Updated March 6, 2020
I recently interviewed a friend named Krista to find out more about runDisney since I know exactly ZERO about it. She went above and beyond to fill us in on everything we need to know.
Take a look!
So you’ve decided to take your love of all things Disney to the next level by training to complete a runDisney event. For many of you, this may be your first “endurance event” and a runDisney event is a fun way to be inspired to get off the couch or to venture beyond the gym and get out there amongst thousands of other runners where every mile is magical! How do you get started? What do you need to know about runDisney events? Where should you go for more information? This post will answer some of these basics for you along with some tips I’ve learned during my runDisney events at the Disneyland Resort in California.
Casey from Disneyland Daily provided some questions to get us started and I’ve added some of my own which you may find helpful. I’ve broken them down into three basic categories – before the race, during race weekend, and after the race. Let’s get started!
BEFORE THE RACE
How do you get started with preparing for a runDisney event?
- runDisney offers races in a variety of distances – 5K, 10K, and Half Marathon (13.1 miles), plus a Marathon (26.2 miles) in Florida. There are also races known as “Challenges” where participants do a 10K on one day and a Half Marathon the next day.
- Races that are 5K and longer have a pacing requirement for completing them. The official runDisney guidelines state that all participants must be able to maintain a 16 min. mile (or faster) for the duration of the race. A training pace of 15-minute per mile pace is recommended.
- Once you’ve decided you want to do a runDisney event, choose the race distance that you would like to do and select a training plan/program (more on this in a bit) and work toward making sure you can keep the pacing requirements.
- Invest in a good pair of running shoes and begin your training program.
What you need to know before signing up for a runDisney event:
*Disneyland currently has 4 races each year:
- Tinkerbell Half Marathon Weekend (May)
- Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend (Sept.)
- Super Heroes Half Marathon Weekend (Nov.)
- Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend (Jan.)
*All of the races tend to be popular, especially the “Challenge” events because of the limited number of participants. The Tinkerbell Half Marathon race has lost some of its popularity since this race weekend was moved from January to May (on Mother’s Day weekend).
How early do you have to register for Disney Run events? Any tips on how to make that happen for more popular races? Is there a max for the number of people who can participate in each run and how quickly is that typically met?
- runDisney registration typically opens 7 – 8 months prior to the event. If you are an Annual Passholder (AP) and/or a Disney Vacation Club (DVC) Member you can register 1 week prior to general registration through special links on the AP or DVC website.
- Registration is handled through the Active.com website. You’ll need to have an Active.com account set up in advance of trying to register. Also, have your form of payment (i.e. credit card) ready because you’ll only have a 15 minute window to complete your transaction on Active.com.
- During the early registration for AP or DVC, there are a limited amount of spots available. If you don’t have success then, you can sign up during general registration. If the race you want to participate in sells out, there are other options for signing up through charities (like Team in Training) or sports related travel agencies (like GET Sports Travel and Magical Miles).
- If this is your first race, you may want to sign up through a charity group like Team in Training (TNT). When you participate through TNT, in exchange for meeting the fundraising minimum, they will handle your race registration for you, will offer team practices (usually on Saturday mornings) to help you get ready, will guide you through your event from start to finish, and will make sure you get pasta the night before the race. Another side bonus of joining a group like TNT is the friendships you are likely to make with your fellow teammates.
- Yes, there are maximums for each runDisney race – the exact number isn’t typically publicized. How quickly these maximums are met depends on the race. Some events will sell out in one day so it’s best to be ready to register on the first day if possible.
How much does a typical Disney run cost?What is included in the registration fee? How do I know that I’m registered?
Prices to register depend on the race and when you sign up (provided that the race hasn’t sold out). All prices are per participant.
For example, here are the prices for the runDisney races in California in May 2016:
- Tinkerbell Half Marathon (Sun., May 8, 2016) = $199 (first tier) to $230 (third tier).
