So you’re ready to runDisney. Awesome! We’re ready to help answer all those runDisney questions you have as race weekend rolls around. After 12 years of running at Disney World we’ve learned a few things about making a runDisney race weekend run (badumbum!) smoothly. Here’s your beginner’s guide to runDisney race weekends.
The Beginner’s Guide to runDisney Race Weekends
We love runDisney around here. In fact, you might even say it’s the reason we run!
Okay, it’s TOTALLY the reason we run.
A few miles is a small price to pay to spend time with ‘Ohana at the most magical place on earth.
And hopefully, you’ll find yourself feeling the same way.
We put together this guide for the beginner runDisney participant (or maybe returning runDisney runner who needs a refresher) to let you know just what you’re in for.
Pop over to the Answers to Your runDisney FAQ post as well!
1. Beginner’s Guide to runDisney: Packing For a runDisney Race Weekend
Before you go, you’ve gotta pack.
And with the next runDisney race weekend not too far away, it’s time to start thinking about your race-cation packing list.
It’s important to note that some items should only be packed in your carry-on case.
Rule number one of racing: NEVER EVER TRY SOMETHING NEW ON RACE DAY.
Airlines can sometimes lose things and it’s not cool when that happens. Trust us on this one.
The last place you want to find yourself is at the runDisney Expo scrambling to replace items.
Or a sports bra.
Or in the case of a Disney race- a costume!
Basic runDisney Race Packing List: Beginner’s Guide to runDisney
Beginner’s Guide to runDisney: What Weather Do I Pack For On a runDisney Weekend?
Weather always comes up as a topic of concern when we start to pack.
Will I be ok in shorts or do I need capris?
How about a throw-away shirt for the corrals?
Will I need rain gear?
The definitive answer from us is: YES.
By yes, we mean: pack it all, because this is Florida we are talking about, and it’s a little unpredictable in the winter.
The Princess Half Marathon, for example, has been run in as cold as 29-degree weather and as warm as 84 with 100% humidity.
We had 2 years of Marathon Weekend bitterly cold. And the last Marathon was run in record high temps.
But you just never know.
Honestly, just pack it all is our best packing tip in this beginner’s guide to runDisney.
Do yourself a favor and don’t even look at the weather prediction until the Monday before the race.
Then adjust your packing accordingly.
2. runDisney Race Weekend Arrival Day
This first part is for those flying in. If you are driving to Walt Disney World (by personal car or rental), then feel free to skip down to the Resort Check-in section.
You made it to your airport, boarded the plane, enjoyed some snacks and free sodas- and have just landed at Orlando International Airport.
Welcome to MCO!
Transportation Options To Disney World From MCO
When you arrive at the Orlando airport, you’ll want to get this vacation on the road as soon as possible.
Pick up your luggage and then head for one of these options:
- Rental Car
- Uber or Lyft Rideshares
- MEARS transportation
- Sunshine Flyer motorcoach
Pack Your Magic Bands in Your Carry-On is a Beginner’s Guide to runDisney 101 Tip!
If you are renting a car or catching a motorcoach, you’ll head to the Ground Transportation Level.
Uber/Lyft Ride Shares and rental cars can be taken from either the A side or the B side of the airport.
But the Mears Shuttle service or the Sunshine Flyer will be utilized on the B Side.
Where is Disney’s Magical Express Bus?
Sadly, this free option no longer exists. However, you can still find a similar transportation option through Mears and through Sunshine Flyer.
Mears is running in the exact same place Magical Express used to run.
When you land, you will be on level 3 of the airport.
Take the mini-monorail train to the main terminal and exit to the center of the airport.
Look for Side B.
Mears and Sunshine Flyer are located on Level 1, Side B, Ground Transportation.
Follow the signs!
There are plenty of them lining the way to your destination.
You’ll walk quite a ways after exiting the elevator or escalators. Just keep walking past all the rental car counters.
Once you arrive at the check-in kiosks, you will give your name to the attendant. They will check you in and send you on your way.
Finally, you will get in line to board a bus.
If you are lucky with the timing, you might walk right through the queue and get onto a motorcoach.
If your motor coach is not ready for you, the wait is typically 10-30 minutes (but it can be longer).
Schedule Your Transportation In Advance
You can now schedule your ride through MEARS Transportation and Sunshine Flyer to get to Walt Disney World.
