2016 runDisney Year in Review

by Lorree Tachell, contributing writer

With the addition of new races, new challenges, anniversary races, and new courses, this was a year of ups and downs for runDisney. We sadly said goodbye to the last remaining night runDisney race as Wine & Dine transitioned to a morning half marathon and we all now know how to spell "inaugural". It was also a year in which runDisney expanded its reach both virtually as well as internationally with the addition of the Virtual Running Shorts series of races and the Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Weekend.

2016 runDisney finishers by race distance. Chart by Lorree Tachell.

So as we close out yet another running year it's time to light a fire, slip on your bunny slippers, and settle in with your beverage of choice (a Starbucks hot cocoa for me please) as we review yet another year of runDisney highlights, lowlights and all lights in-between.

Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, January 6–10 (Florida)

  • Races – 5K family fun run (3.1 miles), 10K race (6.2 miles), half marathon (13.1 miles), full marathon (26.2 miles), kids races
  • Challenges – Goofy Challenge (half marathon and full marathon), Dopey Challenge (5K, 10K, half, and full)

The granddaddy of runDisney races, the 23rd Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend kicked off the year with a bang, as close to 70,000 medals were presented to finishers in the WDW 10K, WDW Half Marathon Walt Disney World Marathon and the Goofy and Dopey Challenges (the WDW 5K does not release finish statistics). As is typical of this weekend, the weather played a major role, as cold, rain, fog, and humidity made each day a new challenge to overcome. runDisney also implemented new costume restrictions a week before race weekend, which caught many race participants by surprise, with large-costumes and items such as long capes no longer allowed.

The race weekend started off on Thursday with the WDW 5K and a wind chill advisory that provided cool but comfortable running conditions. Friday's WDW 10K, (nicknamed the Drowned Rat 10K) featured marathon champion Paula Radcliffe as well as rainy skies that tested everyone's ability at puddle dodging. The rainy conditions didn't seem to impact the top men's finisher, Joao Marcello Avelar of San Paulo who won the men's division in 32:35 and Sydney Leiher of Beaver Creek, OH who broke the tape in 37:41.

2016 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend medals. Photo by runDisney.

Saturday's WDW Half Marathon was a cool and foggy 13.1 miles from Epcot to the Magic Kingdom and back. WDW 10K men's winner Joao Marcello Avelar made it two for two as he again won the men's division in 1:10:17. Megan Curham of Warren, New Jersey won the women's division in 1:14:29. Over 21,000 finisher's completed the course making the WDW Half Marathon the largest runDisney half marathon in 2016.

By Sunday, the weather had changed yet again with unseasonably warm temperatures and high humidity making the 26.2 miles of the WDW Marathon even more of a challenge. However, close to 20,000 runners and walkers were able to cross the finish line and collect their marathon medal. Fredison Costa of Piedade, Brazil finished in 2:33:24, winning the Marathon for the fifth time in six years; Natasha Yaremczuk, Montverde, Florida, won the women's division in 2:52:23.

Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon Weekend, January 14–17 (California)

  • Races – 5K family fun run, 10K race, half marathon
  • Challenges – Rebel Challenge (10K and half marathon), Kessel Run Challenge (Star Wars Light Side and Dark Side half harathons)

Just a quick four days following the conclusion of the WDW Marathon Weekend, Disneyland hosted the second annual Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon Weekend. Disney again partnered with Lucas Films to "plus" the event for race participants, which, given the recent release of Star Wars – the Force Awakens, made for an even more magical experience. From big screens at the expo running Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi to on-course photo ops with speeders and the infamous trash compactor, the force was indeed strong with race participants. New in 2016 was the addition of the Kessel Run Challenge for completing both Star Wars Light Side and the inaugural Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathons.

The new costume restrictions implemented just before the WDW Marathon Weekend had the most impact on Friday's Star Wars 5K with the larger full-body costumes such as X-Wings and TIE fighters nowhere to be seen but in their place were an assortment of very creative Star Wars and Disney mash-ups including Tinker Fetts, Darth Goofy, and one very impressive Fairy Darth Mother.

