runDisney weekends are super fun if you are participating in the races. If you aren’t however, you may just feel like running away from the crowds. As someone who has been both a racer and non-racer, here are five things you need to know to help better navigate the days, so you have the BEST possible Walt Disney World vacation you can have!

1. The first thing to know is that there are typically four runDisney race weekends during the year. These happen during the months of January, February, April and November. So if you’re planning a trip during these months, you’ll want to keep an eye out for the race weekend dates. You can monitor these at rundisney.com. BEWARE they do draw in a BIG crowd, but with the right planning with an expert travel planner, you’ll be just fine.

2. Secondly, it’s helpful to know there are either three or four days of races plus a day before they begin for racers to pick up race bibs and submit waivers. January’s weekend will have four races: 5K, 10K, 1/2 Marathon and Full Marathon. The other weekends just don’t include a Full Marathon. Racers will begin to arrive for these events from typically Wednesday or Thursday and will stay through Sunday/Monday.

3. This is IMPORTANT: All races begin at 5:30am, with transportation to the starting line beginning at 3:00am. (CRAZY early!) Most are on the bus by 3:30 to take advantage of the pre-run fun. This means two very important things: racers need to both go to bed and get up very early. To use this to your advantage, plan to be at the parks at ROPE DROP (before the park officially opens) to enjoy the lowest crowds each day of the races. A typical 5K race can be completed in about 30-60 minutes, but not a Disney race! There are character meet and greets along the way, so it does take a while to complete. Runners will start arriving to the parks in full force sometime after 10:30am on 5K day, 11:30am on 10K day, 1:30pm on 1/2 marathon day and late afternoon/evening on a Full marathon day.

While some runners will head straight to the parks after the event, most go back to their resorts to at least shower if not take a nap. The parks will begin to get very crowded during the afternoon, so plan to enjoy low standby wait times first thing in the morning on most attractions and schedule your FastPasses for noon and after. Take a midday break to enjoy the pool, have a sit down meal, tour other resorts, mini golf, or visit Disney Springs at the height of the theme park crowd levels mid afternoon. With many runners needing to get a good night of rest before the race, take advantage of the park with the latest nighttime hours. Parks won’t be empty, but much less crowded than the afternoons.

 

Magic Kingdom the morning of the 10K Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend

4. All resorts participate in runDisney transportation, so any on property resort has the potential to host a large number of racers. This can have a big effect on the quick service dining in the mornings of the 5k and 10k races, since those finish the earliest. Hungry racers coming back to their hotel are going to stop for something to eat.  As noted above, I really recommend getting a very early start. Maybe NOT having breakfast at your resort on these days and either having a light breakfast in your room or just having a breakfast bar on the go so you can get more accomplished in the parks. If you want to plan a sit down meal, plan it for the afternoon or early evening when the attraction lines will be long.

5. Transportation can also be an issue IF you plan to use your own vehicle. There will be road closures, heavy delays and detours to accommodate the race route, so it’s best to rely upon Disney’s internal transportation during race days.

To recap: Get up EARLY, take a midday park break, stay out LATE and use Disney transportation to make the most of your vacation during a runDisney race weekend if you aren’t running. If you happen to see someone wearing a medal, go ahead and congratulate them! It’s not easy and many runners train all year long for these weekends. 🙂

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