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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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First Look at Merchandise for 2014 Princess Half Marathon Weekend at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on February 20th, 2014 by Steven Miller, Merchandise Communications Manager


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I’m looking forward to this weekend as my fiancée will be participating in the 2014 Princess Half Marathon and the inaugural Glass Slipper Challenge at Walt Disney World Resort. She’s the runner in our relationship, so that means I’ll get to take pretty pictures of her before and after the races. Naturally, she was curious about the merchandise created for this runDisney event. I spoke with Mary Myers, merchandiser for events, who gave me an overview of what participants will see this weekend.

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As with previous events, there are a variety of softlines created to commemorate the various events this weekend.

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Mary also developed a few new items this year for those who may be cheering from the sidelines like me. There are new kids’ tees and a shirt for steadfast husbands (I guess I could wear the latter one).

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Besides softlines, participants will see familiar favorites including Sweaty Bands with some fun event slogans (“Run like it’s the stroke of midnight” cracks me up!). There will also be Bondi Bands, a new Disney ear hat with pink veil, light-up tiara, Disney pins, drinkware and more. I was also told that there will be car magnets, yet samples were unavailable to photograph at the time of press.

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Another popular item returning this year is specially designed Dooney & Bourke handbags. These items will each have a leather hangtag with the event logo.

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Finally, the image above contains a sampling of some items for the inaugural Glass Slipper Challenge.

Look for these items at the Disney Fit for a Princess Expo at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. The expo will be open on the following dates and times:

  • Thursday, February 20 – 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
  • Friday, February 21 – 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
  • Saturday, February 22 – 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

We will be offering select items celebrating this event on our Disney Parks online store from Friday, February 21 to Sunday, March 2, 2014. Just visit http://www.DisneyStore.com/runDisneyEvents.

I wish nothing but the best to those who are participating. I hope to see you this weekend!

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A Life Changing Experience – Why I runDisney

posted on February 13th, 2014 by Robert Hitchcock, PR Manager/Content Producer, runDisney


Every day we are inspired and motivated by those around us, and today I want to introduce you to Laura Hall from Pennsylvania.

According to recent survey by Running USA, nearly 90 percent of all runners join the sport for health and fitness reasons. The majority of those people do it for weight loss or weight control.

Laura Hall not only represents that group of runners, but reflects many of the runners at our runDisney races. One year ago Laura decided it was time to make a change: It was time to adopt a healthy active lifestyle to lose weight so she could feel better about herself, participate in physical activities with her kids and act as a role model for her entire family.

With the help of a dedicated trainer at her local YMCA, Laura not only lost 98 pounds, but she set a goal to run the Disney Family Fun Run 5K at Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend presented by Cigna. Laura’s message to all of us, “just start, don’t say you can’t do it.”

I hope you will take a moment to watch Laura’s journey and become inspired to live a healthy active lifestyle – and participate in a runDisney event.

Why I runDisney is dedicated to sharing compelling and motivational human-interest stories.

To view submissions and learn how to upload your story, visit irundisney.com.

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runDisney Launches “I Run Disney” – Everyone Has a Story

posted on January 30th, 2014 by Robert Hitchcock, PR Manager/Content Producer, runDisney


Whether you run for health and fitness, to celebrate a major milestone in your life, in honor of someone who can’t run, a way to spend time with family and friends, or simply to have “me” time, everyone has their own unique reason for running.

Simply said, everyone has a story.

Starting today, runDisney and Cigna are excited to give you the opportunity to share your story with the launch of irundisney.com. Using Instagram, runners can upload a 15-second video telling us why you run and why you runDisney. Sharing your story will inspire and motivate others to set a goal of participating in a runDisney event. In addition, the runDisney team will review all submissions and select several runners to profile on the new microsite, as well as the Disney Parks Blog and other Disney Parks social media channels.

To kickoff the campaign I want to share with you our first profile. Just over a year ago, 33-year-old Peter Chuchro’s life turned upside-down when he suffered a stroke.

He quickly realized that life can change in the blink of an eye.

Facing the scariest time of his life at a young age, Peter realized how quickly life can change. After making a full recovery he took several steps to ensure he will always be around for his wife and baby daughter. Today Peter runs so that he will see his daughter take her first steps, take her to her first day of school, walk her down the aisle on her wedding day.

Peter set a goal of running the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon presented by Cigna, running 26.2 miles to his wife and daughter at the finish line.

View submissions and learn how to upload and share your story at irundisney.com.

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Inspiration From the Tinker Bell Half Marathon at Disneyland Resort

posted on January 24th, 2014 by Robert Hitchcock, PR Manager/Content Producer, runDisney


Last Sunday, I once again found myself again at a runDisney finish line watching more than 15,000 registered runners cross the finish line at the Tinker Bell Half Marathon at the Disneyland Resort. From shouts of joy and tears of happiness, to runners who made the journey look easy, to those that appeared to dig deep within themselves to find the strength and courage to achieve their goal; it was truly an emotional inspiration for me and all the spectators who waited for hours to welcome runners home.

