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Running Universal Like WHOA! Your Running Universal Orlando 101

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  1. Universal Orlando hosted the very first (of many? We hope!) race weekends on February 1-2, 2020 with the Epic Character 5K and 10K runs. And, WHOA was it amazing! Here’s everything you need to know about the 2020 Epic Character race weekend! I’ve got the Running Universal 101 for you. From packet pick up to corraling to course maps to characters, here’s the 2020 Epic Running Universal Orlando weekend review. 

running universal medal in front of globe

I was hosted by Universal Orlando to experience the Epic Character Race Weekend as media. 

Running Universal Like WHOA! Your Running Universal Orlando 101

I absolutely dislike running (true story) but am in love with running through theme parks. 

After running the other Orlando theme parks for years, I was thrilled when Universal Orlando announced the Running Universal race weekend

Flat racecourse? Check!

Tons of exciting scenery? Check!

Fabulous finisher medals? Check!

Character photo stops? Check!

hashtag the panda running universal orlando characters

This race weekend turned out to be one of my most favorite memory makers to date and I do hope there’s another race announced soon. 

Because I need to sign up- and so do you. C’mon, Running Universal, let’s make this a sequel!

Running Universal Orlando is a must-do for any theme park lover. Here’s the Running Universal 101 to answer all your questions from the race weekend. 

Be sure to check out Universal Orlando’s website for more Running Universal details. 

1. Packet Pick Up at Running Univeral Orlando

There wasn’t an actual race expo for this small experience, but there was a smooth and efficient race packet pickup at Running Universal. 

They held the pickup in the Blue Man Group Theatre, which does not require a park ticket to enter.

Universal Orlando also offered free parking for packet pickup as well as race day, which helped make the process a smooth one.

running universal orlando packet pickup

Runners signing waivers and picking up their Running Universal race day packets.

If you wanted merch, there were a few options such as water bottles, t-shirts, visors located just outside of packet pickup. 

I fell in love with a sleeveless hoodie shirt that ended up coming home with me!

By the way: your Universal Orlando annual pass discounts could be applied to the merchandise. SCORE!

Runner and Epic Fan Swag

I ran the 5K, which meant I took him this great finishers shirt.

But I also signed up for the Epic Fan cheer option for the 10K so I could support my friends, which meant I took home this hat and shirt- and I won’t lie, these are probably my most favorite souvenirs from the race! 

running universal orlando swag

5K race shirt and medal on the left, Epic Fan registration swag on the right.

One note about the race shirts: they are tech material, but not the smooth, soft type that I prefer. The shirt is a little scratchy and Running Universal only offered unisex adult-sized shirts this year. 

If you had a small child running you were out of luck on sizing. 

2. Running Universal Race Corrals and Start Line

If you are used to running large events, the corraling and start line process can be intimidating. And stressful. And honestly, just not a lot of fun. 

There was none of that at Running Universal. 

Free transportation via water taxis or resort buses took runners to the Universal parking structure. Transportation was quick and easy and comfortable- motor coaches for the win!

Once in the garage, you followed the crowd through security and over to the start line and corral area. 

running universal orlando start line sign

Two things to note here: 

  1. There were REAL bathrooms inside the parking structure – and there were porta-potties lined up just before you left the structure to hit the corrals. 
  2. There was an open coffee stand selling caffeine and donuts and a table with water available for free. 

Basically, all your needs were met!

What Corral Will I Be In At a Running Universal Race?

Us old-time runDisney runners can’t help ourselves; this is usually a huge concern to us! But Running Universal took a very hands-off approach to corraling runners. 

By most accounts, if you submitted a finish line of 8 minutes per mile or less (estimated) you were given an Elite corral sticker or placed in Corral A. 

running universal orlando corrals

Everyone else was seeded on a first come first served basis into B or C corrals. If you arrived early, you were sent to B corral; latecomers mostly ended up in C or backfilled into the other corrals as needed. 

I don’t feel like this was a huge issue because both the 5K race and the 10K race were relatively small and the first mile was pretty wide open for running. 

3. The Race Courses at Running Universal Orlando: ALL the Park Time!

Guys, I loved these courses. I ran the 5K and only had one minor wish- and that was to duck into Diagon Alley along the course. 

But the security guard said no, and I wasn’t looking to get arrested during a 5K, so I’ll have to live with all the other epic photo ops I found along the racecourse. 

