Posts Tagged ‘Walt Disney World Resort’

Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon 2015 Charity Bibs

Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon Charity Bibs

Charity runner at Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon (Photo: runDisney)

2016 Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Charity Information Is Here! How To Run Sold-Out 2016 Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon

* * *

The Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon 2015 Weekend of races sold out in an unprecedented 30 minutes when registration opened Tuesday, March 17, with both the half-marathon and Mickey’s Jingle Jungle 5K getting snapped up within a half hour. But you can still run the November 6-7 races at Walt Disney World by registering via the runDisney Charity Groups or Travel Providers Programs.

Registration is still available for the runDisney Kids’ Races and Wine & Dine Pre-Race Taste. But don’t dawdle. The Kids Races were 90 percent full and Pre-Race Taste 85 percent full as of press time. Visit rundisney.com for more info or to register.

Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon 2015

Cheer! Runners get a complimentary drink at the finish. (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com

No doubt the race weekend received a popularity boost as the only fall event at Walt Disney World in 2015. Previous years saw the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler in October, another nighttime race that may have split the pool of interest among runDisney fans. But with no Tower of Terror in 2015 and Expedition Everest Challenge making its final bow in May 2015, Wine & Dine becomes the only nighttime race in runDisney’s repertoire and the only fall offering at Walt Disney World.

It doesn’t hurt that the race also has the best post-race festival known to runner kind, in the form of the Finish Line Party at Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, which keeps Epcot open until 4 a.m.

Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon 2015 Charity Groups Program

runDisney Charity Groups offer guaranteed entries, discounted Walt Disney World Resort hotel rates, specially-prices Walt Disney World theme park tickets, and discounts on other race weekend amenities. Check with each group individually for their requirements and benefits. To register, contact each group below. Read the rest of this entry →

17

03 2015

Walt Disney World Marathon 2015 By The Numbers

Walt Disney World Marathon 2015 By The Numbers

Angela Brito of Ecuador is the first female at the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon. (Preston Mack/Disney, photographer)

Check out the 2016 Walt Disney World Marathon By The Numbers!

* * *

The Walt Disney World Marathon 2015 Weekend presented by Cigna from January 7-11 at Walt Disney World in Florida wraps up Sunday with the title event, a 26.2-mile tour of Mickey Mouse’s realm.

Walt Disney World Marathon 2015 By The Numbers

The medal haul from the Dopey Challenge. (Photo: runDisney)

The four-day extravaganza is the largest running festival in the U.S. with 84,150 registrations and an estimated 65,000 finishers in the weekend’s five events: Walt Disney World Marathon, Walt Disney World Half Marathon, Walt Disney World 10K, Walt Disney World 5K and runDisney Kids Races.

Here’s a look at Mickey Mouse’s favorite race by the numbers.

Walt Disney World Marathon 2015 By The Numbers

209,000—runners who take part in runDisney events each year

84,150—registrations for the 2015 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend

50,000—estimated number of spectators

26,700—runners registered for the Walt Disney World Marathon Read the rest of this entry →

10

01 2015

Disney Hotels For Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend

Choosing among Disney hotels for Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend

The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa (Photo: Kent Phillips/Disney)

I’ve gotten this question a lot and in many varieties: What Disney hotels are best for the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend?

There is no “best” hotel for any runDisney race. The best hotel for you for any race depends on many factors: what you want to do while you’re at Walt Disney World, who is in your party, and what your price point is, among other things.

I’ve stayed at eight different Disney hotels (four of which Disney comped for me during runDisney events) and three off property hotels while visiting Walt Disney World. But my hotel recommendations for Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend are based on two main factors: Whether or not you have spectators in your group and what you want to do while you’re not running.

If Your Group Includes Runners Only

Choosing among Disney hotels for Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend

Walt Disney World Half Marathon finishers. (Photo: runDisney)

If everyone traveling with you is running a race, all the Disney hotels are great.

All the Walt Disney World Resorts are official “host” hotels for the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend and offer event buses to shuttle runners to and from the start and finish of each race. The buses are comfortable and efficient, both before and after the race.

Having stayed at Disney hotels on the Monorail loop, on the BoardWalk and elsewhere on property for runDisney events, there’s not much of a difference from a runner’s perspective. The event buses got me where I needed to go and back every time from all those different areas.

The Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek and Waldorf Astoria Orlando also offer free race transportation for marathoners and half-marathoners staying with them as part of their Marathon Weekends packages. The hotels are inside the Disney gates, have complimentary park transportation for their guests, and offer another great option for racers booking a Disney runcation. Check out my full post about their offerings.

Choosing among Disney hotels for Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend

A Dopey Challenge runner races around the BoardWalk. (Photo: runDisney)

So if all the people in your group are runners, I would pick the hotel that makes your days easiest and meets your price point.

Are you looking for a great pool to rest your legs each day while doing Dopey Challenge? Is there one park in particular where you want to spend most of your time? Do you want to be close to the Expo to stalk runDisney New Balance shoes? Different hotels are better suited for each of those scenarios.

Parks
Chooming among Disney hotels at Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend

The Wishes Nightime Spectacular at Magic Kingdom. (Photo: Disney)

Magic Kingdom

If it’s Magic Kingdom you’re after, any resort on the Monorail loop is fantastic: Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, and Disney’s Polynesian Resort, soon to become Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort as it undergoes major renovation.

Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, The Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, and Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground also have water taxis to the park.

The perks of each? The Contemporary Resort has my favorite quick-service restaurant, Contempo Cafe, and Magic Kingdom fireworks viewing from the hotel. Plus, it’s the next stop after Magic Kingdom on the Monorail. So at the end of a long day in the park, you’re home in a jiffy. Read the rest of this entry →

Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon Registration Opens

wine run, Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon

Chef Mickey and Minnie greeted runners at the finish of Disney’s Wine and Dine Half Marathon on Nov. 9, 2013. (Photo: runDisney)

Registration for the Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend from November 8-9 at Walt Disney World in Florida opens Tuesday, March 4 at 12 p.m. EST.

It’s no secret that the Wine and Dine Half Marathon is my favorite half marathon. I ran the 2013 race as part of a press trip sponsored by New Balance and runDisney. In 2011, the event was my first runDisney race and where my husband proposed. So it will always be a sentimental favorite.

But that’s not the only reason I love this race. Marriage proposals aside, it has the best post-race party I’ve ever been to, at the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival.

The Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon starts at 10 p.m. outside the ESPN Wine World of Sports Complex and takes runners through Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, past Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resorts, and finally to the finish at Epcot.

Once there, runners can party until 4 a.m. with Epcot all to themselves. Admission to the Finish Line party is included in race registration, along with a $10 Disney gift card and a complimentary beer, wine or soda at the finish.

wine and dine half marathon

My husband and me with the real Aladdin and Jasmine. (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)

Friends and family can also buy tickets to the Finish Line Party, where select Epcot attractions like Test Track and Soarin’ remain open into the wee hours. The party also includes all the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival kiosks, live bands, DJs, and meet and greets with Disney characters. My husband and I got a photo with Aladdin and Jasmine while we were dressed as Aladdin and Jasmine at the 2013 race. In 2011, we photographed ourselves around the world. Read the rest of this entry →

03

03 2014

Disney Tower of Terror 10-Miler Registration Opens

twilight zone tower of terror 10-miler

The start of the 2013 Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler. (Photo: runDisney)

I already reminded you that registration for the 7 Mile Bridge Run in the Florida Keys opens Tuesday, February 11 at 6 a.m. EST. But another popular Florida race opens registration the same day: the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler.

I’ve never run either race, but have run other races at Walt Disney World as media courtesy of runDisney.

Registration for the 2014 Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler Weekend from October 3-4, 2014 at Walt Disney World opens Tuesday, February 11 at 12 p.m. EST.

This race doesn’t sell out as quickly as, say, the Disneyland Half Marathon or the 7 Mile Bridge Run, but it will sell out.

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler Weekend is dedicated to the villains as the Disney baddies come out in the dark with a nighttime race that starts at 10 p.m.

At the 2013 race, 9,480 runners finished the 10-mile course that starts at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, heads to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and Champion Stadium, and finishes at The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror back at Hollywood Studios.

tower of terror 10-Miler

Runners disguised as Cinderella’s step sisters pose with Snow White’s evil queen disguised as an old woman. (Photo: runDisney)

But what I imagine is the best part of the race comes after the finish at the Disney Villains Hollywood Bash at Hollywood Studios, where rides like The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith, Star Tours and Toy Story Mania stay open just for runners and their guests. Admission to the party is included in race registration for runners. Friends and family can buy tickets too.