As exciting as it was to watch the Tinker Bell Half Marathon champion Melissa Hernandez cross the line, it was equally exciting and more emotional to see what happened on the other end of the race. As the clock timer ticked forward, as spectator stands emptied, as the last few pieces of confetti from the winner blew away in the wind, two runDisney champions emerged at mile 13 to make one final final turn on their way to the finish line. Greeted by Disney Characters, music and one last confetti blast Kimberly Allen and Mary Ellen Davis crossed the line as the Tinker Bell Half Marathon final finishers. Exhausted, emotional and happy, they gave us an inspirational message of “you can do anything you put your mind to.”

I hope you will take a moment to watch the video below, celebrate their victory and be inspired by their strength and motivation.

Whether you participated in the runDisney Kids Races, the Never Land Family Fun Run 5K, the Tinker Bell 10K or the Tinker Bell Half Marathon, all of us at runDisney congratulate you for achieving your goals. Celebrate – you deserve it.

We hope to see you soon at an upcoming runDisney event weekend. And, as always, we invite you to follow us at runDisney.com, on runDisney Facebook, Twitter @runDisney and on runDisney Instagram for exciting news and future opportunities.

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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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Sights and Sounds of Disney Parks: If I Can runDisney, Chances Are You Can, Too

posted on January 16th, 2014 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group


Runners at Walt Disney World Resort

For most of my young life, I had been out of shape. Doctors always recommend proper diet and exercise. I grew up in an “eat this, it will make you feel better” home where exercise was grocery shopping.

But I always wanted to know what fitness was like. I began trying various types of exercise and activities, and though I enjoy quite a few of them, it was running that seemed to work best for me. There isn’t a lot of equipment except shoes. The correct shoes are essential. I asked friends and read a few books about it. Starting with one mile, I worked up very slowly. I had never realized that exercise like this could relieve stress and clear my head.

In about six months I got up the courage to run some 5K races. They’re a little over three miles. Could I think about a marathon? C’mon … who was I kidding? As it turned out, I joined a local running group affiliated with Olympic medalist Jeff Galloway and learned that mere mortals like me could run longer races, even marathons.

Through his books and personal appearances, Jeff dispelled the myths about running:

MYTH: People really shouldn’t run long distances.

JEFF GALLOWAY: According to anthropologists, that is how we survived. The need for running and walking are embedded in our genetics and biomechanics. By gradually going from walking into running — and adding walk breaks — you can adapt, rebuild and become more efficient at any age. The simple training plan of walking breaks during a run greatly reduces body stress and the risk of injury.

MYTH: You need Jack Skellington’s physique to run a race.

JEFF: At the Walt Disney World Marathon and other events around the country, you’ll see every body shape you can imagine. Anyone starting an exercise program MUST check with their physician first and then get the proper training. That’s where run/walk/run comes in. It allows the cardiovascular system to gradually adapt without becoming overstressed.

MYTH: Running is bad for your joints.

JEFF: Neither I nor my orthopedic consultants could find a single study proving that running harms your joints. That applies to everyone, including folks who might not resemble what some might perceive as the typical runner.

MYTH: Running means sprinting until you can’t stand it.

JEFF: That wasn’t even done in the first Olympic marathon in history. At the 1896 Olympic marathon in Athens, all the competitors walked for significant portions.

MYTH: Running through Disney Parks is no big deal.

JEFF: Not only do you see a lot of the main Walt Disney World Resort locations, you also see really interesting, behind-the-scenes glimpses that most never see. Nighttime races offer yet a different kind of magic. It’s like getting a special key to the kingdom.

MYTH: Greg couldn’t be a runner.

ME: It’s been 20 years now since I became a runner. As they say on TV, individual results may vary, but I’ve run 11 full marathons, three triathlons, countless 5Ks, 10kK and half marathons. I even proposed to my wife after running a Walt Disney World Marathon! (She said, “Yes.”)

To see if running is for you, visit runDisney.com/training to get the basics, like training schedules for each race. Then check out the best single guidebook for all runners — Galloway Training Programs. It goes into detail about what to do when preparing for all of the runDisney events, like what to wear, what to eat, etc.

Throughout the year, visit runDisney.com for info on the wide variety of magical events. When you choose one, be sure to mark your calendar for the day registration begins, because they can fill up fast.

Even if you decide that running isn’t your cup of tea, you’re invited to Disney’s Health & Fitness Expo at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex to enjoy exhibits, demonstrations and more. You might even meet Jeff there! Admission to the Expo is free during Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend.

Click here for more information about upcoming runDisney events.

