Participating in a runDisney race has been on my Disney bucket list for a long time, and I finally had the opportunity over my birthday weekend in February, when my mom and I walked the Disney Princess 5K!
There are many different races of various lengths put on by runDisney throughout the year, but as my mom and I are not runners, we decided to stick to the 5K. I was a little bit nervous leading up to the event, but now almost a month later I can say I am so glad I had the opportunity to experience it! Looking back, here are a few suggestions for making your runDisney race one to remember!
*Disclaimer* As I said (and will continuously state throughout this article), I am by no means a serious runner/jogger/walker. My mom and I were not attempting to win this race or even gain a personal record; we did it purely for fun and for the experience. Everyone competes in these races for different reasons, so if you want to do things differently by all means go ahead!
Read the runDisney info provided
One thing that was great about doing a runDisney race specifically was the amount of information the organization provided in the weeks leading up to the event. I got an email every week or so offering race routes, tips on everything from water and food intake to warm-ups and stretches, and answers to any question you could possibly have about how the whole operation was going to run.
They also gave you the option to print and fill out your race waiver (the fun piece of paper all about not getting hurt) at home, so your check-in process could be very simple. My mom and I opted for that route, so that when we went to the runDisney expo the day before, we could easily hand in our waivers, receive our bibs and T-shirts, and be on our way (there is a lot more to see, do, and buy at the expo if that’s something you’re interested in, we just weren’t). The whole operation was run very smoothly, and as newbies my mom and I knew exactly what to expect thanks to how informed we were.
Stay on Disney property
If at all possible, I would suggest you stay at a Disney resort the night before your race. Being local to Orlando, I debated about just staying at home and meeting my mom the morning of, but I am so glad I decided to stay with her on property. Since the races start so early in the morning, we had to be up and getting ready around 3:00 am, and it was wonderful not having to drive from my house that early.
There are charter buses that travel to and from each Disney resort both the day of the expo and the morning of the race, and being able to walk from our room and hop on a bus meant we didn’t have to deal with trying to navigate around the race setup in the EPCOT parking lot with a car. It also meant we didn’t have to attempt to drive while we were sleepy before or exhausted after the race—we could just hop into a seat on the bus and crash. Staying on property allowed us to sit back and let Disney handle the transportation so we could just enjoy the experience!
One of my favorite parts of doing the Princess 5K was seeing all the creative costumes that people came up with! For any runDisney race it’s fairly common to see a variety of different outfits, but for the 5Ks especially people really go all out. I would suggest finding a costume that is not too restrictive so you can easily walk or run while wearing it. One overarching theme I noticed were tutus, as they can pull together a cute outfit but are also fairly easy to move in if you’re a more serious competitor.
Or, totally ignore that advice if you’re crafty enough to create a one-of-a-kind design—I saw one girl dressed as Tomatoa from Moana, complete with a massive shell full of shiny objects, and there was also a group of friends wearing intricate, candy-covered race cars as if they were a part of the game Sugar Rush from Wreck-It Ralph. My mom and I opted for the easy route—as neither of us are very skilled in the crafting department—and found Elsa- and Anna-inspired dresses on eBay. A little bit of yarn to create some fake Anna braids and we were good to go!
Take in your surroundings
After the experience of my first runDisney 5K, I can tell you these races are like no other race you’ve ever done before. I have participated in a few 5Ks in my hometown, and they were so boring compared to the Princess 5K—nothing to look at besides houses and empty streets—and the 3+ miles felt like an eternity. I was amazed at how quickly the Princess 5K was over, just because there was so much to keep our senses occupied while we walked. All throughout the park, there was Disney music playing to keep you energized, and you got to see World Showcase and Future World from a different perspective than you would visiting the park on a normal day.
Some of the race took place throughout the back roads of EPCOT, and there were screens playing clips from Tangled (fitting for the Tangled 5K) and Cast Members lined up to cheer you on and point you in the right direction. There was even a point where we walked through some construction work, and there were a couple of goofy construction workers taking pictures and interacting with the runners as part of the show. All of these details kept us occupied while we walked, and helped the miles pass so quickly!
Stop for pictures
Again, speaking as someone whose goal was to have fun doing this race rather than trying to hit a PR, definitely stop for pictures when you can! We got to experience some really cool views throughout World Showcase as the sun was coming up, and there were even Cast Members at the various pavilions holding flags and other tokens representing their country ready to take some cute photos.
There were also a few “rare” characters sprinkled throughout the park that you could stop to take pictures with—everyone from Dopey to Abu and Sebastian, who my mom and I decided to see. The lines for these characters looked long, but they moved quite quickly, as you are stopping simply to take a picture and go, rather than have a full interaction. And if you don’t feel like stopping, there are Photopass photographers stationed along the route to snap pictures of you as you are running, which you can then view on your MyDisneyExperience account!
Have a chill day afterward
As I have said already, my mom and I are not the most athletically inclined people, and an early morning 5K in the Florida heat absolutely wore us out. Some runners cleaned up and went directly to the parks afterward, and while I applaud them, I am so glad we decided to have a relaxing day instead. We booked a celebratory brunch at 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian, and then came back to our resort and chilled out at the pool for the remainder of the day.
It was nice knowing we could just have fun during the race and not stress about having to make it to a FastPass reservation or attempt to trek around the parks when our legs were already worn out. We were so tired both from lack of sleep and the exercise and adrenaline of the morning that we wouldn’t have lasted for very long in the parks anyway. Having a calm afternoon napping and reading by the pool was the perfect way to end the day. If you want to go to the parks to show off your medal post-race, more power to you, but I would highly recommend saving the parks for another day.
Have any other tips for making the most out of your runDisney race? Know a lot more than I do about how runDisney races work? Leave your suggestions in the comments below! I’d love to be even more knowledgeable and prepared when I compete again!