Revisiting runDisney Rules of the Roadby Lorree Tachell, contributing writer
Periodically, we share tips on how to successfully navigate a runDisney race event. A lot has changed in three years since our last update so we thought as we prepare for the 2017 runDisney season it might be time to revisit and revise that information for anyone thinking about a runDisney race. The more you know and are prepared, the better your race experience will be!
While you no longer need the fast-twitch reflexes of an over-caffeinated reality star on Twitter to register for a runDisney race, it still pays to be online when registration opens to secure your spot if you are considering either of the popular 10k or 5K distance races or if it is an inaugural event. runDisney uses Active.com to host registration; make sure you have an Active.com account set up and open on your system prior to registration to expedite the process as it should auto-populate your information on the registration form. Watch out for Active Advantage; it's a little additional cost adder to your order that is easy to mistake for finalizing your registration if not carefully watching what you are clicking.
Unique photo opportunities such as the Star Wars trash compactor are just one reason runDisney races are so popular. Photo by Lorree Tachell
Proof of Time (PoT)
When you fill out your online registration form for a marathon or half marathon, you're asked to estimate your finish time. If you believe you will finish under 2:45 (previously 3:15) for the half marathon or under 6:30 hours for the marathon, you can get seeded into different starting corrals, but you need to show that you can maintain this pace by providing proof of time from a previous race. Since it is still possible to complete your online registration without providing this proof, many people just skip that step to expedite the registration process. The key is to remember to update the information via your Active.com registration before the proof-of-time submission deadline posted on the runDisney site. In previous races, you updated the information directly via runDisney. This was moved to Active.com in part because the old method allowed people to change other people's times. While some people thought this was funny, getting stuck in a very slow corral would be a serious issue for someone trying to win (or place in their age group), since the slower corrals tend to be more crowded.
Keeping your information updated in Active.com is also important if, on the rare chance, runDisney needs to send something to you. Incorrect home addresses became an issue for many when replacement pins and jackets from the 2016 Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend needed to be sent out.
Without a POT, runDisney automatically places you in one of the last corrals. In 2016, runDisney took a much tougher stance on changing corrals at the Runner Relations booth no matter the reason. Make sure you take a screen shot of your completed PoT and bring it to the expo if you believe you should be in an earlier corral and want to plead your case.
Your race bib belongs to you and only you. Photo by Lorree Tachell
You've done the training (or maybe you haven't—but that's another topic) and are ready for the race, when life interferes with your plans. As with a number of other large races such as Portland and Boston, runDisney does not allow bib selling or race transfers to another person unless purchased through a travel provider. In 2016, runDisney also very quietly did away with deferrals, which were limited in number to begin with, and were being abused by some who really didn't need them. Signing up for any race is always a risk but given the cost of a runDisney race and the very early registration dates, it's a consideration when planning your race schedule.
It's always amazing to read the number of "I haven't trained… my leg is broken/cracked/fallen off… can I still finish?" posts on social media especially right before a race weekend. It almost seems to be a badge of honor to brag about how little one has trained but still finished standing. Whether 5K, marathon, or multi-race challenge, take the distance seriously; follow a plan (runDisney offers a variety of plans on their site) and start to train early. You'll have more fun during the race, won't be stressed stopping for a character picture or two, and feel better showing off your medal(s) in the park after the race.
Be prepared for any weather conditions. Photo from the 2015 Wine & Dine Half Marathon by Lorree Tachell
runDisney tightened up its costume rules shortly before the 2016 WDW Marathon Weekend and have put into place restrictions on cape lengths, full-body costumes, and what can (or can't) be carried. Before you go to all the work on creating a costume, make sure you are familiar with the guidelines to save yourself grief of not being allowed to run in your handiwork. Also, make sure you give your costume a test run before the race; there is nothing worse than finding out part (if not all) of your costume is miserable to run in. Your neighbors probably already think you're crazy to be a runner anyway, so seeing you running through the neighborhood in fairy wings and a tutu probably won't cause them to bat an eye.
