In the afterglow of my most fun half marathon ever at the Tinker Bell Half Marathon on January 29, several friends asked if I would help them prepare for the 2013 Tinker Bell Half Marathon on January 13, 2013. In fact, runDisney produces several endurance distance events throughout the year in both Anaheim and Lake Buena Vista. The first question I heard from many is, “How much will it cost?” The answer to this question only starts with the entry fees, so I decided to break it down, briefly.
First, a quick note: For the purpose of this article, I use the term “runners,” but please do not think that half-marathons and marathons are only for runners. Personally, I mostly walked my first event and, currently, I run less than 20 percent of the total time on a course: For every four minutes I walk, I run for one minute, sometimes opting out if I find myself on a hill or too tired to take the run. The general guideline for runDisney events follows that participants must be able to maintain a pace of a 16-minute-mile. This pace can be easily accomplished by briskly walking.
Budget $150 to $200
The lowest, early-bird registration for 2012 Disneyland Half Marathon costs $150, plus a $25 processing fee. While the price for the 2013 Tinker Bell has yet to be released, based on the success of this year’s event, I see no reason for Disney to charge much less than this. I offer no guarantee or official source for this number, if nothing else, budgeting $150 is a safe starting point—give or take $20-$25. Hopefully.
While $150, plus processing fees, is a lot of money, sources tell me that Disney actually makes very little profit per participant because of the heavy investment they make in their events. Besides the awesome medals and tech shirts, Disney events offer a well-staffed course, often filled with character photo opportunities during the time runners are on Disney property. While many race-support crew members volunteer for these events, Disney provides them with incentives such as event tech shirts and park hoppers in exchange for their time. These items also contribute to Disney’s bottom line. Disney events typically provide plenty of support on the race course, including several water and Power Ade stops, medical stops, and shuttles from local hotels to the start line before the race.
Budget: Shoes – $75 to $150; Clothing – $60 to $100 or more
The most expensive item of clothing will be shoes. A good pair of running shoes will cost from about $75-$150. Many stores that specifically market to runners analyze their customers’ strides with treadmills, video cameras and computer equipment to determine the right style shoe for each customer’s needs. In addition, these stores often offer generous return policies, even allowing customers to return used shoes up to 90 days after purchase. This really gives runners the opportunity to road test the shoes and figure out for sure if they will work for their personal needs or not. Besides shoes, a good pair of synthetic fiber socks helps prevent or at least reduce the forming of blisters.
Besides shoes, runners really need to have fitted garments made from lightweight fabrics that wick moisture away from the body while staying dry, or at least drying quickly. Fitted clothing, such as shorts, capri-length pants and tights, tech shirts and so forth help prevent chafing and allow for more comfortable range of motion on the event course.
With training, runners find which aches, pains and physical complications arise with longer distance workouts. Compression shorts and tights hels support muscles and even reduces soreness and injuries. For example, for years, I personally suffered from shin splints. I found that wearing compression sleeves over my shins and calves greatly reduces and even eliminates the pain from shin splints after long runs! Companies like Halo and Headsweats sell visors, hats, and headbands that keep sweat from dripping into a runner’s eyes. It goes without saying that women need to choose a good jogging bra.
The price range for these clothes varies. At the lower end of the price scale, Champion makes a fine line of fitted clothing and jogging bras available at retailers such as Target stores. Toward the higher end of the scale, Under Armour, Nike, Adidas, and several other name-brands produce comfortable clothing. Sporting goods stores and the aforementioned running stores offer a variety of styles to choose from.
I would be remiss to not mention one item that many female endurance athletes embrace with a passion: Running skirts. Companies such as Sparkle Skirts and Running Skirts offer lightweight, and let’s face it, cute skirts. Giving in to the allure of running skirts comes with an additional hit to the clothing budget but many women find it to be worth it.
Finally, in addition to clothing, many runners use a product known as Body Glide to prevent chafing. Packages of Body Glide, which look similar to deodorant sticks, typically cost $6 to $10 but last for quite awhile.
Expect to spend at least another $60 to $100, at minimum, on clothing and accessories.
Having covered the basics, clothing and entry fees, a fair estimate for half marathon expenses begins at $335 to $425. Keep in mind these expenses come about over the course of training, which should be a few months. But let’s take a look at some items that could be considered optional, but most runners consider essential:
Budget begins at $20
Experts advise endurance athletes to refuel during their events. That is, runners should consume items high in sodium, electrolytes, and carbohydrates to keep the body running comfortably for long distances. During training, runners figure out what products work best for them and how frequently to refuel. Products include electrolyte beverages, gels, and chews. Refueling prevents or at least lessens symptoms such as cramping, dehydration and nausea during longer runs. Companies such as Clif, Gu and even Jelly Belly produce products to help with these efforts. Expect to spend about $2 per package for such items, and for purposes of this article I will estimate spending about $10 to $20.
