After almost two years, runDisney is back with in-person races!
February 20-23, 2020 runDisney Princess Half Marathon weekend took place. The weekend started off with frigidly cold temperatures and wind (48 degrees in Florida feels way colder than 48 degrees in Boston!) and a migraine coming on while I was in my beloved Epcot. But from there on out it improved. There was a ride on Rise of the Resistance, character photos, sunshine, my favorite fireworks show Happily Ever After, the most fun character breakfast ever and of course the best kind of fun, running down Main Street USA with thousands of other Princesses! Despite the rocky start it ended up being a magical long weekend.
I left Disney after this long weekend trip excited that I would be returning in just three weeks to celebrate my birthday. But we all know what happened just a couple of weeks later in March 2020, so I did not return to Disney again until a year later than planned in March 2021. One of the things that I missed the most in 2020 was runDisney races, there was so much hope in their return. Just before lockdowns began, I registered for the Wine and Dine Half Marathon, then that went virtual. Next, I signed up for the 2021 Princess Half Marathon truly thinking that would happen, but it wasn’t to be, that also went virtual.
While the medals are great to get for the virtual races and many people choose to run them on Disney property, which I did this past March when I completed the virtual rundisney Princess 5K, it’s not the same as the atmosphere and excitement of an inperson runDisney race. I longed for the race expo, the thousands of other runDisney friends running with me, the photo pass photographers along the course, the character stops, the post-race photos, the cheese in the post-race snack box (yes, I’m one of those who loves the cheese!) and even the 3 am wake ups!
In June of this year, while I was at Disney World for a quick weekend trip, there were rumors all over social media of a big runDisney announcement. The following week, the announcement happened, in person runDisney races were back starting with the Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend in November 2021.
Being that I was still nervous it would get changed to virtual again (even though in June things seemed back to normal, remember how great June was? If only things stayed that way!), I was already signed up for two other half marathons in October and since I was determined to be at the very first race back, I only signed up for the 5K for Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend. I won’t lie when I say that I was on edge thinking that it would get cancelled, even when I was packing my bag, I just kept thinking, “Is this really going to happen?”
But here we are a couple of weeks later and it actually did happen. It was a crazy weekend, lots of rain and some cold weather, but none of that could dampen the spirits of thousands of runDisney runners! The weekend began on Thursday with nice warm weather in the 70s, the temperature couldn’t be more perfect. I started the day carb loading for the next morning’s 5K (of course even short 3-mile races require lots of carbs!) with a Mickey beignet at the newly opened Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter. What a perfect breakfast and view to start a runcation!
After spending some time at Epcot, I headed over to the race expo at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. New this year, the race waivers are digital, which made things so much easier. A few weeks before the race weekend, they sent out an email for you to login to your runDisney account and digitally sign the waiver. I was lucky to not have any issues with this, but apparently quite a few runners had problems where the waiver and even their registration wasn’t showing up on their account. New system, so hopefully they iron out the kinks before Marathon Weekend in January. Then a few days before the race weekend, they sent out an email to download your Expo Check-in Pass. This is what is needed to pick up your race bib and you can only get the Expo Check-in Pass after digitally signing your waiver.
Not to fear if you had issues with your digital waiver, there was a line for people to take care of their waiver at the expo. Definitely do the digital waiver if it’s possible though as it will save you time in line. It was so great to be back at a runDisney expo. I enjoyed checking out some of the familiar vendors, buying race merchandise I don’t need, seeing the race medals for the first time in person and getting some photo opportunities
The expo was so much fun and started to bring back all the excitement of a runDisney weekend. But of course, there was the looming bad forecast for the 5K the next morning to turn some of the excitement into worry. The forecast called for all rain the next day, pretty much starting right about the time we would all be waking up for the race. I absolutely hate running in the rain, but I did just run a half marathon in the cold 48-degree rain in Oregon a couple of weeks prior so a rainy 5K with temps in the 60s shouldn’t be too bad.