"Did not know" is still no excuse, even with the new official event guide
runDisney did away with both the collectable printed and electronic PDF versions of the official event guide at the 2016 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend, replacing both with a clunky online version that has been (almost universally) criticized for being a poor replacement that offers readers no way to print. This updated guide, however, does still provide race participants with race-specific details and has in the past been an important race document. Knowing race rules is still on race participants to know and understand so make sure you at least check out the rules page; it's up to everyone to keep the race safe and running smooth.
You cannot pick up race bibs and packets on race day. Instead, you pick them up at the expo at least a day before. To expedite your packet pickup experience, print out and sign your waivers in advance. While there are usually a small bank of printers available onsite, spending time in yet another line to use one is unnecessary with just a little pre-planning. Pre-printing will also identify potential issues (such as mixing up you and your spouse/partner's names).
Keep in mind that anyone 18 or older must pick up their own race bib and packet; under 18 may be picked up by their parent or guardian.
While sharing everything on social media seems to be the new norm, do not post a picture of your race bib prior to the race. It's very easy for someone to use that picture to print out a fake bib and run without paying.
runDisney merchandise can sell out very, very quickly. Photo by Lorree Tachell
If you are running in a multi-race challenge (such as Goofy, Dopey, or any of the 10K/half marathon challenges), make sure to they take your photo before before leaving the expo. This will be used to confirm that you in fact did complete the challenge and did not "share" the bib with someone else (i.e., you run the half and your friend runs the marathon). If you do not have a picture on file when you complete the last race in the challenge, you may not receive your challenge medal.
For those going Coast-to-Coast (completing a half marathon or higher on both coasts in a single calendar year), remember to pick up your C2C wristband when you pick up your race bib. You will be wearing the band for the duration of the weekend before exchanging it for the C2C medal so make sure that it's comfortable, it requires cutting to remove. You may not receive you medal if the wristband has been cut off.
If you are a legacy participant (one who has completed all half marathons or marathons since the inaugural event), verify that your race bib shows "Legacy" (West Coast) or "Perfect" (East Coast) so you will receive your special lanyard upon race completion. Unfortunately there is no standard way of handing out lanyards, so it's up to you to make sure you receive it. If the race is an anniversary event, you may also receive a "commemorative" gift at the expo as well.
2016 was the first year of Legacy for Tinker Bell Half Marathon finishers. Photo by Lorree Tachell
Don't forget to pick up any pre-ordered merchandise at the expo; runDisney may mail out items that aren't picked up in person, but there is no guarantee that this practice will continue.
If you are planning on shopping for runDisney-branded merchandise at the expo and want the best selection, you have a couple of options. WDW is testing adding early expo access at the 2017 WDW Marathon Weekend for those who purchased a race retreat. Disneyland is offering early expo access as a benefit of purchasing the $199 Light Side Lounge, offered during 2017 Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon Weekend. At this time, it is not known if these options will be offered at other runDisney events. If all else fails, get to the expo early and expect to wait in line a few hours until the expo opens. WDW branded merchandise sales are still unfortunately a free-for-all scrum; Disneyland has better control through use of wristbands and managed small group access. Just remember, it's not worth getting into a shoving match or throwing a punch over a wine glass or race jacket.
Getting to the event
Make sure you know how you are getting to the race before booking your hotel. Buses run from all WDW on-site hotels to both the expo and all races; you cannot walk to the start. Very few off-site WDW-area hotels offer shuttle service, which means a rental car or relying on a car service. Don't wait until just before the race to arrive; there has been more than one race participant who missed race start due to traffic issues. On the other coast, Disneyland has many local hotels within easy walking distance to race start; for those further out there is free Anaheim Resort Transportation (ART) bus service to the park available with your race bib.
During the Race
No, it's not a brooch or a hat or…
Race participants need to wear their race bib on the front of their shirt or if wearing a jacket that may be removed, on the front of their thigh. Race monitors need to be able to clearly see the bib to help weed out race bandits (those running without paying) as do on-course photographers; make sure the number is not covered so you and your pictures will be eventually reunited. Wearing your bib on your back or attached to your hat because it interferes with your costume will make it difficult to navigate your way to the corrals as well as make it impossible to later find on-course pictures.
Make sure your bib number is readable for photographers. Picture by Disney photographer.
