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April 17, 2017

Tips for Disney's 2017 Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend -- The Dark Side

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Orlando may have just wrapped up the four day mega convention, A Star Wars Celebration, but that doesn’t mean the Force isn’t still in town. Beginning Thursday, April 20, runDisney kicks off its second annual Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend – The Dark Side – at Walt Disney World.

Here are a few tips to make the most of the weekend:

** Give yourself time to look around the Health & Fitness Expo at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex during packet pickup on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. It's a showcase for the latest products, including race-themed merchandise. Be aware that official runDisney merchandise specifically designed for the weekend typically sells out quickly. The Expo is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Admission and parking are free.

** The Expo is great place to pick up last-minute Star Wars-themed running gear. In addition to the official runDisney merchandise, vendors also will have items for sale. Plus, there usually are special themed photo backdrops – and sometimes characters – only available to runners who present their bibs. So, even if you don’t have time to stop during packet pick-up, you may want to come back after your race with your medal.

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** The Dark Side 10K and half marathon courses have changed this year, and runners will start from the Ticket and Transportation Center parking lot. However, runners will not be able to park there on race days. Runner drop-off will be available in the Charter Lot at Magic Kingdom by the Transportation and Ticket Center or the Charter Lot at Epcot.

** Reminder: Race photos are handled by the Disney PhotoPass staff and will be available to view at MyDisneyPhotoPass.com (select Walt Disney World) and on the My Disney Experience app within 24 hours of the event. To link your photos, you will need to enter the 11-digit RaceID followed by your 5-digit bib number. If your bib number is less than 5 digits, add zeros at the beginning of your bib number to complete the 16-digit code.

If you are not a Disney Parks passholder with Disney PhotoPass benefits, you can purchase Memory Maker One Day or the Memory Maker package that includes all photos from your Walt Disney World vacation. Memory Maker One Day is $59 and can only be purchased through the My Disney Experience app. (Click on the three bars at the top left of the screen and then choose “PhotoPass,” not “Memory Maker.” Tap a photo and your choices will appear.) Memory Maker One Day begins at 6 a.m. ET on the day you select. The Memory Maker package is $169, but guests who purchase it online at least three days in advance of their arrival at the resort will save $20. The Memory Maker package starts at 12 a.m. on the day you first download or unlock digital content and lasts for 30 days.

** Afterward, head over to Hollywood Studios and immerse yourself in a galaxy not so far away. You can see the Star Wars stage show, the March of the First Order with Captain Phasma and plenty of stormtroopers, and meet Kylo Ren, Chewbacca and BB-8. Plus, don’t forget to ride Star Tours and stick around for the Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular fireworks to end the night.


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March 2, 2017

runDisney news: Guaranteed 2018 Princess Half Marathon Weekend registration, 2017 Virtual Running Shorts Series

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Participants still on a runner’s high from this past weekend’s runDisney 2017 Princess Half Marathon Weekend might be excited to learn about two new opportunities from runDisney.

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First, runners can receive guaranteed race registration for the 2018 Princess Half Marathon Weekend, which takes place February 23 through 26 and does not go on sale to the public until May 2. As anyone who is familiar with the crazy rush to register before races fill up knows, this is a valuable offer. Plus, 2018 is an anniversary year for several of the Princess races, which historically has meant special medals and merchandise and larger crowds. It will be the tenth anniversary for the Princess half and the fifth anniversary for the 10K and the Glass Slipper Challenge (the 10k plus the half).

To take advantage this offer, a runner must book a Magic Your Way Package, which includes a stay at a Walt Disney World hotel and theme park tickets, by March 5. That’s Sunday, so you need to get to stepping if you want to know that you have a spot in the runDisney Princess races next year. (Participants will receive an email with instructions about how to register once they book their travel packages.)

Here are the prices for the 2018 Princess Half Marathon Weekend races:

Disney Glass Slipper Challenge -- $340
Disney Princess Half Marathon -- $195
Disney Princess Enchanted 10K -- $120
Disney Princess 5K -- $80
Kids Dashes and One Mile Run -- $20 to $30

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The second runDisney opportunity involves the return of the Virtual Running Shorts Series for the summer, and the races go on sale to the public on April 11. The series includes three 5Ks you can complete during specific time frames from whichever course you choose, whether that’s through your neighborhood, on the treadmill or at your local park.

This year, the Virtual Running Shorts Series will have the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando as its celebratory charity, meaning it can use the races as both a platform to create awareness and to raise funds for research.

Prices for the 2017 Virtual Running Shorts Series have not yet been announced, but last year each 5K cost $39 per person and the series challenge was $142. In 2016, each registration included a virtual bib and a Mickey finisher medal. The series challenge came with each of the individual medals plus a fourth medal and a tumbler.


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January 10, 2017

What happens when runDisney cancels a half marathon at Walt Disney World?

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On Friday, runDisney announced a rare decision to cancel one of its races because of weather. The half marathon, part of Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, was scheduled to start at 5:30 a.m. Saturday, and the anticipated weather was looking pretty dicey with a line of thunderstorms from the country’s winter weather expected to cross the state while volunteers were setting up and while runners were waiting in corrals.

The threat wasn’t necessarily the rain. Despite the caution needed to run on slick surfaces and the uncomfortable feeling of running a long race in heavy, soaked clothing that chafes, those weren’t the deciding factors, we’re told. It was the possibility of lightning in what is commonly known as the Lightning Capital of the United States.

And such a threat was fresh in the minds of runDisney organizers and runners alike after lightning forced the 2015 Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon to be delayed and the distance shortened to a little more than a 10K. Certainly everyone wants runners to be safe, but there is a lot of frustration involved when a solution cannot be found for runners to participate in the races in which they have invested a lot of time training, money and travel to complete. For those not familiar with runDisney half marathons, they cost almost $200 per person and runners – especially first-timers -- often train for at least six months in preparation for the race.

That’s what happened in 2015 and again this weekend. The runners, including my own son and husband, of course understand that safety comes first. Frankly, it felt a little patronizing to be told that over and over by non-runners who had no understanding of what was involved in the preparation for this event. But what they wanted was the opportunity to run the race – even if it had to be delayed – that they had worked so hard and sacrificed for. That did not happen.

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Still, it was amazing to see how both runDisney and fellow half-marathoners did step up after the cancellation was announced. runDisney events are scheduled to take place rain or shine so refunds are not freely given by the organization. However, in this situation, runDisney gave runners the choice of a refund of their entry fees in the form of a gift card; two one-day park-hopper tickets for Walt Disney World; the ability to transfer registration to another runDisney half marathon within the next 24 months; or the option to convert this weekend’s registration to the full marathon on Sunday. In addition to selecting one of these options, all registered runners did or will receive their medals.

But runners are a tough bunch and they want to earn their medals, not just be handed them. Many decided to pound the pavement (unofficially) at their Walt Disney World resorts on Saturday for 13.1 miles. Some even organized impromptu half marathons with volunteers who handed out water and toiletpaper finish lines for each runner to break at the end of his or her journey. Others ran on treadmills to fulfill the commitments and honor the pledges they made to certain causes.

Finally, the runners honored each other’s hard work preparing for the race by wearing on Saturday the yellow half-marathon tech shirts that came with their race packets. Cast members and fellow Walt Disney World guests expressed their solidarity, too, at the hotels, theme parks and the runDisney expo. Disney prepared for the elevated crowd level on the last day of the expo, which normally is the least crowded, by adding character meet-and-greets and other entertainment. Perhaps, most importantly, staffing allowed runners to efficiently redeem their refund options and return any unwanted merchandise, giving everyone the opportunity to leave Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend on a positive note.



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January 2, 2017

You finished your runDisney race. Now what?

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runDisney’s biggest race weekend of the year, the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, kicks off tomorrow. Runners will tackle a 5K, 10K, half marathon or full marathon – or a combination of races – early in the morning. In general, they finish before the theme parks open, so what do runners like to do before they hit the rides and attractions? If you’re new to Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, here are some suggestions.

** Take advantage of special photo ops in the finish line area. There usually is a spot to pose with your medal and a race-themed backdrop, as well as character opportunities.

** Go back to the runDisney Health and Fitness Expo. If you just popped in to the ESPN Wide World of Sports to pick up your bib and race packet, go back to shop and check out the freebies, like the complimentary taping of legs with the purchase of KT Tape. You might find samples of snacks, free pain relievers and other goodies, too.

