New Disneyland Half Marathon Incites Vehement Response

| April 20, 2011

Tuesday, April 19, runDisney announced the newest race in their endurance series.  The Tinker Bell Half Marathon will debut in Disneyland on Sunday, January 29, 2012.  As September’s Disneyland Half Marathon filled in record time, the new California race will be another option for those looking to run through Walt Disney’s original theme park.  Similar to Walt Disney World’s Princess Half Marathon, the Tinker Bell Half Marathon will celebrate women athletes.  However, Disney’s announcement was not without criticism; many runDisney fans were upset with the way Disney built up hype for the race via their facebook page.  Once the Disneyland race was finally revealed, comments on runDisney’s wall ranged from excited to openly hostile.  Continue after the break for Disney’s video of the race announcement as well as my thoughts on the new race and controversy.  

runDisney began a campaign in late March posting 10 clues via Facebook providing their fans with hints for the new race.  By the time the announcement was made on April 19th, fans were speculating the event would be everything from a runDisney triathalon to a marathon staged at Disneyland Paris.  Personally, I was hoping for a Star Wars themed race during Star Wars Weekend called the “Kessel Run”, but I don’t think the 18 parsec route is suited for running.  [Did I just reveal too much of my own nerdiness?]  Once the race was divulged, some fans were excited about the new option, but there was even more vehement dissatisfaction.  The negativity stemmed from the fact runDisney was offering another woman-centered event, and the January timing of the race was so close to both the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend and the Princess Half Marathon weekend.

A sampling of comments posted on runDisney’s facebook wall:

  • Why are Disney events becoming so sexist??!!
  • Very disappointed.  This race is simply too close to the January races in Orlando and the Princess Half in Orlando. I just don’t see myself ever doing this race.
  • Disneyland did need another race but why another race focusing on women?  Demand for entry is too high for the existing race so why make men feel unwelcome?  Sure they could enter but why would they pay the full entry price for a woman’s sized shirt?  I have been racing for over 20 years and I have never felt unwelcome at any race.  Disney is encouraging an unnecessary divide between men and women race participants.
  • What a waste!  How can you place it so close to both WDW marathon weekend and the Princess 1/2.  What kind of crap is that??

To be fair, positive comments were posted on the wall too…

  • THIS IS FANTASTIC!!!  Good job, runDisney… this looks like a great race and you did a fantastic job of building up to the announcement.  I may put on my Peter Pan outfit and run!

Reading through the hundreds of comments, the negative far outweighed the positive.  This partly has to do with the nature of the internet, and the level of incivility it breeds.  Part of the negativity also has to do with the build up to runDisney’s announcement - letting imaginations soar and run wild.  When the ultimate reveal doesn’t match the expectation – naturally, some people are going to be disappointed.  Finally, some people wanted the new race in Florida, Paris, or anywhere besides California, did not want to see a women’s centered event, and/or did not want another running event in January.  Those people were not going to be happy, regardless.  It is nearly impossible to plan an event that is going to please everyone.

Image: Actress Megyn Price (from “Rules of Engagement” on CBS) along with several women runners don Tinker Bell fairy wings on April 19th to announce the new Tinker Bell Half Marathon in Disneyland to debut January 29, 2012.

Personally, I think the decision makes sense for the new runDisney race.  As Disney noted in its press release, women runners are a rapidly growing segment of the running community.  Many women-centered events currently exist across the country including the Nike Women’s Marathon, 26.2 with Donna: the National Marathon to Fight Breast Cancer, and the previously mentioned Disney’s Princess Half Marathon.  Disney realizes its core market is women.  Therefore, it’s logical for runDisney to sponsor women-centered races in both of its domestic theme parks.  Finally, as a father of two young princesses myself, I’m all for anything that helps promote women’s health.

Image: Tracy McKinney from Hermosa Beach, CA, during the 2010 Disneyland Half Marathon held over Labor Day Weekend.