I woke up at 3am (yes you read that right, rundisney races start before the sun comes up!) A light rain was coming down, so light that I walked out without putting my pre-race poncho on. I barely made it to the bus though before I put it on. I’m not a morning person, but the excitement of being on a bus to a race so early in the morning was the best feeling! Due to the rain, I decided to actually check a bag at the race, which is something I never do, but I wanted to make sure I had a dry shirt and light rain coat for after the race, which was a perfect idea!
The bus arrived at the start line area and it was like I was brought back to February 2020, where everything was normal! The only real covid protocols that they had was that masks were required on the bus, which was fine as everything else was outside. One difference from past runDisney races was that instead of character photos before and after the race, they had photo spots set up with themed backgrounds. Since this race weekend was villain themed and the 5K race medal featured the Evil Queen from Snow White, this photo spot with the Evil Queen’s mirror was a popular spot for a photo. I do wish the photopass photographers had a way to get the glare in the mirror though.
New this year, instead of doing the lettered corrals, they were doing numbered start groups. For the 5K there were 3 start groups. Since there is no proof of time required for the 5K as it’s considered a fun run which is untimed, the start groups were assigned based on the anticipated finish time you put on your registration. Although you cannot change your start group, you are able to go to higher numbered start group (for example from start group 1 to start group 3) if you have friends that you’re running with who may be slower. Within each start group, they started smaller waves every few minutes, starting at race time of 5am. I was in start group 1 and started in the 3rd or 4th wave and my start time was 5:09am. I was pretty happy to be in start group 1 as that would mean less time waiting in the rain! I kept my poncho on until they started at 5am, so I was somewhat dry once I started the race.
The race started in the Epcot parking lot and went into Epcot where we ran around the World Showcase. Running around the World Showcase in Epcot in the dark is a truly magical experience in my opinion. All of the countries are lit up and there is music playing, it was so magical, that I almost forgot all about the rain and there was nothing but smiles from me!
They had a few character photo opportunities, but due to the rain, some of the characters had to go inside so they were just photos with a backdrop. But there were a couple that braved the rain. Due to covid, the character photo ops are more socially distanced, just like character photo ops in the parks. I personally don’t think this took too much away from the experience and I feel it kind of made the lines go a bit quicker.
After running around World Showcase, we ran into Future World for a bit. Somewhat disappointing on the day of the 5K, was that Spaceship Earth was not lit up. It’s always lit up for races and was for the other races that weekend. Not sure what was up with it not being lit, but it did make for a rare photo.
After passing by Spaceship Earth, it was the final stretch to the finish line just outside of the park in the Epcot parking lot. The fun thing about running the 5K is the entire race is in the dark, it’s so much fun to run across the finish line in the dark. How many people can say they ran an entire race before the sun came up on a rainy morning?
After the race I grabbed my bag and put on my dry raincoat, which felt great. The rain, which was light during the entire race, stayed fairly light until after I got back to the hotel thankfully. The race may have actually been the driest part of the entire day as it really started to pour rain the rest of the day. I took a couple of photos and of course had some goodies from the snack box, it had the cheese in it, yay!
Then it was back to the hotel to dry out and get ready for the rainy day. On the bus back I kept thinking of how much fun I had and regretting not also signing up for the 10K. But thank god I did not sign up for the 10K, as the weather the next morning was much worse, not only was it raining harder, it was also windy and colder. I definitely would have been miserable. The weather dried out for the half marathon 2 days later but it was quite cold that morning. All in all I’m glad I had signed up for the 5K only.
One thing you must do after running a runDisney race is take advantage of the photopass photographers in the parks and get some fun photos with your race medal. They really are great at taking some wonderful photos.
Are you now itching to run a runDisney race? The Springtime Surprise Weekend takes place March 31 – April 3, 2021 and will feature a 5K, 10K and 10 mile race. Registration opens on December 9th and is sure to sell out quick, so mark you calenders! And remember if you need help planning your Disney travel plans for a runDisney race, Beyond the Miles Travel is here to help with the planning!
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