I’m a runner. It all started in college when I noticed that my weekends spent bar-hopping and topping the night off with an order of Papa John’s cheese sticks had added a few unwanted extra sizes to my cargo shorts. I wanted to drop a few pounds, so I started running. In cotton t-shirts and basketball shorts. That, as I know now, was a mistake. I figured out the appropriate clothing choices along the way and kept running for years. But it wasn’t until I ran my first runDisney race, the Walt Disney World Half Marathon in 2012, that I became a little (okay, maybe more than a little) obsessed with running in Disney events. Here is why I run Disney, & why you should too.
Water/Powerade/Food Stations – One of my biggest concerns going into my first distance race was how I was going to carry everything I needed to bring with me. On long training runs I would wear a water belt and then go stash a bottle of Gatorade somewhere along my route before I went out running. The hidden Gatorade wouldn’t be possible in a Disney race! Also, I would have to bring energy gels, my cell phone, my ID, cash, my room key for my hotel, a banana, etc. That’s a lot of stuff to have to worry about! Disney makes it really easy for both new and experienced runners alike. There are plenty of water and Powerade stations along the course, along with bananas, power gels, and even candy during the last few miles of the WDW Full Marathon. Also, Disney’s MagicBand is a rubber wristband that acts as your room key, park pass, and debit card all in one. I wear mine on my wrist during the races. All I bring for my races in WDW now is a small belt where I can store my fuel gels (Gu Salted Caramel is my favorite!), my phone, and my ID. Knowing that all of those stations are out there on the course makes race day WAY less stressful!
Support & Encouragement – Running in your first race is scary. It’s daunting. It’s nerve-wracking. I remember standing at the start line in January of 2012, looking at all of the other runners around me, and feeling like I was so out of place. I looked at everyone who was laughing, joking, and comfortable, and I was wondering how in the world I was going to be able to run 13.1 miles with all of these strangers watching me. Then a funny thing happened. A few people noticed how nervous I looked. We started talking about our training and how much work went into preparing for this race. I remember an amazingly nice fellow runner telling me, “You trained. You put in all the work and the hard part is over. Today is the payoff. Go enjoy yourself and have fun.” From that moment on, the butterflies were gone. From the fellow runners around me to the folks cheering all along the course and at the finish, the support and encouragement you get at these races is unparalleled anywhere else.
Entertainment – No one in the world does entertainment like the Disney Company, and the races that they put on are no exception to that rule. All along the course you will find character meet & greets, marching bands, singers (anyone who has ever run a Disney race loves seeing the Gospel Choir!), DJs, music, dancing, etc. There is so much that you can see and do along the Disney race courses that it is just like a regular old trip to a Disney park: you just can’t possibly do it all. Well, you could, but you may end up running in a 7 hour half marathon!
Running Through The Disney Parks – Since my first half marathon, I’ve run a lot of races and I’ve seen tons of fun things along the courses. I’ve run through Center City Philadelphia, past the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. I’ve run down the Wildwood and Atlantic City Boardwalks. I’ve run through boroughs of New York and have run past skyscrapers and amazing sights. But nothing is like running through the Disney theme parks! I had the privilege of running my first full marathon in Walt Disney World in January of 2014, and it was nothing short of AMAZING. First you come to Magic Kingdom, run down Main Street, USA and through Cinderella Castle, and then through several of the lands. Then, you run through Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Some runners even stop for a quick ride on Expedition everest, during a marathon! You then have the opportunity to run through Disney’s Hollywood Studios and then cap it all off with a trip around the World Showcase Lagoon and into Future World at Epcot! The sights and sounds of Walt Disney World are all around you as you run. It’s truly an amazing and, dare I say, magical race!
Whether you are a serious, dedicated runner or someone who is brand new to the idea of distance running, Walt Disney World and runDisney have a race for you. During WDW Marathon Weekend alone there are the 5K, 10K, Half Marathon, and Full Marathon. runDisney even allows those truly crazy people out there to run in two insane challenges, the Goofy Race & A Half Challenge (half marathon on Saturday followed by the full marathon on Sunday) and the Dopey Challenge (5K, 10K, half & full, Thursday thru Sunday). And, yep, I’ll be one of those crazies out there running in the Dopey Challenge! Look for me in my blue Ear To There Travel Shirt and say hello!
If you are thinking of signing up and training for a runDisney race, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to help you plan a magical race experience or answer any and all questions that you may have! Thanks for reading, make sure your running shoes are tied, and have an amazing day!