This guide to using Mears once the Magical Express is gone will help you understand all the details, including how much it will cost to take the bus to Disney.
The ride to the Walt Disney World takes approximately 25 minutes. Your coach may make a couple of stops and let other guests depart at their resorts.
Our estimation based on experience is 45 minutes from the time we pull away from MCO to the time we’re getting off the buses.
You can also take Lyft in Orlando: check out all the details on that service here.
Disney World Resort Check-In
When you step off the coach at your resort, you will be directed to the lobby for check-in.
Depending on your resort, you may be met on the go by a cast member with an iPad.
They will quickly help you get checked in and answer any questions you may have.
If your room is not ready, you can leave your carry-on bags at Bell Services.
You can request the front desk to send you a text message with your room number when your room is ready.
The Magic Bands allow you to bypass the lobby process a second time and you can proceed to your room once the text is received.
You can also check in online through the My Disney Experience website in advance of your stay. You will be alerted via text when your room is ready and your Magic Band will be directly activated.
You will be able to bypass the lobby altogether with this choice!
3. Tips For Exploring the runDisney Expo
Here is our best tactic for conquering the runDisney expo: skip opening morning.
We are all excited and want to buy #allthethings, but unless you are prepared to throw a few elbows, we wouldn’t go at the opening bell.
Head into a park, ride a few attractions, maybe go see Mickey Mouse in the Magic Kingdom.
After the initial frenzy, and before the Orlando locals are off work, is an ideal time to visit the expo.
Shoot for some time after lunch and you’ll find lines short and merchandise restocked.
Yes, they DO restock most items.
If you see reports that something is sold out, don’t fret. You’ll just need to ask a cast member for assistance and hopefully, they can magically bring out more of that special item for you!
How Can I Get To The runDisney Expo?
From your resort, it’s easy!
runDisney signage will be throughout the lobby directing you to the shuttle buses.
You will not be able to take a bus from the parks to the expo, but any resort will offer the service. You do not have to go back to your specific hotel to catch a bus to the expo.
If you are in Epcot, for example, and want to get to the expo from there, you can walk over to one of the Boardwalk hotels.
Important to note:
The expo buses will be separate from the regular transportation bus stops; those runDisney signs are your friends! Look for them.
Once you are dropped off at the expo, you’ll head in past the Wide World of Sports globe and into the heart of the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex.
What To Do When You Get To The runDisney Expo
You can download your waivers in advance. We typically have this information linked on noguiltdisney.com for each race when it’s available.
Do a search for the year and race name plus corrals and you should find it.
Here’s the 2022 Princess Half Marathon Corrals, Courses, Event Guide and more post.
Waivers have gone digital this year, which is a good thing!
But if you have any concerns or questions about picking up your bib at the runDisney Expo, check out this guide. All the details are in there on what to expect on Expo day.
Your bibs and shirts and merchandise will be in separate buildings.
The setup has changed over the years, so be sure to follow signs or ask for assistance from a red-shirt ESPN worker.
You’ll also be able to shop to your heart’s content in the official Disney merchandise section. There are many vendors available to assist you with last-minute purchases for your race.
Remember to pack your patience!
4. runDisney Race Day Transportation: The Beginner’s Guide to runDisney
Disney offers free transportation to the parks, to the expo, and to the races in the mornings. It’s a beautiful thing- if you know how to use it.
All resorts are host resorts which means that all resorts will have buses to and from the races. Event transportation will be provided to/from all Walt Disney World Resorts, Shades of Green, and the Swan and Dolphin Resorts.
This was the resort bus timeline for the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. You can expect it to be similar for all races in 2022-2023.
|5K||Thursday||3:00 a.m. – 4:30 a.m. / 6:00 a.m. – 8:30 a.m.|
|10K||Friday||3:00 a.m. – 4:30 a.m. / 7:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.|
|Half Marathon||Saturday||2:30 a.m. – 4:30 a.m. / 6:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.|
|Marathon||Sunday||2:30 a.m. – 4:30 a.m. / 6:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.|
Wake up, runners! You don’t want to be late for the ball.
FYI: The Skyliner does not offer any runDisney race transportation.
Monorail and Skyliner For Race Mornings
The monorail might also run on these mornings.
It did NOT run for the 2021 Wine and Dine races but it was running for the Half and Full Marathon on Marathon 2022 weekend.
If you are staying at a monorail resort you may be able to hop on board and ride into Epcot. Train transportation should be available starting at 2:30 am.
