The runDisney announcement of yet another awesome race event earlier this week just solidifies the trend of runners’ vacations at the Disney Parks.  With eight weekends now spanning the year on both coasts, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved in a runDisney event.

Pick A Weekend

If you’re planning to run on the left coast, make note of the newest member of the family, Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon Weekend in November in addition to the well-established Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend in August and the Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend in January.  Walt Disney World (currently) has a slight edge with five race weekends to Disneyland’s three hosting the Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend in February, the Expedition Everest Challenge in May, Tower of Terror Ten Miler Weekend in October, Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon in November and, of course, the popular Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend in January.

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Get Park Wise: Each weekend has its perks, but Walt Disney World’s Tower of Terror Ten-Miler weekend will coincide with Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival, as well as Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Parties (and Halloween Horror Nights if you swing that way), while Wine and Dine Half Weekend will also feature Food and Wine and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Parties and the holidayfied parks and resorts.  These extra events may help you get a little more bang for your buck.

Choose Your Event

Each weekend features events for every level of runner from novice (hello, ME!) to, well, Dopey and Goofy runners.  If you’re just dipping your toe into the running world consider signing up for a 5K.  You still feel very much a part of the runDisney crowd and can get a taste of running life.  For those a little further along in their training but not quite ready for the big guns, half of the weekends offer a 10K, too.  Of course, those well-trained runners will want to register for the title runs.  And you crazy hardcore athletes can even pick up an extra medal at some of the events by completing multiple races during the weekend.

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Get Park Wise: A fun bonus of race weekend is all the swag surrounding the events.  Your registration fee typically includes your bib and t-shirt as far as tangible souvenirs, but, in typical Disney fashion, other goodies are available for purchase both during the weekend and during the registration process.  Digital swag is also given to registered participants and may include discounts, coupons, etc.

Get Everyone Involved

Disney is more fun with a partner in crime (or two) or with the family in tow, and runDisney events are no different!  Grab your best friend, create a Disney playlist (Let It Go seems to be runDisney fans’ latest anthem) and start training!  Many of the 5Ks are family oriented, as well, and are fun for runners of all ages.  If your little one isn’t quite up to 3 miles (or you’re not up to a piggy back ride for the last two miles of the run), each event offers up a set of kids’ races, too.  Littles from crawlers to eight year olds can earn their own medal just like mom and dad!

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Start Training

Whether you’re brand new to running or are a seasoned vet, it’s a good idea to get a few runs under your belt with your runDisney race in mind, especially if you’re headed to Florida.  Running in that ridiculous humidity can be quite different than a run around your local track on a nice evening.  Luckily most events take place during cooler months, but it’s always good to be prepared.

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While I’ve heard of runners breezing through a 5K with no training at all, for me it was part of the fun.  My first 5K gave me motivation to hit the pavement when I was perfectly comfy on the couch scrolling through Facebook.  It was probably also the fear of fainting from the mixture of jogging and 900% humidity on a Florida day.  Either way, a couple months of practice prior to the run did nothing but good.

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Planning Your Vacation

Let’s not forget you’re headed to the Disney Parks!!  Before and after the event, there’s theme park fun to be had!  Disney offers participants special room and ticket rates, so peruse the runDisney site (or, ahem, contact your favorite travel agent!) to take advantage of special offers for event runners.  When planning your days, I definitely advise situating the race at the beginning of your vacation.  I don’t know about you, but after a week of walking the parks, I don’t think I’d be raring to run.  It’s also a pretty good idea not to plan your favorite all-you-can-shove-down-your-gullet buffet the night before the race.  Save it for the following night to avoid spilling your protein all over your new best run buddies.

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Get Park Wise: Be sure to build in some time to explore the expo when you pick up your packet or on race day.  Lots of fun vendors and usually a few freebies to be had.  This is also the spot to snag a fun pair of runDisney New Balance kicks.

Other than those few differences, a runDisney vacation is pretty similar to any other trip to the parks.  Oh, except you get to look fantastic sporting that medal down Main St. USA.

Have you done a runDisney vacation?  What are your best tips?