This Guide covers all aspects of runDisney Races from planning and training to race day, and even the post-race celebrations.

Are you a walker or runner? Do you want to start walking or running and need motivation? Are you a Disney fan that enjoys seeing different aspects of the parks?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, then runDisney races (and this blog) are for you!

First, let me introduce myself. My name is Sam Mader and I am a travel agent with The Vacationeer. I am a relatively avid runner and have run more races than I care to admit. I have run every Disney World runDisney race weekend and keep going back for more. Below is all of the info you will need to know about runDisney races and why I keep going back. I can’t wait to help you plan and book your runDisney vacation!

runDisney Racer Sam Mader

That is me in the Finding Vino tank top!

Disney puts on several running races each year with a range of distances that run through the parks and grounds. You know, since Disney is running the races, that there will be plenty of pixie dust along the route. While you cover 5k (3.1 miles), 10k (6.2 miles), a half marathon (13.1 miles), or a full marathon (26.2 miles), you will run through the parks, see unique characters, and find other Disney magic. Not to mention you can enroll your kids in the kids dash or mile run! Disney dedicates full weekends to these races and does a great job of creating running/walking magic.

Why run a runDisney race?

There are thousands of races out there so why do I keep going back to Disney to run year after year? Well I love anything Disney. I love the feeling I get running down Main Street USA towards the Castle. I love that I can dance around at 4am with the DJ playing music. I love that I can get a drink while running a marathon (ok I haven’t tried this yet, but I will next time. I love high fives from the crowd support and seeing the different unique characters out on the course. I love that people of all backgrounds and paces come together and have fun.

I also love how family friendly these races are. These race weekends have turned into a family and friend affair for me. My dad has run his only 3 half marathons at Disney with me. My non-running mother crushed a 10k with me while my brother and sister-in-law took on the half. Friends who were not runners have conquered these races and found a new love for running. You do not need to be a “runner” to enjoy these weekends.

Mader Family Photo at runDisney Race

Family photo with Mickey and Minnie before the 10k

No race is perfect though so I wanted to break down the good, and the not-as-good about runDisney races. Hopefully you will agree with me that the good definitely outweighs the bad.

The Good

  • Running through Disney parks!
  • Fun Disney themed medals and shirts (new designs every year)
  • Characters before, during, and after the race. A lot of unique characters are out on the course to make you smile.
  • Fireworks at the start of the races!
  • DJ party starting at 3am (yes I said 3am…keep reading for more on this)
  • So many happy people taking in the race atmosphere
  • Possible to get a ride in during the race (for select races) or grab a drink in Epcot before finishing (for select races)
  • Running in costume or fun themed outfits
  • Huge expo full of fun merchandise and vendors
  • So many charities that you can support and raise money for
  • Having to visit Disney to run these races (never a bad thing)
  • Snack boxes at the end of each race (no more trying to hold a banana, bar, water, sports drink, and more in your hands without dropping them)

The Not-As-Good

  • Lots of time on the roads between parks. Disney does its best to add characters, movie clips, cheer squads and more to keep you entertained though.
  • Expensive races compared to similar distance races, but you are getting Disney magic and quality with these.
  • Can sell out incredibly quickly (See below on how I can help avoid this)
  • Port-a-potty lines—Ok let’s be honest…this is not specific to runDisney but it is a problem at any running race. I still classify it as not a fun part of races.
  • 3am or earlier wakeups to catch the shuttles no later than 4am for a 5:30am start. Yes, this is rough and even rougher if you are doing a challenge and need to wake up early multiple mornings in a row.
  • A lot of time standing around and waiting before the races start. You can however join the dance party or get pictures with characters.
  • Long walk from shuttles to the corrals at the start
runDisney Morning Events

What does a race weekend look like?

Race days are always magical in my opinion. Everyone’s race day is a little different but here is a general run down of what to expect.

