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Sunset Over the Tree of Life at Disney's Animal Kingdom

runDisney Continues to Find Success

posted on March 4th, 2014 by Darrell Fry, Sports Media Director, Walt Disney World


With the announcement of a new Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon Weekend coming to Disneyland Resort this fall, there’s no secret that runDisney events are hugely popular. As the business expands its portfolio to now eight events throughout the year, this new race weekend provides yet another creative way to bring new runners into Disney Parks and to the sport itself.

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From 5Ks to a marathon, and even kids runs, held at both Disneyland Resort in Anaheim and Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Disney has created unique race weekends that every member of the family can enjoy. Former Olympians to first time runners can experience the legendary Disney entertainment and guest service, while ultimately celebrating their accomplishments with a Disney vacation, and this is what makes the runDisney business so magical.

And this magic has translated to popularity and growth. Since 1994, runDisney has become one of the largest race organizers in the United States, both in terms of number of events and number of runners. Between 2012 and 2013, the total number of participants at runDisney events increased nearly 40 percent. Additionally, virtually every runDisney race weekend sells out in record pace, some within hours.

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There’s also a substantial economic impact that runDisney events bring to the community. Just recently, the Princess Half Marathon Weekend presented by Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals took place at Walt Disney World Resort, welcoming some 40,000 participants. It is considered to be the second largest women-focused race weekend in the nation. And the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, which happens every January, is considered to be the largest race weekend in the country. More than 50,000 runners participate, bringing with them some 50,000-plus spectators for a total attendance of more than 100,000 coming into the Central Florida area. In Anaheim, it’s estimated that the Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend drives approximately $20 to $30 million in additional economic activity locally attracting thousands of out-of-area runners to Southern California.

Runner’s World magazine identified Disney races as the perfect races for new runners – there’s less pressure, no required qualifying time, and guests can enjoy a Disney theme park during their race. Likewise, professionals in the field, even former Olympians, also join in the fun, as evidenced by this year’s Princess Half Marathon winner – New Zealand Olympian Kim Smith. And there’s plenty for the family to participate in from family fun run 5Ks and kids races, to health and fitness expos and guest speakers, making runDisney events appealing to various audiences.

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runDisney is also leading a widespread trend of race organizations offering multi-race challenges. For instance there’s the “Dopey Challenge” during the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend where participants must complete four races in four days, for a total of 48.6 miles.

There are also a number of added amenities that runDisney offers to runners and their families that really set runDisney races apart from others. Participants can take advantage of the VIP Race Retreat during the Walt Disney World Marathon and Princess Half Marathon Weekends, which includes a designated tent at the race with brunch, WiFi, TVs, Disney character meet and greets and more. There’s the ChEAR squad, which helps guests cheer on the runners with cheer signs, noise-makers and even special viewing areas. There are also several pre-race and post-race parties inside the theme parks that provide exclusive experiences for runners and their family and friends.

With all the unique experiences that runDisney provides participants, the result continues to be a winning finish. So what are you waiting for? Start training and sign up for a runDisney event at www.rundisney.com!

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Olympian Kim Smith Wins the Disney Princess Half Marathon

posted on February 23rd, 2014 by Darrell Fry, Sports Media Director, Walt Disney World


When three-time Olympian Kim Smith decided to run the Disney Princess Half Marathon presented by Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals on Sunday, she figured she would get a nice training run out of it in preparation for the London Marathon. Instead, she got a whole lot more.
Olympian Kim Smith Wins the Disney Princess Half Marathon

Smith set a course record, shattering the previous mark by nearly six minutes, and crossed the finish line nearly 15 minutes ahead of everyone else. Smith ran the 13.1-miles through Epcot and Magic Kingdom Park in 1:11:49, easily surpassing the previous course record of 1:17:38 set last year.
Olympian Kim Smith Wins the Disney Princess Half Marathon

“I wasn’t sure of the course record before the race, but my plan was to run it in about 72 minutes so that’s about perfect,” said Smith, who is an elite runner with New Balance.

