Tips for Completing Your First Disney Race

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I don’t pretend to be a running expect by any stretch of the imagination, but I have completed a Disney Half Marathon and lived to tell about it, so that qualifies me to give advice to any RunDisney noobs who may be gearing up for their first race.  These tips aren’t rocket science – but I have found they are ESSENTIAL to a successful race.  Have your own tips?  Be sure to add them in the comments!

Tips for Completing Your First Disney Race

Before the race:

  • Set a training schedule.  Don’t be a hero – running, jogging, or walking any distance race is difficult.  Even if you consider yourself to be in great shape, you have to train.  Lots of Disney racers follow the Jeff Galloway “walk/run/walk” training plan and swear by it.  Personally I just try to complete one distance run/walk per week with two shorter runs inbetween and don’t worry too much about my times.
  • Don’t get discouraged.  You will have bad runs. You will get injured. You will feel tired and hopeless sometimes.  Don’t give up!  These are fleeting moments.  If you have a bad run, put it behind you and look forward to the next one which will surely be better.
  • Eat healthy.  Training is important but so is eating right and taking care of your body.  During your training, increase your veggie and fruit consumption and cut back on pastas, bread, and junk that will make you feel heavy and slow you down.  
  • Avoid alcohol the night or even the week before. I know, “Boooooo!” But among the obvious mind-altering, brain-hurting reasons, alcohol dehydrates you and that’s the LAST thing you need before your race.  Don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of reasons to celebrate with your favorite adult beverage after the race is over.

Tips for Completing Your First Disney Race

During the race:

  • Embrace your hot mess-ness. You’re running. Outside.  In the sun.  In the humidity. For six miles, or 13 miles, or longer.  Guess what – you’re not going to look cute when it’s done.  And if you do look cute, you’re probably doing it wrong. 
  • Protect yourself from the sun.  Load up on sunscreen and wear a visor or sunglasses if you’re sensitive to sunlight.  
  • Wear something cute AND comfy.  Last year I remember seeing some elaborate costumes and thinking, REALLY?  FOR THIRTEEN MILES?  I’m all for costumes and being clever but make sure it’s something you can actually run and walk in for three hours.  And take your costume out for a test run before race day.  Yeah, you may look pretty silly wearing that tutu at the gym or around your neighborhood, but it’s better than experiencing a major wardrobe fail mid-race.
  • Bring your camera.  Unless you are super focused on getting your best time, bring your camera because there are a million and one photo ops during a Disney race.  If you are a huge Disney nerd and are doing this as a one-time thing, you’re going to want to take photos.
  • Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate.  #duh
  • Nourishment.  For a race over six miles you’re probably going to need to refeul at some point.  Research what works for you.  Due to my various allergies, I can’t consume things like Gu or peanut butter bars.  I like Lara Bars and recently discovered Bearded Brother bars thanks to Stride Box.  Whatever you do, plan ahead and have something protein-packed ready that you can snack on mid-race if you need it (and you WILL need it).
  • Listen to your body.  Pay attention to your heart rate, and any little aches and pains in your joints or feet.  Slow down if you need to – there’s no shame in it. Don’t take yourself out of contention too early.  Slow and steady wins the race. 

After the race:

  • Keep moving.  A friend recently reminded me of the How I Met Your Mother episode where Barney runs the marathon then sits down on the subway and is too sore to stand up again.  Yeah – that’s funny and totally true.  Unless you are an experienced runner, you are going to hurt. A lot.  But you have to keep moving.  Of course you can sit and rest but force yourself to keep your muscles active just a little bit.
  • Take a cold bath.  Lots of runners swear by ice baths after a long run to reduce muscle swelling.  I sat in an cold bath for a while after my first half and I believe it helped overall.  Plus, cold water feels really good when you’re overheated.  Science!
  • Don’t take Advil.  You may be tempted to take an OTC pain killer after (or even during) the race, but this is not recommended.  NSAIDs (like Advil, Motrin, Midol, Apsrin, and Aleve) can raise your blood pressure and actually make your muscle inflammation worse.  If you have to take something, take acetaminophen (like Tylenol), but don’t take it if you’re celebrating post-race with booze, because those two things don’t mix. 
  • Treat yo’ self. You did it!  All your training and hard work paid off!  Have a cheeseburger and your favorite rum drink to celebrate.  But take it easy – your body is still in major recovery mode, so don’t go on a wild bender.  
  • Be proud of your bling.  After my first Disneyland Half Marathon, I wore my medal for a week.  I wore it during the car ride home and I slept with it next to me on the nightstand.  Even the next day when I was laid up on the sofa with a million ice packs on my legs, I wore my medal.  Now it hangs in my apartment entryway so I see it every day.  
Tips for Completing Your First Disney Race
What advice would you give to someone running their first Disney race?