The Skyliner, however, does NOT run for race mornings.
After each race, buses will be waiting for you to take you back to your hotel. Once you finish the race, you will follow the signs through the parking lot to the correct bus.
Driving to the runDisney Races
You absolutely CAN do this and parking is free in the Epcot parking lot.
And it’s easier than you think provided you follow one simple rule:
Please, please, please do not think you can scoot into the parking lot at 4:30 am for a 5:00 start. That’s not how this works, we promise you, and you’ll be adding a sprint to the corrals before the start of your marathon if you do it!
Make note of where you parked- we suggest snapping a picture of the parking lot number to remember.
If you are staying offsite and do not have a car, check with your resort to see if they offer transportation to the races. Some do, some don’t.
It doesn’t hurt to ask!
If they can’t help you, give Lyft or Uber a try. Those drivers know their way around the Disney World Resort and will be happy to have a sober fare at 3:00 am.
5. What You Need to Know about runDisney Corrals and Start Groups
If you are a first-time runner with runDisney, you might be confused by the phrases and the concerns surrounding corral placement. And maybe you are afraid to look like a first-timer, or just don’t know who to ask.
That’s cool- we’ve all been there.
Before we knew there were Facebook groups devoted to this stuff, and before we knew that there was a science to the corralling at races, we were lost in the dark.
When we registered for our first runDisney race we just put some random time down because we truly had NO idea how long it would take to do 13.1 miles. (Spoiler- it took us a long, long, long time and Patty was 6 months pregnant!).
In a small race, everyone lines up wherever they want, basically. You normally see folks self-seed themselves by speed: faster folks up front, slower ones near the back.
In larger races, like runDisney, there are specific, assigned, and enforced corrals for races.
26,000 people trying to self-seed would be a hot mess. When you registered, you submitted an estimated finish time which Disney used to seed you and assign you a corral or start group.
Here are some basic definitions and explanations about corrals. This is specific to the half marathon corralling system, but the 5K and 10K races are also corralled. They are just a little different (see Corral Assignments).
runDisney Corral Definitions
Corral: Groups of runners assigned starting positions based on projected race pace. At older runDisney events, they are lettered A through H.
Start Groups: Best we can tell based on our Wine and Dine 2021 experience, a Start Group is the exact same thing as a Corral. runDisney is simply using different terminology in 2021-2022. And it is a number instead of a letter. See S1 in the below picture for an example. There were 1-3 Start Groups for the 5K and 1-4 Start Groups for the 10K and Half.
Start Group/Corral Assignments: Runners submit estimated finish times. Proof of time for the half marathon (from a previous race) should be submitted if you expect to finish in 2 hours or less. 5K and 10K runners do NOT submit proof of time. You are seeded base on your estimated finish times that you supply at registration.
Corral Changes: Can corrals be changed? The hard rule is NO. There are none. Once you are assigned a corral or start group, you are going to be starting in that corral. Yes, they do check you when you walk in. Multiple times in some cases. But if you feel you submitted proof of time and runDisney made a mistake somewhere, please take the proof of this mistake (screenshot of your registration should do it) to runner relations at the Expo. If they can make an adjustment, it will happen there. Protip: be nice and they are more likely to help you. Just sayin’!
Which corral are you in? You can sometimes guess based on the number. In the past, runDisney released a chart of corrals with bib numbers, but this hasn’t happened for the 2021 race so far. Runners found out which start group they were in when they picked up their bib. We will keep you posted if this information changes.
Friends/Family in different corrals: You can drop back to the lower corral, but you cannot move up. If Susie has a S2 corral bib and Jane has an S4 corral bib, Susie can run from S4 corral with Jane, but Jane cannot move up to S2 corral.
Who will know? The corrals are monitored by volunteers. They take their jobs seriously and check to make sure the proper folks are entering the proper corrals.
Corral Start Times: The corrals go out in waves with the wheelchair and elite athletes starting first around 4:55 am. The last corral will leave around 6:00 am. The start time and the last corral time have remained consistent through the years; so you can expect the last runners to start about an hour after the first ones go.
6. runDisney Race Day (OMG!)
You may not get a lot of sleep the night before. That’s normal, especially if nerves are setting it!
When that alarm goes off at 2:15ish you may even question your sanity. And you’ll maybe say some not-so-nice things about the Mouse. And you likely will swear that you will never ever do this again.
