runDisney 2015 Year in Review: New races, Moved races, Shortened Races

by Lorree Tachell, contributing writer
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2015 proved to be quite the year for runDisney race participants with new races to choose from, anniversary events to celebrate, and the announcement of the first international runDisney race weekend.

It was also a year where weather was a challenge and we bid goodbye to not one but two popular race weekends. As we close out the year, it's time to put a fire in the fireplace, grab a cup of hot cocoa, and sit back as we review the good, the bad, and the ugly of runDisney 2015.

Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend

Location Walt Disney World, Florida
Dates January 8–11, 2015
Races 5K family fun run (3.1 miles); 10K race (6.2 miles); half marathon; full marathon; kids races
Challenges Goofy Challenge (half marathon and full marathon); Dopey Challenge (5K, 10K, half and full)

The runDisney race season traditionally opens with Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, and 2015 was no exception. The first event, held on Thursday, January 8, was the 3.1-mile Walt Disney World 5K (kilometer) family fun run, followed by Friday's 6.2-mile WDW 10K, Saturday's WDW Half Marathon, and Sunday's WDW Marathon.

As has become tradition, many marathon runners went on a ride on Expedition Everest during the marathon, as well as picked up liquid refreshments (adult beverages) in World Showcase just before the finish in Epcot. This year's marathon was also the last time that the marathon course would run on the Richard Petty Speedway, which permanently closed shortly after race weekend.

In addition to the weekend's "fab four" individual events, thousands participated in both the Dopey and Goofy challenges. Over 7500 race participants attempted the second-year offering of the Dopey Challenge by completing all four weekend events (while Goofy participants were only officially required to finish the half marathon and marathon). The Dopey has quickly surpassed the Goofy Challenge in popularity; when registration for this year's races opened, for the $530 event sold out in under four hours.


The 2015 10th Anniversary Goofy Challenge medals. Photo by Lorree Tachell.

Surprisingly, the 10th anniversary Goofy Challenge (completing the half marathon and marathon) took over six months to sell out and included the first "Goofy Give Back," which returned 1,000 marathon and half marathon spots to general registration. Special anniversary medals were given to the close to 5,000 event finishers. Among them were 141 participants who completed all ten Goofy Challenges; they were awarded plaques and special Perfectly Goofy race shirts to commemorate their achievement.

Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

Location Disneyland, California
Dates January 16–18, 2015
Races 5K family fun run (3.1 miles); 10K race (6.2 miles); half marathon; kids races
Challenges Rebel Challenge (10K and half marathon)

Following closely on the heels of the WDW races, in what used to be the Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend, was the inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend, held on the 'left coast' in Disneyland. From big screens showing "The Empire Strikes Back" in the Disneyland Hotel Ballroom that served as the waiting queue to enter the expo, to snippets of the not-yet-released-at-the-time The Force Awakens at the race start lines, race participants could totally immerse themselves in the entire Star Wars canon of characters, music and history.

It was obvious from the start that the Star Wars weekend would be popular; in June, registration for all race events (5K, 10K, half marathon, and Rebel Challenge) sold out in under two hours. Merchandise at the race expo proved that was no fluke, as the majority of race-specific items such as shirts, jackets, hats, and magnets were sold out before the end of the first expo day. Pins (always a popular collectable) were the first to go and were quickly posted to eBay at typically outrageous prices.


501st Star Wars Cosplayers rreet runners at mile 8 in the Star Wars Half Marathon. Photo by Lorree Tachell.

The weekend also featured a new attempt by runDisney to curb bib selling as well as the "sharing" of race challenges by more than one person by requiring a mug shot be taken at the expo with the challenge bib. While very few challenge participants look as good after the race as they do at the expo, it at least gave runDisney volunteers a chance to compare gender and age before sending the finishers along to pick up their challenge medals.

While Star Wars may have displaced Tinker Bell weekend, the courses were different to provide a very unique race experience. The Star Wars Half Marathon course proved to be the fastest and flattest of all four half marathons hosted at Disneyland.

The addition of the 501st Legion cosplayers out at mile 8 on the course also added a very unique feel to the race with over a mile of very detailed and realistic Star Wars costumes for race participants to enjoy. There was no doubt that runDisney had a very big hit on their hands with the new Star Wars Half Marathon weekend.

Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend

Location Walt Disney World, Florida
Dates February 19–22, 2015
Races 5K family fun run (3.1 miles); 10K race (6.2 miles); half marathon; kids races
Challenges Glass Slipper Challenge (10K and half marathon)

What do you get when over 20,000 women (and roughly 1,700 men) converge on Walt Disney World in search of the Fairy Godmother? You have the seventh annual Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend, a spectacle of tutus and tiaras. With weather that ranged from a chilly 36 degrees for the Friday 5K to a balmy 60 degrees by Sunday's half marathon, race participants coming to Florida for the races had to come prepared for just about any weather situation.

Race weekend started on Friday with the aptly themed Frozen 5K. With the morning temperature barely reaching 36 degrees, race participants got to know each other very well as they huddled together around portable heaters before race start. Many also ditched their intended race costumes in favor of warmer apparel but there were a few hardy souls who risked the cold in order to run as Jasmine or other 'lightly' clothed Disney characters. There was a lot of chattering teeth and beet-red skin on the buses heading back to the hotels!


Even Kristoff, Anna, and Elsa looked cold on Frozen 5K morning. Photo by Lorree Tachell.

The weather made a 10-degree hop to the 40s on Saturday for the Enchanted 10K, the first event in the Glass Slipper Challenge. Close to 11,000 race participants took advantage of the perfect running temperature as they were greeted by a beautiful sunrise on their way through Epcot. Characters such as Princess Tiana from The Princess and the Frog and Snow White were just two of many characters out on the course along with Epcot entertainers such as the stilt walkers from Italy.

On Sunday, the final day of race weekend, the weather took another bounce up into the low 60s which brought Princes and Princesses out to enjoy blue skies and sunshine (well, once the fog around the Contemporary Resort cleared up…). The Disney Princess Half Marathon follows the same route as the Walt Disney World Half Marathon which takes race participants from Epcot to the Magic Kingdom and back. Pirates, Villains, and Disney's leading men made for popular picture stops as did Cinderella Castle, which had been taken over with characters from Frozen who waved and called out to runners from the balcony. Even Wreck-it Ralph and Vanellope Von Scheetz were on hand to cheer on everyone, including Perfect Princess legacy runners, who have now completed seven Disney Princess Half Marathons.

Expedition Everest 5K Challenge

Location Walt Disney World, Florida
Dates May 2, 2015
Races 5K
Challenges None

On Saturday, May 2, Walt Disney World hosted its last Expedition Everest Challenge. The nighttime 5K adventure run and scavenger hunt was held at Disney's Animal Kingdom, and was offered over six years through numerous date moves, rainy/muddy course conditions, and even a weather-related cancellation. The family event, traditionally held earlier in the day, was not held in 2015.


Mark Goldhaber from Team MousePlanet poses at 'base camp' prior to the 2014 Expedition Everest Challenge. Photo by runDisney cast member.

The run consisted of going over hay bales, crawling under netting, and going through a series of tires. Once the course was complete, it was time to move on to the scavenger hunt, which consisted of deciphering clues received at clue stations around the Animal Kingdom. Once race participants had cleared the obstacles and answered all the questions, they received their medals and could move on to the after-party in Dinoland.

At the time this race was announced as the final one, rumor had it that a Star Wars-themed race would take its place starting in 2016. As we know, that's one runDisney rumor that provided to be true!

Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend

Location Disneyland, California
Dates May 7–10, 2015 (Mother's Day weekend)
Races 5K family fun run (3.1 miles); 10K race (6.2 miles); half marathon; kids races
Challenges Pixie Dust Challenge (10K and half marathon)

The Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend had to find a new home in 2015 when Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend moved into its traditional January spot. In a "what were they thinking?" moment, runDisney moved Tinker Bell to Mother's Day weekend. Not only is that a busy family day in the parks but for many, the weekend was already filled with family activities and obligations that conflicted with the races. The move to May would also bring warm weather worries as well.

Even with the addition of the Inaugural Pixie Dust Challenge (completing both half marathon and 10K), the public showed its discontent by refusing to register at the wildfire sellout paces of other runDisney races. The Pixie Dust Challenge took three weeks to sell out and the Tinker Bell Half Marathon took almost a month and a half to hit capacity. Compared to 2014 when the race sold out in two days (and most challenges were selling out in hours), it was clear that the move was not well-received. But for many, it was just another race weekend filled with the Disney experience we've come to expect at runDisney events.

