Breaking News Bar
posted: 3/23/2014 5:45 AM

Is runDisney the happiest race on earth?

hello
Success - Article sent! close
  • Aurora residents Jackie Horvath and daughter Rachel pose in front of the Magic Kingdom's Cinderella Castle during the Princess Half Marathon last month at Walt Disney World in Florida.

      Aurora residents Jackie Horvath and daughter Rachel pose in front of the Magic Kingdom's Cinderella Castle during the Princess Half Marathon last month at Walt Disney World in Florida.
    Courtesy of Jackie Horvath

  • Aurora residents Jackie Horvath and her daughter, Rachel, pose with a living plastic soldier from "Toy Story" during the Princess Half Marathon on Feb. 23 at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

      Aurora residents Jackie Horvath and her daughter, Rachel, pose with a living plastic soldier from "Toy Story" during the Princess Half Marathon on Feb. 23 at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
    Courtesy of Jackie Horvath

  • The Horvaths show off five of the elaborate race medals they've earned at runDisney races.

      The Horvaths show off five of the elaborate race medals they've earned at runDisney races.
    Courtesy of Jackie Horvath

  • These Captain America-themed runners from the Disneyland Never Land Family Fun 5K on Jan. 17 might want to recycle their outfits for the new Disneyland Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon debuting Sunday, Nov. 16, in Anaheim, Calif.

      These Captain America-themed runners from the Disneyland Never Land Family Fun 5K on Jan. 17 might want to recycle their outfits for the new Disneyland Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon debuting Sunday, Nov. 16, in Anaheim, Calif.
    Courtesy of runDisney

  • Mickey Mouse high-fives a runner during the Disney Princess Half Marathon on Feb. 23 at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The 13.1-mile course led nearly 24,000 runners through the Magic Kingdom and Epcot theme parks.

      Mickey Mouse high-fives a runner during the Disney Princess Half Marathon on Feb. 23 at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The 13.1-mile course led nearly 24,000 runners through the Magic Kingdom and Epcot theme parks.
    Courtesy of Preston Mack/WDW Photo

  • Three-time Olympian Kim Smith, 32, of Providence, R.I., broke the Disney Princess Half Marathon record with a time of 1 hour, 11 minutes and 49 seconds on Feb. 23 at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

      Three-time Olympian Kim Smith, 32, of Providence, R.I., broke the Disney Princess Half Marathon record with a time of 1 hour, 11 minutes and 49 seconds on Feb. 23 at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
    Courtesy of Preston Mack / WDW Photo

  • Runners race through Epcot during the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon. The annual event takes athletes through all four Walt Disney World theme parks in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Runners from 50 states and 60 countries participated in the weekend events presented by runDisney.

      Runners race through Epcot during the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon. The annual event takes athletes through all four Walt Disney World theme parks in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Runners from 50 states and 60 countries participated in the weekend events presented by runDisney.
    Courtesy of Preston Mack/WDW Photo

  • Melissa Hernandez of Oxnard, Calif., was the female winner of the third annual Tinker Bell Half Marathon at Disneyland Resort with a time of 1 hour, 25 minutes and 40 seconds on Jan. 19 in Anaheim, Calif. The 13.1-mile racecourse takes runners through downtown Anaheim and behind the scenes and through the Disneyland and Disney California Adventure parks.

      Melissa Hernandez of Oxnard, Calif., was the female winner of the third annual Tinker Bell Half Marathon at Disneyland Resort with a time of 1 hour, 25 minutes and 40 seconds on Jan. 19 in Anaheim, Calif. The 13.1-mile racecourse takes runners through downtown Anaheim and behind the scenes and through the Disneyland and Disney California Adventure parks.
    Courtesy of runDisney

  • January's 2014 Tinkerbell Half Marathon kicks off at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, Calif.

      January's 2014 Tinkerbell Half Marathon kicks off at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, Calif.
    Courtesy of Jimmy DeFlippo/runDisney

  • Fireworks signal the start of the 2014 Disney Princess Half Marathon last month at Florida's Walt Disney World Resort.

