If you’re planning to race in a runDisney Marathon or other event, you need to pack the right things. It turns out running at Walt Disney World or Disneyland isn’t as simple as lacing up your shoes and, well, running. Who knew?! I’ve learned this the hard way from the Walt Disney World Marathon and Disneyland Half Marathon, as I was woefully under-prepared for both races–and not just in terms of training.
Prior to them, one of the upsides to running was–I thought–aside from the pricey race registrations, it would be a super cheap hobby. Turns out that, while not expensive, it’s not exactly free to run if you want to have a comfortable experience. I’d say you probably want to be as comfortable as possible if you’re running 13.1 or more miles.
In light of this, as I prepare for the Dopey Challenge at Walt Disney World in January and possibly the inaugural Disneyland Paris Half Marathon in September, I’ve started buying things to make my race experience more enjoyable. I’m guessing I’m not the only naive running newbie who also might have had misconceptions about the relative “cheapness” of running, so hopefully these ideas help runDisney beginners. The first few things are fairly obvious (maybe?) pieces of attire, followed by what I think is the less intuitive stuff.
Let’s take a look at some of these things, plus suggestions from other runners that I am still contemplating purchase…
Running Shoes – What I’ve come to realize isn’t so obvious is that you should not simply pick the flyest pair of Nikes on the shelf at Foot Locker. Instead, go to a specialty running shoe store and have them fit you for a shoe based upon your running strike, foot size, etc. Since they do so much work, this is one situation where I don’t use B&M stores as “online showrooms.” When I was looking for my shoes, I avoided popular/heavily marketed sneaker brands, and instead focused on performance brands with reputations among runners like Brooks, Asics, and Saucony. Your mileage may vary on brands.
Running Socks– Another possibly obvious one, but if it prevents even one person from running in ordinary cotton socks, it’s worth it. Some people swear by more expensive pairs (ones that cost $10-20 per pair), but I tend to ruin socks pretty quickly, so I opt for cheaper options. I’ve never had issues with them. Likewise, you’re going to want to wear athletic underwear on the day of the runDisney event.
Running Shorts– Readers used to make fun of me for wearing basketball shorts during runDisney events. I realize it’s my moral responsibility as a blogger to give the people what they want: a better look at my milky-white calves and *ahem* less left to the imagination in my critically-acclaimed running selfies, so I’m bought these. You all know I’m distinctly patriotic, and I’ve learned these shorts are for freedom lovers everywhere, so I got those, too. Or not. I actually just got a pair of Nike DryFit shorts.
Compression Pants– Far more important than switching my shorts, for me at least, was compression pants. I think these made a huge difference for me, both increasing circulation during the race while I ran and preventing my legs from swelling afterwards to speed recovery. I read a lot about these before buying, and thoughts are mixed as to whether they actually work or if it’s placebo effect. All I know is that last year I could barely walk the day after the marathon, and this year I ran 4 consecutive races and had almost no pain after the full marathon. Even if that was all in my head, I’ll take it! Going forward, I plan on using compression pants post race, and these calf sleeves during the race. I was too hot with full length compression pants towards the end of the marathon (you can see them pulled up on the photo above).
Mylar Thermal Blankets – I remember hearing horror stories a few years ago about how cold it was at the starting line. Remember, most of these events start early in the morning, and it’s dramatically colder at 4:30 a.m. than it is at 9 a.m. during the middle of the race, when you want to be wearing only shorts and a short-sleeve shirt. Thermal blankets are great for keeping warm at the start of the race and discarding once it starts (“garbage clothes” also work, and Disney donates these to charity, but mylar blankets will take up less room in your suitcase).
Fanny Pack – Want to look cool in the eyes of a time traveler from 1989? Then a fanny pack is for you! You will definitely want one for your phone, wallet, energy gels/blocks, and various other things. Novelty Disney fanny packs can be found on eBay, and for my first Walt Disney World Marathon, I ran with a boss Figment one and was clearly the envy of all other runners. Unfortunately, this was super uncomfortable, and not recommended for anyone who is “serious” about running. Instead, I now use the Alaska Bear Reflective Running Belt. It’s low profile, comfortable, and holds a surprising amount. Unfortunately, it doesn’t make quite the tubular fashion statement of an old school neon pink fanny pack, but it does the trick.
Bluetooth Wireless Headphones – There’s a caveat to this one: I don’t use headphones at all during runDisney events, but use them religiously in all other circumstances to keep myself hyped. During runDisney events, I actually prefer the sights and sounds of the event itself to keep my hyped. Everyone will have their own preference on this, but for me these are a training tool, not something I actually pack. I go with cheaper ones because our cat likes to chew headphone cords for some reason so I’d rather not be out $100 when he invariably does that. Sound quality is good, but not great in these.
