Rules of the Road: A runDisney Race Etiquette Guide

by Lorree Tachell, contributing writer
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Disney running events enjoy a well-deserved reputation of being friendly to first-time participants. Although the minimum pacing requirement of 16 minutes per mile is challenging for walkers, it's manageable—and the lure of experiencing the Disney parks as a participant (including backstage areas and memorable locations, like through the castle) makes it easy to see why runDisney races are often the first real road race many budding racers attempt.

Being new to the sport of running/walking, however, is no excuse for not knowing the "rules of the road." If you follow some basic etiquette and common sense, everyone can enjoy their runDisney race experience.

The Road Runners Club of American (RRCA) has put together "Etiquette for Runners," a list of things to keep in mind before, during, and after a race. The information presented here has been modified from that list to better accommodate a typical runDisney event experience. Keep these tips in mind as you prepare for your first or next runDisney event.

General Rules

Details, details, details

Check your registration information carefully before clicking the Submit button to make sure you have included all pertinent information, and that the information is accurate. Not only do you want to ensure that things like your name and email address are correct, but runDisney also includes an optional field where you provide information on a recently completed race.


Just a little reminder that you can't change your corral at the expo. Photo by Lorree Tachell.

This field on the online registration form is a potential gotcha, because it is optional, and you can continue on with your registration without filling out this field. If you forget to provide this information before the submission deadline, however, runDisney automatically assigns you to the very last starting corral.

If you obtain a faster qualifying time from another race after you register for your runDisney race, you may send the updated information to runDisney, but you must do this also by the published change deadline as posted on the runDisney website.

If anyone tells you that you can just register with a fast predicted time without providing proof and still get assigned to an earlier starting corral, this is incorrect. runDisney revised its rules beginning with the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, and you are no longer allowed to request corral assignment changes when you get to the race expo. Keep in mind that corral timing and the number of corrals change from race to race and year to year based on registration information and numbers.

"Did not know" is no excuse

Race rules are posted on the runDisney race website and are printed in the official race program. All runners and walkers have a collective responsibility to keep the runDisney event safe. runDisney prohibits running with dogs (except for guide dogs) and jogging strollers, and discourages use of headphones and cell phones for safety reasons.

Arrive early to the start

Don't expect to arrive just minutes before the start of the race and just hop into your corral. runDisney volunteers are trying to herd thousands of runners and walkers into their respective areas and coming in late does not help the process. If you are late, you may find you are not able to get to your assigned starting corral and will be required to start in a later corral.


Volunteers help runners and walkers find their proper corrals at the start. Photo by Lorree Tachell.

If the official runDisney program says bus shuttles start at 3:00 a.m. and end at 5:00, make every effort to get on the bus early (for example, no later than 3:30). It is far better to have to kill time in the waiting area, than to be stuck without a way to get to the race because you missed the last shuttle. Taxi cabs are not reliable, and even personal vehicles can run into problems because the streets are often blocked from traffic.

Corral assignments

You can move back to slower corrals to run with friends and family, but you may not start in an earlier corral. Arguing with the runDisney race volunteer to allow you admittance into a lower-letter corral will not help. Attempting to jump the fence to get into an earlier corral should not be done and may result in injury.

No corral assignments

If you are participating in a runDisney event that has no assigned corrals (usually limited to the Family Fun Run 5K races not included as part of a runDisney challenge event), line up according to how fast you plan to run or walk the event. Slower runners and walkers should move to the back. Just because you arrived early does not mean you should be at the front of the starting line.

Race numbers

Pin your race number on the front of your shirt. This is where it is most visible for photographers and race officials. Unlike many other large races, you will have to show your number as you enter your corral. If you tie your jacket or shirt around your waist during the event, make sure you don't block your race number if you are interested in purchasing pictures. If you pin your number on your race pants (on the thigh) make sure the entire number is visible.


Make sure your race number is visible. Photo by Lorree Tachell.

Watch the road

If you are using GPS or another tracking device, pay attention to the road and not what is on your wrist. You do not want to trip over an obstruction or start a chain reaction if you tumble. This is especially true at the start of the race when you are in a tight area with more runners and walkers packed in around you.

