It was just over a year ago that I wouldn’t have dreamed of calling myself a runner – no way, no how. My rear end was planted firmly on that couch, thinking the only reason I’d ever run was to get away from a bear. And even then I figured I might try to see if I could talk my way out of being eaten before trying to run. But then I was challenged to run the 2013 Walt Disney World Half Marathon.
Being a typical guy, I couldn’t back down from a challenge. It took some doing, but eventually this mystical “runner’s high” – combined with a little Disney Pixie Dust and Magic – got me hooked. I did some “warm up” races locally where my wife and kids really got into the spirit and cheered me on. In fact, my kids thought what I was doing was so cool that they wanted to get in on it too. (Shhh…don’t tell them that it’s actually “exercise”). We signed them up for the Kid’s Races – my daughter doing the 800 meters, my son doing the Mickey Mile.
We made it down to Marathon Weekend 2013 and had the best time. The kids did awesome in their runs, and they joined the ChEAR Squad to cheer me on as I ran through Cinderella Castle and again at the finish line just outside of Epcot.
After all of the excitement had faded away and we arrived back home, my wife looked at me and said that she saw everyone having so much fun and getting all this exercise, that she wanted all of us to do the Family Fun Run 5K at the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. So we asked the kids and they got really excited about being able to set this goal as a family, train for it throughout the year, and cross the finish line as a family – the four of us running, and my one year old son coming along in the jogging stroller.
But then runDisney stumbled and fell. After signing us all up using our Disney Vacation Club early-registration perk, I found out that runDisney will not be allowing any strollers in the Family Fun Run 5K. WHAT?
I’d heard that for previous runDisney 5K events, strollers started in the back. I can understand that – they don’t get in the way of any of the competitive runners starting back there. I did a little research and found that at the 2013 Royal Family 5K (Part of the Princess Half Marathon weekend) strollers had to stay behind a pace-setter – making sure they stayed at a walking pace. Hey, at least you’re still walking 3.1 miles, getting the health benefits of that, and still able to spend that time together as a family.
But now, runDisney has crossed over the cautious line with the “Family” Fun Run 5K and gone straight on to ridiculous. Disney has taken the “Family” portion completely out of the event. My daughter will be nine-years-old during the 2014 Marathon Weekend. And like many kids her age, she’s a little heavier than she should be. She’s never been interested in any sports, until she saw everyone running through Walt Disney World in January. Now all she wants to do is train with her family – including her baby brother – to do the same thing.
And it’s not just families with small children that are affected by this decision. Walt Disney World is the destination of choice for thousands of families with disabled children. Walt Disney World prides itself on its accessibility. But now those families that wanted to have quality bonding time doing a fun run are shut out as well.
Disney markets themselves as being all about families. And runDisney markets itself as being all about physical activity. The “Family” Fun Run 5K was a perfect union of those two philosophies. But by banning strollers from what used to be the premier fun run race in the country, runDisney has alienated hundreds, if not thousands, of families of potential runners.
So please runDisney – reconsider this foolish move. Let families participate in the Family Fun Run 5K. We’re not asking to start in the front. We’re not trying to get in anyone’s way that is trying to set a personal best. We’re just asking that we be allowed to encourage our children to be active, and reward them with some quality family time surrounded by Pixie Dust and Magic.