Top 5 Tips for runDisney Spectators

While running through the Walt Disney World theme parks during a runDisney event is magical, spectating is fun too! Cheering on your runner will bring a smile to their face, giving them the extra boost they need.

runDisney Spectator Tips

So how do you prepare for a runDisney race as a spectator? Here are our top 5 tips to make your chEAR experience a magical one!

1. Have a plan (and backup plan). Before race day, sit down with your runner and create a plan. This includes where you plan on spectating (so both of you can be on the lookout), how you will communicate during the race, where to meet after the race, etc. When it comes to communication during the race, there are a few options. Runner tracking is available for 10K races and longer. Sign up around a week before the race and text messages will be sent to your phone when your runner crosses certain marks along the race course. You can also have your runner text or call you when they are close to your spectating location. (Runners – step off the race course when calling or texting!) Do note that the large usage of cell phones may delay or even not allow service during the race.

2. Find a great spectating location. When making your plan, you’ll want to pick out the locations where you will be spectating. For the shorter races (5K, 10K and 10-miler), you most likely will only be able to spot your runner once near the finish line. For the half marathon races, usually two locations are possible. Great options for the morning half marathons are the Ticket & Transportation Center, inside Magic Kingdom, behind the Grand Floridian or Polynesian resorts and near the finish line. For the Wine & Dine Half Marathon, options include the start line at ESPN Wide World of Sports, around the Boardwalk/Yacht & Beach Club and the finish line. When it comes to the marathon, depending on traffic, you may be able to see them three times. Options for this race include the same as the morning half marathons, Animal Kingdom, the Boardwalk/Yacht & Beach Club area, Epcot and the finish line. When determining where you will spectate from, give a general area. There may be crowds, so you may need to move a little farther from where you originally planned.

3. Allow plenty of transportation time. runDisney races are unique in that you are able to run through the parks and around Walt Disney World property! That also means that many roads are closed due to the races, making transportation quite slow. If you will be driving or using bus transportation as a spectator, allow yourself ample time to get from location to location. This is even more important during the morning races as there is only one entrance into Epcot, backing up traffic significantly. If possible, use the transportation prior to the race start. (Always allow runners priority when it comes to event transportation!)

4. Bring a supply bag. Spectating is a sport too! It is very possible there will be quite a bit of time between when you arrive at your location and when you actually see your runner. Bring along a small bag with food, extra clothes, sunscreen or even activities for the kids. (Your bag will be checked at security prior to entering a park or the family reunion area.) It also never hurts to have a little something for the runners – a fun sign, clappers or even candy!

5. Know your runner and make yourself known. runDisney races include upwards of 25,000 runners. Trying to spot your runner in a sea of bright colors isn’t always so easy! Prior to the race, be sure to get a look at what your runner will be wearing. Also have an idea of their pace, so you know when to start looking for them a little more carefully. (The runner tracking will allow you to know their actual pace on race day.) Having made a plan in advance, your runner will also know what side of the course you will be on!

Not only are you looking for your runner, they are looking for you too! A bright colored shirt, balloon or sign is a great way to help yourself stand out from the crowd. That way, even if you have to move a little farther away from your original plan from earlier, your runner may still be able to spot you. Finding each other in the sea of runners and spectators takes both of you being on the lookout!

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Spectators bring an extra round of magic to runDisney races! Cheer loud, smile big and give those runners the boost they need. Your efforts are not unnoticed!

 

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One of the unique aspects to the Tower of Terror 10-Miler Weekend and Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend is that they are during holiday seasons! There is a lot of fun holiday spirit to enjoy and experience, making your runDisney race weekend even more magical!

runDisney Holiday Magic

Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party*

During select nights in September and October, Mickey invites everyone to join a party in Magic Kingdom! Put on your costume and trick or treat your way through the park. Watch the Boo to You parade and special fireworks appropriately called, HalloWishes! It’s a great way to begin, or end, your Tower of Terror 10-Miler weekend fun!

Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights

One of the most spectacular displays of Christmas spirit is in Disney’s Hollywood Studios! Watch as millions of LED lights dance a choreographed routine to your favorite holiday songs. This fun light display begins the weekend of the Wine & Dine Half Marathon and is from dusk until park closing. You won’t want to miss it!

