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One of my ultimate bucket list experiences from my 20s was to participate in a runDisney event at Walt Disney World Resort. I have seen all the happy photos of people running through Disney, and, having used running as my personal outlet my entire life, I knew this was something I just HAD to do (although I offer a disclaimer, I only do short runs). Full disclosure: I have only ever run a 5K before as the max mileage in my life. My first runDisney event was the Princess 5K in 2020, and I will say that 5Ks for me are “fun runs” and not challenging, plus the weather left me wanting more since many characters and such were not out. I didn’t get the full bucket list experience.

I made a personal goal to run a half marathon before I turn 40 this year, and what better place to do it than in Disney? I felt I needed to try again, and I wanted to challenge myself since I had a full year ahead. So I went back for Princess and signed up for the 10K in February 2023. As the race approached I got nervous. Really nervous. I have always been a worrier, and this race was no exception, especially since I would be racing alone this time. 

So I’m here to help you, my fellow anxiety-ridden, runDisney dreaming friend. Here are a list of things that had my stomach in knots preparing for the race and why YOU don’t need to fret like me. 

You have to wake up at what time?

One of the most difficult aspects of runDisney for this girl that loves her sleep is the start time. RunDisney races start at 5 AM (but keep in mind that with staggered starts, many do not actually begin the race until later pending your corral). Disney begins running transportation to the race at 2:30 for the monorail and bus system (keep in mind the Skyliner does NOT open for RunDisney events). This is the way to go for on-property guests, and I highly recommend getting on that first bus on race day because the lines can get LONG.

If you’re local like me, then I chose to drive. Parking is free at EPCOT, but keep in mind that Disney does close the roads prior to the race so you MUST be in the parking lot by 4 AM and there will be re-routing around property, as well. I was very nervous about the routes, but I shouldn’t have been. I arrived around 2:45 AM, parked easily, and headed to the start line for some character meets and coffee.

My tips: make sure you go to bed early the night before and be set to leave by 2:30 AM so you can enjoy the pre-race festivities. There is food to fuel for your race, character meets, and entertainment by some runDisney local celebs that you won’t want to miss to get you pumped up before race time!

What if I have to pee?

So if you’re a runner, this is a thing and I’m here to address the elephant in the room: a lot of runners experience some urgency. This is particularly true for long runs or beginning runners, but it was something that worried me so much: what if I have to pee (or worse) when I’m running the longest distance I have ever run?

So I avoided coffee until I couldn’t anymore because caffeine is life and I grabbed a coffee and a water bottle to hydrate myself (unfortunately most of my coffee ended up on my top but this is a story for another day). With that said, I worried with that much fluid I would need to relieve myself. 

I am happy to report that I actually didn’t need to stop during my 10K, but if I had needed it, there were plenty of stops along the way (as well as water which I stopped for happily!). Not only are there portable restrooms lined up at several locations (you can find the stops on your race map that is sent to you digitally in your Event guide a few weeks prior to your run), but there are also restrooms as you run in the parks that are open for you to use.

My tips: Make sure you visit the lovely bathroom area before you enter your corral. I also recommend stopping at the first bathroom stop as you enter a park (instead of the first one on the race) if you can because the line is typically a little less AND it’s cleaner than a portable restroom!

I’m in the last corral! 

runDisney assigns you to a corral based on a few factors, including members to Club and your reported splits upon sign-up. Disney arranges you from fastest to slowest times reported. With that said, simply reporting a faster time will NOT get you a better position as you do have to provide proof-of-time documentation for half and full marathons.

Even if you’re in the last corral, though, it is manageable to get to the front. Remember that in each corral, there are staggered starting groups (at least four) so that everyone doesn’t start at once. Your goal should be to get as far to the front as possible.

My tips: Get to your corral early and stick to the left side and front as much as you can, as this is the order they enter. Remember that the corral winds around before the start, so heading to your right might get you stuck in a corner. Try to get ahead as much as possible to be at the front of your corral (and you might even get to hold the starting tape for your starting group!)

But what if I get swept?

The infamous Balloon ladies are talked about in all the runDisney forums, and I’m here to tell you that they are amazing local women that set the pace for the event so that the parks and roads can open for the public on time (hence the early start time). If there were no pacing guidelines, Walt Disney World wouldn’t be able to open and that would be a travesty! 

The Balloon Ladies are the last to cross the start line and set a strict 16-minute mile pace. If you fall behind the balloon ladies, you have the danger of being “swept”. You will be given a warning by a bike-riding cast member if you are passed by The Balloon Ladies and give you a goal.

I didn’t train and this was the biggest fear I had, but honestly, I maintained a 16-minute mile pace for my entire 10K without much training for the distance and only saw the Balloon Ladies once at the start line at the end of the corral.

My tips: Getting to the front of your corral will help, but also training is important, especially for longer races. The more you train, the better your splits will be and you will have more time to stop and enjoy the fun without worrying about the sweeping process. 

I can’t run in ______degree weather!

The weather in Florida is always a concern, especially during the month of February when I would be doing my 10K. My first Princess was a miserable 40 degrees and raining and I was NOT prepared. This race, it was 87 and humid. That’s just how Florida goes!

Preparation for each race was a little different based on the weather including my costume. I was so glad for disposable thermal blankets during the first run that I tossed in a trash can before the race, while water and breathable sweat-wicking clothes were my friend during my 10K run. I had a plan for my costume if the weather was cold based on my experience.

My tips: Watch the weather and be prepared for everything. Always remember that layers are your friend because it can still be chilly in Florida at 3 AM, even if the temperature is supposed to rise. Finally buy a cheap sweatshirt that you can take off before your race, as Disney donates the clothes items discarded at the start line to charity. How cool is that?

What I Learned

As it typically goes, I learned from this experience that I didn’t really need to worry. As seems to always be the case, Disney thinks of EVERYTHING. I know that as a person that is naturally anxious, I will always worry, so this might not alleviate them all, but I hope it helps! 

Now let’s get ready for the runDisney 2024 season registrations to begin starting in March and I will be signing up for my first half marathon! What are YOU signing up for this race season?

PS: Using a travel planner specializing in Disney destinations to assist you after you have secured your race is a BIG HELP to alleviating travel anxieties and answer some of these questions, as well! 

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