Saturday close to 10K runners and walkers enjoyed perfect race weather as they made their way through Disneyland and DCA before finishing the 6.2 mile course by the Disneyland Hotel. Adam Henry, Santa Monica, California and runDisney regular Kellie Nickerson, Albuquerque, New Mexico were the men's and women's top finishers in 34:38 and 38:57, respectively.

2016 Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon Weekend medals. Photo by runDisney.

For many, the weather on Sunday for the Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon wasn't nearly as hospitable as the previous two days with warmer temperatures and heavy low-lying fog and smog impacting the ability to breathe or even in some instances, see more than a block in the distance. The weather did nothing to impact photo lines; BB8 was the most popular stop with a line that at times reached an hour wait. Fortunately the new runDisney costume restrictions didn't impact the 501st cosplay group who were out in full character around mile eight. They are always one of the highlights of the race.

Nicholas Arciniaga (Flagstaff, Arizona) was the overall Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon winner in a time of 1:05:49. Annie Bersagel (Oslo, Norway) was the women's winner in 1:15:09. Brian Siemann, Savoy, Illinois, who just a week before won the WDW 10K, WDW Half Marathon, and WDW Marathon Wheelchair – Men's Push Rim divisions, continued his streak winning both the Star Wars 10K and Star Wars Light Side Half Marathon.

Princess Half Marathon Weekend, February 18–21 (Florida)

  • Races – 5K family fun run, 10K race, half marathon
  • Challenge – Glass Slipper Challenge (10K and half marathon), Pink Coast-to-Coast (completing Princess and Tinker Bell Half Marathons)

The eighth annual Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend was held in late February 2016 and as always, the weekend was filled with pink, princesses, and an expo runDisney-branded merchandise shopping melee that came close to a hair-pulling, all-out fight. Every year shopping at the WDW runDisney expo booth can be chaotic—and Princess was no exception. From the moment the expo opened the doors and shoppers shoved their way down the stairs to run across the expo floor to the runDisney booth (to the horror of other expo vendors located in their way), the initial rush was destined to be a scrum. Once in the merchandise area, shoppers swarmed unrestrained, grabbing handfuls of pins, armloads of merchandise, and boxes of wine glasses. Tempers quickly rose, with shoving, pushing, and at least one report of a cast member caught in the middle of the mess and being hit. You'll be able to spot us in 2017 as we'll be the ones sporting "I survived the Princess Half Marathon expo" T-shirts.

We went "under the sea" for the 2016 Princess Half Marathon Weekend. Photo by runDisney.

Princesses, princes, and various Disney characters were well-represented at the Disney Princess 5K held Friday morning at Epcot. After the expo chaos from the previous day, running in the midst of thousands of runners and walkers was a breeze. Costumes were also out in abundance at the Enchanted 10K held Saturday morning at Epcot. Over 11,000 race participants picked up their finisher's medal with David Short, Asheville, NC and Brooke Adams, Randolph, NY taking first place in their respective divisions.

Sunday morning over 20,000 race participants finished the 13.1-mile course including the roughly 250 or so "Perfect Princesses" who have completed every Princess Half Marathon. With perfect (cool and low humidity) weather, conditions were ideal for personal records and memorable first half marathons. Shannon Crawford, New Rochelle, New York was the first princess across the finish line in 1:24:49.

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon Weekend, April 14–17 (Florida)

  • Races – 5K family fun run, 10K race, half marathon
  • Challenges – Dark Side Challenge (10K and half marathon), Kessel Run Challenge (Star Wars Light Side and Dark Side Half Marathons)

The inaugural Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon Weekend introduced several new registration and event changes. The weekend was the first runDisney race that did not have tiered pricing—it was assumed that the race would sell out too quickly to even bother with posting multiple pricing levels (no surprise—all events were sold out within 24 hours except for the half marathon).

