Most of us train and run during the day, so the night races that runDisney holds can be a challenge. There are so many different things that come into play that you might not immediately think about when you are preparing. Jenn is a veteran Disney runner, but had never run a night race before this year’s Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler. She’s here today with some great tips on how to prepare for a night race and some of the differences you can expect if you are used to morning races.
There is absolutely nothing like a Disney Race! The atmosphere, the fun, the characters – everything is impeccably planned and executed. In fact, Disney races are the entire reason I got into distance running. The thought of running through my favorite place, seeing things that are behind the scenes, and being part of the fun and excitement were all huge draws. The icing on the cake is that I get to take a vacation while I’m down there!
Up to this point, my husband and I have only participated in morning races on the WDW Marathon Weekends. So this year, we decided to try something new – The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10 Miler! The Tower of Terror is our favorite attraction, so we decided that this was the perfect race with which to “branch out”.
I have to tell you, I was so excited that this race was at night versus in the morning. Being a “night owl” by nature, the 10:00pm start time really appealed to me. I mean, waking up at 2:00am to catch a bus is rough – worth it, but rough!
But as the race date approached, I began to realize that I had never prepped myself for a night race – and it is a whole different ballgame than prepping for the morning races.
So, let’s start with the morning races. As every runner knows, it is important to learn how your body handles long runs. It is always a process knowing what to eat, how much to eat, and when to eat it for maximum benefit. Too much food makes me sluggish, too little makes me feel sick. Over time, I have learned that for my morning races and long training runs, I need a nice balance of protein and carbs – nothing that weighs me down, but something that will stick with me. I usually opt for a meal replacement shake with lots of protein and some breakfast biscuits to munch on. The slow burning carbs sustain me through the morning hours and the run ahead.
When I do morning Disney races, there is the added element of not tiring out your body. Disney has so many wonderful things to do; it can be easy to get caught up in the magic of the parks and overdo it before a race. I am always careful to take it easy in the parks the day before, have a nice dinner, then head back to the room to prep my gear and grab some sleep for the next day. Of course, the alarm going off at 2am is never a great sound, but it is amazing how the adrenaline begins to flow, waking me up more quickly than usual. By the time I’ve had my shake, I’m feeling ready to go. I bring my breakfast biscuits in my go bag to munch on since there are always a couple of hours before the corrals release.
So, this has been the perfect formula for my morning Disney runs. The excitement at the finish line keeps me going, as does the snack box the wonderful volunteers pass out. I even have enough energy to head into the parks for a few hours before the need for a nap overwhelms me.
Of course, this formula was of no help to me for the 10-Miler. I totally had to change my preparations. First up, it was more challenging to “take it easy” before the race. We had tickets to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party on Friday night, and so we were up late. Add to that the fact that we walked more than anticipated on Friday, and we woke up on Saturday a bit more tired than we had hoped.
We had planned to go to Epcot that day; as we stayed at the Boardwalk, it was just a short walk to get there. We planned to stay just long enough to see the booths at the Food & Wine Festival and ride our favorite rides, then head back to the room for a nap. We pretty well kept to the plan, but as you know, Epcot is quite a large park. We did more walking than we should have, but after a nap, we were feeling good.
Next came the tricky part. What on earth should we eat? We planned to walk over to the Studios at around 7:15 to experience the pre-race festivities, and so just a protein shake wasn’t going to work. By the time the corrals launched, I knew I would be starving. My husband and I debated back and forth. Finally, we grabbed a room service menu at around 6pm. There was a great looking salad – nice and light – but then I realized that there is nothing worse than being hungry in the middle of a run, so I didn’t want to eat something small. I decided that I had plenty of time to digest, so I settled on the pulled pork sandwich with homemade chips; my hubby opted for the grilled chicken sandwich (side note: both were fantastic!) with chips. We had water only to drink in anticipation of the race.
We sat down to dinner at 6:40pm, and then we finished our race preparations and walked over to the Studios via the walkway along the lake. I was pleased that the sandwich had been filling but not heavy. The salt in the chips was helpful pre-run, but I realized halfway over that I forgot a bottle of water in my race bag. Thank goodness for the water stations near the corrals!
So, I’m sure you are wondering how things turned out. I have to say that overall, I was successful in my first nighttime race. I did notice that my feet were definitely sore by mile 3 – I attribute this to the fact that I did more walking than I should have during my park visits. This did not impair my speed too much, but I know that had I rested a bit more, I would have been more comfortable during the latter half of the 10-Miler. Food-wise, I was pleased. The balance of protein and carbs was still good, and the food stuck with me throughout the race. Don’t get me wrong, I was ready for a snack after, but I never felt hungry during the run. I was also able to enjoy the pre- and post-festivities due to my afternoon nap.
I would say that if you have never done a night race, don’t avoid it! Be careful not to overdo it in the parks, and try to find a meal that combines the same elements you eat for your morning runs. They will take a different form, but the combination will work like a charm. I am definitely looking forward to more Disney races, whether night or morning!
Jenn has been a lifelong Disney fan. Her passion for the Mouse has only increased throughout the years. She visits Disney Parks 2-3 times per year, often in conjunction with Disney Races. In addition to being a fan, she plans Disney travel for others, hoping to share the Magic with everyone. Through Disney-themed blog & Facebook pages, she regularly tracks new and exciting changes to the Disney parks so she can share them with others. Check out Jenn’s blog DISining Memories and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!