Holidays at Walt Disney World

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party*

Join Mickey, his friends, the toy soldiers and many more of your holiday favorites select nights in November and December at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party in Magic Kingdom! Enjoy the Christmas Parade, dance with your favorite characters, watch a holiday edition of Wishes and even enjoy some hot cocoa and cookies. It is a great addition to your Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend!

Touring the Resorts & Parks

When it comes to holiday magic, even the parks and resorts get in on the fun! Take a little tour and see how they have transformed overnight. From pumpkins to Christmas trees stories high, you are sure to get into the holiday spirit!

Holidays at Walt Disney World

*Separate party tickets are required. Be sure to purchase them in advance since the parties will most likely sell out during race weekend.

The holiday magic is alive throughout Walt Disney World, so be sure to experience it during your fall runDisney race!

 

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Resort Review – Wilderness Lodge

Be transported to the serenity of America’s Great Northwest at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge!

Wilderness Lodge Review

Surrounded by pine trees, this deluxe resort is hidden from the hustle and bustle of the parks. Located on Bay Lake, the views are full of nature’s beauty! The lobby alone is worth visiting as it towers multiple floors, showcasing hand-carved totem poles! While considered a Magic Kingdom resort, transportation is primarily via bus, with boat transportation available to Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Fort Wilderness Campground.

The resort is quite compact which is nice after a race or long day on your feet in the parks. Room options include standard, woods or courtyard views. Each room has 2 queen beds, 1 king bed or a queen bed with bunk beds. Keep in mind these rooms are small, especially for a deluxe resort. If you would like the added benefit of concierge level, choose from a standard room, deluxe room (which offers much more space!) or the Yosemite or Yellowstone suites. (Concierge level includes access to the Old Faithful Club lounge for food and beverages throughout the day, as well as personalized services throughout your stay.)

There are various recreational options available at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge! Take a swim in the Silver Creek Springs pool or relax in one of the nearby whirlpool spas. Rent a bike and take a spin around the trails. Rent a boat for a relaxing trip around Bay Lake or even try your hand at fishing! The kids can enjoy the Cub’s Den (ages 3-12) while the adults have a date night. There is even a campfire at night to enjoy!

Wilderness Lodge Review

Disney’s Wilderness Lodge offers various restaurants to keep the hunger at bay. Enjoy a hootin’ and hollerin’ time at Whispering Canyon Cafe. For a quick meal, head to Roaring Forks Cafe. If you are looking for a fine dining experience, be sure to make a reservation at Artist Point.

When it comes to a race weekend, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge is a great way to experience a deluxe resort at a lower cost! Runners and spectators will need to take race transportation to the race start, as no other transportation options are available.

For a resort that allows you to relax surrounded by nature when you are not in the parks or running a race, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge is a great experience!

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When it comes to Walt Disney World and Disneyland, there are similarities – but there are also many differences. While runDisney races are no exception, there are quite a few major differences when it comes to ChEAR Squad!

Disneyland ChEAR Squad

If you are planning on running a race in Disneyland, you may be wondering how your spectators will cheer you on. While the parks and start/finish lines are within walking distance, the spectator locations can be quite crowded. If you are familiar with the Anaheim area, you may be able to find other locations along the course (specifically the half marathon) to cheer on your runner.

However, there is one MAJOR difference when it comes to races at Disneyland, spectators CANNOT go inside the park unless they are part of specific ChEAR Squad packages. (For the runners, this means that Main Street USA in Disneyland is not full of the overwhelming cheers like it is in Walt Disney World.)

So is ChEAR Squad worth it at Disneyland? Let’s take a look!

Bronze Package

Like the Walt Disney World ChEAR Squad, the bronze package is no cost and includes a newsletter. Since there is no cost, there is no harm in signing up for information regarding race weekend!

