“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” – Walt Disney
So if you are reading this you might be a Disney fan and didn’t know that Disney hosted races that run through the parks and include a ton of other Disney fans, many who dress in costume for some of the most fun races in the United States. Maybe you have heard about them and want to learn more. Maybe you have a goal to be more fit and need something fun to keep you motivated. I’m here to share all I know to get you started and hopefully signed up for a race!
The great thing for you, as you have found my site, I have access to race bibs before they go on sale. Why is that important you might be wondering? Well, some of these races sell out quickly. If you have to register a family of 4 for a 5k on Marathon weekend you might want to skip registration and book through me before they even go on sale. I have heard the story too many times of a family who got 1/2 of them registered and then it sold out. I often will have bibs too even after they sell out online as we are an earmarked agency. I can secure your bibs, book your packages and in some cases even your dining and take all the stress out of planning your racecation.
How fast do I have to be?
Disney has a 16-minute mile minimum race pace. Most people walk faster than that and if you are new to running I highly recommend following the Jeff Galloway training plans to get you to your goal. When I signed up for my first Half Marathon at Disney’s Wine and Dine Weekend in 2014 I had never even run a mile. I really think these races are for anyone who wants to participate given you follow your training and/or can complete the given distance under a 16-minute mile.
In order to ensure that everyone is pacing properly, Disney has a group of volunteer ladies called the Balloon ladies that keep a strict 16-minute mile pace. They start as the very last runners and maintain their pacing throughout. There are also Galloway pacers at different speeds that you can meet up within your corral’s and run along with to stay at your goal pace. If the balloon ladies pass you and the race officials think you aren’t going to be able to make it – they will ask you to get on a relief bus and take you to the end of the race. Sometimes it’s just not your day. Sometimes if you look like you can make up the time they will give you a chance to. Everyone is really encouraging and wants you to enjoy your race and meet your goal.
Where are the races?
Currently (July 2019) there are races in Walt Disney World, Orlando, Disneyland Paris and Virtual races that you can participate from anywhere. Each of the races on location will take you through one or more parks depending on the distance of your race. Let’s go through each one so you can get an idea of the opportunities.
Race 1. Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend
The Marathon was Disney’s first race kicking off January 1994. The half followed in 1998 and less than a decade later the first challenge was introduced. Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge, first debuted in 2006 and then Dopey followed in 2014 also bringing the 10k.
This race is always in January – usually around the second weekend of the month and is held in Walt Disney World Orlando. The weekend races include a 5k on Thursday, a 10k on Friday, kids races and a Half Marathon on Saturday and a Full Marathon on Sunday. This race weekend is the only one that has a full marathon. There are also Challenges that you can participate in a Goofy Race and a Half Challenge which means that you sign up to race the Half and Full Marathons and the Dopey Challenge which means you do all four races. Personally, I have raced the Dopey Challenge and it was so fun I’m doing it again in 2020. The kid’s races are called Dashes and have three sub-races. A diaper dash for crawlers 12 months old and under, a 100-meter dash for 1-4 years old, a 200-meter dash for 5-8 year olds, and a kids 1 mile run for ages 4 to 13 years old. So there is fun for everyone!
I think Disney does a great job with their medals so if you run for bling you won’t be disappointed. You get a medal for each race and for each challenge you complete. So if you complete the Dopey challenge you actually receive 6 medals as you completed both challenges and all 4 races. Crazy right!
The theme for this weekend often is set among traditional Walt Disney Characters. For example, in 2020 you’ll see a very retro Pluto, Oswald, Donald, Mickey and Minnie for each of the themes.
These race routes could change given the addition of Galaxy’s edge this year but in 2019 the 5k took you around Epcot, the 10k also takes you around Epcot and the Epcot resorts, the Half Marathon takes you around Epcot and all the way to the Magic Kingdom and back, and the full takes you through all four parks! All races have Disney Characters and entertainment and refreshments on course and offer great viewing spots for family and friends.
To Costume or not?
Race weekend is a very diverse group of runners. You have some that wear costumes and some that don’t. The weather sometimes can make your decision for you – especially in January. The last year I ran Dopey it was unseasonably cold for Florida. I had on layers for every race except the marathon. I’m usually cold so some were definitely in less than I was but it was very cold. My costumes were somewhat obstructed or changed up because of the weather. If costumes aren’t your thing – never fear you won’t be alone – show up in your run gear and enjoy your race!
2. Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend
Princess Half Marathon debuted in 2009. This February race is VERY popular and not just with the ladies. While Princess weekend may be the obvious gal pal race weekend I’ve seen a lot of men embrace the theme both dressed as princesses and princes. During this race weekend, you can run a 5k, 10k, Half Marathon, or a Challenge which is a 10k and a half marathon. Like Marathon weekend there are also kids races. The kid’s races are called Dashes and have three sub-races. A diaper dash for crawlers 12 months old and under, a 100-meter dash for 1-4 years old, a 200-meter dash for 5-8 year olds, and a kids 1 mile run for ages 4 to 13 years old. So there is fun for everyone!
The Princess Expo also is very popular. All the expos’s have a lot of items to view and shop but one of Princess Weekend’s sponsors is Pandora. Let’s just say I’ve heard good things.
As the weekend suggests the theme is Princesses and Disneys got a lot to choose from and they change from year to year. This year Moana, Pocahontas, Cinderella and Flora, Fauna and Meriweather each adorn a race medal and theme. For the kids races, the theme is Ariel. Some will use these themes to guide their costumes but it also may give you an idea of some of the merchandise at the Expo.
Race themes often equate to medals as you can see here. I gotta say I’m loving Moana this year!
So you may be wondering – do I get to run through the Magic Kingdom Princess Weekend? The answer is YES but you have to run the half marathon. The 5k and 10k stick to Epcot. All races have Disney Characters and entertainment and refreshments on course and offer great viewing spots for family and friends.
To Costume or to Not
There are a lot of costumed runners at Princess weekend. Most stick to the princesses and princes. However, there are those that are there to run. One of my favorite groups that regularly participate in this race are dubbed the Princess men. These guys are great and I gotta say – make fabulous princesses. I’ve heard they are very friendly and take pictures with lots of people who recognize them. I believe you can even google them lol. It’s all in good fun and Princess weekend is quite the party. Are there people that don’t wear costumes – Absolutely! So if you are a costumed runner or not – and love Disney Princesses this race is for you.
3. Star Wars Rival Run Weekend
Star Wars Half Marathon was originally called The Dark Side (The light side was hosted in Disneyland) and debuted in 2016. If you love Star Wars then Star Wars Rival Weekend is for you. This race has a corresponding virtual race right now as a placeholder to its Disneyland counterpart so people can still get their Kessel Run Challenge Medal. Disneyland has suspended their races for the time being so those that loved the idea of coast to coast medals like the Kessel run don’t need to miss out and just need to run a virtual half.
Probably the most obvious and easiest to recognize race themes – its all things Star Wars. Characters, droids, creatures you name it you’ll see it. Character stops during these races will feature many characters from the films.
Star Wars race routes are a little different and there is a lot of speculation that once Galaxy’s edge is open the race route will change again to allow runners to run through Galaxy’s edge. The 5k and 10k stick to the Epcot route but the Half goes through Animal kingdom, Hollywood Studios and ends at Epcot. Calling all Padawans! – There are also kids races including a diaper dash for crawlers, 1 -4-year-olds can run a 100-meter dash, 5 to 8-year-olds can run a 200-meter dash and children age 4 to 13 can run a 1 miler. All races have Disney Characters and entertainment and refreshments on course and offer great viewing spots for family and friends.
To Costume or Not
Costumes can be pretty elaborate and fun but the race is in April and can be quite hot. You will see all kinds here and some runners who opt-out. I think this group is very enthusiastic with their costumes, however, and it makes for a lot of fun and great pictures. The thing about star wars is some of the costumes are fairly easy to whip up. Maybe that is why there are so many runners in costumes – or maybe it’s just because Star Wars fans are really enthusiastic. It’s a very fun race to watch or run.
4. Wine and Dine
Wine and Dine used to be the only night race that Disney hosted and debuted in 2010. I did it one of the last years it was at night and because it was at night loved it. I’m not an early morning person. They have since rescheduled it to morning and its still wildly popular as it occurs every year during the Food and Wine Festival at Epcot. This year (2019) I was sad that it started on October 31st as Halloween is quite an occasion at my house so we couldn’t participate – but those that do at least this year can participate in both Mickeys not so Scary Halloween Party and the Food and Wine Festival.
As you can imagine the themes are usually food-friendly in some way. For example, I have seen lots of chef’s, even a spaghetti dress one year. Very creative food-related costumes. The themes this year were Fall Feast for the 5k with Mowgli and friends, A fun snow-scene Wine and Dine 10k with Sven and Olaf, as it was an anniversary year for the half a very patriotic Mickey marks 10 years running and the Three Caballeros for the two-course challenge. The kid’s race theme was Timone and Pumba and their grubs.
