disneyland half marathon tips

by @according2kelly on August 21, 2013


looking for a few disneyland half marathon tips (& tricks)?! considering the 2013 disneyland marathon is going to the 4th time i’ll run this race (in 2009 it was my first race ever, in 2010 i rocked my first pair of wings, in 2011 i PR’ed by 15 minutes, & 2012 reminded why i love & need to run),  i’m a self-proclaimed expert on disneyland half marathon running tips & tricks.

disneyland half marathon tips {& tricks}

* the night before make sure you carb up, drink plenty of water, prep & get to bed early – the disneyland half marathon starts super duper early (5:30am yikes!). i’d suggest trying to get lots of sleep for several nights before the big race – that way, if you’re tossing & turing the night before, you’ll already be well-rested.

* lay out all your clothes & gear the night before – clothes, shoes, socks, bib… everything. with a 5:30 start time, you’ll be up even earlier, so you’ll be most likely half-asleep as you’re getting dressed. if everything is laid out, then you’re less likely to forget something.


* wear your race bib on the front! the race bib serves two very important purposes (in my opinion) – it makes it easy to find your pictures after the race (the computer software searches the race numbers in pictures & sends you an email with all of your pictures, it’s pretty amazing & pretty fabulous), & your race bib makes it easy for people to cheer for you. most likely your name is on the front, & spectators love to shout your name as you run. & frankly, i love hearing my name – one of the many reasons i love runDisney… personalized race bibs.

* think about what you are going to eat in the morning. although several “eateries” throughout downtown disney district & inside the hotels will be open, i’d suggest picking up something the night before – you want to eliminate as much worry & stress the morning of as possible. & honestly, you don’t have to really anything special – just eat want you would normally eat before a long run, you don’t want to do anything that might upset your stomach. & don’t forget to bring a little something extra along to the start line to eat & a bottle of water… you might want to nibble on an energy bar & sip some water right before the race begins.

* if at all possible walk to the start line. if you’re staying at a “good neighbor” hotels take one of the shuttles that run every “20 minutes.” whatever you do – avoid driving if at all possible. IF driving is un-avoidable (as it often has been for me) make sure to allow plenty of extra time. there is alway a backup & remember that certain i-5 exits will begin to close – so “running late for this very important race” is definitely not an option.


* the weather in california is nearly always perfect & absolutely beautiful. but in the wee early mornings it can be extremely cold (even in the summer). so wear an old long sleeve t-shirt or sweatshirt to the starting line (or pick one up at the thrift store for this very specific reason) – it will keep you warm as you wait for the race to begin. when it’s no longer needed (before the race begins, or even a few miles in) toss it to the side. all discarded clothing is collected & donated charity.

* gear check is the perfect opportunity to have all your stuff you don’t want to carry with you on the run ready & waiting for you at the finish line (maybe you want to clothes to change into, or a pair of flip flops for after?!) you must use the clear plastic bag given to you when you pick up your bib, no other bag will be accepted. you will also receive a numbered sticker that corresponds to your race bib – stick this on the outside of the bag. this is how you identify it as yours! check it in prior to the beginning of the race, & you can pick it up at the finish line. easy peasy.

* go to the restroom before you leave for the race. go again once you arrive at the start line. & go a final time before the race starts. race jitters usually causes your stomach to react… once you start running it usually calms down. but i’d suggest using the restroom a number of times prior to the race. once you the race begins there will be plenty of restrooms & port-a-potties along the route. my word of advice for avoiding port-a-potties is to use the disneyland resort bathrooms that are open inside the park – they will be nice & clean. although, to be honest, the port-a-potty is an important part of every race experience.* for many runners, character pictures are a huge part of the runDisney experience. just remember that only a portion of the runDisney disneyland half marathon course (approx. miles 2 -4 & mile 12 which runs through the backlot area) are “on” property. what does this mean? character pictures are only available when you are running inside the parks – so make those photo opportunities count!* speaking of photographers – want to make sure you get really fabulous pictures? play iSpy the photographer as you run… always keep a look out for the photographers on the course. i like to literally “run towards them.” make eye contact with them, smile big & have fun with it. & there’s nothing wrong with zigzagging the course to ensure you “hit” as many photographers as absolutely possible. at the end of the day, i want to have as many photo options as possible. running a half marathon is a big deal – make sure to document it!


