Me with Medal
Big smiles after the 10K race

Over 25,000 runners—from all 50 states and 15 countries including Canada, Mexico, Japan and Brazil—convened at Disneyland, Anaheim over Labor Day weekend for the 2013 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend. I was one of them and we were joined by celebrities such as Alison Sweeney, host of the hit reality show “The Biggest Loser”; Sean Astin the famous hobbit from Lord of The Rings; Ali Vincent, the first female to win the title of “Biggest Loser” in 2008; and ‘N Sync baritone Joey Fatone.

I’d had my heart set on this race since February, when I ran my first ever runDisney event. The races are fun and participants often run dressed up like their favorite Disney characters. Yours truly happily obliged and after making my own Princess Merida (from Brave) costume I packed my suitcase and flew to Los Angeles.

Ali Vincent, Joey Fatone and Sean Astin

On Saturday I participated in the new Disneyland 10K race. It was a fabulous event, taking us through Disneyland, Disney California Adventure and the streets of Anaheim. The highlight for me though was when the race took us through several backstage areas and Disney cast members came out to cheer us along. The exceptional heat and humidity made the race a challenge but I had trained hard, and it was exciting to cross the finish line with my son and future daughter-in-law waiting for me.

On Sunday, I watched 17,500 runners participate in the half marathon. It was amazing to see Jimmy Grabow, a runner from the aptly named town of Runner Springs, California, cross the finish line in 1:07:41. I had to do the math; this is an average pace of 5.14 minutes per mile. The female champion, Stephanie Dinius, crossed the finish line with a time of 1:15:47. Simply incredible!

Jimmy Grabow crosses the finish line and wins the Disneyland Half Marathon
Jimmy Grabow crosses the finish line and wins the Disneyland Half Marathon

The weekend also included the Family Fun Run 5K and runDisney Kids Races, along with the Disneyland Health & Fitness Expo. All the races are a great opportunity for families to participate in a fun and healthy activity.

Kids Race
Kids’ races are perfect for introducing the sport to children of all ages

A lot of bling
Each finisher receives a specially designed commemorative finisher medal. The Dumbo Double Dare, which includes running the 10K on Saturday and the Half Marathon on Sunday (19.3 miles total), was taken on by 5,000 runners and featured a special finisher medal in addition to the Disneyland Half Marathon and 10K finisher medals.

Plan ahead!
The races are extremely popular and participants need to plan well in advance, as sign-up for the most popular races sells out within hours. Next, it is a challenge to book a hotel at a reasonable price and important to plan your visit of the theme parks around your running schedule.

When booking a hotel, remember to doublecheck that the hotel has shuttle buses to the starting line the day of the race. Many street closures make it very difficult to drive to the starting line, an unnecessary stressor. These same shuttle buses, which are free of charge, also provide transportation to the Health & Fitness Expo where runners pick up their racing bib the day prior to the race.

10 K Running through Sleeping Beauty Castle
Special treat: running through Sleeping Beauty’s Castle

Bitten by the running bug
I’m now back in New York and clearly bitten by the running bug. Disney announced recently that they are looking into adding four more races in the future and rumor has it that one of them will be outside of the United States. With Disney parks in Paris, Hong Kong and Tokyo, speculation is running high. Paris would be great, but how about combining the Olympics in Tokyo in 2020 with some real fabulous races through Disneyland Tokyo?

Either way I know I will be up for it. I’m willing to travel, and I contemplated the possibilities on Twitter with my running buddies the moment the 2020 Olympic host city was announced on September 7th.

For now, I’m concentrating on my next race. I will be cranking it up a notch and in less than a month I’ll be flying to Orlando to run the The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler through Disney Hollywood Studios. I can’t wait (and I do see a Half Marathon in my future).

More runDisney
Here are the runDisney events throughout the year, starting with the Orlando races: the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend in January, followed by the Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend in February, Expedition Everest Challenge in May, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler in October, and the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend in November. Disneyland (Anaheim, California) hosts the Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend in January and the Disneyland Half Marathon in September during Labor Day Weekend. Are you ready to lace up your running shoes? For more information

Anabella Hotel
Anabella Hotel, Anaheim

Hotel recommendations for Disneyland, CA
Unlike in Orlando, there are only three Disney properties in Anaheim (Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, Disneyland Hotel and Paradise Pier Hotel) and they are quickly fully booked and all rather pricey. I suggest booking a “Good Neighbor Hotel” such as the Anabella Hotel, which offers rates starting at $106 per night. Check out a complete list of Good Neighbor Hotels here.

In October I will be staying at Disney’s All-Star Music Resort in Orlando

Hotel recommendations for Walt Disney World, FL
In Orlando I recommend one of the three Disney All-Star properties or Pop Century Resort. They are all value resorts with nightly rates starting at $112. In October I will be staying at the All-Star Music Resort. For a complete list of Walt Disney World resorts click here.

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