The Disney Premium: It Costs How Much?

by Lani Teshima, staff writer
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A year ago, staff writer Adrienne Krock wrote an article that looks at budgeting for runDisney road races. So you've got your running shoes and GPS watch, and you've started planning for your runDisney events, and you notice that everything is starting to add up. You knew this was going to cost more than your local 10K, but does a runDisney event really cost a lot of money? Let's take a look at some factors.

Destination event pricing

Prices for 2014 runDisney events for adults start at $95 for a 10K, with the price of marathons and half-marathons starting at $160. If an event doesn't sell out right away, registration prices go up periodically, up to $190 for late registrations.

Participants do get some nice take-home items, including a Champion brand tech shirt and hefty medal. On anniversary years, Disney often updates the medal design as well.

The price may be steep, but those who make a runDisney race their destination/vacation event may be able to justify the price as part of their travel budget. After all, a ticket to Epcot costs more than a ticket to your local amusement park, but that doesn't prevent a lot of people from vacationing at Walt Disney World.

However because registration fees are so high, there's one group of runners who may feel priced out of runDisney events: Local residents. Unlike annual passes for Florida or Southern California residents, Disney does not offer discounts for locals to register for their races.

There's also a hidden gotcha for local runners: runDisney does not print official instructions on how to pick up race bibs on race day. This is apparently a trend with destination races, since they want to encourage participants to show up the day before the event (thus ensuring at least one night's hotel stay). [The good news is that runDisney does (or has in the past) made race-day pick-up available at a small table at the starting area by the tents. I think it's just that they don't want to advertise this.]

Registration prices for runDisney events are actually higher than runDisney's closest competitor, the Rock 'n' Roll series of endurance races, which typically start at $110 and go up to $175.

If you're looking for something a little closer to home, a little less expensive, and offering the excitement of a large race with lots of entertainment, the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Series is a great alternative, with events in over two dozen cities in the U.S..

If you're interested in something even less expensive, there are myriad options by way of local and regional events, many of which provide both shirts and medals. For those who want a Disney experience for the race itself, though, the fees will not get any lower.

One option, if you want a taste of a runDisney event without the high price tag, is to sign up for a Family Fun Run 5K. You can register for these for as low as $60, although there is no discount for children, the medals are made of rubber, and the shirts are 100% cotton.

Race merchandise

Another "hidden cost" of runDisney road races is the lure of event merchandise. Most road races offer participant/finisher shirts, and some of the larger races sell official merchandise at their expos. But how many of these events sell gear designed specifically for the event? And I'm not talking about just the race itself, but that year's event specifically.

At most runDisney events, you can go to the expo and buy "I did it!" T-shirts; these are always designed for the specific course and the event year is printed prominently on the gear. You can also find tech shirts with various designs for the events (again, marked for that specific year), as well as workout jackets and hoodies. You can even purchase children's T-shirts that have messages like "My mom finished the Princess Half Marathon" and so on. For parents traveling with their children, how can you possibly resist? You know you want your daughter to be wearing one of those shirts while you walk around with your shiny medal.

In the past few years, Disney has teamed up with purse maker Dooney & Bourke to offer designs specific to runDisney events. For a while, the rush to get one of these purses wreaked havoc at the expo. Fortunately, Disney now lets you pre-order the purses if you've registered for the race, bringing civility back to the purse counter at the expo.

Purse-shopping may have calmed down, but the expo turned into a madhouse at the Walt Disney World Marathon expo this past January when they announced a new partnership between Disney and New Balance for limited edition runDisney running shoes. Apparently New Balance didn't realize how high the demand would be, and didn't bring enough to the expo. You can still find them on eBay (but for an overinflated price of $400—ouch), but people were paying $125 for them at the expo.

If you wanted to buy a basketload of official event merchandise (including an "I did it" T-shirt, a tech shirt, a jacket), the bill could easily come out to a few hundred dollars. Add a purse or runDisney shoes, and you're looking at an extra $500 from your event budget.

