*buzz buzz buzz*
What’s that? A swarm of bees? Or dogs? Or dogs with bees in their mouths and when they bark they shoot bees at you?
(If you got the Simpsons reference, give yourself five gold stars.)
Nope. That’s your alarm.
Today is the day! You’ve trained for many miles, traveled to get here, and are totally excited for race day! No matter what race you’re running, you’re going to have a fantastic experience. This episode is going to dive into the heart of race day. I’m going to give you the 411 on the before, during, and after aspects of what you may encounter. Since there are an umpteenth amount of variables that are associated with a runDisney event, I will be splitting this into two parts. So grab your snacks and tiaras…it’s time to race!
PHM Survival Guide, Episode IV: A New Race: The Ins and Outs of Race Day!
You wake up full of excitement and anticipation. You bounce around the hotel room in your race day costume, doing all the wake-up things and nibbling on your pre-race food. You board the bus at 3AM (or jump in your car at 2:30 AM), and soon you’re taking off for the staging area! But as excited as you are, you feel like you’re forgetting something…
The primary thing you need to do is focus on logistics. RunDisney races are fun, I get that. But they are still races, and should be taken seriously as such. Check yourself before you wreck yourself, and go down through the list:
Before the Race….
- That outfit you layed out last night? Are you wearing it? Good.
- Do you have your bib?! Yes? Yay!
- Are you planning on music/pictures/etc.? How about your fitness watch? Do you have those electronics? Good.
- Did you grab your check-in bag that was hanging on the door to your room? You better have!
- Did you have a beverage other than coffee (aka water)? You will want to do this. Try to have at least 8-16 oz of water pre-race. Whether it’s going to be hot or cold, you’ll want the extra hydration.
- Got your hotel room keys? Don’t lock the door until you check!
Once you have all the things, it’s time to move to your transportation method of choice…
On-Site: If you’re staying at a Disney Resort, there will be shuttles to take you to Runner’s Village. When I was driving to EPCOT on WDW Marathon morning, the fleet of busses was departing EPCOT around 2:00 AM to their respective resorts with first runners boarding around 3 AM. If you are paranoid about missing anything, OR want to go through bag check with minimal people around, I would HIGHLY suggest getting in the queue for this around 2:30 AM. It sounds obnoxiously early, but drivers have been known to get lost and/or delayed. It makes for some interesting tweets to read later.
Off-site/driving: If you’re planning on driving yourself, you may have it a juuuust little easier. Since you don’t have to rely on someone else for a ride, you can easily get to EPCOT on your own. Woohoo! Heed this warning though: Leave earlier than anticipated. Once that first fleet of busses starts heading back to EPCOT, traffic is going to be positively dreadful. Like, Master Gracey and the Haunted Mansion dreadful. I left at 2AM and got there about 15 minutes later. Even though I sat in my car for awhile, I was fine.
Driving directions, taken from the Event Guide:
-If you’re traveling I-4 (barf), take exit 64 to 192 West and follow the signs to EPCOT. DO NOT USE EXIT 67.
I repeat: Exit 67 = bad. Exit 64 = good!
-If you’re already on 192, you can use your GPS. I did and had no problems.
I will warn you again…expect significant delays if you’re not in the parking lot by 3 AM. Traffic is gnarly. Also, you are NOT allowed to access the corrals from anywhere else except through the Explore Lot at EPCOT. If you try to jump the fence at Bonnet Creek Parkway or Buena Vista Drive, you’ll get disqualified and definitely yelled at. Public embarrassment is not on the agenda for today, folks! It’s for your own safety. There is a runner dropoff in the Taxi Lot in EPCOT.
If you’re driving, you don’t have to pay the $20 to park. (It’s about the best perk runDisney is going to give you this weekend.)
Alrighty, so you’re traveling..and traveling…maybe singing songs with those on the bus or in the car…and then you’re here! Yay! Here’s what you do next…
Security: Anyone who has a check-in bag will have to go through security. If you have ANYTHING with a zipper (this includes arm bands, belts, etc.), you also have to go through security (be prepared ahead of time by opening the zippers on your items). This may sound overly unnecessary, but for those that are safety-minded, it will put you at ease. Anything is subject for additional searching, and there are K-9 units.
Once you’re through security, it is time for…
I’ve mentioned this a couple of times, and now it’s time to explain what exactly this mysterious land is.
This is where everything goes down before the race. Once past security, you will encounter the charity tents and some bathrooms. There will be the Race Retreat/breakfast tent, concessions to buy coffee/bagels/pre-race breakfasty deliciousness (be prepared to sell your kidneys for these, because Disney), info tents, and a main stage where pre-race music will be pumping and people will be dancing. (No lie, this actually happens.) Many running groups and friends will be meeting up during this time, and there are many visual landmarks you can use for a pre-race meetup.
Checking your stuff: Your gEar check tents will be in alphabetical order. Find your tent and drop off your stuff. Easy peasy.
Portapotties: There are about 592 of these all around. Make sure you have your PRPs before you head to the corrals. Potties will be scarce from this point on, and then you’ll have to resort to nature being your toilet.
