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Life is full of a lot of incredible firsts—a first Disney Park visit... the first steps out the door and down the block on a first distance run or walk. And for tens of thousand athletes each year, there is a happy blend of both Disney and running as they participate in their first runDisney distance event.


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To get some feedback and thoughts from first-time runDisney event participants, I gathered a virtual focus group consisting of runners, walkers, and one crawler's mom to learn more about their journey to earning their first runDisney medal. We asked our group the following questions: Why did you start running/walking, why did you pick a runDisney event, and how did you research about the event you signed up for?

Gabrielle (Gabbie) Rimmaudo from Florida, completed her first half-marathon at age 22 at the 2013 Disney Princess Half Marathon, and has been running since May 2012. Gabrielle wites:

When I graduated college and moved to Tampa, I had a hard time adjusting with the transition out of my undergraduate career. It was then that I started the "Couch to 5K" [smartphone] app. What I found is that running helped put me at ease and allowed me to clear my mind. It was from there that I continued to keep going to the half-marathon level.

Ever since I was little, I had always loved Disney. For my first half-marathon, I wanted it to be a special event and I loved the appeal that the Disney Princess Half had. It was an easy decision being so close to Orlando and loving Disney for me to sign up!

Prior to the event I really just explored the runDisney website and some information on Twitter. Through the pictures and feedback from other individuals I had become extremely excited about the race, which also helped my decision to sign up easy.

Fe Caldejon is from Washington state, completing her first half-marathon at age 55 at the 2013 Disney Princess Half Marathon. She moved to the U.S. from the Philippines when she was 25 and has been walking for exercise for the past five years. Fe writes:

I started walking more frequently, about 4 to 5 times a week, to stay healthy and active.

My two daughters actually signed me up for the race as they have done runDisney races before. They told me how much fun they had in the previous races so we decided to do the Princess Half Marathon together.

I did a little of research online and saw a lot of pictures with Disney Characters with the runners, so this made me excited to see a lot of them along the race route.


Fe Caldejon (right) and her daughters. Photo by Disney cast member.

Amanda Mills is from Texas. At age 21, she completed her first (3.1-mile) 5-kilometer fun run during the 2013 Disney Princess Half Marathon weekend. Amanda just recently took up running and has a half-marathon on her to-do list of in the very near future. Amanda writes:

Running for me is relaxing and something to do when I want to be alone. But hearing and seeing all the races my grandma Rae does all the time inspired me to try my first 5K because of how much fun it looks.

Spring break of 2012, a friend and I decided to take a trip to Orlando for the first time. Unfortunately, the day we planned to spend in Walt Disney World didn't happen due to the weather. I've always wanted to go as I enjoy hearing about the adventures my grandma has during runDisney events. I wanted to experience Disney in real life, not behind a TV and scrapbooks.

Yes I did research this event online. I went on the runDisney website to count down the days and to make sure I understood where the packet pick-up was. I read the link about training, but I didn't really train much since I was only doing a 5K. Everything was easy to find on the runDisney website. I'm glad they have that training link up so if I decide to do a longer run I will definately take another look at it.

Christina Verduchi is from New Jersey. At age 34, she completed her first half-marathon at the 2013 Disney Princess Half after a 50-pound weight loss. She has been running since August 2012 after last lacing up her running shoes 10 years earlier. Christina writes:

In October 2011, I was finally diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). I had been weak/sick/fat/depressed for a while. I had started being a vegetarian earlier that year and was not eating enough protein for my body and wasn't following a great diet to begin with. I was 33 years old, 50-plus pounds overweight, and insulin-resistant. After seeing a specialist in January 2012, she said that I needed to lose weight by the time I saw her again in July—at least 10 pounds. I slacked on this for months, figuring I could do that in a month if I worked hard. By the end of April though, I had packed on 10 more pounds! I begged my husband to join Weight Watchers with me, and we started losing some weight. In the back of my head, I wished I could run again like I used to—and I shared this at one of the meetings. My leader, Julie, urged me to sign up for a 5K in September with her; she would walk and I could walk, too—but I wanted to run. So I started running. Since that 5k, I've run two other 5Ks, a 10K, and a four-miler… and now, of course, a half-marathon!


