Before I ran my first marathon (which was the 2011 WDW Marathon), I poured over every blog, podcast, or review of the WDW Marathon Weekend to learn the best tips for a happy and successful race day and beyond. I took this advice as written fact and followed it to a T to make sure I didn’t “mess up”. Some of the advice I still pass along but a few pieces of advice I’ve since modified from my own experience.
Some of these are WDW specific but others can be applied to challenges and races on both coasts!
1. Don’t nap post-race.
I was told that napping equally being really sore the next day and when I ran my first Dopey Challenge I came away exhausted. I napped but didn’t do it smart, I got sick so I just had to sleep. This time around I came out the other side of Dopey much happier and I took naps after nearly every race (after the marathon there was a Kitchen Sink at the Beach Club calling my name). It’s true that running and then immediately sleeping or sitting is not great and will lead to soreness but if you are able to walk around for a bit after the race and stretch/massage before you go to bed you should be fine. Each morning I woke up tired but not exhausted. I was still able to run and keep focused. On Saturday I just stayed at my resort and walked around a bit and rested. Totally the best call for me that day.
Revised advice: Don’t nap all day/immediately after the race. Finish your race, stretch a bit, eat something, drink some water, and then if you are tired, rest. No one wants to have a grumpy runner in their park touring party.
2. You should be on the runDisney bus as early as possible.
While it’s always good to arrive to a race early rather than late, it’s not 100% necessary to be on a bus 2+ hours before the start. Sure if you need a lot of time before the race or you tend to have a lot of nerves going into it, the earlier the better but honestly I was completely satisfied by getting to the bus around 4am for the 5:30 start. That half hour can make a big difference when you are getting ~4hr of sleep a night.
Revised advice: Pick a time that you think will keep you relaxed before the race. I you are super nervous an early bus may be for you, but in general runDisney has a decent system for getting racers to the start.
3. Taking a rental car to the start is better.
I’ve done runDisney both ways, staying both on and off-site for the race weekend and honestly, it’s a toss up for me. For me, taking the bus removes a level of anxiety for me (What if I take the wrong route? What if I get lost? What if I get lost AND then hit traffic?). If you drive and it’s cold or raining, you do have the benefit of a nice warm car though to hang out it in. In general, I really enjoy taking public transportation so taking the runDisney buses fits me better but it’s just a matter of opinion in this case.
Revised advice: If you like the control of driving, a rental car might be for you but the runDisney buses are quite good and I don’t have any major complaints.
4. Staying at an Epcot Area resort is more convenient.
While I think the monorail resorts are pretty convenient, I don’t get this piece of advice. In theory, yes, you are closer to the start/finish line. In practice, you can’t walk to the start and to get back to your hotel you have to walk about a mile through Epcot back to your hotel. You also share a bus with all the other Epcot area resorts so you are looking at multiple stops every time.
Revised advice: Stay wherever you will feel most comfortable and be able to get a good night’s sleep! You’ll probably have to deal with buses either way.
5. Don’t try to race for time, just enjoy the race experience!
In this case, “enjoy” has the very narrow definition of “take lots of character pictures, enjoy chatting with and running with friends, and make sure you aren’t tiring out your legs so much you can’t park tour later that day”. In general, I find nothing wrong with this advice. I’ve run races like that and really enjoyed myself at Disney. In this advice comes the cloaked opinion that racing hard does not equal fun, which is false. I’ve run hard and really enjoyed my runDisney experience and part of the reason is that I enjoyed a place I love AND personally achieved something at that magical place. I roll my eyes every time someone expresses the opinion that to get the total and true value of the race, you must spend as much time out on the course as possible and inline for characters and taking pictures. Run your own race and quiet those who tell you “you are doing it wrong”.
Revised advice: Find your own fun! Race it, walk it, dance it… whatever makes you smile and makes you feel like you got what you came for!
6. If you want to get merchandise you must be there at the time the expo opens.
In this case they may be right. If you are “I MUST HAVE ALL TH MERCHANDISE AND IF I DON’T GET IT MY EXPERIENCE IS RUINED” type runDisney runner, then get there at the beginning of the expo to ensure you get what you want. If you fall into the camp of “getting something that catches my eye would be cool but if it’s not there I’m happy saving the money” group of runDisney runner, go later in the day. Avoid the lines and go enjoy some time in the park instead!
As you prepare for your next race (Start Wars baby!) keep these in mind as you approach that trip/start line!
I resist the temptation to take a nap, so I have a better shot at falling asleep by 9am for the 2:30am alarm. If I take a nap I’ll be up past 11 and at that point, why even sleep?
I rarely get a chance to nap post-race. We’ll see how this weekend goes, though. Early wake up, 26.2 miles, and lots of crowds and kids = major nap mode for mommy. Haha!
It’s really hard to make time for it at WDW! There is always so much to do, come 8 o’clock I turn into a major cranky-pants without it though! Hope to see you in January!
In all my times I have done Disney races, I have always taken Disney transportation or the monorail. It definitely is more convenient race mornings, even though those resorts are a bit pricier, I think it is worth it!
runDisney is an animal unto itself. I am a big fan of getting on that first bus (I am anxious by nature, and I like to get to where I’m going, get my pictures, go to the bathroom and get settled). I have also never seen anything quite like the hordes of shoppers at the Expos (the only thing I’m usually interested in is an "I Did It!" shirt, but it’s not a deal breaker). I’ve always taken a little nap after Disney races. By the time you get done with the race, wander through the medals and the food boxes, take a moment to catch a breath and get back to the resort, you’ve already taken a lot of steps. That should help a little with the soreness.
You make great points. Everyone has a ton of advice about Disney races. I’ve done a ton and have picked up my own tips and tricks, but you have to do it your way. Stay where it makes sense, run YOUR race, nap when you want to. I’m thinking about lacing up for Dopey in 2018, so I’ll keep these things in mind!