Other races at the weekend include the Disney Happy Haunted 5K Trail Run and runDisney Kids’ Races, including a Diaper Dash for babies and 1-mile run for older kids. Disney’s Health & Fitness Expo will be in full swing too. All those events take place at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler Weekend benefits Autism Speaks, a charity that funds research for treatments, causes, prevention and a cure for autism, raises awareness of autism, and advocates for autistic individuals and their families. Read the rest of this entry →

10

02 2014

Race Report: Walt Disney World Half Marathon

Disney World Half Marathon

Goofy and Donald Duck at the Walt Disney World Half Marathon finish. (Photo: runDisney)

The Walt Disney World Half Marathon on Saturday, January 11 was the third of four races at the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend: the Disney Family Fun Run 5K, Walt Disney World 10K, Walt Disney World Half Marathon and Walt Disney World Marathon.

Disney World Half Marathon

Done! (Photo: MarathonFoto.com)

runDisney invited me to be their guest at the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. I was running the first three of the four races, so the Walt Disney World Half Marathon was the finale to my running weekend.

I’ve never run this race before; I was really looking forward to it. I ran the Disney Princess Half Marathon in 2012, which had a nearly identical course but with a slightly different start and finish, and I had a blast at that race.

I had one goal and one goal alone for the Walt Disney World Half Marathon: get a picture with Cinderella while dressed as Cinderella.

It was my sixth Disney race and I had yet to achieve that feat. Read the rest of this entry →

22

01 2014

The Best Snacks For Running In The Disney Family Fun Run 5K

running streak, Disney Family Fun Run 5K

Pausing for a pic in Epcot with my mom during the Disney Family Fun Run 5K. (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)

This year, I took the name of the Disney Family Fun Run 5K seriously and did it with my family—my mom to be precise, that is why I decided to buy at https://hiya.life/index.html the best snacks for both of us.

runDisney invited me to be their guest at the race. When I asked her if she wanted to join me at Walt Disney World, she jumped at the chance and quickly pronounced her desire to do her first 5K.

The Disney Family Fun Run 5K on Thursday, January 9, 2014 was the first of four races at the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend: the 5K, 10K, half-marathon and marathon with some runners doing all four for the Dopey Challenge.

The 5K was the first of three races for me. I was doing everything but the marathon, and in costume, of course.

My Mom’s First 5K Read the rest of this entry →

16

01 2014

Disney World Marathon Course Changed For 20th Anniversary

Walt Disney World Marathon, run Disney

The 20th Anniversary Walt Disney World Marathon course. (Photo: runDisney)

When runDisney promised new features for the 20th Anniversary Walt Disney World Marathon, they weren’t joking.

Disney Sports announced that the Walt Disney World Marathon course will be modified for the race to take runners not only though the four Walt Disney World theme parks, but also through the Walt Disney World Speedway and the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex including Champion Stadium, a major-league style ballpark that the Atlanta Braves call home for spring training.

“Running through the speedway and the ballpark should provide quite a thrill for the runners,’’ said race director Jon Hughes. “These very creative enhancements should make for a pretty memorable 20th anniversary marathon that people will probably be talking about for 20 more years.’’

Other changes unique to the 20th anniversary include extra entertainment along Mile 20, a specially designed 20th anniversary Mickey Mouse medal and a new post-race party at Downtown Disney. Read the rest of this entry →

21

05 2012

Race Report: Disney’s Princess Half Marathon

Race Report: Disney's Princess Half Marathon

Disney’s Princess Half Marathon was a fairy tale race.

If you keep on believing, the dreams that you wish will come true.

Cinderella sang those words and I took them to heart at Disney’s Princess Half Marathon in Walt Disney World in Florida, which I attended as a guest of runDisney.

I channeled my inner Cinderella and believed that I could break my half-marathon personal record.

Disney races aren’t for PR’s many people say. Just have fun, they tell you.

But on Sunday, Feb. 26, I learned that it’s possible to PR and have fun too while running Disney.

Of course, it helps to have Prince Charming by your side.

Running in Costume: Cinderella and Prince Charming

Race Report: Disney Princess Half MarathonFor starters, I feel compelled to confess: I ran in costume. Not just that, I cajoled my fiancé, Phil, to run in costume with me—as Cinderella and Prince Charming.