Even if they sold lots of official gear for your local half-marathon, I suspect most people wouldn't shell out that much money. But for a runDisney event? Especially one that you roll into a big family vacation, that serves as a culmination of a lot of sweat and miles? Yep; time to add the cost of race merch into your budget.

Traveling with family

One big difference with a runDisney event is that it encourages runners to travel with their family. runDisney offers Kids Races as well as the Family Fun Run for all of its longer distance events, but more than that, there is the inherent pull of the Disney theme parks. Parents, have you ever gone on a trip to a Disney theme park for a road race without your children? How did they react? Did it involve a lot of pouting, a lot of promises to bring home souvenirs (or a "we will all go next time")?

More than likely, the big runDisney event you signed up for will entail your traveling with your immediate family members. Now, your quick weekend trip to run a half-marathon has turned into a family vacation. Maybe not a two-week-long family mega-vacation, but maybe a five-day trip, flying in on Wednesday or Thursday and staying through Tuesday, with your spouse and children. And unless everyone already has annual passes, this means you need to budget to pay for admission media for the parks, not to mention meals. Do you already have a general budget ballpark for when your family goes on a Disney theme park trip? Your runDisney event budget will need to account for this, too.

The price of magic that inspires

In my opinion, the biggest draw of a runDisney road race is the magic of Disney as a way to inspire and motivate the ordinary person into a healthier lifestyle. Familiar and friendly Disney characters like Mickey and Donald beckon us to don a pair of running shoes and get off the couch, to train our bodies to go 13.1 (or 26.2) miles for a runDisney event.

So while a runDisney event will cost more than a local road race, the benefit to a sedentary person feeling enough of a pull from Disney magic to decide to set a goal ("I'm going to get back in shape and lose the weight I gained from having a baby, and train so I can finish the Tinker Bell Half Marathon!") is invaluable. To borrow from a credit card ad campaign:

Registering for the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon: $160
Buying official event merchandise so you can be reminded of your accomplishment: $500
Paying to bring your entire family for a week's vacation in Walt Disney World: $2,000
Smiling at the camera with Mickey Mouse while your child helps you hold up your finisher's medal: Priceless

Comments

  1. By Jimbo996

    I thought this would be another article about saving money, but it really isn't. It is strange for me to hear about how people spend ridiculous amounts of money on runDisney merchandise. Yet the thing about running with families doesn't quite ring true when the costs are adds up. It all sounds nice, but budgets are fixed. Many local races do include children at a minimum age. I don't see the need to have a separate event for kids, but they exist if they are self-motivating.

    Despite no discounts for locals, they save the most money since they can just go for the event and not bother with buying theme park tickets. They can visit the theme parks on another day.

  2. By Lani

    Jimbo -- Instead of adding up line items for a budget, I wanted to highlight some considerations that not everyone thinks about when signing up for a runDisney event.

    You're right about locals not needing to buy theme park tickets. And actually, you'll be happy to know that we plan on running a future article about how to have a lean-and-mean budget for a runDisney event.

  3. By RunningFool

    One other thing to consider when comparing runDisney to RnR events. Usually, there is an opportunity to sign up at the current year's expo for next year's event at a substantial discount. I signed up last weekend for the 2014 RnR Portland Half Marathon for $65 which is $15 to $20 off the initial price of admission.

    You can also purchase a Tour Pass for $399 which is a large up-front cost but it gives you unlimited (although they tried to limit it to 12) race registrations in a single year. Even if you only did six RnR events in a year, the cost would break down to $66.50 per event.

  4. By fairestoneofall

    Great article!

    It's so true that those extras really do add up. Not to mention the race photo you might want to purchase once you get home!

