Every time I visit Walt Disney World with my family, I try to do something new. This can be tricky when you’re a Disney Vacation Club member because, well, you visit WDW a lot! If you need a change and a new challenge, try one of the many runDisney events offered throughout the year.
Each year, runDisney hosts the Walt Disney World Marathon in January, Princess Half Marathon in February, Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon in April, and the Wine and Dine Half Marathon in November. Additionally, there is a Half Marathon at Disneyland Paris in September, a Virtual Half Marathon in January, and presumably runDisney events returning to Disneyland after current construction is completed. More information about all of these events is available at the runDisney website, www.rundisney.com.
Booking with DVC Points
If you plan to use your DVC points to reserve a room while you attend one of these WDW events, you will most likely have to do some guesswork. The races’ dates are not always posted eleven months in advance when home resort booking windows open, so you may have to base your reservation on last year’s dates, which of course could vary and not be entirely accurate. It’s important to note that the races are on a Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and check-in begins the day before the first race. If you have sufficient points, you may want to reserve two weekends at your home resort and then cancel the unneeded reservation once the race dates are announced (just be sure to cancel before your points are placed on hold). If you wait too long to reserve, the best rooms may already be full, so it is always best to make your reservations as early as possible.
After you have your room, watch for updates and official race announcements on the runDisney website, including the date that early registration begins for DVC members. Usually a link will appear on the DVC members’ benefits page 48 hours before race registration begins for the general public, so have that link open and ready when the time begins to sign up for your race. Special challenges that allow racers to receive an extra medal for participating in multiple races, like the Dopey Challenge and the Fairy Tale Challenge, often fill up within hours, so being a DVC member is the best way to ensure that you can secure a spot in your desired races. Mark your calendar because the race to sign up for the runDisney events can be almost as exhausting as the races themselves!
Attending to the Expo
Now all you have to do before you arrive at Walt Disney World is train! Once you get to your resort on race weekend, you will need to attend the Race Expo to receive your number bib and other race-related information. You will see a special waiting area at your resort’s main bus stop where you can take special Mears motor coaches to the Wide World of Sports, where you can follow signs to a variety of activities. These busses leave approximately every twenty minutes and service all WDW resorts, but they only stop at one location in each resort, such as the entrance to Kidani Village at Animal Kingdom Lodge and not at Jambo House, so ask the concierge if you have questions about the busses’ departure. This same bus stop has transportation to the races, and signs near the finish line clearly direct you to your resort’s bus to return “home.” Again, these are not the regular busses that take you to the parks, so look for the blue runDisney signs to make sure you’re waiting in the correct area.
At the Wide World of Sports’ runDisney Expo, you collect your race bib and shirts and other necessary information. You can also peruse running gear and accessories, participate in special events like yoga, visit select characters, and purchase official runDisney merchandise. Be sure to bring your DVC card and photo ID if you are eligible for the merchandise discount because you can currently receive 20% off all Disney merchandise, Pandora jewelry, and select other retailers at the Expo. There are lots of photo opportunities at the Expo, too, and many runners I talked to regretted leaving their Mickey ears at their resorts, so be prepared with your camera and best smile.
Race Weekend Resort Activities
During Race Weekend, each DVC resort also offers specials for runDisney participants. During the Princess Half Marathon, Old Key West expanded their breakfast hours at their restaurants to accommodate spectators and returning racers (note that the restaurants opened after runners had to board the busses), and they had morning drink specials to celebrate later in the morning.
A red carpet led runners to a photo area with props when they disembarked from the bus, and the evening movies corresponded with the themes of the races. The Community Hall had special crafts available, as well as run-themed coloring pages and cheer signs for spectators. The main walkway of Old Key West was also adorned with princess balloons, and cast members had cans of pixie dust on hand to sprinkle anyone who needed an extra boost of magic.
DVC resorts are always a great option when visiting Walt Disney World, but they are especially useful during race weekends. Having access to a kitchen means that you can easily mix your own sports drinks or keep them cold in the Florida heat (yes, it was over 90 degrees in February), and you can eat a healthy breakfast before your races or have a rejuvenating snack when you return. The size of the rooms means that you don’t have to wake up your family when you leave at 3:15 a.m. to catch your bus, and the many resort amenities allow your family to entertain themselves while they wait for your return.
The next time you get the itch to try something new at Walt Disney World, try going for a spin with runDisney and DVC!