When my Mum and I were looking to attend RunDisney, we couldn’t find very much practical information. This post tries to address that.
This includes not only your race entries, (set a reminder on your calendar so that you can book the day that they get released!), hotel and travel plans.
Booking your hotel:
Never having stayed onsite when visiting Disney World, mu Mum was keen to do so on this short visit. Unknown to us, it is one of the busiest weekends of the year as it was also President’s Day and UK half term! The place was heaving! Our affordable onsite choices were limited by November, after reading up on Trip Advisor, my Mum booked the Port Orleans Riverside (there is also PO French Quarter next door/linked) direct with Walt Disney World resorts who were very helpful.
Tom and I opted to book an offsite hotel that was a lot cheaper, however it was great having access to my parent’s room to shower after the race, using the official buses to get to the race start, and of course using the Magic Bands to book our tickets and make the most of the Disney parks.
The benefits of being onsite
Bearing in mind Walt Disney World is about the size of San Francisco, being onsite doesn’t mean you can walk to the Magic Kingdom. It does mean you can get picked up (and returned) to Orlando International Airport in a Disney Magical Express bus – if you arranged this for free when booking your hotel.
Another benefit was the Race Transportation. Each day’s race had a bus stop literally outside the front door of my parent’s hotel. Tom and I drove from our hotel, parked at Port Orleans then used the official buses. For the 10k race, we were asked to get on the bus by 4.30am for a 5.30 start. We got on the 4.00am bus along with other runners in tutus and their spectators which got us there pretty early for the race on a very cold morning. The next day, we decided to get a later bus. This of course was the day Tom and my breakfast plans went wrong, there were 20,000 runners and many more spectators and so many more buses, a longer course with many more roads shut for those extra buses to squeeze down…we missed our starting corral!
And then you get a free bus back to your hotel right after the race! All the well labelled buses were sitting ready very close to the finish line, and left as soon as the roads reopened.
It was freezing on the morning of our 10K, so I was glad to have brought a throwaway jumper (which I wore for 5 miles!) You do need more time to get to the start than you might think, however I wouldn’t recommend getting there too early as there’s not a huge amount to do. There are PLENTY of loos at the start, honestly the most I’ve seen ever at a race. Also, the races can get pretty crowded so put your fastest 10K and half marathon times down as your pace so that you get to start nearer the front, and have shorter lines for the characters!
Race Day Food
3am is a little early to be eating (for me anyway!) The Port Orleans hotel restaurant also had RunDisney Breakfast boxes available to buy given that the café itself was not open at 3.30am.
Once we were at the race start we found hot drinks available for sale and other food like bananas etc at the Concession stands. We tried to order room service before the half marathon which was a complete fail and contributed to us being late!
The post race goodie boxes were awesome, filled with all the sweet and salty foods you’re probably craving after your run, plus bananas, water and Powerade.
The biggest disappointment for the 10k was that spectators are not allowed anywhere on the course. So my Mum and step-dad hotfooted it over to the start to try and get some photos. This was a 25 metre fenced strip – one side only – and because we were so early for this race, they got a front row place. But the pitch black sky and the dazzling light of the fireworks defied her camera and the photos were terrible, not helped by the fact that I misread her text ‘we are on the right’ and ran on the left!
They set off to walk to the finish and nearly froze while waiting for us to come in. Miss America was there with Tinkerbell – obviously. I felt sorry that they had to wait so long for us while we were running our slowest 10 ever!
Spectating for the Princess Half Marathon was a whole different ball game. The start was in a different place although off the same base car park as yesterday. My parents had a longer walk to the fenced off area and there was no helpful information online as the maps were too small to read or make sense of (there was an app to track your runner, but we didn’t get around to downloading it).In fact, we got the impression from the previous day when we had seen a map of the route that you could only spectate if you were staying at the actual Disney Hotel the route was passing. They walked along to the road side area about 400m from the start to find it mobbed, and on the other side of the road from the run course! Walking up to find a space, they parked themselves opposite a fantastic brass band that played cheerful tunes for each running wave. Again it was so dark, photos were impossible!
My Mum said to warn you that your supporters need to train almost as much as you for this race! It is a long walk back to the monorail at Epcot, albeit well signposted and well staffed with very cheerful ‘Cast Members’ then you change trains for the one to Magic Kingdom. You do not need a day pass to enter the Magic Kingdom and line Main Street to cheer your runner on which was great news, but you’re not allowed to stay in the park after the race.
Top Tip – You might be better avoiding the start and going straight to Main Street for a front row place.
After the stress of catching us, they had a well deserved loo break and Starbucks coffee (apparently the busiest in the world!) before walking back to get the monorails back towards the Finish. From the monorail, they could see other musical groups cheering on runners, and loved that the driver tooted his whistle every time they travelled over runners.
At Mile 13 there was a stand for spectators as the Finish is only open to those who paid extra. My Mum texted me to let us know they were there, which was a nice surprise!
After the race, we met up with them easily at the lettered flags. My parent’s plan was to go straight to the Animal Kingdom, however they got stuck up in the post-race traffic and closed roads and didn’t make it there for another 3hours! We decided to forgo the parks that day and sit by the pool instead!
Fast passes are amazing. You can organise these before you get to Disney if you’ve got Magic Bands, or on the day/using the app if you have regular tickets. You can book 3 firstly, then when you’ve used these you can book another one at a Fast Pass kiosk. Once you’ve used that you can get another, and so on. These made such a difference when skipping queues and planning our days! You can also use Magic Bands to pay for things, like a contact less bank card.
I was actually really impressed with the food at Disney, restaurants with healthy options were clearly marked on the map, and there were stalls selling fruit in all of the parks. We booked our dinners in advance at locations at Wilderness Lodge and Magic Kingdom. We didn’t do so well with lunch though, and I wish I had sought out better places rather than waiting until I was starving and having to eat chicken nuggets! I would bring snacks with you, as you can take your bags on most of the rides anyway. You’ll save money and time queuing. We saw lots of people had bought the official Disney cups that allow you to have free refills which is probably a good idea if you’re at the park for a few days.
If you’ve done a Disney race/trip, please feel free to add any extra top tips!!
I’ve done Disney races in Florida and Cali and in Florida would absolutely stay on site even just the night before a race because of transportation. Its not so much of a concern in Cali as many hotels are walking distance to the start. If you are running alone check out the WISH thread on a site called the DiS boards. The information is great and they can answer any questions. The WISH community is also great for support, they have team kit and which gives you en route support – any supporters can also team up with them for company.
Personally I get to the start super early with breakfast and a pillow to sit on just because I hate the stress of worrying about getting to the start. And I always pack flip flops in my kit bag as its such a walk back to any hotel. I also like to go back into the park to cheer on any slower team mates.
Oh and yes I agree, enter then book accomodation immediately.
We loved watching and being part of this event! It had a wonderful atmosphere. The other spectators were generally great, and so friendly as we waited with them. Just to say that we didn’t get Starbucks coffee in the Magic Kingdom as it was on the other side of Main Street and only one side was open to spectators – another reason for going straight there during the half marathon. There were other coffee places open however, and we enjoyed our tea and croissants just after dawn!
I would love to do this! I love Disney World, but it would be an expensive race to get there all the way from here, haha. That’s an early start, too. Is it before the parks open?