The course record, though, wasn’t the only thrill for Smith, a New Zealand native who was running her first runDisney event. Like many of the more than 24,000 mostly women runners, the highlight of the race for Smith was running through the Disney theme parks. “It’s just a lot of fun,” she said. “It’s definitely a fun event that’s pretty low-key for an elite athlete to do. I’d recommend it to people out there.”

There was no shortage of runners Sunday who felt the same way. The 24,000 runners Sunday were part of the 40,000 who participated in various races during the four-day event, which is one of the largest women-focused events in the nation. Many runners took on an even bigger challenge – namely the inaugural Glass Slipper Challenge, which involves running the Disney Princess Enchanted 10K on Saturday before running Sunday’s half marathon. That’s 19.3 miles!

Smith, 32, just stuck with the half marathon. And judging by her performance Sunday, that was more than enough for this princess for one day.

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Walt Disney World Resort is Home to a Variety of Sports This Spring

posted on February 21st, 2014 by Darrell Fry, Sports Media Director, Walt Disney World


Home to four theme parks, two water parks and 26 resort hotels, not only is Walt Disney World Resort where guests come to vacation, it’s also where they come to compete in various sporting events and watch their favorite athletes from around the world.

Walt Disney World Resort hosts everything from baseball and soccer to marathons and track & field, with more than 300 events throughout the year for professional athletes, youth players and everyone in between. Teams and fans from around the world come to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex to watch, train, compete and play in the middle of the magic at Walt Disney World Resort.

This week, the Atlanta Braves began spring training at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex with their first full-squad workout of the season. While on vacation, Disney fans and Braves fans alike can watch the defending National League East champions as they embark on their 17th spring training season and play 17 home games starting February 26 against the Detroit Tigers at Walt Disney World Resort’s Champion Stadium.

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Coming up this weekend, Walt Disney World Resort will host a runDisney race — The Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend presented by Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. More than 24,000 runners, mostly women and girls, will embark on a 13.1 mile journey through Epcot and Magic Kingdom Park as Disney Princesses, Disney characters, bands and fans cheer them on.

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For soccer fans, another professional athletic event that guests can attend is the Disney Pro Soccer Classic where eight pro soccer clubs, including six Major League Soccer squads, are now competing. The tournament culminates on March 1 with a championship game. Fans of all ages can come out to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex to see several players who may be competing in the upcoming World Cup in Brazil.

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And now through April, high school teams across seven sports—baseball, softball, track & field, lacrosse, tennis, golf and rugby—will participate in the Disney Spring Training program. Many of the teams come from places where there’s snow on the ground and freezing temperatures to spend their spring break training at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and enjoying everything the resort has to offer.

With an unparalleled roster of facilities and partners, and the backdrop of the top vacation destination—Walt Disney World Resort — Disney Sports takes sports and competition to the next level for athletes and fans alike. To find out more about these events and other upcoming sporting events, where you can watch the pros or participate, visit espnwwos.disney.go.com. For more information on runDisney races, visit www.runDisney.com.

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Atlanta Braves Getting Ready to Play Ball at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on February 13th, 2014 by Darrell Fry, Sports Media Director, Walt Disney World


It’s time to grab your baseball glove and some peanuts and get ready for Major League Baseball Spring Training again.

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The Atlanta Braves are arriving at Walt Disney World Resort this week for the 17th straight spring, and begin their first workouts this Friday at Champion Stadium at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. After a couple of weeks of training, the team opens its spring home game schedule on February 26 against the Detroit Tigers.

As usual, fans attending the Braves’ 17-game home schedule will see a parade of the league’s marquee clubs, including the reigning World Series champion Boston Red Sox (March 22), the New York Yankees (March 19) and the St. Louis Cardinals (March 15). The Braves close out their spring home schedule on March 26 against the Marlins, then head back to Atlanta to get ready for the regular season where they look to defend their National League East title.