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2014 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Returns with New Merchandise at Disneyland Resort

posted on January 13th, 2014 by Michelle Harker, Manager, Merchandise Marketing & Communications, Disneyland Resort


The 2014 Tinker Bell Half Marathon returns to Anaheim, Calif., January 16 – 19, 2014. I know many of you are pumped up for your first race of the New Year, and I’m here to make sure you do it in style. Here’s your first look at this year’s logo, which will appear on a multitude of merchandise items. Of course, I had to go to a few of my resident experts whom I know have run many a runDisney event … you might even recognize some of them. Here are some of our favorites, I can’t wait to see what you pick!

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Top choices this year include our Half Marathon themed apparel including long and short sleeve T-shirts, performance T-shirts, tanks, a fleece hoodie and of course the ever popular ladies jacket. I asked good friend and fellow Disney Parks Blog author Erin Glover her thoughts on the ladies T-shirt and jacket, and here’s what she had to share (as you can see she really got into it, literally), “I love the sparkles on the front of the shirt,” said Erin, “it’s like it’s already been sprinkled with pixie dust. And there’s no need to add your own wings because it comes with a pair already, right on the back!” That’s right! Keep an eye out as you’ll actually find ‘Flutter to the Finish’ screened on the back of several of our apparel items.

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Social Media Community Manager Lisa Kanazawa, says and I quote, “I want it all!” and even offered a few tips on how you can feel your best in your race day outfit! “Everyone has a different preference on what they like to wear on race day, but don’t be afraid to go outside of the norm and dress up based on the theme for each race you participate in. For example, you can easily create a Tinker Bell or fairy inspired costume for Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend events by accessorizing your race day outfit with a pair of wings and a new runDisney tutu!”

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A few more items you can expect to find this year include an Inaugural Tinker Bell 10K T-shirt and what I think will be one of the hottest choices around, the 2014 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Event T-shirt. What I love most about this particular T-shirt is that on the back it says ‘Earn Your Wings’ and showcases some of the medals.

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Other items to race in for include Vinylmation, plush, a runner’s hat, Disney pins, magnets, headbands, a mug, stemmed glassware, tumbler, water bottle and toothpick holder.

Joanna Pisanski from Store Operations definitely had her eye on a few things, including the water bottle to keep her hydrated during the race and the commemorative mug, which she says has become a tradition of getting since she and her family started running the races together. Check it out!

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Those of you continuing your Coast to Coast tradition will not be disappointed. 2014 Coast to Coast Race Challenge performance T-shirts as well as other essential runDisney gear are bound to fly off the shelves.

I know many of you are probably wondering what the Dooney & Bourke bags will look like. Wonder no more, here’s a special sneak peek!

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If you are looking for other ways get into the racing spirit, how about our Pixie Power transformation – which will be available at the Expo and at Studio Disney 365. Let’s just say the look will make you feel like you have been given wings to fly. Also taking place over the Half Marathon weekend at WonderGround Gallery is a special Art Attack with artists J. Scott Campbell, John Coulter and Noah, who will be showcasing some of their latest works, themed to none other than Tinker Bell herself.

Finally, take part in special online opportunity to purchase an Inaugural Tinker Bell 10K T-shirt in lavender and “I Did It” T-shirt in navy, which will vary slightly from those sold at this year’s Expo, some of the Coast to Coast Race Challenge T-shirts, plus the 2014 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Event T-shirt. Find them online January 20 – 27, 2014 via www.DisneyStore.com/ParkEvents.

Find out all the details about the Tinker Bell Half Marathon, the Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend Expo taking place at the Disneyland Hotel and more at runDisney.com. For those of you contemplating getting a new pair of new running shoes, be sure to check out the 2014 limited edition New Balance runDisney running shoes that Disney Parks Blog author Robert Hitchcock recently shared details about. They’re beyond cool!

To all of you participating in the race, I wish you all the best of luck!

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Celebrating the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend Presented by Cigna

posted on January 13th, 2014 by Robert Hitchcock, PR Manager/Content Producer, runDisney


Wow, what an amazing Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend! To the thousands of runners who participated in races, the thousands of families, friends and volunteers who supported our runners – thank you! All of you helped make this past runDisney weekend a major success and an incredible celebration of running.

Sunday afternoon, walking through the theme parks and at the Cool Down Party at Downtown Disney, it was exciting to see hundreds of runners wearing medals and celebrating finishing their first race, setting new PR’s and achieving other personal goals. It was fun to see a few Dopey Challenge runners wearing all six medals – thankfully they didn’t try to wear all six race shirts. Whether they were our youngest runners from the Kids Races or experienced Dopey Challenge participants, every runner was and continues to celebrate success and achievement. Congratulations to all the runners returning home and going back to work proudly wearing their runDisney bling.

To help keep your runDisney memories fresh we want to share a recap video. And for those of you who have not participated in a runDisney event, this is a chance to see what the buzz is all about and hopefully be inspired to join us.

On behalf of the runDisney team thank you and congratulations. We hope to see ya real soon at an upcoming runDisney event weekend. And, as always, we invite you to follow us at runDisney.com, on runDisney Facebook, Twitter @runDisney and on runDisney Instagram for exciting news and future opportunities.

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