FULL DISCLOSURE NUMBER ONE: This article is revisiting a topic I wrote about last year when I wrote for MiceChat. If you'd like to see the original article you can click here.
FULL DISCLOSURE NUMBER TWO: I'm involved as a volunteer for Superhero Events who runs a few of the events featured in this article. Some of the people who provided me with reviews and pictures for the races featured are also a part of Superhero Events. My goal is to be as impartial as possible when discussing the individual events. Please let me know if I've failed. =)
In addition, the photo quality on some of these pictures may not be up to our normal standards. It's sometimes (always) hard to take great pictures while running.
Now that that's out of the way, let's get to it.
Let's face it, the more fun something is the more likely you are to want to do it. Visiting theme parks is fun, that's why we go to them, ride the coasters, eat the food, see the shows and visit sites like this one. Running is no different and with the success of RunDisney, other races outside of Disney are starting to figure it out.
Start Line of the Disneyland 1/2 Marathon
Hanging with the characters while running through Disneyland (left) and Walt Disney World (right)
Shortly after I started running in January 2010, some friends told me about the Disneyland Half Marathon. As a long-time Disneyland Annual Passholder (at the time) I had heard about it, but never thought about running it.
When registration opened I dropped my $110 (to run ... are they crazy) and decided I needed to actually be able to finish this thing. That's when I got addicted to running and my life hasn't been the same since.
I have a feeling many of my fellow runners have a similar story. Unfortunately, what I've seen due to the ever-increasing fees for RunDisney races are people getting discouraged, the fun factor being taken out of it and people going back to their sedentary lifestyle.
Running the Tinkerbell at Disneyland (left) and through the parks of Walt Disney World (right)
What I'm here to tell you is that Disney doesn't have a monopoly on fun races. Far from it. There are many other lower-cost options out there to encourage you to keep running, to keep moving and most importantly, keep having fun!!!
Disneyland's Matterhorn at Sunrise
I'm not here to recommend any particular race over another race. I'm not here to discourage you from running a RunDisney race. I'm currently planning on running the Dopey Challenge at Walt Disney World in January 2015. But if you enjoy running and Disney is taking a big bite out of your pocketbook, there are plenty of other races out there for you.
Review of the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon and Tinkerbell Half Marathon by @GoofyRunning
The smaller corrals this year were much nicer but Disney really needs to check the times as many slower runners were in Corrals B, C and D. Much less bottle necking at Walt Disney World vs Tinkerbell.
The race retreat at Walt Disney World was awesome and the food after the full marathon was great. ChEaR squad this year was nice. My wife was fed well and was able to catch me in Magic Kingdom, ESPN and at the Finish line.
Walt Disney World Pasta party was weak compared to the great location at Disneyland. It seems that Walt Disney World is about getting you in and out quickly and it feels like you are being rushed. At Disneyland they take their time and have no issues with you hanging out from beginning to end.
Themed Mile Markers for the Walt Disney World Marathon
Below are the prices for two upcoming Disney races as well as a comparison of the price increases over the past few years.
Running through "beautiful" Anaheim during the Disneyland 1/2 Marathon. They have added classic cars to this portion of the race in recent years.
By Comparison, here are the current prices of some other races being held in various locations. Many races have lower fees the sooner you register and always make sure you check online for discount codes.
(Click on any of the links to be taken to the home pages for each individual race below)
Running across the Golden Gate Bridge during the 2013 San Francisco Marathon
As you can see above, you don't have to break the bank for a race. And as you can see from the pictures below, the fun factor in many of these races is still there.
Awesome 80's 5k in Pasadena
Awesome 80's Pasadena (left) and Costume Party Run San Diego (right)
Costume Party Run 2013
And while you won't be running through any Disney parks, running on Hollywood Blvd, through the streets of LA, Chicago, San Francisco, San Diego or Washington DC isn't too bad.
So let's break down the value of these races a bit.
Let's take the upcoming 2013 Disneyland Half Marathon which costs $195.
For that $195 you get entry to the race, a medal, pre and post-race snacks, a tech-shirt, on-course entertainment/water and a goodie bag.
Next, let's take a look at the upcoming 2013 Los Angeles Marathon which currently costs $180.
For that $180 you get entry to the race, a medal, pre and post race snacks, a tech-shirt, on-course entertainment/water and a goodie bag.
I know what you are thinking ... "But we don't get to run through Disneyland and DCA during the other race". You are absolutely correct, and Disney knows this.
Let's look at some other factors that are included in every race:
Disneyland's Expo is located on Disney property, the only cost they would be incurring for that weekend is whatever events would rent out their expo center for that weekend.
The LA Marathon Expo is at the LA Convention Center. I'm sure they get a deal but I don't think there could be any argument that the cost to rent out the LA Convention Center far outweighs the cost Disney would lose by not renting out their Expo center.
Walt Disney World Marathon Expo
As already mentioned, it is hard to compare to running through any of the Disney Parks. But when you look at the course for the Disneyland 1/2 Marathon only about 3 to 3 1/2 miles is actually run inside the parks or backstage at the parks. There is also approximately a mile run on the parking lots of Honda Center, Anaheim Stadium and a path on Santa Ana River. So let's be generous and say 9 miles run on the streets of Anaheim. With the course you would have to factor in the manpower of police and parking enforcement to close those 9 miles of road.
For the LA Marathon there is approximately 24 miles run on the streets of Los Angeles. The first 1/4 mile is on the parking lot of Dodger Stadium and there is a little more than a mile run through the Veterans Administration. For most of the race you are running on major Los Angeles streets like Sunset, Hollywood Blvd and San Vicente Blvd. So once you factor in the manpower of police and parking enforcement to close 24 miles of road through a major city, you can really see where that $180 is going.
Running on Hollywood Blvd
Sadly, it's becoming less evident to see where the $195 for the Disneyland 1/2 Marathon is going other than in the back-pocket of the mouse.
Running on Harbor Blvd after exiting Disneyland
If you've never run a Disney race I would not ever discourage you from doing so. For a Disney fan who also loves to run it's pretty much the holy grail of races. I'm seeing a lot of runners doing it as a "Bucket List" thing and being 1 and done. That's my feeling on the Dopey Challenge for 2015. I'm going to likely be sacrificing about 8-10 other races I'd do throughout 2015 just to run the Dopey and a Disneyland race so I can get the "Coast to Coast" medal.
So whether you are new to running or have been running for awhile and you want to try a Disney race ... I say go for it. But don't get discouraged by the soaring prices. Know that there are other races out there, wherever you live.
Backstage fun at Disney California Adventure
I tend to pick races that have some cool place or city to run through (whether it's Dodger Stadium, Angel Stadium, San Francisco, Hollywood) or some kind of theme (Costume Party Run, Awesome 80's Run). It's always more fun to run places you've never been vs where you run every day.
No matter what the race is, the sense of accomplishment you feel when its over is the same.
After the Disneyland Half marathon 2010 (left) and after the LA Marathon 2013 (right)
It's also important to remember that most races (Disney included) do have a charitable component. Whether it's in the training or a portion of the fees going to individual charities. Get involved, give something back while you are pushing your body to it's limits.
If you'd like more information on any of the races mentioned in this article you can click on the links above. The Disneyland Half Marathon registration is now open. If you'd like to run it this year you'd better register TODAY (Tuesday January 28). The race will likely sell out during it's first day. Registration opens at Noon EST (9am Pacific).
If you have any comments or questions about starting running or running with Disney please, ask away. We are more than happy to help with any questions regarding training plans, registration tips, travel tips, race discounts and more.