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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. And 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.


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In the previous article, we found out what got them started, and why they chose a runDisney event. Part of what makes runDisney events so popular is the related activities (such as the race expo, breakfast, Pasta in the Park party, race retreat, and chEAR Squad) and all the costumes participants wear. So we asked our group the following: Did you or your friends/family participate in the extra activities, and did you wear a costume for your event?

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 writes:

My roommate and I took part in attending the expo. It was extremely crowded, but we really enjoyed the camaraderie of the event. We especially loved the exhibitors and the fun products they had to offer. In addition, it was a great opportunity to buy our "I Did It" T-shirts and get pictures with the Castle Footmen.


Gabbie Rimmaudo and her roommate Christina Jaeger enjoy their expo experience. Photo by Disney cast member.

Yes I did! I chose to wear a purple tutu in honor of my favorite princess Rapunzel. In my next Disney run I plan to dress up as well… time to start brainstorming ideas!

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:

My two daughters and niece and I all wore TeamSparkle running shirts with crowns that matched our princess character. My princess bib was Snow White so I wore a gold running skirt, a blue top, and a Snow White head piece.


Fe Caldejon (far right) and her family bring the 'sparkle' after the half marathon. 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:

I went to the expo and... it was crowded! Besides the crowds I thought the merchandise was cute. In order to see anything I had to ask people to hand me things to look at; "Mall on Black Friday" is the perfect way to describe it. I liked the fact that Lady Foot Locker had fitting rooms. I didn't see any other ones so I had to just put the clothes against me and guess. But it's not like they had room for a fitting room. I also went to the Race Retreat the morning of the half marathon. That was awesome. I was able to watch the runners from a few televisions and had coffee to wake me up to cheer on everyone on. I was also in the chEAR Squad and thank you for the blanket - I needed it! What was hard to find were the roses with Mickey ears. I searched everywhere and asked so many people and finally had someone call to find out where they were. We found them behind the bleachers.


Amanda Mills on her way to finishing her first 5k. Photo by Marathon Foto.

I was dressed as Belle! I loved dressing up. I would absolutely do it again. It felt like being a kid again. I already want to start on a new costume to make it better than this year.

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:

I participated in the Princess Half Meet-up [held the Friday of the Princess Half Marathon weekend] and felt so lucky to have been chosen. The great news was that a few of my fellow "Princess Posse" group members got in, too, so I was able to meet them for the first time at an amazing event! It was a fantastic way to kick off the weekend, meeting Sean Astin, and running alongside Ali Vincent and Jeff Galloway. To have Ali and Jeff tell me they were proud that I lost over 50 pounds was incredible, and made every training run worth it. Because of Jeff, I had the courage to start running because I could run and walk and still be a runner. Because of Ali's win on The Biggest Loser, I knew that one day, when I was ready, I would be able to change my life for the better because others had before me. Hearing April Holmes speak about her accident and dreaming of breaking records, and then achieving that? There needs to be a bigger word for inspirational. Because whatever that word is, she is. I don't know how runDisney could have improved that event. It was everything I could have hoped for.


Christina Verduchi and Sean Astin enjoy a moment of silliness at the Princess Half Meet-up. Photo by Disney cast member.

I went as Ariel for my niece… and OK, for me! At first I was hesitant to go in costume. When you've been overweight like I had been, it's not easy to break out and look silly. When I was heavy, I didn't want to be in pictures, I was always the one taking them to avoid it. But when I saw that so many people go in costume, I figured it would help me get over myself and just have fun. And I did. And I recommend it highly. Tips for anyone out there thinking of wearing a costume: 1) Do a trial run. My sparkly skirt had a tendency to ride up; and 2) I hear it's important to avoid tulle touching your skin, so a tutu was out for me. I have heard from runners this year that their tutus bunched up and were a pain—so again—trial run, no matter how silly you look!

I also held a #Run3rd sign during the entire race for a friend's daughter, who had just received her perfect heart transplant on February 13. She had been on the list for over 2.5 years, but had been waiting since birth for it. I knew that if little Katy Murphy, at 5 years old, could be strong enough to get through what she's been through, for 5 years, I could run 13.1 miles one day. I took pictures with as many characters as I could during the race with my sign, so she could follow along on Facebook with her mom. Tip: Running with a sign is actually not as bad as you think. Just make sure the sign is the right size to be able to hold your arms the right way when you run and you won't accidentally hit anyone with it (I didn't), and make sure you don't block your bib when you get your picture taken.

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:

We didn't do any of these activities this year. I did the chEAR Squad for my mom last year for the Princess Race (I ended up being too pregnant to run it), and would totally do that again for her for a large race, but not for a kids race.


Henry Uppman models the latest in Mickey Mouse race gear. Photo by Katie Uppman.

Henry wore a Mickey onesie so it looked like he was Mickey. There was a hat with ears, but Erik purposefully left it in the hotel room-he got a smack for that one.

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:

It's enough just to get myself organized to run so I haven't worked up to a costume… yet. Maybe when I get more comfortable with my running abilities.

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.