Running Universal 5K Map

running universal 5K race map

The start was great- about a mile to stretch out and run if you wanted to get your legs under you. Then we entered backstage and soon were inside the parks. 

Everything was well lit, The Hulk was roaring as we ran past, and there were tons of characters out!

Also? Real bathrooms galore. Like, so many places to pop in and out on this course. 

If you know me, you know I was in heaven!

Running Universal 10K Map

running universal 10K race map

Running Universal Orlando 101 Podcast

I didn’t run the 10K, but on the No-Guilt Fangirls Podcast I have Tania from and she ran this one. So we run down (get it?) both courses and talk a bit about what we loved about them. 

Take a listen to what we thought about the entire race weekend in our Running Universal review. 

Essentially: we loved all the park time. It was a huge hit to get so much time on stage and backstage.

If you are a runDisney kind of person and ever ran the races at Disneyland: this is exactly the feel we had when running Universal Orlando. All the parks, none of the boring highway, and tons of entertainment along the way.

running universal on course pic

4. Characters On The Running Universal Race Course

So. Many. Characters!

At least for us. I heard the front of the pack might have seen far fewer due to the rain. 

But by the time we rolled into the theme parks, the rain had mostly stopped and we started taking all the pictures with all the characters we could find.

popeye and olive oil running universal


running universal character stops puss and boots

A few things about the photographs from the 5K: there were not a lot of photographers on the course itself taking running pictures. I think I only saw 2.

But they were stationed at most of the character stops we visited once the race went away, so maybe it was just the rain keeping them off the course. 

I think we bypassed 2 of them, so in total we ended up with 9 different meet and greets along a 5K course.

Universal Orlando packed this course with character opps and this, this my friends, is why I run!

running universal characters on the course shrek and donkey

Donkey was KILL-ING-IT during the race. I was caught mid-laugh- best character interaction ever.

What Characters Were On the Universal Orlando 5K Course?

  • Betty Boop
  • Popeye and Olive Oyl
  • Puss and Boots
  • Dr. Seuss characters
  • Knight Bus Driver and Conductor
  • Side Show Bob and Krusty the Clown
  • Mardi Gras parade characters
  • Shrek and Donkey
  • Bumble Bee and Optimus Prime Transformers
  • Blue Brothers
  • Hashtag the Panda

knight bus on the running universal course 5K


krusty and sideshow bob running universal orlando characters on the course

At the end of the race, you could also take a picture with a Minion or Alex the Lion from Madagascar. 

5. The Finish Line

The finish of the race is backstage just behind Rip Ride Rockit. 

After you cross, we picked up water, bananas, and a snack pack. 

Oh, and those gorgeous medals!

running universal orlando medal in diagon alley

Photographers were available to take your picture as you finished and if you bought the Race Butler photo package, you could also have a fun finish line video. 

Running Universal Orlando Review

Would I do it again? 

You bet your Butterbeer I would! If you listen to the podcast shared above, you’ll see just how much we loved the whole weekend. 

I think this race experience was more relaxed, more enjoyable, and more fun than any I’ve run at Disney in the past few years.

I love you, runDisney, you know that. But you’ve changed, my friend. And Running Universal Orlando reminds me of you a few years (and problems) ago. Ahem.  

Plus, I appreciated the fact that Running Universal offered a generous (WAY generous!) course time allowance of 17-minute miles. And that meant we could stand in line and get all the character photos our hearts desired. 

This may not matter to some, but that is a big reason why people love theme park races!

running universal 5K bib and shirt and sling bag

I LOVED having this bag. I wore it all over the place this weekend and used it to carry all my theme park things. So helpful and a great swag item!

Were there some issues and some places where things could change? Absolutely. But nothing that was a deal-breaker for me. 

Places I think Running Universal could improve:

  • I wanted more photographers on the course. Maybe the rain kept them away, but this would have made some great photo ops running through the parks with the iconic backgrounds Universal Orlando provides. 
  • The younger/smaller runners were not catered to at all when it came to race shirts and merchandise. I know there were a decent amount of little guys and gals running both the 5K and 10K, so I do hope that is taken into consideration in the future. 
  • Better training and communication amongst Team Members. I didn’t run into this problem myself, but the Running Universal Facebook group did report several instances of incorrect information. I’d allow that this will get better over time – being a first race experience for everyone means there were bound to be a learning curve!

I can’t wait to come back. This was a perfect girlfriends getaway at Universal Orlando– thanks for hosting me for the race and festivities. 

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