Cinderella has long been my favorite princess, ever since I saw clips of the film on my Fisher Price Movie Viewer Theater back in the early 1980s. I even named my dog Cinderella. What better character to summon for a half-marathon than a gal who knows how to put her head down and work hard?

I found that once you put on a costume and give in to the Disney spirit, it’s inevitable that you’re going to have a good time, no matter how painful the running itself may be. Read the rest of this entry →

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

02

03 2012

Disney’s Princess Half Marathon Slideshow

The pride of accomplishment

And he won!

My nephew runs his heart out

Crossing the finish line

Royal Family Kids' Races Runners

My nephew admires his sister's medal

Kids love to run

Royal Family Kids' Races Start

Royal Family Kids' Races Medals

Tangled Royal Family 5K medals

Disney 5K's are stroller friendly

Dressed to impress

Tangled Royal Family 5K finish

With Jasmine and Aladdin in Morocco

RunKarlaRun.com

Runners charge through Epcot

We say hi to Pocahontas

Runners pose with Belle and the Beast

Disney girls

Rapunzel and Flynn

Tangled Royal Family 5K Start

And they lived happily ever after

Cinderella & Prince Charming

RunKarlaRun.com

We model our bling

Coast to Coast Race Challenge medals

Runners show off their medals

Disney's Princess Half Marathon Medals

Earning a medal

Victory

Mickey waves me in

Last stop before the Princess finish

The finish is in sight

Minnie high-fives runners

Daisy Duck waves runners in

Rachel Booth wins

Princess Minnie and Mickey

Charging past Spaceship Earth

Through Epcot

To Epcot

Running Leap

Inspiration from a gospel choir

The cast of Sleeping Beauty

Running through the castle

Princess Minnie strikes a pose

The real Cinderella and Prince Charming

Pausing for a castle pic

Runners leap at Cinderella Castle

Cinderella's Fairy Godmother

The castle before dawn

Cinderella and Prince Charming are ready to run

2012 Disney Princess Start

Disney’s Princess Half Marathon Weekend was a fairy tale tour of Walt Disney World in Florida. Runners tackled the Tangled Royal Family 5K, Disney’s Royal Family Kids’ Races and Disney’s Princess Half Marathon. Races took runners through Epcot and Magic Kingdom, where Disney characters cheered them on to victory.

I ran the half-marathon with my fiance dressed as Cinderella and Prince Charming. My sister and I ran the 5K, and my niece and nephew ran the kids’ races. Photos courtesy of runDisney.

Disclosure: As a member of the running media, runDisney provided me with complimentary race entry, hotel, park tickets, and some meals (like the Pasta in the Park Party) for Disney’s Princess Half Marathon. 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.

29

02 2012

Planning Disney Races Takes More Than Magic

Planning Disney Races Takes More Than Magic

The runDisney team says they do it for the runners. (runDisney)

What does it take to put on a race in the happiest place on earth? A little bit of magic and a whole lot of teamwork.

More than 50,000 runners planned to participate in the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend from Jan. 6 to Jan. 8, 2012 culminating in the Walt Disney World Marathon. The Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend is one of the 10 largest race festivals in the country, according to RunningUSA. The 2011 event had more 56,000 runners registered for the Disney Family Fiesta 5K, Mickey Mile, Disney Kids’ Races, Walt Disney World Half Marathon, Walt Disney World Marathon Relay, and Walt Disney World Marathon.

But shuttling 50,000 runners, plus their families who have come to watch them, through six race events over the course of three days is no simple task. Working year-round, runDisney aims to make these racing events fun for the whole family, while maintaining the regular Disney magic for the thousands of other park and resort guests enjoying a dream vacation.

“The biggest challenge is trying to put a half-marathon or marathon in Walt Disney World when you have, on any given day, 50,000 to 100,000 day guests,” says John Phelan, entertainment show director for Disney Sports. “The logistics are one of the key challenges of doing all of this.”

Jon Hughes, race director for the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend and other runDisney events and owner of Orlando retail and event company Track Shack, couldn’t agree more.

“Like any event, there’s all the nitty gritty behind the scenes—operations and logistics,” Hughes says. “That is something that Disney does better than anyone else—the attention to detail.”

I headed to the 2011 Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon, as a guest of runDisney, to see how it’s done.

