runDisney Basics – Corrals

I was thinking back to where I was a year ago, getting geared up for my first race (a local Turkey Trot 10k) in over a decade, and freaking out about my crazy goal of running the Princess Half Marathon.  I do not deal well with uncertainty and tend to over-research things in advance so I know what to expect.

So, I spent untold hours last year scouring the internet for tips, recaps and explanations about how runDisney races work.  I’ve found that runDisney is a lot like Disney.  You can just show up and have a great time.  Or, you can do a little extra planning and research and have an even better time.

So for anyone who is sitting where I was a year ago, ready to do a runDisney race but a little apprehensive and anxious about all the runDisney details, I am putting together a series called runDisney Basics to outline all the things that were a mystery to me last year.  I hope this helps!

Today’s topic is Corrals.  I still laugh a little whenever I have to discuss my corral with anyone who is unfamiliar with racing because it makes me feel like livestock.  And, honestly, the name is pretty appropriate, as you’ll soon see.

In a small local race, everyone just lines up wherever they want.  Typically the speedsters are at the front and the slower folks are at the back but it is not enforced (and newer racers may not even understand that it is supposed to work that way), so you often end up with a lot of chaos at the start while people settle into their correct paces and places in the first half mile or so.

In larger races, they often have informal corrals, with signs indicating different paces.  They encourage runners to line up near the sign that indicates their pace.  And the biggest races enforce corrals that are monitored and that you have to qualify for.  As you can imagine with over 26,000 runners at some runDisney races it wouldn’t be safe or fun to have people just start wherever they wanted to.

Here are the questions I had a year ago that took some digging to answer at the time.

  • What is a Corral?
    • Corrals are groups of runners, generally set based on projected race pace.  For runDisney they are lettered A (first corral), B (second corral), C (third corral), D (fourth corral), and so on.
  • How are Corrals assigned?
    • When you register you are asked to an estimated finish time.  You must provide proof of time from a recent race to support any estimated finish time less than 3:15 for the half marathon distance.
  • How do you get proof of time?
    • The race must be a 10k or longer and must have been run within about two years of the race date.
    • The runDisney website says it has to be a certified race, but they have (so far) accepted any official race that has time results posted on the internet.
    • You cannot give them unofficial results, such as a Garmin report from a training run, it has to be an actual race.
    • You have to put the following on your registration:
      • Name of Race
      • Distance
      • City
      • State
      • Date
      • Finish time
  • What if I haven’t run a 10k or longer when I register but plan to do so prior to the race?
    • You should register with a estimated finish time of 3:15 or more.
    • Note the corral change deadline listed on the runDisney website.  For Princess Half 2014, the deadline to make changes is December 1, 2013.  You used to be able to update your corral at the Expo, but that has been discontinued starting with the 2014 races.
    • If you run a 10k or longer prior to the deadline for your race, you can submit the information above online at runDisney.  Look for your event and then search under Runner Info or Registration for Proof-of-Time to find the link.
    • If you have any questions about your proof of time, contact disneysports@trackshack.com.
  • Why is corral placement important?
    • The closer to the front you can get, the less crowded the course will be.
    • Running or walking with others who are going the same pace as you is a much better experience than either having to weave around thousands (literally) of people going slower than you or having thousands (literally) of runners blowing past you while you try to stay out of their way.
    • If everyone is in their proper corral for their realistic pace, the race is much safer.  No one wants to twist an ankle hopping on the grass to avoid someone else or to cause someone to fall because their paces are so different.
  • When and how will I know what corral I’m in?
    • runDisney releases the waivers 4-6 weeks prior to the race online.  When you print your waiver, it will have a bib number on it.
      • The lower the bib number, the higher the corral.
    • Around the same time, generally a few days later,runDisney will publish the corral chart that shows the ranges of bib numbers assigned to each corral.
    • When you get your bib at the Expo, it will have your corral letter printed on it at the top.
  • What if my friend/spouse/child/parent is assigned to a different corral but we want to run together?
    • You can always drop back to run in a later corral but you cannot move up to an earlier corral.  So if you’re in corral A and your friend is in corral F, you can both run in F but you cannot run together in A (or in any corral higher than F in this example).
  • Are the corrals really monitored?  Can’t I just start wherever I want to?
    • The entrances to the corrals (especially the earlier corrals) are monitored.  Some people will jump the fences to get in an earlier corral but I wouldn’t do it (I’m a rules follower).
    • As the corrals are getting smaller, I suspect the monitoring will be closer.
  • How will I find my corral?
    • runDisney has signs directing you to the corral entrances, and then when you get closer to the start area, you’ll see large lit up balloon type things with letters on them.  Just head towards your letter.
  • Where should I line up once I’m in my corral?
    • For the Princess Half in 2013, I was in Corral B, but I just barely squeaked in based on my 10k time.  So, I chose not to line up at the very start of the corral, but somewhere behind the halfway spot.   If you’re expecting to be running faster than the corral you’re placed in, feel free to line up at the very front.  If you’re injured or sick and expect to be going slower, it might be a good idea to line up towards the back and towards the side.
  • Do the corrals all start at once or is the start staggered?
    • The corrals start separately at predetermined times which are usually listed in the race program.  For the Princess Half in 2013, they did fireworks and a whole start ceremony for every corral.  For 2014, there are a lot more corrals and they are smaller and start closer together, so I’m not sure if they’ll have time to do fireworks for each corral, but I hope they do.
    • For Wine & Dine, the corral start times are:
      • 9:58 p.m. – Wheelchair Start
      • 10:00 p.m. – Corral A Start
      • 10:02 p.m. – Corral B Start
      • 10:04 p.m. – Corral C Start
      • 10:06 p.m. – Corral D Start
      • 10:09 p.m. – Corral E Start
      • 10:12 p.m. – Corral F Start
      • 10:15 p.m. – Corral G Start
      • 10:19 p.m. – Corral H Start
      • 10:23 p.m. – Corral I Start
      • 10:28 p.m. – Corral J Start
      • 10:33 p.m. – Corral K Start
      • 10:40 p.m. – Corral L Start