Star Wars Dark Side was also the first race weekend for Disney Photopass to take over race photography from Marathon Foto. Annual passholders were pleased to discover that depending on their pass level, race photographs would be included for download at no additional charge. The process was not without hiccups as many photos were mislabeled, photo banners went across runner faces in pictures, and no library of "orphan" pictures with unreadable bibs was available to browse through to find missing shots.

With memories of the Princess Half Marathon Weekend expo still fresh in mind, it was hoped that changes had been made to contain the Star Wars Dark Side crowds who were queuing up outside of the Josten Center building before 6:00 a.m. Thursday morning. While the crowd was kept under control as we made our way across the floor to the runDisney-branded merchandise area (no running allowed) with no one in place to control access, it quickly turned into another shopping melee, with Kessel Run pins disappearing within an hour as people grabbed handfuls of the coveted items. Ironically, while one pin was spotted just after the expo selling on eBay for over $300, within a week of the race, runDisney released the same Kessel Run pin at the online Disney Store, which allowed anyone who missed the pin to purchase one without inflated pricing.

With a heat advisory in place for the weekend, it promised to be hot and muggy which created a challenge for those not used to running in those conditions. Although the sun was already blazing at the start, the Star Wars Dark Side 5K Friday morning followed the familiar Epcot 3.1 mile course and was a fun party with an abundance of ewoks and mash-ups such as princess/slave Leia, Darth Poppins and her Storm Trooper Chimney Sweep and of course it wouldn't be a race without a few Matt, undercover bosses. Even the Cantina Band from Star Wars Light Side was in the house.

2016 Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon Weekend medals including the new Kessel Run Challenge. Photo by runDisney.

The Star Wars Dark Side 10K on Saturday featured a new course that started at Epcot, headed down the Boardwalk, and ended at ESPN Wide World of Sports. There were six very full starting corrals which, with over 13,000 at race start, should have been spread out over more to ease later bottlenecks as crowds jammed up around the boardwalk. But over 12,000 did successfully finish the race, with Chris Trebilcock of Tampa, Forida, winning in 35.21, and Bridget Dawes of Antelope, California winning the women's race in 40:10.

Sunday brought slightly cooler and less humid weather conditions for the Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon. Failure was not an option as First Order Storm Troopers made clear prior to race start so off we went on yet another new race course. While we again started at Epcot, we headed down the Boardwalk to Disney Hollywood Studios (where Kylo Ren was a popular photo stop), did a few laps around the Disney Animal Kingdom parking lot before entering the park, and then went back out on the roads to a finish at ESPN Wide World of Sports. Unfortunately for many later finishers, runDisney ran out of Coast-to-Coast medals, which had to be sent out a week later with a letter of apology. Jason Ryf, Oshkoch, Wisconsin won the race in time of 1:13:29 and Katie McGrath won the women's race in 1:24:05.

Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend, May 5–8 (California)

  • Races – 5K family fun run, 10K race, half marathon
  • Challenges – Pixie Dust Challenge (10K and half marathon), Pink Coast-to-Coast (Princess and Tinker Bell Half Marathons)

The fifth annual Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend was held over Mother's Day weekend in May 2016. Although it was expected as an anniversary race to sell out, only the Tinker Bell 10K and Never Land 5K reached capacity; the half marathon (and the newer Pixie Dust Challenge) did not. Part of the slow sell may have been due to the fact unlike previous runDisney anniversary medals which were always very unique and different from previous versions, the fifth anniversary Tinker Bell Half medal was essentially the same medal as the first four years with a bit of white "pixie dust" added for bling.

This was also the first Disneyland Resort runDisney race since 2006 that did not feature Rudy Novotny as an announcer, which resulted in much discussion on social media, and even led to a petition to return him to the stage (it didn't work).

As part of the fifth anniversary celebration, Legacy Tinker Bells (or Perfect Pixies, as they are also known) were first recognized; over 1,000 race participants received a small compact mirror commemorative gift, and had their name included on a Legacy wall at packet pickup. Unfortunately due to a lack of pre-race communication from runDisney, many Legacy were unaware of the special lanyard given to Legacies upon completion of the half marathon and were missed in the crowds as they finished. Not exactly a great way to celebrate five years of dedication.