Again, totally normal. Come wake up for the races, we are all a little mad here!
Our suggestion about race transportation is this: sleeping in an extra 15 minutes is not worth the extra 45 minutes you could lose standing in line for the bus and worrying about getting to the event on time.
If you are worried at all about getting to the race late, trust us, you’ll want to go ahead and get out the door early for the buses.
We’ve seen buses stuck in traffic waiting to get into the Epcot parking lot— from the racecourse!
We started, but those folks were still in line just to get into the lot. Ouch.
Most of the time the transportation runs smoothly at these races, but there are always the stories of the lost or confused bus driver.
Once you find yourself off the bus, you’ll have a decent warm-up walk to the staging area.
You’ll be able to check your drop bag if you brought one, buy some coffee, hit the port-a-potties (hint- if there’s not a line, don’t wait!) and in recent years there have been food trucks set up in the area as well.
Most areas will take cash only, though some of the food trucks have had Magic Band options as well.
The DJ will keep you entertained, and you may be able to find some characters to take pictures with before the race. But those lines get long fast and are cut off at a certain point, so if this is important to you- be on that first bus!
Eventually, the race director will open the corrals and you start the long walk to the holding area for the half marathon.
The 5K and 10K runners will corral in a nearby parking lot- no long walk for you!
But half runners? You’ve got a bit of a warm-up walk ahead of you.
We won’t lie: it’s a long walk. It takes about 20 minutes of slow-moving with the crowd just to get to the corral areas.
Once you are in your corral, find a place to get comfortable. There is no ordering or placement within the corrals.
Some like it upfront, some are chillin’ in the back. Some runners sit on the ground, some stand.
Find your spot and make friends!
Because then you wait. And wait. And wait.
And then the fireworks begin!
Each corral gets its own send-off from the race announcers.
Fireworks will happen for everyone, so if you want a picture of the moment, have your camera out and ready.
We suggest taking the picture or video of the corral in front of you if possible so you can be prepared to start the race when it’s your time.
Runners, Seeeeetttttt…. GOOOOOOO!!!!
7. runDisney Race Etiquette Reminders
Alright, folks, this is possibly the most important part of the post.
How to run like a Prince or Princess and not a Villain. These races are not always magical.
You may know how to be a courteous runner. And most of us out there are just that! But these races are, oh, shall we say, special?
Many of us choose a runDisney race as our first race, or at least as our first half marathon. We are using the Galloway method of run/walk/run intervals. And many are straight walking the course.
There is nothing wrong with any of that.
That’s a whole lotta people out there!
But if it is your first race, you just may not be aware of the runner etiquette involved. And when you put 26,000 people on a racecourse, there are bound to be some issues.
Here are some of the basic etiquette rules you’ll need to know to help make your race a successful one.
- Please, please stay to the right if you doing intervals or walking.
- Please throw cups, shed layers or itchy tutus, etc to the side, as in completely off the racecourse.
- Try to run single file or two across at the most.
Don’t make people think you’re a wicked step-sister!
8. runDisney Pictures and Characters
This is, after all, what makes runDisney special. Some would say they run for the character photo ops!
The costumes, the characters on the course, and the professional photographers ready to capture it all can make for some incredible memories.
runDisney Race Picture Tips
PhotoPass photographers are located throughout the course to capture pictures while you are in action. They are easy to spot: look for the bright green tents and lights.
And the big cameras and yellow vests are a dead giveaway.
They tend to be found in the parks themselves, not out on the long stretches of highway.
Tips for Great runDisney Race Photos
- Wearing your bib front and center. Make sure the photographer gets a clear shot since this is how the pictures will be assigned after the race.
- Smile real big as you approach and try to make eye contact. Or camera to eye contact with the photographer.
- Please be aware of runners around you: don’t go jumping in front of people to get your best shot. It’s not very Princess-y. And you might end up epically photobombed by someone who shares that picture on social media.
- Leave a buffer. If you can slow down a little from the people in front of you (DO NOT STOP, PLEASE! Just slow the pace a smidge), you’ll have a better picture AND a better chance of your bib being fully photographed. See tip #1.
How Do You Get Your runDisney Race Pictures? Beginner’s Guide to runDisney
After the race, you can claim your pictures through My Disney Experience app or online. The instructions will be found on the back of your bib.
We repeat: You can find the info on the back of your bib- no one remembers the combination of letters and numbers needed!
