One thing that makes runDisney events so unique is the opportunity to stop along the course for photos with Disney characters. Meeting characters along the race route can be a fun and exciting experience. It can also require a little bit of strategy along the way.
Most runDisney events require runners to maintain a 16 minute pace to avoid being “swept” or picked up along the course for taking too long to finish. While the 5K races are a little bit more lenient on this, the other races tend to stick to the rules, leaving you with a limited amount of time for stops. So how can you finish on time and stop for as many photos as possible? Here are some strategies that work for me!
One strategy that I use to stop for as many character photos as possible, is to run faster in training than I will run in the actual race. For example, I usually run somewhere between a 10-12 minute mile when I run at home. If I run that fast in the race, I can buy myself extra time to stop for characters while still staying ahead of the required pace.
Get to the front of your corral
Corral starts now happen in “waves” instead of the whole corral starting at the same time. This provides the opportunity to possibly gain an extra few minutes for stops. By arriving early for the race and waiting at the front of the corral, you can start your race a little bit earlier than the back of the pack. An extra minute or two may not seem like much, but every little bit helps!
Be ready to have your photo taken
My race partner and I always decide where to stand for the photo while waiting in line for a photo op. This might sound silly, but you don’t want to waste time figuring out who is standing where for a photo when your turn comes up. This will slow you down and annoy the runners in line behind you.
You typically only get one photo, maybe 2, from each photographer. Have your smile ready as soon as you get in place. There is also usually an additional Cast Member with the photographer who is willing to take a picture with your cell phone. I highly recommend doing this just in case you close your eyes, someone makes a bad face, or your Photopass photo does not show up for some reason. My picture with the 3 Little Pigs below never showed up on my Photopass account, so I was glad that we took a phone picture as well. Make sure you have your camera open on your phone before handing it to the Cast Member.
Using your cell phone can also be a way to get some pictures if you aren’t going to purchase a Memory Maker photo package. I would certainly recommend purchasing it though. You end up with so many great photos. It’s worth it!
Have a plan for photo stops that do not have a Photopass photographer
Sometimes, you will find fun photo locations on the race route that do not have a PhotoPass photographer, but still have a line of runners waiting to have their picture taken. Extinct ride vehicles, a Tower of Terror bellhop, and a choir are just some the things I have seen at runDisney events. If you are running alone or you want everyone in the picture, you are going to need a volunteer photographer. You could always take a selfie, but in my experience, these don’t turn out well in the early parts of the course when it is still dark. My suggestion for opportunities like this is to ask the runner behind you to take your photo. In return, offer to wait and take their photo as well. You get your photo taken and you help out another runner. Win-win!
Decide ahead of time which characters are worth a stop
If you are pressed for time, you may need to pick and choose which characters are worth stopping for. Keep in mind that sometimes rare characters show up at runDisney events. You probably don’t want to miss these! At the Wine and Dine 10K this year, we got to see Oswald at our race. I was so excited! This stop, however, cost us somewhere between 12-15 minutes! That is a lot of time to sacrifice, but to me, it was worth it.
This year, I am running my first Princess Half Marathon. We have already planned to skip characters that are easily found at the park and hold out for characters that are rare or photo opportunities that are unique. For example, I love Donald, but I know I can find him near Mexico at Epcot, so he would be a definite skip. Some decisions you will have to make on the fly, but it’s good to have an idea of what you are willing to stop for in advance.
Track your time
I usually run an app on my phone to keep track of my pace. This helps me to know how much time I have for stops. Keep in mind that the 16 minute per mile pace is based on the last person to cross the starting line, so if you started in an earlier corral, you may have a little more flexibility with the time. Using a device to track your pace can help you manage that. Just remember to start it when you start the race. It can be easy to forget with the all the excitement!
Don’t forget that finisher photo!
You did it! You crossed the finish line and stopped for some great photo opportunities along the way! Don’t forget to stop for a finisher photo after the race to celebrate your accomplishment. After all, the most important “character” in this race is you!
Have you run in a runDisney event? Do you have a strategy for maximizing your character stops? Share your experiences in the comments!
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I am a Florida native and a life-long Disney fan. I have visited Walt Disney World more times than I can count, but I always find myself looking forward to my next trip! I also enjoy reading, baking, and kayaking in my spare time. Follow me on Twitter-@tinkerbellteeny