- Tinker Bell 10K (Sat., May 7, 2016) = $110 (first tier) to $140 (third tier).
- Pixie Dust Challenge (10K on May 7th + Half Marathon on May 8th) = $330 (first tier) to $380 (third tier).
- Never Land 5K (Fri., May 6, 2016) = $75 to $85
- runDisney Kids Races (Sat., May 7, 2016) = $20 to $25
Each participant’s registration includes a commemorative shirt, race bib and medal or medallion.
Once your registration has been processed, you will receive a confirmation email from Active.com. This email will serve as your only confirmation of registration. Print this out and plan on bringing it with you to the race expo.
Do you get a theme park ticket for the day you run or do you have to buy it on your own?
Theme park tickets are NOT included in registration. You will have to buy your own. If you purchase your registration through a travel agency (like GET Travel), you can often also buy discounted theme park tickets. Sometimes the registrations through charities (like Team in Training) may include a discounted ticket or a promotion of some type on theme park admission.
Can kids run? Are they the same cost? Do they charge for kids in strollers?
- Half Marathon participants must be at least 14 years old on/before race day. Participants in the 10K must be at least 10 years old on/before race day.
- You must be 5 years of age or older on race day to participate in the 5K. Note: Each participant must be able to complete the 5K on their own. The registration fees are the same regardless of age.
- Strollers are NOT allowed on the runDisney race courses. According to the runDisney website: “For everyone’s safety, selfie sticks, baby joggers, strollers, baby carriers, baby backpacks, skates, scooters, bicycles, skateboards, canes, crutches, walkers, walking sticks, and animals of any kind are prohibited from the course. Violators will be removed from the course and transported to the finish line area.”
- Kids Races are for children ages 8 and younger, including a Diaper Dash, and all happen in the Downtown Disney area.
- Runners unable to maintain the pace may be picked up at any point along the course and transported to the finish. A training pace of 15-minute per mile pace is recommended.
How competitive are the runs? Can I walk?
- Yes, runDisney races are walker friendly, as long as you (the walker) can maintain the minimum pacing requirement for the race you are participating in.
- Keep in mind, for the 5K, 10K, and Half Marathon races, there are pacing requirements. The current pacing requirement is being able to maintain a 16 min. mile (or faster) for the duration of the race.
- The start line is set up in “corrals” based on your pace and estimated finishing time. Faster runners/participants are typically in the front corrals and have to show “proof of time” by a certain date to get these slots. Slower runners/participants are typically in the middle corrals or in the back/last corrals.
- According to the runDisney website: “If you believe you will finish the Half Marathon in less than 3:15 minutes, proof-of-time is required for start corral placement.”
- Proof-of-time is not required for the 5K and 10K races. If you’ve never done a previous runDisney Half Marathon event, you can submit a proof-of-time from another recent race (10K or longer) prior to the cut-off date. For example, for the Tinkerbell Half in May 2016, the cut-off date for proof-of-time was Feb. 1, 2016. If you do not submit a proof-of-time, you will be placed in the last corral.
If you have to cancel your run due to illness or other issues, can you transfer your registration to someone else? Will they refund your money?
Entry fees for runDisney are non-refundable and non-transferrable. In some situations, and depending on when your request is made, you may be able to defer your race entry to a future runDisney race due to illness or other medical-related issues. These decisions are at the sole discretion of runDisney. The window to defer a race entry is limited. If this situation comes up for you, you’ll want to contact runDisney ASAP to see if you’ll be able to defer or not.
Will the races be cancelled or postponed due to weather?
All runDisney races will be held rain or shine, except in the case of lightning.
What should I wear?
- Active wear and good running shoes are the best choices. If you’re participating in the 5K, 10K, or Half Marathon, by the time you get to race day you’ll have had plenty of practice and training runs so you’ll know what works best for you.
