RunDisney Weekends: The Ecstasy and the Agony


This  past weekend, I had the pleasure of participating in my second RunDisney event as both a runner and a spectator. The inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon- The Dark Side weekend consisted of the Star Wars 5K, Star Wars 10K, and Star Wars Half Marathon. As a novice runner, I chose to complete the Star Wars 10K, which was my first experience with a 10K. Since many of my friends were participating in the half marathon, I enjoyed cheering for the runners as a spectator for that race. Since returning home, I have been reflecting on the RunDisney experience, and have come to the conclusion that there are definitely pluses and minuses to participating in a RunDisney weekend. While I may not be the expert that a veteran RunDisney participant may be, here are my thoughts on the positives and negatives of participating in a RunDisney event weekend:

The Agony

Let’s start with the biggest downside of a RunDisney weekend… it is truly EXHAUSTING. The races begin VERY early, with start times between 5:00 and 6:00 am. For a 5:30 am start time, runners must be on a bus to be transported to the race area no later than 4:00 am. Since many runners participate in the challenges, which include multiple races on consecutive days, this means waking up at 3:00 am on multiple days in a row. Add in the shear exhaustion of completing the races and then pile on the walking of many miles each day while touring the parks, and you are left with some very weary bodies. Sore feet, injuries, blisters, and missing toenails are just a few of the maladies that may plague runners during their weekend. At Orlando International Airport on the Sunday night of Walt Disney World Marathon weekend, it was obvious who had participated in the race events; the zombie-like vacant expressions and obvious pain with each movement were dead giveaways. It is not uncommon to end up sick once returning home from one of these very tiring weekends.

In order to avoid the exhaustion, some participants are very good at getting to bed very early. I consider the need for an early bedtime another downside of the race weekends. When I am at WDW, I want to spend as much time in the parks as possible, and I love taking advantage of Extra Magic Hours. However, if I have to be up at 3 am, it is a little tricky to still be in the Magic Kingdom at 12 am! There is definitely a trade off of park time for sleep on a race weekend, and it is a trade off that I am not a fan of.

The waiting. And waiting. And waiting some more. On a race morning, runners do a great deal of waiting. Wait for a bus to transport to the starting area, wait in a security line, wait in a porta-potty line, wait to enter the corrals, wait for the start, wait for your corral to begin the race. Also, depending on the time of year, it can be downright COLD for the pre-race wait. It’s even more miserable if the Florida weather isn’t cooperating….standing in the cold rain before running a half marathon just isn’t fun.

Also, it is important for runners to pay attention to their diet while preparing for the races. Hydrating, staying away from alcoholic beverages, and eating particular foods to prepare for the race are important to keep in mind. For me, I find this to be annoying! I want to eat and drink anything I want while on my Disney vacation! On a race weekend, though, eating and drinking without a thought to the race can make the actual race pretty miserable.

The Ecstasy

Now let’s take a look at all of the wonderful aspects of a RunDisney weekend. Most importantly, the race environment is FUN!! DJs, music, video screens, and fireworks at 5 am… it’s like a giant pre-dawn party. It is an even better time when shared with friends! I think just taking in the energy of the pre-race environment is one of my favorite aspects of participating in a RunDisney event.

Costuming is a fun aspect of RunDisney events. Not everyone chooses to run in costume, but many runners do have costumes, with some being very creative and even over the top! Where else can you see Peter Pan and his shadow run a full marathon? Checking out the unique costumes is one of my favorite parts of spectating at a RunDisney event.

Running through the parks is definitely one of the perks of a RunDisney event. When else can you see the sun rise over Spaceship Earth, or run down Main Street, U.S.A. and through Cinderella Castle before the park is open? Many runners love the character photo opportunities that are available in the parks during the races.

Epcot's Mexico pavilion lit for the race
Epcot’s Mexico pavilion lit for the race

Who can forget the bling?? The RunDisney medals are amazing! It can quickly become an obsession for runners to try to amass the largest collection of medals possible. Runners participating in the challenges can grow their collection of RunDisney medals to an impressive size quickly!

Obviously, the sense of accomplishment one feels when completing a race is immeasurable. Whether running a personal record time or simply finishing a first race, the feeling can’t be beat. There is a sense of camaraderie and sportsmanship at RunDisney events; all types of people participate in the events, and all feel welcome and accepted.

While a vacation at Walt Disney World while participating in a RunDisney event is not a “typical” WDW vacation, I feel that the positives of participating far outweigh the negatives. If it is possible to wrap a RunDisney event into a longer trip, many of the pitfalls can be avoided as well. And as any true Disney parks fan will tell you, who needs sleep while at Walt Disney World?? Sleep is for when you return home!

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