Planning Disney Races Takes More Than Magic

Runners pass the Streets of America in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. (runDisney)

Planning Makes Perfect

Planning and executing a Disney race is unique in the world of sports. Where the organizers of the ING New York City Marathon have one city government to contend with and one race to plan, Disney often has many. Many of the roadways used for Disney races don’t belong to Disney, but multiple local, county, and state municipalities. Which means Disney needs permits and permission from each one of them.

“You have to work with different state and city agencies to get the job done,” says Michelle Maready, senior sports manager for runDisney events. “We work very closely with our security partners, parking partners, our transportation partners. We are like a little city in itself. Even though it’s all on Disney property that can be very challenging.”

Add to that the different components of Walt Disney World itself. The theme parks, resort hotels, and sports companies operate as separate entities. With each event, runDisney must cater to the needs of the theme parks and hotels, whose safety and guest experience is primary for the Walt Disney Company. Largely, theme park operations dictate when and where Disney races can be run.

“The challenge with Disney is this is a huge complex. So we have to partner with all the resorts, all of the theme parks, the water parks, because we do our best not to interrupt their transportation and all the day guests’ experience.” Hughes says. “That’s the biggest challenge: getting all of our tens of thousands of people on the road, off in time, through the parks, on a great course, come back, get the finish done and have as little disruption to the overall theme park operation as possible.”

Disney races, Wine & Dine Half Marathon, run Disney

Runners trek through Disney’s Animal Kingdom. (Photo: runDisney)

Foremost in this task are the thousands of Disney patrons who aren’t visiting for Disney races, which often happen in conjunction with other major events that attract guests on their own. Disney’s Wine & Dine Half Marathon occurred at the same time at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival and Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Magic Kingdom.

“With all of the planning we do, we have to keep into account all of the guests that are not here to see the race and make sure that we’re taking care of them as well,” Maready says. “Because this is Disney, we want everybody to have a great experience. But then we’re disrupting transportation, we’re closing down roads, we’re rerouting people across properties so that can be very challenging from a guest perspective.”

That consideration even extends to the animals that call Disney’s Animal Kingdom their home, particularly during nighttime races like Wine & Dine that require lighting equipment.

“When you go through the Animal Kingdom, we don’t want to go in there with big generators making lots of noise. We have to be very sensitive about the animals because they’re asleep at night,” Phelan says. “We work with the animal programs people to determine how loud we can make music and we bring in theatrical lighting that illuminates the pathway but isn’t harsh work lights.”

So entertainment meets with animal programs, logistics works with engineering, and so forth, including representatives from every Disney theme park and every Disney resort hotel including the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin hotels, which are on Disney property but are not owned and operated by Disney.

“We touch every bit of property,” Maready says. “We meet with every single one of them.”

That’s in addition to Disney Sports’ own team members who work on every event—a group of about 30 core planners plus another 100 people who work on the races throughout the year. Come race weekend, add another 1,000 volunteers who staff the race expos, medical stations, start and finish lines, food and water stops, and act as course monitors.

“When that’s all said and done there’s probably 300 people property wide that will be working on the race along with the volunteers,” says Phelan, who has worked for Disney for 28 years.

Every runDisney event has an 18-month planning window that includes six months of just sales and marketing strategy. And since they’ve grown their business, runDisney plans all of their major events consecutively.

“We’re always in the planning cycle,” laughs Michelle Maready, senior sports manager for runDisney events. “Always.”

Indeed, while one race is happening, the Disney Sports team is already planning the next one. Even though the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon took place on Oct. 1, come September the entertainment team was already working on the marathon slated for January. As race director, Hughes and his team work at least a year out on every event.

Planning Disney Races Takes More Than Magic

A volunteer hands out food bags. (runDisney)

Race Day Logistics

Come race week, all that planning is set into action. Whereas most marathons shut down city streets to other traffic during prime hours, runDisney has no such luxury. It’s got to be business as usual for all the parks and resorts.

So many races have either 5:30 a.m. starts, like the Walt Disney World Marathon, or 10 p.m. starts, like the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon. Disney employees work from midnight to 7 a.m. in the four days leading up the Wine & Dine Half Marathon to physically set-up the entire event.

They move into the finish line space in a parking lot outside of Epcot on the Wednesday before the race. But in most cases, they’re not able to actually set-up until the roads close at 8:30 p.m., just 90 minutes before the 10 p.m. start. That means everything—including the start, the finish, the relay exchange for relay runners, nine water stops, one food stop, and four first aid stations—have less than one and a half hours to materialize. Come race night on Saturday, they are still setting up the finish and guests are still exiting the Epcot theme park until just before the winner crosses the finish line around 11 p.m. There is zero room for error or schedule delays.

