If you're anything like me and you've participated in a runDisney 5K, you have a little pang of “why why WHY did I sign up for this?” when your alarm goes off at around 2 a.m. so that you can go run 3.1 miles. There have been many mornings when I've reevaluated my life choices while I roll out of bed in the middle of the night to get ready, drive to a park, and then wait about 2 1/2 hours to run for 30 minutes, only to get home before anyone else in my household has even woken up. But I left this weekend's Dark Side 5K with a little more clarity on why it makes a heck of a lot of sense to sign up for the Thursday/Friday 5K portion of any runDisney race weekend. So here are my top 7 reasons – one for waking up, one for each kilometer, and an extra one for good luck:
1. The Fanfare
If you are newer to running or otherwise are more comfortable with shorter race distances for any reason at all, you aren't going to get a massive 5K experience anywhere quite like you will at a runDisney event. The pre-race scene is at least as festive as it is for the longer runs, the fireworks at the start are just as exciting, the music is just as energizing, and the course is at least as jam packed with characters and other PhotoPass photographers. The race is also untimed and includes a huge range of runners (and walkers!) – from complete novice to extremely experienced, so it's one of the least intimidating race experiences you'll find. And these days you get a proper medal for finishing – so you'll leave with your bling, too.
The down side is of course that this will basically ruin you for all other 5ks. But you probably won't have to wake up in the middle of the night to run those, so it's okay.
2. The Intimate Park Experience
The runDisney 5Ks are typically entirely within a given park – usually Epcot, sometimes Animal Kingdom. It will be interesting to see what the courses are going forward with the various new lands opening. I can only imagine a run through Toy Story Land or Galaxy's Edge…. But even now the runs weave throughout a single park in an intimate way that you just don't get with the longer runs. For Epcot 5Ks, you'll circle world showcase in the dark with the countries lit, meander through future world with Spaceship Earth glowing, and exit back to the parking lot to finish. It's a sort of wee hours, quiet park experience that you just can't get any other way.
3. The Costumes!!
Most of us aren't willing to run a half marathon in full costume – especially in the Florida heat. But you can knockout 3.1 miles in pretty much anything. This allows you to indulge in some pretty creative outfits and also makes for some of the best people watching of any runDisney event. Knock out your 5K in whatever you want and then you can indulge in comfortable gear for any other races you're doing that weekend.
***Huge shout out to SuperNerdCosplay on Etsy for hooking me up with my Darth Vader gear this race!!***
4. Get your Body Clock Set Before the Weekend
I know, I know. Double edged sword since the wake ups really do catch up with you as any race weekend progresses, but if you have the luxury of getting to bed early enough throughout the course of a race weekend, it's great to get yourself started on the crazy schedule on Friday. I typically force myself through the day without napping after finishing the 5K (if you work outside of the house you're basically home in plenty of time to work a regular 9-5 and more) and then falling asleep early that evening is much easier, which makes waking up in the middle of the night for the 10K, half marathon, and (in January) full marathon a little…well, easier is probably too strong a word. But more natural.
5. Relax…and Knock Out the Characters before the Long Runs
(Caution: Egregious photo sharing ahead….)
Again, if you're anything like me, your favorite part of a long run is the finish line. And so, if you're anything like me, once you start you're probably impatient to get there. For me, this often means that no matter what my plan is *before* the race, I rarely want to take the time to stop to wait in line for character pictures, etc., during a 10K, half marathon, or full marathon. And even if you tend not to mind stopping during those races, it's nice to go into them with many of the character stops already in your pocket so that you can focus on running during the longer races – especially if the balloon ladies are an actual concern for you. Plus you aren't nearly as sweaty, so you're going to look better in the 5K pictures anyway. 😉
Since the race is more relaxed and there is no time requirement, taking your time and enjoying the course is really just getting your money's worth out of a runDisney 5K. And you can also grab the corral character pictures before or after the race, so that you go into the other race mornings not having to wait for the same characters in the much, much longer lines. Of course I can't promise the same experience every time, but I showed up for the Dark Side 5K at about 3:15 a.m. and managed to grab every pre-race character shot in about 15 minutes. (Which was AMAZING.) And then I went on to get pretty much every character picture on the course so that I didn't need them going into the 10K and half marathon.
6. Do It For the Bling.
We all know that the difference between a training run and a race is the bling. So go get yours. Other than the Dopey, which requires completing the 5K, 10K, half marathon, and full marathon over the course of January's marathon weekend, the runDisney race weekend challenges currently include only the 10K and half marathon – so you can complete the weekend's challenge without participating in the Friday 5K. But do you really want to do all of that work and leave short one medal that you could have gotten for an extra 3.1 miles?? Because really. Four medals are better than three medals. That's just basic math.
And as I mentioned above, if you are new to racing or otherwise more comfortable with shorter distances, do it somewhere that your efforts will be honored with proper bling.
7. The Snack Box.
You guys. They give you the snack box and a banana after the 5K. That's 150% the number of snack boxes that you'd get just running the 10K and half. In case you need me to connect the dots for you, that's 150% the cheddar cheese flavored pasteurized cheese snack. So you can basically disregard reasons 1-6 because commmmme to momma….
So there you have it. Seven good reasons to run through in your mind the next time your alarm goes off at 2 a.m. so that you can wait 4 hours to run 3 miles. 😉