Wednesday, May 21, 2014

My Personal Thoughts About runDisney

So, this post is a pretty difficult one to write. For the most part, I have kept my opinions and thoughts about runDisney and their recent changes to myself or shared them with people that are close to me. I haven’t really come out and taken a position one way or another. I’ve played this out in my mind for weeks and came to the conclusion that I owe it not only to myself but I owe it to you to share my thoughts openly and honestly. These are my opinions and this is my space…so I am going to try to frame these thoughts the best that I can.

Before we even dive into this, I am going to provide you all with my runDisney race resume. I am sharing this so you know that I have been doing this for quite some time…so maybe some of my thoughts will have some context against them when I talk about the changes I have seen over the years.

-Disneyland Half Marathon 2012
-Wine and Dine Half Marathon 2012
-Walt Disney World Marathon (Goofy Finisher) 2013
-Tinker Bell Half Marathon 2013
-Disneyland Half Marathon (Dumbo Double Dare Finisher) 2013
-Wine and Dine Half Marathon 2013
-Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend (Dopey Challenge Finisher) 2014
-Tinker Bell 10K AND Half Marathon 2014
-Avenger’s Super Heroes Half Marathon 2014 (Coming Soon)
-3X Coast to Coast medal recipient

Ok, now that I have that out of the way let’s get right into this post.

I discovered runDisney by accident. I began running in 2012 and found out that Disney had their own race series. I, being the huge Disney fanatic that I am was very excited and signed up for the Disneyland Half Marathon without hesitation. It was my third half marathon and it was A LOT of fun. I am local to Disneyland so travel wasn't an issue and in 2012 I don't remember the course or the expo being too crowded. I had the time of my life. I was moved and inspired and didn't want this to end. Upon returning from vacation to Alaska (on the Disney Cruise Line no less...I left the next day haha), I signed up for the Wine and Dine half marathon. Food and wine and running...who says no to that. I went to that event alone. I was fortunate enough to secure a place in the Disney Parks Blog meet up group where I was formally introduced to Team #runDisney. I had been chatting and conversing with many of these people online for a couple months. The group was small, yet welcoming. I continue to keep in touch with A LOT of these folks to this day. After finishing that weekend, I walked away with so many new friends. Again, I didn't want that to end.

I have said it before and I will say it again, runDisney race weekends aren't so much about the's about the people! The people are what make these racecations what they are. Hands down. Period. I like to think of it as a family reunion when we all get together. I mean, we run races that aren't Disney and make it a point to meet up with one another just to say hi and steal hugs. THAT is what makes this special. I hang on to those memories and look forward to creating more both on Disney property and off. 

As of the past year, runDisney has seen some major administrative changes in how they operate. The changes are not subtle and the changes in MY personal opinion are quite disheartening. Let me be perfectly clear. I was a cast member at Disneyland. One of my roles was a guest control/special events cast member. They are part of the team that runDisney leverages for race weekend logistics. So, I understand what it is like to be a cast member and the stress that comes with it. I am not blaming ONE single person for ANYTHING. These are my personal feelings and observations. You have every right to agree or disagree. I also welcome alternative perspectives as well. This is meant to generate conversation, not bash anyone.

Let's talk about what runDisney does VERY well. runDisney knows their audience. One of the reasons they exist is to encourage families to get off the couch and be active together. They do that by holding races at their vacation destinations and hoping all will participate. BRILLIANT. I love that families can run/walk/play together. runDisney is also a great place to run if you are new to running and want to give it a try. I have always found runDisney races to be a safe haven and space for all skill levels. I find for the most part their races and expos are very organized. They have their moments when they aren't so smooth...but so does everyone else. They really leverage their runners in their campaigns. This forms a sense of community and inclusion. I also find they are always on the hunt for continuous improvement. Not every race (Disney or non) is perfect. There is always something that can be done better. I find they address the big things and get them corrected. Jeff Galloway & Tara Gidus are wonderful resources that are warm, open, and available for the participants! I love that so much. The list of what they do well is much longer but these are just some of the things I really do appreciate.'s where it's gonna get dicey. In today's technical age social media presence is important. Lots of us turn to Facebook or Twitter for news and customer service...they miss the mark on this hardcore. I find the accounts go nuts during race weekends and then are pretty quiet there after. New participants have legitimate questions that only runDisney can answer and those vehicles would be a great way to close the gap. I know the staff is limited. I know they have a lot on their plate. But client engagement and loyalty is important. For most inquiries I will direct you to the Team #runDisney blog/forum/Facebook group because they are an amazing resource with seasoned runDisney participants...myself included. I always wondered why they don't have a formal race ambassador program to help with this...then it hit me. Why do they need it? Bloggers like me do the work for free. We recap our experiences and answer questions for free. They don't need to create or leverage a program for that because the need is already addressed. Makes sense to me. Although it would be a nice idea.

