Racing Disney: Understanding Pace and Corral Placement by Tali McPike
RunDisney requires that participants be able to maintain an average pace of 16 minutes per mile to be able to finish most of their events. What does this mean? Well the simple answer is that you total time divided by your total mileage equals 16 or less. In practicality it is a lot more complicated than that. I will do my best to make this a clear as possible, but admittedly it is a fairly convoluted topic.
The first thing to remember is that runDisney events are unlike any other race. There are characters along the course to meet and interact with, and picture opportunities galore. Disney recommends training to run at at least a 15 minute per mile pace, but most runDisney veterans recommend training for a faster pace than that so you can enjoy the race, stop for pictures, and not feel like you have to skip experiences on the course to ensure you don’t get swept.
How much faster? Well, that depends on a few things. The most important is your corral placement. The thing to remember with the runDisney pace requirements is that they are not monitoring every individual runner to make sure that they finish with an average pace of 16 minutes per mile. The 16 minutes per mile is based on the last person to cross the starting line. The infamous “balloon ladies” start when the last competitor crosses the starting line and they maintain a 16 minute per mile pace, anyone who falls behind them get swept and receive a “DNF” (Did Not Finish) and will not receive their medal.
If you stay ahead of the “balloon ladies,” it doesn’t matter if you actual pace is slower than 16 min/mi. And stopping for photos will slow your pace down (remember the clock doesn’t stop just because you do). So your coral placement makes a HUGE difference as to how much you need to worry about your pace. The closer to the last corral you are, the more you have to worry about being swept.
So how can you know what corral you will be in, and how do you avoid being in the last corral?
There is no knowing exactly what corral you will be in until corral assignments are released (which is about a month before the race weekend). However corral assignments are based on you expected finish time/pace, so you can at least have a vague idea of where you will end up (near the front, towards the middle, or in the back). The corrals are labeled alphabetically. Corral A is the elite level athletes who could probably finish a marathon in the time it would take the average participant to finish a half marathon. So the faster your pace/finish time the closer to A you will be.
The most important thing to remember is if you are running a Half or Full Marathon, you need to submit a poof of time. The runDisney website will have the details for your specific race, but for Half Marathons you must submit a poof of time from a chip timed race of at least a 10k distance, for a Full Marathon you must submit a poof of time from a Half or Full Marathon. There is a time window and a deadline for when the poof of time race must be run and submitted. For example: I am running the Dopey Challenge at WDW in January. The deadline to submit my poof of time is October 6, and the race I submit must have been run after January 1, 2014. If you are running a challenge all of your corral placements will be determined by this proof of time. If you are running a 5k or 10k Proof of Time is not required and your corral placement will be determined by the expected finishing time you selected when you registered.
Your poof of time is used to predict what your average pace will be and is what will determine your corral placement. The faster your proof of time, the better your corral placement. If you do not submit a poof of time, you will likely be placed in the last corral no matter what you put down as your expected finish time during registration. The “Runner Info” section of the upcoming 2016 runDisney events now say that you only need to submit a poof of time if your expected Half Marathon finish time is less at 3:15 hours or your expected Marathon finish time is less than 6:30. However to complete in those times you have to run at an average pace of 14.5 min/mi, so its always good to plan to submit a poof of time race to get the best corral placement you can, as that will give you some extra cushion to not have to worry about your pace if you are having a bad race, or plan on stopping for every character interaction and photo opportunity.
I’m a Beginner, What Should My Goal Pace be?
I’m asked this question a lot. Unfortunately there is no easy answer, as it depends on a lot of factors. The sooner you start training before your event the more you can build up your speed and endurance and the faster you can set you goal pace. (I started 8 months before I ran the Expedition Everest challenge and by the time the WDW Marathon Weekend arrives in January, I will have been training for just under a year and a half.) But the absolute most important thing is not to push yourself beyond what your body is capable, as that will lead to injury, a miserable race experience, and a high risk of a DNF.
That being said, if you are able to do so you should at least train to run a 15 min/mi, as that is what runDisney recommends. However, if you want to stop for every character and picture, you probably what to train for a 12-14 min/mi pace, as waiting in line for characters can be time consuming. If you can run that pace in your Proof of Time race, it should ensure that you are at least in the second to last corral (but remember there is no guarantee of corral placement until the official corral assignments are released), and if you do end up in the last corral, that faster pace will put more distance between you and being swept, which will allow some time to stop for pictures.
Just remember, runDisney events are supposed to be about having fun and enjoying the magic, so don’t stress too much about your pace.
TMSM is very excited to publish the “Racing Disney” runDisney series by Addie Clark and Tali McPike. Please keep an eye out for more of their amazing and informative articles! If you missed of the articles in this series make sure you check them at www.themainstreetmouse.com/tag/addie/ and www.themainstreetmouse.com/tag/tali/
If you are planning on running in a runDisney event and have questions, or have participated and want to talk about your experiences make sure you visit our runDisney Forum at http://goo.gl/RLB5ka