Expo:

You will need to go to the Expo at the Wide World of Sports to pick up your bib at least a day before the race. You cannot have a friend pick up your bib for you. You can make this into a fun event or you can just grab your bib and shirt and go. The Expo is full of vendors with plenty of merchandise for you to buy. You can also grab a drink (special beers for race weekend) or some food and explore ESPN Wide World of Sports. Each Disney hotel has shuttles running here during expo hours. The Expo is normally open Wednesday (marathon weekend only) or Thursday- Saturday.

runDisney Character Photo

Race Day

Pre-Race

Early morning wake up: If you are staying on Disney property, you will need to catch the shuttle at the hotel around 3-4 AM. Most hotels have a to-go runners breakfast if you want to purchase it. Personally, I bring my breakfast with me to avoid any extra stress. However, the food courts will be open to ensure you can get your coffee or food. They even normally have a coffee vendor near the DJ, but make sure to bring money if this interests you.

Shuttles/Parking: If you are staying on property or at certain Disney partner hotels, you can take a shuttle to the race start. If you are staying off property or prefer to drive, give yourself plenty of time to park and get to the start. You will park in the Epcot parking lot and there will be plenty of volunteers helping you park and directing you where to go.

Security Checkpoint: Once off the shuttle, you will be directed to go through a security checkpoint to get to the race area. If you have a bag with you, you will go through a line to have the contents searched. If you don’t have a bag, you will just walk through (similar to the parks).

Pre-race fun: You will have a lot of time pre-race. You can join the dance party with the DJ, jump in line to get pictures with characters, take a nap on the pavement, or make new friends. It is between a 0.5-1 mile walk from the drop off spot to the race corrals so give yourself time to get to your corral. And don’t forget to stop by the port-a-potties before going to your corral. Give yourself plenty of time given those lines can get very long.

runDisney character Jabba the Hutt

gEAR Bag Check: Disney will provide you with a clear plastic bag when you pick up your bib at the expo. This bag is provided for you to use if you want to use the bag drop. The provided plastic bag is the only bag Disney will accept. This allows you to put things like extra clothes for pre or post race and receive them at the finish. Please don’t put anything valuable in these bags.

Join your corral: Disney does a decent job of separating runners into corrals by pace. This is to limit how many people are weaving around each other the whole race. Your corral letter will be listed on your race bib.

If you want to be placed in an earlier corral, you will need to submit a proof of time to Disney (see more on this later). There will be thousands of people in these corrals so find a good spot to rest, stretch, and make friends. Do not try to get into an earlier corral than the one you are scheduled for. They have volunteers checking your bib and they will turn you away so don’t try to get around the rule. If you want to join a friend in a different corral, then go to the later corral to avoid issues.

Race Start! Before the race, the MCs will get on stage and chat for a bit to get you excited and show different movie clips. Usually characters will join them on the stage for a bit to get the race started. Wheelchair racers will start first and then the corrals will start about 3-5 minutes apart. Each corral will have multiple starting groups. The best part, each start gets its own firework start!

runDisney Morning Fireworks

Race

This is what you have trained for so go enjoy it. I highly suggest not going for a crazy fast race, but taking the time to enjoy the unique aspects of the race. If you want to set a PR and go crazy fast, find a cheaper race to do that.

Character lines: Character lines will be long. Plan on at least 5-15 minutes at each character. Keep this in mind because this will affect your running pace. Also remember to be quick when it is your turn.

runDisney Photo with Stormtrooper

Bathrooms: Here is one of the perks to running through the parks- real bathrooms. If you need to use the restroom and can wait, definitely enjoy using a real bathroom when you run through the parks. So much cleaner! I can give you a heads up to the best-located bathrooms depending on the race.

Run/Walk: Disney is a big fan of the Galloway training plan, which calls for run/walk intervals. This is great and really allows a lot of people to feel confident during the race. If you see a person or group raise their hand, this means they are going to transition from a run to a walk. You want to be aware so you don’t run into them. If you are doing a run/walk, then please be sure to raise your hand especially when switching to a walk. These races are crowded and giving a warning to the runners around you will avoid any collisions.

Pace Group:  Disney has many pace groups led by experienced runners. They will help you stay on track and finish in the time you want. They all use the Galloway run/walk program so make sure to talk to them before the race to ensure you know the strategy.  You can also get more info about these at the expo.

