Rules of the Road Part II: a runDisney Race Etiquette Guide

by Lorree Tachell, contributing writer
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On February 13, 2014, MousePlanet published “Rules of the Road: A runDisney Race Etiquette Guide." Since we are just a few short weeks away from Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend, it's time to add a few more items to the original guide, as well as clarify a few from the original article.

Proof of Time

In the previous article, we looked at a "gotcha" known as proof of time, an optional field in the online race registration form that runDisney uses to determine which of the starting corrals to assign you. Designed for those who are planning to finish the Walt Disney World Marathon in under 6:30 hours, any runDisney half-marathon in under 3:15 hours, or the Tower of Terror 10-Miler in under 2:00 hours, this information is not needed for the races that are 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) or 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) long.

Proof of time need not come from a race that is the same distance as what you are registering for. If you are registering for a:

  • Full marathon – your proof of time must be from a race that is at least 10 miles long
  • Half-marathon or the Tower of Terror 10-Miler – your proof of time must be from a race that is at least a 10K

Remember, if you don't provide a proof of time, you will be placed in one of the last starting corrals!


Faster finish times at smaller, less-crowded races can come in handy for proof of time. Photo by Thomas Skripek.

Psst. Hey buddy. Wanna buy a race bib?

Previously, anyone with a signed waiver and a copy of photo identification could pick up a race packet at the runDisney expo. This allowed families, friends, and teams to pick up multiple packets, but it also provided an easy opportunity for race participants to sell their race entry, which is not allowed under runDisney rules. Starting with the inaugural Avengers Super Hero Half Marathon Weekend this November, race participants must show government-issued ID and can only pick up their own race number bib. For many participants coming in from out of town or for those who must work during the hours that the expo is open, this new policy promises to create a lot of confusion and probably more than one ugly scene at the expo Guest Relations booth.


Navigating a packet pickup line can be a marathon unto itself. Photo by Lorree Tachell.

As for selling one's race number, let’s be honest; the new policy won’t completely solve the issue. Those who pick up their packets in person can still walk outside the expo and sell their number, as I observed several times during Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend. The new rule may drop the number of sales from out-of-town registrants who didn’t plan on attending the expo in person, but where there is a will, there always seems to be a way.

As you can imagine, this rule change has caused a storm of negative comments from participants in many of the runDisney-focused online forums, but runDisney is only following the policy of other races, such as Competitor’s Rock 'n' Roll events, so expect that the change will be permanent.

No corral assignments

We looked in the previous article at how to queue up for races that have no assigned corrals, such as the majority of runDisney 5K races—there is a clock at both the start and finish line, but participants do not receive an official start or finish time. Where one stands at the start of the 5K is on the honor system; you are expected to line up in the corral that most closely matches your estimated finish time. Exceptions are:

  • The Expedition Everest Challenge 5K – a timed event
  • The Walt Disney World 5K – Dopey Challenge participants get a corral placement as well as an official finish time for this fun run, as part of the challenge, which involves completing the 5K, 10K, half-marathon, and marathon over the weekend
  • All other Walt Disney World 5K races – participants receive a starting corral letter on the race bib, but finishers do not receive an official finish time
  • Disneyland 5K – starting area on an honor system, finishers do not receive an official finish time

Got it? Good. You will be tested later.


2014 Dopey Challenge bibs with corral designations. 5K/10K race bib is on the right. Photo by Lorree Tachell.

Race etiquette on the course (or "Oh my heavens, it's CAPTAIN JACK SPARROW!")

Half the fun of a Disney race is finding all the characters scattered throughout the course. Bring your camera along, as you will no doubt run across one or two characters that you absolutely must have your photo taken with. Unfortunately, you may find yourself on the opposite side of the road from the character, which can cause all sorts of traffic issues. It’s fairly common for participants, upon sighting their must-have character, to hit the brakes and make a sudden dart from one side of the road to another without checking for other participants coming up right behind them. This can be especially dangerous in the early morning hours when it’s still dark, and visibility is limited. I’ve learned to listen for a loud, "Oh my god, it's [fill in the blank]," which usually precipitates the darting behavior. I have seen runners knocked down by someone racing across the road in a hurry to cuddle up with Captain Jack Sparrow. Ladies, I hate to break it to you, but it's really not Johnny Depp.


Perhaps a bevy of villians may be your "must have" photo opportunity. Photo from 2013 WDW Marathon Weekend by Lorree Tachell.

Jodi, a member of Team MousePlanet, offered her take on moving from one side of the road to another by comparing it to 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).” Just make sure you walk on the side of the road out of the line of traffic if you are backtracking. And don’t worry, Captain Jack (or a reasonable facsimile of) will still be there waiting for you.

