Everything I Learned From My First 10K RunDisney!January 10, 2024
Early 2023, in lieu of Christmas gifts our family decided to take a half-week trip to Disney. Our toddler was still free to fly and free in parks so it was the perfect time to go.
We just didn’t realize we had booked the trip on what is known as the RunDisney Marathon Weekend.
My friend @MichaelDoesDiz was there and as I watched his stories and heard him talk about the RunDisney races, I felt immediately compelled to sign up.
I announced, “I’m going to run a marathon”.
I quickly learned that that is a bit of a hefty goal for a year, with no running experience and so then I announced, “I’m going to run a 10k”.
During RunDisney Marathon Weekend (in Walt Disney World) there are 4 races: 5k, 10k, Half-Marathon and Full Marathon. Or, the option of all 4, which is highly popular and is called the “Dopey Challenge”.
The races draw in seasoned running pros and beginners alike, with a special opportunity to run these races through the Disney Parks with tons of special highlights throughout (we’ll get there).
Before we get into it I do want to disclose I AM NO EXPERT and I’m hoping to just relay as much info as I can based on our experiences. Things may change in the future at RunDisney events but I hope this will help answer some of those wandering thoughts that tend to take over as nerves kick in!
But let’s start with getting started.
*Links included in this article to products may be affiliate in which I earn a small commission*
How To Sign Up
This part is important because you can set the goals, mark them in your calendar, and be ready to go – and then the tickets sell out immediately. So know, there’s no guarantee you’ll get a ticket to the race of your wishes! Set alarms and timers to sign up! Everything happens all on RunDisney and you can find the date of sales there as well.
For our January 5th, 2024 race, we bought our tickets in April 2023.
A big reason many sell out so fast (beyond demand) is that there is also Club RunDisney: an exclusive membership that in some tiers allows early access to race passes. Oh, and those are entirely sold out right now too.
So now that your hopes are up and reality is hitting – just remember to set those alarms!! I had hoped to do the 5k and 10k but we got the 10k only and that was good enough!
How To Prepare
RunDisney does offer some training programs but I’ll be honest – I didn’t use them. We started with the gym (in January 2023) doing runs on the gym treadmill, and crosstraining with some machine weights then we had a busy summer and started outdoor running this last fall working up to our run. I genuinely did NOT feel prepared, but as it turns out we were just fine. However, everyone is on their own journey so you’ll have to measure your own needs for training for sure!
I learned SO much about running gear this last year. One thing I love about running is it is a more accessible fitness activity because it doesn’t require a gym membership, but a few pieces of good running gear can get you a LONG way.
What I learned about running shoes is they have a curve to their sole that helps propel you forward. In the past running always gave me really bad cramps and caused me to have to stop even a few minutes into running. I’m not sure if the shoes are what made the difference, but I rarely (if ever) experienced cramps after starting with running shoes. However, I did start experiencing something called Runners Toe. This can be from several factors but for me, it turned out to be more from hard nail polish and dancing in cowboy boots for hours at a concert turning my toenails black and sore. Many shared with me that runners’ toe is often the result of poorly fitted running shoes and that most runners opt to size half a size up.
For leggings, I wore running leggings (in two sizes down from my jeans size) or Knix leggings (one size down). I found wearing my true size in leggings was causing them to slip down and disrupt my runs. Sizing down made them tight and hold on for the ride.
For socks, I didn’t wear special running socks until the day of the race (against the advice “nothing new on race day” and wore these socks.
For headphones, I wore what’s considered an “open ear” headphone. Full headphones are discouraged in races as they warn you of hazards ahead and announcements you may need, along with the safety of others around you. Open-ear headphones sit in FRONT of your ears (not in) like little speakers only you can hear. I bought mine right at the EXPO but you can find them here.
Where To Stay/What To Do
Once you’ve secured your race ticket, now it’s time to start planning! Highly recommend using a travel agent for this part – they can help price out different options for you! Most racers do stay on site for ease of travel since Disney has shuttles for your race. You may be surprised to know that Disney Resorts start at around $150/night USD (up to $++++ a lot!). We opted to stay in a moderate Disney Resort which was $298/night USD (About $398 CAD) at Port Orleans – French Quarter. We had two queen beds, and a full size bath tub (so needed with some epsom salts post-race!).
Many racers will opt to get park tickets as well. We decided to for two of the days to optimize on the experience. Many race participants will just spend their time on Disney property without going into the parks (besides the race through!).
Picking Up Your Race Bib (EXPO)
At least one day before your race you’ll need to head over to the RunDisney Expo. This is hosted at ESPN World of Sports. I’m not going to lie to you – it’s overwhelming. A lot of people are there to hand in their waivers, pick up their race bibs then head to grab their provided race t-shirts. It can be chaotic with tens of thousands preparing for their races, but also incredibly fun and energy-filled.
The Expo is well laid out with signs and lots of people to support you with any questions. Once you show your government-issued ID, and hand in your waiver, you’ll receive a paper of confirmation to bring to your race bib counter. There, they check you in, and hand you your race bib and some packs of safety pins to attach to your race gear day-of. Then you head over to the big marketplace to pick up your participation shirt (the top portion of your race bib is your shirt ticket!) which comes in a clear RunDisney gEAR bag. Hold onto that clear bag if you want to lock up any items day of the race (we didn’t do this so I don’t have a ton of insight here!). If your shirt doesn’t fit, it’s easy to exchange at another table!