Hope this was helpful.  If you have any other corral questions, just ask!

Comments

runDisney Basics – Corrals — 25 Comments

  1. My sister and I have been participating in the PHM weekend for several years now and she has ran the half for the past three. I don’t think either one of us had realized that the bib number was on the waiver and that is how you can tell what corral you will be in. Duhh! We’ve just always waited till packet pick up. Thanks for the info April!

  2. I love this breakdown. Word of advice from experience, do NOT use 10K times for runDisney races if you have run a 1/2 marathon. Even if you have a super fast 10K time. I used a 10K time for Disneyland Half and Wine and Dine this year, it placed me super low in the corrals. I’m lucky that I can still get moved up this year, but a good note for the future.

    • Hmm…interesting comment. I’ve been using a 10K time because I’ve mainly done Disney races this year and they’re not an accurate reflection of my speed due to the photo stops. I’ll have send them a half time and see how that works.

    • From my experience, they do “convert” your 10k time to a half marathon time using an algorithm that assumes you get a little slower as your distance gets longer. So, if you run a 10 minute mile pace on a 10k, they’ll assume a slightly slower pace for a half marathon. I didn’t find the difference to be unreasonable. I had a 1:01:54 10k converted to a 2:19 half time for Wine and Dine. That did put me in Corral F which seems really far back in the corrals, but they changed them this year to make the earlier corrals much smaller, so F this year is probably the equivalent of C last year in terms of number of people in front of you. Which is equal to B in last year’s Princess or Tink. Confusing, much? All that being said, if you can run a half at the same pace you can run a 10k, you will get better placement with a half as proof. For me, it’s pretty equivalent.

