The Disney Experience

The main reason to run one of the runDisney races is of course, it’s at Disney! Whether it’s races, stage shows, rides, movies or evening fireworks Disney puts on a show like no other.  I touched on a few things in my race recap but I wanted to go into more detail about all the stuff involved in the Walt Disney World Half Marathon.

The Expo

First, you have the expo, stop number one for all Disney racers (required for packet pick up) there’s gear vendors, start speakers, Disney merchandise and of course people…
… lots, and lots of people.

The expo was housed in multiple buildings at the ESPN Wide World of Sports on the outskirts of the Disney property.  This was pretty fitting for a race expo a bunch of sports themed buildings.  And they are functional as well, the baseball stadium is the spring training home of the Atlanta Braves, and one of the expo buildings (Jostens Center) is a basketball arena.

On course entertainment

It wouldn’t be like Disney to let runners hurtle through the parks in dead silence (aside from the cheering crowds) would it? Of course not! First they set off a huge fireworks display (from behind us) at the start of the first corral and then a smaller send-off for each of the following corrals.  Disney had entertainment stops at least one per mile if not more.  There were at least three high school marching bands on the course.  I’m not sure if it was memories of my own high school band days, or just appreciation of live people playing live music at O’dark thirty to “earn” their Disney band trip but running past the marching bands gave me goosebumps.  I clapped and cheered as I went by them trying to show my appreciation.  They had at least 3 DJs on the course, one of whom was set up on the walking path between the family reunion drop-off area and the starting line, who I later saw set up near the end of the course (wasn’t far for him to go).  They had a Reedy Creek firetruck and of course they had large amounts of Cast Members from the hotels and parks to cheer you on all along the race route.

The Characters

The reason we all run Disney races right? Well, most of us anyway.  The character interactions.  I’m going to try to remember all the characters that were along the race course, I apologize if I miss a few and I’ll try to remember them in the order we got to them.

Mickey, Goofy, Donald at the Start (Not a photo op)
Capt Jack and Barbossa (Stopped for picture)
Chip (or Dale) with cars for the Walt Disney Speedway (Petty Experience)
Jack Skelton outside Magic Kingdom
Royal Mickey (or was it Donald? Didn’t really see) behind the Castle
Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) at the exit of the Magic Kingdom (in the backlot)
Mary Poppins in front of the Grand Floridian
Lilo and Stitch outside the Polynesian
Genie from Alladin (didn’t stop, but should have)
Green Army Men (Toy Story) encouraging people up the EPCOT overpass
Stitch solo inside EPCOT (why is he so popular?)
Mickey and Minnie at the finish (but no one taking pictures?)
Donald and Chip and Dale at the Family Reunion area stage

The only thing that disappointed me is some of the more popular characters (and some of the ones I was looking for) were not on the Half Marathon course (the full course of course has more room for characters). I was looking for Tigger to get a picture with (my mom’s favorite) and while Minnie was at the finish (Lisa’s favorite) there was no one there taking pictures, so I was rather disappointed there as well.  Of course I paid less attention to the characters the second half of the course when I was hurting.

Tips for Disney runners

This was only my first Disney race, but a couple things stuck out at me that would be good ideas for future races.

Stay on park property: I’d recommend this anytime you are going to Disney, but for sure on race day.  The buses will take you to and from the expo and also to and from the race Start/Finish.  You don’t have to worry about driving or parking.  After the race finish you will likely have to wait a while to snag a bus back to the hotel, but the higher volume value resorts had more buses running than the deluxe resort we stayed in.

Come to the start alone: My mom and dad came with me to the starting line area, which I really appreciated it, but there was nothing for them to do, the place was a ZOO and no one really knew what was going on, not even the official “Ask me” people.  There was some spectator area a little after the start, but not much and it wasn’t very easy to get to, so (for the sake of their health and sanity) let them sleep in a couple hours and just meet you at the Magic Kingdom.

Pack for any weather: Assuming you are traveling to Disney from a ways off, make sure to pack for ANY weather.  Apparently January in Florida is very unpredictable.  It averages in the 40s and 50s, but 3 years ago it was 17 degrees and snow/rain/sleet mix at the start, and this year it was downright ROASTING in the 80s.

HAVE FUN!!!!: First and foremost, forget times and PRs and “racing” just have fun, take pictures, stop with the characters and enjoy Disney!



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  • About Me

    I am a recent graduate in Food Science (NC State, 2009) and I work for a major food manufacturing company. I love food, but I can no longer eat anything that crosses my path. About 24 months ago I begin a serious struggle to get my obesity under control and reduce my chances of developing Type II diabetes. Since September of '09 I have lost 50 pounds and I still have a long ways to go. I've started eating better and exercising more, including taking up running.