The prices are now out of bounds. Yes, we can discuss the "value" you get for the races. Yes, the tech shirts are usually awesome (and have improved drastically in both design and materials that are used), yes the medals are usually awesome (I'll come back to this), and the on course entertainment is usually spot on. I still have a hard time justifying $195 for a half marathon. Some high profile marathons don't cost that much. When you factor in travel, housing accommodations, food, and swag at the adds up. Fast. Especially for someone coming from Southern California to Orlando. Now, no one is forcing any of us to make these commitments and sign up and everyone has an individual circumstance. For me, I've done these races find a better value in using those available funds to explore and experience other races. It's not cost effective for me to repeat these races at the high price point...that continues to climb. That's just me.

I was REAL disappointed with the 2015 Goofy medal. Why? Because it looks EXACTLY like the ING Miami Marathon medal from 2012!!!!!!! The only thing missing were the palm trees. I am all for leveraging ideas for inspiration and such but this is THE WALT DISNEY COMPANY! You are known for creativity, innovation, and for using your imaginations to bring ideas, concepts, and stories to life. You bombed that one guys...sorry 'bout it. Normally the medals are breathtaking. I have some that just make me say WOW that rocks to this day! Even the 2014 Goofy medal is stellar! The Marathon medal this year as simple as it is, still has charm and appeal. I don't know what happened, but I want to see that flare come back. Racing isn't all about medals...but having one that you can fall in love with is always nice. Now, everyone has the same taste in design so this opinion is completely most of this post but you get what I mean.

runDisney has realized it is officially a cash cow. They sell out races in record times at high prices (which is their prerogative), the merchandise isn't the cheapest (and sells out quickly), New Balance shoes are a hot item (I waited for my pair), and everyone wants to sign up for what's next. Why wouldn't they as a business play to these strengths? And they do. And why shouldn't they? It's about the bottom line at the end of the day. A business exists to make a profit. And they have found new and "creative" ways to do that. Introducing new challenges for one (Dopey, Glass Slipper, whatever is going on on Castaway Cay).

For me, it's exhausting to go to these events. I literally need a vacation after the racecation. Dopey about killed me. The mileage wasn't the issue. It was the constant 3 am wake up calls, hardly any park time, and early bed times. It starts messing with your head. I hung out and met old and new friends that weekend and I will forever be grateful for that, but it's just too much mental stress for me. I love the concept of runDisney, but I think since they have made their changes they primarily focus on the bottom line instead of the runner. The runner will always be there because let's face it...y'all are still stalking the website and social media grasping at those registration dates and links. The demand is there. I don't see that changing. This post isn't trying to steer you away, do what you love! I am here sharing my perspective because I have seen a shift and it makes me sad.

Wine and Dine will always be my favorite event, and I plan on returning to that in 2015. This isn't goodbye by any means, but this is I need to reduce my participation. runDisney has give me SO SO SOOOO MUCH!!!! Memories, friends, and magic. I want that to continue and I wish all participants find the same happiness that I have been fortunate enough to experience in their own races and trips.

This has been on my spirit for a while. So there it is. Now you know. It's not the bubbly funny post that you usually get from me, but it is honest and from my heart. And it's taken me some time to get here and put it down on paper screen. Whew. It sure isn't what it used to be...and sadly it's pretty obvious.


  1. My first runDisney race was Princess 2009. I want to say there was about 15,000 runners in the half that year. It was my first half ever and the race that got me hooked. I have done Tink, Disneyland, Marathon, and Wine and Dine as well. Princess and Wine and Dine are my only multiple repeats. The past few years Princess has gotten out of control. I think there were close to 25,000 people this year and it was awful. I run that race with my mom so we do a walk/run and stick in the back. People were shoving each other because there was just no room to move.
    I am registered for Wine and Dine this year as well but mainly because I was already planning a trip for that weekend. The cost of these races are pretty high and I totally agree with you. The shirts are great, medals are great and the course entertainment is awesome BUT I can pay way less than that and still get all that (aside from characters) and a jam packed goodie bag for a local race.
    I love Disney (I got married there!) and will be back for runDisney races but there are a ton of other races I want to do as well

  2. Thanks for sharing this. I value you opinion. I love love racecations because I can take my family to places we would otherwise might not go to. I did tinkerbell in 2013 and loved it. Like you described, the event, the people, the environment...all of it was awesome. My family got to go to disneyland and enjoy themselves. But yeah, it costed an arm and a leg for us. And like you said, no one held a gun to my head. This year, I did not do Tinkerbell, but did Surf City. It was still a racecation and my family still got to go to disneyland. Much cheaper this time around and I still enjoyed the event, the people and the environment. I feel for ya man... I hope good things come out of this post. Thanks for sharing Linz. Stay fierce!