The other major criticism was in regards to the timing of the Tinker Bell Half Marathon.  People argued it will be too close to the Florida events in early January and late February.  I believe runDisney is trying to do a couple of things placing this new Disneyland race in late January.  Of course, Disney wants to increase occupancy and attendance during a slow time of the year.  September’s Disneyland Half Marathon draws most of their competitors locally, from California.  Therefore, the Tinker Bell Half Marathon is meant to attract and serve a different population of women who would not be traveling out to Florida in January or February.  runDisney is betting they will continue to get strong numbers for the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend events, while encouraging another group of runners to plunk down their money for the Tinker Bell Half Marathon.  Thus, increasing the total number of runners going through some Disney theme park in January.  A potential problem exists if the Tinker Bell Half Marathon draws women away from Disney’s Princess Half Marathon in February.  We’ll have to wait and see whether registration numbers for the Princess Half Marathon decrease with the addition of this new Disneyland race.

So all and all, I think this will turn out to be a good edition to the runDisney offerings, but I’m curious to hear what you think.  Are you excited about this Tinker Bell Half Marathon?  Are you opposed to the idea of another women-centered event?  Were you hoping for something different all together?  Please leave a comment below, and continue the conversation. 

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Category: Disneyland, Editorials

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  • Firedancer

    Hostility is a very good word for what the announcement filled me with. At least I will save a great deal of money since I will no longer run anything put on by RunDisney.

  • wasabi girl

    Although it is obvious that DL needs another event and the Tinkerbell half doesn’t seem so bad, given the hype, I think we all expected more than another half marathon event in January, no matter the theme or location.

  • ETicket34

    I am looking forward to this race. I live on the west coast and can not get out to Florida as often as I would like. I have been hoping for a new opportunity to run at Disneyland during the year as I love the Disneyland Half Marathon weekend so I am thrilled. After running the Wine and Dine half marathon last fall, I was so disappointed that I doubt I will run another race at WDW, so having another opportunity to race at Disneyland on a new course is fantastic.

    I also appreciate that the shirts will be sized for women for once. I have never received a race shirt that I can actually wear as the ones Disney normally gives out are far too big and boxy for me. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a teeny tiny person, but those shirts are huge.

    Ultimately it comes down to the fact that you can’t please all of the people all of the time. I am happy, while others are furious, which is opposite of my experience at the Wine and Dine race. Vote with your pocketbook. If you don’t like it, find it too expensive, sexist, or whatever, don’t sign up for it. If the race has poor attendance, Disney will change it.

  • walkincolleen

    While I understand the let down that the men may be feeling due to the FB hype. On the other hand I believe that the marketing of this new race to women is more a factor of good marketing vs. discrimination. Yesterday too wrote a blog post about this issue.

  • MTKFamily

    I’m not a runner, so I am sure my opinion doesn’t count for too much and I will admit to not knowing the politics and details of any of the events. It does occur to me though that by placing this race in January, so close to the other races, it is creating a designated racing “Season” which some people may actually find helpful. I’m sure it also helps Disney prep for these events simultaniously and therefore give them the attention they deserve.
    But what I am really interested in is people’s reactions to the Florida and California events being so close and only doing one or another. It occurs to me the MOST people in the US would consider it fabulous to make it to ONE of these events, not cross the nation to get to them ALL. By opening another West Coast event it gives the West Coast people easier access to the fun and excitment they can’t make it to on the East Coast…. and it also give all the people in “the middle” the option of which they would like to do and which trip is more cost effective.
    Personally, if I were a runner I would find getting from Washington State to California (as we do every year for our annual Disneyland trip) a LOT easier than crossing the farthest distance you could possibly be from Florida. (Which we do manage once every 3 or so years)
    So to put it bluntly, I have no sympathy for people crying that they “Can’t make it to every event” when there are plenty of people I am sure who would like to make their FIRST event. The world, and Disney, do not bow to your every whine.

    As far as the amping up the event and people thinking it more than it turned out to be, thats kind of funny. I mean I understand the disapointment and it does seem a little anti-climactic, but honestly… so what people, its a race…ENJOY it don’t complain cause its not all you ever wanted and more.
    Baby steps, Disney doesn’t ever release the all the tricks in the bag in fail swoop, you should know that by now.

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