Merging after a stop

Let’s say you’ve made it through the photo line and obtained your must-have character picture, and are now ready to jump back into the race. Even if you are running the same pace as those going by, this is not the time to just leap into the crowd. As with darting across the road, you can cause serious injury to yourself or to others by jumping in front of a pack of runners. It is extremely dangerous to expect other runners on the road to make way for you and it is very easy to trip someone (or yourself) if you attempt a merge at an inopportune moment. It’s better to take your time, find a break in the crowd, and then quickly merge in. If you cannot keep the current pace or need to move from one side of the road to another, you may have to wait until a larger break presents itself.  Just like on the freeway, use the left side to pass, and stay to the right if you're going slower (remember—"runners on the left, walkers on the right).


Bad things can happen to runners who don't look before merging onto the course. Photo by Lorree Tachell.

It’s fun to stay at the Y.M.C.A.

There are instances in runDisney races when, for whatever reason, the sudden urge to stretch seems to overcome race participants. Without warning, they begin to flail their arms like a weird uncle at a wedding reception dancing to "Y.M.C.A." from the Village People. Although this activity may be fun out on a dance floor or during pre-race warm-ups, you can easily injure other race participants if you try this in a crowded course. I have personally been beaned in the nose and punched in the solar plexus by fellow race participants who weren’t paying attention to their surroundings and launched an arm just as I was passing. If you find yourself tightening up and feel the need to stretch, make sure you look behind you to make sure you're clear, pull off to the side of the road, or find space on the course where you can do so without impinging on other runners and walkers.


Keep in mind that the course may be a bit crowded. Photo by Lorree Tachell.

The cones are there for a reason

There are instances along the course when you will come across orange safety cones in the road. runDisney did not place them there in celebration of Radiator Springs and the Cozy Cone Motel, or supplied them for Buzz Lightyear to cross the street with. Cones along the course are usually placed to mark areas that race participants should avoid or to separate runners and walkers from spectators. They are not there for you to jump over, run through as an obstacle course, or ignore. While there may be open space on the other side of the cones that looks tempting—especially if you happen to be in a large, congested area of the course—for your own safety’s sake, stay on the correct side of the cones.

Phone home, ET

Given that the majority of race participants carry their cell phone with them during the race, it’s no longer unusual to see participants calling friends and family to pass the time during slow stretches along the course. Of course, there are those who take it to the extreme, such as the runner trying to take a business call as he ran through the tunnel on the way to the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World (he found out quickly that shushing everyone going by him didn't work). If you do make or take a call during a race, keep to the side of the road, watch your pace (it's easy to slow down to a stroll when your focus is not on the race), and please don’t expect thosearound you to provide you with a wall of silence. runDisney races are fun, loud, noisy events with lots of music and entertainment that you paid a lot of money to attend, so frankly, just forget the calls and enjoy the experience.

See me, see me!

In the original article, we looked at how to avoid being a photo hog as you cross the finish line. Official race photographers are also out all along the course trying to capture action shots of participants making their way along the race course. If you see an official race photographer, keep moving (or if you’re like me and taking an ill-timed walk break, start running). This is not the time for you and your friends to stop in front of the photographer and start posing—this blocks other race participants from being photographed. Run, jump, walk, smile for the camera but keep moving so others can also have their moments captured, too.


Action shots = movement. Keep smiling and keep running. Photo by Thomas Skripek.

And speaking of pictures, what about taking selfies during a race? Most race directors view selfies as a race distraction similar to headphones and other electronics that keep runners and walkers from paying attention to the course. Stopping without warning for a selfie can cause runner pile-ups, while taking your own pictures instead of paying attention to the road can cause you to trip or run into other runners and/or items along the course like an open gate or a road cone. If you want photos to post on social media, take a selfie at the start of the race before you enter the corrals and then again at the finish. Take another with your race medals in front of the castle. If you absolutely must take a selfie during the race, pull off on the side and off of the course.

Until next time

And that’s it for this updated addition. Until the next runDisney race, have fun, run safe—and enjoy your runDisney race experience!

Comments

  1. By MyTwoCents

    This is absolutely hilarious. Thanks for documenting it.

  2. By Jimbo996

    "Most race directors view selfies as a race distraction"....

    The whole runDisney Race is a distraction. Perhaps serious runners should skip it entirely. Plus, you'll save a lot of money.

  3. By RunningFool

    Quote Originally Posted by Jimbo996 View Post
    "Most race directors view selfies as a race distraction"....

