This is my first post as a writer for the WDW Dads blog and I couldn’t be happier to share one of my many Disney passions. I love sports of all kinds and have invested many hours and money into the pursuit of sports. The question that I have often ask is the money and time I spend in pursuit of that sport worth it? Running seems like an inexpensive sport and the entrance cost can be very reasonable. A half decent pair of shoes (another blog post for another time) and some gym shorts and off you go. The sweat and tears of training will quickly give way to the goal of choosing and preparing for your first race. I started to run with the goal of my first race being the Walt Disney World Half Marathon in January of 2012. I just assumed that all races were the same price and offered the same features, and I discovered that is just not true. A runDisney race on average is upwards of 40-50 percent more expensive than your typical local races that are offered. For comparison sake I ran a half marathon here in Denver with over 20,000 runners and the entry fee was $60. The Walt Disney World Half Marathon fee for 2013 was $150 for those who paid during early registration. So for that great a difference in price you can honestly ask “Is it worth it?” Lets look at a few things that I think separates a runDisney event from many other race event options that are out there.
The immediate attraction to me for a runDisney event is the location that the actual race will take place in. Running is a battle of the mind and the will in many cases and running in places that push or even encourage you can be extremely helpful. The WDW races start and finish in the Disney Theme Parks. The Half Marathon passes through Epcot and the Magic Kingdom and the Full Marathon passes through all four of the theme parks. There really is nothing like running through the areas where you have passed through so many times and the anticipation of the next park pushes and provides the necessary encouragement to continue. I live in Denver, CO and am privileged to run in some very beautiful scenery in most cases, but running along roads does not compare to the scenery Disney offers. I just finished the Disneyland Half Marathon in early September and had the joy of running through both theme parks and even got to enjoy the newly finished CarsLand motif. I can imagine other races offer beaches and amazing scenes, but for a Disney fan such as myself, there is nothing better than being able to enjoy the parks at times that I will never typically be able to. I was able to run through the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland at sunrise and next week runners will be able to run through Hollywood Studios around midnight. All these experiences add up to a real plus for the money that is paid.
A second huge difference is the organization and execution of the race. Disney does most things in a first class manner and their running events are no different. You immediately see the difference from the race communication (website, Twitter and Facebook), run expo, clothing options, pre and post race events and even the medals that are awarded. runDisney does an excellent job of keeping all of its participants up to date with all the important information and everything that they need to know that have an amazing experience. I honestly had very few questions going into my first race as I received numerous emails telling me exactly what to expect and how to prepare. runDisney regularly posts Twitter (@runDisney) and Facebook updates to motivate and encourage you in your training and anticipation of the event. The expo they put on for the runners is honestly second to none. Hundreds of exhibitors offer every possible service and product a runner could want. It would be easy to spend hours just looking and listening to all that they have to offer. You can tell the expo is specifically designed to inform and provide an opportunity to improve and explore all that running has to offer. I particularly enjoyed all the cool runDisney clothing and souvenirs that you can find only at the expo. I have limited edition Vinylmations and finisher pins just for the races I ran. These gifts have become proud badges of what I have been able to accomplish and will serve as lifetime memories. Disney also offers special dinners and parties just for those who are race participants. I have not taken advantage of those yet but plan to at my next race. I know next week at the Tower of Terror 10 mile race that Hollywood Studios will be open til 3 a.m. just for all race participants. What an awesome experience after an awesome accomplishment. Last upgrade I will mention are the medals that all the finishers receive. They are beautiful and extremely unique to say the least. Look at my blog profile pic to get an idea of what I received. They are heavy and of a great quality and just getting those medals are enough of a motivator for me. Everyone I have shown my medals to are blown away by how beautiful they are and they instantly have become the most treasured items I have in my Disney collection.
Last thing I will mention in the post seems to be maybe the most obvious reason to runDisney, getting to go to Disney. I live in Denver and so visiting the parks can be tough for a family of four. I have traveled solo to both of runDisney events so far and so have gone simply and cheaply as possible. Even though I have not stayed in the lap of luxury (stayed at All Star Sports in WDW and family in Disneyland) it allowed me to get a quick Disney fix. At both races I was able to spend the day before and after the race in the parks. Being in the parks that I will run through the next day only help to build the excitement for the race the next day and being in the parks after you finish only remind you of the fun you just had. Earlier this month I was able to see CarsLand for the first time as well as enjoy that never old trip down Main Street USA. Solo travel to Disney is definently different but it allows you to tour the parks exactly how you want to and at the pace that you choose. Being in the parks served as a motivator for sure as i trained in the months leading up to my race. I could imagine the fun that awaited me and that would always make me push just a little bit harder.
Yes a runDisney race is more expensive, but in my humble opinion they give you what you pay for. I have never read or talked to a single person who did not think they received their full value back in the experience of the race. Plan for that little bit of extra cost but realize that what you will receive back is worth every penny. The motivation that a runDisney event provides is almost second to none and makes the lonely and long training miles worth it in the end.