Race Etiquette on the Course

There are thousands behind you

If you drop something as the race starts, don't stop and pick it up! Stopping in such a large crowd may end up in injury. Wait until almost everyone in your corral has crossed the starting line; then retrieve the item if possible.


Remember, you are one of thousands in your starting corral. Photo by Lorree Tachell.

The race course isn't your bedroom floor

If you know the morning will be cool, bring disposable clothing or a cheap fleece blanket to keep yourself warm. Don't drop clothing directly on the course after you warm up, and don't expect to get it back if you drop anything on the ground. If you must shed layers of clothing, tie them around your waist or place them on the side of the road where no one will trip over them. runDisney often provides used-clothing bins along the sides of the starting corrals. Items left in these bins are washed and donated to local shelters. Clothing bins should have stickers on them identifying what they are, so if you see bins along the corrals, do not assume they are trash bins.

If you are using a foil race blanket or garbage bag to keep warm prior to the race, make sure they are disposed of on the side of the road or in trash bins as well. These items can be slippery and may cause injury if they are stepped on by those coming behind you.

Keep it single file

Do not run or walk more than two abreast. Large groups of slower runners or walkers blocking the road will cause bottlenecks, especially in some of the more narrow areas along the runDisney park courses. Also, do not hold hands or otherwise block the road from others being able to pass. While it's fun to participate in a runDisney event in a group, if you are with three or more friends or family, proceed in single file to allow others to easily get by.


If you are running or walking in a group, keep it single file. Photo by Lorree Tachell.

Walkers – right, runners – left

Walkers and slower runners should stay on the right side of the road, while faster runners should stay to the left. If you are a walker or slower runner, allow those who are faster space to pass. If you are a faster runner, do not get frustrated if you are not able to hold your pace on the right side of the road; move to the left as soon as you are able.

The easiest way to tell if you're a "slower runner" is to look around you. Regardless of your own pace, if the walkers or runners around you are consistently passing you, you should veer right and get out of the way.

Signal if you need to stop

If you need to stop on the course for any reason, raise your hand to signal your intention to move to the right and stop. Do not just stop in the middle of the road. This happens a lot with runDisney races because there are so many distractions, from character meet-and-greets to special lighting on an attraction. Stopping for these is fine (and even encouraged), but do so with care. 

If you are not already on the far right of the road, check over your shoulder before stopping to make sure there is a clear path to the side. Do not block runners coming up behind you by swerving needlessly back and forth across the course.


Walk to the right hand side of the pathway to allow faster runners to pass you, especially on narrow portions of the course. Photo by Stephanie Wien.

Be courteous—share the road

Move to the side if someone behind you says "excuse me" or "on your right/left." The person behind you is giving you a heads-up before passing. It's proper race etiquette to let that person pass you without blocking their effort. If someone in front of you is wearing headphones, and they are blocking, gently touch their elbow or shoulder as you pass to alert them to your presence (this is one reason race officials discourage the use of headphones).

Look before you spit

Bodily functions are a fact of life during a race. If you need to spit, use the space directly in front of you; someone could be coming next to you who would be hit if you spit to either side. If you need to blow your nose or throw up, move as quickly as possible to the side of the road and do it there. Watch out for those following close behind you or beside you.

Emergency vehicles have the right of way

Yield the course to all police and emergency vehicles; they need to get where they are going faster than you do. Also, yield the course to wheelchair athletes; you can change direction or stop more quickly than they can, especially on a downhill.


Keep your eyes and ears open for emergency vehicles. Photo by Adrienne Krock.

Don't create your own course

Don't cheat! Don't cut the course or jump in miles after the start. It's not fair to those who have actually completed all the miles. In addition, there are some points along the course where race officials place "honesty strips" that read your timing chip to verify that you are going the distance.

Do not run with someone else's number

There are many races that allow the transfer and/or sale of bibs; runDisney races do not. You may defer your participation to the next year but you cannot transfer or sell the bib to another person. If you are caught selling, purchasing, or using a runDisney race number in a race, you (and the other person) may be banned from runDisney races. Think this doesn't happen? On more than one occasion, female "winners" of some runDisney races have turned out to be men wearing bibs acquired from women; leading to an automatic disqualification.

Keep in mind if you are running under someone else's number and there is a medical emergency, valuable time may be lost trying to figure out who you really are and who to contact.

