Rules of the Road: A runDisney Race Etiquette Guideby Lorree Tachell, contributing writer
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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!