RunDisney Walt Disney World 5K 2019 Race Recap + 2020 Information

In this post, we recap the 2019 RunDisney Walt Disney World 5K race and provide some information on the 2020 race, scheduled to be held on Thursday, January 9, 2020. This post doesn’t contain information on training, but we suggest starting with a Google search for “couch to 5K.”

If you’ve read our other 2019 race recaps, some of the information in here will be redundant. We suggest going down to the “race day” section for the information unique to this race. If you haven’t read them, here they are (links updated as we post):

Walt Disney World 5K Registration

We registered for the 2019 Walt Disney World 5K as part of the Dopey Challenge. The Dopey Challenge consists of all four Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend races—the 5K (Thursday), 10K (Friday), Half Marathon (Saturday), and Full Marathon (Sunday). To register for the Dopey Challenge, you just register for a single event (“Dopey Challenge”), you do not register for all four races separately. We’ll have a full Dopey Challenge post up in a week or so.

The 2019 race was held on Thursday, January 10, 2019. Registration is done online at the RunDisney website. RunDisney used to use a third-party provider for registration services, bus has since switched to its own (better) system. You’ll now register using your Disney account. Registration for the 5K is a straightforward process, so I’m not going to walk you through the specific process. Here are some relevant details.

Walt Disney World 5K Price

We paid $623.61 (with tax) per person for the Dopey Challenge. The 5K cost $90.61. Here are the other event prices:

Registration Date

Registration for all the Marathon Weekend races was originally set to open in April 2018, but was delayed as RunDisney changed registration systems. Registration opened to the general public on July 19, 2018. As Walt Disney World Annual Passholders, we had access to early registration on July 17, 2018.

The Walt Disney World 5K did sell out this year by July 20—the second day of public registration. Keep in mind the 5K and 10K attract a lot of local runners, which means a lot of early annual passholder registrations.

RunDisney 2020 Walt Disney World 5K Information

The 2020 Walt Disney World 5K is scheduled for Thursday, January 9, 2020. As always, it will be the first race of the four-race / four-day Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend.

Registration for the 2020 races is set to move back to the old schedule, with Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend registration currently scheduled to open April 16th, 2019. Early registration is expected April 14, though I have not seen confirmation of this.

If you’re interested in running the 2020 Walt Disney World 5K, you should join the RunDisney email list and be sure to visit their website a few times between now and April to make sure nothing changes with registration.

As the 5K and 10K usually sell out in the first day or two, we recommend you be prepared to register as soon as registration opens (usually between 10AM and Noon Eastern). If you don’t have a Disney account already, you should set one up today by visiting DisneyWorld.com.

Running for Charity

Even if the race sells out, you may still be able to run by raising money for charity. While we’ve done this for several other races, we haven’t done it for any RunDisney events. Here’s an example charity registration page for the 2019 races. For that organization, the 5K fundraising requirement was $500.

Race Waiver

You’re required to complete a signed waiver to run the race. RunDisney will provide you a link (usually by email) to get your form. You can either print this out at home and complete it in advance or print it at the expo and complete it there.

RunDisney Costumes

Costumes are permitted and common at all the RunDisney races, though Marathon Weekend probably has the fewest due to its lack of a specific theme.

Always check the RunDisney website for the latest costume policy. This is more a time for creativity than just going out and buying a costume. This is also one of the few times of year you might get away with wearing a full costume to the parks.

This isn’t a “how to” guide to RunDisney costumes, but we want to remind you of some things. First, test your costume with a run (outside is better because of the wind, but a treadmill might suffice). We made the mistake of not testing our headgear for one outfit one year and basically had to scrap it because it the wind kept knocking it off.

The ill-fated Steamboat Willie hat

The ill-fated Steamboat Willie hat

Second, never wear something brand new on race day. If you’re an experienced runner, you might know your personal exceptions to this rule. If you’re not, don’t underestimate the damage a simple poor outfit decision can create, particularly if you’re running Dopey (chafing on day one is…not fun on day four).