You must hold a minimum pace of 16 minutes per mile

runDisney provides transportation back to the finish line for anyone who cannot hold the minimum 16-minute-per-mile pace. That minimum is more strictly enforced at Disneyland, since much of its courses are on public roads—unlike in Walt Disney World, where the races are run completely on Disney property. However, no matter the location, you will be picked up if you fall too far behind. It is your responsibility to keep track of your own per-mile time and stay in front of the sweepers in Disneyland or the "balloon ladies" in Walt Disney World (the women who are officially recognized as being the last people who are at maximum pace, and who are given helium-filled balloons to hold).


If you have this view of the balloon ladies, you need to pick up your pace. Photo by Stephanie Wien.

Water/Aid Station Etiquette

Don't stop at the first water table

When approaching a water station to hydrate or refuel, move to the right or left side of the road and grab your fluid and nutritional needs from the volunteers, then continue forward as quickly as possible. You do not need to grab fluid at the first tables; you will find the same selection and less crowding further down the row. Generally, sports drinks are offered at the first couple of tables at a water station and water will be offered at the later tables. You can find all the water stops on the course map posted on the runDisney site and in the official race program.

Watch where you are tossing the cup

Throw your used cup in a trash bin if you can, or to the side away from the course as close to a water stop as possible. Check to the side before tossing to make sure no one is coming up from behind you. Do not toss a cup over your shoulder; the person behind you may not appreciate the shower if the cup is not empty. Avoid dropping the cup directly on the course so that it doesn't become a slipping hazard for other runners.

Appreciate the volunteers

Do not hit the cup out of the volunteer's hand or treat them with anything less than courtesy. They are taking time out of their day to help you enjoy the race. Make sure to thank them. We could not do what we love to do without their support.


Make sure to thank the many volunteers along the course. Photo by Lorree Tachell.

If you need help along the course

If you run into any issues along the course, proceed to the nearest aid station if possible. If you see someone in distress on the course, report their number and the approximate mile marker (or an identifying object) to an aid station or to anyone along the course with a radio such as a police officer.

Finish Line Etiquette

Spectators need to remain spectators

Friends or family members not running the race may not join you on the course, including the finish line area.


Spectators keeping it safe behind the fencing at the finish. Photo by Thomas Skripek.

Don't be a photo hog

Be cognizant of others finishing at the same time. Do not dart in front of, shove, or block other finishers in the hope of positioning yourself for a better picture (this goes for photo spots along the course as well).

Keep it moving

Once you have crossed the finish line, keep moving forward so as not to block those finishing behind you. Make sure to pick up your medal, food, and so on before leaving the finish area. Once you are out of the runner area, you can't return. Enjoy the post-race refreshments, but remember it is not an all-you-can-eat buffet for you and your family.

Finding friends and family

Exit the finish area and wait for friends or family in a central location. Determine where you are meeting prior to race day as you may find it difficult to find someone in the crowds. Also do not rely on cell phone coverage as many spots around Walt Disney World and Disneyland are dead zones.

Above all, be proud of your accomplishment!

Proudly wear your finisher's medal in the park post-race. You did it!


Enjoy that medal—you earned it! Photo by Disney cast member.

Comments

  1. By MyTwoCents

    This was just hilarious, in so many ways. Thanks!

  2. By Pammer

    Thanks Lorree...this was very informative and helpful!

  3. By yedliw

    I've never really been a runner.. but we were down there in January and saw a lot of people sporting the medals and the shirts from the races, makes me want to try to get in shape enough to try a 5 or 10k sometime.. they look like they would be fun!

  4. By valenciajoe

    Wish we had this article before the Tinkerbell 10K fiasco of a month ago.
    Great article! Please keep on republishing this article before every major runDisney event!

  5. By Malcon10t

    Nice article. Need to repost each race.

  6. By fairestoneofall

    Quote Originally Posted by Malcon10t View Post
    Nice article. Need to repost each race.

    I totally agree. It frustrates me to no end when people cannot obey simple etiquette. I hope reposting this will help, but sadly, I'm not sure that it will. Much of this same information is in the final race instructions that runDisney emails to every participant and it's also in the participant guide that every runner/walker gets in their goody bag.

