I started running in January of 2010 as a way to lose weight. Shortly after, some friends talked me into doing my first 1/2 Marathon, the 2010 Disneyland Half Marathon. At a cost of $125 it was a big commitment, one that I felt the need to be prepared for. Over the next 9 months I began a training program that would completely change my life.

Since that first race in September of 2010, I have run 2 additional Disneyland 1/2 Marathons, the Inaugural Tinkerbell Half Marathon, 2 Los Angeles Marathons and 9 other Half Marathons. These events have ranged from large corporate races (Rock N Roll Series), non-corporate Races (Hollywood 1/2 Marathon, New Years Race Los Angeles) and smaller Local Races.

This article is to give a comparison of different types of races and is in no way a promotion for any particular race or race series. The sole purpose is to help you decide if a Disney or Non-Disney race is right for you and if the fees Disney charges for races is worth it compared to other running events. For the purposes of this article we will be comparing three races I’ve had the privilege to run; the Disneyland 1/2 Marathon, The Asics Los Angeles Marathon and the Hollywood Half Marathon.

*Note: The pictures of the Los Angeles Marathon were taken during the 2012 event

For any fan of Disney and Disneyland who also happens to enjoy running, the Disneyland 1/2 Marathon is a no brainer. Below is a picture from the start of the 2012 Disneyland Half Marathon.

However, in the last few years, the fees for the Disneyland races have increased at an extraordinary rate. What cost $125 in 2010 now costs $175 for the 2013 race. By comparison, the Los Angeles Marathon that goes through the cities of Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Santa Monica costs $145. The Hollywood Half Marathon that travels down Hollywood Blvd and Sunset Blvd has various fees starting at $50 and increasing to $100 depending on when you register.

The Los Angeles Marathon begins at Dodger Stadium

When looking at the Disneyland Half Marathon the obvious advantage it has over most other races is running through Disneyland, Disney California Adventure and Angel Stadium. However, when one looks at the course map for the 2012 race only about 2 1/2 miles are actually in or backstage at the parks.

Running through the parks is a tremendous experience

Parade floats backstage

Cars Land at 6am

Running under the train tunnel backstage at Disneyland

Stopping to take pictures with the characters is also a highlight

Matterhorn at Sunrise

However, once you leave Disneyland most of the race is on the streets of Anaheim.

Entering the back-side of Honda Center on your way to Angel Stadium

Running through Angel Stadium is another highlight of the Disneyland Half Marathon

By Comparison, other than the first 1/4 mile, the entirety of the The Los Angeles Marathon is run on city streets. However the race features many historical landmarks for you to enjoy.

Leaving Dodger Stadium after the start of the Los Angeles Marathon


Los Angeles City Hall

One thing most races share are amazing spectators with even more amazing signs

Both the Los Angeles Marathon and Hollywood Half Marathon allow you to run along the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame

Rodeo Drive is another highlight

And finally down to Santa Monica

So now the question must be asked, is the Disneyland Half Marathon worth the cost? Is any race worth the cost for that matter? That is for each person to decide. It’s important to remember that all of these races make money, it’s also important to remember that most races (Disney included) have some kind of charitable component. So you can always feel good knowing that you are supporting a worthy cause.

The Hollywood Half Marathon proudly supports the Los Angeles Youth Network and has already raised almost $50k for worthy causes.

The course map for the upcoming Hollywood Half Marathon

The other thing to consider is logistics. When you factor in the Disney races, their pre-race Expo is on Disney property, the portions of the race on Disney property do not require any police to close streets or any city clean up crews to clean up after.

In the case of the Los Angeles Marathon they must rent space at the Convention Center, it requires police to close 26.2 miles of major streets from Dodger Stadium to Santa Monica and the clean up crews afterwards. Not to mention cups, water, snacks for that 26.2 miles for 24,000 participants.

And for the Hollywood Half, their expo is at the Universal Hilton and requires street closures of Hollywood Blvd, Sunset and Silver Lake Blvd.

In the case of Los Angeles and the Hollywood Half Marathon you can see where your entrance fees are going. For Disney, due to the increase in price it’s becoming harder to see what the increased fees are going towards given that there haven’t really been any upgrades since my first race in 2010. Also, sadly, in 2012 the post-race snacks took a definite downturn as most race participants would tell you. Instead of the traditional bananas, bagels and other snacks given to you by happy volunteers, finishers were offered a pre-made box of snacks that were left sitting on a table.

One thing that’s universal among races is the joy you feel when you cross the finish line.

After my first Disneyland Half Marathon in 2010

After the 2013 Los Angeles Marathon

In the end, it’s up to each individual person to determine which races are worth it. As a Disney fan I won’t discourage anybody from running a Disney race. But there isn’t as big of a gap between the quality of these races as one might think. There are great local races out there for you to enjoy, great charities for you to support and an entire running community for you to become a part of.

Unfortunately, the 2013 Disneyland Half Marathon sold out completely in it’s first day. Registration for the 2014 Tinkerbell Half Marathon will begin in July. In addition there are more races in Florida including the opportunity to go for the Coast to Coast medal. For more information about Disney races you can check the RunDisney website.

In Florida news, the new Dopey Challenge has been announced. The challenge includes a 5k on Thursday, 10k on Friday, 1/2 Marathon on Saturday and Full Marathon on Sunday. Cost for the challenge is $495 if you register by June 18. You can see all the information on the WDW Marathon Site.

If you are interested in running the 2nd Annual Hollywood Half Marathon, 10k or 5k, registration is still available on the Hollywood Half Marathon website. The event is on April 6 so hurry!!