Braves spring training games at Walt Disney World Resort are, of course, unlike any other spring games. There are fireworks during the singing of the National Anthem at various games, Disney character appearances, and kids are invited down onto the field to run the bases after each game. That’s why we call it America’s most magical pastime.

Fans can get more information and purchase tickets at espnwwos.com/atlantabraves or at the ballpark box office.

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Southern California Runner Earns Her Tinker Bell Wings at the Disneyland Resort

posted on January 19th, 2014 by Darrell Fry, Sports Media Director, Walt Disney World


If you don’t believe magic can happen at Disney Parks, just ask Melissa Hernandez.
Southern California Runner Melissa Hernandez Earns Her Tinker Bell Wings at the Disneyland Resort

The 29-year-old runner from Oxnard, Calif., is an experienced endurance runner, but as much as she tried, she had never been able to finish first in a half marathon. That is, until she came to Disneyland Resort this weekend and undoubtedly was doused with a little pixie dust somewhere along the way. Running her first Tinker Bell Half Marathon, Hernandez did what she had never been able to do before, leaving the field behind in a trail of … well, pixie dust, to win the 13.1-mile race Sunday.

Not only was it her first half marathon victory, but it came at the biggest half marathon event she said she had ever undertaken. She somehow outran a field of more than 15,000 runners from across the country and beyond to earn her “wings” and a gold Tinker Bell finishers medal. And she did it in impressive fashion – her winning time of 1:25:40 was the third-fastest in the race’s three-year history.

Who says this isn’t the place Where Dreams Come True?

“I had finished second in a few half marathons, but I had never won one,” said Hernandez. “And I had never run in a race this big before either, so it was really nice to win my first one here.”
2014 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Start Line at the Disneyland Resort

Hernandez’s win capped a magical weekend of race events that included a new Disneyland 10K, a Never Land Family Fun Run 5K, several runDisney Kids Races, a Pasta Party and a health and fitness expo. In all, more than 30,000 runners participated in the various weekend race events, making this one of the largest women-focused race weekends in the country.

If you want to try to make your running dreams come true like Hernandez, registration for the Disneyland Half Marathon opens January 28 at www.runDisney.com.

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Runners Are ‘Dopey’ Over Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend

posted on January 12th, 2014 by Darrell Fry, Sports Media Director, Walt Disney World


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Another Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend presented by Cigna is in the books. It was the 21st edition and as usual, the event this weekend was filled with popular new features, colorful runner costumes and the kind of inspiring stories you would expect from the place “Where Dreams Come True.”

More than 50,000 runners from across the nation and 60 other countries participated in the five-day event, which was expanded this year to include a 10K. This created the opportunity to offer runners a “Dopey Challenge’’ – running the 5K, the 10K, the half marathon and the full marathon. If you do the math, that’s 48.6 miles!

More than 7,000 runners eagerly accepted the challenge and those that conquered it went home with six medals – one for each of the four races and one each for completing the Goofy Challenge (running the half and the full marathon) and the Dopey Challenge.

The final leg of the Dopey Challenge was today’s 26.2-mile marathon, which was won by Fredison Costa of Brazil, who upstaged countryman Adriano Bastos in what has become an annual duel for the winner’s title.

But perhaps the most lasting image of the weekend was the long-awaited reunion of a mother and her daughter that was more than 40 years in the making. Check out this video to see their amazing story and how the Walt Disney Marathon Weekend was the backdrop for a real-life dream come true.

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New Medals Unveiled for Princess and Tinker Bell Half Marathons at Disney Parks

posted on October 30th, 2013 by Darrell Fry, Sports Media Director, Walt Disney World


Today, I’m excited to reveal some of our new runDisney medals for two of our race weekends in 2014.