Race photos will be available to view about 24 hours of the event. They do it that fast, y’all!
To link your photos, you will need to enter the 11-digit race ID followed by your five-digit bib number. If your bib number is less than five digits, please add zeroes at the beginning of your bib number to complete the 16-digit code. See below for race IDs and replace the X’s with your bib number to complete the code.
This is an example of the 2021 Wine and Dine Weekend runners. Each race has a slightly different code, however.
- Half Marathon: 2021-WINE-HLFx-xxxx
- 10K: 2021-WINE-10Kx-xxxx
- 5K: 2021-WINE-D5Kx-xxxx
runDisney Race CHARACTERS
So how about the characters out there? That’s a typical question that is asked in this beginner’s guide to runDisney.
The great news is that characters are back on the runDisney courses for the 2021-2022 race season.
But you won’t be able to get this close to them anymore.
The characters on the course change from year to year and this is one area that runDisney doesn’t want to ruin the magic by telling us who will be out there in advance.
Some characters will have PhotoPass photographers, but you can’t always count on it.
If you want on-course character pictures, bring your phone or camera!
Cast members are not handling phones at this time, so make a friend and ask them to take a picture for you. Or selfie away!
Typically for the 5K and the 10K races, the characters are more random and don’t tend to follow the race theme.
The lines are often much longer at the 5K than any other race, so be prepared to wait a bit.
The Half does try to give some nods to the theme of the race.
So who’s on the course? All kinds of characters depending on the race!
For Princess, for example, you usually see an epic Villain set up (mile 3.5ish). Buzz Lightyear in Tomorrowland and Woody and Jessie can be found in Frontierland.
Recently the Frozen sisters have moved into the balcony above Cinderella Castle and will wave to you as you run through.
You will see Princesses and their Princes on the course as you exit the Magic Kingdom (Aurora & Phillip, Belle & Beast, Cinderella & Prince Charming, Snow White & the Other Prince Charming).
We’ve had Captain Jack and Pirates on the course, and a personal favorite stop full of Disney Heroes (Flynn Ryder- smolder!).
There are DJs located along the course to keep you pumped up and some fun non-character stops as well.
Running (ok, who am I kidding- I’m always walking at this point) up the hill at mile 10 of the half and hearing Sarge bark out his “encouragement” to “keep it moving, Princess!”.
It’s a fantastic photo op and many runners will pose with a salute or doing pushups for him. It’s a nice reward for getting up that hill!
Entering Epcot, you’ll find a few more characters. We’ve had Princess Sophia cheering us on as well as the Fairy Godmother.
At the finish line, you get the Big Cheese himself. Or the Number One Duck. Or Goofy.
Basically, it can be any of the Fab Five waiting cheer you across the finishline.
9. Beginner’s Guide to runDisney: Enjoy Some Park Time After the runDisney Race
You’ve run all the races, you’ve collected the bling, and now it’s time to hit the parks and eat all the food, drink all the drinks, and take all the pictures.
You’ve earned it all- Congrats, runners!
We hope you went ahead and purchased tickets and booked dining for your trip. Because even though you just covered a lot of Disney by foot, you’re still going to want to get out there and enjoy the attractions, shows, and probably eat everything you can find.
The beginner’s guide to runDisney says: refuel STAT!
“Runger” is a real thing! Here are some of our favorite post-runDisney race places to eat.
Number One tip for a post- runDisney day in the park: wear your medals!
Everyone does it and you’ll love hearing fellow guests and runners tell each other congratulations as you pass by.
And don’t forget to take the medal pictures.
10. When Can We Do This runDisney Thing Again? Beginner’s Guide to rundisney
If your race weekend went well and you had an amazing time, chances are you’ll block out the pain and consider running this race again.
Maybe you’ll even move up to the 10K, half or challenge? Hey, crazier things have happened.
I say that from experience: my first Princess was supposed to be a one and done. Yet, here I am, 11 years later…
See you real soon, right? Ha!
Before you know it, the next race weekend will be on sale. I know it sounds crazy, but the registration dates are getting earlier and earlier with these races.
2023 runDisney Events Are On-Sale Now!
If you’re ready to sign up for next year – please fill out the form below!
We cannot get bibs for you at this time, but we would love to help you navigate the whole runDisney process.
We hope this beginner’s guide to runDisney helped.
Congratulations on running Disney.