  3. I think your medal critique is spot on and completely true (Google "ING 2012 Miami") BUT, I think it's completely petty undermines the intent of your piece just a bit.

    I think the "race ambassador" idea is excellent. The idea that bloggers are doing the job for free is a bit off. There are exponentially more general Disney bloggers, but if you tweet @disneylandtoday, you almost always get an answer.

    On ALL other points, I wholeheartedly AGREE with you. My whole family is going down in Jan and we're all running event. My credit card melted at that purchase. The whole registration was very stressful. I read what you all were saying about Dopey and so I went Goofy for the Anniversary for that reason. The cost and stress might make this our last for a while. Agree, #TrD is awesome too!

    Thanks for writing this; I could tell it was difficult for you to write. I've always enjoy interacting with you. Keep running and keep blogging!

    Andy Guinigundo @AttractionsOOTL

  4. Great post, thanks for sharing. It’s awesome to see even the most seasoned runDisney runners are realistic when it comes to these kinds of opinions. Let’s face it, runDisney events are fun and amazing and like none other but under neath it all we’re all just regular people and all the hoopla, cost, travel etc. doesn’t always make sense. Thanks again.

  5. It's definitely been the last couple years. The merchandise is hyped like Beanie Babies were, I don't want to spend time at the expo, and this year my family just didn't have fun during the races. Park time was still fun and we were there with great friends, but if we aren't having fun during the race, why do it?

  6. The price is the main reason I don't run then anymore, with the exception of Tink, since I'm a legacy runner. And honestly, that may change. It's hard to justify a race that costs 3x as much as a local race. And yes, I have travel expenses on top of entry.

  7. Wine and Dine 2013 was my first half marathon (I've done two more since), and WDW Marathon 2014 was my first full (my second will be Chicago this October)...and I absolutely love that I chose these two events as my respective firsts. Having grown up as a Disney kid, spending a lot of time at Disney with my wife before we even had our own child, and now spending time at Disney a few times a year with my wife and daughter (we're Floridians), these two races were the ideal venues to run my first half and my first full.

    That said, we're going to Disney next weekend, and I can't tell you how happy I am that we're just going to race, no worrying about getting the right rest and nutrition, no worrying about staying up too late for fireworks, no 2:30am wake up calls. Just fun at the Disney parks and resort for a weekend.

    After running the full in January, which was a really positive experience (I mean, how many first full marathons does one run?), I really thought that I was going to either sign up for Goofy for 2015 or at least do the full again; however, after running a couple of halfs since January and after getting through the lottery and getting into the Chicago Marathon in October, I decided that I wasn't going to run Disney again for a little timeline right now...I'd rather run a couple of the marathon majors and other big city marathons and take my wife and daughter to those races. We'll still go to Disney (like next weekend), but it'll be to ride Everest and Thunder Mountain (and not during a race).

    One last point...the money. I've already purchased my tickets for Chicago and reserved my hotel in downtown Chicago. At the end of it all, I will actually spend about the same amount of money taking my wife and daughter via plane to the windy city for four nights for that marathon than I spent to take them 140 miles to Disney for marathon weekend (and we stayed at a moderate resort - although it was for five nights)...and I am not counting the park tickets because we're annual pass holders.

  8. You know my stance homie - I am an AP holder and LOVE Disney, but with races, no. I can't. I can't spend $200 on just race entry for a half marathon where I don't get a ton of swag or benefits or know the money is going to charity - it's just too much. #TeamTooMuch

  9. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. You have a lot of valid points. It is getting SO expensive and it is getting harder to justify the cost with each new year (and price increases) – especially when you factor in cost for air fare, hotel, food, and park tickets.

    I'm finding myself completely stressed out on registration days, scared that I won't secure a spot for the race (which seems so silly when I type it). Unfortunately, I don't think much will change. The demand keeps rising, which means the prices (and stress on registration day) will, too. I do love runDisney, and hope to complete each race at least once, but I certainly can't afford to hit them all up every year. It becomes a 'what's the best way to spend my money' as well as 'how can I get the most bang for my buck?'.