The Princess Half Marathon medal is completely new compared to last year’s medal and is inspired by our classic and most enduring princess, Cinderella. We’ve added a 10K and a Glass Slipper Challenge event (running the half marathon and the 10K) to the Princess Half Marathon Weekend at Walt Disney World Resort, so check out the shiny new medals that go with them.

The Tinker Bell Half Marathon medal has a few new enhancements from last year. There’s also a new 10K race there too and the medal, of course, is very much themed around Tinker Bell.

So, if you’re signed up to run any of these races, get ready to rock these shiny new medals, so everyone can see your bling.

New Princess and Tinker Bell Half Marathon Medals

New Medals for Princess and Tinker Bell Half Marathons New Medals for Princess and Tinker Bell Half Marathons New Medals for Princess and Tinker Bell Half Marathons New Medals for Princess and Tinker Bell Half Marathons
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Grab Your Sneakers! Inaugural ‘On the Road to Disney’ Meet-Up Coming to Atlanta

posted on October 29th, 2013 by Darrell Fry, Sports Media Director, Walt Disney World


UPDATE: Click here for a complete list of attendees. If you have questions, please ask them on the Disney Parks Blog and we will do our best to answer them. Stay tuned for more unique opportunities in the future.

UPDATE: We have reached capacity! Thanks for everyone’s interest in the Atlanta “On the Road to Disney’’ Meet-Up and we appreciate your quick responses. We will be posting the list of attendees soon. Please check back later for the complete list of attendees.

We have staged runDisney Meet-Ups during our runDisney race weekends at Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resorts the past few years, and they have become wildly popular. But now for the first time ever we are packing our bags and taking our runDisney Meet-Up on the road. Our destination: Hotlanta.

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If you are going to be in or around the Atlanta area on November 16, pay attention because runDisney is hosting a unique “On the Road to Disney” Meet-Up for 100 selected participants that will be unlike any other we have done. Selected participants will go on a 2-mile fun run through the streets of Atlanta. Naturally, we’ll make a turn through Turner Field, home of our long-time partners, the Atlanta Braves, who play their spring training seasons at Walt Disney World Resort.

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The event will also include running industry speakers, as well as elite runners who will share tips and advice for average runners and people wanting to live a healthier and more active lifestyle. Plus, we will share some exciting new insights into some Disney Sports initiatives. And, of course, we will pack some classic Disney magic and bring it along to share with everyone in attendance.

As always, space is limited. If you don’t want to miss this runDisney road trip, RSVP right now to WDW.SportsMeetUps@Disney.com. Only a limited number of qualified runners will be selected to participate, so be one of the first to reply. Remember to include your name in this email and only one RSVP per individual.

A few important details:

  • All selected participants must be available for a 6 a.m. ET start time on Saturday, November 16.
  • Qualified applicants will be selected on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • A valid photo ID is required at check-in. Participants must be 18 years of age or older.
  • Limit one RSVP per individual. Applicants sending RSVPs from more than one email address will be disqualified.
  • Only RSVP for yourself. RSVP’s for someone other than the email sender will be disqualified.
  • Valid RSVP’s must include your name. RSVP’s that include more than one person or are missing information (e.g. incomplete names) will be disqualified.
  • Admittance to the event is non-transferable and limited to the selected applicant; no additional guests please.
  • The event and individual/celebrity appearances are subject to change or cancelation without notice.
  • Because this is running-oriented, we require that applicants be experienced runners, able to maintain a 16-minute per mile pace (qualified).

We will send an email to selected applicants who sent their valid RSVP via email before we reached capacity to confirm their attendance for Saturday, November 16. If you do not receive an email from us confirming your reservation and your name does not appear on the list of selected applicants, your RSVP was not selected.

I will give an update at the top of this post when capacity has been reached. Hope to see you in Atlanta!