- Some people wear Disney inspired costumes while they run, but the guidelines for these have been greatly curtailed recently with the updated costume guidelines for the parks in general and which apply/extend to the runDisney events. Refer to the “Costumes” section on the official runDisney website for the latest information.
- A quick search on Pinterest for runDisney costumes will yield some simple Disney-inspired race outfits that may pass with the new costume guidelines. For the Tinkerbell events, wearing pixie wings is quite popular – for men and women. However, keep in mind that you’ll be out there on the race course for up to 13.1 miles and you may want to “practice” wearing your wings in advance of race day to make sure they don’t cause irritation, chafing, etc.
Will my Family / Friends be able to watch during the race?
- On the runDisney website, a ChEAR Squad package is available for purchase. The ChEAR Squad packages offers 3 levels of spectator packages ranging from reserved viewing areas inside Disneyland to VIP treatment in the Platinum ChEAR Zone. Prices for these spectator packages range from $45 to $99 per person. One of these packages may be a good fit for your family or friends, but have to be purchased in advance.
- Are there free options for spectators? Yes! However, keep in mind that runDisney races start at 5:30 in the morning so your friends and family will be up early! In California, the Half Marathon course includes several miles on the streets of Anaheim. Another place for good viewing is the Downtown Disney area. The theme parks are closed during the races except for race participants and people who have paid for ChEAR Squad. Keep in mind that there will be road closures due to the races. Spectators will need to plan accordingly to get to the different viewing areas along the race course.
- Viewing at the “Finish Line” is generally limited to ChEAR Squad. There is a “Runners Reunion Area” beyond the Finish Line.
How should I train/prepare for a runDisney event?
- If you have never done a 5K, 10K, or Half Marathon before, you should definitely follow a Training Guide of some type. There are several options out there – some are “Couch to 5K”, “Couch to 10K”, and “Couch to Half” plans while others help runners/walkers improve their times, stamina, etc.
- The official training plan of runDisney is the Jeff Galloway method. Jeff Galloway is an Olympic athlete and he is the official runDisney training consultant. He promotes a run/walk interval method for training (3 days a week) and on race day. His approach helps you plan out your training with mid-week trainings, cross training, and longer runs/training sessions on the weekend. Galloway also uses a taper approach where you build up to slightly beyond the distance of the race about 2 weeks beforehand. Then you taper back to shorter distances leading up to race day which allows for sufficient rest and recovery.
- Most of the training plans (including Galloway’s) have you start approximately 17 weeks in advance of the race. I usually print out blank calendar pages and map out my training. (sample pictures)
- Use a phone app to help track your pace and distance. There are several apps out there, many of them free, for your consideration. I use the Runkeeper app, but there are others. Some of the apps can connect to wearable fitness trackers (like FitBit, etc.) and will use the GPS in your phone to monitor your distance and overall pace.
- As mentioned before, your goal should be a training pace of a 15 minute mile (or faster).
- The official runDisney website is a great resource for training information to get ready, including tips from Jeff Galloway and nutrition tips from Tara Gidus.
- There are several blogs and articles out there that focus entirely on preparing for events like runDisney races. If you need more information, seek these out and read what has worked for others.
While you are training, be sure to consider different aspects of your upcoming event:
- Running shoes and socks that are comfortable for 13+ miles.
- Clothes for running/walking – be sure to select fabrics that are moisture-wicking and will dry quickly.
- Body Glide for your feet and any other places you want to avoid chafing.
- For the ladies: Protect your girls with a properly fitting running bra.
- Sunglasses, hat, visor, headband – will you be wearing any of these? If so, be sure to practice with them and work out any kinks in advance.
- How will you wear your hair – ponytail, braid, sloppy bun, flowing free? This may sound random, but how you are wearing your hair may make a difference to you. For me, I realized that I prefer to train and race with my hair in a ponytail that is then braided, plus I wear either a visor or a mesh ball cap (depending on the weather).
