What to Consider Before Signing Up for a Run Disney Event

It’s that time again… Thousands of runners flock to their computers and furiously attempt to sign up for that Run Disney race of their dreams. It’s a beautiful time, filled with excitement, anticipation, and hope… Followed soon after by questions of “what did I get myself into?”

Been there, done that.

As somebody who’s run two half marathons and two endurance challenges, I’ve felt the thrill of signing up, the agony of training, and the questioning of my own sanity while standing in a corral, getting ready to run 13.1 miles in pouring rain, broiling heat, late at night, or early in the morning.

So, before you rush to sign up, here’s some things you need to consider:

  • Do you know what you’re signing up for?

I can hear you thinking “of course I know what I’m signing up for!” from here. But during the now infamous Wine and Dine Half Marathon of 2014, runners had to endure not just 13.1 miles, but pouring rain, temps in the 50s, a strong, cold wind.

As a result there were almost no character stops or course entertainment. I can’t tell you how many times I heard runners say through gritted teeth, angry tirades, and even tears “This is not what I signed up for!”

Well, it kinda is.

Disney can control a lot of things, but the weather isn’t one of them. That means when you sign up, you may end up running through pouring rain (Wine and Dine 2014), temperatures over 100 degrees and brutal humidity (Princess Half Marathon 2014), or some combination of both (Princess Half Marathon 2013).

As a result, there may be less course entertainment, minor detours, wet shoes, crabby runners, and an air of general misery when you’re not running in a park or staring down the finish line. Are you still going to want to run under those conditions?

  • Yes, this race is at Disney World, but it’s no walk in the park.

You will never, ever hear me say that a Run Disney event isn’t fun. Its truly a wonderful, dare I say it? Magical experience. And running a race in Walt Disney World or Disneyland is better than running a race almost anywhere else.

But pixie dust can only get you so far. This is going to be hard!  While running through the castle is amazing… It makes up less than 10% of the race. That means 90% of the time you’re running, it’s on a road with no castle or characters in sight.

I suggest jumping in your car and if you’re running a half or a full, driveing 13 or 26 miles away from your home then asking yourself “In 6 months, am I going to be able to run home from here in less than 3 1/2 hours if I have to? Will I even want to?”

If you’re actively dreading the prospect, doing it at Walt Disney World won’t make it any better or easier.

  • Are your training goals realistic?

The most common reasons I hear people say they want to Run Disney are they want to lose weight, get healthy, or overcome an illness, and the magic of Disney’s races will motivate them to reach those goals. I should know, I was one of them. I wanted to be a runner, 20 pounds lighter, and at my physical peak in time for my first race.

Instead, I was 20 pounds heavier and landed in Orlando less than 72 hours after being discharged from the hospital due to a flare of Lyme Disease.

While people do train from couch to half marathon, especially using the Galloway method (which is super approachable for newbies), a lot of people realize a little too late that it’s not as motivating as they would have thought or that their goals take longer than five or six months to achieve.

That means that race day becomes a reminder of the goals they didn’t meet, not the ones they did.  It’s a hard thing to accept for many racers.

In those situations, a lot of people rely on the deferral option as a backup plan, but what a lot of people don’t know is there’s only a small number of deferrals each year and they’re often gone two to three months before the event.  

Once those deferrals are gone, they’re gone… And your now have to decide if you lose the money for your race entry by not running, or if you run under-trained… An intimidating prospect to say the least.

  • What if you don’t finish?

 

When you go below the 16 minute mile pace of the final corral, fall behind the balloon ladies (a group of sweet volunteers that have balloons tied to their waists and mark the unofficial caboose of the race), you risk being “swept,” or told by race officials to stop running and board their “parade bus.”

Despite the happy name, the parade bus is usually filled with runners who’re injured and/or are visibly upset at not being allowed to finish. They’re taken to the end of the race where they’re unceremoniously handled medals and sent to the post-race area, without crossing the finish line.

An anti-climatic finish to something many have anticipated doing for over the better part of a year.

After the race, there seems to always be a group of people upset or complaining about the time they wasted, the thousands of dollars they spent, the family and friends waiting for them in the stands that never saw them finish.

If you are injured during training, sick on race day, hampered by bad weather, or just generally not feeling it, are you OK with the idea of spending all that money to not cross the finish?

  • Running the races will change your vacation.

This was the fact that is the hardest for me to accept. When you’re doing a Run Disney event, you simply don’t tour the park like you would if you had no race to consider. Everything from where and what you eat to your touring plans themselves are all affected.

If you’re running a morning race, you may have to be up by 2:30 in the morning in order to be at your bus on time… That may mean no late night binge on Biergarten buffets the night before (I did it, trust me, so not a good idea). And after running 13 miles, you may be too exhausted to hit the parks like you would without the race.

Same holds true with the night races. You may have to be back at your room by late afternoon to sleep and when the race ends in the early morning, you may not be in any mood for rope drop and a full day of walking in a park.  Honestly, it made me nuts to be going back to our hotel to sleep while everybody else was having fun.


I know it sounds like I’m going all Wine and Dine 2014 (ie, raining) on the Run Disney parade, but really, it is one of the best and most amazing experiences you could ever be a part of… If you’re properly prepared.

Having run two Run Disney events at not my peak (one was after I contracted Lyme Disease and the other was during a Ulcerative Colitis flare), I know how it feels to not properly gauge expectations and how it takes away from the experience. I would have had a lot more fun if I’d maybe considered the above.

The more you know and the better you’re prepared, the better your racecation may be!

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Ivy Cronin
Ivy Cronin
Hi, I'm Ivy Cronin. I'm an editor at The Disney Chef and I love connecting people with their favorite foods. I've been working in the food industry for over six years now, and before that, I was a housewife. My husband is a chef and we have three children: two sons and one daughter. When we're not busy with work or family life, we travel as much as possible usually to Disney World! My favorite thing about working at The Disney Chef is getting to read all the amazing stories submitted by our readers. It's inspiring to see how many people are inspired by our recipes!