“There’s an operation to help manage the guests as the logistics team is finishing the setup,” Maready says. “That finish line will be final right at 10:50 p.m.”

Meanwhile, Hughes gets updates on runners’ progress every two minutes, radios transportation to see that things are running smoothly, and constantly checks with the medical teams to make sure there are no major issues, which is his number one concern.

The tight window for setting-up and executing the event means the entertainment teams work out of RVs, rec vehicles and pop-up tents, clearing out as quickly as they moved in. “It’s kind of like a 13 mile or a 26 mile road show,” Phelan says. “The crew has to hit it and hit it hard.”

Planning Disney Races Takes More Than Magic

Runners pose with characters at the Wine & Dine after party. (runDisney)

Entertainment at Disney Races

One of the largest moving parts is entertainment itself.

“We have a massive team that works on it all year long doing all the endurance races, starting with the producer all the way down to the technicians,” says Phelan, who also serves as director of the “Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular!” and “Lights, Motor, Action! Extreme Stunt Show.” “On a race like a half marathon, we have about 50 technicians that are working the actual race, and 75 performers out on the course. On the full-marathon, I have well over 100 performers out there.”

Keeping runners entertained is one of the signature hallmarks of Disney races and what lures those 100,000 runners to the parks.

“Working with Disney events, the most fun thing is working with entertainment,” says Hughes, who is also president of Track Shack Events, which produces over 40 events a year. “You get to work with the best entertainment company in the world and run through the top theme parks. It’s a lot of fun putting that together, and quite honestly that’s how the race comes alive. That is the big Disney difference.”

Disney races, Wine & Dine Half Marathon, run Disney

A runner pauses for a photo with Woody from “Toy Story.” (runDisney)

But getting all those performers and the support equipment in place is a logistical challenge on its own. All Disney races take place outside of regular park hours, which means the Disney teams often have little time to set-up and breakdown.

“The parks are operating at full bore, and we come in either early, early in the morning before it opens and do a race and then have to get everything out. Or we’ll come in right as the park is closing with all this entertainment, all these mile markers, all this audio equipment and everything,” Phelan says.

When it comes to entertainment, Phelan uses everyone and everything at his disposal from Disney characters, live bands, parade floats, stunt people, actors, video crews, hot air balloons, cheerleading squads, producers, production managers, show directors, production assistants, artistic designers, and audio and lighting designers.

“My goal in all this is I think about the runner,” Phelan says. “We try to put an entertainment piece every half-mile or so on the course. Something that will either distract the runners, or motivate them, or make them laugh.”

For Phelan that means putting Captain Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and, of course, some princesses on the course during the Princess Half Marathon, or Serge from “Toy Story” half way up a hill in the Wine & Dine Half Marathon.

“You’ll have Serge from ‘Toy Story’ going, ‘Come on, you can do it! Let’s get going! Run, run, run!’” Phelan says, doing an imitation of the soldier.

Phelan tries to match the characters to the race and where they appear on the course. So when marathoners run through backstage wooded areas, he’ll put the Country Bears or Davy Crockett coming out of the woods and he uses glowing floats from the Main Street Electrical Parade for nighttime races.

“Hopefully when they cross the finish line, they go, ‘Oh my gosh I just ran 13 miles. I hardly even realized it because I was so much fun,’” Phelan says. “Our job is to make them do it and get through it and have fun.”

Planning Disney Races Takes More Than Magic

The start of the 2011 Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon (runDisney)

Handling Bumps in the Road

But sometimes things don’t always run smoothly. Like every other organization that puts on an event for the first time, there is a learning curve.

Hughes, who co-founded the Walt Disney World Marathon in 1994, has learned a lot as a race director over the years. He visits other marquee events like the Boston and Chicago marathons to see how other race directors tackle common issues.

“Our biggest lesson is never, ever, ever, assume. Don’t assume something’s going to happen or get done,” he says. “And if you do assume anything, assume the worst. Assume that it won’t work and be ready for that and have a Plan B just in case.”

The Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon debuted in 2010 to both acclaim and criticism. Runners complained of a cramped finish area, long waits for bags, and long waits for food, especially as the crush of racers increased in the middle of the pack.