2016 Tinker Bell Half Matrathon Weekend Medals – 5th Anniversary. Photo by runDisney.

The Never Land 5K is the only runDisney 5K race that does not start in assigned corrals, and also starts in Disneyland by the castle. Tinker Bell continued to start the race with a fly-by, with thousands of tutus and fairy wings were making their way through Disneyland and DCA before finishing at the Disneyland Hotel.

The Tinker Bell 10K started Saturday morning with rain showers that left large puddles along the course but even in the rain this is one of runDisney's most enjoyable courses as so much of the race is held in the parks. Adam Henry, Santa Monica, California won in a time of 34:35 and Kellie Nickerson continued to dominate with yet another top women's finish in 40:37.

A digital Tinker Bell started Sunday's Tinker Bell Half Marathon as an estimated 14,000 race participants took to the streets of Anaheim. Unfortunately cheating was rampant as race participants cut unstaffed turnarounds; hopefully those areas will be better monitored in the future.

Over 13,000 race participants completed the 2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon cheered on by over 700 Red Hat Ladies. Jen Serna (Fullerton, California) took top honors with a finish of 1:25:49 followed by Kellie Nickerson, who finished second in 1:29:41.

Virtual Running Shorts, May – June

  • Races – Up to three virtual 5Ks
  • Challenges – Pariticpants who signed up for the 5K series received a special series medal

Between the dog days of summer (the long months between Tinker Bell and Disneyland half marathon weekends), runDisney decided to move into the popular virtual running space with the inaugural Virtual Running Shorts races. Open world-wide, runners and walkers could sign up for one to three virtual 5K races that were to be completed anytime from June through August 2016. The question was, what would be the demand for virtual races and would anyone sign up without seeing the medals first?

As with most runDisney short-distance races, the Virtual Running Shorts series provided to be extremely popular selling out in just over a month. The cost, $39 per race or $142 for the entire series, was cheaper than the in-person races, and gave people who normally couldn't travel to the runDisney races a chance to earn a runDisney race medal.

The Virtual Running Shorts medals were a quality add to any runDisney medal collection. Photo by runDisney.

Once the medals were revealed, Mickey's yellow shoe, white glove, and red pants along with Mickey himself on the series medal provided motivation to get up and out for a walk or run. The medals were large, heavy, and colorful which was a pleasant surprise. A virtual race bib which participants printed out, was also provided and was spotted out in the parks as many race participants did their 5Ks in Disneyland and WDW.

As is typical with runDisney races, communications were spotty (a point of confusion was how to download the bib) and relied more on social media outlets than email. The races were run on the honor system, which confused many, as there was no proof required to get their medals. The medals did not arrive until the time to complete all races had passed, which was frustrating for many who did all three 5Ks early and had to wait for their medals to arrive. And then there was the matter of cracked tumblers which arrived with many of the medal orders.

Overall, even with a few hiccups, the inaugural Virtual Running Shorts series proved to be extremely popular. While we do not know how many signed up, it appears that it was successful enough to warrant another run in Summer 2017.

Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend, September 1–4 (California)

  • Races – 5K family fun run, 10K race, half marathon
  • Challenge – Dumbo Double Dare (10K and half marathon)

The 11th annual Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend was held over Labor Day weekend and as always, the weather was hot, the races were fun, and the medals were awesome. In a first for runDisney, the weekend race themes (Disney duos) were revealed prior to registration opening. Even with the question of Country Bears, who have been out of Disneyland for over ten years, being appropriate for the 5K, there was still enough excitement to sell out all events within one-and-a-half-hours except for the half marathon during early AP/DVC. While open registration didn't quite translate similar results with both the half and challenge not selling out prior to race weekend, the remaining events were gone within days.