 

Silver Package

This package is between $39 and $45 per spectator. Along with the newsletter, you will also receive a waterproof stadium blanket, Mickey clappers and a cotton ChEAR Squad t-shirt. (These are the same as what you would receive at Walt Disney World events.) The main addition is that you will be given access to enter Disneyland theme park to watch your runner along Main Street USA! You will be able to see your runner as they enter the park, as well as when they come through Sleeping Beauty castle.

Disneyland ChEAR Squad

Gold Package

This package is between $59 and $69 per spectator. Along with all the amenities of the Silver package (including entrance into Disneyland park), you will also receive grandstand seating at the finish line. Since the finisher’s chute is along the road next to Disneyland Hotel, it can be quite difficult to find a good viewing location near the finish line. This aspect of ChEAR Squad guarantees a nice view as your runner finishes their race! (Note: Seating is first-come, first-served.)

Disneyland ChEAR Squad

Platinum Package

This package is $99 per spectator. Along with all the amenities of the Gold package (including entrance to Disneyland park), you will be treated to a VIP experience near the finish line! Enjoy more comfortable seating, a continental breakfast, executive style restrooms, live course feed of the finish line and complimentary parking at the Disneyland Hotel.

  Disneyland ChEAR Squad

So is ChEAR Squad worth the money? It ultimately depends on your plan to watch your runner. If you would like the ease and access of watching your runner at not quite as crowded locations, we recommend at least the Gold package. The ability to watch your runner in Disneyland park as well as at the finish line is a nice amenity.

As for the Platinum package, it really depends on if you would like a continental breakfast. The courses tend to have the runners go through the parks within the first few miles, giving you time to walk back to the finish line and enjoy a little meal before your runner finishes. (Keep in mind – this ultimately depends on how fast your runner is!) Of course, you can always bring your own snacks and breakfast if you would like. Also, note that your runner CANNOT come in for breakfast with you, unlike Race Retreat at Walt Disney World!

The nice thing about the Disneyland races is that there are plenty of areas to watch your runner, from Downtown Disney to along the streets of Anaheim. However, if you are unfamiliar with the area, your spectator spots are limited to near the parks and start/finish. This is absolutely doable without ChEAR Squad, just as it is in Walt Disney World.

Here are a few questions to consider when it comes to ChEAR Squad:

  • Would you like to watch your runner inside Disneyland park? If so, purchase Silver or higher.
  • Will you be spectating with children? If so, think of the extra cost involved. (Note: Children under 3 are no cost.)
  • Would you like to watch your runner at the finish line? If so, purchase Gold or higher.
  • Will your runner finish quickly? Determine if Platinum would be worth the extra cost.
  • Are you familiar with the Anaheim area? If so, you may be able to find other places to spectate.

Be sure to check out our review of the ChEAR Squad for runDisney races at Walt Disney World too!

 

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After the 2014 Princess Half Marathon, we saw a recap that exceeded all other runDisney race recaps. A young girl named Sarah Kate finished the Mickey Mile, stealing the hearts of cast members, characters, spectators and many others. (Click here to read this amazing recap!) Her inspiring story was one we wanted to learn more about, and her mother, Andi, was happy to answer a few questions we had. Even better, runDisney captured Andi and Sarah Kate’s story as one of their Why I runDisney videos! Take a look at this amazing mother and daughter, along with their truly inspiring family.

Sarah Kate

Running is clearly something your entire family enjoys! How did your running journey begin?

I began running in high school back in the 80s as a way to stay in shape, but didn’t attempt my first endurance race until I was in my 30s. My third half marathon was at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, in 2007, and that experience hooked me on running Disney.

 

Why did you choose runDisney races?

My first Disney race I ran with a college friend of mine. We had moved away from each other and we were looking for a girls’ trip we could do together. Another acquaintance of mine happened to be running the same race, so we met up while we were in California. She’s an even bigger RunDisney fanatic than I am, and since then we’ve become great friends and do a lot of the races together.

 

What runDisney races have you all experienced?

It might be be easier to say which ones we haven’t! I’ve run the Disneyland Half, the Walt Disney World Marathon, Half, and Goofy, the Princess Half, 10K, and Glass Slipper, the Wine and Dine Half, the now-retired Tower of Terror 13K and Minnie 15K, and several 5K Family Fun Runs. Sarah Kate has run the 200 meter and 400 meter kids races at various RunDisney events, as well as the Princess Mile this year, and my four year old son, Nathan, has run a Disney race every year since he was born – the diaper dash his first year and the 100 meters the other years.

