For the second time this year, I had the opportunity to run back-to-back runDisney events on both coasts. This time I ran the Wine & Dine Two Course Challenge at Walt Disney World and a week later I ran the Disneyland Super Heroes Half Marathon. Both events shared the signature elements of runDisney races. There were characters on the course, ample support and the magic of running through Disney theme parks.
I was really excited to participate in this year’s Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend. I’ve never been to Walt Disney World during the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival before. I squeezed as much time at the festival as I possibly could into my very short two-and-a-half day running vacation.
By contrast, the Super Heroes Half Marathon Weekend was the very last runDisney event that will be held at the Disneyland Resort, at least for the next few years. Beginning in 2018, all west coast runDisney events are on hiatus. Hopefully they will return in a couple years, but no one knows for sure. This made the Super Heroes Half Marathon bittersweet. As I ran through Sleeping Beauty Castle and down Main Street USA it struck me that this could be the very last time I get to do so.
After comparing my two weekends, here are my conclusions.
For actual park time, Disneyland can’t be beat. A 10k run at Disneyland is almost entirely in the parks and backstage areas. For my 10k at Walt Disney World, although I ran through Disney Hollywood Studio and Epcot, my time in each was extremely brief and I spent most of my time running on highways. The Wine & Dine Half Marathon course took me through 3 parks, but again my time in each was brief. However, it’s an awful lot of fun getting to finish the event with a run around World Showcase. By necessity, all of the park time at a Disneyland event is at the beginning of the race. I enjoyed running through Angel’s Stadium between miles 9 and 10, but the only thing to look forward to at the end of the race was being done.
Character Interactions are far superior at Walt Disney World. My favorite thing that runDisney does differently in Florida is to offer character photos at the starting and finish lines for all of the races. This meant that runners could have pictures taken with Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Chip & Dale without stopping mid-race to do so. They also had many more character stops at the Florida events and the characters were everywhere along the course. There was even a Green Army man half-way up a steep overpass. At Disneyland there are only character photo stops inside the parks. Walt Disney World also have many more PhotoPass photographers on the course. I was particularly upset to learn that the Captain America character stop was a “selfie station”. Doesn’t Cap deserve more respect than that?
At this final Disneyland race weekend I heard many runners comment that they felt runDisney was just going through the motions. I think that’s a pretty fair assessment. The Expo was small and unimpressive. Even the runDisney merchandise was disappointing. The staff lacked their usual enthusiasm. As a California-based runner, I really hope they can bring these events back as soon as possible and that they are better than ever. In the meantime, I may have to rack up some frequent flier miles. Next stop, the Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon. I hope I see you there!