One of the most debated changes implemented during registration was the change in proof-of-time requirements to 2:45 or better estimated half marathon time. Proof-of-time is used to determine corral placement and with the change from 3:15 to 2:45, it meant that those with slower times that previously could have placed them towards the back but not necessarily in the final corral now could conceivably be in any of the last corrals.

Another debatable change for runDisney was the implementation of the digital Official Event Guide. No longer would a printable PDF be provided online nor would there be an actual hard-copy document provided at the race. From all indications, the lack of a physical copy created great business for the Information Booth at the expo and left many race participants more confused than informed.

The theme of the 2016 Disneyland Half Marathon medals was Disney Duos. Photo by runDisney.

The race speaker series, formally over two days, was cut down to two speakers and was not as well publicized as in previous years, leading to even smaller crowds in attendance.

A more positive change was the move from rubber 5K finisher medals to actual metal 5K medals. While they are much less colorful than rubber (although there have been a few customized painted versions posted on social media), they have been generally well-received and are a bit more in line with the cost of a runDisney 5K.

The Disneyland 5K was held on Friday and as with other Disneyland Resort runDisney races, took runners through both Disneyland and DCA parks before ending on a run through Downtown Disney to the Disneyland Hotel. While the weather was on the warm side, there were still plenty of costumes and tutus including several groups of Country Bears who were the race theme.

The Disneyland 10K, with Aladdin and the Genie as a theme, took place Saturday morning. Adam Henry, who won the 2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon, repeated his win in 34:27. Momoko Tanaka from Japan came in first in the women's division in 36:55 followed by runDisney regular Kellie Nickerson, in 39:19.

On Sunday, over 13,000 race participants finished the 13.1 mile Disneyland Half Marathon course including an estimated 375 remaining Legacies. Jimmy Grabow, from the ironically named Running Springs, California, won in 1:06:13. Momoko Tanaka completed a weekend sweep winning the women's division in 1:19:31.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Weekend, September 23–25

  • Races – 5K family fun run, half marathon
  • Challenge – Castle to Chateau (Disneyland Paris Half and any other U.S. runDisney half marathon or WDW marathon from 2016)

Running with the Mouse went international with the inaugural Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Weekend. Race participants had a chance to earn not only two race medals but if a 2016 runDisney race in the U.S. was in the plans, they would also earn the incredible Castle-to-Chateau medal as well.

The Disneyland Paris 5K, with Remy from Ratatouille at the start to see off the race participants, was split into three corrals, which were staggered started. The course included a run of Main Street, through Fantasy Land and Adventure Isle, and Frontierland before heading to Walt Disney Studios where Spider-Man as well as a couple of very large rats were available for pictures.

runDisney created a magical set of medals for the inaugural Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Weekend. Photo by runDisney.

The Disneyland Paris Half Marathon, which started at 7:00 a.m. instead of the usual oh-dark-ugly of the U.S. races, was also segmented into three corrals which then broke down into multiple start waves in each corral. The first section of the race ran through Walt Disney Studios and Disneyland Paris where almost ten character stops were crammed in the first few miles. The next few miles took runners through the local countryside before ending at the Disney Village. Over 8500 race participants registered for the inaugural race with 2300 hoping to collect the Castle to Chateau medal. Nicholas Dalmasso won the inaugural Disneyland Paris half marathon in a time of 1:13:51. Marathon record holder Paula Radcliffe won the women's race in 1:24:05.

Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend, November 3–5 (Florida)

  • Races – 5K family fun run, 10K race, half marathon
  • Challenge – Lumiere's Two-Course Challenge (10K and half marathon)

You could say the changes to the 2016 Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon weekend made it as different as night and day as the race, which for the past six years has been run Saturday night through WDW became a Sunday morning half marathon. If that wasn't enough of a change, a 10K was added on Saturday as well as Lumiere's Two-Course Challenge which gave race participants eight runDisney challenge race weekends. To top off the weekend schedule, Mickey's Holiday 5K (formerly Mickey's Jingle Jungle 5K) was renamed and moved to Friday morning.