Race Retreat/Breakfast: (Something that I have yet to experience. If you have experienced this, I’d love your input!) If you purchased tickets, you will head to a large, white tent in the Imagine Lot. Make sure you have your wristband! (You would have received this at the expo). Times for this is as follows:
-Friday: 7AM-9AM (breakfast)
-Saturday: 6:30AM-8:30AM (breakfast)
Sunday Race Retreat:
–3AM-5:30AM (This includes breakfast, stretching areas, portapotties, private gEAR check, etc.) ONLY RUNNERS CAN ACCESS THE TENT FOR THE RACE RETREAT.
–5:30AM-10AM: Platinum ChEAR Squad guests ONLY, with breakfast from 5:30AM-6:30AM.
–7:30 AM-10AM: Breakfast Service.
Stuff About Spectators:
Since I have never had to do a racecation with spectators in tow, I really don’t have a lot of personal experience to share. I do, however, have the Event Guide pages with this information! (If anyone else has experiences to share, please share them! Shoutouts and cupcakes for all that do!)
Oh yeah…one more thing…
MarathonFoto Paparazzi.: I find this to be the most annoying part of the pre-race. As much as I like taking pictures as a photographer, I’m not one for getting in people’s faces about it. I understand that they’re doing their job, but I don’t really like to be bothered. I politely decline and give an outward impression that I have things to do and places to go. Others may choose to ham it up, and that’s fine. To each their own.
Your stuff is checked in, you’ve peed, you’re hanging out with friends. Awesome! Now it’s around 4:45, and people are starting to meander towards the corrals. Now it is time to pay attention. This is when I will begin the great divide between 10K and PHM differences…
10K Corrals: There are five of these (as of 2014 and 2015; 2016 may be different). You don’t have to go far to find these. They will be in one of the parking lots. (The event guide doesn’t have a map for this, unfortunately…)
PHM Corrals: Far more fun. It is about a 20 minute walk to the corrals, and it really is a distance away! Floodlights will guide your way and booming music will accompany you. (Some refer to this as a Princess Death March, or the Herding of the Cows. All in good fun, of course!) Pay attention to the sign at the median: this will tell you which corrals go to the left or right. Follow the road and find the big corral light bulb thingie that has your letter on it. Show your bib to the volunteers and hop on in!
(^^ They’ll look something like this!)
So you’re in your corral and trying to figure out where to start. Line up where you think you’ll be most comfortable. Here is a little guide to help you:
*If this is your first race, start somewhere in the middle to back of your corral, in the middle-ish. If you’re more of the observing type, this will give you a few extra seconds to gauge what everyone is doing in front of you so you can plan your moves. This is also good for anyone planning to start slow and aim for negative splits later on.
*If you plan on running the whole thing, or are a veteran runner who got screwed with your proof of time submission and are a little speedier, go to the left. (Runners on the left.)
*If you’re going to do run/walk intervals, hover around to the right. (Walkers to the right.)
*Line up in the front if you’re absolutely crazy and want to get out ahead of everyone!
There will be many runners committing etiquette faux pas. Stay ahead of the game with these tips (and more throughout additional sections)!
-If you want to run with a friend and you’re in two seperate corrals, you need to move to the slower corral. You’re not allowed to move UP, only BACK. (Corral jumpers will attempt to hop the fence, and they have done this in the past. If you see this, report it to security immediately.)
-No more than two runners abreast across the road. Go single file in the Cone Alleys because it’s gonna be tight enough already. Don’t be hogging the road for people wanting to get around you.
-This one is huge: If you’re planning on run/walk/run intervals, nonverbal communication to your fellow runners is just as important, if not more, than verbal. In addition to verbally stating, “Run” or “Walk”, look behind you and move accordingly while giving a hand signal. This is when all runners should be outfitted with a belt that has turn signals on it. Don’t just stop in the middle of the freakin’ highway; someone WILL run into you and you both may be hurt. Also…there are a few runners that are deaf/hearing impaired that run this race. You never know who out there is, so just be mindful of those around you.
-Get those around you excited! You’d be surprised how many runners will be cracking jokes along the way. Interaction is key to staying sane, and you’ll make new runner buddies!
The announcers, especially Carissa and Rudy, will do their best at cracking jokes and keeping everyone engaged in the minutes prior.. The National Anthem will be sung (one of my goals in life as a professional anthemist!), and the Fairy Godmother will wave the corrals off one by one…
“Salagadoola… mechicka boola…three, two, one, GO!”
You may think that your life changes the second you toe the start line. In reality, this happens far sooner. Life begins at the end of your comfort zone, and that starts the second you decide to sign up and say, “Yes. I’m doing this.” You’ve put the miles in and are ready for your victory lap. Enjoy every moment, and take it all in.
You now have an idea of what happens before the race. Now that you’ve crossed the start line, you’re on a journey that’s fit for a princess! What will you encounter on the course besides elevation changes and a lot of other people in tutus and tiaras? Stay tuned for Episode IV, Part II!