At 5:00 Friday morning, 4,500 runners and walkers took to the start linefor the Never Land 5K, the only runDisney event that actually starts inside Disneyland park. Much-needed California rain during the night made the roads a bit slippery but the rain subsided for most of the race. Lost Boys and Tinker Bell were just two photo stops available out on the course.


Hundreds of Red Hat Ladies cheered on Sunday's Tinker Bell Half Marathon. Photo by Lorree Tachell.

The 6,000 race participants in the Tinker Bell 10K on Saturday had different issues than rain to deal with when out-of-date (expired) applesauce caused the snack boxes to be pulled at the last minute, leaving only tables of bananas after the race. There was also confusion for those participating in the Pixie Dust Challenge when incorrect information was published in the Official Race Guide directing finishers to a Challenge tent to receive a wristband once they had completed the 10K. There was no Challenge tent or wristbands—just a lot of very panicked challenge participants who were concerned about receiving their medal on Sunday and a few race volunteers who were faced with having to explain the situation and calm them down.

On the plus side, the weather was cool, the rain held out, the race course included lots of good park time, and the Haunted Mansion's Hat Box Ghost made his official debut later that day—so overall, the race day was a great success.

On Sunday, over 14,00 race participants lined up to run through the streets of Anaheim in the fourth annual Tinker Bell Half Marathon. For many, the highlight of the race was the hundreds of ladies frm the Red Hat Society stationed outside the Disneyland Hotel just before mile 6 cheering on the runners and walkers. They are always a most welcome and uplifting sight on the course.

The offending applesauce had been removed from the snack packs with volunteers handing out the remaining items piece by piece to hungry race finishers. And for the Pixie Dust Challengers, the fears of not receiving their medals were unfounded, as no wristbands were needed to collect the inaugural medal.

Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

Location Disneyland, California
Dates September 4–6, 2015 (Labor Day weekend)
Races 5K family fun run (3.1 miles); 10K race (6.2 miles); half marathon; kids races
Challenges Dumbo Double Dare Challenge (10K and half marathon)

One of the biggest events for runDisney in 2015 was the 10th running of the Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend. Over 9,000 participants completed the first Disneyland Half Marathon in 2006; of those, 440 celebrated being 2015 Legacy Runners, scheduled to complete their 10th Disneyland Half Marathon that weekend.

Overall, 18,000 registered for the half marathon with 8,000 of those also participating in the Disneyland 10K to earn the Dumbo Double Dare Challenge medal. Tack on Disneyland 60th anniversary and race weekend was a celebration to remember.

As is typical for a runDisney weekend, the Disneyland 5K was held Friday morning at 5:30 a.m. This year the race started with the Blue Fairy (from Disney's Pinocchio) singing the National Anthem and ended with Maleficent (from Disney's Sleeping Beauty) welcoming race finishers with snarky comments as only an evil fairy can.


2010, 2006, and 2015 Disneyland Half Marathon inaugural/anniversary medals. Photo by Lorree Tachell.

The Disneyland 10K, day one of the Dumbo Double Dare Challenge, started with a good vs. evil character tug-of-war on the DJ stage. With the 10K medal modeled after the Mirror from Snow White, villains were found throughout the parks during the race with many of them such as Shan-Yu from Mulan, seldom seen on a regular basis.

On Sunday, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and miles of classic cars helped entertain the Disneyland Half Marathon race participants as they traversed 13.1 miles through the streets of Anaheim. As is tradition, a run through Sleeping Beauty's Castle was on the agenda as was the opportunity to run through Angel's Stadium, which was only missed once in the 10 years of the half marathon. Race finishers were given the Diamond/10th Anniversary medal as well as cool towels and plenty of water to combat the effects of warm weather. Legacy runners were given a special legacy lanyard, and Dumbo Challengers collected their special medals as well. Add in the Coast-to-Coast medals that many earned for completing a West Coast/East Coast sweep and the sounds of clanking could still be heard hours later in the parks as the weekend finished with fireworks in Disneyland.

Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend

Location Walt Disney World, Florida
Dates November 6–7, 2015
Races 5K family fun run (3.1 miles); evening half marathon*
Challenges None

When Florida has weather, it really has weather. The 2014 Wine & Dine Half Marathon was run in pouring rain and gained the nickname "Splash and Dash"; the 2015 event was hot, humid, and had the additional bonus of thunderstorms/high winds coming through the parks. Welcome to the Wine & Dine Half-Half Marathon Weekend!

The weekend started on Thursday night November 5 with a new shopping / party experience known as a Welcome Party. For $99, partiers received munchies, entertainment, and party gifts such as a tote bag and special wine glasses. In addition, they were treated to early official race merchandise shopping which given the craziness of the expos, for many made the cost worth the price of admission.

The race fun started Saturday morning at Mickey's Jingle Jungle 5K. Weather warning signs had been up at the expo and both temperature and humidity were already high at the 7:00 a.m. race start. Many of the costumes were stunning but would be warm to run in: the team of six running in formation as Santa, an elf, and four reindeer stood out, as were the three man-eating wreaths from Nightmare Before Christmas. Most race participants, especially those hoping to double and run the half marathon that night, took it slow and easy; the goal was to finish and enjoy the morning.


Not your typical race start at the 2015 Wine & Dine Half Marathon. Photo by Lorree Tachell.

The weather challenges continued that evening at the sixth annual Wine & Dine Half Marathon when thunderstorms struck close to the race start at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. 14,000 race participants as well as hundreds of spectators, volunteers, and runDisney Cast Members were evacuated from the race start area to the HP Field Pavilion where rumors ran rampant and close to an hour passed before word trickled out that the race would continue and everyone could return to the corrals. Hopefully revamping race communications is high on the runDisney list of improvements for 2016.

Unfortunately, once in the corrals the next announcement came that due continuing storm threats in the area the course would be cut from 13.1 miles to 6.7. The entire run through Disney's Animal Kingdom (where high winds caused tree branches and debris to cover the race course) was removed. Given the race was already starting an hour late (11:00 p.m. instead of 10:00 p.m.), the course conditions were a mess, and the weather was extremely hot and humid, the decision to cut the course was received as welcome news by many but not all racers, especially those who considered the 2015 Wine & Dine to be their one shot at a Florida race.

On the plus side, runners and walkers were still harassed by the Green Army Sergeant on the hill, characters were out in full force on what remained of the course, volunteers were still smiling and cheerful, and above all, everyone could still enjoy running through Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights in Disney Hollywood Studios. The million-plus Christmas lights "glow away" after 2015 and having one final opportunity to experience the incredible display could have been lost had the entire race been canceled.

Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon Weekend

Location Disneyland, California
Dates November 13–15, 2015
Races 5K family fun run (3.1 miles); 10K race (6.2 miles); half marathon; kids races
Challenges Infinity Gauntlet Challenge (10K, half marathon)

The last runDisney race of 2015 was the Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon. The race added yet another 10K and challenge to the runDisney stable of events: the Captain America 10K and the Infinity Gauntlet Challenge (completing the 10K and half marathon). Once everyone figured out what an Infinity Gauntlet was (thank goodness for Google), the waiting started to see just what the new medals would look like.

In a "hmmmm, wonder where this will lead" moment, runDisney sent very late email to selected race participants inviting them to an early official merchandise shopping opportunity early Thursday morning as well as a special dedicated area for packet pickup. What was even more interesting was there was no fee; runDisney offered something for nothing. How unusual for the Mouse. While it's not expected to remain a free option if it returns at future dates, it sparked a lively debate on social media regarding tacking on yet more fees to create a unique experience for those who can afford it.

As usual, the Avengers Super Heroes 5K kicked off the race weekend festivities Friday morning but this year was different with the addition of bag checks similar to those already in place at Walt Disney World runDisney events, as well as the warning to be at the race by 4:00 a.m. to avoid long lines and the potential of missing assigned corrals. Although there was no "no bag" line, the process was smooth and fast with only the occasional selfie-stick confiscation. The weather was cool and crisp—perfect running weather but a bit brisk for everyone who waited an extra 20 minutes for the race to start.


Team Muscle Makers gets ready to enjoy the Avengers Super Heroes 5K. Photo by Lorree Tachell.