Christina Verduchi meets up with a new friend along the half-marathon course. Photo by Disney cast member.

I went with my mom, sister, and niece to Disney in June 2012 for the first time since I was 16 years old. I had the time of my life, and had heard that they did a marathon every year. I looked it up online and saw they did lots of races. When I signed up at the end of August, I thought I'd need six months to train for a half-marathon. I based this on zero knowledge whatsoever, but it was a nice round number and seemed doable. The Princess Half was six months away, and though I felt silly at first being a 34-year-old "Princess," I figured it would be fun and get me out of my shell a bit. I liked that there was a run/walk training program that would save my joints, and help get me started from where I was at that moment.

I didn't research beforehand but once I signed up, I got scared and started doing tons of research. I found a Facebook group (Princess Posse) and joined right away. There were lots of first-timers like me there and a bunch who have done runDisney events before who gave us helpful tips. I have to say, I lucked out and found a bunch of inspiring, supportive women right off the bat, and I don't think I would have kept up with my training or done so well had I not found them. The information that was given helped form opinions on RunDisney racing, but mostly in a positive light. We generally keep things light, positive, and supportive. Everyone was out to have the race of their life!

Katie Uppman from California, ran the 2013 Tinker Bell Half Marathon, while her son, Henry, completed his first runDisney Kids Race (the Diaper Dash Division) at the age of 6 months. Katie writes:

Henry had not even started crawling when he did the race. We were a bit optimistic when we signed him up (right after birth), and didn't realize that not many babies are crawling by 6 months. Henry was entered into the race because that is what our family does. We'll keep entering him into kids' races until he makes the decision that it's not something he wants to do.

This was my first major race after pregnancy (I did two 5Ks, but they were local), so it was the first time we had a chance to enter him into a kid's race.

I did try to research it, and I couldn't find much! I looked everywhere to find out what time the Diaper Dash specifically started. They just had Kids Races from 9–12. That's super vague!


Henry Uppman at the start of his first runDisney Diaper Dash. Photo by Katie Uppman.

Kristin Roberts from Florida, and is 35. She completed her first 5K at the 2009 Disney Princess Half Marathon weekend and finished her 6th 5k at the 2013 Princess Half Marathon weekend. Kristin writes:

I worked with a friend who was a triathlete. He was always talking about different events and races he was doing and it was really inspiring. He volunteered for some Disney events and when he came back from the 2008 Marathon weekend I decided that was it! I wanted to cross off a real race from my bucket list. He agreed to help me train, even though I knew I wasn't giving myself a whole lot of time. We agreed my goal wasn't to run it the whole way through but just to finish.

I wanted to do one that was fun and wouldn't be too intimidating. The Disney events were family oriented but still had some structure. I'm a huge Disney fan so it helped that I would be doing the race in an environment where I was already comfortable.

I checked out the Disney site, of course, but that was about it. I didn't want to overwhelm myself and my coach reminded me to keep things simple.

It's your turn—keep the discussion flowing!

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(Send an email to Lorree Tachell)

Lorree is known to her friends as the RunningFool. Of the 60+ half marathons she's run since 2006, a third have been Disney/runDisney events. She is a Disneyland Half Marathon Legacy Runner (meaning she has run it every year since its inauguration) and a Disney Princess Half Marathon Perfect Princess. Lorree also hopes to continue her legacy / perfect streaks with the Tower of Terror 10 Miler, as well as the Wine & Dine and Tinker Bell Half Marathons. In January 2013, she completed her first full marathon at the 20th Anniversary Walt Disney World Marathon and despite her declaration of ‘one and done’, in January 2014 she completed the Inaugural Dopey Challenge in Walt Disney World. "Yes, I do love running the Disney parks; there is something very special about a runDisney event.