- How will you stay hydrated during long runs? Depending on the weather and the distance of your training run, you will want to bring along some water to stay hydrated. On race day, there will be water provided, but many people bring their own also.
- Will you need food/fuel during long runs? Even with proper pre-race nutrition, your body may need fuel during long runs and on race day. For me, I eat Honey Stinger Energy Chews.
- Once you have determined the fuel and hydration plan that works for you, be sure to not change your routine leading up to and on race weekend. This includes pre-race food, during race fuel, and during race hydration. At the race expo there will be many booths giving out free samples and you may be tempted to try them – it’s best to not do this since you won’t know how your body will react to these new foods. On the race course, this may also include the course sports drinks (i.e. Powerade, etc.). If you’re not sure, simply drink water or bring your own sports drink.
- Use an “after training” cool down & stretching routine – especially once your training runs are more than 8 – 10 miles. My routine includes a 15 minute session of “leg drain” stretches against a wall, some simple stretches, soaking in an Epsom salt bath for 15 minutes, and using a foam roller on my leg muscles and and Rubz Massage Ball for my feet.
Another resource for advice/support, etc. is Facebook groups for runDisney fans. These are not official Disney groups, but can be very helpful. The one I’m part of is the “Tinkerbell Half Maration” group – there are over 6,000 members in this closed group. This group supports its members in their runDisney running/walking/training endeavors and is about having fun and enjoying each other’s company, whether it be virtually and/or in real life. The Tinkerbell FB group has an annual meet-up during the Tink Half race weekend in Downtown Disney. I attended last year and it was a fun way to meet the people behind the FB posts plus there were give aways with some fun prizes!
DURING RACE WEEKEND
Where should I/we stay during a race weekend? Where can I get pasta (pre-race carbs) at the Disneyland Resort?
- Any of the area hotels are great choices. Many people make a runDisney race a family vacation while others may make it a trip with friends and/or fellow runners/walkers. My husband and I typically use some of our DVC (Disney Vacation Club) points and stay at one of the Disneyland Resort hotels.
- If you plan to stay off Disney property, plan accordingly for road closures, etc. on race days. There are races on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday mornings which will effect the roads and parking.
- The general rule of thumb is you shouldn’t do too much walking the day before a long event (like the Half Marathon) so keep this in mind when you and your family are planning which days (if any) you’ll be visiting the theme park(s).
- Pre-race Pasta? f you have a DL Annual Pass, you can get pasta meals at both Disneyland or Disney California Adventure. If you are not going into one of the parks, Downtown Disney has places with pasta on the menu including Naples Ristorante e Pizzeria (sit-down) and Napolini (take out).
- Also, plan in enough recovery time right after the race before you head off to brunch, the theme parks, checking out of your hotel, etc.
Do I get a medal for each run? A t-shirt? Swag bag?
- From the runDisney website: “Each participant’s registration includes a commemorative shirt, race bib, and medal or medallion.”
- For the Half Marathon, the shirt is a “tech” (technical) shirt with the race name and date printed on it. If it’s a winter race, the tech shirt is typically long sleeved. If it’s a spring/summer/autumn race, the tech shirt is typically short sleeved. Finishers receive a Half Marathon medal.
- For the 10K, the shirt is a “tech” (technical) shirt with the race name and date printed on it. If it’s a winter race, the tech shirt is typically long sleeved. If it’s a spring/summer/autumn race, the tech shirt is typically short sleeved. Finishers receive a 10K medal.
- For the “Challenge” races, you also get a bonus “tech” (technical) shirt with the race name and date printed on it. Again, if it’s a winter race, the tech shirt is typically long sleeved. If it’s a spring/summer/autumn race, the tech shirt is typically short sleeved. Official “Challenge” participants who finish both races, will receive a special “Challenge” medal.
- For the 5K, the shirt is typically a short-sleeved cotton t-shirt with the race name and date printed on it. Finishers receive a 5K “medallion” (i.e. molded, colorful plastic).
