Here is my definitive ranking of runDisney races according to moi from least favorite to favorite. Bear in mind that I have not participated in the Princess or Tinkerbell races because I basically have no interest in doing them.
Expedition Everest Challenge
Weather: The weather was hot and humid when I did this one. The heat, meh, okay, but the humidity was upwards of 100% and that is just not cool at all so despite being a night race it was… unpleasant.
Course: It wasn’t so much that the course was bad because I think you do get quite a bit of park time, but the slower you are the more crowded it gets-you go through the course once for the 5k and then a second time for the scavenger hunt, so it gets crowded. Fast. On top of that, we weren’t crazy about the finish–which is alllllll the way out in the Animal Kingdom parking lot and nowhere near the after party. We weren’t looking to spend another 20 minutes walking back into Animal Kingdom for the after party (especially after we’d already done that twice) so we skipped it altogether.
Overall: If you’re local, it would be fun. If you’re not… well, the Flower and Garden show at Epcot isn’t bad and the food kiosks basically make it the vegetarian’s Food & Wine festival, so while I might travel back down again for that I don’t anticipate taking the Everest Challenge again.
Tower of Terror 10 Miler
Weather: Humid. 2013 wasn’t as bad as 2012, but the humidity was still exceptionally high (especially if you’re coming from a place where it’s no longer summer). I’ve heard stories about people having a lot of trouble at this one.
Course: It’s not bad. It’s a series of out and backs that incorporate Hollywood Studios and WWoS, with some great nods to the Twilight Zone along the way. I found it had a high number of characters over all, and I think they did a nice job with the theming on this one. If the villains are your thing, you’re going to love this. Again, though, the after party ended up not being much of a party. If you want to skip the Tower of Terror ride lines, plan on finishing fast. On top of that, I felt so gross and disgusting I couldn’t stand sitting on a ride AND THE GREAT MOVIE RIDE WASN’T EVEN OPEN. Add to that that people just looked like shit and were all over the ground, it wasn’t too magical.
Overall: It’s a fun race, but the weather kills it. If you’re looking for a fall theme, though, this weekend has it all, including Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween and the start of the Food & Wine festival.
Wine and Dine Half Marathon
This and the marathon are the only runDisney races I’ve run twice. Despite always getting injured at this half marathon, I still really enjoy it for the course and the after party. If I had remembered to bag check some extra dry and warmer clothes for after the run, I probably would’ve been able to enjoy the party like I had the last year.
Weather: It’s a crap shoot, but in 2012 I had amazing weather and 2013 wasn’t terrible compared to Tower of Terror. You have better odds of getting great weather at this one.
Course: My favorite 1/2 marathon course at Disney World. It’s the second half of the marathon without the terrible WWoS detour and you go through three parks, so overall you have more park time and the crowd at the Epcot area resorts is great. The afterparty is also pretty amazing. When else are you going to get a late night party in Epcot? The rides have no lines but the food does. The other great thing: when you stay in an Epcot resort you can walk back to your hotel room after strolling through the world showcase. Win.
Overall: I really like this one, at least in theory. Two years in a row I’ve been injured, and now that I want to do fall marathons like the Marine Corps and NYC, it falls at an inconvenient time (the weekend after NYC, two weeks after MCM) given that I’m not great at doing a half just after a full.
Disneyland Half Marathon
I have only run at Disneyland once, and I loved it.
Weather: The upside to the Disneyland half is that it’s Labor Day weekend, so basically I come off a summer of running and run somewhere hot. That doesn’t phase me too much, especially since relative to DC there’s practically no humidity. None. Don’t listen to the people from there, they have no idea what humidity is, so despite high temps it’s mangeable especially since it starts early.
Course: I know people aren’t crazy about the course and how it spends very little in the parks but generally speaking I think the people of Anaheim who come out from the race are delightful. In short: if you prefer crowd support to a character at each mile marker, this is the better option. I also found it to not be particularly congested the way Walt Disney World races can be, but be warned: the expo can get insane.
Overall: You can most likely walk to the start line from your hotel, so I mean, come on, that’s pretty awesome. All in all, I would do this one more often if it weren’t so expensive to get out there, I would like to go to Disneyland again, and no, I have no idea why I am wearing such terrible shorts in that picture.
Walt Disney World Marathon (and Marathon Weekend)
This is the weekend that started it all, my “inspiration weekend,” if you will. So basically, it has a very special place in my heart. You’re surrounded by runners and if you’re looking to infect friends with your runDisney fetish, this is a great option.
Weather: Once again, it’s a crap shoot, but the odds are more in your favor than at any other race in Walt Disney World. 2013: hot as hell. 2014: almost dare I say it, ideal.
Course(s): All roads lead to Epcot. The finish line is literally the same for every. single. race. It gets congested, especially into the Magic Kingdom, but with the marathon it’s the ultimate in park hopping: 1 race, 4 parks. It’s also, aside from the Princess, the only half where you get your run through the castle.
Overall: When I weigh my options for my runDisney diet, I stripped out all the races but decided to keep marathon weekend (and Dopey) for 2015. While it is exhausting, retrospectively I loved it and had a lot of fun and, you know, why pick one race when you can just 4 in one long weekend?