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First-Ever runDisney Nighttime Meet-Up to Kickoff Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on October 22nd, 2013 by Darrell Fry, Sports Media Director, Walt Disney World


UPDATE: Click here for a complete list of attendees. If you have questions, please ask them on the Disney Parks Blog and we will do our best to answer them. Stay tuned for additional unique opportunities in the future.

We’ve done several runDisney meet-ups, but we’ve never done one like we’re planning for the Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend next month. Sure, it’s going to involve some scrumptious food and wine, but the really cool part of this meet-up is that it’s going to be held at night.

First-Ever runDisney Nighttime Meet-Up to Kickoff Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend at Walt Disney World Resort

It’ll be our first runDisney nighttime meet-up, so you will definitely want to be able to say you were there. It’ll have many of the same magical elements of our previous Meet-Ups, but with some cool new twists that only the nighttime can provide.

For instance, we’ll kick off the event with a special viewing of IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth, the nightly laser, light and fireworks show. After that, selected participants will get to taste and learn about some of the extraordinary cuisine and wines that are part of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, hear from some Olympic endurance runners and get some expert advice on safely running at night.

Then, selected participants will get to put some of that nighttime running knowledge to work during a starlit fun run “around the world” at Epcot well after the park closes. And of course there will be a few magical surprises throughout the night.

As always, space is limited. If you don’t want to miss your night out with runDisney, RSVP right now to WDW.SportsMeetUps@Disney.com. Only a limited number of qualified runners will be selected to participate, so be one of the first to reply. Remember to include your name in this email and only one RSVP per individual.

Here are a few important details:

  • All selected participants must be available for a 8:30 p.m. ET start time on Thursday, November 7.
  • Qualified applicants will be selected on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • A valid photo ID is required. Applicants must be 21 years of age or older.
  • Limit one RSVP per individual. Applicants sending RSVP’s from more than one email address will be disqualified.
  • Valid RSVP’s must include your name. RSVP’s that include more than one person or are missing information (e.g. incomplete names) will not be selected.
  • Admittance to the event is non-transferable and limited to the selected applicant; no additional guests please.
  • The event, event elements and individual/celebrity appearances are subject to change or cancelation without notice.
  • Because this is a running-oriented event, we require that applicants be experienced runners, able to maintain a 16-minute per mile pace (qualified).
  • Selected applicants attending the meet-up are not required to purchase admission.

We will send an email to selected applicants who sent their valid RSVP via email before we reached capacity to confirm their attendance for Thursday. If you do not receive an email from us confirming your reservation and your name does not appear on the list of selected applicants, your RSVP was not selected.

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Kids Can Learn To Golf ‘Disney-style’ This Summer at the Walt Disney World Resort

posted on June 28th, 2013 by Darrell Fry, Sports Media Director, Walt Disney World


Kids Can Learn To Golf ‘Disney-style’ This Summer

With the kids out of school for the summer, a good way to keep them active is by getting them involved in a sports camp. For instance, at the Walt Disney World Resort, there are summer junior golf camps available for kids ages 8-13. The camps include instruction on the basics of the game, touching on everything from pitching, chipping and putting to developing a good swing motion. There’s even on-course training.

Kids Can Learn To Golf ‘Disney-style’ This Summer

In typical Disney fashion, the 5-day camps are designed to be fun and entertaining, and involve games and prizes. If your kid doesn’t have golf clubs, a set will be provided, plus there’s complimentary lunch and beverages. The week-long camps are directed by Arnold Palmer Golf Management’s PGA Director of Instruction, Michael Schlager, and cost $350 per child ($50 off for each additional child registered).

Kids Can Learn To Golf ‘Disney-style’ This Summer Kids Can Learn To Golf ‘Disney-style’ This Summer Kids Can Learn To Golf ‘Disney-style’ This Summer

The camps, which run from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. daily, are available now through August 9 at any of Disney’s championship courses (Magnolia and Palm locations). To sign up your kid or for more information, stop by the pro shop at any Disney golf course or call (407) WDW-Golf (939-4653).

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