- For the Kids Races, the shirt is typically a short-sleeved cotton t-shirt with the race name and date printed on it. Participants receive a “medallion” (i.e. molded, colorful plastic).
How/When/Where do I pick up my race materials?
- Prior to the race day, you (the race participant) must attend the runDisney Expo to pick up your race number, shirt & “gEAR” bag.
- Each participant must pick up his/her own materials. You may not send someone else to pick up your bib/shirt/gear bag. Be sure to bring your photo I.D. and your confirmation/receipt for race registration.
- The Expo typically opens at 10:00 a.m. on the Thursday of the “race weekend” and ends at 5:00 p.m. on the Saturday of race weekend. You will need to plan accordingly to pick up your race materials at least one day prior to your race day. Be sure to check the runDisney website for the Expo hours before booking your flight, etc.
- The Expo is free and open to the public. At the Disneyland races, the Expo is held at the Disneyland Hotel. There will be plenty of signs and cast members to guide you.
- As a general rule, avoid posting pictures of your full bib # on social media in advance of the race. If you want to post a photo, cover up some of the numbers.
Do the races go inside the park? Do you get to see anything “behind-the-scenes”?
- Yes, the 5K, 10K and Half Marathon races go inside the park(s). Both the 10K and the Half Marathon go in both parks and back stage to some degree plus the streets of Anaheim. The 5K race is all within the Disneyland Resort including the park(s).
- A theme park ticket is not needed to participate in any of the races.
- Back stage “behind-the-scenes” views in the past at Disneyland have included the Round House for the Monorails and Trains (behind Tomorrowland), parade float storage hangars, ride vehicle maintenance yards, animal stables (when Big Thunder Ranch was still open), and some of the back stage vehicle paths. Over at Disney California Adventure, there aren’t as many back stage “behind-the-scenes” areas except the vehicle paths near Tower of Terror and sometimes the areas behind Paradise Pier.
- With the current construction areas going on at Disneyland, it’s hard to say how the course and behind-the-scenes areas will be changed for upcoming races.
- The Kids Races are for ages 8 and younger, including a Diaper Dash, and all happen in the Downtown Disney area.
Are characters at the races? If so, do they interact or sign autographs or take photos?
- Yes, there are characters at the 5K, 10K and Half Marathon races. Which ones usually depends on the “theme” of the race. For example, the Star Wars races typically feature Star Wars characters (Storm Troopers, Darth Vader, R2-D2, C3-PO, etc.) At the Tinkerbell races, Tinkerbell and her Pixie Hollow friends are the featured characters. At the Disneyland Half races, the “Fab 5” characters plus many more are out and about. (sample pictures)
- Yes, you can line up for photos, but autographs are not encouraged because they take too much time and hold up the line. However, keep in mind that there is a pacing requirement for runDisney races (16 min./mile pace or faster) and if your pace is slower, stopping for photos may mean you won’t finish in time.
- If you don’t want to take the time to stop for photos during the race, many people wear their medal(s) into the park(s) following the race(s) – if they have theme park tickets – and take pictures in the park(s) with characters, in front of the castle, etc. after the race(s). (sample pictures)
Are there Disney PhotoPass Photographers at the races?
- In the past, the official race photographers were from a separate company not affiliated with the Disney PhotoPass program(s). Now, PhotoPass Photographers are taking the pictures at runDisney events.
Why does it matter which corral you start in?
- When you pick up your race bib, your “corral” letter will be printed on it. If you’ve submitted a “proof of time” before the deadline, you may be placed in one of the front or middle corrals. If you’ve never participated in a timed race, then you’ll most likely be placed in the last corral. Typically, the fast (or faster) runners are in the front corrals and the medium paced runners (or fast walkers) are in the middle corrals, etc.
- When the race officially begins, the corrals will begin one at a time with a few minutes in between. This keeps the race course safer because it helps, to some degree, to thin out the crowd.