The change to morning for the half marathon was initially not well received as many past participants bowed out of returning. While one segment was less than thrilled, another segment was beyond happy and within less than three hours, all 2016 Wine & Dine events were sold out during open registration.

Naturally, being it was a WDW runDisney event, the scrum for runDisney branded merchandise, especially for the Remy-themed 10K race, was chaotic as always. While merchandise was flying off the shelves, a few items were quietly pulled as "inaugural" had been misspelled on both the pre-order jacket and the 10K pin. I will bet that word is now ingrained in the runDisney design team.

While the name changed, Mickey's Holiday 5K remained at Disney's Animal Kingdom, giving race participants a chance to enjoy an early morning run through both the parking lot and park. Although the morning was warm, humid, and just about the polar-opposite of winter, Christmas music played all along the course and Christmas-themed character photo stops were available as well.

Remy and Lumiere shared theming for the 2016 Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend medals. Photo by Lorree Tachell.

Remy from Ratatouille, fresh from his recent success at the inaugural Disney Paris Half Marathon Weekend, was on hand to kick off the inaugural Wine & Dine 10K. Over 9,000 race participants completed the new race route, about half of which was on the roads and half in Epcot. Derek Wehunt from Morocco finished first in 34:11, with Georganne Watson, the first female finished with a time of 39:37.

In addition to race weekend, WDW hosted the Chicago Cubs World Series celebration late Saturday afternoon with a parade and confetti blast down Main Street. The route was packed with Cubs faithful as they celebrated a win that was "… 108 years in the making."

Sunday brought an extra hour of sleep as Daylight Savings set the clocks back early that morning. Given all the construction in Disney Hollywood Studios, the new Wine & Dine Half Marathon course avoided the park completely, as fewer than four of the 13.1 half marathon miles were spent in Disney's Animal Kingdom and Epcot. While expected, the lack of park time needs to be addressed before 2017, as the race lacked much of the runDisney charm we expect (and pay for). Over 12,000 race participants completed the half marathon course with an estimated 173 returning "Perfect Spatulas" who have completed every Wine & Dine Half Marathon. Jason Simpson from Boulder, Colorado finished first overall in 1:10:24, with Giovanna Martins from Brazil coming in at 1:20:20 on the women's side.

Super Heroes Half Marathon Weekend, November 10–13 (California)

  • Races – 5K family fun run, 10K race, half marathon
  • Challenge – Infinity Gauntlet Challenge (10K and half marathon)

The final 2016 runDisney race of the year was the third annual Super Heroes Half Marathon held over Veteran's Day Weekend in Disneyland. This race event, the smallest of all runDisney races, seems to struggle for participants; spots for both the 2016 Infinity Gauntlet Challenge and Super Heroes Half Marathon were even available at the weekend expo, which is unheard of over the past several years of runDisney events selling out in mere hours.

Even the merchandise expo reflected a lower interest as the line to the runDisney-branded booth was less than a 15-minute wait by 10:45 on opening morning. Although it was a refreshing change from the recent WDW scrums, it was still enough to make one take pause and wonder what is happening with the weekend. Could it be theming or timing? Is it just one too many runDisney race weekends in the year competing for an audience?

It is too bad, as both the Captain America 5K and the Dr. Strange 10K utilize the best of the runDisney shorter distance race routes, with plenty of park time and character stops. Super heroes were in abundance at the Captain America 5K including the addition of Spider-Man who was seen "hanging around" the train bridge in Disneyland.

Captain America's shield makes for a nice photo backdrop for the 2016 Super Hereos Half Marathon Weekend medals. Photo by runDisney.

The Dr. Strange 10K route went through the Anaheim Convention Center and in through the back area of the parks. Over 8,000 race participants completed the course, which was over 500 more than completed the Super Heroes Half Marathon on Sunday. Chris Trebilcock from Tampa, Florida who earlier in the year won the inaugural Star Wars Dark Side 10K, won the race in a time of 35:35, and Beth Woodward from Orrville, Ohio, was the first female finisher, in 40:41.