** Also, at the last two runDisney race weekends at Walt Disney World, rarely seen characters were available to runners only for meet-and-greets at the expo. Lumiere was there for the Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend and BB-8 was at the expo for the Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend: The Dark Side.

** Refuel. Sure, there’s the snack box at the finish line for your immediate need to eat, but how about an actual meal? If you haven’t made a breakfast or lunch reservation, don’t despair. Even though many of the popular restaurants at Walt Disney World are booked months in advance, people’s plans do change. In general, cancellations must be made 24 hours in advance in order to avoid a per-person charge, so keep checking My Disney Experience online or calling 407-WDW-DINE.

** Schedule a post-race massage. Walt Disney World has multiple spas and fitness centers on property. Again, even if you don’t have a reservation, it’s worth checking for cancellations and last-minute openings.

** Finally, above all else, wear your race medal or “I did it!” finisher T-shirt in the parks or elsewhere on property. After all, you earned it! Cast members and even other guests will congratulate you on your accomplishment and there are numerous places that make for great photo backdrops.



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December 31, 2016

What you need to know for runDisney 2017 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend

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Today marks one week until my husband and son are running their first half marathon, and it will be during the 2017 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. Although they both have been participating in runDisney races for a few years now, there are some aspects of this particular event that are new to them – other than the 13.1 miles. Also, runDisney has changed and updated some of its processes for this weekend. Here’s a look at what you can expect, if you, too, are attending or participating in race weekend.

2017 runDisney New Balance shoes

One of the big draws for this particular Health and Fitness Expo at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex is the annual debut of the new runDisney New Balance shoes. This year’s collection features shoes patterned after attractions at Walt Disney World: Toy Story Mania, Mad Tea Party, Haunted Mansion and Space Mountain.

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Haunted Mansion
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Space Mountain

The Toy Story Mania and Mad Tea Party shoes are the 880V6 style running shoe, which cost $139.95 for adult sizes and $79.95 for children’s sizes in 2016. The Haunted Mansion and Space Mountain designs are the Vazee Pace v2 style running shoe, which cost $124.95 in 2016. Prices for the 2017 runDisney collection have not yet been announced.

Because of the popularity of the runDisney shoes, New Balance again will operate a virtual queue for its Expo customers. Guests who would like to try on -- and possibly purchase -- the running shoes must make an appointment online. Sign-ups at NBvirtualqueue.com for the first day of the Expo, which is Wednesday (Jan. 4), begin at 7 p.m. Tuesday (Jan. 3) and are reserved for runners only. (Appointments cannot be made without a bib number.) Sign-ups for the New Balance virtual queue for Thursday and Friday open at 7 p.m. the night before and are open to all Expo attendees. There is no virtual queue for Saturday.

runDisney Health and Fitness Expo

Speaking of the Expo, it begins at 10 a.m. Wednesday, but only runners who purchased a VIP Race Retreat package will be allowed entry at that time. Other runners, spectators and the general public will not be allowed in until noon on the first day. This is different from other runDisney race weekends. The Expo hours are as follows:

Wednesday: noon to 8 p.m.
Thursday: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Friday: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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Some of the most-sought-after merchandise at the Expo is the runDisney race-specific clothing and souvenirs that cannot be pre-ordered. It is only listed to be sold in one location: the back of the Jostens Center. I would expect Half Marathon merchandise to be especially popular because it’s the 20th anniversary of the race. Also, there was no pre-order for the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend Dooney & Bourke handbags, so expect that area to be busy, as well.

For those driving to the ESPN Sports Complex for packet pickup (and the Expo), a new parking option was introduced at the Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend. Guests now can pay $10 for preferred parking, which is the closest to the complex. I understand that the extra expense is worth it to some people, but it just seems counterintuitive at an event where participants are physically active.

Earlier registration for future runDisney races

runDisney has begun selling bibs for the 2017 Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend even earlier than past years. At the Expo for the 2016 Wine and Dine Weekend, attendees could buy bibs for 2017 if they purchased an entire travel package. No word yet on whether that same offer will be available during Marathon Weekend.

Even so, bibs for the 2017 Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend, which takes place Nov. 2 through 5, go on sale to the public at noon EST Jan. 17. Disney Parks passholders and Disney Vacation Club members can register as early as noon EST Jan. 12. Not even a month later, bibs go on sale for the 2018 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend races, which take place Jan. 3 through 7. General sales start at noon EST Feb. 14, while passholders and DVC members can register at noon EST Feb. 9.

Making Memories

Finally, if you are new to runDisney races or it’s been a while since you’ve been a participant, don’t forget to plan for and check out your race photos. In 2016, runDisney switched from Marathon Foto to Disney’s PhotoPass. That’s good news for passholders who have Gold, Platinum or Platinum Plus passes, because the downloads of all race photos are included in pass benefits. My family and I have appreciated the substantial savings.

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If you are not a Disney Parks passholder with Disney PhotoPass benefits, you can purchase Memory Maker One Day or the Memory Maker package that includes all photos from your Walt Disney World vacation. Memory Maker One Day is $59 and can only be purchased through the My Disney Experience app. (Click on the three bars at the top left of the screen and then choose “PhotoPass,” not “Memory Maker.” Tap a photo and your choices will appear.) Memory Maker One Day begins at 6 a.m. ET on the day you select. The Memory Maker package is $169, but guests who purchase it online at least three days in advance of their arrival at the resort will save $20. The Memory Maker package starts at 12 a.m. on the day you first download or unlock digital content and lasts for 30 days.

Runners also have the option to buy individual photos and photo downloads. It’s free to view your photos, but you must have created a complimentary My Disney Experience account. RunDisney photos are compiled by race and bib numbers. You will need to input one of these codes to see your photos: 2017-WDWK-IDSx-xxxx, 2017-WDWW-K5Kx-xxxx, 2017-WDWW-10Kx-xxxx, 2017-WDWH-ALFx-xxxx, or 2017-WDWM-ARAx-xxxx. Enter your bib number in place of the X’s; if your bib number is smaller than five digits, place 0’s in front of it. It can take up to 24 hours for the photos to appear in your account.

Be sure to check the runDisney website about two weeks after race weekend to download and print your complimentary official finisher certificate.

Good luck, runners!



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November 12, 2016

New Balance unveils its 2017 runDisney collection of running shoes

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Shoemaker New Balance unveiled its much-anticipated designs for its 2017 runDisney collection on Thursday. Typically, the reveal comes during the week before the first running event of the year, which is the series of races at the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend in January.

In past years, the color and design of each shoe was intended to recall a specific Disney character. This year, for the first time, the shoes are patterned after attractions at Walt Disney World: Toy Story Mania, Mad Tea Party, Haunted Mansion and Space Mountain.

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Haunted Mansion
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Space Mountain

The Toy Story Mania and Mad Tea Party shoes are the 880V6 style running shoe, which cost $139.95 for adult sizes and $79.95 for children’s sizes in 2016. The Haunted Mansion and Space Mountain designs are the Vazee Pace v2 style running shoe, which cost $124.95 in 2016. Prices for the 2017 runDisney collection have not yet been announced.

The shoes are on display at the runDisney Health and Fitness Expo for the Disneyland Super Heroes Half Marathon Weekend, which is taking place now. Runners attending the Expo reported online that they were told by cast members that the new shoes would first be available at the Expo for Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. That Expo will take place Jan. 4 through 7, 2017. They also will be available at the Expo at the Disneyland Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend – The Light Side from Jan 12 through 14, 2017. After the first race weekends on each coast, the Limited Edition shoes will continue to be sold exclusively at the runDisney expos throughout the year.

Because of the popularity of the runDisney shoes, New Balance typically operates a virtual queue for its Expo customers. Guests who would like to try on -- and possibly purchase -- the running shoes must make an appointment online. Sign-ups at NBvirtualqueue.com for the first day of the Expo usually are reserved for runners, and appointments cannot be made without a bib number. Other days are open to all Expo attendees.

New Balance's rules last year stated that customers could reserve one pair of running shoes per reservation. They would be able to choose up to five more pairs in the booth and could purchase a total of six pairs of runDisney Collection footwear per event weekend. Rules for 2017 have not yet been posted.

When it's close to a guest's reserved time, he or she receives a text and then must return within an hour or risk losing the shoes that were saved for that appointment. If the reserved shoes do not fit, the sales associate will check for other sizes. Customers can keep an eye on general inventory levels at NBVirtualQueue.com.

