Common misconceptions about racing at Disney

20 Feb

It’s no secret that my favorite place to race is Walt Disney World. They really know how to put on great races that make me fork over my hard earned money at least once a year. I get questions all the time about what racing like Disney is like, and I’ve over heard some interesting comments while waiting in corrals for races to start. Here are some of the most common misconceptions that many people have about running a runDisney event.

  1. You don’t actually run with any characters. Sometimes the gimmicky promotional pictures or videos will show characters running, but I’ve never seen it happen. I have people ask me before every race if I’ll be running with Mickey. Nope. You can however stop for pictures with characters along the way…
  2. Along the same line as characters, the line for character pictures are not as long as they look. If you see a line of 5 people or more, most people will keep running by because in the parks a line of 5 people will usually take at least 5 minutes. During a race the photo stops are super quick. I’ve never timed it, but my guess is that each person in line is probably going to take about 20 seconds max from handing off their camera to grabbing their camera and running on their way. If there are groups the line will go even quicker (assuming each person doesn’t want a solo picture as well.)                                                              
  3. Going along with the above misconception, I’ll add another related one. I overheard someone in my corral before the marathon asking their friend if they’d brought their photopass card because according to this person there were photopass photographers at each character along the course. While it is true there are photographers at most character stops, they aren’t photopass. Disney used Brightroom photography for marathon weekend, and they’ll want you to buy a CD of your race pictures (or prints) separate from your vacation pictures.
  4. “I’ll look silly in a costume.” This may be true at a race around town that isn’t around Halloween, but definitely not at Disney. It’s usually about a 50/50 split of people in normal running clothes and people in accessorized running clothes or full out costume. You might feel weird wearing a costume at first, but I promise the more people that look at you, the more awesome you look. You’ll usually get more shout-outs from spectators along the course if you have something unique about your outfit.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    
  5. “I’ll be the only person walking.” This isn’t the Boston marathon, so whether you walk the entire race, run intervals with walk breaks, or just get tired and have to walk, you will definitely be in the MAJORITY.  Last year during the princess 1/2 I did plenty of walking and finished in just under 2:40. I finished about 5,550 out of over 13,000 finishers.                                                                                                                                                                                                              
  6. Kind of along the lines of walking, many walkers worry about their pace and maintaining a 16 minute mile. I’ll set record straight once and for all. The 16 minute mile pace starts once the very last person crosses the start line. If you finish a mile in over 16 minutes, you won’t automatically get pulled off the course. If that was the case I would have DNF’d all my Disney races. There is no way for Disney to track that you are running a pace above the 16 minute pace and pull you from the course, not to mention there are thousands of runners, so logistically that would be a nightmare for Disney is they wanted to do that. If you are in an earlier corral you have some added time to buffer your pace, although it is still smart to train to run a 3:30 half. If you are in the last corral and run a 14 minute mile for the first few miles, you can theoretically run 18 minute miles for the next few miles and still be fine. Again, it’s all based on when the last person started. Sometimes people in the earlier corrals will finish in 4:00+ hours because of injury. According to Disney they didn’t keep the pace, but they were still allowed to finish the race because they had the added time buffer from starting in an earlier corral.                                                                                                                                        
  7. “It’s bad luck to buy race gear before I finish the race.” Yes and No. Yes, I think it would bad luck to buy the race gear before the race and wear an “I did it” shirt around the day before the race. I’m not a huge believer in the idea that an action like this would make you fall and twist your ankle on race day, but if for some reason you don’t finish, you can’t return something you’ve already used. Having said that, you really do need to get any race gear you like when you see it at the expo. If you wait until after the race the merchandise tent will be pretty wiped out of popular sizes and items. I always buy my “I did it” gear then keep it in the bag with the receipt until after I finish. That way I have it, but I’m not jinxing myself.                                                                                                                         
  8. Anytime there are runners and a race there will always be talk about PR’s and how fast a course is. While Disney is a fast course theoretically, I don’t find it to be very PR friendly. There are too many runners in most races, and several narrow parts on the course that really slow you down.  Of course there are people that prove this wrong, so this might be more personal. I wouldn’t pick Disney as a race that you want to run a PR, even though it is technically pretty flat and fast.                                      
  9. The majority of any race is run on highways around Disney, and not in the parks. This was something I was surprised about during my first race. I thought the parks were huge and we’d run in them for several miles. Usually it’s around a mile in a park tops, then you’re back on a highway running to another park.
  10. Finally (I had to end with 10;)  my last misconception is really a pet peeve of mine. If you are running a shorter race during a runDisney race weekend, don’t downplay what you did just because you aren’t running the main event. Maybe people I know are the only ones that do this, but I’ll be the one person in my group wearing my 5k medal after running one of the 5k’s because others don’t want to advertise that they only ran a 5k. Sure, there might be longer races, but the majority of the people at Disney were sleeping while you were up at the crack of dawn running around the world. Enjoy your success and don’t feel like you have to hide the fact that you aren’t running a 1/2 or full marathon. My pet peeve only grows when people downplay running a 1/2 or a full. I had several people congratulate me on our trip during marathon weekend on my Goofy finish, and when I would congratulate them I would get a response along the lines of “Thanks, but I just ran the 1/2,” or “Thanks, but I only did the full.” I’ll admit that I’m sometimes guilty of downplaying my runs at Disney because I play so much, but I hate when people feel like they can’t celebrate their achievements because someone else ran more than they did.                                                                                                           

There you have it, some of the common misconceptions about runDisney races. I’m sure there are many more, but these are just some of the misconceptions that I’ve been asked about personally, or have overheard people talking about.