The Super Heroes Half Marathon featured a new course that managed to avoid the dreaded dry lake bed that over the past two years has been boring and dangerous, with flying debris and dust. The route now goes from the Anaheim Convention Center out into the neighborhoods and business districts around the Disneyland Park area before heading into Angel's Stadum. A final turn down Disney Way took race participants back to the finish at the Disneyland Hotel.

Just over 7,700 race participants earned their 2016 Super Heroes Half Marathon finishers medal. Nicholas Arciniaga from Flagstaff, Arizona completed the race in a new course record of 1:09:28, taking nearly two minutes off the previous finish and coming in over five minutes faster than the second place finisher. This was his fourth runDisney half marathon victory at the Disneyland Resort. Lindsey Carter from nearby Huntington Beach was the first woman across the finish line, in 1:25:01.

A look at this year and beyond

Overall it was still a pretty amazing year for runDisney. 219,459 race participants crossed a U.S.-based runDisney 10K, half marathon, or marathon finish line in 2016 (runDisney 5K are not timed and finisher information is not available). The largest 10K in 2016 was the inaugural Star Wars Dark Side 10K, with 12,173 finishers, and the largest half marathon was the WDW Half, with 21,506 finishers. The smallest 10K (8,246) and half marathon (7,737) were Super Heroes Weekend events. Roughly 44,000 earned challenge medals from Dopey and Goofy in January through Infinity Gauntlet in November. Women continued to outnumber men in all race distances

2016 runDisney half marathon finishers by race. Chart by Lorree Tachell.

So what does 2017 hold in store for runDisney races?

There are two anniversary races in 2017: the 20th anniversary WDW Half Marathon in January and the 5th anniversary Disneyland Dumbo Double Dare in September. While the Disneyland 10K will also be turning five this year, runDisney at this time does not recognize legacy runners for races less than a half marathon. And are there any Perfect WDW Half Marathoners out there?

Coast-to-Coast is turning 10 in 2017 and will be celebrated with a special 10th anniversary medal. The pink Coast-to-Coast medal for completing Princess and Tinker Bell half marathons remains unchanged.

2017 Coast-to-Coast 10th Anniversary medal. Photo by runDisney.

With the assistance of runDisney, the organizers at Disneyland Paris will be hosting an inaugural Disneyland Paris 10K and challenge, thus giving race participants another great reason to jump the pond to earn some pretty magnificent bling.

New security at Disneyland will no doubt be an interesting logistical challenge for spectators and race participants alike; expect to see course changes for all 2017 Disneyland Resort runDisney races after Star Wars in early January.

Construction will continue at Disney Hollywood Studios, which will continue to play havoc with the WDW Marathon and Star Wars and Wine & Dine half marathon courses. Hopefully runDisney will be able to do something with to improve the race participant experience without resorting to the old standby course currently used by the WDW & Princess Half Marathons.

runDisney's foray into virtual running was popular enough to warrant a return in 2017. Watch for more information on the next Virtual Running Shorts series coming in Spring 2017.

We continue to see runDisney race registration slow back down to earlier, more realistic times, however, we are also seeing more runDisney races not sell out. Disneyland, Tinker Bell, and Super Heroes struggled with 2016 registration; all 2017 half marathons and challenges, with the exception of the Princess Half Marathon and Glass Slipper Challenge events are already experiencing slower-than-expected registration. For the first time, none of the Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend events sold out in early AP/DVC registration. Moving registration up two months, especially placing 2017 Disneyland registration just weeks before Christmas, was questionable planning.

We also continue to hear rumblings about retheming the Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend, and now rumblings are getting louder for Super Heroes as well. Surprisingly, the 2017 Dumbo Double Dare was apparently rethemed and now in its fifth year is known as the Disneyland Double Dare.

It looks like 2017 should be a busy year for runDisney; it will be especially interesting to watch how they navigate the "new normal" of race registration as well as prepare for all the anniversary races coming in 2018. See you on the roads!