runDisney: Racing through the Magic

October 23, 2023 by Abby Rom

Every November, January, February, and April, thousands of runners, joggers, and walkers plan magical vacations to Walt Disney World (and Disneyland) with one goal in mind: to conquer a finish line. At the Disney races, they say every mile is magic, and runDisney certainly puts the magic in endurance running.

Hi! My name is Abby, and I’m a travel advisor with Be Our Guest Vacations and a runDisney enthusiast! I’m currently training for my third Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend Dopey Challenge; a truly dopey endeavor of running a 5K, 10K, half marathon, and full marathon on subsequent mornings. Why would one do such a thing? Ask the many thousands of people who have raced at Walt Disney World or Disneyland throughout the last 30 years. I believe they'll tell you it's the place, special touches, medals, costumes, and community that bring them back year after year.

Princess 10k

What is runDisney?

Approximately 30 years ago, Walt Disney World hosted its first marathon, called the Disney Endurance Series. Over the years, runDisney events have grown into multiple themed weekends on both coasts, particularly at Walt Disney World. Walt Disney World hosts the Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend in November, the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend in January, the Princess Half Marathon Weekend in February, and the Springtime Surprise in April. In 2024, Disneyland Resort will host the Disneyland Half Marathon after several years without races on the West coast.

Pre-registration is required to participate in a runDisney race weekend, and spots are competitive! Most races sell out within minutes or hours of release to the public. Typically, race registration opens at 10 a.m. EST. runDisney also partners with charities that offer race registration in exchange for fundraising. Be sure to follow the runDisney blog and social media channels to stay current on important dates!

What makes these events special?

In runDisney’s words, “A runDisney race is anything but ordinary. With us, you’ll move with magic through Disney Parks all over the world. Become part of adventures that could take you under the sea, through classic enchantment and into a springtime of surprises.” runDisney offers events for everyone, from beginners to elite athletes, including 5Ks, 10Ks, 10-milers and the longer distances, half and full marathon. Each runDisney race takes you through at least one theme park. In the case of the Walt Disney World Marathon, travel 26.2 miles through all 4 theme parks, the BoardWalk, major roads, and past Blizzard Beach or ESPN Wide World of Sports! Beginning in 2022, runDisney introduced in-park sunrise yoga events during select race weekends!

runDisney promises that every mile is magic, and to help with that, on-course entertainment, such as DJs, local high school marching bands, and musical acts are located on the course to help runners dig a little deeper. Additionally, and popularly, beloved Disney Characters are located throughout the courses to meet and take photos with runners! Be ready to smile, because Disney PhotoPass photographers are also located throughout the course! The finish line is no exception. In addition to the crowds, announcers, and characters cheering your finish, keep the celebration going with a live DJ and food/beverage offerings at the family reunion area in the EPCOT parking lot.

characters and entertainment

runDisney runners know that these races are special because of the bling at the finish line! runDisney offers one-of-a-kind, uniquely themed medals that anyone would be proud to wear inside the parks or put on display at home. Every finisher earns a medal, and by completing multi-course challenges, such as the Dopey Challenge or Fairytale Challenge, you can earn additional themed medals!

runDisney Medals

All of the above goes a long way to make runDisney stand out, but the people truly make runDisney special. The runDisney community is a wide-reaching and accepting group of people from all over the United States and world! Every race weekend, I hear stories about runners becoming best friends after meeting in the runDisney corrals—solo runners are welcomed into the fold. I have my own group of “runDisney friends” that I see 1-4 times a year at runDisney weekends! Running can be a very isolating sport or hobby, but not with runDisney. All shapes, speeds, sizes, and origins are welcome on a runDisney course.

Finally, one of my favorite aspects of runDisney racing is the costumes! runDisney encourages runners to get creative, and whether you choose a princess or villain, classic character or obscure reference, the runDisney community celebrates creativity. Be sure to read and follow the costume guidelines to keep yourself and fellow runners safe!

Abby runDisney costumes

Why take a runDisney vacation?

We highly recommend that runners book a resort + ticket package during runDisney race weekends to make the most of your time! At Be Our Guest Vacations, we have several agents, including myself, who are runDisney veterans, and we offer particularized expertise and guidance. This allows you to focus on training and having fun!

A runDisney event typically lasts from Thursday – Sunday, with the Walt Disney World Marathon lasting from Wednesday – Sunday. In addition to the races, the runDisney Health & Fitness Expo held at ESPN Wide World of Sports is a must-visit. At the Expo, pick up your race bibs, commemorative participant t-shirts, and runDisney merchandise, but also visit the many vendors offering running-related wares and goodies. Don't miss the fun photo opportunities and character meet and greets at the Expo, as well!

We highly recommend arriving at least two days before your race, as you must pick up your own bib in person during the Expo open hours the day before your first race. It will also allow you to acclimate to the weather and your resort before that first early race morning.

runDisney Wide World of Sports

Speaking of which, at Walt Disney World, runDisney races typically begin from the EPCOT parking lot at 5 a.m. EST, with runners encouraged to arrive no later than 4 a.m. EST. This means getting on a bus between 3-3:30 a.m. EST is best practice. Race transportation is provided from Walt Disney World Resort Hotels, making this your best option for your race weekend stay.

One of my favorite race-day rituals is visiting the theme parks while wearing my medal! The races begin in the early morning and, depending on distance, can conclude in late morning. This leaves a full day available! Include a 3-day park ticket to your vacation package to make the most of your runDisney vacation!

IMPORTANT NOTE: race registrations cannot be added to a vacation package. Secure your race registration through the scheduled process as established by runDisney.

Contact Be Our Guest Vacations today to plan your runDisney vacation!