On a side note, the sticker you get at packet pick-up or pre-race at WDW runDisney events that has your bib number on it, is not your race bib; nor is it a secondary race bib to stick on your back. This is meant to be stuck on your transparent gear check bag. Every year, we see some people with these stickers on their race outfits.
Fence-jumping and other sneaky corral tricks
As of this writing, there remains only one runDisney race (the Never Land 5K) that does not start runners in assigned corrals. Half marathon, marathon, and challenge corrals are usually posted on the runDisney site two weeks or so prior to race weekend. 5K and 10k corrals are not pre-published. Keep in mind that runDisney 5K races (with the exception of Dopey participants) are untimed.
What if you didn't get the corral you thought you should? Let's say you've argued your case at Runner Relations to no avail; you're still in a corral far, far back. I've seen race participants try to shove their way past corral monitors, jump corral fences, and hide themselves in the middle of a large group to get into a faster corral. I've also seen corral monitors track down these sneaks and kick them back out. Do everyone a favor and start in the corral you're assigned. And remember—if you have friends in corrals further back than you, you can always go backwards to join them; they just can't come up to your faster corral.
Get there early
Don't expect to get to the race at the last minute and just slip into your corral. There are thousands of race participants trying to get through the new tighter security and bag check lines; the earlier you arrive, the less stressful your experience will be. Expect long lines as well for the portable restrooms and pre-race character pictures. Avoid if possible the final buses in WDW; traffic delays are common and may impact your arrival. The later you are, the less chance you will have to settle yourself in and you may find yourself starting further back than you expected.
WDW corrals are long and narrow. The earlier you are, the better you can position yourself for the start. Photo by Lorree Tachell
Watch the road
When Wine & Dine changed to a morning event in 2016, we lost the last evening runDisney race, but most runDisney races still start in the dark/dusk before the sun comes up. Low visibility and thousands of runners can make it difficult to see the course clearly, which can lead to tripping issues with curbs, raised pavement markers, dips, and speed bumps. Take it slow at race start and watch where you are running. This is especially true if you are distracted as you start a tracking device or music device. You don't want to end up at a medical tent, or worse, be unable to complete your race because you are injured.
Let it go
If you've ever seen the running of the bulls, you'll be familiar with what it's like at the start of a runDisney race, especially if you are close to the front of the corral. If by chance you happen to drop an item, do not stop to pick it up unless you have clear access to the item. With the crush of the crowds, it's easy to be knocked down with several thousand of your new best friends trying to get around you.
Not a scale model of the Cozy Cone Motel
You may notice bright orange cones along the course; these are not placed as a tribute to the Cozy Cone Motel from the movie Cars. They may be a marker to warn about a road hazard or may be in place to keep race participants from crossing into an area that is off-limits. They are not for leaping over, running zig-zag through, or to provide your own little running area.
You never know what you'll find on a runDisney race course. Photo by Lorree Tachell
Still not your bedroom floor
If the weather forecast for race morning is less than optimal, you may find yourself wearing toss-away clothes, a rain poncho, or wrapping yourself in a fleece or mylar blanket to stay warm and dry. Very rarely will you continue to wear those items once the race has started (exceptions being the frigid 2010 WDW Marathon or the rain-soaked 2015 Wine & Dine Half Marathon). runDisney provides boxes off on the side of the corrals to collect discarded clothes and blankets with the clothes later going to charity. Do not drop the items in the middle of the course, where they may be tripped over or slipped on. And be careful with the mylar blankets—the material may negatively impact the timing chip on your bib.
