Comparing the Disneyland 10K to Walt Disney World Races

I’m really excited to welcome Heather back to Running at Disney!  She last visited back in March when she recapped the Fit For a Princess Expo during Princess Half Marathon Weekend.  Now she is here to recap the Disneyland 10K and give some comparisons to some of the other races she has run at Walt Disney World.  Heather LOVES character and takes some great photos…this post is chock full of them and I have to mention that I LOVE her costume!!  I might just steal that for a future race 🙂


I’ve done four race weekends at Walt Disney World, including the new 10ks in January and February, but the Disneyland 5k and 10k this year were the first races I ran at Disneyland. I had wondered how the two coasts would compare during a rundisney race, so I thought I’d recap the Disneyland 10k while also pointing out the differences between the races.

One thing you will find in any Disney race, no matter the coast, are awesome runners (yay us!) and cool costumes. My friend & I decided to go completely out of the box, and dressed as Anna & Elsa. 😉 I’ve always worn something themed for a race, but I consider this my first actual costume during a race, and it made it even more fun. I got lots of “go Princess Anna!” along the route.


Mary Poppins is my favorite, and I had to get a picture with these sweepers before the race! (Plus, no one wants to run into sweepers DURING a race, haha!)


One of my favorite parts of the WDW races is that each corral gets their own fireworks to signify the start of the race. For the DL race, there weren’t any fireworks, and instead, only the first corral received a confetti send off. The race also starts on the street instead of in the parking lot like at WDW. I don’t know if this is why the corrals seemed so crowded or not. I also felt like there wasn’t the same party atmosphere pre-race that you tend to find in the start area before making your way to the corrals. There was still music, but the area seemed more empty, probably because you had to walk over to the street for the corrals?


The main difference in the 10k on the east and west coast is how much you actually run through a park. In the WDW races, you run on a boring road for over 3 miles before entering Epcot and running through the World Showcase. After running around the Boardwalk area, you are back in the front of the park just long enough to run by Spaceship Earth and back out again. Combined you are only in the parks for about a mile out of the 6.2 miles for the race.

For the Disneyland 10k, the majority of the race takes place in the parks. The first 2 miles are on the streets, and you run through the Anaheim Convention Center area, which will be familiar if you’ve attend the D23 expo. However, the path here is not smooth and was a bit hard to run on. I saw at least one person have a hard fall here, so you really need to watch your step.

Just before entering backstage, we heard a roar of cheers. It was constant, and when you turned the corner, you saw a long row of high school cheerleaders who were doing an amazing job of cheering! (Spoiler alert, if I realized how few times I would be stopping this race, I would have taken a picture with them.)


At about 2.5 miles, you enter California Adventure. From here until mile 5.5 you are basically in a park or backstage. It’s a great course and as much as I love Epcot, this one really feels like you are running through Disney because so much of it goes through the parks.

You enter DCA through the Bugs Land side of Cars Land. Seeing Cars Land lit up at night is always gorgeous and I really loved running through it. However, here is where I’m going to start my complaint that was my main take away from this race. There were hardly any characters out. I read lots of recaps of races and I know DJ is almost always out in Cars Land, no matter the race. He wasn’t out for the 5k, and I thought for sure he would be out for the 10k. But he wasn’t. Both Mater & Lightning McQueen were out (separately) in Cars Land, but you can find them at any time in the park.

Once you ran by both these characters, you have just passed half of the character stops on the ENTIRE race. For a route that is mostly in the parks. I am a big character person, and characters are actually the reason I signed up for my very first rundisney event. Then I started running because I wanted to do longer races, but still be able to stop for characters. So, without the amount of entertainment and characters along rundisney races, I never would have started running. To see the lack of characters in this race was a HUGE disappointment. I’ll also never be a fast runner, so I always have to consider where to stop for a picture. I spent a lot of time during this race thinking, well there has to be a character here, no really, there will be a character here, etc. So much so that I think it took away my enjoyment of running through Disneyland. In comparison, the January WDW 10k had 6 character stops & the February WDW 10k had 8 character stops.

After Cars Land, you ran to Paradise Pier, passing one of 3 Elvis impersonators along the course. Again, I don’t know why they had them out instead of using that spot for a character. No one was paying to see Elvis impersonators. And I understand that theme of the race was Stitch and so the Elvis part may seem to make sense, but not for the lack of actual characters.

I’ll stop with the character complaints for a bit and get back to the race! One of the highlights of a Disneyland race is that the World of Color fountains are on! The only comparison I can make to the WDW 10k is that the Illumination torches are on when you run through the World Showcase, but the World of Color fountains win out for sure! During the 5k I just quickly snapped a picture here, but for the 10k, they had a CM out to take pictures. So I had to stop, and this was one of my favorite parts of the race.


You then run through Paradise Pier, passing Screamin’, Toy Story Midway Mania, the back of the Fun Wheel, and the rest of the boardwalk area. This was one of the places it felt a bit congested, but it was still very cool to see the World of Color fountains from all different views. I wish I had stopped a few more times to take pictures here.

