It’s no surprise that runDisney has become a quickly booming race series over the past few years, with events selling out a good 9 months in advance and almost a theme for everyone. When one starts to look at running Disney, the first question that comes to mind is whether you should start looking at Walt Disney World or Disneyland?
While geographical location will greatly influence your decision, there are some key points to see which one works for you:
Do you want to run a full marathon or a half?
If it’s a full marathon you’re after, then you’ll have to look towards Walt Disney World and the Marathon Weekend in January as this is the only weekend on the runDisney calendar that includes the 42.2km/26.1 mile distance as well as the other distances and two challenges. All other weekends incorporate the Half Marathon, 10K & 5K. WDW Marathon Weekend does not host a Half/10K challenge.
WDW by far has more expo space, thus a larger expo. Technically spread out to 3 buildings, I felt that there was less of a “discount/deal” feel to the expo that you get at Disneyland, unless it’s because WDW Marathon Weekend is at the beginning of the year.
Disneyland is reduced to the Disneyland Hotel Convention Centre – with bib pickup underneath. It’s smaller and much friendlier in the way of finding things – and I feel that the official merchandise lines are organised much better.
Race morning (AKA – Getting up early)
Sorry WDW, but Disneyland has this one by epic proportions. The start line is walkable from any of the Disneyland Resort area hotels, so there’s no need to get up at 3am to jump on a bus. Also with the start line not too far from Downtown Disney, there’s plenty of businesses open for an early morning pre-race feed/beverage as well!
Disneyland is somewhat limited with it’s race starts thanks to it’s location within residential suburbs, so WDW wins on this one. Each corral is sent off with a mini-fireworks display that rivals a suburban NYE celebration.
I feel that WDW has the edge slightly over Disneyland on this one, if anything the characters are spaced out more than on the West Coast. All races are run on WDW property, thus allowing character stops to be placed on the side of the road which breaks up that journey, while Disneyland and California Adventure are the only locations (and the first 6/7km) of the run where the characters can be located.
With the exception of the full marathon (because in the later stages the parks are open), I feel that Disneyland has this one hands down. Where they miss out on characters in the latter part of the course, they make up with on street entertainment and local support. Where else can you find a mile of classic cars or the 501st legion out decked in their best Star Wars attire? You can also be comfortable taking candy (or wet sponges) from strangers and there’s no other feeling like running into Angel’s Stadium with the scouts cheering you on!
I’ve ran three events at Disneyland and while it was an awesome feeling standing in those corrals, you didn’t get the sense of grandeur that you do at WDW. Perhaps it’s the mile walk out to the corrals from the family and friends area, or the sheer number of people but the events at WDW make you stand back and think WOW! And it brings it home when you’re out running and you can hear the fireworks going off for the later corrals as you’re making your way towards the Magic Kingdom.
So this is debatable but I feel that you get more park time at Disneyland than you do at WDW, or at least you are running down the iconic Main Street or through the Castle on the 5K/10K whereas at WDW you are running around EPCOT during these shorter events. While I loved running around the World Showcase on both the 5K and 10K mornings, there really is something special running through the iconic park that Walt Disney built.
Ok, so I started welling up as I passed the gospel choir and turned the corner to see the finish line at the WDW Marathon. It’s such an incredible sight to see, with the crowd of supporters on both sides and the massive finish line structure with the Weekend graphic on the ground. You can’t really compare either of them because the feeling of finishing a race is so epic, and it comes down to the emotion of the event but points to WDW since they have the space to make the finish line a little bigger than the folks over at Disneyland.
So there you have it. I know everyone has their favourites but to be honest I like both parks for different reasons. Disneyland was the first runDisney event I participated in and I love the feel of the smaller, yet still magical race and WDW was incredible on an EPIC level!
Do you have a favourite park, or runDisney event to run in?