Are you considering running the disney princess race ? This is the ultimate guide to the run disney princess half marathon weekend after crossing the finish line for the first time. I'm sharing everything I learned, how the weekend flows, what worked well for me and what I wish I'd known before race weekend .
Hello from my couch. I'm writing this blog post as I recover from my very first disney princess race weekend. I had watched rundisney races for YEARS on social media, and had always thought it would be fun to run one. While I was a jogger and a shorter distance runner for years, this race was my first race with a distance of over three miles (I participated in the 10k). It definitely took some training and some planning (I live in California, close to Disneyland and so there was also travel and a time zone change to plan for when gearing up for my disney princess race weekend).
In case you are wondering…..yes, I'm doing more rundisney races . As soon as possible. I had an absolute blast (despite running this particular race with a pulled muscle), and learned that there is something absolutely unique about Run Disney. The community around these races is absolutely magical, and hey….who doesn't want to run through the magic kingdom or get a finisher medal with their favorite princess on it?
Let's dive into it. I'm sharing everything you'll need to know about YOUR first Disney Princess Race from registration to visiting the theme parks post race.
Disney Princess Race : What You Need to Know From Start to Finish
Step one for any race including your disney princess race? Registration. Now let me tell you…..this is key. These race registrations go FAST.
I recently registered for the Disneyland weekend and…..all registrations were gone very quickly. These are the run disney race registration dates for 2023 and 2024. Bookmark these dates and be prepared. Race registrations open at 7 am Disneyland time. You'll want to be online and in the virtual queue then. If you are running under a 10:15 mile or so, you'll also want to have your proof of time prepared (this determines your start group ). Be prepared to pay any registration fee in full upon check out (you can also buy certain special merchandise then too). Just an fyi, as you consider race options the disney princess half marathon course is the only one that usually goes through the castle and the magic kingdom. The 5k and 10k do Epcot and Hollywood Studios.
If you aren't able to register during the initial online timing, a charity fundraising campaign bib is also an option. Many of the rundisney races charity partners are able to provide bibs if you commit to their required fundraising minimum .
Training and Gear
So you've registered for your disney princess race (or any other run disney race weekend). Now….you have to prepare to actually RUN the race, right? I'm here to tell you, you really don't have to be an experienced runner or athlete to love run disney races. They truly are built for runners of all skill levels . While I did run and jog before training, I had NEVER run more than three miles. Run Disney has some GREAT training programs that are completely free to follow. They have options for beginning and experienced runners. HIGHLY recommend using these.
Gear and running accessories are KEY to making training for any race including a disney princess race weekend. I definitely tried a LOT of different shoes, socks, headphones, chafing gels and more (I actually have a whole blog post that details ALL my favorite items for running and training) and I found some favs.
For me? Running shoes (love my nikes) , the right socks (shout out to my bombas running socks), anti chafing gel, and my favorite headphones were staples for every training run and on race day.
Travel Flow and What to Bring
Coming from the West Coast, travel was definitely an important part of my disney princess race planning. I knew that timing would be important since I was dealing with a time change (races start at 5 am and you'll probably be waking up around 2 or 2:30 am to eat, get ready and make it to the start line).
I would plan to arrive in Orlando and to the walt disney world resort with at least a day before your race. You'll want time to adjust to the climate and time zone, and you also will need to pick up your bib at the espn wide world of sports complex race expo.
Personally? I ran the Disney Princess 10k on the Saturday of race weekend. I flew on Thursday from California. Attended the fitness expo on Friday. This gave me time to adjust, rest, and be settled so that I could go to bed nice and early on Friday night. If you are running the disney fairy tale challenge (the entire 3 days of races)….I'd suggest coming in even a day earlier. You'll want as much rest as possible before running back to back races.
Where to Stay :
Phew. This California girl isn't used to HOW BIG the Walt Disney World resort is. Where you stay the weekend of a race can honestly mean the difference between a great race and a mediocre one experience-wise.
For this disney princess race weekend, I stayed at the Swan and Dolphin resort and I can't recommend it highly enough. The resort is located close to Epcot (which is where all Florida Run Disney Races including the disney princess enchanted races start and end). The rooms are spacious, they have great bathtubs (for soaking those sore muscles after your run), killer on property dining options and……shuttles to the starting line for all run disney races.
A few of my personal favorite parts of the Swan and Dolphin this trip:
- shuttles to and from the race starting line
- we booked dinner the night BEFORE the race at Il Mulino on property….absolutely the BEST way to carb load (or protein load if you're gluten free like me, and they had GREAT gluten free bread that I loved)
- fancy coffee drinks from Fuel in the lobby (this was so great to have easy access to, they also had runner breakfast boxes and GREAT breakfast sandwiches and eggs)
- the Friendship Boats : the Swan and Dolphin has boats directly from their dock to both Epcot and Hollywood studios (this was perfect for our day after the race evening at Epcot)
- walking distance to the Boardwalk : if you are traveling with family or friends who want to watch you run……they can either walk out the front of the hotel and up the road to see you run by OR they can access the Disney Boardwalk to watch the runners (you can see more on the official course maps as they launch).