  7. By RunningFool

    We have a saying in the world of learning and development:

    Tell them, tell them what you told them, and then tell them again

    If we reach just one more person who get's the message it's worth it.

  8. By GrannyGear

    Sure wish something like this had been posted before the Tinkerbell 10K. Maybe I wouldn't have a bag of related swag I am ashamed to wear! FWIW I did not feel that event was " newby friendly". The sweepers passed us yelling " coming through!" Not " pick up your pace" we had no idea we had been passed by "sweepers" and were now doomed to fail.

  9. By fairestoneofall

    Quote Originally Posted by GrannyGear View Post
    Sure wish something like this had been posted before the Tinkerbell 10K. Maybe I wouldn't have a bag of related swag I am ashamed to wear! FWIW I did not feel that event was " newby friendly". The sweepers passed us yelling " coming through!" Not " pick up your pace" we had no idea we had been passed by "sweepers" and were now doomed to fail.

    You were given this information in your event guide that is inside the bag when you get your shirt.

  10. By GrannyGear

    We read through the booklet but this article spells it out much better. Still see nothing in either about sweepers being jerks on bikes shoving thru bottleneck knocking into runners

  11. By *Nala*

    Maybe slightly off topic as RunDisney doesn't allow strollers, but still on the topic of etiquette and safety, what do you all think of races that require runners with strollers to start in the back? Kevin runs a 23-25 minute 5k (even with a stroller!) and it seems it would be safer for him to start with runners of his own pace, rather than weaving through a lot of walkers and slower runners. He's careful, of course, when he is made to start in the back with the stroller, just wanted to see if others had thoughts about this.

  12. By cstephens

    Quote Originally Posted by *Nala* View Post
    Maybe slightly off topic as RunDisney doesn't allow strollers, but still on the topic of etiquette and safety, what do you all think of races that require runners with strollers to start in the back? Kevin runs a 23-25 minute 5k (even with a stroller!) and it seems it would be safer for him to start with runners of his own pace, rather than weaving through a lot of walkers and slower runners. He's careful, of course, when he is made to start in the back with the stroller, just wanted to see if others had thoughts about this.

    Do you mean the very back of ALL the runners or just the back of his "corral"? My first couple races were non-Disney, and I wasn't a fan of having strollers in the mix, so I'm glad Disney doesn't allow them. That being said, I think he should start in the back of the corral that matches his pace. If he runs the same pace with or without the stroller, then he shouldn't be penalized by being put in a slower corral. If he runs slower with the stroller, then he should be in the corral that matches that slower race. But I think that those who run the same pace as him shouldn't have his stroller as an obstacle they have to deal with, which won't be an issue if he's at the back of the corral.


    As far as the article itself, I think it hits a lot of good points, but I also think it should clarify what applies only to half-marathons and marathons and what applies to all races. Specifically, the article mentions the ability to submit a previous race result to get a better corral placing. Well, that only applies to Disney half-marathons and marathons, not the 5K or 10K. I'd hate to have a newbie to Disney races trying to register for a 5K or 10K and madly looking and not finding the magic little button to be able to do that.

    Also, I think it might be nice to clarify at the beginning that Disney does not time their 5K races, which is why there is no corral placement. I did my first Disney 5K at Tink and it surprised me when there was no corral placement and I wasn't aware that it wasn't timed. The official Disney literature might have said that, but I would probably have thought I was just missing something since the other non-Disney 5Ks that I had done were all timed.

    And I agree that the article could be re-posted and distributed on Twitter and Facebook a week or so before each race, and maybe even a week or so before registration of big races, so that people know what to expect. Yes, it's only going to hit a certain segment of the population, but if word can be spread to some people, I still think it would help.

  13. By *Nala*

    Quote Originally Posted by cstephens
    Do you mean the very back of ALL the runners or just the back of his "corral"? My first couple races were non-Disney, and I wasn't a fan of having strollers in the mix, so I'm glad Disney doesn't allow them. That being said, I think he should start in the back of the corral that matches his pace. If he runs the same pace with or without the stroller, then he shouldn't be penalized by being put in a slower corral. If he runs slower with the stroller, then he should be in the corral that matches that slower race. But I think that those who run the same pace as him shouldn't have his stroller as an obstacle they have to deal with, which won't be an issue if he's at the back of the corral.

