by Disney Magic Diva
There is something extra magical about a runDisney race. The opportunity to run through the parks (and especially the castle!), photo ops with rare characters, and of course the magnificent medals make a runDisney race truly magical. Even though I’m NOT a runner, I had a fabulous time earning my Coast to Coast medal. Many other Divas and Devos have enjoyed runDisney events as well. Run Diva can tell you all about the Dopey Challenge, (and anything else you may need to know about the runDisney races!), Cruisin’ Diva has shared her story on becoming healthier and achieving a dream of participating in a runDisney race, Military Diva gave us tips on training for the races, and Darlin’ Diva has shared her experiences as a runner over 50. All of these stories can provide anyone with the motivation they need to participate in a runDisney event. It truly is something ANYONE can enjoy!
Diva Tip: You do NOT have to run to participate in a runDisney race! You MUST be able to keep a 16 minute/mile pace, but that’s it. It’s entirely acceptable to walk the entire course! Hundreds and hundreds of people walk, so don’t let your lack of running ability stop you!
But, if all the bling and costumes and characters still don’t entice you to “run” a runDisney race, there is still a way you can participate! You can be part of the runDisney ChEAR Squad! The ChEAR Squad is just what it sounds like – spectators who are there to cheer on the runners. It’s incredibly fun to cheer for your friends and family, but it’s also extraordinarily magical to cheer for random strangers! The runners are extremely thankful for any support they receive as they make their way through the course. And providing that extra boost of energy to them makes you feel like you’re part of the magic, too! So here are my tips for making your ChEAR Squad experience one you’ll never forget:
1. Buy a package or DIY? The runDisney website has information on how to sign up to be part of the “official” ChEAR Squad for each race. There is a fee associated with registering, and, depending on the package you register for, you gain access to premium viewing areas, food, warming tents, t-shirts, clappers, photo-ops, private restrooms, and other perks. Fees can range from $49-$199. Check each race to see exactly what packages are offered.
While we’ve been tempted to register for one of these official packages (restrooms and warming tents sounded marvelous on those cold mornings!), we never have. Instead, we’ve just made our way to the course and started cheering. We’ve been to the Star Wars races (both Light Side at Disneyland and Dark Side at Walt Disney World) as well as the Princess Half Marathon at Disney World, and found that, with proper planning and patience, we can see our runner without spending money on reserved viewing areas.
2. Show your spirit. The runners have their bling to show off, but you can show your pride too! The runDisney ChEAR Squad packages come with t-shirts, but if you don’t buy a package you can still make your own t-shirts. Wear them proudly around the parks, so runners know you’re supporting them. Or consider getting a button to show your support. You can pick up an “I’m Celebrating” button at Guest Services. At the 2017 Star Wars Dark Side Expo, we were able to pick up some special runDisney ChEAR Squad buttons! Anything you can do to show your spirit will be appreciated.
3. Research the course. Naturally, you want to plan ahead so you are sure to see your runner. Each runDisney race publishes the race route, so research and know where the runners will be. Every race is different. In Disneyland, for the 2017 Star Wars Light Side half marathon, it was fairly easy to see runners either on the Esplanade between the parks, on Harbor Street, or along residential streets. Spectators generally weren’t allowed inside the parks (with a few exceptions for VIP ChEAR Squad packages purchased through runDisney). The 2016 Star Wars Dark Side half marathon at Walt Disney World was a little trickier to see runners, since spectators were basically only allowed outside of the parks. You could catch a glimpse of them in parking lots at Animal Kingdom or maybe Hollywood Studios, on the Boardwalk, and at the finish line. But the 2015 Princess half marathon ran through the Magic Kingdom, and spectators were allowed inside the park on Main Street. So be sure to check the course, and make a plan.
4. Dress for the weather. The runners will be watching the weather closely, and planning their running attire accordingly. You need to do the same. Since you’ll likely be standing in one spot for quite a while, very early in the morning, you may find it to be a little chillier than you expect! Knit gloves help keep those fingers warm while holding signs, and blankets or ponchos may help protect you from the cold (or possibly wet) ground if your legs get tired and you decide to sit.
5. Track your runner. runDisney will provide tracking information for runners. There is a chip in their race bib which will track them, and you can sign up to be notified when they cross the starting line, 5k, 10k, 15k, and 20k marks. Be sure to register for this! We’ve also found it helpful to use another tracking app, like Runkeeper, to know more precisely where our son is. You certainly don’t want to miss seeing your athlete!
6. Bring signs! One of the most fun aspects of being part of the ChEAR Squad is making signs! Runners LOVE reading the signs, and we love the feedback they give us as we cheer for them. You can find plenty of inspiration for what to write on your sign by searching Pinterest, or just by using your own creativity and imagination. We generally use neon colored posterboard, and a really thick marker to write on the sign. Remember, they will need to read it quickly, so make it simple! We’ve found that the posterboard can be rolled up or even folded to fit in our suitcases, so it’s no trouble to travel with signs.
Diva Tip: Make the most of your signs by using both sides of the posterboard! Our son usually races at least 2 days, and this way we can have twice as many signs ready to inspire the runners!
7. Make some noise! In addition to signs, a true ChEAR Squad needs to be LOUD! Clappers, noisemakers, and especially cow-bells are great tools for saving your voice while still making plenty of noise. It helps get the runners attention and provides that extra little motivation to bring a smile to their face and more energy to their feet! Don’t be afraid to yell and scream. Let them know you’re there!
8. Cheer for the random stranger! You’ll want to be in your chosen cheering spot well before your runner approaches. Start cheering right away! Everyone appreciates any support they receive, so don’t be shy. And after your runner has passed by, don’t be afraid to keep cheering. Those at the end of the pack, maybe more than anyone, will appreciate your encouragement!
9. Be at the finish line! Allow plenty of time to travel to the finish line, and be there well before your runner is expected to finish. The runDisney tracking will provide you with an estimated finish time. Be aware that this is only an estimate, so be at the finish line at least 10 minutes before that designated time. We are usually at the finish line at least 30 minutes before the anticipated finish time, to allow us time to make our way to the railings so we have a better view of the moment our son crosses the finish. It’s a moment you won’t forget…and neither will your runner!
10. Congratulate the runners! When you’re in the parks, runners will proudly be displaying their medals. And so they should! It’s quite an accomplishment. Tell them so!! Extend your congratulations to them as you walk by. They will invariably say “thank you” and it will be a heartfelt thanks, accompanied, more likely than not, with a nod and a smile. It will extend the magic not only for them, but for you too.
So if you know someone who will be participating in a runDisney race, consider being part of the ChEAR Squad! My experience as a participant in a runDisney race is a memory I will forever cherish, and would encourage anyone to try – at least once! But if you aren’t able to participate as a runner, you can at least participate as part of the ChEAR Squad. You can cheer for a loved one, or just anyone. And if you by chance happen to be at a Disney Park during a runDisney event, make some time to try to get out there and cheer for the runners. Even if you don’t know one single athlete, you will enjoy it more than you know. The magic you bring to them as they challenge themselves on the race course will fill their hearts – and yours.
Need some help in planning your next Disney vacation? Contact Patricia at All for Dreams Travel for a FREE quote! She will answer all your questions, and help make your trip completely magical!
***Disclaimer – We at Tips from the Disney Divas and Devos hope you enjoy reading our articles, and encourage you to share any you feel may be of interest to someone else. We do ask, however, if you choose to share the photographs attached to our articles, you give credit to the photographer. Thank you for your cooperation and sharing our love of Disney!