runDisney ChEAR Squad

You’ve registered for the race, trained for months and now you are ready to run!  If you are like the overwhelming majority of runDisney participants, you aren’t traveling alone and you may need to incorporate a spectator plan into your race weekend.

When it comes to runDisney, there is the opportunity to be both a runner and a spectator.  If you have a runner who is participating in Walt Disney World Half Marathon, Walt Disney World Marathon, or the Princess Half Marathon, you may be wondering if a ChEAR Squad package is right for you and more importantly – is it worth the money?

runDisney Chear Squad

Currently, there are two levels of ChEAR Squad packages Walt Disney World Marathon and Princess Half Marathon Weekends.  (In 2016, a ChEAR Squad package was available for Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend – The Dark Side, however the package is no longer on runDisney.com.) Previously, two lower level packages were available, but these have since been discontinued, most likely since they did not offer reserved viewing locations.

ChEAR Squad – GOLD Package

Gold Package includes*:

  • runDisney ChEAR Squad t-shirt, stadium blanket and clapper
  • Reserved ChEAR Zone viewing location near Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom Park (first-come, first-served)
  • Reserved Finish Line ChEAR Zone seating featuring:
    • Reserved grandstand seating (first-come, first-served)
    • Hot and cold beverages
    • Private restrooms

$65 for Walt Disney World Half Marathon, Walt Disney World Marathon or Princess Half Marathon

$85 for BOTH Walt Disney World Half Marathon and Walt Disney World Marathon

The stadium blanket is of high quality, as it rolls up and can be carried via the attached shoulder strap. In the past year, the t-shirt has seen a significant upgrade, as the material is now much softer. The ChEAR Squad logo is prominent on the shirt, and the color of the shirt changes each year. The clappers are cute and fun for the finish line, but may not be so cute or fun for the car ride home with a young child.

In terms of the viewing locations, the area in front of Cinderella Castle can get quite congested. That being said, only a select number of people (those who have purchased the ChEAR Squad package and have the appropriate wristband) are allowed to enter the area. Not only can you spot your runner as they run down Main Street U.S.A., but you can turn around and watch them exit the castle as well.

ChEAR Squad Viewing Area at Cinderella’s Castle

runDisney ChEAR Squad

ChEAR Squad spectators will have also access to private grand-stand viewing area.  These bleachers are located directly in front of the finish line, resulting in the best seats for watching your runner finish. Yes, there are other bleachers available for non-ChEAR Squad spectators, however they are usually extremely crowded and don’t offer the greatest viewing.

Spectator Seating at Finish Line Seating

Spectator Seating

ChEAR Squad Stands

ChEAR Squad Finish Line Stands

ChEAR Squad Finish Line Views

ChEAR Squad Finish Line Views

The above pictures clearly illustrate that in the past, there has been over-abundance of ChEAR Squad paid seating and very limited free spectator seating. In fact, it was even more crowded than the picture shows.

ChEAR Squad – PLATINUM Package

Platinum Package includes*:

  • All of the Gold Package amenities plus…
  • Entry into the Race Retreat** which includes:
    • Private Hospitality tent near the Finish Line including live video feed from the race and access to live runner results
    • Private Restrooms
    • Disney character Meet and Greets
    • Disney catered post-race brunch
    • Designated location to meet your runner and celebrate their accomplishment!*

$120 for Walt Disney World Half Marathon, Walt Disney World Marathon or Princess Half Marathon

$180 for BOTH Walt Disney World Half Marathon and Walt Disney World Marathon

 

Walt Disney World Marathon Race Retreat

The main perk for Platinum over Gold is access to Race Retreat! Race Retreat is a fantastic offering for spectators but this perk may not be worth the cost for everyone.  For example, if you have a faster runner who is doing a half marathon then you won’t utilize Race Retreat to the fullest extent.  Also, you may choose to not include Race Retreat if your runner did not purchase Race Retreat  (for post-race brunch) or if you are going to spend a significant amount of time following your runner on the course.

Race Retreat is great if your runner plans on taking their time on the course, is running the Walt Disney World Marathon or if your small children will be spectating with you (although that will increase the cost). Also, if you have spectators who want to see live video coverage of their runner finishing but may not be able to make it to the stands due to mobility concerns, they can relax in a temperature-controlled environment while watching live video coverage of the finish line on one of the numerous flat screen tv’s that are positioned around Race Retreat.