* run safe – run aware. running through the parks & the city of anaheim is definitely exciting & always fun. just be aware of where you are running & who is running around you – it’s easy to get distracted. the course occasionally narrows & around mile 8 (just as you pass the honda center), there’s even a portion that’s a “trail.”

* always be courteous – this really shouldn’t need an explanation, but always do your best to make sure that this truly is magical race for yourself & those around you. i love to say hi & chat with runners, as best i can, during the race. you’ll be surprised at how quickly & easily you’ll meet friends along the way.

* have friends & family cheering you on? if they want to be inside disneyland park & have the best seats at the finish line, they can purchase a gold or platinum ChEAR squad package. but that’s not the only way to see the runners! here are some of runDisney’s officially recommended viewing areas for the disneyland half are:

  • starting line: disneyland drive to katella, accessible by foot only (5:30am – 6:35am, mile 1)
  • disneyland resort esplanade: between disneyland & DCA, accessible by foot only (5:40am – 7:05am, mile 2.6)
  • disneyland drive to ball road, accessible by foot only (6am – 7:25am, miles 4 – 4.5)
  • angel stadium, accessible via orangewood ave. entrance (6:05am – 9:05am, miles 9.5)
  • finish line: between disneyland hotel & ESPN zone, accessibly by foot only (6:15am – 10am, mile 13.1)

although, since so much of the race is off-property there are LOTS of other places for spectators to cheer & watch, if you study the race course.


* if you’re wearing a garmin, or any other gps/ timing device make sure to press stop either a short distance before you cross the finish line or a short distance after you cross the finish line. there will be tons of photographers on hand to capture your big moment, & the last thing you want a picture of is you, looking at your watch. the timing chip will record every footstep, so you’re sure to know the exact length of time your journey took to complete – so make sure you cross that finish line with a big smile. maybe even through your hands up in the air, or jump for joy. this is YOUR moment! enjoy it!

* once you cross the finish line there will be medals, mylar blankets, cooling towels, water, powerade & lots of food ready & waiting. if you’re family &/or friends will be greeting you at the finish, make sure to have a pre-arranged place. the finish line can get crazy, & sometimes cell service is spotty because of the vast number of people – so plan ahead!

* want to get your medal engraved with your finish time to celebrate this occasion? it’s totally possible – just make sure to have some cash or a credit card on hand!

* after you rock the race, wear that medal with pride. it’s totally acceptable to wear your medal everywhere you go for the next several days. i’ve been known to wear mine on the plane ride home.


hopefully these disneyland half marathon tips & tricks will help you feel more prepared to rock the race!


Hi! My sister and I are running the Tinkerbell Half in January - she wants to hit the parks both Friday and Saturday beforehand, plus Sunday and Monday after. I think doing both Friday and Saturday will tire our legs out for the race - I'd rather do a light day at the park Saturday and skip Friday altogether. What do you think would be best? Am I being over cautious? It's her first half and my first in a long while. Thanks!


Thanks for all the great tips! I'm running the Tinkerbell Half in 2014. It's my first half ever and first RunDisney event. I'm so excited and I know these tips will be helpful then as well. 


Great set of tips!  I would love to do a DL destination race, some day. Maybe when the kids are old enough to really enjoy DL!


Great list, Kelly!


Can't believe this race is next weekend; these are great tips, especially for a DL newbie like myself :)

Jen at The Final Forty
Jen at The Final Forty

Thanks SO much for the tips, Kelly! This is super helpful. It's my first trip to DL, and second runDisney race...can't wait! :-D

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