runDisney Events: What to Do? Where to Stay? What to Eat?!
You’re doing it, you are going to finally do a runDisney event! Now you just have to figure out, well…everything else. Don’t worry, I’m here to help.
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!
5 thoughts on “runDisney Events: What to Do? Where to Stay? What to Eat?!”
That is a great “run down” (pun intended). Can we chime in with lessons learned? Everything that didn’t turn out perfectly has helped me prepare better for the next run, and maybe some of these will help someone else too.
At Disneyland, the Disney accommodations have priced themselves out of my market and after 13 miles, what’s another block to the Hilton, which is a perfectly posh enough hotel for me. I wish you could walk to the WDW starting line as well, but you really can’t. Even if the distance is not a problem, the highway design isn’t safe to walk in the dark. The host hotel buses make for a way early wake-up, but it is what it is.
Bring clothes from home that you plan to donate to charity anyway, and wear them over your running gear if it’s forecast to be cooler than you’d like. It’s a long wait at WDW (not so much at DL) and January can be chilly at 04:00 even in Florida. We’re not all battle-hardened Olympians used to pre-dawn near-freezing training in singlets and shorts. Frankly, I like my comfort – I just enjoy the zen of the long run experience. When your corral is getting close to the starting line, toss the extra layers over the fence. They’ll collect the discarded clothing and donate to Florida charities. Likewise, put a plastic dollar-store or leftover park poncho in your suitcase. It has a bit better coverage than a green garbage bag, and it will be handy if it turns out to be drizzly. Wine & Dine 2014 was pouring buckets. The poncho didn’t keep me dry but it cut the chill.
The lack of bathtub in some resorts and hotels or just specific rooms can put a kink in the icebath strategy, but a soak in a cool outdoor pool is a decent substitute, and one way or another the soak is a must for me. Looking back on the difference between my first and second runDisney event, the post-race cool / cold / ice soak really changed my running life. I learned this method from the runDisney race program, and tried it on faith. All hail the cold and uncomfortable soak (I leave the running clothes on – they’re sweaty anyway, and just take off the shoes and Garmin / HR band.) After the soak, I put on recovery-compression knee socks and head to the parks and congratulate all the other medal wearers.
I am a thirsty runner and even I find the hydration stations well spaced enough that I bring an empty water bottle in my belt and only need to fill it about halfway through the race. I had too many bottles the first time, as I depended on a 4 bottle belt to train at home and my only prior long event had nowhere near enough water stations and I was delirious with dehydration. At runDisney, I’m never more than one bottle away from the next hydration station.
I would love to take advantage of the pasta parties, but have food allergies and unfortunately it is too complicated to discover the detailed ingredient list of things like pasta sauces and pizza toppings. One pre-race night with my face pressed to the cold bathroom floor at Disneyland’s Paradise Pier Hotel, followed by portapotty stops the next day, taught me to stick to single-ingredient menu items until after the race.
I love the “runner box” with banana, granola bar, peanut butter, bagel, chocolate milk, yogurt, and small water that some resorts sometimes sell the night before. That provides most morning food combinations people might like, and you can save the rest for eating in the bathtub. Unfortunately, I have discovered that the “some” is a key word. You can’t count on the boxes being available. Bringing food from home is an option for US runners, but those of us who fly over a border have challenges importing “food” and using Disney transportation makes it hard to just pop over to a grocery store as well. I wish runDisney would prevail on at least the Disney resorts to ensure the availability of these boxes, or have someone sell them at the Expo (obviously would need to be UHT milk and skip the yogurt).
Definitely rock that medal afterwards, all the way back to the airport. People wearing their medals 2, 3 and 4 days after the race is absolutely done. Go ahead. Pro-tip: just wear the “highest” medal: the longest distance if you did more than one, or the challenge medal you qualified for. If you wear more than one medal at a time, not only are they heavy on your neck but they’ll scratch each other up and you’ll be sad when you hang them up at home later.
Thank you so much for the comment! You made so many great points, thank you for sharing them, especially about wearing extra layers! It’s definitely a perfect way to stay warm pre-race, and donate some old clothes.
What will be your next race? I hope to see you there!
What is the proper protocol for giving elderly cats their medicine before a race? And what if you run into Keith Hernandez, Ron Darling or any other member of the 1986 world champion New York Mets on the race course?
If you run into any of the ’86 Mets on the race course, you better run away and hope they don’t quiz you about their personal lives. It’s a great strategy for going faster.
For the record, yes… you’re correct, no one likes Billy. Sorry, Billy.