A hot brunch (sausage, bacon, hash brown potatoes, scrambled eggs, fresh fruit, etc.) is provided along with an extensive hot and cold beverage selection.  Disney characters visit Race Retreat for photo-opportunities as well. The private restrooms are not actually restrooms, but are port-a-potties reserved for Race Retreat which are easily accessible.
Race Retreat Characters

To determine if ChEAR Squad is right for you or your spectators, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you want a race souvenir?  If yes, select Gold or Platinum.
  • Do you want to be at the finish line? Would reserved seating be important?  If yes, select Gold or Platinum.
  • Do you want temperature-controlled environment for spectators?  Live video-feed of finish line?  If yes, select Platinum.
  • Will your runner finish the race quickly?  If yes, consider if Platinum would be worth money.
  • Will your runner be participating in Race Retreat and eat a post-race meal inside Race Retreat?  If yes, select Platinum.
  • Do you have small children that may need a safe place to roam while waiting for a runner to finish?  If yes, select Platinum.  Children under 3 are free!

Before you make your final decision, here is the fine print on the runDisney website regarding ChEAR Squad:

*Reserved seating/viewing locations may vary and are subject to change. Guest must arrive at least 15 minutes prior to scheduled event to ensure reserved seating/viewing — actual location within the reserved seating/viewing areas is on a first-come, first-served basis. Reserved seating/viewing amenity is available for the registered ChEAR Squad member only. Each Guest will need to purchase a package for entry to the designated areas. Runners will not be able to meet their guests inside the reserved Finish Line ChEAR Zone unless the runner has purchased a ChEAR Squad Package.

***Race Retreat will open to friends and family beginning at 5:30 a.m. Runners participating in Half, Full, Goofy or Dopey Challenge must purchase Race Retreat package separately and are subject to availability.

 

Magical Miles Buy Now 2016

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Runner Recovery Sandals

While training for a runDisney race, there may be times where your feet and legs have just had enough. With summer upon us, you may be looking for sandals that will let your toes breathe, while also bringing comfort to your tired legs. Look no further – here are a few favorites!

Recovery Sandals for Runners

Note: The sandals below have been tested from a female perspective, however Oofos have been highly recommended by Megan’s husband.

Oofos

These sandals are described as a recovery sandal for athletes. Made of foam, these sandals are extremely cushioned, which allows them to absorb shock. The arch support is fantastic and the sandal truly cradles your foot. These are also easy to clean, as the sandal is made of the same material throughout. They come in a slide, thong and clog, so there are plenty of options and colors to choose from! Pricing starts at $44.95, but pay attention to their social media platforms for giveaways and discounts.

Recovery Sandals for Runners

Sanuk

The yoga slings are another cushioned sandal that will make your feet happy. The bottom of the sandal mimics a yoga mat, and will return to its shape. While the arch support isn’t as great, the sling wraps around your foot to keep it close to the sandal. The fabric is very soft and comes in a variety of fun colors and prints. Pricing starts at $38, however patterns do go on sale to make room for new colors.

Recovery Sandals for Runners

FitFlop

These sandals are a little more heavy-duty, in that the sole is similar to a sneaker. These have come a long way since their debut, offering various colors and even sequins, buckles and more. While these aren’t as cushioned as the above sandals, they do offer a great amount of support, allowing you to wear them for longer periods of time (after breaking them in, of course). For the thong sandals, pay attention to the upper material, as it can rub between your toes. Pricing starts at $59, but can be found on other websites such as Zappos, Amazon, etc.

 

For all of the sandals above, it is recommended you size up if you are a half size, as these only come in full sizes. Also, Fit2Run Orlando usually has Oofos available at the runDisney Health & Fitness Expos, as well as their store in Disney Springs.

Ultimately, when determining what sandals to wear to aid with recovery, find ones that make your feet feel nice. They shouldn’t rub or cause pain in any way. And don’t forget to throw a pair of sandals in your bag check for a runDisney race, as your feet may be ready to get out of your running shoes after your race!

Magical Miles Buy Now 2016

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runDisney Race Retreat

When registering for a runDisney event, there are many aspects to look at. The first is deciding which race (or races) to sign up for. Then there are commemorative items such as pins and necklaces to consider. Next are the Kids Races for your little runners or ChEAR Squad for your spectators.  The list goes on and on. And for Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend and Princess Half Marathon Weekend, there is an extra special item to consider – Race Retreat.