Navigating the course
Heed these basic rules to improve the race experience for yourself as well as those around you:
|Single file||Keep it single file or at the most two abreast – There are areas along the course where you may experience bottlenecks and over-crowding especially as the later (and larger) corrals hit the road.|
|Walkers right, runners left||If you split the road down the middle, walkers own the right side and runners own the left. If done properly, this allows a better flow of race participants and helps keep tempers in check.|
|Signal to stop||You may find you need to stop along the course for any number of reasons including pictures or running with intervals. If you do need to stop, don't just apply the brakes; raise your hand high, check around you to see if you have room to stop, and carefully make your way to the far right of the course. Sudden stops in the middle of the course tend to end up with multi-runner pile-ups and can actually end in injury if the collision impact is strong enough.|
|No backtracking||There is a lot to see along runDisney courses and you may not notice say Kylo Ren out for photos until you have passed the opportunity to make a smooth transition over to the side of the road. Do not just dart over across the road or try to "swim upstream" against the tide of runners. As with stopping, signal your intention to slow down with a raised hand, and slowly make your way to the side of the road where you should be able to safely backtrack.|
|Merging back into the course||Once you have completed your photo op with Kylo Ren, you will need to merge back into race traffic. Similar to merging in your car, check for traffic and carefully work your way back out on the course.|
|Look before you spit||There are times when clearing a throat or nose during the race is a necessity, however, verify the way is clear before firing off that snot rocket. There is nothing worse for a race participant than find they were in the "line of fire."|
|Don't fly||I can fly… no you can't. It's common to tighten up during longer races but unless you have clear space, flailing your arms like Michael Phelps during his pre-swim prep is a recipe for injury to those around you. There are just too many race participants on the course who may be smacked or punched. Trust me, I've had the wind knocked out of me with an errant punch as I came in contact with a flying fist. Not fun.|
|Cell phones and selfie sticks||It's one thing to call someone as you are nearing the end of the race; it's another to attempt to carry on a business call and expect everyone around you to be quiet (yes, I ran in proximity to someone who actually tried to "shush" everyone around him—it was an epic fail). Similar to driving, cell phones can be a distraction and can lead to injury if you aren't paying the proper attention to the course. And selfie sticks are not allowed on the course or in Disney parks.|
|Hogging the shot||Me, me, me. Official Disney photographers are all along the courses to capture great race moments—for everyone, not just you. While it may seem amusing to take a flying leap for a photo, make sure you're not going to land or smack someone passing by in the process. And these are running photos; stopping for character shots is one thing but stopping to pose in front of the on-course photographers for multiple shots is just being a photo hog. And if you need to grab a selfie, don't do it in the middle of the road and remember to signal before you stop to avoid unexpected photobombs from people trying to dodge you.|
While we really shouldn't have to mention it, cheating does occur at runDisney races. Cutting courses, jumping in miles into the race, taking transportation between parks, using someone else's bib, or even using a fake bib happens at every distance from 5K through marathon. While runDisney looks for cheaters and takes action when they are discovered, it's hard to catch them all. Just… don't. If you really want a runDisney medal that badly, buy it on eBay.
It's required that all race participants hold a 16-minute-per-mile pace to successfully complete a runDisney race within the time limits allowed. Those who do not may be swept if by are passed by the Balloon Ladies (who are the last to cross the start line and who hold the 16-minute-mile pace needed to complete the race). Contrary to what is often written on social media, the Balloon Ladies aren't your enemy. If you have properly trained for the race distance, chances are you won't even see them along the course. If you are passed by the ladies (or gentlemen - there have been both), you have a very short window of time to move back in front of them before the Sweepers on bikes will give you your final warning. Be aware that the clock does not stop for pictures; many were swept due to queuing up in a 45-minute line at the 2016 Star Wars Light Side half marathon's BB8 photo stop. If you know you are a slower race participant and want to complete the race, consider limiting your character stops.
Not everyone is scared of the Balloon Ladies. Photo by Lorree Tachell
You will find water stations every two miles or so along the runDisney course. The 5K and 10K races provide water only; longer distances also provide Powerade sports drinks. You are welcome to carry your own hydration if you prefer, as well as any fuel you may need. Clif Shots are usually available around mile 9 of the longer distances and Team MousePlanet can usually be found offering "candy from strangers" at the Disneyland Resort races. Just don't try anything new the morning of the race. And carrying a small bit of toilet tissue is not a bad idea, especially if you need to stop at a portable restroom along the course. It's better to be prepared than not.
If you are injured during the race, there are medical personnel on bikes patrolling the course, and medical tents set up every few miles that are there to assist.
This is what can happen when you don't watch the road. Photo by Disney photographer.
Remember to thank the volunteers working all along the course. They will have been out there long before you arrived at their location and chances are they will be out there long after you pass as well. We couldn't do what we love without them.
