The Joy & Terror of Signing Up for runDisney Races
Originally Posted: February 25, 2015
UPDATED: December 30, 2015
UPDATE: Mid-way through 2015, runDisney and Active.com changed the race registration process a bit. You still use Active, you still have to be quick on the keyboard, and Annual Passholders and DVC members still get a shot at a handful of registration spots a week or two before general registration opens up. However, there are some important changes and the following article is now updated to reflect the current registration process as of September 2015 (when I registered for the 2016 WDW Star Wars Dark Side weekend).
An unfortunate side effect of running Disney races is first having to make it through the registration process. Over the past few years, the pace of race registration has gone from a leisurely stroll during which you often could register up until a few weeks before the event, to a maniac sprint to get yourself in before the event sells out (often in just a few hours). Unless you are one of the lucky ones who get their registrations comp’d (how can I get on that list?) or you decide to go through a charity or buy a package from one of the authorized dealers, chances are you’ll be stalking the runDisney website waiting for the precious link to go active with the vast majority of us.
Getting into a race can be an adventure packed with adrenaline as you wait for the next page to load (hopefully without crashing) as you cope with the uncertainty of whether you’ll be able to get your entire group in before the dreaded “sold out” pops up. But with some advance preparation, patience, and a bit of “faith, trust, and pixie dust” you can have a successful race registration experience.
Below are my top 11 tips (3 new ones!) tips for surviving your runDisney race registration experience.
1. If you are eligible for early registration through any program (common ones are Annual Passholders and DVC members)… do it! Although you’ll still have to go through the same process, you’ll be competing with fewer people so the site might not crash as often. And even if you can’t get your entire party in during early registration, you’ll have fewer to worry about during regular registration.
2. UPDATED: Contrary to my previous recommendation, each person hoping to register for a race MUST have his or her own Active.com account. You can no longer register as a guest. Spouses can no longer use the same account to register for a race; the only exception is that a parent can register a minor child (under the age of 18, I think…but it might be 16) under the parent’s account. Set up all the Active.com accounts that you’ll need before registration opens and if you’re hoping to register more than one person, have one account signed in to Active on each device (ie: you on your desktop, your spouse on your tablet, etc.) before the registration window opens. FYI: Another recent change is that your paid Active.com membership now applies to runDisney fees (not retroactively), so if you plan on signing up for a lot of races via Active.com it now may be worth your while to pay for membership.
3. NEW! The first screen you encounter on Active.com allows you to choose the event you want to register for. If you see “on hold” keep refreshing until you either get the “register” option or see “sold out”. Rather than doing the virtual queue (which Active.com tried for a couple of races and for which they got a lot of negative feedback when people waited for 40 minutes only to be told as they were trying to pay that the event was sold out), Active.com now tells you up front if the servers are overloaded with people trying to register (on hold) or if you’re out of luck (sold out). As long as you see “on hold” there’s still hope that you can get in; I’ve heard numerous reports of people diligently refreshing the “on hold” screen for 2 hours and ultimately getting in.
4. Have all of your information (name, proof of time information, credit card number, etc.) typed out and saved to a document before registration. It’s often faster to copy-and-paste into the forms than typing out everything.
5. NEW! You no longer need to have your proof of time (POT) information at the time of registration. Instead, you’ll go into your Active.com account at a later date to enter/update your POT as often as you want until the deadline. However, you MUST remember to actually go back and do this otherwise you’ll have a very unpleasant surprise when corrals and bib numbers are released.
The one exception to this is that you must enter a child/minor’s POT at the time of registration or call runDisney to provide the information at a later date; you will not be able to edit the minor’s POT on the parent’s Active.com account after the registration is complete.
6. Be ready as soon as registration opens up. Seriously. Be at your computer/smart phone/tablet, at least 5 minutes before registration opens up. You’ll want to have all of your webpages loaded and ready to go before the link goes live.
7. Have a fast and reliable internet connection. My work computer blocks some webpages. As a result it’s not optimal for race registration. So I either take the day off so I can use my home computer or use my smartphone if I can’t get out of work that day. Whatever you choose, make sure you can get to all of the sites you need before you try to get in for registration.
8. Take advantage of your social media connections. There are a lot of Facebook and other groups dedicated to the runDisney community (including Casual Runner’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, both of which you should be following!). Often someone in these groups will post the direct link to the race registration page (general registration only, not early registration for reasons noted in tip #10). When my phone refuses to load from runDisney (which happens a lot), these direct links are lifesavers. Find a good group and watch for their posts/tweets/emails during registration (and, of course, do be sure to follow Casual Runner’s Facebook and Twitter accounts!).
9. Know your race priorities. Some events will sell out faster than others: usually the challenges and 10K are the first to go, followed by the kids races, 5K, and half or full marathon. If you are trying to get a lot of people registered for multiple races, focus on getting your entire group in to whatever race you most want to do. If you are locked out of your second or third choices, at least you’ll be in for the event you most want to run.
10. NEW! Don’t be tempted to abuse your early registration privileges and register people who are not eligible. The reason runDisney now opens early registration 2 weeks early is because they are verifying that the people who registered early were truly eligible to do so. And they are cancelling registrations if they catch ineligible people. They may not catch everyone, but I’ve personally heard from people who were caught. So don’t do it. Seriously, you don’t need that headache.
11. Save your morning coffee until after you get in to your race! You’ll be jittery enough just from the nerves. Don’t make it worse by adding caffeine to the mix! A mis-timed accidental “back button” hit can take you out of the registration queue and force you to start over.
