Get Ready for the Most Magical Miles of Your Life
On Saturday, I completed my second half marathon at the 25th annual Walt Disney World Marathon in Orlando, Florida. While that statement makes me seem like an incredibly athletic person, let me begin this article by saying that I do not consider myself a super athletic person. Before I registered for the Walt Disney World Princess Half Marathon, I was never even a runner! That is until I registered for my first Disney World race.
I’ve traveled to a few Disney races prior to my experience (my dad has run several Goofy Challenges). Whether you’re an experienced or beginner runner, running a Disney World race should be added to your bucket list. The Disney Princess Half Marathon is consistently on the list of top races in the United States, but there are plenty of fun themed Disney World races! Today I’m sharing details of my experience participating in the 25th Annual Disney World Marathon weekend. By the end of this article, I’ll have you racing to register for your first Disney World race!
Which Race to Run:
Disney has several races to choose from when you look into running a Disney World race. While every race is a bit different, they are all fun for the whole family! Running with your girlfriends? Try running the Disney Princess Half Marathon- the biggest girls weekend that Disney sees every year. Are you a big Star Wars fan? Consider running the Dark Side races, where your galactic adventure covers miles of the most magical place on earth!
If you’re a fan of food and wine, I recommend running the Wine and Dine races while visiting Epcot for the food and wine festival. Disneyland Paris recently introduced its own half marathon, and if you participate in a Paris and Orlando race, you can get a special medal for completing the Castle to Château challenge. There’s always the classic Walt Disney World Marathon as well, which is the only race that includes a full marathon for you hard-core runners.
Planning ahead is key for Disney World races. Early registration is the first step. If you are interested in running a Disney World race, I recommend signing up for notifications on the RunDisney website. Once you’re registered, you’ll need to go ahead and book a hotel!
I highly recommend staying on park property for a Disney World race. Staying on property gives you access to the race day shuttles which will take you directly to the start line and to the hotel from the race.
I recommend planning to arrive in Orlando at least the morning before your race. When you arrive, you’ll need to head to the ESPN Wide World of Sports for the Health and Fitness Expo. This is where you’ll pick up your Disney World race bib number and any other merchandise you may want. Since I collect Disney pins, I always get a pin from the race. After the expo, you can head to the parks to enjoy yourself before you run!
Get ready to wake up bright and early on race day. For the Disney Princess Half Marathon, I woke up at 2:45 AM, but this year, with later shuttles to the start line, I was able to put off waking up until 3:45 AM. Gun time is 5:30 AM, and the last bus to the start line is at 4:45 AM. You definitely want to get to the race early.
When you arrive, you’ll have the opportunity to check a bag to the finish line. Depending on the weather and other things, you’ll probably want to check a bag. I always check a change of shoes and any extra clothes that I want depending on the weather. This past year, I ran in 38 degree weather, so I packed an extra shirt and pair of pants.
While you wait for the Disney World race to start, you can enjoy dancing and music with live entertainment and your fellow runners. This is a great way to loosen your muscles and warm up! When it’s time to start the race, you’ll be directed by Disney cast members to the start line. It’s about 0.75 miles to the start line, where you’ll be sorted into your corrals before the start line.
If you’re in one of the later corrals, I recommend bringing an old blanket or sweatshirt to keep yourself warm while you wait for your corral to start. With the races starting so early in the morning, it tends to be chilly no matter what time of year the race is. When it comes time for your corral to start the race, enjoy the fireworks, and start your run!
The Most Magical Race Course:
The biggest appeal to me to run a Disney World race was all of the entertainment and magic along the race course. The course is overall flat, which is great for beginners and walk/runners. Every mile of the course is lined with live entertainment and characters to pose with along the way. Naturally, Disney has photographers all along the race course, so if you have a photo pass (one of my top tips for visiting Disney World), you can get all of your race photos directly to your phone.
All throughout the race course, you’ll reach water stations, port-a-potties, and medical tents. There is more than enough refreshments to keep you hydrated throughout your run.
The course begins just outside of Epcot, and runs to the Magic Kingdom. After a run down Main Street and around Fantasyland you’ll exit the park through the back entrance of Frontierland (where you can get a glimpse of the back side of Splash Mountain. Run past the Grand Floridian Hotel and head back to Epcot for a final run through the park and across the finish line. The scenery of the course changes so rapidly, that you’ll never get bored. Oftentimes, I find myself taking my headphones out to enjoy the course.
Spectators are allowed on several parts of the Disney World race courses, and they bring loads of encouragement and enthusiasm with them. I always love reading the signs that they make, one of my favorites being “you know they have buses and monorails and ferries– right??”
After You Cross the Finish Line:
After you finish, you’ll be handed your hard-earned medal and unlimited amounts of PowerAid, water, and snacks. The post-race food that I look forward to most is a cold banana and Silk dark chocolate almond milk. Once you pick up your race bag that you checked, you can have your photo taken with your medal, reunite with your family at multiple locations, and celebrate!
There’s merchandise available for purchase, and you can have your medal engraved. Once you’ve finished celebrating at the finish line, jump on your Disney resort’s bus and go home to shower. With gun time being so early, you should finish around mid-morning, giving you plenty of time to explore the parks after you’ve recovered!
My Biggest Advice…
Have fun and enjoy the experience!! Running a Disney World race is unlike any other experience- athletic or not. Stop and smell the roses. Stop for pictures, and run with friends/family. I had far more fun running my race with my fiancé this year than I did running it by myself last year. This year, we made a point to stop for pictures and selfies every time we saw the opportunity. While this didn’t earn us the best possible time, we had so much more fun than we ever thought would be possible!
Also- stay on property for the race! Lastly, if you’re not a runner but want to run a race, just go ahead and register for one! I was never a runner before I registered for my first race, and it has given me amazing memories and healthy habits. Running a Disney World race is a great experience for the whole family, and is something I recommend no matter what level of experience or what distance you’re considering.
For more advice planning your trip to Disney World, check out my top ten tricks and hacks guaranteed to transform your trip to Walt Disney World.
What do you think of my experiences running marathons at Walt Disney World? Have you considered running a Disney World race?
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