Third, if you’re running Dopey, do your “complicated” costumes first. If it’s got bells and whistles, or if it requires an unorthodox piece of gear, wear it for the 5K or 10K.

Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend Expo

We’ll have more merchandise photos in our full Dopey Challenge recap. For now, we’re mostly focused on practical information for 5K runners and Dopey Challenge runners.

What Is The Expo?

If you’ve run a race before, you probably already know all this. The expo serves two purposes. First, it’s where you need to go to pick up three items: your bib (required for running), your complimentary race tshirt, and your gear check bag (comes with your tshirt).

Second, it’s a chance to buy more things. You can purchase official RunDisney merchandise, and there are a huge number of third-party exhibitors. Not everything is a sales pitch—there are speakers, demonstrations, and some fun things like free temporary tattoos.

When we first started running, we loved race expos. Now we’re sort of over them. If you’re a new runner—or if you’ve never run a really large race—you should definitely plan for two hours at the expo just to soak in the excitement of race weekend. The expo is open to the public, and they sell spectator gear. Go ahead and bring any friends and family along.

Expo Location & Getting There

The Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend Expo is held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Parking at the complex is free marathon weekend. If you’re coming from a Disney hotel, Disney will have chartered buses taking you between Disney hotels the expo.

These buses run roughly every 30 minutes and stop near (but not always at) where the regular Disney buses stop at hotels. Each bus route has a color and/or number. When you return to your hotel, you’ll get on at the bus stop with your route number (it’s really easy and there are tons of volunteers to help you).

Expo Hours

The Expo is held on Wednesday through Saturday of race weekend. This year, the Wednesday hours were 10AM to 8PM. 5K and Dopey runners need to pick up their bibs at the expo on Wednesday for the Thursday race. There was a race day bib pickup stand at the starting area, but we’d be hesitant to rely on it, at least not without checking with RunDisney first (they don’t even advertise its existence).

Expo — Bib and Gear Pickup

When you arrive at the expo, just follow the signs for bib pickup. If you already completed your race waiver, you can proceed straight to bib pickup. If you haven’t completed the waiver (like we didn’t), you’ll stop at a computer at the entrance, enter your last name and date of birth, print out the waiver, and sign it.

Dopey Challenge Bib Pickup

Dopey Challenge Bib Pickup

The waiver has your bib number. Bib pickup will have different stands for different bib numbers. For Dopey Challenge, the pickup was one stop—we got our bib, tshirt, and bag all in one building.

run disney world 5K tshirt.jpeg

Dopey Challenge runners get two bibs—one for the 5K and 10K and one for the Half and Full Marathons. Dopey Challenge runners need to get a photo taken to confirm it’s actually them who completes all four races.

Bib pickup for non-Challenge runners.

Bib pickup for non-Challenge runners.

5K runners got their bib here and then proceeded to get their tshirts in the main expo building. Your tshirt will be in your gear check bag. Check your tshirt to confirm the size is correct, it fits well, and it is in good condition.

Sorry for the poor quality. This is the area in the back of the Expo building where non-Challenge runners get their shirts.

Sorry for the poor quality. This is the area in the back of the Expo building where non-Challenge runners get their shirts.

Expo — RunDisney Merchandise

This year, there was a building dedicated to Official RunDisney Merchandise. We felt like RunDisney went a bit overboard with the amount of merchandise this year. There was a huge variety of shirts, pins, mugs, hats, ornaments, and anything else. Obviously if you’re a collector or just excited about your big race, then you might love this.

It is good to see that Disney had seemingly everything in stock in large quantities when we were at the expo Wednesday night. In the past, eBay hawkers have created a real problem, but this didn’t seem to be the case this year. You can pay for official merchandise by any accepted Disney payment method (card, cash, MagicBand, gift card, Rewards card).

Expo — Other Merchandise

Vendors at the expo sell all manner of things—running gear, race registrations, spectator gear, massagers, running fuel etc. As these aren’t Disney vendors, you’ll need cash or card.

