So you’re ready to runDisney. Awesome! I’m ready to help answer all those runDisney questions you have as race weekend rolls around. After nine years of running at Disney World, I’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 I run.
A few miles is a small price to pay to spend time with my ‘Ohana at the most magical place on earth.
And hopefully, you’ll find yourself feeling the same way.
I 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. Packing For a runDisney Race Weekend
Before you go, you’ve gotta pack. And with Wine and Dine not too far away, it’s time to start thinking about your race-cation packing list.
My plan? Put the suitcase out on the floor and start dropping things in it as needed.
It’s probably not the most efficient way, but it’s gotten me through my races thus far, though admittedly I tend to overpack.
So I’m probably not the best person to give you this advice, but I figure you can pick and choose what is important to you and pack accordingly.
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 me 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
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 me is: YES.
By yes, I 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. But you just never know.
Do yourself a favor and don’t even look at the weather prediction until the Monday before the race. Then adjust your packing accordingly.
As for me: I throw it all into the suitcase and travel confident that I have something to keep me comfortable in every weather.
I take my former Girl Scout training to heart: Be Prepared.
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!
How to Use the Magical Express During a runDisney Race Weekend
A favorite travel perk of mine is Disney’s Magical Express.
The Magical Express is bus transportation from the Orlando International Airport taking both you and your luggage to your Walt Disney World Resort hotel. You can use this anytime you are staying at a Disney resort, not just during a runDisney race weekend.
On the surface, this isn’t anything groundbreaking. But two main points make the Magical Express unique:
they take care of your checked luggage for you. All the way to your hotel room!
Let me walk you through the beauty of Disney’s Magical Express experience.
When you make your hotel reservations online or with your travel agent, you will be asked to include your flight information.
Don’t panic if that’s not available. You can add the information later through this link or by calling (407) 939-1936.
Magical Express Documents and Luggage Tags
Your travel documents and Magical Express tags will be mailed to you about 2-3 weeks before arrival.
One tag per person is typically sent, but you can request more than one!
I had packing issues and needed to do just that on my last trip.
You should attach these bright yellow tags to your bags if you want them transported to your hotel by Disney.
If you arrive between the hours of 5 am and 10 pm, these tags indicate to the baggage handling crew at MCO to route your bags for handling by Disney and not to dispatch them to the baggage claim.
*If you are arriving outside those hours, you MUST pick up your luggage at baggage claim and carry them to the Magical Express.*
If you forget the yellow tags, you can still have Magical Express transport your luggage. You’ll need to take your baggage claim tickets to the Magical Express cast members. They will be able to take the numbers and arrange to have the bags collected and delivered.
GUYS: this is the magical part! Once you check your luggage at your departure airport, you will not have to worry about them again.
They will magically appear in your room 2-3 hours after your arrival (usually).
It’s my favorite thing EVER about traveling to Walt Disney World.
Pack Your Magic Bands in Your Carry-On
You will need your Magic Bands for the bus ride.
When they arrive at my house, I put them immediately in my purse or laptop bag as I know both will go on the plane with me.
Check that packing list: I advise them to go into your carry-on bags.
I don’t usually put the band on until landing, but you can certainly wear that durable arm candy for the whole flight.
Where is Disney’s Magical Express Bus?
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. The Magical Express is 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 Magical Express check-in kiosks, you will start using that Magic Band. I believe there were three opportunities to scan my band and to make sure I was going to the right bus line.
If at any point there was a mistake, it was handled quickly right at the kiosks.
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.
It’s happened to me many times. If your motor coach is not ready for you, the wait is typically 10-30 minutes (but it can be longer).
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.
My estimation based on my personal experience is 45 minutes from the time we pull away from MCO to the time I’m getting off the Magical Express.
Disney takes care of you from the moment you land until the moment you leave.
The Magical Express motorcoach service is one of many reasons why I stay onsite at Walt Disney World. It may even be my number 1 reason, to be honest. I’m a diva, what can I say?
(I mean, you’ve seen the size of my bags, right?)
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’s my best tactic for conquering the runDisney expo: skip opening morning.
I know- blasphemy! We are all excited and want to buy #allthethings, but unless you are prepared to throw a few elbows, I wouldn’t go at the opening bell.
Head into a park, ride a few attractions, maybe go see Elsa and Anna in Epcot.
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. I 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 2020 Princess Half Marathon Corrals, Courses, Event Guide and more post.