Wine and Dine 5k lets you run through the Animal Kingdom and 10k takes you through Epcot while the Half takes you through the Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and ends in Epcot so you can come out and enjoy the Food and Wine Festival right after your race. There are also kids races including a diaper dash for crawlers, 1 -4-year-olds can run a 100-meter dash, 5 to 8-year-olds can run a 200-meter dash and children age 4 to 13 can run a 1 miler. All races have Disney Characters and entertainment and refreshments on the course and offer great viewing spots for family and friends.
To Costume or Not
As the race is centered around the International Food and Wine Festival you will see many creative costumes around food and chefs. However, When I ran it we went as Lion King characters and definitely saw our share of other Disney favorites. Lots of runners in traditional running gear at these races. Go as you will – have fun and Eat Drink and Be Merry!
5. Disneyland Paris
Disneyland Paris started having races in 2016 and introduced a new medal that you could receive if you did a Disneyworld race and a Disneyland Paris race – The castle to chateau medal. You have to complete both races within a year to get that medal. The races take place in September which typically means great running weather if you ask me. Disneyland Paris is also located near a train station making traveling to downtown Paris fairly straightforward.
This years race theme is adventure featuring the lion king for the 5k, Princess power for the 10k, The half Mickey Minnie and the Castle. Here is a great video I found on the making of the medals.
For the 5k you get to run through the park and finish in Walt Disney Studios Parks. The 10K runs through both parks and you finish in the Walt Disney Studios Park. The Half also runs through both parks and surrounding villages and you also finish in the Walt Disney Studios Parks. All races have Disney Characters and entertainment and refreshments on course and offer great viewing spots for family and friends. Of course like all of the other Disney races there are also Kids races: 100m for 1 to 3 years old, 200 m from 4 to 7 years old 1k from 8 to 12 years old.
To Costume or Not
Paris runners are no different than those in the states. Some love their costumes others wear traditional running clothes. The weather may be kinder to you than in Florida offering a great opportunity for a good running costume. But if its not your thing – you won’t be the only one in running gear. Passer une journée magique!
General Costume advice
If you are like me you enjoy making your costumes. I often start with a picture of a character, then a sketch and then I either draft a pattern or use multiple patterns to get the desired finished design. Fabric shopping comes next if I’m not designing something specifically for the costume (I also design fabric) and then I cut and sew everything together. If you want a running tutu or circle skirt there are lots of tutorials online. Youtube is your friend if you are a beginner. Also, if you wear a costume I highly recommend running in it prior to the race. Chafing from a costume can really put a damper on your vacation. The recommendation is don’t run in something for the first time on race day. So if you are into Disney and want to dress up for a race weekend – go for it there are some great running race costume groups on facebook to support you on your way to making your own costume. There are also Etsy & FB stores where you can buy runDisney costumes if sewing is not your thing. Here are a few I have heard of. I cannot attest to their costumes because I make my own but you can read the reviews and decide for yourself. Fit4aPrincess Copley Couture DreamitYLW
Training Newby to Experienced
runDisney offers runners training plans for each race distance and challenge written by former Olympian and runDisney trainer Jeff Galloway. They range from 13-week programs for a 5k to 29-week programs for the Marathon and Challenges. These programs are based on the run-walk interval method and are very effective approaches for both beginners and experienced athletes. I have heard more than one convert of a runner who used to run the whole race distance say that their times improved when using this method over running the whole time.
Magic miles help you determine what run-walk interval would be best for you to start with or try out. There is information on this in each training plan and much more information on Jeff Galloway’s site. It also gives you a predictor of your possible finishing time. You basically use the standard warm-up and then running in a fairly flat consistent surface like a track time yourself as you run a mile slightly faster than your current gentle pace. You do these periodically throughout your training to see where you are. Once you know your mile time you can look up your run-walk pace on the table. It’s always ok to take walk breaks as you need them.
The thing I love about this program is that my legs don’t feel as tired or sore when running long distances. Walk breaks give your body time to recover along the way and it allows you to run further and sometimes faster. When you participate in a runDisney race you will see people run then walk throughout the course.
Running etiquette states that walker should stay to your right and runners on your left (thanks Captain America). Also, people slowing to a walk will often raise their arms up signaling to those behind you that you are slowing. Please do this! Also, people are encouraged to run with family and friends but no more than two or so across. There is nothing more difficult than a line of 8 people blocking everyone behind them from progressing.
Ready to plan your racecation? If you are I’d love to help. Get started today by filling out this Disney Planning form and I’ll be in touch! If you are already going – I hope to see you at a race!