Hauling it around the event course
Budget $20 to $50
Many runners carry a few things with them to events such as asthma inhalers, refueling gels or blocks, mustard packets or salt tablets. lip balm, cell phones, and, especially at Disney events: cameras. Some runners like to carry water with them in case they need it between water stops or prefer a particular electrolyte rehydration beverage, such as Gatorade or specialty drinks like Nuun. Companies like Nathan, iFitness and SPIBelt manufacture belts to wear during events.
How High Can You Go?
Electronic Devices – Budget $50 to $500
Do we dare to go there? Keeping in mind that this category may be the most optional of all for some, and the least optional for others, a running budget can really get out of hand when runners start shopping for electronics.
Many runners like an MP3 player, such as an iPod ($50 to $250) during an event. The good news here is that many people already own iPods before they begin training for an event, so this may be an already accounted for expense. But do they have an armband to carry them? Armbands can cost $14 to $50, but keep in mind, iPods can also fit in the aforementioned belts or even headbands.
Runners using music players also need ear buds. While some basic buds from local stores run as low as $10 to $20, higher end buds such as Yurbuds retail for $30 to $60.
Last but not least, as one famous shirt from popular running clothing manufacturer One More Mile reads, “If you see me collapse, pause my Garmin.” Many runners love their Garmin GPS-enabled sports watches. Garmin units provide a plethora of information during training and events, from heart rate to speed pace, time spent on course, distance covered, and more. Runners also program their Garmins to signal alerts for intervals. For example, if a runner wants to run for three minutes and walk for two, a Garmin signals the runner in a pattern every three and then two minutes. Wristband Garmin units range from $130 to $400. Many runners keep an eye on retailers such as REI, and Amazon.com for deals on Garmin watches.
Smartphones can provide some of these services via various apps and services as well. Again, during training, many runners determine which methods and devices work best for them.
[Editor's note: For safety and liability reasons, most fun runs and other endurance events discourage, or even prohibit, the use of headphones or earbuds on the race course. If you feel you must wear one—for example, to be able to hear your pacing signals—consider turning down the volume or only wearing one earbud so you can hear the ambient noise in your surroundings.]
The more local you are, the less your travel cost. Typically, the Disneyland Resort events host a more local crowd than the Walt Disney World Resort events, which attracts more tourists. Yet, at the recent Tinker Bell Half Marathon, Disneyland reported participants from 48 out of 50 states (there were no participants from Maine or New Hampshire) and several foreign countries. Planning a travel budget for a half-marathon is no different from planning any other Disney trip. Participants need to allow for travel expenses (car, plane, airport shuttles, rental cars, taxis), hotel stays, food allowances, and, naturally, park admissions. Having an annual pass to a Disney theme park provides just one more bit of motivation, as there would be no additional admissions expense to visit during an event.
Locals may opt to add a hotel night or two to better enjoy the weekend. Disney events begin notoriously early in the morning. At January’s Tinker Bell Half Marathon at the Disneyland Resort, participants started to fill the corrals between 4 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. for the 5:45 a.m. start time. Likewise, half and full marathons at Walt Disney World also start as early as 5:45 a.m. or 6 am. Shuttles between resorts and the gathering points often begin to run between 3 a.m. and 3:30 a.m. Staying overnight in a hotel on or near Disney property might afford a local runner as much as an hour or two of precious extra sleep in the wee hours of the morning.
Ultimately, travel expenses are much more complicated so consider for your personal calculations:
- Travel Expenses – How much will airfare or gas cost?
- Food Expenses – How much do you typically spend per day for a Disney visit?
- Park Admissions – Visit MousePlanet’s Disneyland Guide or Walt Disney World Guide to get an idea of what it might cost.
- Hotel Stay – A one-night stay in a hotel can be as low as $60 to $150, but naturally this category is wide open
Is it worth it?
I certainly think it is. From the opportunity to run through Sleeping Beauty and/or Cinderella Castle, to the health rewards from not only completing 13.1 miles (or more) but the motivation to get into shape and follow a training plan, to the excuse to go shopping for cute clothes or fancy gadgets (or both), to the bling hung around runners' necks at the finish line and the amazing feeling of accomplishment—a bounty of benefits awaits anyone who dares to accept the challenge of an endurance event, such as a Disney-themed half-marathon or marathon. If you’re looking for help with registration and training expenses and even training and on-course support, one option for runners is to fundraise for a charitable organization. MousePlanet staff writer and newsletter editor Stephanie Wien wrote about her experience with Team in Training here.
So, will a runDisney event be in your budget this year?
Members of our MousePad discussion forums are always eager to share information and enable new endurance athletes. Do you have more questions we can help answer? Did I miss a critical element from your event's budget? Do you have a suggestion for finding deals on the essentials? Please visit our Team MousePlanet forum and share!