My runDisney Experience

written by Crystal Boston, Travel Specialist

Are you thinking about participating in a runDisney event?  In 2016 I experienced several runDisney events. My goal for 2016 was to run my very first Half Marathon events and earn my Coast to Coast Race Challenge medal. I wanted to get a feel for the runDisney race experience before I jumped right into the qualifying events to earn my Coast to Coast Race Challenge so I started with the Princess 5K at Walt Disney World Resort in February then moved up to the Star Wars Dark Side 10K in April, also at Walt Disney World Resort and finished my year with the Disneyland Half Marathon in California in September and the big finale was the Wine and Dine Half Marathon back at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida! Each event was so different yet had similarities and it was an amazing year of runDisney!

runDisney events are held on weekends, typically beginning on Thursday, ending on Sunday. There is always an Expo for each event and I recommend going to the Expo as early as possible as I found that popular items sell out quickly. You will also receive a t-shirt for each race you are registered for and a finishers medal for each race you complete. Also, runDisney will provide you with a course map prior to your event date. Each race has a bit different course due to the length differences.

With my first event, the Princess 5K at Walt Disney World Resort, we met at Epcot at 5 am and it was a very chilly morning for Florida. I had a little time before heading to my corral to enjoy the pre-party with DJ and character photo opportunities. I ended up in corral B so I had a quick start once the race got underway.  The course took us around Epcot’s parking lots on surface roads and then through some backstage areas before moving through the World Showcase and then Future World, finishing near the Start line in the parking area. It was pretty magical to run through Epcot in the dark without the crowds and it was a great introduction to the runDisney events!

For my second event, the Star Wars Dark Side 10K at Walt Disney World Resort, we met in the parking lot at Epcot again. This time the course took us through Epcot and then out the International Gateway and around the Boardwalk before heading over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and finishing at ESPN Wide World of Sports. Again, it was very magical to experience this side of Disney! There were, once again, DJ’s, character photo opportunities and entertainment before and after the event as well as on the race course – this time Star Wars themed! This was a tougher course with some unpaved roads and paths near the end. I was happy it hadn’t or wasn’t raining as then we would have been running a ‘tough mudder’ and, well, that’s not what I signed up for… Disney provided buses to return us to our resorts or cars parked at Epcot. The bus lines for this event were very long and I waited approximately one hour for a bus. Even though this was a bit more challenging course, I did enjoy it more.

Now, for my Disneyland Half Marathon, this was my first experience back at Disneyland in California since June of 2004 so this was going to be a pretty amazing and magical experience for me even without the half marathon experience! Again, Disney offered pre and post-race entertainment, character photo opportunities and DJ’s as well as on the course. The course took us through both parks, Disneyland and California Adventure, and I must admit, I did become a little teary-eyed when running through Cars Land in California Adventure as this was my first experience in that new Disney land. It was so spectacular and I just took it all in!! This was a very easy course and we had amazing California weather! The course took us through the streets of Anaheim and we even ran through the Angels Stadium. There were locals on the sidelines cheering us on during the entire race, it was so wonderfully overwhelming how they came out to support us! The locals even cheered us on with their participation in a car show through an extensive part of our run which concluded with a Lightning McQueen look-alike. Bus service was provided for all participants and the only snag I experienced with this event was the huge backup at security as Disneyland only offered one security checkpoint at the main entrance to the “Disney areas” and runners and general guests were all trying to get through the same security checkpoints. Needless to say, these lines were very long! My goal for this race, which was my very first Half Marathon, was to finish in 3 hours and I finished just under! This was a great course and experience and I highly recommend it for anyone thinking about a runDisney event.
And, for my big finale, I completed the Wine and Dine Half Marathon at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida and earned my Coast to Coast Race Challenge medal! As usual there was ample entertainment, DJ’s and character photo opportunities before after and during the event. The course took us through all of the Disney parks except Magic Kingdom and we also ran on Disney owned surface streets and backstage areas. The entertainment was varied with many different Disney characters and musical entertainment. Our 4 am morning did start out a bit cool but we enjoyed exceptional weather, without the usual Florida humidity, so that helped to make this race a bit easier to get through. This was the first year this race was held in the morning, they have always held this race at night but have experienced inclement weather the past couple of years. In Florida, it tends to rain or storm at night but our mornings are usually nice so, my guess is, that is the reason for the time change. With the good weather, I had a great run for my second half marathon and finished in 2 hours and 48 minutes!

If you are considering participating in any runDisney event, we are a preferred runDisney Travel Provider and I hope that you will also consider reaching out to me to help you book and plan your resort stay and participation! Participating in a runDisney race event is truly a magical experience and I think everyone that loves Disney should at least try it once!