  3. I have such issues with Disney and their corral placements. For one thing, I don’t feel like they’re accurate past about A and B. Beyond that, everyone is around the same speed once you’re out there. For another, because of the time limits and the photo opportunities, they really don’t give slower runners a chance to take advantage of the parks. I ran Disneyland this year with some friends who’d never done it before. They just took a guess as to their times and ended up in the last corral. I generally pull a middle-ish corral, but I started with them so we’d all run the race together. The end result was having to really avoid many photo ops because of lines and cutoff times. In any other race where you’re going for time, corrals are fine, but Disney places all this temptation in the beginning of the race…it’s just a pet peeve.

    • Running in the later corrals does end up being more crowded with longer lines and a bigger risk of being swept. If you will be going faster than a 15 minute mile or so, it’s definitely worth it to get in some proof of time before the deadline. Running in B for Princess this year was really nice, and from what I read people in the back corrals had a lot more crowds and bottlenecks. I think that spreading the corrals out more and making them smaller is how runDisney is trying to help alleviate that…

  4. This was great information, looking forward to the rest of your series as I count down to my first Disney race/first half marathon (the 2014 PHM)!

  5. Great information! What a great idea! I ran Tinkerbell 2013 as my first (and only so far) runDisney experience and my first Half Marathon. I did the 5K and the Half last year … this January I am running the 10K and the Half (and imagining that they are doing a Challenge for it even though runDisney wimped out for Tink). I was in Corral C for Tink last year and never submited any “official” time… I had entered the most generous time at the point of registration (which was a guess because I had never run a race before when I registered) and then got a few 10Ks under my belt… then I called Track Shack directly and just told the guy on the phone a “guesstamation” for my faster time (I still had not done a 1/2) – he didn’t ask me for a race name or anything official. (I thought that was a little crazy)… I am sure things are different now or maybe I just caught “the new guy” with my call. This year – I have done 5 Halfs and numerous other races… I just emailed them again over the weekend with my PR I got on my most recent Half! Since Tink is the smaller of the races (there were only 5 corrals last year) who knows where I will end up. I am fine with that… I had the time of my life last year and expect that again this Janaury at DL! Can’t wait! runDisney has the corner on the market of the amazing race experiences! I have done a few now and nothing compares. It doesn’t help that I am a Disney freak in addition to the running thing 😉
    Kim neverenoughdisney.blogspot.com

    • runDisney really is special! I’ll be running the 10k and half at Tink in 2014 too! It will be my very first trip to Disneyland. I just can’t wait!

    • It is a great goal to work towards. The Galloway method is a great way to work your way into running and because it’s runDisney’s official training plan, it is really accepted to do run/walk intervals at the runDisney races. Just pick a race and get started, you can do it!

  6. Great info. I think the only thing I would add is a note that, for the Princess and the Tink, men start in latter corrals (it had been C, but may change next year, with the new corral breakdown), regardless of how fast they are.

    • Good point. I actually wish they wouldn’t do that. I was in B for Princess and about two miles in all the super speedy guys went blowing past us and it was a little disconcerting. I think if they let the elite women go 15 minutes (or whatever) early, they could let men start in the corral they qualify for and still have a woman cross the finish line first (I’ve heard that is why they keep men in the later corrals for PHM and Tink).

  7. Here’s a question – how close does your proof of time have to be to your predicted finish time to make a difference? Moon’s proof of time is much slower than her predicted finish time for Tink but it was a year ago and after all that training she’ll be much faster.

    • I’m not certain, but I suspect it has to be pretty close. Her best bet would be to do at least another 10k prior to the Tink deadline of November 1. Because they aren’t changing corrals at Expo starting next year, she might want to e-mail Trackshack and confirm that the proof she submitted was accepted and see what time est they have for her. I have heard that if they don’t accept your proof of time, you get put in the last corral by default.

  8. I ran the Tower of Terror 10 miler and they had corrals up to J and it’s a smaller race! I ran in F and I saw fireworks for every corral. It’s really exciting and helps keep you pumped up as you wait! Here’s hoping they continue the fireworks, it’s the best way to start a race.

    • That’s exciting, I’m glad they are still doing the fireworks for every corral’s start. It is really awesome to get to have fireworks start you off!