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New Balance first released Limited Edition runDisney shoes in 2013. The 860v3 sneakers were designed in the bright red, yellow, black and white traditional colors of modern Mickey and Minnie. They have since been retired. In 2014, the styles were designed to recall Sorcerer Mickey and Goofy (men's) and Cinderella and Minnie Mouse (women's). Due to popular demand, a limited number of the four New Balance 860v4 shoes were made available in 2015. New in 2015, runDisney and New Balance introduced Retro Mickey and Minnie 990v3 sneakers in black, gray and white that paid homage to Steamboat Willie. Plus, Tinker Bell and Donald Duck Fresh Foam Boracay shoes debuted later in the year. In 2016, the Dumbo Vazee Pace, Ariel Vazee Pace and the Red Carpet Mickey and Minnie 860v6s joined the lineup.

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Are you excited about the 2017 collection of runDisney New Balance running shoes? Tell us about it in the comments.



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November 4, 2016

UPDATED: runDisney debuts its partnership with Misfit at 2016 Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend

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Thursday marks the beginning of runDisney’s 2016 Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend at Walt Disney World, and as participants know, there have been a lot of changes to this weekend’s races. But perhaps less well-known is the new relationship runDisney has formed with this weekend’s sponsor, Misfit.

Misfit is a manufacturer of wearable activity trackers. One of the hallmarks of its products is that they do not need to be charged; owners simply replace the batteries when necessary. Another popular feature is that the sleek devices are water resistant and some are waterproof.

As part of the new agreement with Disney, Misfit has been named the official activity tracker of runDisney and ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort. In addition to becoming the presenting sponsor at this year’s Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend, Misfit will be an official sponsor of the seven other runDisney events held at Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort.

Misfit brand products include the Ray, Shine, Shine 2, Flash and Link.

My family became familiar with Misfit products over the summer when my teenage son, who swims competitively, was looking for an activity tracker to use both at his daily practices and for his training runs. In June, the company launched its second version of the Shine device: Misfit Shine 2 Swimmer’s Edition, powered by Speedo. The Misfit Shine 2 uses Speedo’s proprietary lap-counting algorithms to track a swimmer’s lap count as well as provide user feedback, such as progress and activity reminders. Those features are what prompted us to purchase a Misfit Shine 2, and we have no regrets.

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The Misfit Shine 2 is meant to be worn both in and out of the water, and so it also tracks walking, running, cycling, and light and deep sleep. And it does well with the runners.

Wareable.com named the Misfit Shine 2 one of the best fitness trackers in 2016. Here’s the tech website’s mini review:

“When the Misfit launched the [original] Shine back in 2012, it proved that you can count your steps from a fitness tracker that didn't look like an ugly piece of plastic around your wrist. The Shine 2 remains faithful to its original features and now adds a redesigned action clip, smartphone notifications and vibration alerts. Also, the battery life pretty much kicks the *** of any of the trackers. ... Where it really impresses though is data accuracy. When we put the Shine 2 up against a GPS running watch recently, there was 0.1km difference in the readings. If reliable data is your priority, then this is the one to go for.”

The Misfit Shine 2 also is compatible with Misfit Link, the software that turns the activity tracker into a remote to connect with the world around the wearer: Communicate with friends, turn on lights, change music, take a selfie, and more.

Wareable.com also gives the Misfit Ray a nod, naming it “Best for Simplicity” among the Best Fitness Trackers of 2016.

“Stylish and sleek, Misfit broke from the traditional design of its circular Shine tracker to offer something a little more discreet. The Misfit Ray offers steps and sleep tracking, all within Misfit's sleek and clean app. It will also alert users to messages and calls from a paired smartphone. There are now decent strap options now from Misfit, and it can be worn as a pendent. Decent customization mixed with strong (if no frills) fitness tracking and a good price mean you can't go wrong with the Ray.”

Misfit has begun its rollout of runDisney-branded accessories for the Ray. At the Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend Expo, the first 100 customers who purchased a Ray device received the box of three bands, including one race-specific band, pictured below. At the expo, runners could purchase the Misfit Ray for 30 percent off its regular price of $99.99.

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My son has had his Misfit Shine 2 Swimmer’s Edition device for about four months now, and when we had an issue with one of the interchangeable bands, the Misfit customer service department was responsive to our complaint. The company definitely stands behind its products.

“Misfit aims to motivate individuals and families everywhere to stay active and have fun doing it,” Preston Moxcey, general manager of Misfit, said in a press release. “Our relationship with runDisney and ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex provides incredible opportunities to share fitness inspiration with friends and loved ones, and we’re so excited to be a part of it.”

Misfit is celebrating its fifth anniversary with a 30 percent discount on its fitness trackers, gear and accessories if they are ordered on the company website through Oct. 31. Use the code MISFITBDAY.



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April 29, 2016

runDisney adds new Virtual Running Shorts Series for summer

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runDisney announced new races on Thursday – and there is no limit on the number of participants, although there still is a deadline to register. Runners and walkers now can sign up for virtual races that are scheduled to begin next month.

If you’ve never heard the term “virtual race,” it refers to a race that can be run in any location, even as part of another actual race. Basically, the participant chooses the pace (walking, jogging, running) and the location (inside, outside, on a treadmill or not).

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runDisney is offering participants the opportunity to bring some of the magic of its popular races to their hometowns with its new Virtual Running Shorts Series. The series includes three separate 5Ks and a challenge to complete all three 5K races in specified time frames:

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** Yellow Shorts 5K – must be completed between May 15 and June 1. Register now through May 31.

** Red Pants 5K – must be completed between June 5 and 18. Register now through June 17.

** White Glove 5K – must be completed between June19 and 30. Register now through June 29.

Virtual Running Shorts Series – all three races totaling 9.3 miles must be completed in each race’s timeframe. Register now through May 31.

Each 5K costs $39 per person, and the series challenge is $142. So what do you get for that entry fee? Every registration includes a virtual bib and a Mickey finisher medal. The series challenge comes with each of the individual medals plus a fourth medal and a tumbler. Each individual medal represents one of Mickey’s iconic fashion staples, and the challenge medal features Mickey sporting his complete ensemble.

No finishing time is required for the races in the Virtual Running Shorts Series. As with other runDisney 5K races, participants must be at least 5 years old to register, and everyone must sign waivers online during the registration process.

The new runDisney races benefit The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, an organization that fights blood cancers. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society also was the celebratory charity of Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, meaning it can use the races as both a platform to create awareness and to raise funds for research.

The official runDisney blog states: “Virtual races are becoming more and more popular in the running world with the ease of participating from anywhere. As runDisney continues to grow, we will look for more opportunities to stay connected with our runners as well as introduce a healthy and active lifestyle to new audiences.”

Do you agree – are the new runDisney virtual races good motivators to train? Or is the cost too high when you haven’t stepped foot on Disney property? Tell us in the comments why you think these races are a positive or negative addition to the runDisney portfolio.



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April 7, 2016

Skip packet pick-up at next runDisney expo – for a price

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runDisney quietly has introduced a new service for its next race weekend, which takes place next week at Walt Disney World. At the inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon – The Dark Side weekend, runners can choose to skip packet pick-up at the runDisney Health and Fitness Expo and collect their bibs, race shirts and pre-purchased merchandise at the courses on race days.

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As you might – and should – have guessed, the new VIP Race Day Packet Pick-up is not free. It’s another upcharge offering in the steady stream of Walt Disney World experiences that are being sold for additional costs. The price is $39 per race packet, and the service is available for the 10K, Half Marathon and Dark Side Challenge. (Those running the 5K cannot purchase this service.)

If you want to purchase the VIP Race Day Packet Pickup, you must do so by 8 p.m. EST April 11. Star Wars Half Marathon – The Dark Side weekend runs April 14-17. The VIP Race Day Packet Pickup service is a separate transaction from race registration. You can find the option by clicking the link under “Runner Info” and “Packet Pick-Up” on the official runDisney website. There are a limited number of VIP packet pick-up packages for sale, and no refunds will be issued once the packages are purchased. You must upload your completed waiver during the checkout process.

Here’s how it works:

** The VIP Race Day Packet Pick-up will be open from 3:30 to 5 a.m. April 16 and 17.

** You must have a valid ID in order to pick up your packet (driver's license, passport, Military ID, Government issued ID.) You are the only person who can pick up your packet.