Sarah Kate

During her amazing Mickey Mile performance, Sarah Kate had a wheelchair close by if needed. Are there other accommodations runDisney makes?

The wheelchair we took on the course is a transport-type that we carry with us whenever we go to Walt Disney World, because she can walk independently but doesn’t have the stamina to navigate the parks. RunDisney graciously allowed us to take it onto the course, but they also let us know that if she needed it, a golf cart would be on the course that could pick her up. Taking the wheelchair on the course turned out to be a great decision, as she was able to finish the race pushing it, rather than having to be picked up.

 

runDisney recently released a #WhyIrunDisney video featuring Sarah Kate. Can you tell us a little more about that? 

A couple of weeks after Sarah Kate’s race, I was contacted by Bob Hitchcock of the Walt Disney Company. A number of people had told him about Sarah Kate’s mile finish and urged him to contact us. About a month after the race, he and his cameraman came to our hometown and spent some time interviewing Sarah Kate and me and filming her at school and with her running club. The video is part of their #WhyIrunDisney social media campaign and will be used in a variety of ways to promote the runDisney race series.

 

What tips do you have for parents of special needs children if they are looking to participate in a runDisney event? (Both kids and adults!)

Just ask! If your child needs any special accommodations in order to participate, ask what, if anything, Disney can do to help. It has been our experience that they want people – ALL people! – to have a great experience, and are willing to go the extra mile to make sure that happens. The earlier you can make any special requests, the better. Not every request can be accommodated, but it never hurts to ask.

 

What races are you looking forward to running?

Our next runDisney event is the Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend in November. Nathan is four now, so he will be moving up to the 200 meters kids race this time, and I will run the half marathon. Sarah Kate had major orthopedic surgery this spring and is spending the summer in rehab, so we aren’t sure how far along the road to recovery she will be by November, but the Wine and Dine Mile is one of her goals.

Sarah Kate

A BIG thank you to Andi and Sarah Kate for allowing us to interview them! We look forward to seeing them at an upcoming runDisney race!

 

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Best Character Meals for Dinner

We all want to celebrate our runDisney race accomplishments! A great way to do so is by enjoying a character meal. Not only does it fill your hungry runner’s belly, but it also allows for great photo opportunities with your new medal! This series will include great character meal options for you to celebrate! (See Also: Breakfast)

Once you complete your race and get your new medal, a fun way to celebrate is a wonderful dinner. Here are a few character meal options for a celebratory dinner!

Best Character Meals for Dinner

Garden Grill

Located in The Land at Epcot, this character meal is a hidden gem. The restaurant slowly rotates so you have new scenery throughout your meal. Add in visits from Mickey, Pluto, Chip & Dale, and this is a dinner that is sure to please! Dinner is family style and includes salad, beef, turkey, fish of the day, vegetables, potatoes and bread pudding. Even better, the characters are in their farmer’s best!

1900 Park Fare

For a dinner that is sure to leave an impression, head to the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa! This restaurant includes appearances by Cinderella, Prince Charming, Lady Tremaine and the hilarious duo of Anastasia and Drizella. (Be sure to keep a tight grip on those medals!) This buffet meal includes hot items like pot stickers, ribs, seafood, chicken, flatbread, salmon and more, as well as a salad bar area and carving station.

Cinderella’s Royal Table

If you are looking for a one-of-a-kind celebration, then dining in Cinderella Castle is it! Join Cinderella and her princess friends for a dinner in the castle that is sure to make magical memories. Gaze on Magic Kingdom from above or even watch Wishes if you time it correctly! This experience does come with a hefty price tag, however your photo with Cinderella and gratuity is included. Dine on slow roasted pork loin, grilled swordfish, tomato risotto and more. Be sure to leave room for dessert!

 

No matter what dinner you choose, your runDisney accomplishment is something you will celebrate for a long time to come!

 

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