Updated: Jun 14, 2019
What do you think of when you imagine a trip to the Vacation Kingdom? Exciting attractions and shows, sure, but I bet most of us think about the great food an awful lot. You can go with the simple, like a hot dog from Casey’s or a Mickey ice cream bar, or you can spend a night at Le Cellier, gorging on steak and poutine. Regardless of your preference, food is a big part of your trip.
A question for the brave: have you ever weighed yourself before and after your trip?
Ooh! That’s a challenge, all right.
But thanks to my love for Disney, my family has developed a surprisingly healthy habit: running!
Back in the late aughts, my sister was getting into running. She completed a couple half marathons, then a full marathon, then a triathlon. We were all so jealous! She made running look so effortless while I was panting from a walk across the street. Occasional runs never really developed into a habit, though, until Disney gave us a reason.
Enter the Tower of Terror Ten-Miler! A challenge from a family friend led to four of us enrolling in what seemed like the most expensive race ever. Not only were we paying race fees, we decided to roll in a Disney World trip on top of it. Once those fees were paid, it was only a matter of time. With a real deadline to consider, we set about training. Hard!
Weight was lost. Boundaries were pressed and broken. But we were determined to meet this new challenge. I came up with crazy hydration needs like carrying four water bottles on a “long” run until I was so weighed down by water weight on one run that I almost didn’t make it to the finish. But in the end, my whole extended family converged on a rustic cabin at Fort Wilderness come October.
First off, this was a giant success for my family. This was the second trip to WDW we made post marriages and children and it was put together with almost no planning. My wife and I were staying a few extra days at Saratoga Springs so we could attend one of the Halloween parties, marking the first time we hopped resorts on a trip. We also convinced everyone to stay on-property for the first time. Gone would be the days of renting cars and paying to park in a giant lot!
A ten-mile race starting late at night was an odd proposition for all of us, even the seasoned runners. We arrived at the ESPN complex, unsure of where we were, where we were headed, and how we would get back to our cabin when it was all done. Despite this, we had a great race, shuffling through the darkness with thousands of other people. At the end, our first taste of the glory of a banana and the runDisney staple box of salty treats. All within the confines of a Hollywood Studios nearly devoid of guests, but teeming with sweaty, excited run folk.
Sure, my wife got stress fractures in both her feet. And sure, we were staying at a resort that didn’t have direct bus access from the races. Live and learn, right?
That first taste of a runDisney event presaged a dive into all things Disney. My wife and I visited Disneyland for the first time not long after, all in pursuit of the coveted Coast-to-Coast medal. I started reading into the histories of the Parks on both coasts and found myself devoting less time to beer podcasts and more to Disney ones. We found a reason to buy our first Annual Passes not much later. And through it all, the running. Always, the running.
It’s true that we have not always kept up with that habit, but an impending race always forced us to dive back in. We knew the drill and we knew what a race without training would do to us (because we tried that out a time or two). Disney races became a reason to stay in shape rather than get in shape. The camaraderie between runners was evident in the days following a run. You’d see fellow runners in the Parks wearing a shirt or their medal and you’d share a grin and a nod. Yep! We survived it too! We made friends due to those shared experiences and hope that we continue to make more.
And through it all, the running.
It’s been “only” five years, but we have so many races behind us. Disney has made us healthier people. How many park guests can say that? Well, other than the few thousand folks who run each of these things.
If you’re ready to embrace your Beast mode, contact one of our talented and exceptional travel planners at ConciEARS. There’s another race coming soon I bet, and our planners are great at crafting an experience you won’t forget. From picking up your race packet, to the pre-dawn race morning, to the celebratory feast at your resort later that evening, a ConciEARS planner is ready to assist you.