Thursday, June 29, 2017

Pacing, Corrals and the Balloon Ladies


Pacing is a very popular topic and a controversial topic for runDisney races.  It’s not just a run for the distance, we run the races for the Characters, The Medals, and The Castle.    We want all of those pictures in our memories.  However, many people have been disappointed at being swept from the course and not obtaining everything they dreamed a runDisney race could be.   It is very devastating to spend that much money and effort and not achieve your dream.  So, I’m am here to help you understand the whole process better, to help you be able to finish, and to have fun!

I always like to start with the basics:


Pacing:  What is it?
Technically it is simply the number of minutes it takes to run divided by the number of miles.  
So, if you run a 5K in 35 minutes, your pace would be 11 minutes and 15 seconds.

Many races have pacing requirements, including runDisney.  A Pacing Requirement is a minimum pace you need to keep before you will be taken off the course or “swept.”  Race officials do this so that they can keep control of the race and clear the course.

What is runDisney’s Pace Requirement?
runDisney has a pace requirement of a 16-minute mile.  This pace starts when the last person crosses the starting line.   runDisney has some volunteers who are always the last people to cross the line.  These ladies carry balloons so that you can see where the end is, and are now affectionately called the “Balloon Ladies.”

What exactly does the 16-minute mile mean for the race?
In order to complete a half marathon within a 16-minute mile, it will take you 3 hours and 30 minutes.  Runners are grouped into Corrals based on their proof of time they submitted at registration.  For a race such as the Princess Half, you could have as many as 16 Corrals, where the first Corral would be elite runners and the last Corral would be the walkers/runners at the 16-minute pace.


You have a chip in your Bib that starts your race clock when you cross the starting line.  The Balloon Ladies hang back and let the last runners/walkers get ahead of them before they cross the starting line.  The 16-minute pace clock starts when they do, and typically means a total time for the half marathon at approximately 4 hours, usually a little more.

Typically, and from past experiences, runDisney will sweep up to the Mile 9 marker.  It is not a guarantee, but if you make it past mile 9, you can breathe a little easier. However,  if you see the Balloon Ladies before Mile 9  it is a sign of concern, and you need to pick up your pace.  You still need a game plan to complete the whole race, you can’t depend on anything runDisney says today, because they have been known to change policies from year to year.

How do I plan for pacing and stopping for pictures and the bathroom?
Taking time for pictures and the bathroom breaks eats away at your pace.  In other words, the clock doesn’t stop ticking just because you do.   Typically, you need to consider 15 minutes per photo stop and 15 minutes to go to the bathroom.


If you know you need 2 Bathroom Breaks and 1 Stop at your Favorite Character and 1 Stop at the Castle, you have just added an hour to your total time.  For the folks in the middle corrals, who are running around 11 to 12-minute mile, you will be finishing a little over 3 and a half hours.   If you are running a 16-minute mile, you honestly don’t have an extra hour to spare, so you need to plan your race accordingly and maybe make one photo stop and one bathroom break.

Generally, if the race starts at 5:30 am, you need to be past the 6 mile marker by 7:30am.


Some general tips that we follow:
-If there are more than 8 people in a line at a character, we skip it.   If they take 2 minutes per picture, that is a 16 minute wait.

-We take Selfies as much as possible:  at the Mile Markers, Castle, Favorite Landmarks

-We sneak Selfies:  Capture a Selfie with the Characters in the Background and you in the Foreground

-Train to run:  We break the race course into sections and train to run non-stop per section.  For the Princess it is 6 miles:  6 miles will get us to the Castle and our selfie in front of the Castle. For the Dark Side, 4 miles would get us to the Animal Kingdome and a photo opportunity there.   You want to run as much as possible up front, so that you have time to walk later if you need to.

-Use bathroom in Staging Area and Train to avoid the early bathroom stops on the course:  it’s quicker to use the bathrooms in the parks or later on the race course.   Avoid the trigger foods that force you to bathroom, and Hydrate the night before not the morning of the race.

-Train to run and stop:  Stopping for 15 or more minutes at a time will cause your muscles to get cold, tense up and possible start cramping.  You need to know how run and stopping feels for you, and how to get going again.

-Run together for a portion of the race:  When running with friends who have all different paces, remember that they cannot come up to your corral, but you can go down to their corral.  We usually plan to stick together for a portion of the race, take a group picture, and then head our separate ways.  For example, at the Princess, we stick together until our Castle Picture!
It’s hard to expect the fast runners to walk a race, and you can’t expect walkers to run, so it’s something that you need to all talk about and agree on.

How do I increase my chances of finishing?
The best way to increase your chances of finishing, is to get in the middle corrals.  This placement is around the 11 to 14-minute mile and helps you have extra time for pictures, etc.
Always submit a time.  If you plan to walk, be sure and submit a time: if you don’t submit a time, you will be placed in the last corral regardless of how fast you may be.   The best thing to do to prepare is compete in local 10Ks.  Train very hard for the local race so that your proof of time can push you into a higher corral.

Even though we all believe in Peace, Love and Pixie Dust, the reality is that Pixie Dust may not save you on the race:  be sure and train for a good 10 miles to get your body used to the exercising time.

Another way to help increase your chances of finishing is to plan your race course.  What is important to you?  Do you really need to go to the bathroom several times, or do you really, really want a certain character?  Then you need to allow those extra minutes when you map out your race.

At the end of the race, you want to earn the medal.  You want to Wear the Medal and the I Did It Shirt!  But you still want to have fun.  It’s about creating a balance between a race and an experience that will create those memories of a lifetime!


Preparation is key to everything. You have to train and plan your race!

Be sure and contact me for more information! kesselrunner77@gmail.com

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