What It’s Like To Run a Race at Disney



From age 12 to 30, I ran competitively—at my peak, I used to be operating 65 miles per week and coaching to interrupt three hours within the marathon. I solely knew one operating velocity: quick. And abruptly, I needed to cease operating altogether.

I was attacked and suffered severe injuries that made it unattainable to run. My entire life had revolved round coaching and operating—the chums I frolicked, what I appeared ahead to, my each day routine—and it was inextricably tied to my profession as a operating coach, private coach, and health author.

I felt like I misplaced an enormous a part of my id, not to mention my ardour, mental health coping mechanism, social community, and construction in my day. I grieved the lack of operating in a lot the identical manner that one grieves the dying of a beloved one.

Nevertheless, after years of not having the ability to run, I made a decision to try to get again into the game final summer time after a piece journey had me testing out treadmills, which compelled me to run.

I found just a few issues: operating now may be very painful; the mobility challenges from my accidents make it unattainable to run easily; and I can not run anyplace close to as quick as I used to.

However, I additionally found I can run.

Final fall, I used to be given the chance to attempt the runDisney occasion in January 2024 at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. I hadn’t run a race in over seven years, however I had heard Disney races are pace inclusive to runners for all levels, so I made a decision to be courageous and provides it a shot.

Why runDisney races are distinctive

As a result of inclusivity of the occasions when it comes to the cut-off instances and welcoming ambiance, runDisney races are tremendous widespread for inexperienced persons seeking to begin operating, runners who’re returning to the game after a protracted break (resembling postpartum moms trying to start running again), skilled runners who need to complete their first marathon, and aggressive runners alike.

Tons of dates and distances

There are numerous Disney races all year long, and at varied Disney parks, which makes it simple to seek out one to suit your schedule. Along with the Walt Disney World Marathon events, there are a number of different runDisney races at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, Disneyland in California, and digital races as effectively.

(Try the present runDisney race calendar right here.)

One of many advantages of the runDisney occasions is that even should you can’t attend one of many races in individual at a Disney theme park, many of the races supply a digital possibility. This lets you register for the elevate after which full the space at dwelling wherever you reside utilizing a GPS watch. You’ll nonetheless obtain a finisher’s medal, a T-shirt, and all the swag.

The Walt Disney Marathon weekend, which is held each January at Walt Disney World theme park in Orlando, Florida, is the preeminent runDisney occasion on the race calendar.

The weekend features a 5K on Thursday, a 10K on Friday, a half marathon (13.1 miles) on Saturday, and a full marathon (26.2 miles) on Sunday. Some runners tackle what is named the runDisney Dopey Problem, which entails operating all 4 races on back-to-back days.

Though I want that I used to be in form sufficient to deal with the Dopey Problem, I knew that the total marathon was going to be out of my wheelhouse in my restricted coaching time.

As a operating coach, I all the time advise runners to prioritize their security somewhat than attempt to do one thing their physique shouldn’t be prepared for. So, I settled for doing the opposite three shorter Disney Marathon Weekend races: the 5K, 10K, and half marathon.

Beneficiant cut-off instances

The entire RunDisney occasions have very beneficiant cut-off instances so as to stroll with out being pulled from the course. The ambiance is all about embracing the enjoyment and magic of the confluence of operating and Disney somewhat than essentially aiming in your quickest race time.

I knew that operating three occasions could be greater than bold, because it has been 7 years since I’ve run a single race. Nevertheless, I imagined that my vitality and confidence could be buoyed by the enjoyable ambiance and normal inclusivity of the runDisney race setting (spoiler: it was!).

Actually, inclusivity for runners and walkers of all capacity ranges is baked into all Disney races: The cut-off time for the total marathon is seven hours, the half marathon is 4 hours, and for the shorter races, it’s important to keep a 16 minute per mile tempo. That is a brisk strolling tempo that’s attainable with coaching for most people.

So should you think about your self a “slow runner,” you’ll not solely have loads of firm alongside the race course—you’ll be an official finisher.

Many marathons have a lot sooner cut-off instances and also you’ll be requested to depart the course in case you are nonetheless making your manner towards the end line at a slower tempo. Plus, you don’t get the glory and confidence enhance of really crossing the end line and incomes your race medal.

