (aka corrals). If you have “proof of time” from a previous race, runDisney or otherwise, you can submit that to prove you can finish the race within a certain time.

The number of corrals depends on the number of race participants. For the 10Ks I’ve completed at Disneyland, there have been five corrals (identified as A-E). For the Half Marathons I’ve completed at Disneyland, there have been at least seven corrals. I would say there’s at least 2000 people in each corral, so it’s a very large group (the last corral seems to always have the most people). The fastest participants are always in corral A, while the slowest or those without proof of time are in the last corral. It sounds a bit backwards, doesn’t it? You’d think the slower folks should be starting first so they have a time advantage over the fast people. 😉 But it’s arranged this way so the faster people (the real serious runners) don’t have to dodge around us slow pokes.

When the race first starts, you are packed in pretty well (compare it to being packed in on Main Street USA, watching the fireworks). But once everyone starts moving and you get out onto the open streets, people spread out. For longer races like the Half Marathons, by the end you are practically out there on your own; plenty of wide open spaces. I recall a few bottleneck spots on some courses, and it can be frustrating, but unless you are competing to win I wouldn’t be too concerned about it.

If you want to run with a friend, is there a way to register together to be sure you’re assigned to the same corral? The short answer is no. You can only register one person at a time. So even if both you and your significant other are running, you can’t guarantee you’ll both be in the same corral. That being said, someone in a closer corral can move to the back, but someone in the back can’t move up. For example, if you are placed in corral D and your friend is in corral E, you can join your friend in corral E. But they can’t join you in corral D. Clear as mud?

Is Disneyland Park admission included in the cost of your race registration? In other words, can you go into the Park after the race? Registration fees for runDisney events do not include regular Disneyland Park admission, unfortunately. Races take place in the early morning, before the Parks open to the general public. The race course does go through the Park(s) and it’s really cool to run through an “empty” Disneyland! But if you want to visit the Park during normal operating hours, after the race is over, you will need to purchase a separate admission.

I’m considering running my first 10K. Is it truly a unique experience because it is Disney? Does it seem to go quick and be more fun because of the atmosphere? How much time do you really get to spend running on Disney property with the 10K? I might not be the best person to answer this question since, aside from a Color Run 5K, I’ve only run Disney races! And the reason I run Disney isn’t because I love running, ha. It’s definitely for the experience. The reason I like 10Ks more than Halfs is because you do get to spend the majority of the 6.2 mile course on Disney property. This seems to make the time go by much faster (compared to running a Half). This is just my opinion, though!

How do races differ between Disneyland and Walt Disney World? This is something I have no experience with, so I asked a couple friends for their input!

Christine, who blogs at The Polka-Dotted Mouse and was even featured on the runDisney Twitter, says: WDW events can accommodate more runners and the entire race is on Disney property. This allows for character photo ops throughout (not just in the parks), but less community/spectator involvement. Transportation is needed to get to the corrals (provided by the host hotels), which requires an earlier wake up call. Walt Disney World offers more variety in their events, including a full marathon and night races. Finally, the weather in Florida tends to be more unpredictable, often humid or with the threat of rain.

Traci, Instagrammer extrodinaire at @HappyTraci and all around fitness badass, says: After running 4 DLR Half Marathons the last two years, I ran Wine & Dine for the first time this last November. It was my first WDW runDisney event, and my first night event. The main real difference (other than the torturous pouring rain, but that’s another story …) was the course. In Anaheim when we are out of the theme parks, even running through neighborhoods or the river trail, there is stuff to see. In Walt Disney World, you are on the streets & highways for most of the course, and especially at night there is nothing to see. They have entertainment throughout the course just like Disneyland, but there is a lot of long, plain, boring roads. The highways bank at an awkward curve too, so when you are on a turn, you are at a weird angle where one leg is at an incline while the other leg is down low. It’s very different in that aspect! Other things that are different:
– Pricing: The Wine & Dine Half price was a bit lower than a Disneyland Half.
– Bib Pick Up/Expo: Unlike Disneyland where you can park and walk to the Expo, I stayed at a Resort Hotel in Walt Disney World, so we shuttled to/from the Expo. This seemed to cut into our park time quite a bit, as we had to shuttle to ESPN, do a bit of walking there to get bibs and a bit more walking to hit the Expo, then get back to the shuttle to go back to the hotel, then put our stuff away and go to the theme parks.
In all honesty, the differences are minimal and I had a great experience in both locations. I absolutely love running on both coasts and I can’t wait to go Coast to Coast again!