Learn from my experience #1 (new process):
So how well do I follow my own advice? Here’s how registration for the inaugural Disney World Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon Weekend went for me. My goal was to get my husband and I registered for the Dark Side Challenge (the 10K and half marathon), which would complete the Kessel Run Coast-to-Coast Challenge (a new challenge achieved by doing the January Star Wars Light Side half marathon at Disneyland and the April Star Wars Dark Side half marathon at Disney World):
The Disney World Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon Weekend went on sale for Annual Passholders and DVC members at noon Eastern, like all Disney races. AP/DVC registration was 2 weeks before general registration, and only a handful of spots were available. Since this was an inaugural event and the second part of a new Coast-to-Coast challenge, I figured the Challenge spots would fill up fast. Four of the five people in our group were eligible for early registration, but only three of us were able to be online when registration opened. I would have to try to get my husband and I registered via my phone while my two friends would take care of themselves (the fifth person had to wait until general registration since she wasn’t eligible for early registration). My plan was to do my husband’s registration first and then mine; knowing that I would be slower since I was using my phone rather than a laptop with a reliable connection, I passed my personal Active.com login, My Disney Experience login, and credit card info to my (very, very trusted) friend in the hopes that one of us would have a second shot at a registration screen before it sold out.
11:45 – I grab my phone and credit card, and head downstairs to the courtyard. I pre-loaded the runDisney and Active.com pages with my husband’s login information on my phone’s browser, hoping this would help me skip at least some of the bottlenecks as everyone tried to access the pages at the same time.
11:50 – Ummmm…why is Facebook not connecting??????? And the internet???? (Again?!?!?! Why does this always happen on registration day????)
11:51 – I start wandering around the block looking for a stronger signal.
11:53 – Stop! The internet is loading! At least this time I have a place to sit down and it’s not cold or raining.
12:00 – The runDisney early registration page doesn’t load for me (shocker!) but my friend texts me the direct link to Active.com. (Per tip #10, I don’t recommend sending the direct link to non-eligible people. Both my friend and I were legitimately eligible for early registration.)
12:04 – My friend reports that he and his girlfriend both got in. (Yay!) My friend logs in to my Active.com account.
12:05 – My hubby’s registered! Success! One down, one to go.
12:06 – I clear my browser of my husband’s Active.com information and log in to my Active.com account.
12:07 – My friend and I are both stuck in the “on hold” loop. Refresh, refresh, refresh!
12:30 – My friend needs to leave for an appointment. He wishes me well and signs off.
12:31 – I continue refreshing the screen hoping for something other than “on hold” or “sold out”. I wonder how many times I’ve refreshed? 200 times? 2000? It feels like a million.
12:45 – I really need to get to a meeting. Unfortunately I have to give up even though there’s technically still hope because “sold out” hasn’t flashed up yet. Oh well, there’s always general registration in a couple of weeks.
When general registration opened 2 weeks later I took the day off from work and set up my phone, laptop, and tablet for registration. I was ultimately successful, as was the fifth member of our group. So the five of us will be exploring our Dark Side in April and three of us will be completing the Kessel Run Challenge. The only thing left to do is plan our costumes…
Learn from my experience #2 (old process):
So, how well do I follow my own advice? Here’s how registration for the Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend went for me. My goal was to get my husband and I registered for the Dumbo Double Dare (which includes both the 10K and half marathon events):
The Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend events went on sale at noon Eastern, like all Disney races. Disneyland races are smaller than Disney World races, so there’s always a little more stress at registration. Add to that the fact that this would be the 10 year anniversary of the race and the 60th anniversary of the park, and it was clear these races would fill up fast. I was lucky that I had been able to register myself for the Dumbo Double Dare challenge during early registration 2 weeks earlier, so I only had to worry about getting my husband in during the regular registration period.
11:45 – I grab my phone and credit card, and head downstairs to the coffee shop. I had already pre-loaded the runDisney pages on my phone’s browser, hoping this would help me skip at least some of the bottlenecks as everyone tried to access the pages at the same time.
11:55 – Ummmm…why is Facebook not connecting???????
11:57 – OMG… I can’t load any internet site on my phone! Panic!!!!! MORE PANIC!!!!!
11:58 – Abruptly shoot from my chair in the coffee shop and start pacing around outside to get a signal. (Please note, Washington, D.C. was experiencing very chilly temps that week and I had forgotten to grab my coat…)
11:59 – Stop! The internet is loading! I will stand here until registration is done, regardless of the fact I’m in the middle of the sidewalk and I have no coat on.
12:00 – The runDisney page isn’t loading, but a friend posted the direct link to Active on Facebook. Thank God.
12:06 – The hubby’s registered! Success!
12:07 – Celebratory Facebook post!
12:14 – I know I received the confirmation email, and I’ve checked it 20 times that it’s correct, but I really want to verify my registration via the runDisney page. Why won’t you load???? Stupid website!!!!!
12:16 – OK. This just isn’t working. And while I like to stalk the page to see how fast the races fill up, it’s freaking cold outside and I have actual work I need to do. I guess I’m done.
12:17 – But first I need a coffee. Because the flood of adrenaline still coursing through my body combined with caffeine is a great idea, right? God help the folks in my 12:30 meeting today…
So I was successful, though I had to go through both the early and regular registration periods to get what I needed. As it turned out the Dumbo Double Dare Challenge sold out in about 40 minutes. Wow!
Best of luck in your quest to run Disney! I will see you there
Enjoy the freedom of going wherever your feet, imagination, & determination take you!
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Enjoy the freedom of going wherever your feet, imagination, & determination take you!