Spectacular group

The entire runDisney races are additionally very effectively organized: There are beginning corrals based mostly in your anticipated common tempo or end time. Because of this in case you are a brand new runner and plan to make use of a run/stroll strategy, otherwise you wish to stroll all the race distance, you may be seeded with contributors of comparable capacity. Equally, in case you are a aggressive runner, you’ll be able to submit a “proof of time“ race outcome for the Disney half marathon or Disney marathon. Your earlier race outcome will then be used to provide you a bib quantity for a better beginning corral alongside runners who will probably be sustaining an analogous race piece.

The races all have all the things you’ll anticipate from a top-tier street race resembling water stops, clearly marked programs, medical tents alongside the course and on the end line, and a free breakfast field with snacks once you end the race.

Sadly, a tropical storm required last-minute adjustments to my half-marathon race, shortening the course to solely 7.2 miles. The whole runDisney group pulled off a large change within the last hours earlier than the race and made it a terrific expertise.

(On that be aware, one other perk of the runDisney races: The swag is superior! The race medals are enormous and have Disney characters in 3-D that transfer, plus, you get a long-sleeved technical T-shirt for every Disney race that you just run.)

Sturdy group

The setting and your fellow runners are different particular elements of Disney races. Whether or not you might be doing certainly one of these runDisney races at Disney World or Disneyland theme parks, you get to run by way of the totally different parks.

Tons of contributors put on Disney-themed costumes, and each mile or so, you’ll be able to cease and take photos along with your favourite iconic Disney characters, from basic favorites (like Mickey Mouse and Snow White) to fashionable ones (like Elsa and Moana). There’s additionally loads of leisure on the race course in addition to within the beginning space and end line areas, with music and extra character experiences for photograph ops.

I had the chance to observe the total marathon, and though loads of runners within the quick beginning corrals wore costumes, the corral with the walkers was positively the social gathering vibe race expertise. The entire walkers and joggers appear to be having the time of their lives, many clad in costumes of their favourite Disney princesses, villains, and superheroes.

It’s actually a enjoyable ambiance—and could be an thrilling distraction in case you are struggling throughout your race.

There have been elements in a few of my very own races the place I wasn’t absolutely in it, however I used to be captivated by the vitality of the runners round me, the joy of Disney World, and my very own deep pleasure for having a race alternative that felt so approachable and celebratory—irrespective of the place I used to be in my operating journey.

How you can prep for a Disney race

Coaching for a Disney race isn’t inherently totally different from coaching for some other street race. Nevertheless, if you’ll be doing a number of Disney occasions again to again (like I did), or you take on the total runDisney Dopey Problem or Goofy’s Race, it is very important tailor your coaching plan accordingly.

Running a half marathon and a marathon on consecutive days is extraordinarily taxing on the physique, and coaching requires doing back-to-back longer runs. Because of this, the Dopey Problem is normally greatest reserved for skilled runners who’ve been coaching for a few years and have already run a full marathon.

However inexperienced persons can completely do the total Disney Marathon—and lots of the triumphant finishers are certainly first-time marathon runners.

One of many cool issues about all the runDisney occasions is that accepted contributors get a free Jeff Galloway training plan to assist put together for no matter occasions you could have registered for.

There are totally different coaching plans based mostly in your health degree, and the Jeff Galloway includes a run/walk approach for newbies.

Echelon Health additionally sponsors the Disney races, so you need to use the Echelon Stride treadmills with the Jeff Galloway run/stroll coaching applications to organize for the races. These treadmill workouts are a terrific possibility for runners who stay cold-weather climates who’re coaching for the January Disney races.

Final, runDisney introduced me again to racing

I completely beloved my expertise on the 2024 runDisney Marathon Weekend, and whereas my end instances have been nowhere close to as quick as they was once, I felt a lot pleasure and gratitude that I used to be capable of run once more, not to mention in such supportive races.

Going into it, I used to be admittedly anxious to see how it might be to take part in a race in a very totally different gentle than I had run a race earlier than. I had additionally by no means been to Disney World or any Disney theme park, so I knew that I used to be in for an eye-opening expertise.

Finally, I used to be extraordinarily impressed with how well-organized the runDisney races have been and the way welcoming, supportive, and celebratory all the ambiance surrounding the occasions was.

I like the truth that you’ll be able to go there to run your coronary heart out and attempt to obtain a quick time, or go there and attempt to rejoice the beginning of your health journey. Both manner, runDisney appears completely dedicated to organizing operating occasions which are memorable and empowering.

For me, simply being in a bodily state the place I may lace up my favorite running shoes and take part within the very sport that has been the best present and keenness in my life was really the real-life embodiment of the particular magic that Disney films and Disney parks are all about.

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