Congratulations! You’re about to complete a runDisney race. You’ve packed your gear check bag and you’re ready to head to the start line. Now you’re wondering, what is it going to look like once you arrive?
Depending on your arrival time, it’s probably going to be a madhouse full of excited runners ready to crush it!
Seriously, it might be a madhouse, but it will most likely be an organized madhouse. Disney does a great job with signage helping guide guests to where they need to be and runDisney is no exception. Each race I’ve been to has been setup a little differently, but here is a general idea of what to expect.
SECURITY CHECK POINT
As with the parks, expect to walk through a security check point before you official enter the runDisney zone. Many runners won’t find this to be a big hold-up as Disney is quick and efficient in moving guests through the security check point. Security officers with go through bags, and most runners will welcome the security step to help increase race morning safety. The clear gear check bags that runners hold most of their race day belongings in expedite the process as they allow security to quickly go through belongings. Guests without bags can bi-pass the bag security lines and walk through a separate, often quicker security area.
You made it past security, yay! Now onto a more daunting task: the porta potty lines. If you took my advice and hopped on the earlier runDisney transportation bus, you will have the advantage of being one of the first ones in line at the porta potties. If you didn’t make that early bus, don’t fret, there are usually lots of options to take care of your pre-race business. Similar to many large scale races, there are usually a set of porta potties right at the beginning of the start area, but there are often bathrooms closer to the actual start line itself.
All the runDisney race I’ve been to have had a different setup, but most have had two sets of porta potties in the start area and then the runDisney Wine-and-Dine event even had porta potties right by the start corrals. Moral of this story, if the lines are dizzying long, don’t freak out, there are probably additional options. If you don’t want to venture off to search out the later porta potties, in fear of missing the bathrooms all together, in all of my experiences the lines did seem to move quickly. There were even cast members at a few of the porta potty spots to help direct the traffic flow.
Bonus Tip: Miss the bathrooms at the start completely? There are usually several sets of porta potties on the course itself.
That’s right! Characters will be at the start line area. They will be ready for you to snap a few pre-race (less sweaty) pictures with them. Word of caution though, the lines tend to be super long. I got on the bus at 3:15 for the 2018 Wine-and-Dine race and by the time I hit the first porta potty area and walked over to check out the characters, there was already a 60 minute wait for Mickey and Minnie. As a runDisney veteran, I knew there was a good chance that my favorite pals would be at the finish line as well, and opted to meet up with some of my favorite friends post-race.
This is where having an earlier starting corral is going to be of advantage for you. The earlier you start, odds are, the earlier you will finish. In my case during the 2018 Wine-and-Dine race, I was banking on finishing before a large majority of the runners, due to starting earlier, resulting in hopefully shorter lines for the characters post race. If you don’t start in an earlier corral, the character lines still seemed more manageable at the end as the guests coming to meet the characters are more staggered. When I finished the Walt Disney World Marathon in 2013 I was in the middle-to-end of the finishers, but I still definitely didn’t wait anywhere near an hour to meet the characters.
Things worked out in my favor during Wine-and-Dine as I was one of the first few hundred people to cross the finish line, making my character wait time no more than 5-10 minutes. This was after getting ice for my hip, my post-race food box and changing into some dry post run clothes! If you are starting in one of the last corrals, it might be beneficial to wait in the character line near the start line as you’ll have a little extra time. Just remember, standing on your feet in line can still drain some of your energy. Something you definitely want to conserve!
Bonus: There are usually Disney photo pass photographers near the characters. As is typical custom with all Disney Photopass photographers, they will take your picture and then link the image to your magic band if you have one (or give you a card with a number to link the image later). The photographer will also take a picture with your camera, all you need to do is ask!
The start area will also include the runDisney Race Retreat area for those runners and spectators that registered for the extra perks of a warm tent, private bathrooms and start line breakfast refreshments. If this is you, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for it. This is a special pre-registered event, so if you want to participate in it, be sure to visit the runDisney website. There are often special characters in the runDisney Race Retreat area as well!
