What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
If someone had told my kid or even teenage self that I’d have completed a marathon at any point in my life, let alone before I turned 30, I would’ve laughed in their face.
In middle and high school, I wasn’t athletic – in fact, I excelled in pretty much every subject except PE. While my classmates were completing the mile run in like three minutes or whatever, I was rocking a moderately paced walk in the back of the pack, watching my teacher/coach glance down at his watch in a way I’m sure he thought was subtle to make sure I finished before the bell signaling next period rang.
But all this changed when I broke up with my ex fiancé in the fall of 2010. I’d started dabbling in running up until that point, having completed a couple of 5Ks, but I never saw running as anything other than a way to burn calories. In fact, I kind of secretly hated it and wondered why people did it for fun.
But when I felt like I had nowhere else to turn that fall, running gave me something: myself. Time spent running was time alone with my thoughts without outside distractions, and that was a godsend. And as my Orlando-dwelling self would soon learn, runDisney gave me races that not only felt attainable, but seemed like fun – something unintimidating and also quasi-athletic that I could make into any kind of experience I wanted.
In fact, to date, all my long races – one 10-miler, four half marathons, and one full marathon – have been runDisney races, and I wouldn’t change that for the world. I’m running the Disney Princess Half Marathon for the third time in February 2016, and if my husband Josh and I are able to get in before it sells out (fingers crossed), we’ll be running the inaugural Disneyland Paris Half Marathon that September.
I’ve been so spoiled by runDisney, for the following reasons and more, that I’d recommend anyone who wants to get into running but feels intimidated or overwhelmed to sign up for a runDisney race STAT.
You are with “your people”
This is especially true if you're a Disney fanatic (which you maybe should be, if you're paying runDisney prices). But truly, if there was ever an athletic event where you’re not going to be judged for pretty much anything, it’s a runDisney race. People of all shapes and sizes, from all over the world and all types of athletic backgrounds, participate in these races. This isn't like LA Fitness, where I feel like the most out-of-shape person who ever lived. Here, I am a member of a family, and so is everyone else. The only thing that separates the elite runners from the walkers is a corral placement.
They encourage you to dress up
I don't know about you guys, but I find every excuse in the book to dress in crazy outfits even when it’s nowhere near Halloween, which makes runDisney so fun for me. And I'm not the only one – most people who compete in runDisney events show up in some kind of Disney getup. Sometimes it's only a slight nod to a Disney character or film, and sometimes someone runs an entire marathon in a full Lumiere costume.
There are even online shops dedicated to making running costumes for runDisney events, including my favorite: iGlow Running. I already have my outfit picked out for the Disneyland Paris Half Marathon. All I have to do now is persuade Josh to put together a Gaston one.
The courses are flipping awesome (and entertaining)
There is truly nothing cooler for a Disney fan who also happens to be a runner than to run through Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom.
My personal favorite runDisney course moment, though, is during the Wine and Dine Half Marathon. Around mile 10, you run through Disney's Hollywood Studios' Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights and it's – forgive me – magical. I always slow down to savor this part, because it's just so cool to be among only a few people running through that usually overcrowded space.
Running through the parks is amazing in and of itself, but then they add costumed characters and bands and people cheering you on and it's everything. I'm not one of those people who waits in line to meet characters because it's a race and I'm competitive/masochistic, but if you want, you can totally do that.
They not only welcome a run/walk method – they encourage it
One of my favorite parts of runDisney races is the fact that their official training plans, based on the Galloway method started by Jeff Galloway, are run/walk programs. I’ve trained in running groups whose intervals are to run for a minute and walk for a minute, and that’s how I completed the full marathon.
A lot of people imply that there is shame in walking, and that it doesn’t count as you really doing a race. I have encountered many of them. These people are jerks. If you run/walk a race, you’re still a runner, and don’t let any elitist jackasses tell you otherwise.
You get pretty sweet medals
I mean, you’re paying for it, but still. And every year is different for every medal! I missed the year the Disney Princess Half Marathon’s strap was pink, and I’m still mad about it.
Anyway, sometimes runDisney even gives you special medals for completing multiple races because (they want your money) you’re awesome! (Crazy) friends of mine have run the aptly named Dopey Challenge during Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, which is a 5K race Thursday, a 10K Friday, a half marathon Saturday, and the full marathon Sunday. No thanks. But more power to them; I have to admit it is a cool concept.
I myself will hopefully be earning the Castle to Château Coast Race Challenge medal for completing the Disney Princess Half Marathon and Disneyland Paris Half Marathon next year. I told Josh he can share it with me since he's running Wine and Dine this November (his first half!), so technically he’ll do two half-or-longer runDisney races in 12 months and you only qualify for the C2C medal if the two races are in the same calendar year. BUMMER.
Have you ever participated in a runDisney race, xoJaners? If so, which was your favorite? And if not, what are you waiting for!?