Do you know you have the opportunity to run through the Disney theme parks and resorts at Disneyland, Walt Disney World, and Disneyland Paris? And I don’t mean running from attraction to attraction to make it to your next FastPass, but running in an official race event? Nearly 25 years ago Walt Disney World hosted it’s first full marathon, and since then runDisney has put on countless events ranging from 5Ks to 10 milers to half marathons – There’s even a 5K event on Disney’s private Caribbean island, Castaway Cay! These races boast various Disney themes like Princesses and Star Wars, and every mile is pure magic. Don’t think you’re capable of accomplishing something like that? Well think again! Check out my 13.1 reasons to consider running a runDisney half marathon.
- The goal-setting – Because registration happens rather early for runDisney events, you’re committing yourself to running a race nearly a year out from the actual date. Registration costs are non-refundable, so your fitness goals are set once you receive that confirmation email. Instant motivation and something to work towards! It’s a great way to ease into running if you’re new to the sport or haven’t been out there in a while. Plus, runDisney offers training plans from their official coach, Olympian runner Jeff Galloway.
- The health benefits – With all of that lead time to get prepared for your race, you have the opportunity to really transform your body and get into the physical shape you’ve always dreamed of. Running has a ton of health benefits, and can also really help relieve stress and anxiety. Once you start, it’s hard to stop after you’ve hit your first runner’s high!
- The race courses – Where else can you run past magical mountains, over bridges, and through castles all in one race?! The Disney theme parks and resorts as your surroundings make it easier to push through to the finish. And with races starting early in the morning, you get the chance to see the parks before they open to the public. There’s nothing quite like running down Main Street U.S.A. or speeding past Spaceship Earth at sunrise!
- The on-course entertainment – If the spectacular courses aren’t motivation enough, there’s also a wealth of themed entertainment for runners from start to finish. From character photo stops, to DJs, to marching bands and more, the special themes of each runDisney half marathon are fully immersive. One of my favorites stops at the Princess Half Marathon is the collection of heroes and princes, all in one photo!
- The shirts and freebies – runDisney registration costs are quite a bit higher than that of average road races, but they do bring some freebies. Most notably, a quality tech shirt to commemorate your race (short sleeved or long sleeved, depending on the time of year). And if you don’t want to run in a costume, it provides a great alternative for race day!
- The merchandise – Specialty merchandise created just for runDisney race weekends may not be included in race registration, but you don’t want to pass up this special shopping opportunity. Tee shirts, sweatshirts, car magnets, water bottles, pins, and more are available to display your accomplishment with pride. Plus, your Walt Disney World or Disneyland annual pass merchandise discounts can be applied (although subject to change, so check with a Cast Member).
- The food – I mentioned some freebies with registration, and that includes some post-race goodies once you cross the finish line. All runners are offered water, Powerade, bananas, and food boxes in the family reunion area, and runDisney recently brought back a fan favorite in that box: cheese dip and tortilla chips! You don’t understand how good fake cheese can taste until you’ve completed a half marathon under the Florida or California sun.
- The spectators – I’ve been running for almost four years, and spectators definitely make a difference in the overall vibe on any race day. runDisney spectators are no exception, and they bring tons of energy and smiles to all runners. Some of my favorite signs to date have been from runDisney race spectators, and some local community groups have even brought treats and created their own photo stops. Plus, if you’re traveling with non-runners who want to spectate, there are special experiences available for them that include reserved areas for race viewing, refreshments, and seating.
- The runDisney community – There’s no shortage of support among runners in the runDisney community. Even though races start in the wee hours of the morning, (mostly) everyone is cheery and bright and encouraging one another from the very start on race day. The community also provides ways to make friends and connections with runners from all over the world, and you’ll see many groups getting together during a race weekend.
- The parties – While always subject to change, some runDisney half marathons boast parties and gatherings for finishers after their event. My favorite is the finisher party held at Epcot during the International Food and Wine Festival for finishers of the Wine & Dine Half Marathon. The park is closed just for party-goers to enjoy the various festival booths and select attractions after hours!
- The fun for the whole family – There’s an age restriction to run a runDisney half marathon (currently the policy is age 14 on race day), but that doesn’t mean the whole family can’t get involved. During race weekends there are normally accompanying Kids Races of various distances, as well as a 5K and 10K. Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend obviously includes the full marathon event as well, so there’s something for everyone!
- THE BLING – My favorite medals from running have come from runDisney races. And these aren’t your run-of-the-mill medals; they’re mini works of art, from the medal itself to the band. At the Tinker Bell Half Marathon this past year, their presenting sponsor Pandora Jewelry even got in on the action designing the medals with Disney!
- The personal growth – The 13th reason gets the extra .1 of importance, just like the last .1 of a half marathon. Setting the goal to run a race, training for it, and crossing the finish line feels like nothing I could begin to describe. I’ve learned so much about myself since I took up running, and I really found a passion in something I never thought I’d be able to do. As the saying goes, “If you can dream it, you can do it!” And I really think anyone can run a runDisney half marathon if you put your whole heart into it.
So, ready to run?! Be sure to check out RunDisney.com for more information on all of their events and how to register. You can also connect with them on Facebook for additional updates and announcements. See you at the starting line!