In past blogs I have hinted at ways those not working at Disney may be able to get a little behind the magic. One of those ways was to take part in one of the Run Disney events that they hold in Walt Disney World and Disneyland. Before I was a Cast Member I participated in two Run Disney events, the Princess Half Marathon and the Expedition Everest Challenge. I was also privileged enough to work as a Cast Member during another Princess Half Marathon. Having these different experiences with the Run Disney events I recommend them highly.
Before I became a Cast Member I was a huge fan of Disney, if you couldn’t already tell. When I first learned about the Run Disney events I knew it was something I wanted to do. I mean really, who doesn’t want to run through the parks before anyone else has access to them? Exactly, and even if you don’t want to run, walking quickly is perfectly acceptable. Now up until then I had never run a marathon, or half marathon, or even found much joy in just running. I had run some 5k’s and mostly just for fun. I had played lacrosse for nine years so I was used to running though so it wasn’t a foreign idea to me. The half marathon for those who aren’t familiar is 13.1 miles long. For the Princess Half Marathon you start in the Epcot parking lot and run to Magic Kingdom where you run through backstage up Main Street around to Fantasyland and out through Cinderella’s Castle. You then go through more backstage areas back to Epcot where you run up to the World Showcase Lagoon out Epcot to the finish line. It may sound like a lot of running around but Disney does a lot to keep you motivated while running.
To start off the race when you get there you can check your bags, I recommend getting there early to make sure you get in and set in your corral before the race starts. There are some food stations and a shop for race gear in case you have some family or friends coming to watch they can grab a bite and shop. There are some signs and posters hanging that make great photo opportunities. When it’s time to get to your corral the race is started off with fireworks. While you run there is also trivia signs, djs playing music, and my favorite, characters! You can stop along the way and take pictures with some of your favorite characters. The characters not only are on the roadside between parks but they’re also backstage and in the parks waving and encouraging you on. Volunteers are also along the race route cheering you on offering water, PowerAde, band-aids and other first aid supplies. Once in the parks you see the Cast Members waking up the park, rides are running empty and characters are frolicking around the park. A little tip, if you don’t want to use a portapotty, the bathrooms in the park are open: the ones in Tomorrowland are especially easily accessible.
Now depending on how fast you run you may never see another guest in the park besides your fellow runners. But if you’re like me, who didn’t actually train for a half marathon, and run a little slower you will see guests once you hit Epcot again. There is a path for the runners with Cast Member and volunteer crossing guards to ensure that you have a clear path to run down. Also while running your photo will be taken and you can take a peak at these pictures a day or two after the race, a fun excuse to wear a comfortable costume while you run. At the end of the race with the cheering crowd surrounding the finish line you cross and receive your medal. Many people even get announced as you cross the finish line.
Before race day comes around there’s a packet pick up day, usually the day before the race. You get to head over to the Wide World of Sports center where many may know from Spring Training for baseball teams. From select resorts on property they will provide you with transportation to the Wide World of Sports, otherwise it is not a difficult venue to get to on property if you drive. At packet pick up you will get your race bib, tracking device, free shirt, and bag. While you’re there though you can listen to seminars by nutritionists, Run Disney runners, and others that have helpful tips for your race. There are also all kinds of booths set up with information, products, and freebies. It’s a great place to see the latest products on the market for runners, get some energy boosting snacks for your run, a great running shirt, or even sign up for additional runs. After the race it’s time for a celebration. A fun part after the race is the after party. After the Princess Half Marathon that I ran the after party was at Hollywood Studios. The park stays open late, food and drinks are served, you can ride your favorite rides, and characters are out and about mingling with the runners. It is a great time to talk to other runners, compare notes, and relax after a long run.
You don’t have to run or walk during these events to get a sneak peak at the quiet parks. You just need to know someone who is running and be there bright and early to support them. If you go with your loved ones or friends running in the race to the start of the race they get some special perks too. At the Princess Half Marathon my Dad didn’t want to run but he wanted to watch. He came with us to the start and saw us off. Then with other spectators he was able to hop on the monorail over to Magic Kingdom. Once there Main Street was open to the spectators, I’m talking Main Street Bakery and Emporium people! Dad got himself some coffee while others got some breakfast. Spectators were even able to shop at the Emporium while they waited for their loved ones and friends to run up Main Street. Once they were ready they were sent back on the monorail to wait at the finish line.
Whether you’re an avid runner or not a Run Disney event is a great experience to shed some new light on your Disney visit. You will experience some things that many others will never seen unless they become a Cast Member or run along with you. It is also a great opportunity to get some unique pictures with some hard to find characters and backstage magic. If it sounds like this is something for you head over to their website and sign up. You can also sign up for their e-mail updates that way you never miss a chance to sign up for the races. I recommend that you sign up for a race as soon as registration opens up. Although there is no set amount of time it takes for the races to fill, they do fill up very fast. I wish you all faith and trust, and an extra burst of speedy pixie dust.
Jess was born and raised on Long Island, New York but once college began so did her adventures. She’s lived in Florida, Wisconsin, and now South Carolina. Her family is part of the Disney Vacation Club and has been visiting since she was a little girl, and continuously goes every year. Besides being a big Disney fan she has also been a Disney Cast Member working in Magic Kingdom, and she counts it as one of the most magical experiences. She worked with everyone’s favorite elephant Dumbo, Cinderella’s Carousel, and Mickey’s Philharmagic. Jess has also visited Disneyland, Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, and gone on two Disney Cruises. She has so many great memories from Disney besides running half marathons and 5ks, birthday parties, and family reunions. If asked where she would want to go it is almost always Disney, and when asked why, it is almost always because she can eat awesome gluten free food! And it doesn’t hurt that there is always faith, trust, and pixie dust with magic in the air!