I ran my first ever half marathon…at Disney World! Can you imagine running 13 miles through the “happiest place on earth?” It was amazing.
I had a million questions in the months leading up to this event, so I picked my sister’s brain. The half marathon was her third RunDisney event. She has run two full marathons and then joined us for the half. She worked with me to put together everything you need to know about the races.
Planning a trip to Disney soon? Be sure to sign up for our giveaway for a $100 Disney Gift Card!
This post contains affiliate links. You’re definitely not obligated to make purchases through these links, but anytime you do, the proceeds go to support the technical side of running MamaGab. Thanks!
Sign up the day registration opens up!
Last year, registration for the half marathon sold out the day it opened! I’m not sure how it works with the princess races. It’s possible that as Disney adds more races, like the new Star Wars run, the classic marathon weekend will lighten up, but play it safe and sign up ASAP. Mark the date and set an alarm on your phone. Trust me. There were so many people trying to register last year that their website crashed.
Plan A Costume
Life’s more fun if you participate. You can run races anywhere, but where else can a 33 year old woman run around as Cinderella and be considered normal?? Only at Disney! So do it. Make a costume and have a blast. I got my running skirt from Rock City Skirts–theirs are definitely the cutest you’ll find. You can see my costume plans here!
We ran as Cinderella and Prince Charming. My husband dressed in costume only because he loves me.
Pack for all types of weather.
It’s Florida (or California!). You’re expecting that nice sunny weather, but who knows? Two years ago, I watched my sister finish her full marathon when it was 80 degrees. No one got PRs that year with the heat! But it was in the 40s this year during my entire half marathon. Fortunately, when I was packing my clothes, I threw in my Nike Dri-Fit Running Sweater on a whim, right before I zipped up the suit case. You just never know.
Me, to my sister before the race: I just don’t get the black trash bag costumes. What are these people supposed to be?? Darth Vader???
My sister: That’s to keep warm. Runners swear by it.
I totally should’ve packed a trash bag.
Take it easy in the parks.
We deliberately didn’t go to any Disney parks before race day. When my sister ran her marathon at Disney World, she joined us at the parks a few days before her race but did not join us the day before her race. Your legs need some rest before that kind of running.
After we finished the race, we had a great lunch, took showers, and then headed to Animal Kingdom. We deliberately chose to do a lot of sitting down that day on the Kilmanjaro Safari and Festival of the Lion King so that we could recover well. And honestly, we were too tired to make use of Extra Magic Hours at any of the parks during our stay. It was impossible. Sleep & rest were more important.
My daughter, dressed as Rapunzel) participating in the Festival of the Lion King.
Watch your pace! Train for a quicker pace than needed.
Run Disney races are perfect for first timers. That said, if you train too slowly or take your time on race day, you may find yourself being picked up by the buses! Too many character photo ops will leave you in the dust. Those character pictures are fun and you definitely want to do them, but not if it means you won’t get to finish the race.
How it works: The official pace time is 16 minutes per mile. Jeff Galloway, the official running coach for Run Disney events, advises training at a pace at least 1 minute quicker than that to account for stopping at the restroom or character photo ops.
Pacers, known as the “balloon ladies” carry balloons letting you know they’re at the 16 min/mile pace. Anyone behind them will be “swept”–picked up by the buses. You’ll be escorted to the finish line in a nice bus, and they’ll probably give you a medal anyway, because they’re Disney, but you won’t be allowed to finish the race yourself if you’re moving too slow. So while it’s not as cut throat and harsh as it might seem, it’s still a bummer. Know that you will be picked up if you’re a slower runner/walker and if you stop for every photo op. Watch your pace!
My goal was to be roughly 14 minutes per mile or less. I feared the balloon ladies. But I was able to take a few character photos, and between pics and a potty break, I wasted at least 30 minutes. I still finished below their mandatory pace and I never saw the balloon ladies, except when I was on an overpass and looked quite a distance back down the road. PS: I used the training plans provided on the RunDisney website by Jeff Galloway. They work!
Take advantage of the medical tents.
Because that’s what they’re there for! If you’re starting to hurt, grab a Tylenol. Use the tents at the end of the race too. The first thing I did was grab water, take Tylenol, and find ice for my ankle.
Pack your own fuel gels.
If you want to use energy gel while running, you may want to pack your own. Clif sponsors the race, so at least you know you’ll be getting a good gel. But you probably have your own favorite brand and flavor (my favorite is Mocha!). And most of the time, they run out before the slower runners get there. The energy gel tables were completely empty by the time I arrived, so I was glad I brought my own.
Smile for the pictures!
Photographers are everywhere. Smile especially at the finish line, even if you’re exhausted. And if there’s no other picture you pose for, be sure to pose in front of the castle. The photos are expensive and that’s the one you’ll most likely buy.
I never look this happy while running! Ever!
Thank the volunteers!
They got up even earlier than you to stand outside for hours, passing out water. And they won’t be getting a medal for it. A kind word is a small reward, but it’s the least we can do.
Enjoy every mile.
You’re at Disney. You’re running a race at Disney. And if that doesn’t make you happy, I don’t know what will!
Would you consider running a race at Disney?? If you have already been in a RunDisney race, tell us your experience! What would you add to this list?