    I'm one of those locals that Disney loves. I come early Friday morning and spend the whole holiday weekend at Disneyland for both Tink and DL Half. We stay three nights on property, mostly because I'm a charity team leader and I need to be close for my team. I've become a little disappointed with the merchandise lately and I'm not sure I'll continue to purchase the "I Did It" shirts any longer. I'll always get a commemorative pin though! I think the Kids' Races are adorable and have had my boys compete in them regularly. Just this past Tink weekend the oldest (now 7) asked if he could quit doing the Kids' Races because they were too easy. He started doing the 5k's when he was 5 years old and he smokes most adults. The younger one, who has a mild case of muscular dystrophy is going to attempt to mostly walk the 5k this coming January. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I appreciate that runDisney appeals to all ages and ability levels. DH and I feel that it is extremely important to teach your children the value of an active lifestyle and what better way to do that than by leading by example at the Happiest Place on Earth? Yes, the events are costly, but you get much more than most other races.

  5. By RunningFool

    Quote Originally Posted by fairestoneofall View Post
    I've become a little disappointed with the merchandise lately and I'm not sure I'll continue to purchase the "I Did It" shirts any longer.

    Frankly, the medal speaks for itself doesn't it? There are few races who come close to the wonder of a runDisney finisher's medal. Frankly, I'm in runDisney withdrawls right now in anticipation of the fall when they start back up again!

  6. By schnebs

    I did a couple of the runDisney events in the past, and if I ever get my lazy behind back into training, I'd love to do more. I really enjoy that you get a chance to see behind the scenes at the theme parks when you race, and there's so much entertainment offered on the course that the races can be a lot of fun.

    That said, the excessive cost of the runDisney races leaves a bad taste in my my mouth. The goodie bag and stuff provided on the course and at the end of the race always seemed lacking to me compared to what was available at other races, and friends of mine that race tell me that, if anything, Disney's gotten stingier as the prices have gotten higher.

    Lani's comment that runDisney doesn't make it clear that locals can pick up their bibs on race day doesn't surprise me, either - I decided to skip the Disneyland Half-Marathon for a couple of years when Disney decided to restrict the number of local entrants who could register for the event to ensure slots would remain open for people booking packages. I understand that the whole purpose of Disney holding these events is to put heads in beds, but I don't like that Disney is subtly discouraging locals from participating in events. Last time I checked, locals' money was as good as the money from people who book vacation packages!

  7. By fairestoneofall

    Quote Originally Posted by schnebs View Post
    I did a couple of the runDisney events in the past, and if I ever get my lazy behind back into training, I'd love to do more. I really enjoy that you get a chance to see behind the scenes at the theme parks when you race, and there's so much entertainment offered on the course that the races can be a lot of fun.

    That said, the excessive cost of the runDisney races leaves a bad taste in my my mouth. The goodie bag and stuff provided on the course and at the end of the race always seemed lacking to me compared to what was available at other races, and friends of mine that race tell me that, if anything, Disney's gotten stingier as the prices have gotten higher.

    Lani's comment that runDisney doesn't make it clear that locals can pick up their bibs on race day doesn't surprise me, either - I decided to skip the Disneyland Half-Marathon for a couple of years when Disney decided to restrict the number of local entrants who could register for the event to ensure slots would remain open for people booking packages. I understand that the whole purpose of Disney holding these events is to put heads in beds, but I don't like that Disney is subtly discouraging locals from participating in events. Last time I checked, locals' money was as good as the money from people who book vacation packages!

    That number for packages is so small. Travel groups and charity groups make up for less than half if the registrations. And we have to order ours way before hand. There are still plenty for stand alone registrations. As with all DL events, they just sell out quickly.

  8. By adriennek

    Quote Originally Posted by fairestoneofall View Post
    I'm not sure I'll continue to purchase the "I Did It" shirts any longer.

    If they made a decent looking version, I'd buy it. But I forced myself to NOT buy it at Tink because they've been so... childish, is that the word I want? A cross between childish & gawdy - that I never wear them after the weekend's over. I actually liked some of the recent merchandise for events I didn't run but not for the events I've actually done.

  9. By Lani

    Quote Originally Posted by schnebs View Post
    The goodie bag and stuff provided on the course and at the end of the race always seemed lacking to me compared to what was available at other races, and friends of mine that race tell me that, if anything, Disney's gotten stingier as the prices have gotten higher.

