Cheering for a runDisney Event

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My addiction to running didn’t start with the running itself, it started with the cheering.  Back in 2009 I made some friends, and not long after I learned that they were running in a race.  A race at Walt Disney World.  I honestly had no real concept of what this meant, but I had always had it in the back of my head that running was something I wanted to try.  So I made a decision to seek a little inspiration, and go cheer for them. That day I learned one solid thing: cheering for a race isn’t easy. Now that’s not to say that it can’t be, like anything else it’s all about how much, or how little you want to throw yourself into it.

This upcoming weekend, February 22-February 24, 2013, runDisney is hosting Disney’s Princess Half Marathon Weekend.  There are two races that you could be cheering for, the Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse Royal Family 5K, and the Disney’s Princess Half Marathon.

Some Fun RunDisney Facts about Disney’s Princess Half Marathon Weekend:

  • More than 26,000 runners in the half; 8,000 in the 5K and 1,700 in Kids Races; many from throughout Central Florida

  • The half marathon includes more than 24,500 female runners and 1,700 male runners

  • Runners represent all 50 states and 32 countries

  • The youngest participant is 14 and the oldest woman is 78

  • There are 98 RunDisney runners celebrating their Birthday during the race

If you have runners running either of these races you should sit down with them and talk with them to find out some information that will make cheering for them easier:

What corral are they starting in?  For each race, runners are split up into corrals that have staggered starting times.  These corrals are typically lettered.  Runners in B will start the race before runners in C.

What is their pace per minute? Runners don’t all run at the same speed. You’ll need this knowledge for longer races if you’re going to travel between points to cheer.

Will they be stopping? Disney races are designed for fun. Along the course there will be various special areas, characters, and photo opportunities for runners to participate in.  This means that despite their pace, your runner can take longer if they’re planning to stop to take a picture and have to wait in a line.  If you didn’t expect your runner to be stopping you might find yourself getting worried when they don’t show after an expected period of time.

What will they be wearing? In case you’re not going to see your runner before they enter the corral in the morning, they should definitely send you a photo of what they will be wearing so you can easily spot them on the course.

Regardless of which race you’re cheering for, I can’t stress enough that the right time to head out to cheer is when the runners head out to run.  The 5K starts at 6:30 am on Saturday, and I recommend getting to the starting line of the race no later than 5:45 am.  This will give you time to meet up with friends, watch your runner head to their corral, and find a good place to cheer from at the Start.  By contrast, the Half starts at 5:30 am, though depending on where you’re cheering from (more on that below), you might have some wiggle room.  Transportation options are explained in the Official Race Program.  Whether you’re busing, taking the monorail, or driving yourself – everything you’ll need to know is in there.  Just turn to page 42.

Cheering for the 5K itself is fairly easy.  If you look at the course map you’ll see that the race starts and ends in Epcot.  In fact, it starts and ends in the parking lot of Epcot.  Spectators will not be allowed into Epcot during the race, this means you will only be able to see your runners at the start and end of the race.  Knowing their pace is important here.  A 5K race is approximately 3.1 miles.  This means that when you see your runner at the start of the race, and their pace is 10 minutes per mile, that you can expect them to reach the finish line in about 30 minutes.  If they’re planning to stop, even one photo opportunity can increase their time by 5 minutes or even more.

For the Half Marathon, cheering can be a bit more involved, or relatively the same.  The Starting line for the race is out on Epcot Center Drive, you can actually walk out to the road from the parking lot through the woods.  Just look for the signs when you’re there.  The Finish line is in the Epcot parking lot.  Many people never go out to the starting line, because it is extremely difficult to spot runners at this point.  The Platinum level ChEAR Squad Race Retreat spectator package might be a good, albeit expensive, option.  You can relax in luxury while your runner is rounding the corner in Tomorrowland.

If you want to be more active you’ll need to consider using the Online Spectator Tool.  With this tool you can try to determine the best places to watch your runner along the path.  There are many options to choose from.  But my preferred choices are: Mile 0 at the Starting Line, Mile 5.3 on Main Street, USA in Magic Kingdom, Mile 12 at the bus depot in Epcot, and Mile 13 which is just before the Finish.  Other popular places to cheer from are at the TTC, at the Contemporary across from the Magic Kingdom bus depot, and on the Western side of Polynesian Resort.  The runners will run by (or through in the case of the TTC) all three of these. You can find this information on page 43 in the program.

In this era of high tech, you’ll want to consider one of a few options for tracking your runners.  For starters, each runner is tagged, and runDisney provides a means to track your runners via this tag using the Runner Tracking tool for the event (tool changes per event, but your account will remain between events, and be good at all future races).  Here you can receive alerts via text or email and auto-post updates to Facebook or Twitter.  I will be honest, this tool is not the most reliable of systems, but it has gotten better than it used to be.

There are plenty of other ways you can track your runner.  For example, if they take walk intervals, and have their phone with them, a simple text message stating where they are can work wonders.  If you and your runner both have an iPhone I suggest using the Find My Friends app that Apple puts out.  You’ll want to set it up before the race, but with it you’ll be able to use the mapping features of your iPhone to locate your runner.  If a runner wants to broadcast their location to multiple people across multiple devices, I suggest using a WhatsApp group to do so as it’s available across multiple phone types.  Applications like RunKeeper are very popular with runners for tracking their runs also have additional functionality that lets others track the runner on their phone.

The last, and most important thing, is that the person you’re there to cheer for isn’t the only person out there running that day.  While you’re out on the course waiting for your runner, you might notice that most bibs will have a name on them.  If you can read a name, shout it out and cheer for that person too.  I can not begin to tell you how much it will mean to that person.  There are plenty of people out on the course who otherwise have no one to cheer for them.  And who knows, you might end up cheering for one of us here.

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