  10. I love this. I've always look up to you and others like you (Heather, Krissy, Matt, Marcia) who to me are the runDisney Twitteratti, never mind exceptional runners and all around good people. I loved seeing your tweets, pics, and posts around race weekends. When I grew up I waned to be just like y'all! It hurts my heart that so many people that I admire and respect are disheartened because it only reinforces what I already knew and felt about how runDisney was approaching -- or not approaching however you look at it :) -- runners dollar signs rather than people.

    That said, I could not agree more that the real lesson is that running, whether at Disney or at the local $10 5K truly IS about the people. And I think, in large part, we have Disney to thank for that. They were some of the first to leverage the online power of their super runners, like you, to make running accessible and the big distances approachable. It takes a village was really extended to running through Disney and for that, I will be forever grateful.

    And you know -- getting my pic with you at W&D wouldn't be bad either :)

    1. If you could 'like' comments, I would definitely 'like' this one :) Well said!

  11. This is a really well thought out piece. There are a lot of reasons people runDisney, emotional and otherwise and I feel like these legitimate points of view are often drowned out by the cries of "they're killing the maaaaagic". This is a brand-conducive argument. Well done.

  12. I really appreciate this post. I've been running since 2007 and have had Disney in my sights ever since the beginning. However, as time goes on it seems like it gets farther and farther away due to cost and the inability to get in before it sells out (totally my fault, I know). But, it's to the point where it almost becomes a turn-off and I think to myself, "Do I really want to do a runDisney event?" This is not the first time I've heard the same sentiments from runDisney veterans, so you're definitely not alone. Great post!

  13. So many good points. Although I love Disney races they are so expensive and the 3am wake up call is for the birds! I have run the princess half the last three years and not sure if I will do it again for 2015 since I'm already signed up for the goofy challenge and plan on doing the Disneyland to get the coast to coast.

  14. Unfortunately, your points are right on. Of course, with the races continuing to grow, we can't expect change to happen anytime soon. I began participating in runDisney events in 2009, and runDisney is why Angela started running at all. Therefore, to say I am sad about the changes that have been made, which are pushing us out, is an understatement.

    There are a lot of other great races in fantastic places to enjoy. Boston, for example, which I know you know, was an amazing experience!!! You'll see that NYC is as well. However, runDisney offers something for everyone, which sets it apart. It takes something that seems like fantasy and makes it reality, which is the case of running for many people. Therefore, when I say it offers something for "everyone," I don't just mean all types of runners, but all types of people in general. I won't be so arrogant as to say that can't/hasn't happen(ed) through other types of races or endurance events, but I've never seen anything like what happens through runDisney. Part of the reason is that the events are so much fun. The other part, which is typical Disney, is that it makes you believe that there is more to you than you believe or think, which pushes you to levels you never considered possible, and certainly not enjoyable. However, runDisney makes running both possible & enjoyable for so many people. So much so, that it almost acts like a drug. I just hope we can free ourselves from the drug before it kills us financially... ;)

  15. Fantastic write up Linzie! My boys (both adults now) never had an interest in Disney other than an occasional movie. That, and the fact that we never lived close enough to a park to make a vacation affordable, we have never been. I've seen a lot of friends do the Disney runs, and they always look like a lot of fun, but I personally could never justify the cost - of the race or the travel. I agree with your points about the level of effort put into the races, social media, etc. considering the size and pull that Disney has. For that cost, the experience should not even be comparable to other races.

    Jami @FitSano

  16. Excellent post. You have spoken for the masses, including me. I stumbled upon your post through a friend earlier when I made a similar post on my displeasure with RunDisney. Thanks for elaborating far more than I did. You can check my post out at

  17. Very balanced post of pros and cons. We had a great run (pardon the pun) with runDisney over the years. Malinda's last race was 2013 Princess Half (our Sister/Sister Team win!) and Leah raced Dopey solo. We are now focused on enjoying local races for good causes. We hope to run Boston together as soon as Malinda catches up to Leah! :-)

  18. Yes, yes, yes, and yes! Remember when this was a hot topic a few months ago? Seems like we're all still thinking about. I'll be curious to see how many of those "I'm not going to spend money on runDisney anymore" peeps just got sucked back into the moneybags vortex when Star Wars was announced. I for one, am still debating if my first full will be rD or elsewhere, or if I'll EVER get that C2C medal. One thing is for sure - it just doesn't seem to be as important as it used to be, and THAT is sad. I'm sure I'll be back for future Wine and Dines, as that will always be my fave, but beyond that, who knows? And I'm totally fine with it. That is until my rD addiction starts getting the best of me. Again. (heavy sigh) :)