** Because you are collecting your shirt and commemorative items, as well as you bib, before the race, you will need to either check the items in your gEAR bag (also provided that morning) or find other options, such as handing them off to a chEARing friend or stashing the items in your car if you drove.

** No shirt exchange will be available at the VIP tent.

Some runDisney participants noticed that the website originally also had language that offered packet pick-up and delivery to Disney hotels for the same price of $39 per adult runner. Packet pickup for each additional minor staying in the same room would be $15. However, this option has since been removed from the website.

So, is the VIP Race Day Packet Pick-up worth the price? It’s certainly a matter of perspective. Some commenters in online forums pointed out that the $39 would be well worth it to them because they would not have to arrive at Walt Disney World as early, allowing them to avoid taking an extra day off work. Some said the $39 was a small price to pay to have more time in the theme parks. Other runners, especially those with families, said the total cost would be too steep and they would make time to go to the expo at ESPN Wide World of Sports.

What do you think about the new VIP Race Day Packet Pick-up packages? Tell us in the comments.



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March 11, 2016

Changes to runDisney's Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend bring mixed reactions

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Earlier this week, astute runDisney participants suspected that the format of the Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend in November would be changing, and on Thursday they found out they were correct. Some were excited about the new offerings, but others were bitterly disappointed by the schedule changes – and quite a few were vocal in online forums.

It started on Monday when runDisney changed some of the wording for the upcoming races on its website and then later in the day postponed the registration dates for the Wine and Dine weekend. Annual passholders and Disney Vacation Club members were ready for early registration on Tuesday, which is a big deal because runDisney races sell out so quickly that the opportunity to register early is one that runners will not pass up if they can help it.

Two days later it was announced that Wine and Dine weekend would add a 10K and Lumiere’s Two Course Challenge to the kids’ races, 5K and half marathon already on the schedule. No complaints there – runners were excited to have more opportunities to collect Disney bling. But what did upset a lot of runners was that in order to accommodate the new 10K, runDisney moved the half marathon from Saturday night to Sunday morning and the after party from Saturday night to Sunday night. The 5K, renamed Mickey’s Holiday 5K, was moved to Friday morning, which means the health & fitness expo is Thursday. The race weekend will run Nov. 3-6.

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The Wine and Dine Half Marathon was the last nighttime race on the Walt Disney World schedule; the Expedition Everest Challenge finished after the 2015 race and Tower of Terror 10-miler ended after the 2014 race. Some say this schedule change makes the format of the Wine and Dine weekend just like any other runDisney weekend instead of keeping it unique. Others appreciated that a nighttime race meant not having to get up by 3 a.m. to make it to their corrals on time. And another frustration was a course change that decreases the amount of time running in the theme parks, a reason many say they are willing to pay the higher entry fees. The course no longer includes Hollywood Studios – just ESPN Wide World of Sports, Animal Kingdom and Epcot.

Those in favor of the change point to the storms that disrupted the night-time half marathon for the past two years and what they perceive as a better chance of the weather cooperating. They also like the idea of having time to go back to their hotels to recover, rest and clean up before the after-party at Epcot. (Admission to the party is included in race registration for the half marathon, and friends and family members who are not running can purchase tickets.)

Whether runners are in favor of the changes or not, those who have planned ahead with travel arrangements are now most likely having to modify transportation and hotel stays. (It’s still too early for Disney dining reservations.) Many of those who thought they were running a Saturday night half marathon and going straight to the after-party planned to travel home Sunday so they wouldn’t miss another work or school day, and that is no longer possible. With the 5K a day earlier, those runners who are not locals will need to arrive in Orlando sooner. And anyone who likes to purchase race-specific runDisney merchandise knows that it usually is best to be at the expo on the first morning before it sells out; that translates to an earlier arrival for another segment of runners, as well.

Along with the changes in race formats, prices for the weekend events also were announced Thursday: half marathon, $190; Lumiere’s Two-Course Challenge, $330; 10K, $120; 5K, $70; kids’ races, $20; 1-mile run, $30; after-party tickets, $79.

Early registration for Walt Disney World and Disneyland passholders and Disney Vacation Club members for Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend is March 22. Registration opens to the public March 29.

Have the changes to the schedule prompted you to change your plans? Tell us in the comments.



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March 8, 2016

What you need to know about Disney's PhotoPass staffing runDisney events

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Beginning next month, runDisney is changing how photos at its events will be taken, viewed and purchased at Walt Disney World. Disney’s PhotoPass service will be stepping into the role that MarathonFoto has filled until this point.

The change takes effect at the Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend – The Dark Side, which is April 14-17 at the Orlando resort.

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I spoke to cast members at both runDisney and Disney’s PhotoPass yesterday when the news of the change surfaced. They said they don’t have all details yet, but here are answers to some of the most common questions:

How will be photos be compiled by runDisney?

A cast member said that bibs, not MagicBands, still will be used to gather photos. That has not yet been finalized, however, so stay tuned for more details in the next two weeks, I'm told.

How do I view my runDisney photos under the new system?

You can view your photos for free, just as you do theme-park photos, on the PhotoPass section of MyDisneyExperience.com or on the My Disney Experience app.

How do I purchase my runDisney photos?

You will have three choices. You can purchase Memory Maker, which includes all the photos taken in a 14-day period. That means you could include the race photos with any other photos taken during your Walt Disney World vacation. If you purchase Memory Maker at least three days in advance, the cost is $149. You also can purchase Memory Maker for immediate use for $169. The second option is to purchase 1-Day Memory Maker for $59. This option only will be available on the My Disney Experience app, I was told. Finally, you can select individual photos to purchase for about $15 per download.

How do these prices compare to the current provider, MarathonFoto?

MarathonFoto’s packages start at about $75 to download all race images for one person or $80 to download all images for one runner plus a 30-second video of crossing the finish line and premium content, such as race highlights. Purchasing an individual photo costs about $25 for the download. However, each of these purchases comes with a $20 credit on Shutterfly, presumably to print your photos (but you can use it for whatever you want). So, assuming you will use the Shutterfly credit, the prices to compare really are $55, $60 and $5, respectively.

Will Disney’s PhotoPass offer the video clip of each runner crossing the finish line like MarathonFoto does?

Cast members did not know the answer to this question at this time. PhotoPass does offer ride videos and moving photos from the theme parks, so it could be possible.

Besides the price and video option, are there other differences in the photo companies?

With MarathonFoto, you are required to purchase each runner’s photos separately. With Disney’s PhotoPass, you can collect all the race photos for friends and family who are linked to you in My Disney Experience and purchase them with one Memory Maker entitlement.

Will runDisney photos be included with the free PhotoPass downloads that Walt Disney World annual passholders receive?

Yes, if you are a Gold, Platinum, Platinum Plus or Premier Walt Disney World passholder, the photos will be included as a benefit. If only one person in the group is a passholder, he or she can compile the runners’ photos as long as they are linked in My Disney Experience as Friends & Family.

How long will my race photos be available in Disney’s PhotoPass?

In Disney’s PhotoPass system, the images expire after 45 days, unless you purchase an extension. That means you must finalize your Memory Maker before the 45-day mark. The exception is for Walt Disney World passholders with Gold, Platinum, Platinum Plus or Premier passes, whose photos remain in their accounts for 365 days from the dates they were taken. (MarathonFoto retains photos for two years after each race, and you can purchase them any time during that period.)

Will there be PhotoPass photographers at other events during race weekend, such as Pasta in the Park, reunion breakfasts, etc.?

Staffing for events outside the courses has not yet been announced.

Will Disneyland be converting to Disney’s PhotoPass for its runDisney events?

Cast members said they expect that to happen, but there has been no announcement of that at this time.



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February 19, 2016

Free activities for runners at Walt Disney World this weekend

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Feeling motivated by the Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend that’s going on now? Here are a few free and low-cost activities for runners at Walt Disney World to check out this weekend.

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Keep those muscles loose with a run (or walk) around your Walt Disney World hotel or take in a change of scenery at another location at the resort. Disney has worked with New Balance, the official running shoe of runDisney, to create and identify New Balance Running Trails – more than 16 miles of trails throughout the property that are open 24 hours a day. Among the choices:

** The Animal Kingdom resort area has a mile-long paved trail that connects the three All-Star Resorts (Movies, Music and Sports). At Coronado Springs Resort, there is a 0.75-mile-long promenade that loops around Lago Dorado.

