Running Disney…What To Expect and How To Maximize Your Race Experience!
Guest Author: Laura D.
Dreams really do come true… Never in a million years did I think I would ever run a half marathon but in 2010 I ran my first race and immediately got hooked on running races. As I become a regular half marathoner a friend told me, there is nothing quite like a Disney race. My immediate response was, “What?! You mean there is such a thing?! Combining two of my favorite things, Disney and running actually exists?” Here I am going to recap our first Disney race and give you a rundown of what the Disney Race experience is like so you can maximize your Disney race experience.
My hubby and I decided to fly down for the 2011 Disney Half Marathon. We stayed at the Pop Century the night before the race and slept in our race clothes which saved major time getting ready in the morning. We got up at 2:15am and headed out to the lobby of Pop Century at 2:45 am. By 3am we were on the bus to Epcot. Literally no wait to get on the bus at 3am! We arrived at Epcot around 3:30am despite some minimal traffic. It looked like traffic was pretty backed up to the exit ramp for cars, but the Disney buses got off a backstage ramp and there was no traffic into the park. I highly recommend staying on property the night before to avoid the traffic.
We jumped off the bus in the Journey parking lot, made our way to the bag check and then off to the corrals. MY GOODNESS was that gridlock!!! Be prepared for the volume of people making their way to the starting line. It was a bit of a shock for us but to keep us occupied on trek to the starting line, it was fun checking out all the runners in Disney costumes. Some people dressed like Disney Princesses, others like Tink, and one even dressed as Mr. Incredible. After crawling for what seemed like a mile, we finally made our way to our corral at the starting line. As they played music people got pumped up and started dancing. This is the perfect time to stretch, let loose and enjoy the moment. It was exciting as they started each wave of the corrals with fireworks! Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy were the announcers at the starting line. As we passed the main stage we waved to the Disney gang and off we went. As we approached mile 3 we could see the Epcot hot air balloon and just up the road were Pooh & the gang taking pictures with runners. The cheer squad and volunteers all called out our names from our race bibs and made everyone feel so special!
At about mile 5, when we entered the side door of the Magic Kingdom I nearly fainted with excitement. It was so exciting to see the backstage area of the Magic Kingdom. We jogged passed a towering Christmas tree at the foot of Main Street and as we rounded the corner by the confectionary my jaw dropped to the ground as I had my first glimpse of Cinderella Castle. Main Street was lined with cheering fans. There is nothing like turning that corner onto Main Street seeing those beautiful Christmas decorations and the Castle up ahead! You never forget the magical feeling of your first time running down Main Street in a Disney race. Out of courtesy of the other runners, be sure to pull to the side if you want to get a few photos here. They funneled us down through Tomorrowland and then by the Speedway. This is a race that one should not aim for a personal record. You want to get the full Disney race experience so be sure to stop and get photos with your favorite characters! We stopped off to get a photo with the Mad Hatter and Alice by the tea cups. We spotted Rupunzel and Flynn so we got in a pic with them as we approached the Castle. I got goosebumps as we ran through the archway of the Castle and came down the ramp in the front of the Castle. What an amazing moment!! I highly recommend moving to the side and slowing down bit as you come through the castle so that the ASI race day photographers can grab a photo of you as you approach this exciting moment in the race! We swung to the right and head off to Liberty Square and Frontierland. The race route had us come around the backstage area where the Electrical Parade floats were. It was so surreal to catch glimpses of the backstage magic as we headed for mile 7 and out of the park.
We kept chugging away and saw different characters along the way and before we knew it we were passing Minnie & Mickey on the Shades of Green golf course and waving to Tink & Friends at mile 9. The whole race seemed to speed by so be sure to slow down a bit and take every moment in! It was the fastest half marathon I have ever done and was certainly the most memorable! As we headed up the ramp for the home stretch into Epcot we realized we were almost at mile 11 and nearing the end of the race. The crowds grew and cheered louder as we approached the entrance to Epcot. There was nothing better than coming in that side stage door behind Spaceship Earth knowing we only had a mile to go. We intentionally slowed down here in the last mile because we wanted to take in every moment. We rounded the Christmas tree and headed back toward Spaceship Earth and the bleachers ahead with the cheering families and friends. I saw the Mile 13 sign and could not believe we were almost finished. As we approached the finish line we high fived Mickey & Minnie. That was a surprising treat! We threw our hands in the air and cheered and hugged as we finished out 1st Disney Half Marathon. We received our race medals and raced back to the hotel for a shower and then headed off to the parks wearing our medals with pride. This is one of the best parts of running a Disney race, hearing everyone congratulate you on your accomplishment as you enjoy the parks post-race! I will say out of all of our Disney trips this experience was the most memorable. I know that no other race/half marathon will ever top this one! If you are a runner or walker, I highly recommend doing a Disney race. I can’t wait to do the next one! If you decide to go for it and make your Disney running dreams come true, be sure to savor the moment and bring your camera! There definitely is no experience quite like a Disney Race!!
The Relocated Tourist is sponsored by “Magical Mouse Plans Travel“