Whether you're new to running
and looking for a great goal, have been running for a while but are in need of a fun first race, or haven't quite yet found the half-marathon of your dreams, then we have a very strong suggestion for you: Sign up for a runDisney
race. Sweating your face off, gasping for air, and pounding the pavement for 13.1 (or more) miles is not most people's definition of "fun," but the Disney parks
have found so many ways to make it magical. And if you're going to be purple in the face from hours of cardio, why not do it in costume at a magical resort destination
The easy-paced, non-competitive, ideal-for-groups-and-families event takes the stress out of an organized race and transforms it into a memorable experience. You might just forget about the fact that your feet feel like they're wrapped in cement rather than glass slippers. Ahead are 13.1 reasons why a runDisney race should be your first half-marathon — or at the very least on your race bucket list.
Um, hi: It's Walt Disney World.
These races have historically been at both parks, but Anaheim's Disneyland is on a bit of a hiatus from run events thanks to the construction of the much-anticipated Star Wars land (worth the pause, TBH). So for now, runDisney is only at Walt Disney World Resort
in Orlando, AKA the Most Magical Place on Earth. Seeing the sunrise over the magic castle (while jogging through the park in a tutu) is a total wow moment, especially if you're a lifelong Disney fan. Plus, there's the weather: You don't think about racing in bad weather until it happens, and trust us — it sucks. Stick to places that have a great forecast, especially in your early race years. Whether you're in Florida or Orange County, the sun is typically shining, and it's always a lovely day for a run (and a stroll through the park afterward). Disney's races start early (think: 5am), so you'll finish the course before the weather gets too hot.
The post-race brunches can't be beat.
A Disney park is the perfect place to indulge after hours of exercise. Whether you're inhaling Mickey Mouse waffles and breakfast casserole at the Crystal Palace or crushing steins of post-race beer at the Germany restaurants of Epcot, the food options
You get to take AMPLE breaks. If the idea of running 3.1, 6.2, 13.1, or 26.2 miles straight sounds particularly
dreadful daunting, then rest easy knowing there are dozens of your favorite Disney, Marvel, and Star Wars characters along the route to take photo breaks with. That's right: This is a "race" in which taking your sweet time and stopping for photos isn't just okay — it's encouraged.
Collecting medals is part of the fun. Within Disney race culture (yes, that's a thing), people get really into collecting medals. Each year features a unique design, and they're always really intricate and cool. You can earn special medals for completing multiple events within the same year too!
You get to wear costumes! Surprisingly enough, running in costume is pretty invigorating — it lightens up the entire experience. In lieu of a sea of people decked in typically serious running gear, Boston Marathon 1998 tees, visors, and water bottle belts (which can all be very intimidating when you're on the newer side), Disney races draw a crowd adorned in tiaras and tutus (or, in some cases, head-to-toe Chewbacca costumes). Many veteran runDisney racers have mastered the art of creating the perfect chafe-free costume that's as technical as it is magical.
No. Hills. This ain't the San Francisco half-marathon, folks. These races are in the flats of Florida (or in Anaheim, when the events return to SoCal), which means it's smooth sailing on a incline-free route. A perfect entry to the world of distance racing!
The energy is next-level. They don't call these parks the happiest and most magical places on earth for nothing! Cheerful people, high vibes, and seriously positive energy permeate the atmosphere — you can't help but smile and get excited.
It's not just a race — it's a vacation. You'll be looking forward to this weekend for at least six months of the year, if not longer. Not only do you get to plan for a race, but you get to hit the park before and after the run. Bring family along to run with you (or hold signs!), do it with a group of girlfriends, or make it a weekend escape with your significant other, and you'll all get to enjoy the perks of doing a race at a Disney resort.
There's some serious camaraderie. People who run into each other (no pun intended) at Disney races frequently become friends, returning to run together again and again. Whether you connect on the #rundisney Instagram hashtag, in one of the race's Facebook groups, or at the runner expo at the resort, you'll find people with common interests and excited energy to connect with.
You get to give back to some awesome charities. Instead of buying a race bib, you have the option to earn your entry by raising money for a charity. For the Wine & Dine race, for example, you can choose between over a dozen charities, including St. Jude's, American Cancer Society, and National Down Syndrome Society. For princess races, Disney makes an independent donation to Children's Miracle Network in addition to the money raised by "miracle maker" runners who opted to go the charity route; and for Walt Disney World Marathon, the company donates to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
There's absolutely no pressure, just fun. One of the most stressful parts of starting your distance race journey is the pressure of performance expectations. "Am I going to keep up with my pace group?" "What if I haven't trained enough?" "Everyone else is such a pro!" Those thoughts go out the door when you're in a group of thousands of people dressed as Olaf, Donald Duck, and Cinderella — all of whom are taking photos with characters, cheering for strangers, and smiling like kids on Christmas while dripping in sweat jogging through Mainstreet USA. This isn't about your pace, your PR, or your running skill (unless you want it to be!) — it's about enjoying the experience.
You'll make some of your best memories ever.
All of the aforementioned considered, this is bound to be a cherished experience full of memories you'll treasure. You'll achieve a major goal, and you'll do it in style — with happy people around you for support! You'll take great photos, eat tasty churros
, maybe get a pair of mouse ears, and have an all-around magical time. This is so, so much more than just another race... and if you're like the tens of thousands of people who return year after year, you'll be totally hooked.
Which #runDisney race would you sign up for first? Tweet us @BritandCo.
(Photos via Disney)