I Ran runDisney Virtually This Year . . . and LOVED It!

So many beloved athletic events have had to change in order to implement COVID restrictions — but don’t let these changes stop you from participating!

I’ll never forget the first time I learned about runDisney. We had just arrived in Orlando and were aboard the Magical Express, making our way to our hotel, when I saw the signs down the side of the highway warning about traffic and road closures for the “Princess Half Marathon Weekend”. The idea that you could run a race IN DisneyWorld filled me with more joy and excitement than you can imagine. 

As soon as we got home from our trip, I began to research these magical races and figure out how I could participate.

It was a few years more (while I recovered from a brain tumour surgery and regained my physical fitness) before I took the leap and signed up for my very first event — the Tinkerbell 10K in Disneyland. While I journeyed to DisneyLand with my family, I was the only one who was going to be running. I will admit, I was a bit nervous, heading to the starting line all by myself. But as I slowly made my way from my hotel to the corrals, I was stunned by the sheer number of people running — and the COSTUMES they were wearing! There was so much to look at that I was kind of glad I was by myself so I could take my time and really look around and soak in the atmosphere.

As the race began and the course took us through backstage areas that guests wouldn’t normally get to see, and then past some amazing scenery (running through Cars Land as the sun rose is something I will never forget), all the while being able to stop and take photos with characters along the way, I was hooked!

Next up was my first Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend. This time, I ran with a friend, and we only ran the 1/2 marathon portion. Again, I was blown away by the costumes that everyone was wearing and amazing scenery and characters that we got to see was we ran. But as I crossed the finish line and made my way to the spectator stands to meet my family, I realized that some people were receiving an extra medal! That’s right — for running both the 10K and the 1/2, you also received a Fairy Tale Challenge medal.

The only obvious thing to do was to sign up for the Fairy Tale Challenge the following year. And then, the year after, the 5K as well as the Fairy Tale Challenge. I completed all 3 races in February of 2020.

And then . . . COVID. 

In 2021, the Princess races went virutal. I was preparing to complete all the runs by myself, sad that I wouldn’t be running around Epcot, or through the Castle, that I wouldn’t get see so many amazing runners in their amazing costumes, and that there would be no character sightings. 

But then it hit me. I was home. With my family. Who had never had a chance to experience the fun of actually running a runDisney race (although they were experts at spectating).

And so we all took on the challenge. For the kids, it meant breaking the race up into smaller, achievable distances. But for the Husband and I, it meant powering through the full distances in one go. We cheered each other on, and celebrated our big finishes with a special Disney-themed dinner, while watching our favourite Disney shows.

A few weeks later, the medals arrived in the mail — the kids were so proud to receive tangible evidence of their accomplishment. And to commemorate the achievement, I purchased a medal hanger to display all our new hardware!

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From this, a new family COVID tradition was born.

We completed the Wine and Dine Challenge in the fall, the Dopey Challenge this month, and we’re looking forward to the Princess Weekend next month, and the Springtime Surprise Weekend in April.

To be clear, running these events at home is no where near as fun as being in Disney. But running these events, with my whole family, being able to cheer each other on, and share in the excitement of finishing, is certainly something wonderful! And this is why I’m loving these virtual races this year!

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