For the first three decades of my life I hated running. I played sports like volleyball, softball and water polo through high school and college and hated every lap I ever had to run for conditioning.
There was just something so boring about being by yourself and running to nowhere. Plus every runner I had ever seen looked like they were miserable and in pain when they ran.
Then last year I discovered RunDisney
Wait… there’s costumes?!?! And everyone looks like they’re having a blast?!?! This can’t be running!
I first discovered RunDisney while I was visiting Walt Disney World on a random Monday in January 2020 and saw heaps of people wearing medals around their necks at the parks. On a bus from Magic Kingdom to Hollywood Studios I overheard two families all wearing green Dopey tech shirts talking about how they were all exhausted but still riding the high of the past weekend’s “Dopey Challenge.”
This all seemed like a foreign language to me. What was I missing?!?
Finally in the single riders’ line for Millennium Falcoln: Smugglers’ Run I asked the man next to me in line what was going on. This cheerful guy was taking a break from the Minnesota snow to run a marathon in sunny South Florida and was happy to explain the concept of RunDisney races to me while we waited.
As I listened to his description of his marathon–a little running, a lot of laughing, stopping at the margarita stand in Epcot and taking photos with tons of characters along the way–I was intrigued. Yes, RunDisney involved running. But not the repetitive, boring, lonely running I had always imagined!
(He also explained what the “Dopey Runners” had been talking about: the Dopey challenge is a 5k, 10k, Half Marathon and Full Marathon run on consecutive days over the course of one weekend: that’s 48.6 miles in one weekend!
“Ok, that’s a level of crazy I’ll never ever reach,” I laughed to myself.
I encountered another crowd of runners at the Princess Half Marathon Weekend a few months later. I even went to the Princess Expo at the Wide World of Sports Complex to snag the exclusive Spirit Jersey and see what the fuss was about. I think I was the only person there who wasn’t wearing running attire, was hilarious when it came time for photos at the expo!
So, when COVID-19 shut down my usual gym and aerials studios just a few months later, I remembered how much fun the RunDisney crowd seemed to enjoy their races. And since running was pretty much the only form of exercise I could think of that a) wouldn’t spread COVID and b) wouldn’t anger my downstairs neighbors, I impulsively registered for the Princess Half Marathon in 2021.
I decided to run the half marathon as a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society – they have race bibs to give to people who fundraise at least $1000 to help fight cancer, and I felt good knowing that I wasn’t paying Disney to run but rather raising money to support cancer research and education.
And even though all of the races since March of last year (including the Princess Half Marathon that I’m running this weekend) have transitioned to being virtual races, I have gotten so much more out of the experience than I ever imagined sitting on that bus a year ago!
I won’t bore you with the sweaty training part of my journey… but here are the top things I’ve gained from almost a year in the RunDisney community:
An Excuse for More Costumes!
Running fashion is, in general, pretty bleak. There’s a lot of spandex and sweat-wicking fabrics. And when I attended my first “normal” race late last year I discovered that there are some weird expectations about what kind of runners wear a shirt vs. a sports bra.
Fortunately, RunDisney has way, way more fun with outfits! Elaborate Disney costumes are practically dress code at races. And if you’re running with a group you have so many options for group costumes!
The race weekends are generally themed: the Fab Five for Marathon Weekend in January, various princesses for Princess Weekend in February, Star Wars characters for the Rival Runs in April, and Disney villains for Wine and Dine Weekend in the fall.
Even when they’re training at home RunDisney racers tend to wear 1000% more sparkles than your average jogger. Sparkle Athletics and Crowned Athletics are two super-popular brands that make subtly-Disney workout gear that you can wear to make your everyday training a bit more magical!
And don’t forget your Minnie Ears! It can be a challenge to run in most ears (especially for the longer distances) but I recently reviewed a Minnie Ears Visor that is perfect for RunDisney races!
No matter how “extra” you want to get with your fashion, RunDisney is a great excuse to dress up and sparkle!
Endurance I Didn’t Know I Had
Remember when I said I would never be trying the Dopey Challenge?
Well, exactly one year later, I completed my first Dopey!
It was all run virtually, of course. And I didn’t train to run the entire marathon so I walked the second half of it at the Magic Kingdom. But I had so much fun DisneyBounding the different race characters and pushing myself farther than I had ever thought possible!
I would never have thought to even try this challenge without the encouragement of my new RunDisney family:
The RunPrincess Family
The best part of being a RunDisney runner is the communities that have sprung up around the races. There are groups of people who cheer each-other on year-round and who build friendships that go way beyond race weekend.
There are tons of groups out there, some regional with local meet-ups and some national/international groups of people who never meet or only see each other at RunDisney races. Most have an Instagram presence, and that’s how I stumbled across The RunPrincess Family!
This group holds running challenges, hosts meetups at races, and cheers each other on every single day! There’s nothing more motivating than knowing a bunch of other princesses are out there rooting for you. And if you have weird running questions they’re there for you too!
There’s tons of other RunDisney groups out there and I’d love to help you find one to join if you’re interested!
And even though we were all disappointed that this year’s Princess Half Marathon Weekend (February 18-21) is virtual, we’re still finding ways to (safely) show our support for each other and run separately around Disney World this weekend!
Make sure you follow us on Instagram and Facebook so that you can see how we’re making this virtual race magical (and to see what my costumes are going to be, obviously!)
Have you ever attended a RunDisney race? Do you want to give it a try? Let us know here, on Instagram and Facebook (@fashionearsta) and our brand new YouTube channel! Be sure to follow us so that you’re always in the loop and can follow along with our adventures!
Pixie dust and glamour!
The Fancy Floridian