In Marketplace you can also shop exclusive RunDisney merch, and line up for some pretty cool photo ops with some of your faves! We had Mickey & Minnie and Chip & Dale!
Set your alarms! That 2am wake up call is ROUGH. We took some melatonin around 630pm and were asleep by 730pm. Up at 2am, got ready and headed to our lobby around 245am where buses were beginning their shuttles to the event itself.
Race info will be posted in the lobby of your hotel which I took a picture of to re-read a million times to make sure we were ready!
There are several character photo moments (some super rare so expect lines) and it’s time to get ready to run. The entertainment is really fun and alive along with your fellow runners. Take time to look around and see all those amazing and creative outfits!
It can be quite cold in January in Florida at 3am, but Disney offers a unique way to stay warm. You can either bring and toss a thermal blanket or pickup an inexpensive or old sweater or blanket to stay warm in and toss before or during the race (if it’s a sweater) to the sidelines. Disney collects and donates all items.
On your race bib on the top right-hand side, there will be a letter. This indicates what coralle you are in. In our case, that was corralle “E” (the..very…last…corralle). We opted to arrive at our corralle after meeting one character so we wouldn’t be back of the pack. While the race starts at 5am, it really just starts at 5am for Coralle A Wave 1 (we saw about 5 waves per corralle) so anticipate waiting for your start. It takes about 2 minutes between start times and before you know it, it’s your time!
What Speed Do You Need?
Something I only learned of later in my training was that you don’t actually have to RUN the ENTIRE TIME. It’s highly recommended by professional runners to adopt a run/walk method, which we adopted. But how many minutes per mile/km do you need to keep a pace? 16 minutes per mile (which is just under 10 mins/km).
Enter the “balloon ladies”. The balloon ladies are at the back of the last corralle (corralle E in our case) and walk at a 16-mile pace. Should they pass you, you’re what’s considered “swept” from the race. Sad, but important to keep events going safely and timely, I’m sure. But unless you’re at the absolute last wave of the last corralle, you’ve likely got extra time. They also will still give you your medal, even if you’re swept (Unless you’re participating in the Dopey Challenge). They are something to be considered when stopping for photo ops/characters though!
There are photographers set up along the course, mostly towards the end. You’ll see them in their green little mini tents on either side and your photos will be available to view/purchase afterward using your race bib info provided on the back. SMILE, POSE, DON’T STOP, KEEP RUNNING, HAVE FUN WITH THEM!
There are also photographers ready to help take your photo with characters. If you don’t plan on purchasing your photos, ask someone to help with your phone, just know it does require you to move along quickly.
Your photos should show up within a few hours of your finish! Note: Prepare to spend about $99+ to download your professional photos (USD).
I’ll say this, wow they plan this all so well. You don’t need to carry water with you if you don’t want to (we didn’t) because there are refreshment stops along the race. I think we spotted 3. There are also medic tents and restrooms available. Some of the restrooms are portapotties and once inside the parks, they are the park bathrooms. The lines in the earlier stops are much busier so if you need to go, stop, obviously…but if you can hold it for a later stop, it’s likely best for time!
Post-Race Medals & Fun!
Crossing that finish line was euphoric and emotional. You may expect running to bring you to tears of pain, but tears of joy and accomplishment and pride? Buckle up.
After the finish line, watch for Mickey & Minnie cheering you on! I say this because I missed them ENTIRELY and live with deep regret of that now.
Then there will be refreshments handed to you, your medal, and a box of snacks! Then, off to party!!
Lots is going on post-race and it’s a great time to chat with others, grab more character photos, and take pics with your new medal! Buses are also ready to take you back to your resort when you’re ready as well.
As much as I was in pain, walking that day in parks really helped stretch out the muscles and ease the overall muscle discomforts we were experiencing (an Epsom salt bath helped too!).
How Much Does This All Cost?
The race ticket itself was around $150 USD. This includes the race, participation shirt and your medal (along with those free snacks and refreshments after).
We opted to stay for 3 nights bringing our hotel costs to around $900 USD.
Park tickets range per day starting around $109 USD (typically more) per person per day should you choose to go!
Photo downloads $99-$299 USD (either buy for the day or for your entire trip).
Flights due to the time of year were pricier coming home, so I suggest looking at prices well in advance and planning out your trip around those prices (we opted to leave the day after on a late flight). Thankfully, we had flight credits to use towards ours.
While your shuttles to and from the events and parks/shopping are free, you’ll still need to book a shuttle from the airport to your resort and back. We booked MEARS this time (there’s also Sunshine Flyer) and it was around $33 each USD round trip.
Would We Do It Again?
Yes, yes, 1000000% yes. This was one of the most magical, soul-inspiring things we’ve ever done. Not only did it push us to run together in training the year leading up but also gave us a really cool goal to work towards and while it TERRIFIED me, it was the most incredible feeling crossing that finish line.
We may even try and do some VIRTUAL RunDisney races in the meantime (just need a friend in the US to ship your medal to!).