DJ and MINI-DANCE PARTY
Speaking of conserving energy, ahem…
Most runDisney events have a DJ who is laying down all the hottest tracks. (Woot, woot!) It’s impossible to pass this area without wanting to bust out a quick move in your running gear. This is where you will have had to of made a decision before crossing by this area, do you want to run your fastest race ever today and reach that personal record? Or do you want to enjoy every aspect of the runDisney event to the fullest?
It is possible to have a wonderful time and run a fast race, but it might involve some picking and choosing as to which activities you are a participant. Remember, you’ve already been up since 2:30am, if you decide to dance the Cha-Cha-Slide, the Cupid Shuffle and Thriller all before 5am, you might be ready for bed by 6am but will still have about 1/2 of your 1/2 marathon to run. Alternatively, if you’re here to enjoy every possible aspect of a runDisney event (which is usually the most popular runDisney choice), then go for it, dance until your heart is content. If you happen to have a super cold race morning, this is actually a great way to stay warm!
RunDisney will give you a clear bag when you pickup your race bib and shirt. Be sure to hold onto this clear bag, this is your gear check bag. Disney and most other races usually won’t accent any other type of bag being dropped off at gear check due to security precautions, so you don’t want to misplace it. The bag is usually labeled with just your race bib number. The bib number is linked to your name and contact information in your runDisney account making it unnecessary to write all that information out. The gear check location is before you head to the corral starting area, so be sure to look for the signs to drop off your items before you run so you aren’t hauling an extra 5 pounds of baggage around.
Don’t forget to grab your throw away clothes out of your gear check bag as well if you plan to wear them. Most likely the weather will help you remember this step, you’re going to want that extra layer if it’s cold out! Bonus: Another perk of making the earlier buses are the shorter gear check lines. I find that on race mornings the more things move smoothly, the calmer I remain. Therefore, I greatly appreciate not having to wait to check my gear check bag and worry about missing the start.
Once you have your gear checked and you’ve visited the porta potties, odds are you’re going to have some time to camp out. On a nice day (aka, one where it isn’t pouring rain), bring along a ‘throw away’ blanket or towel to give yourself a spot to sit down and stretch before your race. I have found my ‘throw away’ clothes have worked well to relax on if there the weather is warmer. The whole goal of this extra time is to chill out and conserve your energy, so make the most of it. People watching at this time is my favorite. The costumes at runDisney events are nothing short of amazing. I am always impressed by what people run in! Lounge for a little while and take it all in.
CORRAL WALK OUT
About an hour before the event starts (this may vary) RunDisney volunteers and officials will allow participants to walk to their corrals. This is the perfect time to get a warm up in before your race. There is usually not a ton of room in the start area to complete this, so it will involve people dodging or running in a circle (like, a literal circle). Depending on your race, the walk to the start can vary. For the Walt Disney World marathon, the walk to the start was very long, so make sure to add in more time to allow you to get to the start line with enough time to make your corral, especially if you are running a warm-up. I almost missed my corral start for the Princess Half Marathon because I under estimated the time it was going to take to get to the corral!
For my most recent race at the Wine-and-Dine 1/2 marathon, I was assigned corral A. Which was amazing as it meant a less crowded race course and easier access to characters! Or, it was supposed to be amazing, unless you, like me, miss the announcement that they move corral A up to the starting line a 1/2 hour early. Instead I was trying to get an appropriately timed warm-up and last-minute porta potty stop in.
Lesson learned, be sure to be at your corral prior to 5am if you are in the front! I walked over at 5:05 am and the volunteers had already closed the gate. I wasn’t allowed to go through the corral A start area, but instead was ushered to the corral B start area. Be sure to be at your corral on time!! After corral A is moved up, corral B will follow and so on. Don’t miss yours! The corral starts are staggered with the earlier corrals starting closer to each other and later corrals being more spaced out, due to the increase in the number of runners in the later waves.
MOVING UP IN CORRALS
Disney does not typically allow runners to move up to faster corrals. You are, however, allowed to move back to a slower corral. That means if you and a running buddy are planning to race together and you qualified for corral B, but he qualified for corral D, you will both need to move back to corral D. If you’re running for a personal record, this might not be ideal, but if you’re running to take in all the sights and sounds of Disney, this won’t be a super big issue.