runDisney & My First Half Marathon
If you’re looking do do a race, runDisney is a great place to start. I only speak from experience of my first half marathon last month and a 10k a few years ago, but I’m almost positive you don’t get to run through Disney with any other race organization.
In the days leading up to the race you need to go to the Expo at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports. They have lots of great vendors with clothes, energy food, accessories, etc. I got a non-slip headband from Sparkly Soul which works great, but I opted for official runDisney merchandise otherwise. I figured I could go online and get the other vendors’ items if I was still dreaming about it. The runDisney clothing, accessories and pins are more exclusive, and I knew I probably wouldn’t be able to get them online later (without paying a ton on eBay).
Now for race day! First off, you get to see tons of people in super fun outfits. What would be crazy and over-the-top in other races is subdued at a runDisney race. I was Minnie Mouse, but so were a ton of others, and it didn’t even compare to how decked out some people were in tutus, onesies, etc., and they were ALL DISNEY THEMED! What a dream!
Along the course are cute mile markers for selfie opportunities, and characters where Disney PhotoPass photographers will take your picture. If you don’t mind waiting in these lines, I bet you can get a lot of fun pictures. I opted to not do any of these, and instead just be as conscious as possible to smile at the photographers along the course for my race photos. I’m sure they try to get people through as quickly as possible, but I didn’t want to wait for 2 dozen others to get their picture taken before me. But no matter if you stop or not, all the pictures taken on the course are attached to your race bib, so just make sure it’s visible!
If it’s going to be cold (and you know that with enough heads up), you can bring clothes or blankets you don’t mind throwing off the side of the track. They donate all of these clothes, too! The forecast when I left Boulder didn’t include the bomb cyclone… which meant waiting for my wave made me super duper cold. (That’s a great reason to submit proof of time - so you’re waiting less time for your wave to start) Luckily, my outfit included long sleeves and long pants to begin with (I was even worried about being to warm! Hah!), plus I layered a tank top under, and added a cute running skirt I bought at the expo! I also had a beanie and gloves, which I tucked into my running belt as soon as I warmed up a bit. Made the race photos a bit lumpy, but I couldn’t bear to throw away things I actually love. Anyway - that’s the thing about Florida. It’s usually warm, but you just never know. At least it wasn’t raining that morning, too! (The previous year they had cancelled the race due to weather!)
They start you with fireworks and play music all over the course - my favorite was when they played “Aquarium” from Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals under the boat bridge by the Contemporary, and paired it with ripply blue lights to mimic being underwater. Friends and family can also come watch at certain points - some set up lawn chairs by the roads by the hotels, others went to Main Street USA, Future World in Epcot, or the finish line. Marching bands from local schools come, and people you don’t know want to encourage you and high five you the whole way. I even got to high five a fellow Hufflepuff just outside the Magic Kingdom. Plus, my hubby was stuck in bag check around Epcot at the perfect time to yell my name and give me some encouragement, which gave me a little boost. We then met up just outside Epcot.
There are also lots of port-a-potties, water/powerade stations, and medical tents along the way. I grabbed a drink about every other water station, and I got some energy jelly beans around mile 8.5 - it’s super important to stay hydrated and energized, especially when it’s cold and you don’t realize how much you might be sweating. It is nice being at sea level, too - you don’t have the added component of elevation, no matter where you’ve been training. Any brief walking I did had more to do with the stupid blisters on my toes. And having to pee 🙈
Disney seems to make their races accessible to all levels - you’ve still got the super-elite type runners, but you’ve also got a lot of walkers and joggers. The races are expensive, but you get a sweet medal, a shirt, a space blanket, food, water, powerade, and fun photo-ops. Getting there and staying can be expensive, too (believe me), but if it’s something important to cross off your bucket list, I do recommend runDisney races. I look forward to the next one I do, whenever that might be!