** In the Epcot resort area, runners can make loops around Crescent Lake and Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club. The longest course follows Epcot Resorts Boulevard and Buena Vista Drive toward Disney’s Hollywood Studios. At Disney’s Caribbean Beach hotel, a 1.2-mile promenade circles Barefoot Bay. Runners looking for long distance can choose from 2-, 3- and 4-mile routes at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin.

** The Magic Kingdom resort area offers one of the most unique paths -- a 2.5-mile-long trek through Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. Plus, there’s a 0.75-mile shaded fitness trail and bike path that connects Disney's Wilderness Lodge. Or run along the iconic Seven Seas Lagoon for about a mile between the Polynesian and Grand Floridian hotels. You’ll pass the wedding pavilion and have a great view of the Magic Kingdom! At the Contemporary hotel, circle Bay Lake Tower and the South Garden Wing on the 0.9-mile paved jogging path.

** Finally, the Disney Springs hotels and others have their paths, as well. Jog along the Sassagoula River on a 1.7-mile promenade connecting the Riverside and French Quarter Resort areas of the Port Orleans hotel. At Saratoga Springs and Old Key West, paths take runners past the fairways of Lake Buena Vista Golf Course. Pop Century offers two loops: 1.1 or 1.38 miles. Art of Animation also has a 1.38-mile trail, but it passes the larger-than-life courtyards inspired by Walt Disney and Disney•Pixar classics “Cars,” “Finding Nemo,” “The Lion King” and “The Little Mermaid.”

The front desk at each hotel can provide maps of its trails.

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On Sunday, Disney Springs Marketplace hosts the Happily Ever After Party from noon to 8 p.m. The party is open to runners, their families and the general public. However, be sure to wear your medal to take advantage of many great offers. Last year, the Disney food trucks gave out free cupcakes with purchase; Little Mismatched gave away free socks; Fit2Run had free gifts; and many restaurants, including Starbucks, Rainforest Café, T-Rex, and Wolfgang Puck, offered runners 10 percent to 15 percent off their bills.

In addition, runners can stop by Disney’s Wonderful World of Memories to have their finisher’s medals engraved with their race times (for a charge). Forgot to purchase something at the runDisney Health and Fitness Expo? Last year, a Disney merchandise truck sold race merchandise.

Speaking of the expo, runDisney participants have to stop by there to pick up their race packets, but the event is open to the public, as well. And it’s free admission and free parking! Of course, there is plenty of merchandise for sale, but many of the vendors offer giveaways and samples, too, and there are unique products you might not find elsewhere.

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Plus, there is plenty to do on the expo floor, too, even if you are not a shopper. There are photo spots set up with photos of each race course as a backdrop, as well as a green screen for a shot of you crossing the finish line; KT Tape has a booth where you can get your legs taped for support before and after running; and runDisney coach and Olympian Jeff Galloway is available to take photos and sign autographs for runners. Galloway also joins runDisney Nutritionist Tara Guidas for talks together and separately in the speaker series. They cover topics such as “Waist Management: Running, Nutrition and Weight Loss,” “Stay Strong to the Finish,” and “Running Your First Half Marathon.”

Whether you’re registered to run at Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend or you’re just getting started in the sport, you’re sure to find inspiration at Walt Disney World this weekend.



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February 16, 2016

Changes to the 2016 Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend Expo

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Beginning Thursday, Walt Disney World is going to see an influx of royalty as its annual Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend commences. The event spans four days and includes runDisney kids races, a 5K, a 10K and a half marathon. The weekend begins with the start of the runDisney Health & Fitness Expo, which takes place at ESPN Wide World of Sports from Thursday through Saturday, and there are some exciting additions and changes since last month’s Expo during Marathon Weekend.

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Women who have wished the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique were open to adults will be happy to know a similar experience is available at the Expo this year. The “Glitter & Go” transformation includes a hair twist, light makeup, shimmering lip gloss, a face gem, and a light-up Princess tiara for $19.95 plus tax. To sign up, go to the HP Field House at the ESPN complex, where reservations will be taken on a walk-up basis for guests ages 3 and older. The “Glitter & Go” experience will be offered from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.

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Another change relates to the Disney Dooney & Bourke bags. Dooney & Bourke often releases new patterns on its high-end bags at various runDisney events. Although there wasn’t a new pattern at the 2015 Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend, there was for the 2016 Marathon Weekend and there is for the 2016 Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend. This time around, the bags are being released and sold at the Expo – no pre-orders were taken, according to Steven Miller, merchandise communications manager at Walt Disney World. There are three bags with a dark background and images of the Disney princesses: a pouchette for $178, a crossbody for $208 and a shopper for $268.

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As usual, the Expo’s official runDisney store will feature race-specific merchandise, including the popular “I Did It!” T-shirts and car magnets for each race. There also are Tervis water bottles, which is a first, I believe. (Last month, 2016 runDisney Tervis tumblers were released for the first time.) In addition, shoppers will find wine glasses, other T-shirts and tech shirts, jackets, Sweaty Bands, Bondi Bands, mouse-ear hats for the kids races, collectible pins and more merchandise. Some of the general runDisney and Princess merchandise already is available on DisneyStore.com. This might be especially helpful for runners who won’t be able to go to the Expo on the first day, when some of the most popular merchandise sells out.

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Other vendors will be selling the latest in fitness apparel, footwear, sunglasses, high-tech gadgets and nutritional products. New Balance will be back with its Limited Edition running shoes that are especially designed for runDisney. The 2016 designs were unveiled last month – Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Dumbo and Ariel -- and they have been restocked for Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend. Because of popularity, New Balance requires customers to sign up for appointments in its virtual queue, and the process is different from January. Runners can sign up for a spot in the virtual queue at 7 p.m. the day before they plan to be at the Expo. Although the official rules say there will be no stand-by queue at the Expo, New Balance did allow walk-ups when the booth was uncrowded in January. Of course, reserving a spot in the virtual queue means a pair of running shoes is being held for you as well. (You can get all the details in my previous blog.)

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There is plenty to do on the expo floor, even if you are not a shopper. There are photo spots set up with aerial photos of each race course as a backdrop; guests can be among the first to see medals for all the upcoming runDisney races displayed; and runDisney coach and Olympian Jeff Galloway is available to take photos and sign autographs for runners. Many of the vendors offer giveaways and samples, as well, and there are unique products you might not find elsewhere. Both of my children enjoyed walking around the expo last year -- and that was before either of them had completed a runDisney race.

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Of course, each runner has to stop by the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex for packet pickup at least a day before his or her race. Unlike Marathon Weekend, packet pickup for all races will be on the lower level of the HP Field House. Commemorative merchandise and pre-purchased merchandise must be picked up there, as well. Pickup for race shirts and gEAR bags is in the Jostens Center. That means at least two lines, and maybe three, for each runner, so plan accordingly.

A few reminders:

* You must pick up your own race packet in person and have photo identification and a signed waiver to do so. (If you forget to print your waiver at home, you can do it at the expo.)

** Legal guardians of minors must sign the waivers for minor participants, though the kids don’t have to be present to pick up their bibs.

** Race packets cannot be picked up on the day of the race.

Hours are as follows:

Thursday, January 7, 10 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Friday, January 8, 9 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Saturday, January 9, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Good luck to our AllEars.Net team members who will be running this weekend: Deb Wills (10K); Linda Eckwerth (10K); Laura Gilbreath (10K, Half Marathon); Lee Zimmerman 10K, Half Marathon); and my daughter, Lauren, who will be running with her dad (5K). Follow our AllEars.Net runners on social media for real-time updates.



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February 2, 2016

Insane Inflatable 5K a fun challenge in runDisney training

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Want to turn your runDisney training upside down? Runners and others looking for a different sort of fitness challenge might want to check out the Insane Inflatable 5K, which gives participants the opportunity to climb, bounce and slide their way through huge bounce-house-like obstacles.

The Insane Inflatable 5K, which is set up in various cities throughout the country, returned to Central Florida with a stop not far from Walt Disney World this past weekend after first appearing in Orlando in December. My 13-year-old son and his swim team, coach and some brave parents took part in the Insane Inflatable 5K on Saturday at Osceola Heritage Park in Kissimmee, so I’m sharing details about their experience in case you, too, would like to give it a shot.