Have you participated in a great running event? We’d love to hear your stories and advice below.

  • Thank you Gregg. Great article and congratulations on your amazing fitness transformation. I’m almost inspired to get some running shoes. almost. But it would be so cool to run backstage at the resort!

  • Wreckless Abrandon

    I didn’t run last year’s Disneyland Half, but I was told that there is a lot to see even off the resort parts of the course. Like the row of classic cars, live bands, and characters? Or maybe my friends exaggerated?

  • Gregg Condon

    Yes, there are cheerleaders, bands and the classic cars along the course, about every mile or so. Most races have on-course entertainment.

    For example, one of our local races, the Santa to the Sea 1/2 Marathon usually has 3-4 bands along the route and this past year they had a “neighborhood challenge” where all of the neighborhoods we ran through decorated and came out to support all the runners.

    It’s truly an amazing thing to see local communities and schools get involved in all of these races.

  • wedfan

    Gregg – thanks for a great article. I started running for the same reason, back in 2006, the year of the first Disneyland Half Marathon. At the time I figured I would expand to other half marathon events, and eventually run a marathon or two. While that didn’t turn out to be the case, I have looked forward to and participated in all of the Disneyland Half Marathons so far. Disney keeps track of those of us who haven’t missed an event, and we’re designated “Legacy Runners.” The number of legacy runners goes down year by year – in 2012, I believe there were around 1200 Legacy Runners participating.

    I highly recommend the event to anyone who is interested in running – it’s not as difficult as you might think. And, while event registration is closed, there are usually spaces available through one of the charity groups that participate. If you go to the RunDisney website, it should give you links to those organizations. Each one requires you to raise a certain amount of money for their charity, and they train you and help with logistics for the event, which is very helpful. My first two years, I participated on the team of the AIDS Marathon Training Program, which is now called Team To End AIDS, and benefits APLA.

    • Gregg Condon

      Great point wedfan. Thanks

  • mgmenning

    I’m an avid runner and have run dozens of marathons, but I always ALWAYS have the most fun at DIsney races. They are needlessly expensive (supply and demand I suppose) but when you are running 13.1 or 26.2 miles, seeing characters and having “Disney Magic” around every corner makes for a much more fun experience in my opinion. Even though few miles are actually through the parks, it is something fun to look forward to and to mark the otherwise seemingly tedious slog of mile-after-mile.

    I find the general attitude of runners is different at Disney races as well. Instead of the usual hyper focused jittery energy you’d typically expect at a race, you get a more lighthearted happiness.

    For serious runners looking to run a personal best, Disney may not be for you – but if you’re looking to have a great time and want a downright fun race, give it a try.

    • Gregg Condon

      Agreed about “serious runners”. At Disney races you tend to get a lot of first timers and walkers that like to take up the entire course. This happens in all races, but seems more prevalent at Disney.
      I’ve met some really great people at non-Disney races, in fact, I can’t think of any race I’ve done where I haven’t met some people at the start that were fun to talk with.

  • Skimbob

    Disney races are all about Disney. I do races both at home in CA as well as in FL and the Disney bling makes it worth the money. If you plan on getting a PR forget it at a Disney race. We who do it are definately Disney fans. I do lots of other races in Northern CA that are a lot of fun and good excercise but the Disney races will always have a special place in my heart.

  • Malina

    I honestly couldn’t recommend the Hollywood Half to anyone. I did the 5K and I knew a lot of people who ran the half last year, and they had major issues: lack of water on the course, very poor directions, very inconvenient (and expensive) packet pickup, and lack of shuttles that were promised to the runners. I will never do another race by the race director again, and nobody else I knew who did it in 2012 wanted to come back this year, despite offered “legacy” perks and discounts on registration.

    Some other SoCal races to consider instead might include the OC Marathon or the 13.1 that goes through Venice.

    • Gregg Condon

      There were certainly some issues with the Hollywood Half last year, nobody is disputing that, even the race organizers who owned up to them the day after the race. There were lots of “Bandits” last year. (Bandits are people who will run a race without paying for it taking up resources like water, cups, etc).
      After the race there were shuttles from the finish back to universal but spectators were clogging them and not just leaving them for runners.
      This year the course is pretty much a point-to-point course so there shouldn’t be any issues with the shuttles. I’m always willing to give a race another chance if the organizers are passionate and own up to any issues.

      • Malina

        Me too, usually – but I didn’t like the excuses the RD made, and I actually did give them a second chance at their Awesome 80’s race…which had similar issues with a lack of water, a very late start, and the RD blaming everyone but himself for the problems. Having a very snazzy medal (and I will admit, both the star and the cassette tape are cool!) doesn’t make up for all of the things that went wrong that were totally within the RD’s control, IMHO. I’m done with that particular racing company and as I said, I’d never rec them to a friend for that reason.

        If someone else has better mileage with them, it’s all good.

  • Malina

    There’s also the New Year’s Race in Downtown Los Angeles, which has a half, 10K and 5K, and seems to have been a lot of fun this year.

    • Gregg Condon

      I rant he NY race as well. There were a couple of issues there as well but they’ve also addressed them IMO.

      It will be interesting to see if the Hollywood Half is better this weekend. I’m anticipating it will be.

      • Malina

        I didn’t do NYR this year but I’ve signed up for it next year, so I’m hoping it will be fun.

        In regards to the HH, I hope so – I never want to see anyone have a bad race, much less an unsafe one. There’s nothing that can convince me to race with that RD again but I certainly hope others have a better experience, and that the RD truly did learn from last year’s mistakes.