- Your official “start time” is measured by a tracker on your race bib and your time will begin when you cross the start line.
- Since this is a timed race, all participants are expected to finish within 3 hours, 30 minutes. However, the 3:30 time frame begins when the final person in the last corral begins the race. If you are in the last corral, you’ll want to be up near the front of it to allow for a “buffer”. You should also not plan on stopping too much (i.e. photo opportunities, bathroom stops, etc.) because you may get picked up (or “swept”) and won’t finish.
- If doing a timed race and doing a “wave start” in corrals is new to you, you may want to sign up for a 10K race near your hometown prior to race weekend to get a feel for how these types of races tend to be organized.
Plan on getting up early! The runDisney races start at 5:30 a.m. and people tend to start getting into their corrals 45 min. to 1 hour in advance. You’ll need to plan for eating your morning pre-race food, get dressed, walk/drive to the starting area, use the bathroom, stretch/warm-up, etc.
Night before: Be sure to set out EVERYTHING you’re going to need for race day. Pin your race bib to your shirt. Get enough sleep and set your alarm. Know when/where you’ll be meeting anyone you’re going to race with. Charge your phone and any other electronic devices. Get your “after race” bag ready if you’re taking one (i.e. flip flops, towel, dry shirt, etc.) and add your bag check tag.
Race Course Etiquette: Make sure you are familiar with the “rules of the road” for race day. The runDisney site and the official Participant Guide will have many of them. Also the MousePlanet site wrote a good list of race course guidelines which I recommend you read and follow.
Watch your step! When running on Main Street (in Disneyland) and/or Buena Vista Street (in Disney Calif. Adventure), be careful of the trolley tracks that run down the center of the roads. Also, on the public streets, avoid the raised dots (known as Bott’s Dots) that mark the lanes.
Ready, Set, Go! – Have a great time! The excitement will be contagious, but be sure to stick with your plan (i.e. intervals, fuel, etc.) during the race, pace yourself & have fun! Smile for the race course photographers. Every mile is magical!!
AFTER THE RACE
Cross the finish line and collect your medal. Take some finisher photos with your race bling. Collect your after race snacks and drink some water. Pick up your bag from gear check and head back to your hotel room. Do your after training cool-down and stretching routine, shower/freshen up and be ready for brunch or lunch. If you are staying another night at your hotel, be sure to pack your swimsuit and enjoy a relaxing soak in the hotel hot tub.
If you’re going into Disneyland after the race, be sure to wear or bring along your race bling for photo opportunities. Even if you took pictures during the race, the after race photos with your medal is a perfect way to remember your accomplishment. When you get back home, you’ll be glad you took these keepsake photos.
Even though runDisney races are more expensive to participate in than most local/hometown races, they are a memorable way to do a long distance event. For many, a runDisney race is just the beginning and they return year after year. Caution: “race bling” tends to become addicting! Over the years, the friendships I’ve made through Team in Training and virtually on Facebook have added to the runDisney experience.
Everybody has their own reason for wanting to complete a runDisney race – for some it’s the goal of finishing that inspires them to get off the couch, for others it’s to raise funds for a charity and remember a friend or loved one, and for others it’s a way to combine a healthy lifestyle with a trip to the Happiest Place on Earth. What will your reason be? Are you ready to sign up for a runDisney race? If so, lace up those running shoes and get started!
Krista is the author/owner of LadyBugBlog.com – a lifestyle and travel blog that focuses on the theme parks and treasures of California – Disney, San Diego and more. Krista is a Disneyland Annual Passholder and has participated in more than ten runDisney races since 2006 including a 5K, two 10Ks, and over seven Half Marathons. When she is not at Disneyland or researching topics for her blog, Krista enjoys photography, DIY projects, traveling, shopping for shoes, and spending time with her family and friends. You are welcome to contact Krista (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have additional questions about runDisney races at the Disneyland Resort.