Off to the races! Disney park runs mix fitness, fantasy
By Lisa Richwine
ANAHEIM, California (Reuters) - At 5 a.m. on a Sunday, thousands of people stream down Disneyland Drive dressed in a mix of running gear, homemade costumes and face paint as Captain America, Thor or The Hulk.
It's the first Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon, a 13.1-mile contest that is part of an expanding slate of sold-out races at Walt Disney’s theme parks in California and Florida.
Runners come to Disney races for the chance to dash past Space Mountain or Cinderella Castle, grab high-fives from costumed characters, and show off their fandom.
For Disney, which has become one of the nation's biggest race organizers, the multi-day influx of runners, relatives and friends provides a chance to earn extra cash and help fill theme parks and hotels during slower weekends.
"I love the atmosphere," said Lauren Harrell, 27, after she finished the November super heroes race in a hand-painted T-shirt and foam headpiece as Groot, the human-like tree in Disney’s Marvel Studios film "Guardians of the Galaxy."
"People are cheering you every step of the way. And nobody judges you for dressing in costume," said Harrell, who had a speaker attached to her waist so she could dance and sing to the “Guardians” soundtrack.
What started with one race in 1994 has swelled to 190,000 people registering for the seven Disney race weekends from October 2013 to September 2014. Many races sell out within hours.
This weekend's Walt Disney World Marathon in Orlando, Florida, is the largest race weekend in the country, according to race director Jon Hughes. Continued...