The course will be set up in West Melbourne in two weeks, on Feb. 13. Then, the Insane Inflatable 5K travels to West Palm Beach on Feb. 20, Jacksonville on Feb. 27, Fort Myers on April 16, Palm Coast on April 23 and Sarasota on May 21. After a break for the hot Florida summer, it returns to Ocala, Tampa, Orlando and Miami in December. There also are courses set up simultaneously in many other states so check the schedule here.

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First, know that, like most races, registration should be done ahead of time at insaneinflatable5k.com, although there will be some on-site registrations available if spots are not filled up. There are a limited number of participants allowed per starting time, or wave, which you choose when you register. (The website shows how many spots are left for each wave.)Teams will want to make sure they pick the same wave and not wait until the last minute to register because start times are strictly enforced.

The full price of the race is about $70 per person, which I think most competitors would consider expensive. However, that price does include race insurance, a bib, a T-shirt, a medal, online access to any professional photos taken on the course and a snack after the race. Our group was able to use a Groupon to save about $20 per person, too, so be sure to check for your race there, as well. Remember that Groupons are only offered in limited quantities and for a set period of time, so don’t delay if you want to take advantage of an offer.

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There is no admission charge for spectators, who are encouraged to cheer on participants.

Once runners are registered, they will receive several emails with race instructions. You can choose to pick up your bib the night before the race, but because of the distance to the event, our team decided to wait until the morning, and we had no problems. T-shirts are distributed at the end of the race, so do not plan to wear yours during the actual event. At registration, you will be given a color-coded wristband for your wave that must be worn and you must sign a waiver – no exceptions.

As with runDisney events, each Insane Inflatable 5K runner can check one bag with things they don’t want out on the course, such as a phone, wallet and car keys. Coolers are prohibited.

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Then, it’s time to line up and get ready for your wave to go! When my son’s team ran, the participants seemed to be an even mix of kids and adults. There is no minimum age, but each runner must be at least 42 inches tall to participate.

They ran on concrete and grass to get to each inflatable, and there was hardly any waiting at each obstacle because of the well-planned starts. There are 1 or 2 water stops on the course, depending on the weather. The race culminates with an insane slide. At the bottom, finishers receive their medals, T-shirts and a bottle of water and banana to rehydrate.

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After the race, participants can visit the midway area, where food trucks, merchandise vendors, games and photo backdrops are available.

My son said he would do the Insane Inflatable 5K again in a heartbeat. He thoroughly enjoyed the novelty of the inflatable challenges and already loves running. After tackling the semi-seriousness of the recent runDisney 10K event at Epcot in January, he saw this event as a fun way for him to keep on his practice regime while he’s looking forward to something more serious and challenging in the fall – like the Wine and Dine Half Marathon. That will be a different kind of insanity, no doubt.



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January 4, 2016

2016 New Balance runDisney Collection debuts Wednesday

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UPDATE: New Balance revealed its 2016 runDisney Collection on Monday: the Dumbo Vazee Pace, Ariel Vazee Pace and the Red Carpet Mickey and Minnie 860v6s. The Dumbo and Ariel Vazee Pace are priced at $124.95, and the Red Carpet Minnie and Mickey 860v6s are $139.95. In addition, a kids Dumbo and Ariel 860v6 will be available for $79.95.

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Are you among the runners – and spectators -- heading to Walt Disney World this week for Marathon Weekend who have been waiting eagerly to see what the new New Balance running shoes will look like? Last year, the design was released the day before the Health and Fitness Expo began. If that holds true this year, we should see the design on Tuesday, Jan. 5. Of course, there are no promises that will be the day, but sales begin Wednesday.

For those not among the obsessed (and who may not have this annual event on their radars), New Balance, the official running shoe of runDisney, releases Limited Edition shoes that are sold only at runDisney Expos. Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend is the biggest of the annual race weekends and the first opportunity to see some of the shoes that will be offered all year.

New Balance has released one clue about the theming of its 2016 runDisney Collection, and it came in the form of the photo below on its Instagram account. Followers have guessed that means the shoes will feature Dumbo, Mickey Mouse and Ursula. Remember that the entire 2016 collection will not be for sale at the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend.

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At last year’s Marathon Weekend, Retro Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse New Balance shoes debuted. The 2015 design paid homage to Steamboat Willie, the 1928 black-and-white cartoon that introduced most audiences to Mickey Mouse and his girlfriend Minnie. The men's Retro Mickey 990v3 sneaker came in black and white with musical notes around the front sole, classic images of Mickey and Minnie and character signatures. The women's Retro Minnie 990v3 sneaker was gray and white with the same features. They were priced at $185 per pair and met with mixed reviews. Later, another set of Retro shoes, style 860v5 dubbed “performance shoes,” were introduced for $135 a pair. Runners looking for neutral shoes loved them, but others who liked the bold colors of previous designs were disappointed.

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The 2015 New Balance runDisney collection also featured the Tinker Bell Fresh Foam Boracay, which were green and yellow running shoes with glow-in-the-dark pixie dust. They debuted at the Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend at Disneyland in May and were priced at $140. In celebration of Disneyland’s 60th anniversary Diamond Celebration, the Donald Duck Fresh Foam Boracay shoes were introduced at the Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend in September. Elements of Donald are hidden throughout the shoe, including a black tab on the heel that mimics the signature ribbon on Donald’s hat. The Donald Duck Fresh Foam Boracay shoes also cost $140.

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New Balance first released Limited Edition runDisney shoes in 2013. The 860v3 sneakers were designed in the bright red, yellow, black and white traditional colors of modern Mickey and Minnie. They have since been retired. In 2014, the styles were designed to recall Sorcerer Mickey and Goofy (men's) and Cinderella and Minnie Mouse (women's). Due to popular demand, a limited number of the four New Balance 860v4 shoes were made available at the 2015 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend and at the 2015 Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend at Disneyland Resort. They were priced at $125 per pair.

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Guests who would like to try on - and possibly purchase -- the New Balance running shoes must make an appointment through a virtual queue. Starting Wednesday (Jan. 6) at 6 a.m., adult runners can sign up at NBvirtualqueue.com using their bib numbers, and all other guests can sign up at 6 a.m. Thursday (Jan. 7), Friday (Jan. 8) and Saturday (Jan. 9).

New Balance's rules last year stated that customers could reserve one pair of running shoes per reservation. They would be able to choose up to five more pairs in the booth and could purchase a total of six pairs of runDisney Collection footwear per event weekend. Rules for 2016 had not yet been posted at the time of this writing.

When it's close to a guest's reserved time, he or she will receive a text and then must return within an hour or risk losing the shoes that were saved for that appointment. If the reserved shoes do not fit, the sales associate will check for other sizes. Customers can keep an eye on general inventory levels at NBVirtualQueue.com. The New Balance red tent is located near the west entrance of Josten's Center.

Last year, stand-by lines for New Balance shoes were not allowed during the first few days of the Expo. By Friday night, New Balance was allowing a queue to form.



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October 29, 2015

Tips for runDisney's Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend

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Some Walt Disney World guests take burning the calories they consume at the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival a little more seriously than others. They are, after all, visiting the resort for the upcoming runDisney weekend, which includes a half marathon, a 5K and kids races. Sure, there are plenty of opportunities to sample what food Epcot’s various marketplaces have to offer, but maybe these guests will feel a little less guilty about the calories than the rest of us.

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During the 2015 Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend on Nov. 6 and 7, my 11-year-old daughter will be running her first 5K, much like her older brother did earlier this year at the Expedition Everest Challenge. They both wanted to experience the Disney magic for their first races, so my husband, who also enjoys running, agreed to take them. The three will run together in the Jingle Jungle 5K on Saturday. (As athletes interested in participating in runDisney events know, the races sell out months in advance, some even within hours of the registration opening. I felt like I had run a marathon after racing the clock just to register them!)

Planning for my daughter’s first race has been a little different than getting ready for my 13-year-old son’s first 5K. For him, it was all about his time, possibly seeing some characters on the course and then celebrating at the after-party. For my daughter, the main focus has been planning her costume, which *must* include a tutu!

Many participants in past Jingle Jungle 5K races have worn Christmas- and winter-themed outfits, but there also are runners dressed as Disney characters. My daughter opted to purchase a Minnie Mouse tutu on Etsy, and she owns a Minnie Mouse Santa hat to go with it, but we are still trying to decide on her top. Of course, the most important part of her outfit is not about fashion but function -- her running shoes – and those are broken in and ready to carry her over the finish line. She will be the most stylish of my family’s three runners because I’m pretty sure that my husband and son’s idea of holiday outfits is to simply wear red shirts with their favorite running shorts!

