Being a runDisney Legacy Runner

by Lorree Tachell, contributing writer

runDisney legacy runners. You may have noticed them in the Disney parks after the races—they’re the ones whose finisher’s medal lanyards look a bit different from the rest, with phrases such as "Perfectly Goofy," "Disneyland Half Marathon Legacy," "Perfect Princess," and "Perfect 20." And coming this November? "Perpetual Wine-rs." Well, OK—I made that last one up. But in November 2014, runDisney is awarding legacy status on yet another group of runners, at the 2014 Wine & Dine Half Marathon, to recognize participants who will have finished all five years' worth of that race.

To be an officially recognized runDisney legacy runner, you must have registered for and finished the same runDisney endurance event since its inaugural year, keeping the streak alive by officially registering for and finishing the race year after year. All it takes is time, money (for registration and associated travel costs), good health to be able to return every year, as well as luck getting through registration. However even with loads of money, the one thing you absolutely cannot do is purchase legacy status for a race. If you didn't finish all the races, you cannot be a legacy, period.

Currently, Disney only officially offers legacy status for distances of at least half-marathons (13.1 miles), although it may offer legacy status for the Tower of Terror 10-Miler in the future. Shorter races, such as the 3.1-mile 5K (kilometer) or 6.2-mile 10K, do not participate in the legacy program.

Disney commemorates legacy status for an event beginning at its fifth anniversary; to be recognized at that time, you would have had to finish all five years of the race at that time. That is, you must officially register for, and complete \each year’s races. If you are unable to attend or finish a race (even if you register for the event), you lose your legacy status for that race—giving you strong incentive to keep entering. Fortunately, there are multiple runDisney races now that have been going on for enough years that you can be a legacy runner in many of them. Those that currently recognize legacy runners include:

  • Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge – the inaugural event was in 2006, and this is currently the only multi-race event with a legacy status. Although runDisney has introduced additional multi-race events such as the Disneyland Dumbo Double Dare and Princess Half Marathon Glass Slipper Challenge, they are still in their infancy from a legacy perspective.
  • Walt Disney World Marathon
  • Disneyland Half Marathon
  • Disney Princess Half Marathon
  • Wine & Dine Half Marathon this November

Four years down and one to go. Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon medals from the 2010 inaugural race thru the 2013 event. Photo by Lorree Tachell.

There are no limits to the number of events you can be a legacy runner in, as long as you individually qualify for each event. You cannot qualify if you skip a year or miss the inaugural year.

In addition to bragging rights, Disney offers additional perks for its legacy runners, such as:

  • Beginning at year 5 of a race, legacy runners receive a bib with legacy designation and a special lanyard, then continue to receive a legacy-designated bib and lanyard each year for as long as they hold legacy status. You can recognize these special bibs by looking for an "L" designation on them.
  • On special anniversaries such as five years and 20 years, legacy runners are often listed in the official event program. Apparently this isn't a rule, though; Disney missed recognizing the Perfect Princesses in the event program on the fifth anniversary of the Disney Princess Half Marathon.
  • "Perfect Princesses" received a pink sash, button, and tiara at year 5 in addition to their special bibs and lanyards
  • "Perfect 20" WDW marathoners received, in addition to their special bibs and lanyards, a runDisney Marathon ring, pin set with versions of all five finisher’s medals, special race tent prior to the marathon, special registration booth only for Perfect 20s, a red Perfect 20 sash

Legacy runners are also recognized in other non-Disney races, and eligibility is also pretty similar. Rewards and recognition vary depending on the event. Some races offer modified legacy programs that don't require completion of the inaugural event, and these may be enticing to those who haven't been running marathons for 20+ years. For example:

  • Surf City USA Marathon & Half – 3 years in a row to qualify for Legacy
  • Chicago Marathon – legacy runners must finish five or more times in the past 10 years.
  • Chevron Houston Full/ Half Marathon – finished 10 or more Chevron Houston full/ half marathons (must be exclusively in same distance); does not have to be consecutive years.
  • Marine Corps Marathon – finished five or more qualifies a runner to join the MCM Runners Club; does not need to be consecutive.

For many of these, the biggest benefit of legacy status is guaranteed entry, since the larger marathons have switched to a lottery system due to their overwhelming popularity.

Perfect 20s received this boxed pin collection celebrating the inaugural and four anniversary WDW Marathon medals. Photo by Lorree Tachell.

As you can imagine, the number of legacy runners for every event shrinks slightly over time. At last count there were approximately:

  • Walt Disney World Marathon – the race that started it all, there were initially 1,800 finishers of its inaugural event back in 1992. For its 2013 race, runDisney recognized its "Perfect 20" legacy runners, of which there were 95
  • Disneyland Half Marathon – there were 9,395 finishers in its inaugural event in 2005. runDisney recognized 600 legacy runners at its 5th anniversary in 2010; as of the 2013 race, that number is now down to around 480.
  • Princess Half Marathon – there were 6,329 finishers in its inaugural event in 2008. There were just under 200 Perfect Princesses at the 5th Princess Half Marathon in 2013.
  • Goofy Race-and-a-Half Challenge – runDisney recognized 198 Perfectly Goofy runners for its 5th Goofy Challenge in 2010. There were 158 in 2013.

Disneyland Half Marathon Legacy Bib and lanyard from 2010. In 2015, we will celebrate 10 years! Photo by Lorree Tachell.

Some facts at a glance:

Can I be a legacy Coast-to-Coast participant? At this time, runDisney does not offer legacy status for the C2C Challenge.
Do I get special corral placement for being a legacy participant? Not at this time. All legacy runners start in their assigned corrals.
Do I get early race registration as a runDisney Legacy runner? No. Only if you are also an Annual Passholder (AP) and/or Disney Vacation Club (DVC) member.
Am I guaranteed a race spot as a runDisney Legacy runner? Given how incredibly fast registration for the Disneyland Half Marathon filled up in 2013 (due to the introduction of the Dumbo Double Dare achievement), runDisney did offer guaranteed 2014 registration for legacy runners. At this time, no other runDisney races offer guaranteed race spots to legacies.

Perfect Princesses were "crowned' in 2013 at the Disney Princess Half Marathon. Photo by Lorree Tachell.

Is it worth coming back year after year to earn legacy status at runDisney events? That just depends on why you are attempting to earn legacy status. If you’re doing it for cool goodies and glory, runDisney legacy is probably not for you. However for many of us, it’s more about what we gain in setting and achieving personal goals. It takes commitment to keep coming back—but for the legacies, it’s an added perk to something we love to do.

The legacy continues with the most recent Disneyland Half Marathon and Disney Princess Half Marathon lanyards. Photo by Lorree Tachell.

So if you see a runDisney legacy runner post-race in a Disney park, make sure you give them a high-five, a thumbs-up, or just a smile to acknowledge yet another year of a job well done and yet another personal goal achieved.