Playing your tunes
While runDisney does not ban using earbuds or other headphone devices, make sure they are turned down low enough that you can hear instructions from course monitors and emergency vehicles that may need to get through. You may find them unnecessary on the shorter distance runs as more time is spent in the parks where music is usually playing. And please, please, please don't carry an external speaker and blast your music so that everyone around you is forced to listen to your musical selections (this includes playing your tunes from your smartphone's regular speaker directly).
Spectators need to stay spectators
While it may make for a lovely photo moment to have your family and friends join you as you cross the finish line, they are not allowed on the course. Also keep in mind that small children may become a hazard with the number of people crossing the line. Meet up with them after you have received your medal and cleared the runner area.
Make sure you know where you are meeting your friends and family; plan ahead and agree on a location where everyone will converge. Take advantage of runner tracking for the longer races so they can better estimate your finish time and plan accordingly.
Keep it moving
There are thousands of people who will be finishing and hoping for a great finisher's photo. As with the on-course photographers, smile and just keep moving. I've seen so many people stopping for a selfie before crossing the finish line they created a roadblock. If you need to selfie, click quick and move along; remember that wonderful finisher's medal is now waiting for you.
Sometimes the best medal pictures happen later in the park. Photo by Lorree Tachell
You earned one…
Once you have passed the bevy of medical personnel stationed at the finish line, you'll be picking up your finisher's medal. It is an incredible and occasionally an emotional moment when that medal is placed around your neck; you earned it so enjoy it.
But you earned one medal. I was amazed a year ago at the Disneyland Half Marathon to see a race finisher refuse to have the race medal placed around their neck only to pocket it and get another further along the line. Fortunately, the person was caught before exiting out of the runner area, and the extra medal was returned. This is not buy-one-get-one-free.
You earned multiple…
If you are collecting multiple medals, congratulations! That is always a wonderful accomplishment. Be careful if you are wearing all your "bling" at once that they don't clank together. While many "embrace the clank," it's a way for the medals to become damaged and scratched as they bang together. It's better to wear the medal most important to you and perhaps layer another medal above by shortening or pinning the lanyard. Some people come prepared by packing adhesive felt pads (the little tabs you stick on the bottle of a vase) in their gear check bags. Stick a few on the backs of your medals so they don't bang against each other.
The Dopey Challenge offers a pretty impressive medal haul, but maybe you shouldn't wear them all at once. Photo by Lorree Tachell
If you've been swept
Not every race ends successfully and you may find yourself swept before you cross the finish line. Once they transport you to the finish line, you will receive your race medal; challenge medals, however, will not be given, and you will lose your legacy status.
Legacy / Perfect lanyard pickup
Starting with the fifth anniversary of a runDisney race, you can swap out the regular medal lanyard with a legacy lanyard at the race finish. Usually (but not always), you will be directed to a tent where they will check your name off a list before the lanyard is given. No matter how they are distributed, make sure you don't forget to pick it up!
And I'll take one for my mom and…
runDisney provides snack boxes as well as fruit and bottled water to all finishers post-race, which provide you with basic hydration and energy needs your body needs right after a race. Limit yourself to one each; if you're really hungry or want to feed the family, there are much better food options available at the hotels and in the parks.
You've made it safely back to the finish line and your medal is in hand. If you are part of a challenge and running the next day (or days), take it easy with park time as you'll need fresh legs in the morning. If this is your final event, congratulations on a job well done! It's time to relax and hit the parks to celebrate. Wear your medals proudly and enjoy the congratulations and high fives from guests and Cast Members—you earned it!
Members of Team MousePlanet celebrate after the inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend in 2015. Photo by Alex Stroup.
You know, it's never too early to start planning your first or your next runDisney adventure. Hope to see you soon at a runDisney race!
You might want to read some of our past articles related to this topic:
- "Rules of the Road: A runDisney Race Etiquette Guide" (February 13, 2014), by Lorree Tachell.
- "Rules of the Road Part II: A runDisney Race Etiquette Guide" (August 14, 2014), by Lorree Tachell.
- "On Your Left" (November 22, 2005), by Lani Teshima.