So, for other families with first-time runners in the 5K, here are a few tips to make it an enjoyable weekend:

** Give yourself time to look around the runDisney Expo at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex during packet pickup on Friday. It's a showcase for the latest products, including race-themed merchandise. Be aware that official runDisney merchandise specifically designed for the weekend typically sells out quickly. The Expo is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Admission and parking are free.

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** If you are running the 5K or half marathon, the HP Field House at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex is where you'll need to go to pick up your race packet, and the Jostens Center next door is where you pick up your race shirt and gEAR bag. (Race packets must be picked up by the actual person who is registered, with the exception of minors whose parents can claim their packets. Each runner will need to show identification and turn in a waiver at that time.)

** The Jingle Jungle 5K takes place at Animal Kingdom before the park opens. The first corral starts at 7 a.m., and all runners must be in their corrals at least 30 minutes before the start. However, I would suggest arriving earlier than that if you want to take advantage of the themed photo ops. At the Expedition Everest Challenge in May, lines consistently had 30-minute wait times. At that race, there were no PhotoPass photographers or professional race photographers manning the sets, so be sure to have a smartphone or someone with a camera. I appreciated that my husband and son took photos before their first race because they ended up not stopping to pose with characters along the course.

** runDisney provides a clear gEAR bag to each participant that may be used for checking personal items at the race. Runners are encouraged to avoid this if at all possible. My husband did end up using the bag-check service at his first runDisney race, though, and he said lines were short and efficient.

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** If you won’t have anyone meeting you at the finish line, know that it still will be a celebratory experience with voluntEARS cheering you on and professional photographers capturing the moment.

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** Afterward, head over to Epcot – wearing your medal, of course – to indulge in some well-deserved noshing at the food and wine festival. Epcot opens at 9 a.m. and this year, a handful of marketplaces in Future World open then, as well. World Showcase, where most of the festival food is located, opens at 11 a.m.



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May 5, 2015

runDisney newcomers' look at final Expedition Everest Challenge

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My husband and 12-year-old son ran their first 5K over the weekend - and they chose a runDisney race to make their debut. As longtime local annual passholders, we certainly are familiar with the 'Disney difference' - the level of service that sets Walt Disney World events above many others - but we wondered how that would translate into a sporting event. Although plenty has been written about runDisney events, perhaps impressions and observations from a fresh perspective will help you decide if it's time to register yourself for a runDisney event.

Saturday was the final Expedition Everest Challenge, and it was the priciest 5K on the runDisney schedule because of all the extras it includes. An obstacle course, a scavenger hunt and the after-party were part of the $125 per person price tag. That's almost double what other runDisney 5Ks cost, but the other running events do not come with all the extra features of the Expedition Everest Challenge.

So, was it worth it?

Both of my guys said, 'Absolutely'! Although I fully expected that response from my theme-park-loving son, I have to admit that my husband's excitement over the race somewhat surprised me. I knew he was doing it mostly for my son, but he ended up thoroughly enjoying himself, as well, even though he typically enjoys running by himself. Here is what topped their list of the night's best experiences:

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** Being able to run a race through a Walt Disney World theme park. As they say, 'Every mile is magical!' Parts of the course go backstage, so it's a thrill to see what is not usually made available to guests. Plus, this run at Animal Kingdom is one of the few nighttime races, and special sound and light effects and pyrotechnics were set up along the race route.

** The camaraderie and party atmosphere of the runners before and during the event. My husband pointed out that he is not ever planning to wear a costume while he runs, but he appreciated the creativity of those who did dress up for the race.

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** The themed photo opportunities staged in the parking lot. The lines were at least 30 minutes long for these sets, but they made for great souvenirs. Because I wasn't at the race, I asked my husband to be sure to get photos, and this was one of my favorites.

** The well-organized packet pick-up and gear bag check-in and check-out. None of these stations had long lines, like he and my son feared, and at each, the cast members were knowledgeable about answering all their newbie questions.

** Professional photos taken at the finish line and of each participant on the course and with his or her medal.

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** The after-party. If you like Expedition Everest roller coaster or any of the attractions in Dinoland, U.S.A., you could ride them over and over again with very short waits. Plus, there was a DJ and dance party, some character experiences and food vendors.

There only were a couple disappointments for my family at the Expedition Everest Challenge:

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** The difficulty of the scavenger hunt portion of the race. The questions were so tough that participants had to spend a lot of time that they would rather have been at the after-party. Cast members did not readily give up answers, either, and they could not enter the party without having solved the five questions. Some participants may have been looking forward to the brain teasers after the run, but my husband said he was exhausted and ready to relax and recharge at the party, not wrack his brain in frustration. Disney trivia might have been fun, he said, but instead he was met with math problems to solve and bizarre word-play games.

** My son's medal was broken. Judging from the number of complaints in online chat groups, he was far from alone. Some have reported that those with broken medals can contact runDisney and have new ones shipped to their homes.

Still, overall, both my husband and son left their first runDisney race feeling inspired and ready to get back to training. Good thing, too, because they both are signed up for Mickey's Jingle Jungle 5K in November and the Walt Disney World 10K in January.



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March 19, 2015

Tips for registering for runDisney races

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My husband has enjoyed running for a long time, but my 12-year-old son's newfound interest in the sport has opened our eyes to runDisney races. With his love of Disney and our proximity to Walt Disney World, my son naturally wanted his first races to be runDisney 5Ks.

My family is far from unique in the desire to run those magical miles, but until I began tackling the registration process, I did not know just how popular the runDisney races have become. Getting a bib for a runDisney event has become as challenging as securing a dinner reservation at Be Our Guest.

Race veterans no doubt know their way around the process, but for other fellow newcomers, I'd like to share what we've learned so far.

First, know that registration for runDisney events takes place many months in advance. You can find a schedule here. There are two remaining race weekends in 2015 at Walt Disney World -- Expedition Everest Challenge and Wine and Dine Half Marathon - and both already are sold out. However, the next races you can choose to run are during runDisney's biggest weekend - Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend in January 2016 - and they go on sale to the public on April 28.

runDisney races are selling out more quickly than ever, some within 30 minutes of being available to purchase. So, what's a runner to do?

First, take advantage of early registration if you are eligible. Annual passholders and Disney Vacation Club members typically can register two weeks in advance. However, this does not guarantee you can register for a particular race. A percentage of bibs is designated for early registration, and, unfortunately, those seem to fill up just as quickly as the spots open to the general public. Still, it's worth a shot, especially if you are trying to register multiple runners. I was able to register my son for Mickey's Jingle Jungle 5K during the Wine and Dine weekend, but the early registration closed before I could register my husband or my 10-year-old daughter.

If that happens to you, don't panic. Do prepare for the public registration, however, by planning to be on your computer and ready to go with all your information and credit or debit card in hand when the registration window opens at noon ET on the designated day. In addition, have a separate person on a different computer prepared to register each runner. If you try to do more than one booking yourself, you run the risk of not getting everyone registered. These two tips are the most important pieces of advice I can offer - and runDisney will tell you the same things. You really have to divide and conquer to get multiple runners registered. Also, note that the Active.com system forces you to register and pay for each person separately anyway.

Suppose you still can't get everyone in your group registered for a particular race or you want to run more than one race in a weekend and couldn't get everything in the system before the spots filled up. There are still two avenues open to you, if you act quickly.

Runners can register with a charity group that is approved by runDisney. Look under each race weekend tab on runDisney.com for the list of charities and contact them directly to find out the individual requirements. Each group has an allotment of bibs and in exchange for meeting a fund-raising requirement, you can secure one. Some charities also include room stays, pre- and post-race parties and other perks for different levels of fund-raising. Don't have time to fundraise? Some runners choose to pay the charity donation themselves and write it off on their taxes. Charity spots seem to fill up quickly, too, but they do take names for wait lists.

The other option is to book a race through a runDisney travel partner, which also are listed on the official website. These travel agencies also have an allotment of bibs that they can issue if you book your weekend stay through them. They advertise special rates for Walt Disney World hotels, theme-park tickets and other race amenities.