Mile 3 was in Condor Flats, and passing by Soarin, there was a group of CMs cheering. There was one particular CM there who was SO enthusiastic, I really hope he sees this because everyone I talked to LOVED him! I think he used more energy during the race than any of us did running! Then we ran through Hollywoodland (passing another Elvis impersonator) and made our way backstage for a bit before entering Disneyland at the entrance. There are lots of people cheering here, which is always awesome!

Then we run down an empty Main Street towards the castle. I wish I had stopped to take a picture by the Partners Statue, but there was a long line, and so I just took this picture. I love that the omnibus was out, and there were other Main Street vehicles along the route. At the start of Main Street, I saw someone posing for a picture inside the fire engine.


We then ran through Tomorrowland, which was mile 4, by the Matterhorn and the outside of Fantasyland, to Small World. Chip & Dale as cops & robbers were meeting here (with another Elvis impersonator.) Since this was the first character stop since Cars Land, the line was huge. I was still thinking that there would have to be more characters out, so I skipped this line.

We went backstage again, and the one reason I loved this area is because there were several Soundsational floats out! Soundsational is my favorite parade, and I was actually listening to that music during the run at that point. Only the Little Mermaid float was right next to the runners and had a CM stationed to take pictures. I love the photobomb of the Halloweentime Pumpkin!


I also stopped to take a picture with the Princess and the Frog and Mary Poppins floats. There were lots of CMs along the route and they were always happy to take a picture. I had to laugh at the CM who said she would take the picture as long as I didn’t jump on the float or touch it, though!



Just before entering the park again, I had to stop and take a picture of this gorgeous sunrise. One of the best parts of getting up crazy early to run are sunrises!


We entered a completely empty Toontown. (Seems like that would be a great place for a character, right? Oh well.) And ran back by Small World on the opposite side. Chip & Dale were still meeting and the line was still long.


The façade on Small World is pretty as the sun was coming up.


We ran by the carousel where the 5 mile marker was. And then towards what I was really looking forward to, running through the castle! We entered from the back of the Sleeping Beauty Castle.


My first time running through a castle during a race! Pretty cool to do that during a 10k.


I stopped to take a quick picture of other runners going through the castle


As we ran through Frontierland, there was finally another character stop by the Mark Twain boat dock. Elvis Stitch was meeting with a Hawaiian dancer. The line was long but at this point I figured there wouldn’t be any more characters out (and there wasn’t), so I stopped. This was my first character stop in the race, and not until about 5.5 miles in. For me, this isn’t normal! The best part about this line is I caught up to my friends (they were in corral A & I was in corral B, even though we all put down the same time.) Anna & Elsa reunited!


I waited close to 8 minutes for this (and Stitch is my least favorite character.) I have friends that were in later corrals that didn’t even know Elvis Stitch was out because he left really early. Very disappointing.


We ran through Critter Country and then out of the park to another backstage area. More CMs and Main Street vehicles were here and I stopped for a quick picture with them.


The rest of the course is through the Downtown Disney area. I saw someone run into Jamba Juice and get a smoothie during the race! That’s something you can’t do during the WDW 10ks, haha! I stopped for a picture with the 6 mile marker. All the mile markers had different Stitch backdrops. As an aside, the DL 5k mile markers also had cutouts of Lilo & Stitch and those lines were even longer than a lot of character lines I’ve seen on races! That long a line usually doesn’t happen for mile markers at WDW races I’ve seen.


The finish line is on the street between Downtown Disney and the Disneyland Hotel. Hawaiian Mickey & Minnie were there slapping hands, but not meetable. I really wish they had been out along the course, especially since the characters were so sparse. I was able to at least snap a picture of Minnie high fiving me. I promise that’s my hand, lol!


Like any Disney race on either coast, the medal is cool. Even though it’s Stitch lol. The post race setup of getting water, your food box, and getting a picture was the same on both coasts.


After the WDW 10k races (and any WDW race I’ve done), there are characters you can meet in the post race area. However, there are no characters out after the Disneyland races. Another difference post race is that you don’t have to hop on a bus to get back to your room. So many hotels are within walking distance of Disneyland, whether you are staying on property or not. We ate breakfast at the Tangaroa Terrace, which is at the Disneyland Hotel, just a short walk from the finish line. The race expo is also at the Disneyland Hotel, so we ran in to get a picture with the backdrop they had set up for the race with our medals.


Overall, it was a fun race, but I had trouble enjoyed it as much because the lack of characters is something that really bothered me. When friends who are not character people like me were complaining too, I know that it was a pretty universal complaint. Hopefully rundisney will hear this and beef up the characters for future races.


Heather is an annual passholder that loves coming up with excuses to take a trip to the World. She started doing runDisney races for the characters, but then found out she actually loved running. Visit her website, I Love Characters, to see pictures of the over 200 characters she’s met at Disney World and Disneyland. Follow her adventures at Disney on twitter and instagram.

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