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How to Survive Your First runDisney Race

Make time to enjoy non-race events during your runDisney weekend.

New Balance sneakers at the runDisney Expo

Image: Sam Howzit, Flickr (license)

runDisney races offer new and returning racers much more than the thrill of sprinting through the parks at dawn. There’s a plethora of fun, race-related events throughout the weekend—from the runDisney Health & Fitness Expo to after-hours parties in the park. It’s not worth cramming everything into your weekend, especially if you’re lined up to run every single race, but if you want to snag exclusive sneakers or catch a seminar at the Expo, make sure to plan ahead.

During the races, meanwhile, you’ll be given multiple opportunities to stop and snap photos with a variety of Disney characters. The characters you see will usually be in keeping with the theme of the race—Snow White and Cinderella for the Disney Princess Half Marathon, Thor and Captain America for the Avengers Half Marathon, and so on—and there’s even a chance that you may spot an older or rarely-seen character, too.

Following the last race of the weekend, there’s often an exclusive after-party available to racers and their families. Food, additional character meet-and-greets, and live entertainment is typically included (as is the added bonus of swapping war stories with other racers), though keep in mind that any non-runners who want to attend with you will need to shell out a cool $84 per person to do so.

Don’t forget to decompress!

Senses Spa at Walt Disney World

Image: Arctic Whirlwind, Flickr (license)

Whether you’re local to the parks or designing an entire vacation around a runDisney event, it’s just as important to make time for rest and relaxation after the race as it is to prepare for the race itself. Even running something as short as a 5K should help you work up a healthy appetite. You don’t need to go all out at a character buffet directly after the race, but it’s a good idea to consume a protein-heavy meal in the first half hour after you finish your run, whatever that looks like for you. Also, remember to continue hydrating even after you’ve finished sweating it out. (Pro tip: Avoid making dining reservations too close to the race time, as that can add to your anxiety if you find the race takes longer than you expected.)

Rather than hitting the theme parks immediately after you cross the finish line, take it easy on your feet for the day: enjoy an afternoon by the pool, take a short, slow stroll through Disney Springs or Downtown Disney, or indulge in a spa treatment at one of the Disney resorts. Should you be the ambitious type who chooses to tackle each one of the races during a runDisney weekend, make sure you follow these guidelines between races, too. You don’t want to wear yourself out in the 5K and 10K and head into the half marathon/full marathon feeling sore and worn out.

What other advice have you found helpful in preparing for your runDisney races? Was it easy to tackle as a novice runner, or, if you’re an experienced runner, did you find it challenging enough?

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