Disney is truly a magical place, so please don’t be scared by any of these. I know it can be nerve wracking to do something new. I’m just trying to pass on some of my experiences with others so you can have a magical race!



9 Responses to “Common misconceptions about racing at Disney”

  1. Sarah February 20, 2012 at 3:01 pm #

    I totally agree about #8, at least for the half marathon. Unless you’re in corral A. In 2011 I was shooting for a PR in the half – it was my second half marathon and I was ready to improve my time. It quickly became clear that between the crowds and the characters it was not to be, and I was fine with it. Still, I ended up with posterior shin splints from all the lateral movement (and energy!) I used weaving around people.

    I think a PR is much more achievable in the marathon – it’s not as crowded to start with, and there is twice as long for the crowds to disperse even more. I PRed by 17 minutes this year in the marathon, and that was in the second day of Goofy and taking a handful of photo ops. I felt very able to run my race plan. I found the last few miles very helpful in terms of crowd support and scenery. I’d say if you’re in the proper corral, a marathon PR is very doable, but you have to know what to expect going in.

    • runningechols February 20, 2012 at 4:48 pm #

      I agree that marathon course is a lot more open. I was only about 10 to 20 minutes slower than my average time during the marathon. I was about 40 minutes slower during the 1/2. If you’re in one of the first corrals and start near the front then it’s definitely a lot easier to get on pace for a PR.

  2. Kadye February 20, 2012 at 5:03 pm #

    I totally agree with #6. I didn’t have the right socks on race day and just went with regular ankle socks and ended up with blisters on both of my feet right under my big toe. I really felt it right at the end and one of my last miles was a 20ish minute mile because it hurt so much to even walk. And I spent that whole mile a mix of being in pain and panic because I thought I was going to be swept off.

  3. Kelsey February 21, 2012 at 6:45 am #

    Those medals are so cute, I love them! But still not sure if I would ever want to do a Disney race…maybe someday!

  4. Kelsey February 24, 2012 at 4:05 am #

    YES! I am running both those halfs that weekend, I’m glad I’m not the only one! I’m going to look for you on Facebook and that would probably make getting in contact easier than blog-tagging…we’ll have to run parts of both of those races together for sure!

  5. Rick February 27, 2012 at 10:59 pm #

    I really enjoyed this post! WDW 2012 was my first Disney Marathon Weekend and I was pretty excited, yet nervous. I only started running last April and had never run outside of my hometown. So running on Disney property was going to be epic, but at the same time a totally ‘unknown’ for me.

    I kinda stressed a bit about many of the misconceptions you mentioned. Thankfully, I had friends who had run at Disney before, and they tried to ease my fears somewhat. But you never know something until you experience it yourself. But blogs like yours really do help. 🙂

    My favorites were #2, #7, and #8. For me, numbers 2 & 8 were a combo. I decided even before I got to Disney that I wasn’t going to get pictures. I wanted to run a good race (this was my first 1/2 Marathon) and have a decent time. I was worried that the lines for character photos would slow me down. I did take few photos during the run, but mostly of the castle and other ‘location shots’ and not with or of the characters themselves. I ran a good race and was happy with my time, but I really wish I would’ve gotten a few character photos. I won’t make that same mistake in 2013 (I am going Dopey for some crazy reason… lol).

    Number 7 is funny because while I am not a superstitious person at all, I totally buy into the rule that you don’t wear race shirts or gear unless you actually ‘finish’ the race. So I did go any buy my “I Did It!” shirt, a running jacket, and a few pins on Thursday at the expo. But everything just stayed in the bag in my room until after finishing the Donald. Then you can bet I was wearing that stuff for the rest of my stay (and at work when I came home)! I just don’t want to anger the ‘running gods’. Haha

  6. Julie (saysay) February 29, 2012 at 1:41 am #

    GREAT info Heather!

  7. childrens fancy dress July 29, 2013 at 5:13 am #

    It’s a nice post.

  8. Mary Ann Mello January 24, 2015 at 6:03 pm #

    THANK YOU!!!! I am going to be running my first Disney Run in February. In fact I will be doing my very first 10K there! I am actually doing the 5K and the 10K. I am a HUGE fan and have a wonderful costume planned but as it was getting closer misconception #4 was becoming a BIG fear!!!! Also, I am very guilty of #10. Thank you for reminding me that one year ago I was not even running a block!!!!!!

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