If you happen to forget your waiver, don’t panic – there will be computers at the expo where you can print out waivers you may have left behind.
Your bibs and shirts and merchandise will most likely 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
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.
New for the 2019 Marathon Weekend: Guests staying at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort or Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa MUST TAKE the monorail to get to the start of the Half Marathon and Marathon.
Be sure to check the Event Guide for your race weekend to see if this is still applicable.
Resort Bus Transportation for runDisney 5K races
The buses will start running at 3:30 am on the morning of the 5K. All runners need to be on the bus no later than 4 am to ensure you make it to the corrals on time.
Resort Bus Transportation for runDisney 10K Races
Same as above. Runners will need to be on the bus by 4 am that morning.
Resort Bus Transportation for runDisney Half Marathon and Marathon Races
Wake up, runners! You don’t want to be late for the ball.
These are the earliest mornings. Buses start running at 3 am for both these distances. Be on the last bus by 4 am.
The monorail also runs on these mornings. If you are staying at a monorail resort you can hop on board and ride into Epcot. Train transportation will be available starting at 3:00 am.
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 5 am for a 5:30 start. That’s not how this works, I 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- I like to snap 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, I’m sure.
5. What You Need to Know about runDisney Corrals
If you are a first-time runner with runDisney, you might be confused by the phrase 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- I’ve been there.
Before I knew there were Facebook groups devoted to this stuff, and before I knew that there was a science to the corralling at races, I was lost in the dark.
When I registered for my first runDisney race I just put some random time down because I truly had NO idea how long it would take me to do 13.1 miles. (Spoiler- it took me a long, long, long time and I 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 a finish time according to which Disney seeded you and assigned you a corral.
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 position based on projected race pace. At recent runDisney events, they are lettered A through H.
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 before 2:45. 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, 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? runDisney releases corral information before the race for the half and Challenge runners. You can find that information here on noguiltlife.com as well. Sure- it’s on runDisney.com first, but their website isn’t quite as user-friendly as mine! Just sayin’!
Challenge runners will have 2 letters on their bib. The first letter indicates your 10K corral and the second letter indicates your half corral. Ex: E/F means you start in E corral for the 10K and F corral for the half marathon.
They do not release corrals for the 10K or 5K runners in advance of the races, though they are also seeded per estimated time of finish. You will find out your corrals for these races when you arrive at the expo to pick up your bib. The bib will have a letter on it which indicates which corral you have been placed in.
Your bib number and corral letter(s) typically correspond; lower bib number are closer to “A” which means closer to the front of the pack.
Friends/Family in different corrals: You can drop back to the lower corral, but you cannot move up. If Susie has a D corral bib and Jane has an F corral bib, Susie can run from F corral with Jane, but Jane cannot move up to D 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 5:28 am. The last corral will leave around 6:30 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 2:30ish 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!
My 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 me, you’ll want to go ahead and get out the door early for the buses.
I’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.
I 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 their 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.
I 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!
And by “some” I will admit I mean ME. I run for characters!
The costumes, the characters on the course, and the professional photographers ready to capture it all can make for some incredible memories. You probably want the 411.
Sarah and I shared a bit of our favorite runDisney picture taking tips on this video recently.
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 balloons.
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.
So you don’t have to suck your gut in from mile 7 to 12 or so. You’re welcome.
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?
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.
I 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 an example for the 2019 Marathon Weekend runners. Each race has a slightly different code, however.
Half Marathon: 2019-WDWH-ALFx-xxxx
Kids Races: 2019-WDWK-IDSx-xxxx
runDisney Race CHARACTERS
So how about the characters out there? Think we might get to see Gaston this year?
Well, he’s been on the course before and he had The. Longest. Line. EVER.
But who knows? The characters on the course can 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 will be available to take your picture and are generally efficient at it.
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 to hand out high fives as you cross the finish.
9. 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!
I hope you went ahead and purchased tickets and booked dining and FastPass+ options 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.
“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?
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, eight 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.
2021 Marathon and Princess Half Marathon Races Are On Sale Now
If you’re ready to sign up for next year – please fill out the form below!
Congratulations on running Disney.
More runDisney Posts You’ll Love
Patty Holliday has been running Disney since 2011. She knows just about every tip, trick, and hack there is to cover the runDisney Magical Miles at Disney World and Disneyland. She knows every mile isn’t *always* magical- but with training, tips, and a little bit of pixie dust, they can be a lot of fun! You can also find her at noguilttravel.com and noguiltfangirl.com