Run Disney Expo and Prep
Don't sleep on the Run Disney Expo. You do have to attend to pick up your race bib , race shirts , and race packet …..but there is also a ton of fun to be had.
We went to the Expo on Day 2 (it starts most Thursdays and we attended on Friday). I found it to be not that crowded, and we didn't have to wait very long for ANYTHING.
What we did at the Expo:
- picked up our race bib, shirt and gear check bag (more on this in the race day morning section)
- I got kt taped at the kt tape booth so that my pulled muscle was supported for race day
- shopped event merchandise (I bought a disney princess race mug and ears
- bought headbands from a partner retailer
- ate lunch at the wide world of sports (the grill had great gluten free options)
- took pictures (they had signs and displays that were super cute photo spots for each of the race distances along with character meet and greets)
Race Day Morning
Now, this is it. The day of the race. Regardless of race distance , your getting to the starting line experience will be the same for every race morning . The entrance to the race course will be inside one of the Epcot parking lots. You'll take a shuttle (or drive) to the Epcot entrance where you will go through security and walk towards the starting corrals.
If you want to bring anything with you (water bottles , change of clothes, sunscreen , etc) you'll have the opportunity to gear check in. At the rundisney health expo they will give you your items in a special clear bag (they'll remind you about this at the time). This bag is the ONLY bag they will accept at gear check (which is close to the starting line). You'll give it to the volunteers when you arrive, they'll label it with bib numbers and when you return to the parking lot at the end of your race, you'll have it returned to you.
In terms of timing, I would suggest leaving your hotel by 3 am or 3:30 am at the latest if taking a shuttle. It takes a bit of time to get through security, bag check and into your corral. Plus, the closer you are to the front of your starting group, the sooner you'll start. There are portapotties and restrooms available as well as food and drinks for sale.
Weather can vary greatly (we lucked out and had lovely weather). If you'd like to wear a jacket or layers until the start…..you can. A ton of people wear old sweatshirts or jackets, then drop them at starting. They are collected and donated to local charities that support those in need.
During the Run
You're OFF! Now the fun stuff. Characters and pacing (and water, first aid, and bathrooms).
Pacing is important in any race, including the disney princess race . The key here? No matter the race distance or timing? The balloon ladies are a visual representation of the pacing requirements and a reminder to keep it moving. The last people start any run disney race are the balloon ladies. You'll know them because they have…..balloons. They walk at a 16 minute mile pace consistently throughout the race. If they PASS you, you'll be picked up off the course. Can you walk WITH them? Yes. But if you see those balloon coming? Pick up the pace! I heard stories of people who waited in line for characters or restrooms and then got swept so……a few suggestions.
Depending on where you start in the corrals, I'd potentially skip the first few characters or restrooms if you can to put some space between you and the balloons. If you start further up, it's probably not something to be concerned about.
There will be multiple character stops along the route (I saw one per mile). There will be lines, and cast members with signs at the back of them stating who is meeting and greeting. You'll also see djs, musicians, and even a gospel choir to mark the last part of the last mile. You can stop at the characters and a cast member will take your photo with them. For me? The lines were pretty long (15 minutes or so) and I was running on a pulled muscle, so for this race? I didn't stop. You definitely can, and if character stops are a priority for you, then getting to the front of your corral is especially important so that you have as much time as you need (meaning get to the race as early as possible).
Bathrooms, Water and First Aid
In terms of basic needs? There are portapotties on the public parts of the race course (where you run on the freeway) and regular park bathrooms during the in park parts of the race. There are multiple water stops (the event guide will show them on the course map that releases a week or so before the race) and first aid stations just in case you need them.
After the Race
And now? THE FUN. And the rest. Remember, you'll have woken up at 2 am and will cross the finish line sometime between 6 am and 8:30 am. We went straight to the Magic Kingdom for lunch. In hindsight, I'd have planned that morning differently.
My suggestion? Cross the finish line, head back to your hotel and rest for a bit. Maybe a 90 minute nap and shower. Then a late brunch. Or? Breakfast and then immediately back to your hotel for a nap. We kept going until about 1:30 pm and frankly, it was too much. The Swan and Dolphin has great breakfast options, for my next race weekend….I'll do that.
A few things to note:
- there is first aid available at the finish line (I immediately got my leg ice wrapped since I was runing on a pulled groin muscle)
- you'll get handed your medal after you cross along with a snack box)
- race day photos? For the best deal, sign up for one of the memory maker packages in the My Disney Experience App. You can do one day for $69 and get ALLLLL your race photos. Your bib has info on the back for how to access the photos. They'll load into the app pretty quickly!
Going into the parks is so much fun, I'd absolutely plan to go that evening or the next day.
I hope this has helped you to plan for YOUR disney princess race experience……now, comment below and let me know what race distance you are planning to run!
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