Last weekend I had the pleasure of cheering for some of my friends as they ran in the Royal Family 5k and the Princess Half Marathon. The mornings were early, but watching them achieve their running goals was totally worth it. I have cheered for other races at Disney World as well so I thought I’d take this week’s post to help out some of our readers who might be wondering how it all works.
You need to wake up really, really early. I got up at about 5:30 for the 5k race and 3:30 a.m. for the half marathon. Yup, that’s dedication and love. The races start early so they are over or mostly over before the parks open in the morning. If the runners are up and ready to go that early, the spectators must be too. I find the best way to make my way to the race site is to take the Disney provided bus from my resort. There are always “sponsored” resorts during Run Disney weekends and those provide buses to bring runners and spectators to the race site. I usually head out with my friends who are also running since the buses stop running shortly before the race begins. You can usually drive your own car and park, but you must do so early before they close the roads for the race. It is a good idea to check on the parking procedure for each race since you were not able to self park on site for the Expedition Everest Challenge last year.
Along with making transportation as easy as possible, I also like to be there before the race begins to feel the excitement and energy before the event begins! This way I get to visit with my friends and wish them luck before they head off to their corrals. After they make their way to the start, I like to find my spot to cheer. Since folks can only cheer from certain areas along the course, space can be limited. You may want to head to your desired area pretty early to get a good place along the rope so your runners can see you. During this 5k we could only watch from around the finish line so we got our spot and stayed there throughout the event. However, for the half marathon we moved around a few times so we could see our friends multiple times throughout their 13.1 miles. After hanging out before the start in the Epcot parking lot, we made our way to Main Street in the Magic Kingdom. We waited for all of our runners to pass before making our way back to Epcot where we hung out around the bus stop which was approximately mile 12 on the course. Since we were cheering for about 20 people we were usually in the same spot for a while before moving on.
Yes, I knew 20 people running this race so how did we track them all? Run Disney provides runner tracking via the chip in their bibs, but it isn’t always the most reliable way to keep tabs on your friends and family. Sometimes we keep in touch with people with texting, but that isn’t always convenient for the runners. We have found the best way to know where our people are along the course is to use an app called Find My Friends. I didn’t have it on my phone, but several in my group did. We were sure to have each of our runners connected to the app so we could know where they were along the route. It worked really well and we always knew when someone was approaching so we could be ready with their signs.
Of course we cheered for our loved ones along the way, but we also yelled for anyone passing by. We had signs made up for each of our people, but also had some generic ones to encourage everyone taking on this feat. I couldn’t believe how many people yelled “thank you!” to us as they went by. Getting out there to cheer really means a lot to the runners whether they know you or not.
Run Disney does provide special opportunities for spectators with their Chear Squad packages. There are different categories within the Chear Squad packages which included different amenities such as access to reserved seating, a T-shirt, food and beverage service, etc. These benefits can come with a hefty price tag depending on which options you select. I don’t see myself ever springing for one of these packages in the future but you may think they are a great deal.
As far as logistical items like food and bathrooms Disney has got that covered for spectators. There is a concession stand set up at the start/finish of the race with drink s and some food options. On the morning of the half marathon the coffee stand outside the main gate of Epcot as well as at the Ticket and Transportation Center were open, but had long lines. Casey’s Corner was open on Main Street and was serving various breakfast items, but most importantly they had coffee. You certainly can find something to eat even before the sun comes up! As for bathrooms, there are porta-potties set up in the Epcot parking lot, but regular bathrooms are easy to find as well. The regular park bathrooms are open to guests who are cheering so you won’t have to worry about finding a place to go if you’d rather skip the porta-potty.
I had a really great time yelling and ringing my cow bell as my friends ran by us! If you love someone who participates in Run Disney events, I encourage you to get out there and support them! Who knows you may even catch the running fever from the excitement surrounding the runDisney events! It happened to me and I’m planning to try my hand at the Princess Half Marathon next year! Watching my friends accomplish half marathons and various RunDisney races has really inspired me to try it myself. So keep an eye our next year for a blog post from a runner’s perspective!
Do you have any other tips for runDisney spectators? Please share them in the comments!