    The back of all the runners, including walkers. I agree, he should (and does) start at the back of his corral or pace group when he runs with the stroller, but we're running a race in the near future that says they will have a "stroller corral" that I presume is at the back of the entire race. Most races will request, if not enforce, that all strollers start in the very back. That seems to me to be more dangerous to have potentially fast stroller runners weaving through walkers. Kevin prefers to run without the stroller, but the kids aren't both big enough for "big kid" races (5ks and beyond) yet so sometimes it's the only option if we both want to run. But I agree that huge races like Disney are probably better to not allow them.

    Also agree this article should be a sticky thread or re-posted before each race. I know I didn't know a lot of these things when I started running just over a year ago.

  14. By cactusgirl

    I do a fun run charity 5K each June. Last year an obviously pregnant woman pushing a stroller was near the front. Honestly, I thought, "shouldn't she be at the rear?" That thought quickly left me as she bolted off and was the first woman to cross the finish line. If your hubby has a doubt about where he should start he should ask the race director.

  15. By RunningFool

    After running the various events at the Princess this last weekend I've got a few new topics to add to the Rules of the Road list if we decide to publish it again:

    Merging back on the road after stopping

    What to do (and not to do) when spotting a photo op and you're on the 'wrong' side of the road

    Stretching while walking (sudden arms flying = potential bloody nose)

    Selfies


    Anyone else have any topics that would make for good additions?

  16. By Lani

    Quote Originally Posted by *Nala* View Post
    Maybe slightly off topic as RunDisney doesn't allow strollers, but still on the topic of etiquette and safety, what do you all think of races that require runners with strollers to start in the back? Kevin runs a 23-25 minute 5k (even with a stroller!) and it seems it would be safer for him to start with runners of his own pace, rather than weaving through a lot of walkers and slower runners. He's careful, of course, when he is made to start in the back with the stroller, just wanted to see if others had thoughts about this.

    The Great Aloha Run in Honolulu allows strollers, but you have to register and self-identify as belonging to the Back of the Pack club. And you HAVE to stay in the back with walkers. You cannot weave into the runners. At all.

    There are tremendous safety and liability issues with allowing strollers on a race course. I suspect it would cost considerably more to cover it with accident insurance, so I suspect race directors just say no as a general rule.

    Seriously. Bumping people's feet and causing them to trip and fall, breaking bones. Or runners pushing strollers by mistake and spilling babies onto the asphalt, and then having runners trip over the babies?

    I shudder to even consider the thought. Something like that would actually make the TV news. /scared

  17. By Jodi

    I wished I had this article on pamphlets to hand out during Princess! If I am walking practically against a wall on the right, why are speedsters trying to push past me?

    But I've got to admit, as much as I tried to walk to the right, run to the left, sometimes I wasn't able to as I would have liked because the road was just too tightly packed, and SO many others were NOT following the rules!

    I think whoever is responsible for transportation needs the "arrive early" reminder, and find a better way to make it possinble. I thought there was going to be a riot if one more full bus passed us without stopping. We were at the bus stop at 3:20, didn't get on a bus til 4:15, and traffic was so bad we had to hustle to get to our corral just as the wheelchair runners were starting!

    Quote Originally Posted by RunningFool View Post
    After running the various events at the Princess this last weekend I've got a few new topics to add to the Rules of the Road list if we decide to publish it again:

    Merging back on the road after stopping

    What to do (and not to do) when spotting a photo op and you're on the 'wrong' side of the road

    Stretching while walking (sudden arms flying = potential bloody nose)

    Selfies


    Anyone else have any topics that would make for good additions?

    How about "The cones are there for a reason"? (many seemed not to know that)

    Or "the on-course photographers are trying to take action shots of all runners, don't stop and pose with your 5 friends"?

    As for photo op on the other side of the road, I look at it like driving on the freeway, I look over my shoulder, try to merge, and if I don't make my exit in time, I have to take the next available exit and backtrack (off of the freeway, not into oncoming traffic) Is that what you would suggest?

  18. By *Nala*

    Quote Originally Posted by Lani View Post
    The Great Aloha Run in Honolulu allows strollers, but you have to register and self-identify as belonging to the Back of the Pack club. And you HAVE to stay in the back with walkers. You cannot weave into the runners. At all.