BodyGlide – This post is bound to go down as the most explicit one in the history of this normally family friendly blog, but this is an epidemic too big to ignore: nipple chafing. I didn’t realize this was a thing until I suffered it myself, and dear lord is it painful. Guys, I don’t care if you totally disregard all of my other advice and run in tight-fitting stonewash jeans and some Sperry Top-Siders, you must apply a liberal coating of Bodyglide to your nipples (and possibly elsewhere) before the race. You’re welcome.
Trail Toes– Like the more rugged version of BodyGlide, Trail Toes is an excellent option for preventing blisters and soreness on your feet, thighs, or anywhere else. If you are plagued by more than just nipple chafing, this is the more durable and versatile product.
Rock Tape– This is another, versatile and customizable option for compression, muscle protection, and stress relief for during and after running. I like it around my knees, but I’ve heard of others applying it to their calves, feet, and even lower back. If you have particular, localized muscle pain that sleeves or compression pants can’t address, this is a great option.
Clif Shot Bloks – So everyone has their preference for energy prior to and during runDisney races. Mine is, without a doubt, the shot bloks, and I prefer the variety with caffeine; black cherry (most caffeine) and tropical punch (best taste) are my favorites. While the Clif Shot Energy Gel is also effective, you almost have to wait until you’re at a water station for this, as you will feel like a dog that has just eaten a spoonful of peanut butter if you don’t have something the rinse out your mouth after using the energy gels.
Clif Bars – I take these high-protein bars hiking, camping, running, and beyond. I order via Amazon Subscribe & Save when they are around $1/bar. My favorite in terms of flavor is the White Chocolate Macadamia Nut variety, but in terms of nutritional value, the Oatmeal Raisin Clif Bars are best (I spent about 20 minutes one day comparing them all in the store).
Running Watch – This is one with which I’m still struggling. I know I need one. Yes, need one. See above for Exhibit A as to why. That’s my iPhone, which was a casualty to my sweating during the Disneyland Half Marathon. Thanks for a lot of reader feedback, I’ve narrowed my choices to here to the following options…
Garmin Forerunner 220 – Given the response given when I posed this question in Part 2 of my Disneyland Half Marathon Trip Report, plus my own independent research, this seems to be by far the most popular choice for watches among serious runners. I like that it has GPS and offers distance and pace information, as well as tracking and integration with social media, all of which I think will up my motivation level when training. I’ve also thought about the newer Garmin Forerunner 225, but a heart rate sensor built into the wrist isn’t worth another $100 to me. Your mileage may vary.
Garmin Vivoactive – On paper, this seems like the ideal product for me that’s currently on the market. On the one hand, it sounds like the perfect marriage of smartwatch and running watch with app notifications, GPS, and a fairly extensive feature set. On the other hand, there have been an inordinate number of complaints about stability & bugs. Still, it’s newer and sounds like it offers incredible bang for buck. Bugs can be fixed via firmware updates, so I’m not overly concerned about some of those complaints. I’m big on value, and this seems to offer a lot of that, making it neck and neck with the Forerunner 220 for me in terms of what I’ll probably get.
Fitbit Surge – This sounds a lot like the Vivoactive in being smartwatch + running watch, albeit with not quite as many bells and whistles. Its feature set extends beyond the running set, GPS running watch features. However, there are a concerning number of negative reviews, and it sounds like the features don’t work as well in the field as they sound on the spec sheet. That, plus the added cost…
iWatch 2nd Generation – This is the real wildcard for me and what gives me pause before buying anything. The first generation iWatch is not as robust as I’d like for pure running purposes (namely, it has no GPS). However, Apple has demonstrated a keen ability to iterate on first gen products, making the second generation the truly “killer app.” It’s a question of whether the nextone will improve upon the flawed first generation enough for me to go with it instead of a dedicated running watch.
Do any of you runners have other suggestions for running/smartwatches, or further thoughts on the ones I’ve mentioned above?
This is my work-in-progress packing list so far based on what I’ve packed–and failed to pack–specifically for runDisney events. More seasoned runners might take some additional items, but I view these as some of the essentials. In terms of what you bring on race day itself, that’s going to vary from person to person. I know a lot of people like to bring bags with changes of clothing, flip flops, and the like, but lines at bag check are always long, so I always opt to return to my hotel to change and recuperate before heading back out to the parks.
As for the rest of your packing for your trip to Walt Disney World or Disneyland for the runDisney event, refer to our What to Pack for Disney Trips post.
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Okay, serious runners…anything I’m forgetting? Any gaffes or things on my list you wouldn’t recommend packing? Any additional insights into running watches? For those runDisney newbies, any questions about the items listed here or other packing recommendations for the race? Other runDisney topics you’d like to see covered in future posts? I’d love to hear feedback from readers and other runDisney enthusiasts on this list!