Finally, know that ALL runDisney purchases are non-refundable and non-transferable, whether it's a race bib or commemorative merchandise.

Although I managed to secure bibs for two upcoming runDisney 5Ks for my family members, they have yet to run a race. When they do, look for more newcomer tales from the races.



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December 4, 2014

Is runDisney's Expedition Everest Challenge on your calendar?

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As Orlando residents and longtime annual passholders, my family and I have experienced much of what Walt Disney World has to offer. One thing we have not tried, however, is runDisney races. That's about to change, though.

My husband has enjoyed running for many years, and recently our 12-year-old son has expressed as interest, too. I attempted to register them for the Family 5K at the Marathon Weekend in January, but I wasn't quick enough. Deb Wills had the same trouble, as well, unfortunately. We both were surprised to learn that many of the races that weekend sold out in hours!

So, our family regrouped, and my son decided he wanted to make his running debut at the Expedition Everest Challenge on May 2, 2015, at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Registration opens to the public at noon on December 16, but one of the perks of being an annual passholder is being able to register for runDisney events in advance. For this particular race, Disney passholders could begin registering at noon on Dec. 2. By that evening, though, the passholder spots were full.

I'm told that most runners attempt this particular race in teams of at least two people. That's because the challenge is more than just running a 5K - as if that wouldn't be enough of a challenge for some of us! After the runners finish the required 3.1 miles, they tackle an obstacle course and then a scavenger hunt. Upon crossing the finish line and collecting their medals, they can join a post-race party in Dinoland, U.S.A., which is included in the entry fee. The party features a DJ, and food and drinks can be purchased. Expedition Everest is open, as are Kali River Rapids and the rides in Chester and Hester's DinoRama.

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Team members have to be at least 9 years old, and if one team member is younger than 13, he or she has to be participating with an adult. The Expedition Everest Challenge is one of the few runDisney night races. It starts at 10 p.m., and the post party continues until 2:30 a.m.

This is the 15th year for the Expedition Everest Challenge, and it appears that it will be the last. The official runDisney page describes the 2015 race this way: "Take a final run on the wild side and uncover the mystery of the clues! Get your bragging rights as one of the final runners who faced the Expedition Everest Challenge before it's too late!"

Runners on various public message boards have speculated that this will make the Expedition Everest Challenge more popular, so be prepared to get online quickly on Dec. 16.

Registration will be available at runDisney.com. The race costs $125 per person or $240 for a two-person team. Entry fees include the challenge with Disney characters, a short-sleeve tech shirt, personalized race bib (if registered before March 3), a finisher medal, post-race refreshments, and the after-party festivities in the theme park. Friends and family members can purchase tickets to the after-party event for $49 for adults and $25 for children ages 3 to 9. Prices increase after March 23, 2015.



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September 9, 2013

Disney Parks Moms Panel application process begins today

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Get ready, get set, type! The application process for the 2014 Disney Parks Moms Panel begins today, and those interested have until lucky Friday, Sept. 13, to express their interest.

The Disney Parks Moms Panel has evolved from its inception in 2008, but its goal remains the same: to provide vacation-planning advice from adults in families that are interested in and knowledgeable about the Disney properties. For the most part, the panelists' jobs are to answer a number of written questions each week, though there also are some public appearances by the group. In exchange, The Walt Disney Co. provides the selected panelists with a paid trip to one of the Disney properties for training, which is required. In the past, the trip has been scheduled during the first half of December and includes the panelists' immediate family members.

If you are the one all your friends turn to when they plan Disney vacations, this may be a golden opportunity for you! To get started, visit MomsPanelSearch.com this week. If the application process is the same as in recent years, you can expect to answer written questions in the first round. About a month later, applicants are notified whether they have been selected for the next round, which requires submitting a short video and answering more written questions. The final round consists of a phone interview.

Competition for a coveted spot on the Disney Parks Moms Panel is intense -- thousands apply each year and only about 20 new members are chosen. Beginning last year, applicants also were asked to declare a speciality -- Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, runDisney, Adventures by Disney, Disney Vacation Club and youth sports at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. The name of a panel, though, is a misnomer. Over the years, dads and grandparents have joined the roster; it's not limited to just moms.

Unfortunately, there is no magical formula to being picked to provide the best answers about the Mouse. I can tell you, though, that several factors weigh heavily in the evaluation process:

** Writing ability. Your application must be flawless, with no grammar or spelling errors or typos. After all, your job is going to be providing written answers for the Disney website.

** Accuracy. Double-check your Disney facts to make sure things haven't changed since your last experience. This will be vital when you are answering questions online for families planning Disney vacations.

** Your personality. Disney is not hiring publicists or copy writers for this panel. Instead, the company is looking for engaging personalities who can express themselves clearly in an enthusiastic way.

Get to know the current Disney Parks Moms Panel at http://disneyworldforum.disney.go.com/panelists.aspx You also can see the types of questions they answer -- which are pretty much about anything and everything!


Good luck to everyone who applies for 2014
. Please let us know how the process goes and if you are chosen to advance in the application process.

April 11, 2013

Entire family can participate at Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend and runDisney events

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As most runDisney fans know, registration opened this week for the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, the group's flagship event that will be held Jan. 8 to 12. Because the weekend has become so popular, runDisney announced it has added races and made changes to better accommodate the growing number of runners who routinely make this a sell-out event.

Marathon Weekend, and many of the other race weekends, aren't just for serious runners, though. They are designed to make running (and walking!) fun for all ages and abilities. Of course, trained athletes travel to Orlando from all over the world to run 26.2 miles through the four famous theme parks that make up Walt Disney World. And many do so with the purpose of fundraising for a charity, just like our own Team AllEars, which raises money for breast-cancer research. Deb Wills presents the team's amazing contributions in May at the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in Washington, D.C., in May.

But children and families with little competitive experience also are welcome to challenge themselves in a fun way, too. Disney Kids Races are held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Track & Field Complex on Thursday, Friday and Saturday during Marathon Weekend. Specifically, the races are at 11 a.m. on Jan 9, 10 and 11, and they are planned for specific age groups. Babies 12 months and younger can crawl in the Diaper Dash. Toddlers ages 1 to 3 will race for 100 meters; kids ages 4 to 6 run for 200 meters; and children 7 to 8 years participate in the 400-meter dash. Any child 13 years and younger can participate in the Mickey Mile at 12:30 p.m. on those three days. Parents are invited to run with their children, if they would like.

That last little detail caught my eye as my family considers entering some runDisney races for the first time. My husband enjoys running, and recently, my 10-year-old son has expressed an interest in training with him. This is in no small part motivated by his love of all things Disney, though my son also is interested in running because, well, he's a 10-year-old boy. I'm certain that having his dad alongside him during his first race would give him a boost of confidence and be a great experience for both of them.

If that's not reward enough, Mickey Mile Race participants receive a Disney Kids Race T-shirt, a finisher medallion (who can resist that bling?!), Mickey Mile finisher certificate, a personalized bib if registered by Nov, 1, 2013, post-race refreshments, and a ChronoTrack B-tag timed race. Registration, which must be completed in advance, is $30 for the Mickey Mile and $15 for each of the dashes.

Families also can stick together for the Disney Family Fun Run 5K, which takes place at 6:15 a.m. Jan. 9 at Epcot. There is no minimum age for this race, but strollers, baby carriers and other assistive devices are not permitted. During this race, participants get a taste of the Disney entertainment experienced during the longer races with characters appearing throughout the course and at the family reunion area. The $60 registration fee per participant includes a T-shirt, finisher medallion, race program, iGiftBag, personalized bib, and on-course and post-race refreshments. (This race is so popular that it was 65 percent full at the time of this writing and has since sold out.)

Even if everyone in the family isn't into running, the entire family still can participate in some way. After all, spectators can join several different levels of the ChEAR Squad, in which they can cheer on their family members as they compete in various races. Each level has its own unique package of souvenirs, too.

Plus, runners and their families also are offered opportunities to enjoy a Pasta in the Park Party with runner-friendly foods and special viewing area for Illuminations; post-race breakfasts; and a Cool Down Party at Downtown Disney at additional costs throughout the weekend.

If ever there was a magical motivation to put down the TV remote, get off the sofa and lace up those running shoes to practice this summer, the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend has to be it. So, get set, go!

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About runDisney

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to A Mom and The Magic in the runDisney category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Rock Your Disney Side is the previous category.

Satu'li Canteen is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.