Hi, everyone! It's been a minute...but I'm back!
As of yesterday, runDisney announced that guests will now be able to register for all runDisney races via their Disney accounts. Disney is hoping this will eliminate crazy wait times for registration while allowing their guests to register multiple participants at a time. *Drops active.com account like a poison apple*
Thanks to this update, us princess runners are forced to wait until August to register for the 2019 Princess Half Marathon. No big deal, but now my google calendar begs to be updated. If you're interested in learning more about registration updates, visit rundisney.com for more info!
In keeping with the runDisney theme, my post this week will focus on ten tips for running a successful runDisney race! I had so much fun writing this up, so I'll definitely be doing another "runDisney tips" blog in the future! I appreciate all thoughtful comments, and please remember that these are my own opinions when it comes to running Disney. As always, thanks for following along, and I hope you enjoy! (These tips are in no particular order.)
1. Be prepared
I had to start here because A. Scar said it best, and B. this is hugely important when it comes to running a race of any magnitude! A lot of my tips are about being prepared, but I figured I'd start with this general tip.
Races of all shapes and sizes have their high points and low points. It is important to know what you're getting into before signing up (yes, runDisney races are quite pricey and not easily refundable). You'll want to prepare your BODY first and foremost, however, you'll also need to prepare for weather, terrain, transportation, crowds, hotel rates, park passes, accessible food and drink, and so much more. I could write an entire post about preparing for a runDisney race, but I'll keep it short and sweet.
The best way to prepare for a runDisney race, is to take advantage of their FREE online training program. I have followed Jeff Galloway's training schedule both times I ran the Princess Half Marathon, aside from using his walk-run method. It requires only 3 weekly training days, and progressive longer runs on the weekends. Bottom line, you will need to prepare your body for a lot of mileage. Not only are you running a race, but you're at Walt Disney World walking, jumping, waiting in lines, and basically standing on your feet ALL DAY. These are the things you need to take into account, and plan out your days leading up to the race accordingly. (I'm thinking this may need to be an entirely separate post...stay tuned!)
2. Keep your diet familiar
This may sound silly to some, but knowing how your body handles heat, humidity, long days, short nights, fried foods, spicy foods, alcohol, and all that jazz... is MAJORLY important. Disney can run even the most excited toddler into the ground, so it is extremely important to know just how much your body can handle.
One of the biggest challenges for me when I stay at Disney, is creating a Disney diet. You'll want to try and recreate meals that you would eat while at home (if that's what works for you while you're training), or at least know what can potentially upset your stomach. For instance, if you're usually dairy free during training or year round, I wouldn't advise hitting up all the ice cream spots at the Disney parks (even though that's hella tempting.) Luckily for me, I was constantly using carbohydrates as fuel for my long runs during training. When it came time to eat on the morning of each race, I would eat a banana and a bagel. I would also down an entire bottle of water, because I knew my body would need it. This was around 3 AM in the morning, and even though my body wasn't adjusted to getting up and running that early, I needed that food to get me through each race. It's worth it to wake up a tad earlier to properly fuel your body. You'll learn during training what your body likes and dislikes during runs, so it's important to take that knowledge and transfer it to your race day. If you're not typically eating BLAZE pizza followed by a trip to Sprinkles Cupcakes before a 10 mile training run...then why on earth would you see how that turns out right before a huge race? Just saying.
Disney offers fridges in their hotel rooms, and even runDisney goodie bags to it's guests! When I stayed at Pop Century Resort in 2016, my friend and I were able to pick up FREE bags of bagels, fruit, peanut butter, and water from our hotel cafeteria. If you're on a budget, diet plan, or have certain food allergies, Disney goes above and beyond to make sure it's guests are happy and taken care of. Guests can bring food into the parks, and even make their own food in the hotel. It's very easy to make a sandwich at your resort if you'd rather save your money for cute merch. ;) Disney also now offers mobile dining pickup so you can avoid long lines at quick service restaurants. You should also never hesitate to ask a cast member for any assistance while dining on or off property. Every employee is so friendly and especially helpful to those running the races. Make sure to wear your medals during the day for royal applause and congratulatory high-fives.
3. Drink all the water
This may be my most important tip for you. If your hydration is lacking, you can suffer from dizziness, fatigue, and fainting. It's also not uncommon to suffer from mild headaches, confusion, and loss of appetite. Even the slightest bit of body water loss can impair cognitive function, which in turn can affect your performance during any athletic event.
