I’ve been talking to a friend making her way to Disneyland for the first time for Tinker Bell weekend. She’s asked about rides, shows, and places to eat. She’s a Walt Disney World runner and is curious how the races stack up. Disneyland vs Walt Disney World racing: which is best?
Disneyland! No, wait, Walt Disney World! Ask any runDisney runner and you will get an earful as to why one park is a better running experience than the other.
There is no clear consensus- I’m convinced that it boils down to geography. By number, there are more Disney World participants so you probably hear that it’s better more often.
But it’s not. Ahem.
West coast represent! Anywhoo…
Here are my observations after running coast to coast for the past five years.
Walt Disney World Racing
Bigger races. The capacity at the races is much larger. For example, the Princess Half Marathon had around 20,000 finishers this year.
Long stretches of highway. A little boring, but you aren’t wasting energy on twists and turns in the road, right?
Less fan support due to the highway miles. The fans pack Main Street, USA however. And that’s an impressive sight!
More characters on the course since Disney owns all the roads. A huge plus for the runDisney fan. You stay inside the Disney bubble the entire race.
Earlier starts: be on that first bus at 3 am. Seriously. 3am.
Transportation is necessary to the start and at the finish- unless you are going straight into Epcot to celebrate!
Long walks to the corrals. From drop off at the bus to the starting line at Princess Half Marathon you cover an extra 1.5 miles.
Race retreat is offered at some races.
Weather is generally hot and humid. It’s Florida.
Post race massages. Bring a little cash, and you can get a rub down before you head to your bus!
Smaller races. The Disneyland Half had around 13,000 runners last year.
Less highway, more city streets. It’s a mullet race: party in the front (the time in the parks) and business in the back (city streets).
More variety. Every race has a different route for the half marathons. Some of the 5Ks and 10Ks are different as well. The 10Ks and 5Ks are almost all in the parks- which sounds great, but be prepared for tight areas and bottlenecks.
HUGE local support. High School bands and cheerleaders, classic car clubs, Red Hat Society, and Girl and Boy Scouts line the courses.
Fewer characters. Disney doesn’t have rights to the roads as they do in Orlando, so the characters are limited to where they can appear. Once you leave the parks, you will not have official character stops. Walt Disney and Michael Jackson have been known to appear, however, in the form of crowd support on the city streets.
Sleep in: Disneyland races take less effort and planning to get to the start. Most racers can just walk from their hotels to the corrals. No bus, no fuss, no muss!
No race retreats- but I did get a FREE massage pre-Disneyland Half in 2013. I don’t remember that option at the Walt Disney World races.
Weather can be lovely. Southern California typically has less humidity and mild temperatures year round. Hey, it’s why people pay the big bucks to live there!
However, the 2013 Disneyland Half was one of the hottest race weekends I’ve experienced… so it’s obviously not a rule.
BOTH COASTS: Balloon ladies/men who will keep a 16-minute mile pace. Be sure you stay ahead of them, no matter which coast you are one!
Do you run coast to coast? Can you think of anything I’ve missed?
Patty Holliday is a Marvel loving, Disney obsessed wife, and mother of four. She’s a travel agent specializing in Disney & Universal vacations- and loves a candid confession. Find her in Virginia (or anywhere frequent flyer miles or her trusty minivan takes her.)