We love Disney.
Like a lot, a lot.
My family and I head to either Florida or California to see Walt's legacy about every 12-18 months or so. So, when my wife suggested I run the Disney Half Marathon in January 2015, it seemed like a great idea to combine my first half marathon with a cool family vacation. I was not disappointed.
Now, less than 18 months after completing my first half marathon, I've registered for my third RunDisney event: the brand-new Dark Side Half Marathon in April 2016. So why do I go? Why do I shell out the cash to fly to Florida or California and run through the House of the Mouse? Well, here are 6 reasons:
1. It's Disney! There isn't anything quite like running through a Disney property in the pre-dawn darkness. Running down Main Street USA with 20,000+ fellow runners is a unique experience that really cannot be experienced anywhere else. Furthermore, Disney does a great job with the atmosphere of the runs. Favorite Disney characters dot the course with enthusiastic school marching bands, DJs and cheerleaders mixed in to motivate and entertain the participants all along the course. For you what-happens-behind-the-scene types, the course winds through the backstage areas of the parks, providing a rare glimpse of the service areas and parade staging areas. Even in the somewhat dreary City of Anaheim, Disney spiced things up by inviting several hundred car collectors to line the road with all manner of cool autos. Even Herbie the Love Bug was there beeping at the runners.
2. It's fun! In many other runs folks are oh-so-serious. Lots of stretching, grim faces and huge lines at the port-a-potties. Not so much at Disney. It's hard to be grim faced when surrounded by people in costumes or when running next to someone dressed like Chewbacca (looked like a seriously warm costume to me). All along the course, people stop to take their photo -- sometimes with characters that are rarely seen in the parks (like Governor Ratcliffe from Pocahontas.)
3. It's organized! No one can manage a crowd like Disney. Yeah, you're going to run with 20,000+ of your closest friends. But Disney throws a TON of employees and volunteers at these events and everything actually runs smoothly! Yes you wait.. sometimes upwards of an hour to actually start running from the first gun, but they entertain you the entire time with lively hosts and upbeat music. There are photographers everywhere and, at the end of the race, you will not wait for your medal, water or food as legions of volunteers distribute the goodies. At Disneyworld, the buses smoothly transport you to and from your hotel (although if you are running late in the morning, you might get stuck in traffic).
4. It's very well supported! The water stations are huge! Even if you don't slow down it can take 60 seconds or more to run past all the tables and volunteers. Hint to first timers: run to the end of the water stations -- the tables are far less crowded. There are volunteers and staff members everywhere to direct you to your destination, answer your questions and snap a photo of you with your phone. Importantly, the bathroom facilities (port-a-potties and regular facilities) are plentiful both at the start and throughout the course and lines are reasonable.
5. Great swag! The participant shirts and medals are high quality. The shirts are Champion technical shirts -- either long-sleeve or short, depending on the time of year of your event. The medals are quite detailed and well made. In 2015, the Disneyland half marathon medal was diamond shaped in honor of Disneyland's 60th anniversary and adorned with small crystal "diamonds." After an event, you'll see many of your fellow runners wearing their medals in the parks and the cast members all congratulate you as you walk around. Great fun!
6. It's easy to make it a vacation! After you run, play in the parks! Bring the kids and/or your partner along and enjoy the parks when you're not running. While you're in for some early morning starts, it isn't hard to have a great time with your family and friends and run some terrific events. Plus, RunDisney has events for all skill and fitness levels. A large portion of the runners in the 5K was enjoyed by adults and kids alike.
So, yeah, RunDisney events are expensive, but worth it. You really do get what you pay for. We choose to go to Disney parks frequently because the experience is consistent and high-quality. The RunDisney events are no different. Between the unique experience of running through Disney parks, the awesome support and organization and great gear, I find these events are well worth the money.
Why do you RunDisney? Let me know in the comments below.