“It’s a little bit of planned chaos,” Hughes says. “When you’ve got tens of thousands of people coming, there are going to be challenges as well planned as it is.”

But the team at Disney used the feedback as constructive criticism, listening to their fans and followers via Facebook, Twitter, MarathonGuide.com, e-mail and phone.

“Our guests are not shy,” Maready says. “They’re letting us know the things that didn’t work last year.”

Hughes takes the stumbling blocks and criticism like a runner—that is, in stride. “When we do an event for the first time we’re very concerned with the flow, with the staging, running through the course and the finish. When we see there are issues, we make changes to make that better,” Hughes says. “Our big challenge last year was the finish. So this year what we realized was we needed a lot more space. We need to make sure we have enough room for medical and baggage. We’ve accomplished that this year.”

“We actually tried to finish in park last year, which was the first time we‘d ever done that here at Disney,” Maready says. “It was intended obviously to be a great guest experience.”

But it didn’t allow for as much space as the course demanded. So this year, runDisney instituted a wave start to spread runners out more, moved the finish line from inside Epcot to a parking lot just outside the main entrance, expanded the baggage claim, and added a changing area.

They also expanded the finish line party—one of the big draws of the event—at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, keeping the park open until 3 a.m. just for runners and their families, and adding more character meet and greets and food and beverage stations.

The 2011 iteration of the race sold-out and proved a success in learning from past mistakes.

Planning Disney Races Takes More Than Magic

The winner of Disney’s Wine & Dine Half Marathon crosses the finish line. (runDisney)

Growing for the Future

Running is a growing business for Disney, who in December announced the addition of a new race in the runDisney series with the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler Weekend scheduled to debut in Walt Disney World in September. The Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend is making its debut in Disneyland in January as a west coast answer to the Disney Princess Half Marathon, the second largest women’s race in the country with 11,359 finishers in 2010, an increase of 5,000 runners from the inaugural event in 2009.

Altogether, the runDisney team puts on six major racing events throughout the year at Walt Disney World near Orlando, Fla., and Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., attracting more than 100,000 runners every year.

But runDisney hopes to grow each of their events, so that selling out will mean turning away fewer runners. Disney’s internal industrial engineering team had staff stationed all across the property on Wine & Dine race night.

“They’re going to be studying everything from the start to the finish to make sure that we’re looking at what our growth potential is at least one year ahead and then moving forward how much larger we think we can grow it,” Maready says.

Planning Disney Races Takes More Than Magic

Mickey and Minnie send off runners. (runDisney)

Disney Teamwork…and Magic

But despite the headaches, despite the bobbles and the logistical nightmares, the people behind runDisney are effusive in their passion for putting on races.

“I get energized by the fact that our teams have worked so hard to put it all together,” Maready says. “We’re in our element when we’re working as a team.”

Phelan agrees.

“It’s all about teamwork,” he says. “You have to keep a sense of humor and you have to go with the flow.”

But Hughes gleans motivation from the runners themselves. His favorite moments always come during the race.

“The first one is always the start. You’ve got them all there and ‘boom!’ It goes. The crowd is excited and you can feel the energy,” Hughes says with a twinkle in his eye. “The other one is somewhere during the finish. It happens every time. You will see someone cross the line and you know you’ve changed their life.” Hughes pauses, getting choked up, tears welling in his eyes. “And it’s huge,” he says, visibly moved by the memory of all those moments over the years.

“I’m half-Italian so I get emotional,” he says with a laugh, wiping his eye.

Or maybe it’s that Disney magic.

As a member of the running media, runDisney provided me with complimentary attendance at the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon. 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.

11

01 2012

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler Weekend Debuts At Disney

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Tower of Terror 10-Miler, runDisney

Photo courtesy of runDisney

Yesterday runDisney unveiled a new race weekend for 2012. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler Weekend will debut in September 2012 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World in Florida. The race is a re-imagination of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 13K last run in 2009.

The main event of the weekend is a nighttime 10-mile race, scheduled for Sept. 29. The course will run through the set of Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show, past Mickey’s Sorcerer’s Hat and finish near The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. In true Disney fashion, the race will culminate in a villain-themed post-race party with live music, characters—including your favorite Disney villains, of course—and exclusive access to attractions like The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith, Star Tours and Toy Story Mania. Read the rest of this entry →

22

12 2011

Last updated by at .