I made sure to have water with me at all times of the day, everyday. This was especially important while at Disney, because my body wasn't adjusted to the heat and humidity. For every 10 to 20 minutes of exercise, you should be drinking 8-10 ounces of water. While at Disney, I ran three races over the course of three days AND I walked all day long in sunny 80 degree weather. My body craved water, and I knew the difference between hunger and thirst. The last thing I wanted was to have my body cramp up and give out on me during my race days. I luckily never suffered any cramping, dehydration, or mental disruption. Your body and mind need water to survive and thrive properly. I would advise even the most hydrated individual to keep a large pack of waters in the hotel room at all times.
Disney also allows you to bring a water bottle in the park (as long as it's not glass), and any snacks you may need due to budgetary and/or food allergies/restrictions. Their counter service restaurants also offer free water for park goers. When I went to Magic Kingdom in mid August, the Starbucks on Main Street was passing out trays of free ice cold water to its guests. Disney never wants its guests unhappy, but it's up to you to keep your hydration in check. Cold Water and Powerade are conveniently provided along each race course. Make sure to grab a cup each time you pass a hydration station, and kindly move off to the side to drink so that walkers and runners may go about their race. :)
4. Leave the glass slippers at home
I know it's crucial to snap that perfect castle selfie, but it's also very crucial to wear comfortable clothing! I know when I'm running, or walking around Disney, one of my main concerns is keeping my feet from hurting. This tip also applies to outfits, because you need to wear something that's comfy, and won't cause irritation. I made the mistake of wearing thong sandals to Disney one year, and not only did they break, but I had ZERO support.
If you're running Disney, you'll need to almost only wear athletic shoes your entire stay. The only time I strayed from this was during a photoshoot where I changed into slip-on converse shoes. If you know a certain bra irritates your shoulders, or a pair of shorts rubs you the wrong way, for goodness sakes LEAVE THEM AT HOME. Honestly all you really need to wear in the parks are sneakers, running shorts, maybe a hat, and definitely a Zip-A-Dee Tee. Shameless #ad
While running, you'll most definitely want to dress up in costume! Your costume should be off-the-charts adorable but also super comfortable! Princess ball gowns and Chewbacca costumes may sound tempting, but I wouldn't advise wearing them. Stay the course and stick with your basic cottons, spandex, and polyesters for a smooth run. The beauty of a runDisney race is that mostly everyone is in some sort of Disney-inspired garb. This makes for some great race photos and plenty of fun memories. If you forget to bring an outfit, there are plenty of options at the runDisney expo.
To sum up, pack for comfort and bring multiple socks, sports bars, underwear, and all the running necessities. Train in the shoes you plan to run in, and test out as much of your costume as you can in the weeks leading up to the race. You can't go wrong wearing an outfit you're used to, but you also want to join in on the fun that's runDisney...dawning a decked out character costume! Just make sure you plan accordingly. ;)
5. Cross Train
When training for a runDisney race, it is very important to schedule your runs, but it's also very important to train in other areas of fitness. What you decide to do, should lead to the question of "how will this serve me"?
Cross-training is huge because it has shown to improve your cardio, muscle strength, and flexibility, as well as reduce injuries and increase overall performance. The only thing to be cautious of is how much training you're doing, and to ensure you're taking at least one day off to rest or actively recover.
Exercises such as swimming, yoga, interval runs, and strength training ALL demand different stresses on the body that will increase your structural fitness. During my training from October - February, I lifted weights, I did yoga, I foam rolled, I walked, I biked, and I ran. Was it easy to always fit a routine in? No. Did every training day go as planned? No. Training for anything is about listening to your body, and knowing what you need to do as an athlete to make your body physically capable for the main event. I found that integrating all of these methods of exercise benefitted me greatly because they challenged my body on all different levels. One of my favorite sayings is "nothing great comes from comfort zones". I learned to step out of what I'm used to and to give my body the opportunity to adjust to change. The results were amazing. Not only did I successfully complete a 5k, 10k, and Half marathon in three days, but I also finished those races without any pain. Ultimately, THAT right there is what made me the proudest.
I will tell you that it is easy to fall into the routine of running. I actually really enjoy it, because that's when I can let go of any stress. I get lost in my music and podcasts, and just go. While sticking to only running would've gotten me across the finish line, it was the addition of all the other fitness components that gave me the edge I didn't have during my first half marathon. If you're signing up just to run, then by all means RUN. If you're signing up because you want to push yourself, then get uncomfortable and challenge the way you train. This can be done for any runDisney race. The benefits of cross-training are immense if done properly. (I'm sure this will turn into a separate post as well! What do you think??)
