It is no surprise that Disney races are popular. Each year, tens of thousands of runners run races hosted by Disney. For most runners, running a Disney race is more about the experience than the race itself.
This is a topic that I have been wanting to talk about for some time. I personally, have never run a Disney race, but I have been to Disney World in Orlando, multiple times for family vacations, so I can only imagine what their races are like. After making a few unsuccessful attempts in the past to get RunDisney on the show, I gave up and decided instead that the real Disney experience would probably best come from Disney race participants themselves.
So a few weeks back, I put out a post on my Instagram account looking for people who have run several races at Disney. And that is where Ashley and Ryan come in. What I did not know at the time is that they actually live just a few miles for me in Lewis Center, Ohio!
Ashley got involved in running just looking to get more involved in her own physical fitness. She came from a fairly inactive family and has had lots of personal health issues with chronic pain and arthritis. Because of this, she grew up early on with the attitude that since working out hurts, she shouldn’t do it.
Despite that, in an effort to become healthier, she decided to work with multiple physical therapists and other health providers until she found the right doctor who could help her. At the encouragement of her doctor, she because to focus on movement and exercise as a way to improve her joint function. Ashley started with walking and eventually walked her first 5k at the Dublin Irish Festival 5k, in Dublin, Ohio. After that she eventually went on to do more running and run/walking and the rest is history.
About Ryan Garcia
Ryan started running as a child when he was first introduced to running through a running challenge in school. He then competed in track and cross country in high school before taking a break from running after Achilles issues and did not resume until 10 years later when he started seeing his fitness decline due to weight gain. Ryan got back into running and used a combination of P90X and running to get back in shape to run 5k’s, 10k’s, half marathons and marathons. In addition to catching the Disney bug, he also recently caught the ultra marathon bug.
Want a sneak peak of the Disney race experience, then check out this short video by RezRuns of the 2018 Walk Disney World 5k – Marathon weekend. Rezruns YouTube channel contains dozens of videos on running Disney races so definitely a great resource if you are considering running one of their races.
In the video below, if you look close, you will find Ashley in it. I am pretty sure I saw Ryan too a few seconds later. Of course, this is assuming you know what they look like. (Hint: 5:35 in)
In the podcast, Ryan and Ashley describe one of the best race experiences is the ability to stop during the race and get pictures with the characters, some of which rarely are seen in public. You can see several examples of this in the following video. They do mention that lines get long and there is a time limit on completing the race, so you won’t get the chance to stop for all characters, but you definitely have time to visit a few.
In 2018, the race weather was colder than normal. In the podcast, Ryan described it as one of the coldest runs he has every experienced. But don’t let that scare you!
Ashley and Ryan also mention that they worked hard to get faster, just so they could get a better corral placement for the race so that they would have MORE time to stand in line and see the characters. In other words, the hard work you do during training, pays off by giving you a better coral placement so you have more time during the race to have fun.
Ryan recommends for some characters where you do not have time to stand in line, feel free to take your own selfies, but bring a portable charger with you because your phone battery will die fast with all the pictures you are taking.
In this episode, Ashley and Ryan shared a bunch of killer travel tips for Disney. But here is the best part. Most of these tips apply to any destination race that you travel to.
Here are some of the Disney travel tips she recommends:
Do your research ahead of time
The biggest thing to understand about Disney races, or Disney in general is that there is no way you can do/see all of it. One of the biggest mistakes that people make is trying to cram too much in a Disney vacation. Doing your research ahead of time, will make the time there more effective and rewarding.
Stay at one of the on-property hotels
You will be getting up at 2:00 am, most likely to be at the start line by 3:00 am. Being on property will make race day logistics so much easier because they will be there to assist with everything from breakfast to transportation. Disney has resort options in every price range so there really is no excuse not to stay on property. Services inside the park, do not open until later, so you are either grabbing something at the hotel, or bringing it with you.
Also, many rooms on property have a microwave so be sure to check as it came in really handy when you wanted something quick and easy to eat.
Food choices on race morning
Another benefit of staying on property was that all the major resorts had runner food boxes which you could grab and go if you were on the Disney dining plan or you could pay out of pocket. It included a bagel, peanut butter, banana, bottled water and things like that. Price varies from resort to resort.
To save money, Ashley recommends buying food off property and keep it in your room. Other people have used Amazon delivery and other delivery services as well in order to get the specific pre-race meals they want. You can also buy food the night before at the resort and save it for morning in your in-room refrigerator. The key is to plan ahead.
Save significant time in the parks to days prior to race days, or after race days
You will be sleep deprived due to all the early race starts and while you want to keep moving for recovery purposes, you will need time to rest and catch up on sleep. You won’t feel like spending a lot of time on your feet in the parks.
Plan for cold or warm temperatures and over pack your suitcase
If you are running during the Spring, Fall or Summer, you may not have this issue. But if you are running Disney’s marathon weekend, you need to be prepared for any type of weather. When you think of Florida (especially us Northerners) we think warm weather in the Winter. However, Orlando can be very unpredictable in January. It can be 80 degrees or 20 degrees.
It was 23 degrees Fahrenheit on race morning. Ashley and Ryan, both from Ohio, said it was the coldest race that they have ever run. So being prepared for any, all types of weather is very important.
Throwaways are old or used clothing that you can wear before the race to keep warm, but then throw away at race time or after you warm up. And, most throwaway clothing is donated to the homeless so you will be helping someone out who could use those clothing items.
Utilize the Photo Pass aka Memory Maker
The Photo Pass is where anything you do in the park, whether it is a character photo, ride photo, or RunDisney photo is captured for you. Ashley and Ryan ended up with close to 1000 pictures in total. It was $199 if you bought it on property, but $169 if you bought it in advance and only $99 if you are a veteran. (Prices subject to change so be sure to check). It may still sound like a lot of money, but the photos are your memories.
Wear a costume
Have fun! Disney is where you can be a kid again. Nearly everyone at Disney races wears a running costume. Whatever you pick make sure it is efficient for running.
Have a large Ziplock bag for each day of the race
Having a large Ziplock bag allows you to keep you shirts, socks, shorts and gear together and prepped for that day’s race. This way you can just grab the bag and go.
Pack your running shoes in carry on luggage
This just makes sense because, well, airlines are famous for losing your stuff when it is important.
Don’t underestimate the Disney expo
The Disney race expo is massive. Show up early and be sure to preorder your stuff, especially if you know you want a particular shirt or race item.
Individually wrap your medals
Individually wrapping your medals will prevent them from scratching when you are transporting them.
For more information on Disney and other things to do in the Orlando area, the Tim Tracker YouTube channel is another great resource Ashley recommends.
If so, consider our PaceBuilder’s Training Program to get you ready. Not only do we specialize in training runners for all race distances, we have experience training runners for back to back races like the Disney Dopey challenge and Goofy challenge. Not ready for coaching? Then check out our free Runner’s Toolkit!
Then, book your trip. If you need help with booking your trip to get that magical Disney experience, then reach out to Ashley’s sister, Darlene Fair Porter who runs a Disney Tour Agency, called Visit Mickey With Darlene. You can also visit her website here.
For full disclosure, I have never used her service and I do not receive any commission(s) for referring people to her. I do highly recommend using a travel agent/planner when visiting Disney in order to get the most out of your trip. I have visited 3 times over my life, twice as an adult and we used a travel planner for the last trip and it saved us a ton of time (and actually a little money).
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