Drinks/Snacks: Disney will have refreshment areas along each race route. The 5k and 10k usually are just drinks, but the half and full usually have a snack stop too. These will be identified on the race maps so you can plan accordingly.

Photographers: Photographers will be all around the course. You will usually find them at all characters and near the iconic landmarks. You can normally identify them sitting in their tents or on the ground. Make sure you smile! You can get all of your races photos through Memory Maker or purchase them separately.

runDisney Photo with Woody

Adult Beverages: Yes, sometimes you can actually grab a beer or beverage of choice when running through the World on the way to the finish. This depends on the time you run through this area and if they are open yet.

Rides: Similar as the drinks. This depends on when you run through the parks. The parks need to be open for you to ride anything. Just remember, you have to actually get off the ride and keep going…that can be hard.

Post-Race

Celebrate because you earned it! There is a lot going on post-race to help you celebrate!

Finish Line: Smile as you cross that finish line! You have earned that finish and there will be plenty of photos to capture it.

runDIsney Finish Line Poses

Perfect your Finish Line Pose!

Finisher Chute: Once you finish, you will just follow everyone else through the finisher chute.

  • Medical: If you need medical attention, let the volunteers know and they will direct you accordingly. This can be for big or small issues.
  • Medals: Everyone that completes the race gets a medal (isn’t that why we run these races). If you are doing a challenge, make sure to go through the specific challenge area. They will take your photo with your bib to ensure you run the other races required for the challenge.
  • Snack Boxes: Disney provides each runner with a snack box. These vary a little by race and year, but most people seem to enjoy them. Plus it is a perk to get everything in one box instead of juggling different items.
  • Drinks: You will have the opportunity to grab a bottled water and a sports drink at the finish.
  • Photographers: There will be plenty of photographers there to capture your special moment after you get your medal. Make sure you look down the line as there will be a lot of photographers but most people normally stop at the first few ones. You can get individual or group photos and don’t forget to grab one with the “I did it!” paddle. These photos are included if you have Memory Maker.
runDisney Runners with Medals

Don’t forget your finisher photos!

Dance Party: Yep, the DJ moved to the finish line and is still playing music and celebrating with you.

Character Photos: The characters also moved to the end of the race for another opportunity to grab a photo.

gEAR Bag Check: Don’t forget to grab your bag if you dropped one before the race.

Shuttles: The shuttles back to your hotel will be easy to find. They are the nice charter buses and it is totally ok if you are a little slow getting off. We are all in the same boat.

Thank your supporters! Make sure to thank anyone that supported you for the race. It was a long morning for them too and they deserve a nice, sweaty hug.

runDisney Medals with Dog

Or in my case, ensure your running partner gets the credit when you get home

How do I sign up to run a runDisney race?

This is where I come in to help you. There are four ways to register for a runDisney race:

  1. Book with me! Book a two-night minimum stay at a Disney resort with me and I can get you the bib in advance. You will need to put down a $200 deposit for the room and pay for the bib at the time of booking. I can get you the bib a year in advance, which is well before the regular registration opens. You avoid having to pay the 6.6% service fee and don’t need to fight for a bib during general registration! Not only do you lock in a bib before everyone else, but also I will be here to help you plan your vacation for free!

Note:: Travel agents have limited amounts of bibs to sell so there is a chance I cannot help with the bib and you will need to consider option 2 or 3. However, I am always available to help with your room, tickets, or dining plan. The best way to avoid this is to book early if you know you want to do the race. I will walk you through your best options.

  1. Annual Passholder/DVC Registration: Annual passholders and Disney Vacation Club (DVC) owners get to register a few days earlier than general registration. The bibs available during this time are also limited.
  2. General registration. Be ready at 10am EST on the opening date to get a general registration bib. Some races sell out within an hour. Tip- skip purchasing merchandise until later. You want to lock in the bib first.
  3. Charity bibs. There are many charities that obtain bibs for runDisney races. You can register with one of these charities and raise money for them and the bib is included. This is a fun way to give back.

Once you are registered, start training so you are ready for the big race. You will enjoy it so much more if you go prepared and trained. Also start planning your costume or running outfit. You get to have fun with it…embrace it!