    They started introducing packaged boxes after the finish line and no longer give out unbagged foods... so instead of bagels, orange slices and bananas, you now get a dainty box with a handful of tiny sample packets of snacks, like a package of 8 gluten-free crackers and dried fruit and nuts. I don't know about you but the last thing I want to eat is a tiny bag of rice crackers after I've run a half-marathon.

  10. By Drince88

    Are they still restricting the 'local' participation at the DL races, since they're selling out so quickly? I know they did for a while, but that was when you could still sign up in April or May!

  11. By fairestoneofall

    Quote Originally Posted by Lani View Post
    They started introducing packaged boxes after the finish line and no longer give out unbagged foods... so instead of bagels, orange slices and bananas, you now get a dainty box with a handful of tiny sample packets of snacks, like a package of 8 gluten-free crackers and dried fruit and nuts. I don't know about you but the last thing I want to eat is a tiny bag of rice crackers after I've run a half-marathon.

    I wrote runDisney about this. I agree with you.

  12. By RunningFool

    If you also notice the expo start time moved from noon to 10:00 a.m. For those of us on the West Coast who fly down to DLand for the races, it now means coming in the night before if one wants to get to the expo first thing instead of flying in Friday morning. I know it's a choice but again, it forces an extra hotel night that wasn't previously required.

  13. By stan4d_steph

    Quote Originally Posted by fairestoneofall View Post
    I wrote runDisney about this. I agree with you.

    I like the boxes.

  14. By Drince88

    I like the boxes for carrying, but not a huge fan of the contents.

  15. By fairestoneofall

    Quote Originally Posted by Drince88 View Post
    I like the boxes for carrying, but not a huge fan of the contents.

    I like that they have bags for your stuff after Tink. Keep the bags, lose the box, go back to bagels.

  16. By stan4d_steph

    The bagels you get after a race are crappy bagels, probably from Costco wrapped in plastic and baked a month ago. You're better off buying and bringing your own if that's what you want.

  17. By THpoohbear

    Those post race bagels are nasty. I bring my own mini bagel with a little pb on it. I like the boxes, too, but do wish they'd still give out bananas.

  18. By adriennek

    Quote Originally Posted by THpoohbear View Post
    Those post race bagels are nasty. I bring my own mini bagel with a little pb on it. I like the boxes, too, but do wish they'd still give out bananas.

    I've at times brought my own chocolate milk (Or had the boys bring it to me at the finish line.) I never really grabbed a bagel but I did like the bananas at the finish line. I agree with fairest - I loved the little bags they gave us at the finish line at Tink. They were sturdy and I kept mine for using like a little lunch bag later.

  19. By Drince88

    The two RnR races I've done have had chocolate milk at the finish, except they ran out in Portland (I don't think they did in New Orleans, because there was also a full). But I so could have used a bag!!! My water bottle, Gatorade, bagel, banana, Jamba Juice, and then the half pops for my sisters took a bit of juggling. Oh, and a Mylar blanket!

    I've been putting a Gatorade G3 chocolate in my check bag because it doesn't have to be kept cold. I only have those after double digits, because they're a lot of calories for a drink.

  20. By stan4d_steph

    Runner's World had an interesting article on the breakdown of race fees and where the money goes, but I'm not finding it online. I doubt runDisney would release it, but I wonder how it is different for their WDW races since they're all on Disney property and don't require coordination with local municipalities.

  21. By Lani

    Quote Originally Posted by THpoohbear View Post
    Those post race bagels are nasty. I bring my own mini bagel with a little pb on it. I like the boxes, too, but do wish they'd still give out bananas.

    I like the concept of the boxes... for me, I don't like what they put inside. They're all small dainty things, like the little package of rice crackers, the little tablespoon serving of non-hard cheese spread, the tablespoon of dried nuts and fruits.

    Maybe a bottle of water, a bottle of coconut water, an option for chocolate milk or chocolate almond milk, a big cookie or muffin, a banana, and a packet of peanut butter and I think I'd be happy. They could put a lot of that in the box.

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