    There are tremendous safety and liability issues with allowing strollers on a race course. I suspect it would cost considerably more to cover it with accident insurance, so I suspect race directors just say no as a general rule.

    Seriously. Bumping people's feet and causing them to trip and fall, breaking bones. Or runners pushing strollers by mistake and spilling babies onto the asphalt, and then having runners trip over the babies?
    It does make sense that if they are going to make strollers start in the back, that they should also attempt to keep them there. I've seen races with separate stroller divisions that start some time after the rest of the race (so presumably they wouldn't catch up to the crowd.)

    As far as safety - I agree that strollers probably shouldn't be allowed in very large races. Our two kids are big enough that we don't strap them in most of the time (as in, to walk from Disneyland to DCA), but they absolutely 100% are buckled in tight whenever Kevin runs with them. He's as careful as he can be to not run into people, though a LOT of people like to just jump right in front of a large stroller and not realize that it can't stop on a dime (think cutting off a semi-truck.)

    What I wonder is if the race directors think that strollers slow people down enough that it won't be an issue (that they won't catch up), or that most people pushing strollers are walking? I know it's a tough one.

    Quote Originally Posted by cactusgirl View Post
    I do a fun run charity 5K each June. Last year an obviously pregnant woman pushing a stroller was near the front. Honestly, I thought, "shouldn't she be at the rear?" That thought quickly left me as she bolted off and was the first woman to cross the finish line.

    That is awesome!

  19. By Drince88

    One thing my local track club does is for anything I think longer than a 10K - walkers get a 1/2 hour head start. I've only done one long race with them - and it was GREAT! I was actually AT the starting line when the 'gun' went off - not 5000 people back (it was a small race, but no WAY I'd be AT the start line for a half normally)! There was maybe 2 dozen people that I started with, not all walkers, but some who knew they'd be slower, too. We were quite spread out by the time the fastest runners passed us, so they didn't have to weave their way around us or anything. (And the regular start was at 8, so it's not like I had to be there at 2 am or anything!

    If they allowed strollers (I don't think they do) that'd be one way to handle them.

  20. By RunningFool

    Quote Originally Posted by Jodi View Post
    I wished I had this article on pamphlets to hand out during Princess! If I am walking practically against a wall on the right, why are speedsters trying to push past me?

    But I've got to admit, as much as I tried to walk to the right, run to the left, sometimes I wasn't able to as I would have liked because the road was just too tightly packed, and SO many others were NOT following the rules!

    I think whoever is responsible for transportation needs the "arrive early" reminder, and find a better way to make it possinble. I thought there was going to be a riot if one more full bus passed us without stopping. We were at the bus stop at 3:20, didn't get on a bus til 4:15, and traffic was so bad we had to hustle to get to our corral just as the wheelchair runners were starting!

    How about "The cones are there for a reason"? (many seemed not to know that)

    Or "the on-course photographers are trying to take action shots of all runners, don't stop and pose with your 5 friends"?

    As for photo op on the other side of the road, I look at it like driving on the freeway, I look over my shoulder, try to merge, and if I don't make my exit in time, I have to take the next available exit and backtrack (off of the freeway, not into oncoming traffic) Is that what you would suggest?

    Thank you - all great suggestions for additions! And yes, the photo op is exactly as I would suggest (I may borrow your freeway analogy if you don't mind). I can't tell you how many people I almost ran into (well, ran may not be the right word last weekend) when they did the "oh look, it's JACK SPARROW [name the character here]" sharp left turn across the entire roadway without looking.

  21. By RunningFool

    Quote Originally Posted by cactusgirl View Post
    I do a fun run charity 5K each June. Last year an obviously pregnant woman pushing a stroller was near the front. Honestly, I thought, "shouldn't she be at the rear?" That thought quickly left me as she bolted off and was the first woman to cross the finish line. If your hubby has a doubt about where he should start he should ask the race director.

    Reminds me of the woman pushing twins who totally smoked my friend Howard and I as we were feeling rather smug and congratulating ourselves on the pace we were holding up a mile long hill at the Green Bluff Cherry Picker Trot. She was amazing.

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