So you’ve just gotten to Walt Disney World and you’re excited because it’s fantastic. But if you’re visiting for a race, it might be wise to chill…just a little bit. Try to plan the trip in such a way that saves the bulk of park touring for the post-race portion of the stay. Seriously, all of that walking will add up, even for the seasoned runner, and it is easy to tire out before the big day even arrives. Consider trying to get accustomed to a sleep schedule that will allow for ungodly early wakeup call, or a late night running party on race day (depending on the event). Getting to sleep early two nights before a morning race is a great idea, it will help with being sleepy enough to doze off the night before the race, before too many of the pre-race jitters set in.
Where exactly should you be sleeping, and taking your post-race ice bath? Staying on property is likely the easiest option as certain “host resorts” will have transportation available to the race. When planning to utilize Disney bus transportation to the races, it is important to understand which resorts will be host resorts. These specific resorts will vary based on the individual race. A travel agent or the runDisney website will likely offer race-specific vacation packages for race weekend stays. Staying off-property, or at a resort that does not offer race transportation, and renting a car is definitely a fine option, too! The roads tend to get very busy on race morning/race night, especially since road closures have to begin before the race starts. Always allow extra time to travel to a race, and once you’ve allowed extra time, add an additional half hour to that.
The day before the race (or the day of the race for evening events), be sure to take it easy on the turkey legs and popcorn. Theme park food is notoriously overly salted, and extra sodium coupled with walking around in the Orlando (or Anaheim) sun for hours can potentially leave one dehydrated or under-hydrated for race time. Remember to keep drinking lots of water, and try to stick to your normal diet as best you can on the day or days leading up to the event. Even new runners will have certainly trained and know what their bodies can handle eating close to run time. The goal here is for the digestive system to be as neutral as possible, don’t allow it to freak out because of overly greasy or fried foods. Have some bananas, maybe some rice. You’re welcome.
It is becoming more and more common for restaurants on property to offer a pre-race menu the night before/day of a race. The menu typically features carb heavy pasta dishes, which are a great choice for keeping your energy levels up. runDisney also offers a “Pasta in The Park Party” add-on option to race registration. The party features a pasta buffet and a character meet and greet the evening before the race. If neither of these options sound appealing, ordering a simple rice or pasta dish from a quick service or table service restaurant will also do the trick! Consider Portobello at Downtown Disney, Via Napoli or Tutto Italia in Epcot, Tony’s Town Square in Magic Kingdom, or Landscape of Flavors at Art of Animation. Just stick with what you know. Though there are plenty of restrooms along the course, runners will certainly want to limit their bathroom stops during the race.
With dinner covered, let’s not forget about breakfast! Some of us can’t have a bite to eat before running, and others are able to indulge a little bit more. It is important to plan morning meals (for morning races) the night before, since runners need to be at the starting line well before the race begins. Many quick service locations will have snacks available for purchase specifically meant for race mornings (offerings will vary). Obvious rule of thumb, choose something you would normally eat and drink before a training run. The resort room will have a coffee maker for a little caffeine jolt before the big race, and there are cups of water near the starting line, just after bag check if needed!
Anyone accustomed to running with a water belt or water bottle should definitely have it handy on race day. Plenty of water and Powerade will be provided on the course, but a small reserve of water can’t hurt! In the event a water stop was too crowded, too slow, or simply not convenient for stopping, it’s great to be able to drink at will. Don’t rely solely on the water belt or bottle, and be sure to hydrate at normal increments during the run. The same thing goes for gels or goo packs. Certain flavors might not be available on the course, so if there is a favorite that keeps you going, bring your own just in case! First time racers, please make sure to discard trash in proper receptacles, or at least keep it to the side of the road for easier pick-up, and less tripping for those of us who are clumsy. During the Full Marathon, the food stops will also include bananas or oranges which are a perfect fuel source. For races in Disneyland, spectators will sometimes offer Twizzlers, pretzels, or other snacks. This is probably the one time it is okay to consider taking candy from a stranger, as long as you are hungry enough.
Once the race is over (yay! You did it!), there will be a snack box, banana, water, and Powerade at the finish. The snack box usually contains some type of salty snack, a mini Luna or Clif Bar, and a wildcard option. Waiting for friends, or hanging around the finish area can sometimes go longer than planned, bring an extra energy bar or snack in your checked bag to have after the race. You can never have too many snacks, especially after running a Half Marathon!
Now that all of this eating, drinking, and resting advice has been diligently followed, it’s time to go out and enjoy the parks! Eat and drink anything! Everything! Enjoy hobbling around World Showcase, just make sure to wear that medal!