We’ve all been there. We are in the middle of a race and we make a mistake. Even just a small one can set us back big time, or, worse yet, ruin our entire race experience. But what about those mistakes that we make before we even leave the house?
We spend a lot of time talking about runDisney race events because, well, they are pretty amazing experiences. Plus these races give us excuses to plan fun runcations to Florida and California (and even Paris?). But every veteran Disney vacationer knows a lot of planning goes into these trips, whether you are running a race or not. To help you out, in the past we brought you our Top 10 Lists on what to know before you runDisney, how to select a runDisney event, and even why we runDisney at all. Those are things that you should do. Now we want to help you out by learning from the mistakes of others, and give you the Top 10 mistakes Casual Runners make on runDisney runcations.
#10) Not making Fast Pass Plus Reservations. We know you already have a lot to plan when it comes to a Disney vacation. But the reality is that Fast Pass Plus (Walt Disney World’s free advance attraction and show reservation system) is designed to encourage you to use it. If you are staying on property, you can make reservations starting 60 days in advance of your arrival (with resort reservation and valid theme park admission). If you are staying off property, you can start making your reservations 30 days in advance, provided you have valid admission. Its free, you might as well use it and save yourself some time waiting in line. The same goes for using Fast Pass in Disneyland, but for that you cannot make advance reservations, you must pick them up in the parks.
#9) Not starting your park day late enough. Mike will tell you that any Disney day starts with rope drop, but for #9 we are talking about race days. Most runDisney races are morning races, and may not finish until after some of the theme parks are open. While you may want to make Fast Pass Plus reservations for marquee attractions and character meet and greets, make sure you make them late enough so as to leave yourself enough time to finish the race and do what you need to do (go back to the resort…clean yourself up…drink a beer or two…) before your reservation time opens up so you will not be rushed.
#8) Not ending your park day early enough. Yes, we all love nighttime spectaculars – who can go to Disney and NOT watch the fireworks? However, remember that those race morning wake up calls come very early, and sleep will be at a premium, especially if you are planning on running multiple races over several days. Mike reminds us that, during the Dopey Challenge, he decided to stay up the night before Donald’s Half Marathon to watch Fantasmic, and nearly fell asleep in his seat waiting for it to start…at only 6:20pm! Those early mornings do take their toll. As for Jennifer and Jake, that night they were smart enough to go back to the resort and get a head start on some sleep.
#7) Not picking the right resort. Whether you are in Florida or California, we are not saying you have to stay on or off property, everyone has a budget they need to work within. What we are talking about here is making sure that you have all of your transportation needs figured out. The last thing you want to do is to find a resort at a bargain price only to find out it will take you 2 hours to get to the starting line on race day, or that the offered theme park shuttle will not run on race days and you do not have a rental car. Make sure you plan your transportation to and from your resort on race days before booking.
#6) Not having a budget. Speaking of money, it is easy to let your spending get away from you during these race weekends. Make sure you have a good idea just how much you can afford to spend on food, souvenirs, and yes, runDisney merch. To save money you may want to go with a cheaper resort option (provided you respect #7 above), and maybe see if the Disney Vacation Account is right for you.
#5) Not arranging for child care during races. Are you and your spouse or significant other both running? Are you bringing your kids with you? Well, who will watch the kids while you are running? Plan on being gone for several hours and leaving your kids to their own devices during this time may not be the brightest of ideas. Yes, Disney does offer in-room babysitting services at Walt Disney World, but be prepared to pay for it. Consider making other arrangements. Is there a family member or friend who may want to join you on the trip who will be willing to watch the kids while you run? Could they take them to the course to cheer you on? Do you know a local who you trust to recommend a responsible babysitter? Make sure you make arrangements in advance, the safety of your kids is your top priority and you do not want to miss out on the race because you did not plan ahead.
#4) Not preparing your kids. When kids hear “We’re going to Disney World!!!” they immediately assume it will be 24/7 at the theme parks. Keep in mind however, that the times when you are running or at the expo are times they will not be riding Dumbo or meeting Anna and Elsa (speaking of which, if you want to do the latter, definitely look at #10 above). Let them know that the race or races are a part of the trip experience, and they can even come out and cheer you on. When Mike ran his first Walt Disney World Marathon, his sister-in-law brought his nephews into the Magic Kingdom to cheer on him and his brother even though they did not have park tickets for that day. They got to go through the turnstiles, take pictures in front of the train station, stroll up Main Street USA, and see Cinderella’s Castle up close. The boys did not know that this was not a “real” park day for them, and they had so much fun, they did not care. Also, consider registering them for a runDisney kids race if you think they will enjoy the experience.
#3) Not pacing yourself. It is tempting to try and go from rope drop to the kiss goodnight (or last call at Trader Sam’s) every day of your trip, but when you are running races, it just is not feasible. Make sure you build in some breaks, seek out some air conditioning even if it does not seem that hot during your visit, and don’t be afraid to take in some long shows and attractions that you might otherwise have skipped just to allow yourself a chance to sit down and rest.
#2) Not buying the right theme park tickets. This can be an expensive mistake. If you are doing multiple race weekends in the same park in the same 365 day span, you may want to consider an Annual Pass and see if it is a cheaper option than buying separate tickets for each trip. You should also look into what discounted tickets are available to you (local Florida and California discounts, military tickets, etc.), just watch out for blackout dates at Disneyland. If you are going with the Magic Your Way tickets at Disney World, you do not necessarily have to buy enough admission for every day of your trip. You may want to allow yourself a rest day or two during your trip, and you can always add additional days at the discounted price during your trip so long as you have not used up all of your park days. As for Park Hoppers, that is up to you and how much ground you want to cover. Some say they are absolutely worthwhile in Disneyland, but for Disney World it depends on how you plan on touring the parks as you will spend a lot of time just travelling between parks.
#1) Not training. Yes, pixie dust will help a lot on race day (as will adrenaline and the on-course entertainment), but do not count on it getting you through 13.1 or 26.2 miles if you have only trained up for a 5k. Sadly we have seen it happen all too often where a runner registers for a race as motivation to train for a longer distance, but then life gets in the way and they do not stick to their training and cannot complete the race distance. You spend a lot of money on your runcation, the last thing we want to see happen is for you to ruin your experience by not being able to complete your goal because you aren’t trained up, or, worse, you injure yourself. So put in the training miles, run a safe, comfortable race, and enjoy your magical runDisney runcation!
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