The Captain America 10K on Saturday has the reputation of being the best 10K Disneyland course. With the majority of the miles actually in the parks, it is high on park time although it is low on character time as only a few Super Heroes are out on the course for pictures. Hanging over the 10K was the terrorist events in France; the red, white, and blue flew not only for the U.S. but for friends and family across the pond as well.

After the Santa Ana winds played havoc with the 2014 Inaugural Avengers Half Marathon, it was a welcome relief to have a cool morning with very light breezes on Sunday for the 2015 race. The course, while the lowest of the Disneyland half marathons for overall park time, is still one of the best in terms of overall running with a nice mix of flat stretches and occasional small hills. This year race participants were entertained along the course by jitterbugging dancers, hundreds of cosplayers in military dress, and the 501st out yet again in their superhero finest. And was that really Tom Hiddleston dressed as Loki—definitely could have been his double.

While there were more than a few issues with the Infinity Gauntlet medals (the 'stones' easily fell out), overall the last runDisney event of 2015 was a great success and ended the race year on a very high note.

Gone but not forgotten

For the past three years, The Tower of Terror 10 Miler Weekend was held in the fall in Walt Disney World. Featuring a 5K morning race and a 10 mile night race, it was a fun weekend that featured a very unique race course and a party in Hollywood Studios. Unfortunately, with little notice, the race was quietly removed from the runDisney calendar for 2015.


The Headless Horseman no longer roams the Happy Haunted 5K Trail Run. Photo by Lorree Tachell.

While runDisney has not officially confirmed the Tower of Terror 10-Miler will not return in the future, the addition of the Disney Paris Half Marathon during the same weekend tends to lend fuel to speculation that it will not return. However, given the race started as a 13k before morphing into a 10-miler, there may still be hope it will come back in another form at a later date.

Looking to the future

So what's brewing for runDisney in 2016?

For starters, there will be more race security with the addition of metal detectors at the parks; how will that impact going in and out of the parks during the races?

The ban on toy guns at Disney parks as well as tighter adherence to the rule against adults wearing costumes in the parks also raises questions runDisney will have to address in the coming months. Will the bans include runDisney races as well? And how will they define a costume for a runDisney race? Would fairy wings or tutus be allowed, but not capes? How will this affect regular runDisney participants who race in costume?

On the brighter side (or rather the Dark Side), the Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend – the Dark Side will be held in Walt Disney World April 14–17. The race medals are already creating a buzz on social media and the Kessel Run Challenge medal should be a popular addition to many runDisney medal collections.


The 2016 Star Wars Half Marathon – Dark Side medals are causing a stir of excitement. Photo by runDisney.

In May, the fifth Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend will be held; will those completing all five events be forever known as Perfect Pixies?

And in September, an event that has been rumored for years will finally become reality; the Inaugural Disneyland Paris Half Marathon and 5K (and Chateau to Castle Challenge). While the road to Paris has been a bit bumpy from a communications perspective, race participants are eagerly awaiting the coveted medal reveal.

As always, expect there will be bright spots and hiccups but overall it looks like 2016 will be another exciting year for runDisney races.


As always, a BIG thank you from all the Disneyland runners and walkers to Team MousePlanet for hosting the "Candy from Strangers" stop. Photo by Lorree Tachell.

 

Comments

  1. By lifeisgood

    Great article, Lorree! Thanks for the recap.

  2. By cstephens

    Just an fyi that the Wine and Dine short recap section includes the Goofy and Dopey Challenges from WDW weekend races.

    I laughed at the "everyone had to google what Infinity Gauntlet" is. Those of us who are fans knew exactly what it was, and I would have expected most people who ran the races as an Avengers fan would know as well.

  3. By Malcon10t

    Quote Originally Posted by cstephens View Post
    Just an fyi that the Wine and Dine short recap section includes the Goofy and Dopey Challenges from WDW weekend races.

    I laughed at the "everyone had to google what Infinity Gauntlet" is. Those of us who are fans knew exactly what it was, and I would have expected most people who ran the races as an Avengers fan would know as well.

    Sad part, even *I* knew what it was....

  4. By stan4d_steph

    I didn't know what it is and I still don't really know. I doubt everyone who ran the race was an Avengers fan. Some people probably ran it because it was a Disney race in their area.

    Since I didn't go to many races last year, I enjoyed the roundup.

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