    The whole runDisney Race is a distraction. Perhaps serious runners should skip it entirely. Plus, you'll save a lot of money.

    I'm betting they'll just go spend a lot of money at a 'serious' race.

  4. By stan4d_steph

    Good tips for how to navigate some of the unique features of runDisney races. Being aware of those around you is an important part of any race, but all of the photo opportunities at runDisney races can create more crisscrossing than an average road race.

  5. By ziegfeldgirl

    This article needs to be printed out and handed to everyone at the Expo! I wish we could get half the participants to abide by these simple rules of common courtesy. Thanks for mentioning my biggest pet peeve in the Disney races...the photographer hams!! I do think Disney created this monster themselves by featuring women leaping in the air with joy in all their promos. Now it seems that is THE THING to do with your friends, to leap as a group for the cameras. They don't care who they are slamming into, or who they have to shove out of the way, or leap in front of. I have been tripped, shoved and run down by groups of people trying to get their leaping photo. It really has gotten out of control. I mean let's be sensible. Let's all have fun and get our photos, but don't do it when it can cause harm to others. I may have to start playing defense. LOL! Thanks for a great article!

  6. By fairestoneofall

    Great article. Unfortunately there is a huge percentage of the field that goes completely etiquette stupid the minute they cross the starting line. I have learned not to go into runDisney events seriously with a strong desire to PR my race. I go to enjoy the distractions of the great entertainment and the fun of running through the parks. And the bling, I won't lie. The medals are the best. But, my biggest pet peeve, hands down, is a group of walkers that are having a social gathering 4 abreast while backstage, when the course is barely four abreast wide. And then I have to wonder, how on earth did they get assigned to a corral ahead of me when they are walking at a pace that will likely be sweepable. That part isn't my peeve, it's the walking side-by-side-by-side-by-side.

  7. By Mickeygirlforever

    Awesome article. Something like this really does need to be in everyone's packets. I remember when I ran my first runDisney race, I had no idea what to expect, how to get out of the way, how to be polite, etc. At least this gives everyone a good idea of how to be courteous!

    Nice job RF

  8. By StormalongSavvy

    Excellent article! I agree with previous poster - hand this out at the expo! I nearly ran straight into three girls who backtracked inside the castle at Princess this year, all to jump in front of a photographer. It's such a small space in that tunnel that several runners around me had to hit the brakes hard. It's a wonder no one got hurt.

  9. By Megatron

    It's funny that you mention the cones. Last year, there was a cast member yelling at people to stay inside the cones at one point. The problem was, she was inside the corner and people were going around to avoid her. If she'd been outside of the cone line, she probably could have saved her voice.

  10. By stan4d_steph

    Quote Originally Posted by Megatron View Post
    It's funny that you mention the cones. Last year, there was a cast member yelling at people to stay inside the cones at one point. The problem was, she was inside the corner and people were going around to avoid her. If she'd been outside of the cone line, she probably could have saved her voice.

    Depending on where the cones are located, being outside can get you hit by a car.

  11. By Megatron

    Quote Originally Posted by stan4d_steph View Post
    Depending on where the cones are located, being outside can get you hit by a car.

    True statement, but the situation I was talking about was inside California Adventure. That's what made me take note of it. There was really no reason for the cast member to have been standing there blocking runners.

  12. By mmaus1962

    Quote Originally Posted by StormalongSavvy View Post
    Excellent article! I agree with previous poster - hand this out at the expo! I nearly ran straight into three girls who backtracked inside the castle at Princess this year, all to jump in front of a photographer. It's such a small space in that tunnel that several runners around me had to hit the brakes hard. It's a wonder no one got hurt.

    The rules of race etiquette are in the Official Guide. If people don't read them there, I'm not sure handing them out at the Expo would make a difference. OTOH, it sure couldn't hurt.

  13. By codewoman

    My first race I realized race rules and ski slope rules have a lot in common. Didn't ski much, but knowing the rules helped.

  14. By adriennek

    Quote Originally Posted by Megatron View Post
    True statement, but the situation I was talking about was inside California Adventure. That's what made me take note of it. There was really no reason for the cast member to have been standing there blocking runners.

    I've had experiences like this, where they have cones laid out to mark the course, that don't seem to have a logical reason for limiting the size of the course, but that the course gets SO crowded in these areas, on occasion a runner jumps outside the cones to pass others, and the CMs are shouting to stay in course.

    I think it's frustrating from every side of the issue when this happens - for the racers on a crowded course and for the CMs doing the job they've been told to do.

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