Walt Disney World 5K 2019 — Race Day

If you want a play-by-play of race day, check out our instagram profile (@mousehacking) for the highlight “WDW 5K.”

Waking Up and Getting To the Staging Area

The race was scheduled for a 5:30AM start. Buses from the hotels began departing at 3:30AM (yes, you read that right), and Disney recommends you be on a bus by 4AM.

I would love to see a comment from someone who pushed this later. Since non-runners and runners share the same buses to the staging area, I assume these buses run until about 5:30AM.

Since it takes more than 30 minutes for all the runners to get through the start, I really suspect you could get on a bus at 5:30AM and still barely make the start. I’m definitely not endorsing this, I’m just putting it out there, and maybe someone with experience can comment.

Anyways, I woke up at 3:45AM. I always get my race outfit ready the night before, particularly for these early RunDisney races. For every race, I pin my bib on my shirt (or wherever I’m pinning it) the night before so I don’t have to deal with that.

I don’t take the 5K seriously when I’m running Dopey (saving that energy for the bigger races), so I just wore sweatpants and a lot of layers (it was about 44 degrees). Some people take all four races seriously, or for some people this is the most serious race they run all year. No problem with either approach, we just prefer to take a “just survive” approach to Dopey.

We left our room at Port Orleans—Riverside at about 3:58AM and were on a bus at 4:03AM. We were the last ones on the bus, so it left right away. We arrived at 4:20AM and made the approximately 5-minute walk from the drop off to the staging area.

Pre-Race Activities

If you’re checking gear (we never do), you’ll go drop that off (just follow the signs). Remember to use the big, clear plastic bag you got your tshirt(s) in. No other bag will be accepted.

The biggest activity before (and after) the race is the opportunity to meet some characters. Usually, the lineup is Mickey, Minnie, the featured character of the race (Oswald for the 2019 5K), and Dopey. These are four separate lines.

Depending on how early you arrive, how fast you are, and how long you stay after, you can meet up to all four characters. We don’t have much advice on this, but we usually meet Dopey after the marathon. That might seem like the worst time, but the marathon has such high variance in finishing times—people trickle in over 3.5 hours—that it’s usually not a bad wait.

Other than that, there are simple snack items for sale and a Joffrey truck. There’s also a merchandise booth, though you’ll definitely prefer to do your merchandise shopping at the expo.

The race has two announcers / hosts who are on the main stage up until about 30 minutes before the race, when they move over to the starting line stage. I honestly can’t stand this and find them incredibly annoying, but if you’re not a cynical jerkwad with no sense of humor, you might enjoy them.

Starting Line

About 30 minutes prior to start, the corrals open. Only runners with bibs are allowed into the corral area. We were corral A for the 5K and 10K. There’s no proof of time required for the 5K. Either I entered a targeted time or they used the time I submitted for the longer races.

The 5K and 10K corrals are right next to the staging area. As I said, the announcers move over to the starting line stage when the corrals open, so you’ll get to enjoy them until you depart.

The race starts in “mini-waves” released every two to three minutes. Every mini-wave gets fireworks. These waves are smaller than the corrals, so even if you’re in Corral A, you probably won’t start right at 5:30AM. When we finished at about 6:30AM, people were still starting. They stopped sometime around 6:45AM.

Course & Race Notes

The course map changes a bit every few years, but has a few consistent elements. It always starts on the backroads behind Epcot, then you enter Epcot through backstage, run around the World Showcase, and finish by running past Spaceship Earth. Music plays throughout the World Showcase, which is also “IllumiNated.” Here’s the 2019 5K course map.

Other notes:

  • Most of the people staffing the race are volunteers. Thank them every chance you get.

  • The 5K isn’t great for spectators, as the only spots to watch are adjacent to the staging area at the start and finish.

  • We have a full post on RunDisney race etiquette here. We recommend it even for veteran runners.