      Fireworks signal the start of the 2014 Disney Princess Half Marathon last month at Florida's Walt Disney World Resort.
    Courtesy of Preston Mack/WDW Photos

  • This couple running in superhero gear during the Disneyland Tinkerbell 10K in January might want to reuse their outfits for the new Disneyland Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon.

      This couple running in superhero gear during the Disneyland Tinkerbell 10K in January might want to reuse their outfits for the new Disneyland Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon.
    Courtesy of runDisney

  • Andrew O'Bannon of Lake Forest, Calif., was the male winner of the third annual Tinkerbell Half Marathon at Disneyland Resort on Jan. 19 in Anaheim, Calif.

      Andrew O'Bannon of Lake Forest, Calif., was the male winner of the third annual Tinkerbell Half Marathon at Disneyland Resort on Jan. 19 in Anaheim, Calif.
    Courtesy of runDisney

 
 

Aurora resident Jackie Horvath, 57, and her 27-year-old daughter, Rachel, never thought that their love of all things Disney would help get them into shape. But in the past two years, mother and daughter have run six runDisney races together split between Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., and Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, Calif.

It was peer pressure from acquaintances on a Facebook Disney fan group who nudged the Horvaths to train for their first runDisney race, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler at Walt Disney World in 2012.

"Neither of us were ever runners before," said Jackie.

"That first race, I was truly struggling to get across the finish line."

But now, she and Rachel are so confident with their run-walk pacing routine that they take time out during runDisney races to get pictures in front of rides and with the many costumed characters stationed along the course. The Horvaths also prize being able to run races through and behind the scenes of Disney theme parks and to gawk at the outrageous Disney costumes sometimes worn by other runners.

It's no wonder that Disney wanted to boost tourism at its theme parks by tapping into the travel market of die-hard runners who journey all over the globe to races. But the Horvaths are prime examples of another market: Die-hard Disney fans who have become runners thanks to runDisney races.

"There are tons of people who are not regular runners," said Rachel, adding that she never felt out of place at her first runDisney race.

"People feel that Disney is a safe place to be with your family and also one that you can run a race," said Tammy Jacobsen, manager of marketing for runDisney. "Runner's World magazine recently ranked Walt Disney World among the top 10 half marathon races for a beginner, so it's certainly a place that people feel like it's a great start for running and Disney makes it fun with entertainment along the way."

The first Walt Disney World Marathon debuted in 1994, but it wasn't until around 2010 that Disney put on a marketing push to expand the number and types of runDisney race weekends at its two theme parks in Florida and California.

For example, the Princess Half Marathon Weekend at Walt Disney World and the Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend at Disneyland attract mostly women runners, while entire families are drawn to the nighttime Expedition Everest Challenge at Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom Park in Florida. This 5K race includes a scavenger hunt element and exclusive post-race access to select attractions.

And for those who don't entirely buy into the whole Disney theme, the newest runDisney event is the Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon Weekend, debuting this year at Disneyland between Nov. 14-16. This race uses Disney's recent acquisition of Marvel Comics to reach out to superhero fans who would rather run as Iron Man than Mickey Mouse.

Disney schedules the runDisney races at times when attendance is typically slower. For example, runDisney estimates that the Walt Disney World Marathon weekend in January attracted more than 50,000 runners and nearly 50,000 spectators.

Disney fans and collectors are lured by the beautifully designed runDisney participant medals, with some only available to those who run multiple races. There is a special Coast to Coast medal for runners who complete one race at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World in the same calendar year, and a special Glass Slipper Challenge medal for those who ran two races during the Princess Half Marathon weekend this past February.

"Those are expensive races to sign up for," admits Jackie, noting that the registration for the Avengers Half Marathon ranges between $195-$225.

But the Horvaths say the great atmosphere at runDisney races is much more fun than local races they've run. Jackie and Rachel now try to schedule their visits to Disney theme parks to coincide with races.

"I love the fitness aspect of it and I feel better than ever," said Jackie, proud that she's lost about 30 pounds in the past two years thanks to dietary changes and runDisney race training. "I love the fun that we have doing it and the people that we've gotten to know. It's a joy and I don't see any reason not to continue doing it as long as I can continue running those races."

Share this page
Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.
    help here