Elite Runner Rachel Booth Knows How to Run Disney

run Disney, runDisney, half-marathon

Rachel Booth wins the 2011 Disneyland Half Marathon. (Photo: runDisney)

The Disneyland Half Marathon on Sunday, Sept. 2 will put more than 17,000 runners to the test on the streets of Anaheim, Calif., as they charge through Angels Stadium, Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure theme park in an attempt to run Disney. Among those runners will be a mix of Disney fans, celebrities like Sean Astin, and former Olympians like Suzy Favor-Hamilton and Jeff Galloway.

But when it comes to winning Disney races, no one knows better than Rachel Booth. She won the 2010 and 2011 Disneyland Half Marathon and 2012 Disney Princess Half Marathon in February, becoming the first woman to win events at both Disneyland in California and Walt Disney World in Florida. Her fastest time on a runDisney half-marathon course? 1:15:19.

Like many Disney runners, Booth juggles raising two children, a part-time job and training. But unlike most folks who run Disney, Booth is a professional athlete who competed in the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in January, where she set a personal record of 2:37:59 and finished 31st. She followed it up with the USA Half Marathon Championships in June, where she finished 17th.

But getting to combine a family vacation with racing is a unique experience.

Booth talks to runners at Disney’s Princess Half Marathon Weekend. (Photo: runDisney)

“This is one of my most exciting experiences—being part of the Disney events,” Booth, 31, told runners at Disney’s Princess Half Marathon in February. “This was a lot of fun to have my two children there to enjoy the whole experience and just to see mommy cross the finish line with Minnie and Mickey.”

So what does it take to win “The Happiest Race On Earth?” Moderate levels of mileage to fit with her busy schedule and help keep her injury free. Booth describes herself as an injury-prone runner who uses regular massage and one day of rest per week to help keep injury away.

“I’ve found out what my point is when I get injured and when I don’t. The highest I had gotten for the Olympic Trials was 70 miles, and a lot of women I talk to and a lot of my teammates, they run over 100 easily on a weekly basis,” Booth said. “For me, to balance two kids—I do work a part-time job and then I do my training—to do it all, it’s a little bit challenging. But I feel like my quality of my workouts are most important rather than having just a few more miles on my mileage log just to have them.”

Booth won Disney’s Princess Half Marathon in February 2012. (Photo: runDisney)

Like many running parents, Booth said getting up at 5 a.m. and getting out the door is one of her biggest challenges. But her goals—like running at the Olympic Trials—keep her motivated.

“The biggest thing for me are goals,” Booth said. “If you have that goal, I feel like that’s my motivation every day, and I’m kind of keeping that in the back of my mind.”

She also wants her running to be an inspiration for her children, who she says are “extremely supportive.”

“The one thing I always have lived by is if I don’t follow my dreams, how do I teach my children to do that?” Booth said. Her son is 6-years-old and daughter is 3-years-old. “So instilling those values and goals and things like that have been my motivation, especially now as a mom.”

It’s the same motivation so many parents have, whether they are elite runners or not.

Booth won’t be running the Disneyland Half this weekend, so the title is up for grabs. The Disneyland Half Marathon will take place on Sept. 2 in Anaheim, Calif., at 5:45 a.m. In addition to the half-marathon, the weekend includes the Cars Land 5K, runDisney Kids Races, the Disneyland Health and Fitness Expo and a Pasta in the Park Party.

The Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend is one of seven signature events produced by runDisney that take runners through the Disney theme parks, from the 5K Expedition Everest Challenge to the Walt Disney World Marathon presented by CIGNA, the original event in the runDisney series. The marathon will celebrate its 20th anniversary in January 2013 with a new course, a special 20th anniversary Mickey Mouse finisher’s medal, extra entertainment at Mile 20, and a new post-race party at Downtown Disney.

As part of the running media, runDisney sometimes provides me with complimentary race entry, hotel, park tickets, and some meals for runDisney events. But as always, all opinions are purely my own. I really do believe in being honest about my experiences and Disney is no exception. For more information read my Disclosure Policy.

Karla Bruning


Karla Bruning is a race announcer at the TCS New York City Marathon + other major events, TV host for the New York City Triathlon + contributor to Shape, Redbook, Runner's World + other publications. She used to report for Newsweek but spent her free time squeezing in workouts. Now it's her job. She's run 8 marathons, 30 halves, 10 triathlons + open water swims. When she's not running, talking about running or writing about running, she's snuggling her baby, spoiling her dog + compulsively traveling.


08 2012

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  1. Greg #

    I want to run the Goofy challenge in 2013 or 14, but had such a bad experience at the Donanld 1/2 in 2011 that I don’t know if I have the patience to do it. I need to get into ealier start corrals, I think that is HUGE with a Disney race. Have you done/considered the Goofy?

    • Karla Bruning
      Karla #

      I’ve never done it, but I’ve thought about it. Not sure I currently possess the gumption :) I’ve started in the first, second and third corrals at Disney races. First and second were great–no crowding at all (Tinker Bell 2012 and Wine & Dine 2011 respectively). Third corral was a bit crowded the first few miles, but largely because I had a bib for the first corral and spent lots of time weaving through people (Princess 2012), but I still managed to PR. I didn’t find it any worse than any other 1/2 or full I’ve done. What corral were you in?