Rules you should know about:

  • Age Restrictions:
    • Marathon, Goofy Challenge, or Dopey Challenge: Must be 18 or older
    • Half Marathon: Must be 14 years or older
    • 10K: Must be 10 years or older
    • 5K: Must be 5 years or older and able to complete the 5K on their own
    • One Mile Dash: 4-13 years old
    • Kids Dash: 8 year or younger
  • Non-refundable/Non-transferable
    • The race bib is non-refundable and non-transferable.
  • You need to maintain a 16-minute mile pace to ensure you can finish the race. Make sure you are accounting for time you will be spending waiting for a character picture.
    • You need to stay in front of the “Balloon Ladies”. They hold a 16 min pace and are the last to start. You need to stay in front of these ladies to ensure you can finish. If you fall behind them, you may be asked to get on the shuttle to the finish.
  • You must go to the expo in person to get your bib. You cannot have another person pick up the bib for you.
  • Proof of Time
    • Disney requires proof of time if you think you will finish under a certain time. This is to put you in the correct starting corral so that people are generally moving at the same pace (aka you are not always weaving around people).
    • Proof of time must be from an officially times 10k, 12k, 15k, 10 miler, or half marathon within the last 2 years
    • Marathon: Proof of time required if you think you will finish in under 5 hours and 30 minutes
    • Half Marathon: Proof of time required if you think you will finish in under 2 hours and 30 minutes

Spectators Allowed

Disney allows spectators in certain areas and offers a Spectator Cheer package. So your friends or family can come cheer you on if they don’t want to join the race.

runDisney Event Calendar

Each year, Disney World has 4 uniquely themed race weekends, Disneyland Paris has two uniquely themed races, and there are virtual runs. Currently there are no races at Disneyland.  Below is information on all of the Disney World races.

January- Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend

This is the biggest race weekend that Disney offers. This is the only marathon offered at Disney and it runs through all 4 parks! You can even take on the craziest challenges offered with Goofy and Dopey.

  • Kids dash
  • Kids 1 mile run
  • 5k on Thursday morning
  • 10k on Friday morning
  • Half Marathon on Saturday morning
  • Marathon on Sunday morning
  • Goofy Challenge (Half Marathon and Marathon)
  • Dopey Challenge (5k, 10k, Half Marathon, and Marathon)

February- Princess Weekend

Do you want to feel like a princess or prince while running? Then this weekend is for you. There is nothing like running down Main Street USA towards the Castle, except for maybe running through the Castle itself. Find some amazing photo opportunities with princesses, princes, and more.

  • Kids Dash
  • Kids 1 mile run
  • 5k on Friday morning
  • 10k on Saturday morning
  • Half Marathon on Sunday morning
  • Fairy Tale Challenge (10k and Half Marathon)

April- Star Wars Weekend

May the Force be with you while you run through the Disney parks. Pick a side and run with the rebels or the dark side. Run through an intergalactic battle and don’t forget to say hi to R2D2.

  • Kids Dash
  • Kids 1 mile run
  • 5k on Friday morning
  • 10k on Saturday morning
  • Half Marathon on Sunday morning
  • Rival Run Challenge (10k and Half Marathon)
  • Kessel Run Challenge (Half or Challenge and Virtual Half)

November- Wine & Dine Weekend

I can’t lie; this is my favorite of the race weekends. Planned around Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival, you get to enjoy exclusive time in the park later that night to celebrate finishing your half marathon. The theme changes each year so embrace the fun (or dress up for food) and dash through the parks. All half marathoners get free entry into Epcot for the celebration. Others are able to purchase party tickets to join.

  • Kids Dash
  • Kids 1 mile run
  • 5k on Friday morning
  • 10k on Saturday morning
  • Half Marathon on Sunday morning
  • Rival Run Challenge (10k and Half Marathon)
  • Two Course Challenge (Half or Challenge and Virtual Half)

Hopefully I covered everything you want to know about runDisney Disney World races. I adore these weekends and can’t wait for my next one in November. If you have any questions about the races or would like to book a race weekend, contact me at sam@thevacationeer.com. I look forward to helping you!