6. Get yourself a ChEAR squad
Disney is great because they allow spectators to line up along the highways, resorts, finish line, and even Main Street USA. They also have runner tracking, so emails and text messages can be sent to spectators during the race. I'm so thankful some of my family members were there to cheer me on. I can't even express the amount of love that came from some of my closest friends and family, to mere acquaintances and strangers at Disney World. Trust me when I say that everyone at a runDisney race is rooting for you. Volunteers line up and down the course singing, dancing, waving, and cheering you on. Honestly, the moment when you enter Main Street is nothing short of magical. There's almost never a dry eye in the house.
Spectators really commit by getting to their chEAR spots early enough to see their favorite runner. If your family or friends are determined to see you run, then they have to make sure they give themselves plenty of time and know your ETA.
If you're running Disney alone, never fear. You'll meet so many fun and eclectic people throughout your stay at Disney. Hundreds of thousands of runners participate in runDisney races every year. No where else will you meet so many happy people to be awake at 4 AM standing in costume, eagerly awaiting a long distance run. I met up with old friends, I made new friends, and I had so many friends texting me cheering me on from home. No matter what your circumstance, a ChEAR squad is key.
7. Enter a Proof of Time
If you're a seasoned runner and know you'd like to aim for finishing under a specific time, you'll want to really consider entering a Proof of Time. You can do this by signing up for a race that's almost equivalent to the runDisney race you'll be participating in. It must be an officially timed race, and you must submit this time before a certain date. Since runDisney has updated their registration process, I'm sure there will be new policies regarding proof of time as well.
My first Princess Half was challenging because my friend and I started in one of the last corrals having not submitted a proof of time. This year I ran my first 10k in November, and submitted my time to runDisney. They then placed me in Corral A/C based on the time I entered and approximately how long it would take me to complete a half marathon.
If you plan on running with a friend, but his or her time has them placed in a slower corral, you can move back to them but they cannot move forward to your corral. This will obviously be up to you, but the further back you go, the more you will have to dodge and weave your way through the non-runners. If you're walking with a group, always make sure to stay to the side and walk one in front of the other. Large groups tend to bottleneck during certain miles spent on the narrow highway. As always, be courteous and aware of all those surrounding you.
I definitely found that entering a proof of time was very helpful. It also holds you accountable to sign up for another race and see what your pace will be like for the big day.
8. Stay on Disney Property
I can't stress this one enough. Every time I do Disney, I do it the "Disney way". By booking your trip through Disney, you can basically leave all worries behind. The only downside to staying at Disney, is the cost. Staying on Disney property can range anywhere from $100 a night to $800+ a night. If you're able to book a hotel room right after you register for your race, your chances of getting the room you want at the hotel you want will be much more likely. I waited too close to race weekend my last visit, and I almost had to pay upwards of $650 for one night alone on property. Generally, the hotels that go quickly are the value and moderate resorts. Disney's Art of Animation and Pop Century are close to the Disney's Wide World of Sports, where guests can quickly get to the runDisney health and fitness expo. Deluxe resorts are the priciest, but they do offer more in terms of transportation and dining.
Staying on Disney property is the ultimate game changer, because Disney has free transportation to all the race events for its guests staying at a Disney resort. I know some people who stayed off property and had to drive in and deal with parking, or use an uber. For me, I like to keep my race day anxiety at a minimum, so I find that using all that Disney has to offer one of the many advantages to running a successful Disney race. Disney organizes everything so well, and wants it's runners to feel like royalty. Treat yo'self. ;)
9. Link your Magic Band
Magic Bands are still somewhat new on the scene, but highly effective for a fun stay at Disney. When booking your trip, you automatically receive a magic band, personalized with your name on it if you're staying on Disney property (another perk.) Magic bands allow you to link a credit card that can be used for making purchases, unlocking your room, entering all the Disney parks, checking in for FastPass, and connecting Disney photopass to your account. You get to choose your color band, but they also have special edition colors in the Disney parks.
I wore mine everywhere, because I literally always needed it! It grants you access to almost everything Disney. After the race, there are vendors, character photo ops, and plenty more that require money or photopass access. Definitely keep your band close, and your bib number showing! Photopass will also link pictures to your account through the number and code on your bib. Remember, medal pics or it didn't happen.
10. HAVE FUN
The main reason I run Disney is because of the atmosphere. How can you not be happy while at the happiest place on earth?! I soaked up every moment, and was able to do so much within the short amount of time I was there. Try to be present, try to be patient, and try to be kind. runDisney races are host to some of the most magical memories, merchandise, and people. Don't take yourself too seriously, and if you're trying for a certain time, then train hard and follow an amazing nutrition plan and fitness routine! You'll see all types of runners and walkers, and that's the beauty of it all. More than anything, have a fun stay and make so many magical memories. I'd run EVERY single Disney race if my little legs and bank account would allow it! ;)
This concludes my ten tips for running Disney! I promise to do more posts like this in the future. :)