Have you ever had a Disney movie moment where you just felt like you knew exactly what a character was going through? Like they were describing you and your life. My moment came while watching Big Hero 6 when the main character Hiro screams “Run!” He turns to see Baymax plodding slowly behind him at a snail’s pace replying “I am not fast.” Me too Baymax. Me too.
So it is incredibly surprising to many (myself included) that I have finished 4 RunDisney races, including a 10-miler, two half-marathons, and most recently a full marathon. I am not at all what you would think of when you picture a runner, but I have found myself signing up for RunDisney events again and again. So whether you run like Baymax or Dash from The Incredibles, let me explain what makes runDisney events great and why you should consider signing up for one too.
One of the most obvious benefits of running a runDisney race is that you are running through Walt Disney World. Which parks you will run through depends on which event you sign up for. Whichever Park you end up running through, you will enjoy passing by attractions and landmarks in a different setting. Whether it’s running through Cinderella Castle in Magic Kingdom or by the Hallelujah Mountains in Pandora, you will enjoy seeing them in a new context. The fact that the courses are through the Disney Parks in Central Florida also means that they are some of the flattest out there and very inviting for beginners.
The courses are also lined with different distractions throughout the race to keep your mind occupied and put a smile on your face. There are classic Disney characters available to take pictures throughout the races, many of which you will not see at typical character meet-and-greet spots in the Disney Parks. Movie screens often play scenes based on the race theme, and DJs playing festive music can also often be found around the course. Also supporters, whether friends or family of racers or Cast Members getting ready to start their day, can be found during several parts of the race cheering on every runner passing by.
It doesn’t matter if the longest you have ever run is from rope drop to the queue for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, you can do a runDisney race. RunDisney events offer several different lengths of races so anyone should be able to find one they can complete with a decent amount of preparation. Most event weekends include race options from a 5k (3.1miles) up to 10 and 26.2 miles. While there are minimum paces required for all races, runDisney events tend to allow for slower paces than most other races available. There are also multiple events throughout the year that offer a morning yoga class in a Disney Theme Park in lieu of running a race. It is important to sign up for a race that fits your current fitness level or leaves you an adequate amount of time to reach the needed level. Which leads to the next thing we love about RunDisney…
If you’re not sure which race is right for you, look at some training programs and how long they start before a race to figure out if you have the necessary time to prepare. There are recommended programs that can help most beginners run a 5k with 13 weeks of prep, or possibly even a full marathon with 29 weeks of training. RunDisney offers training schedules from former Olympian Jeff Galloway designed for both beginners and experts, with the length of time needed to prepare for each race length. His system is focused on breaking up the race into run/walk breaks, with lengths of each depending on what pace you are aiming for.
The uniform recommended training programs also make it so many people in a race end up targeting a similar pace. Most runDisney events have pacers who are experienced runners that carry a target pace sign through the race and will call out run/walk breaks for anyone in their group. I was struggling through my own marathon when I fell into a pacing group that happened to be passing by me. It saved me as an awesome pair of pacers that were positive and energetic called out run/walk commands and allowed me to just fall into a rhythm with a large group of runners that were in the same situation as me.
Which is really one of the best things about the runDisney events — the community. The attitude around the events is amazingly positive and supportive. Everyone cheers each other on and throws out words of encouragement when they see others struggling. There are online groups of runners that will answer questions throughout training and help keep you accountable to your training program.
Many runners will dress up like characters or have fun costumes or shirts that add to the whimsical atmosphere. No one seems to take themselves too seriously (or maybe I’m just far enough back in every race not to see the ones that are serious).
Finally, you’ll love the medal you get at the end. They are always a cool design based on the theme of the race — whether a Stormtrooper helmet for the Dark Side Half Marathon or Goofy in a bellhop costume for the Tower of Terror 10-miler. They are great souvenirs that you’ll enjoy displaying as a reward for your effort.
If my reasons for loving runDisney events sound great, but you still doubt you can do a race, maybe you need your own moment where a Disney movie speaks to you. Go turn on the Hunchback of Notre Dame and let Quasimodo remind you, “It’s a good day to try.” Hope to see you at the finish line!