Running gear: What’s really needed and what can you skip? For any kind of race, less is more. The less stuff you have to mess with, the better off you are. Here’s what I run with: my phone, ear buds, energy gel, hotel/car key, ID card, and sunglasses. There are water stations every two miles or so, which is enough for me. Some people like to carry their own water; that’s fine. For nutrition, for a 5K you probably don’t need to worry about carrying anything to eat. For a 10K, I like to have an energy gel halfway through the race. When I ran Halfs, I carried two energy gels and a power bar. Everyone is different, and as you’re training you’ll discover what you need to carry to be comfortable.

With the crowds and photo opportunities during a runDisney event, how difficult is it to actually keep up with the minimum pace requirement? How much do those things factor into your overall time? Crowds, in my opinion and experience, aren’t really a factor. It’s true the photo opportunities will slow you down, and those lines can get really long (although the Cast Members do their best to shuffle people through quickly). Personally, I have a tough time keeping up with the pace as it is, so I have never waited in line for a photo opportunity. I wish I could wait in line and then make it up later by running a seven minute mile. But alas, that’s not my lot in life. So, you simply need to know your limits, keep an eye on your pace time, and decide if waiting for a photo op is possible for you.

How do you prevent injury? I hear runners talk about shin splints, what is that? It’s true injuries are common with running but there are preventative measures you can take that will lower your chances of getting hurt. Shin splints, another word for painful or cramping shin muscles, are one of the most common running injuries. Be sure you stretch before AND after any workout, even if you are just walking. Drink lots of water; it’s good for your muscles. For long distances, compression socks may help reduce cramping in your shins, as well as taking ice baths after long runs. In my non scientific opinion, proper & frequent stretching is 90% of the battle against leg injury.

What do you need as far as food/nutrients after the race? Post race, Disney provides water, sports drinks, bananas, and a box of snacks. The snacks seem to vary with each event, but in the past I’ve seen packets of peanut butter, power bars, crackers, Skittles, and almond roca. It’s pretty random. After a 10K, I’m generally good with water and a banana. If someone is meeting you at the finish area, you can ask them to bring you your favorite snack. After my Halfs, Mr. BFT would greet me at the finish area with a chocolate milk and a muffin from Tangaroa Terrace. Bananas and chocolate milk are popular post-race choices; bananas contain potassium which is good for your muscles, and chocolate milk is popular for the carb/protein combo.

What are some good hotels in walking distance specifically for the race? The Disneyland races actually start and finish on Disneyland Drive, which is the street you use to access the resort hotels. So, a resort hotel is an ideal choice, if you can afford it. The majority of off-property hotels are along Harbor Blvd, which is actually on the opposite side of the Parks and Downtown Disney. Walking to the start/finish from those hotels is actually quite a hike (although there are shuttles available). I recommend staying along Katella, at either the Anabella, Best Western Stovall’s Inn, or the convention center Hilton or Marriott. These will be the shortest walks.

Do you feel more confident about trying a runDisney race now? Let me know if you have any other questions about runDisney races at Disneyland, and I’ll try my best to answer them!

About Mindy

Mindy Marzec is a life-long Disney fan who grew up in Los Angeles. She started This Fairy Tale Life to share Disneyland travel tips for adults. When not at Disneyland, you can find Mindy at home snuggling with her cats and re-watching Thor: Ragnarok for the billionth time.