I just completed the 2020 Disney Princess Half Marathon on Sunday. What an amazing experience. Having run two RunDisney races, I now feel I’m really in a groove of how to make the most of the weekend; fitting in-park experiences, maximizing the excitement around the running portion, and enjoying some resort time as well.
For both of the Princess Weekends I’ve participated in, I arrived several days before the event (once on Thursday and once on Friday for a Sunday race). Both times we’ve gone to the race expo first, done a park day (or two) before the race and left on Monday morning. Depending on how active you are at the parks Friday and Saturday, your legs could be very strained for a Sunday morning race (which they have been in our case the last two years). Yet, few people probably want to go to Disney World and just sit at the hotel for two days and not do any touring of the parks. It can be quite a predicament to balance all the things you want to see and do with running 13.1 (or more) miles.
My friends and I came up with a master plan to get around this (I don’t know why we never thought of it before). As long as you’re not doing the Challenge (running multiple races over several days) it could be better to arrive very early Saturday morning in Orlando (think the earliest possible flight to get out of your local airport). Once you arrive in Orlando, visit the race expo, hang out at the pool, or go to Disney Springs. This less chaotic day will then enable you to run the race Sunday, enjoyably, on fresh legs. After the race, do some lounge time at your hotel before going to Epcot for food and drinks at the World Showcase. If that isn’t your speed, a light evening at the Magic Kingdom would provide great photo opportunities to show off that race medal.
Depending on how many parks you would like to visit during your trip, you can then add those days on AFTER the half marathon instead of before. You would most likely enjoy lower crowds and room rates as you stay through the early part of the following week. Walking the parks the following day on slightly sore legs will help get the blood flowing a little bit in your legs and loosen up that lactic acid building in them versus sitting cramped in an airline seat which will only stiffen them up further.
There are a few cons to this plan. One is the element of risk you accept if your flight got canceled and you couldn’t get rebooked soon enough to make it to the expo. If you can’t make it to the expo by Saturday evening when it closes, you would not be able to participate in the race and no one is allowed to pick up your bib for you. People flying from large airports (such as Atlanta, Dallas, or Los Angeles) and those in non-snowy parts of the country could accomplish this with less risk than someone like me coming from a smaller airport in West Michigan. The second con is that you could pretty much expect to get no good RunDisney merchandise at the expo. If you don’t go on Thursday or very early Friday to the expo, you can expect the year’s cutest and best souvenirs to be completely gone.
Despite these cons, I’m still intrigued by this plan. What do you think? Would you try this method or do you prefer the traditional weekend itinerary arriving a few days early?