  • There was one water station, but no energy drinks or food on course

  • There are port-a-potties, but the better option is usually to use a restroom in Epcot

  • The technical pace limit for all RunDisney races is 16 minutes per mile. Enforcement is lax on the 5K, but you should be prepared to keep that pace if they do enforce it.

Personally, the 5K wasn’t notable for me. We haven’t done much training, but we didn’t have any trouble comfortably getting through the 5K, especially with the character stops.

PhotoPass

RunDisney in Florida uses the PhotoPass photography system. This means annual passholders and guests with Memory Maker will have complete access to their photos. Everyone else will either have to buy them individually or via Memory Maker (or some other package Disney offers).

You’ll usually be able to spot PhotoPass photographers ahead of time by their green tents, one on each side of the course. This might be covered in the etiquette post, but just try not to be a jerk about getting photos. If you want to jump or fly or whatever, go ahead, but don’t cut in front of someone just to get your perfect picture—it’s rude and dangerous.

RunDisney Walt Disney World 2019 5K Characters

We saw six character stops on the 2019 Walt Disney World 5K course: Flik and Atta (pre-Epcot), Vikings (Norway Pavilion), Pinocchio (Italy), Genie (Morocco), Scottish Goofy (United Kingdom), and Sporty Donald (Test Track).

We only stopped for one photo, with Scottish Goofy, and we waited about 5 minutes for it. The character stops are staffed by PhotoPass, and they’re happy to take a photo on your device as well (be prepared with it). Mind the fact that your lense might get sweaty and need a wipe to avoid lens flare (plenty of my pictures have it).

Finish & Getting Back To The Hotel

We finished at 6:19AM. We maybe should have done a couple more character photos (not that any really appealed to us) since we had spare time.

Sorry for the lens flare—sweaty phone!

Sorry for the lens flare—sweaty phone!

At the finish, they handed out:

  • medals (always get one because duh)

  • mylar blankets (even if you don’t need it right then, grab it for before tomorrow’s race)

  • water and Powerade

  • snack boxes (nachos, “cheese”, pretzels, applesauce, chia bar)

run disney world 5K snack box 2.jpg

There are photographers setup to take finisher photos. Gear pickup is right after the finish line. From there, you’re back at the staging area.

This is when we really should have gotten a picture with Oswald. We just weren’t thinking, and instead went straight to the bus line. That’s not horrible, but the buses couldn’t start running yet because the race was still starting (and it runs in their way). So we didn’t wind up on a bus until 7:02AM.

We were back at the hotel at about 7:30AM. This would have made catching rope drop at Animal Kingdom’s 8AM Extra Magic Hour tough, but we still could have comfortably made it to rope drop at the other parks.

2019 RunDisney Walt Disney World 5K — Conclusions

Would I ever run just the Walt Disney World 5K? Probably not. But that’s maybe because I’m not a 5K runner. The race is a lot of hassle. A 5:30AM start is pretty crazy for a 5K. About a third of the race is just on the backroads of Walt Disney World. That said, most of the race is through Epcot, and that’s a great opportunity.

run disney world 5K medal.jpeg

What it boils down to is that the Walt Disney World 5K is a good race, but there are better options to consider. Each of the longer races that weekend offer something a little more. And 5Ks that are part of other themed weekends—like the Princess 5K, Star Wars 5K, and “Fall Feast” 5K (Wine & Dine Weekend)—offer something a bit different.

Either way, if the Walt Disney World 5K works best for your plans, then do it, a RunDisney race is always worth a try!

All Your Other Disney World Planning Questions Answered

Don't be overwhelmed by Disney World planning! Take a second to check out our most important content and you'll not only be an expert, but you'll save big $$$ along the way. If you're still picking dates, we've got everything you need to know about Disney crowd calendars. For picking your hotel, check out our Walt Disney World hotels guide.

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Finally, before you head out, be sure to check out our to-the-point packing list, 10 essentials you forget to pack for every Disney trip. And if you're interested in saving, there's no better list than our 53 Ways to Save on your Disney trip from start to finish.