In just a few weeks, tens of thousands of princesses (and some princes too) will descend upon Walt Disney World for the Princess Half Marathon weekend, which this year is featuring the inaugural Glass Slipper Challenge (10k and Half combo).
If you’re planning on crossing the finish line to get these beauties, you’ve probably got your ballgown picked out, your glass slippers broken in and hundreds of miles of training behind you. You are also entering in the stage where all the little details are starting to feel overwhelming. One major unknown for me last year before my first runDisney race was how to get to and from all the race events. Let me give you all the details so you can focus on the more fun stuff like dining reservations and finishing up your costume.
For most races, you just drive to the expo and race-site, find a place to park and walk to the start area. For runDisney races, transportation requires a little more thought and planning.
For the Princess Half weekend, runDisney provides fancy charter buses from all the host resorts to & from the Expo and all the races, including the kids’ races. They run pretty regularly, I think the longest I had to wait for a bus last year was about 20 minutes.
So, how do you know if you’re staying at a host resort? The Princess events are so popular that they have designated all of the on-property hotels as “host” resorts, including the Swan and Dolphin and Shades of Green.
If you’re taking the bus from a host hotel:
- When you get to your hotel, ask the cast members where the “Event” bus picks up. It is not at the normal bus pickup for the parks (I’ve found that it is often near where the Magical Express picks up, but not always).
- Make sure you make a note of the hours that the bus is running to the different race events.
- For the actual race, get to the stop about 15 minutes before the first bus is scheduled. Last year, the buses started running at 3am. You will want to be on that first bus. Really. There are horror stories about late buses, lost buses, traffic jams… You do not want to miss the start of the race, so suck it up buttercup, you’re waking up at an ungodly hour anyways, get to that bus stop early!
- If you can (I’m terrible at this), chat with your bus mates, it helps with nerves to make some human contact.
If you decide to drive:
- You shouldn’t have to pay for parking, but check the race guide to make sure.
- Get there early. Like really early. Waiting in the corrals for Everest, I saw huge lines of cars still trying to park right before the race started. Princess will be even more crazy if you wait until the last minute. And there is a loooonnnggg walk to the corrals from the race staging area for Princess, so even if you’re lucky enough to miss traffic problems and find a parking spot close in, you have to leave a lot of time to get to your corral. I saw lots of Princesses sprinting to their corrals after the race had started. Not a relaxing way to start a big race.
- Read up on the parking situation on the runDisney website and the race guide to make sure you know which roads will be closed (some close at 11pm the night before the race) and where to park. It is critical to know in advance where you’re going and you won’t be able to rely on your GPS to get you there due to road closures and detours.
Sometimes, even if you’re staying in a host hotel, you might want to consider driving. Here are bus vs. car pros and cons:
- Benefits of taking the bus:
- There are lots of road closures and detours before the races, and the bus drivers (usually) know the alternate routes well. If you’re driving, it can be easy to get turned around and lost when the normal route to Epcot is closed for the race prep.
- It is good to get on the bus and just turn your brain off. You have enough to stress about before the race, letting someone else handle navigation, traffic, etc is really nice.
- You don’t have to stash your car keys somewhere while you run.
- They drop you off right at the staging area.
- It is usually quicker, especially if you get an earlier bus.
- It’s a good way to meet other runners if you’re up to socializing before a race.
- Benefits of taking your car:
- You have more control over your time, no worries about getting to the bus stop 30 seconds after it drives off and having to wait for another one.
- You can stash your after-race stuff in your car instead of having to use bag-check.
- If the weather is cold and/or wet, you can get a parking spot early (this is still key!) and then hang out in your warm and dry car until it is time to head to your corral, delaying the standing around in the cold/wet until the last minute.
Other transportation options:
- If you’re staying at a monorail resort, check with the front desk AND check the final race instructions to see if the monorail will be running on race morning.
- Walking through the international gateway at Epcot from the Beach & Yacht Club and Boardwalk is a great way to get to Epcot, but last year, that entrance was not open race morning until 9am. So you’ll need to have an alternate plan to get to the race; however it’s a great way to get back to your resort.
- Walking from nearby hotels. In the past this was hotly debated. As a Floridian, any saved time is not worth the risk of walking in an unfamiliar area in the dark. Snakes, spiders and crazy drivers, oh my! On top of that, security concerns are much higher after the Boston Marathon bombings and it sounds like runDisney is getting more serious about actually enforcing their policy. This is from the race website:
- “Runners will be prohibited from accessing the start corrals from Bonnet Creek Parkway or Buena Vista Drive. You must access the start corrals through the Explore Lot at Epcot. Runners who try to access the start corrals from any area other than the Explore Lot at Epcot are subject to disqualification. Runner drop off is available in the Taxi Lot at Epcot.”
- I don’t have any real confirmation, but there were rumors at the WDW weekend races of runners being actually disqualified and not being allowed to run because of this.
These races are really expensive, and most of us train for months (or years!) for the them. You don’t want your experience to be more stressful or ruined by being late to or missing the race because of transportation issues. With a little planning and research and a good alarm clock (or three), you can make sure that you get to the start in plenty of time so you have a magical race! And don’t forget my first rule of runDisney transportation: Get there EARLY! If you’re the first one to the race site, you’re doing it right!