With a $120 price tag for one event (or $230 for those participating in the Goofy or Dopey Challenge), this isn’t a cheap option, especially when tacked on to race registration, hotel, meals and other travel expenses. So the question remains, what is Race Retreat and is it worth it?

runDisney Race Retreat

Race Retreat is available for the half marathon or full marathon races during Walt Disney World Marathon and Princess Half Marathon Weekends. It is a separate tent in the Family Reunion area, near the finish line, that requires a wristband to enter.

According to the runDisney website, the following is included:

Pre-Race Amenities

  •          Pre-race bagels and fruit, plus coffee, water and Powerade
  •          Temperature-controlled tent with lounges
  •          Private restrooms and bag check
  •          Padded stretching area

Post-Race Amenities

  •          Internet access to check live results
  •          Live video feed of the race
  •          Brunch with hot and cold beverages
  •          Changing tents
  •          Recover Zone including padded stretching area, self-treatment and first aid station
  •          Massages (available for purchase, first-come, first-serve)
  •          Commemorative item, such as socks and/or a towel
  •          Disney character appearances

Race Retreat Package Pricing

  •          Walt Disney World® Marathon – $120
  •          Walt Disney World® Half Marathon – $120
  •          Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge or Dopey Challenge – $230
  •          Disney’s Princess Half Marathon – $120

New in 2017, Race Retreat will also include exclusive early access to the Health and Fitness Expo for Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. From 10-11 AM on the Wednesday of race week, runners with Race Retreat can access the expo before it opens.

Race Retreat opens at 3:00 AM for runners. It is open until 10:00 AM for the half marathon races, and 1:00 PM for the full marathon. Spectators and family members can join in the Race Retreat tent after 5:30 AM, but MUST purchase the Platinum ChEAR Squad package to enter.

runDisney Race Retreat

Throughout the past few years, we have experienced Race Retreat on numerous occasions. These have included Princess Half Marathon, Walt Disney World Marathon and the Dopey Challenge, in particular.

Prior to the race, you are welcomed into the tent, which is full of round tables and chairs. Having a place to rest your legs while enjoying food such as bagels and fruit along with coffee and water was a nice touch. There are gluten free food options such as fruit, or you can also contact runDisney prior to the event to let them know of your food allergies.

Race Retreat also offers a separate bag check area and port-o-potties. Although the regular bag check at runDisney events is very well organized, it is nice knowing your bag never leaves the tent area and is supervised at all times. The separate port-o-potties are also a nice perk as those lines can get VERY long before a race! However, we have noticed the lines becoming longer in Race Retreat around 4:00 AM, right before heading to the corrals, but the line appeared to move fairly quickly.

Another plus to Race Retreat is that the tent is temperature controlled. Since it has been quite hot and humid during Marathon Weekend in the past, it is nice to go inside a cooler location (both before and after the race). Knowing that the weather can always be a factor, having a location to keep warm, cool or dry does give peace of mind! runDisney Race Retreat

After the race, runners can enjoy the Race Retreat area! It was nice to walk into a cool area and have a place to sit down and take off our shoes. It was easy to get our bags from bag check and grab some post-race food such as eggs, bacon, sausage, hashbrowns, fruit, bagels, coffee, water, Powerade and soft drinks. (We have also purchased the Platinum ChEAR Squad so that our spouses could enjoy Race Retreat while we were running the races as well as when we were finished.)

We were also given a commemorative towel and socks, which we still use regularly! There were areas to self-treat or get first aid, as well as a massage station. TVs also streamed the finish line area, and it was neat to see the smiles as runners crossed the finish line! And as an added bonus, there were Disney characters available to take photos with – and in our experience, they were unique characters! Inside the tent was never crowded and it was a great opportunity to talk with other runners.

runDisney Race Retreat

So is Race Retreat worth the cost? It ultimately depends on what you want your runDisney race experience to be. Can you still enjoy a runDisney event without being in Race Retreat? Absolutely! We have run many runDisney events, so we know the races are fun without the addition of Race Retreat. However if you would like to have a pampering experience where you don’t need to worry about bag check, port-o-potties, weather conditions and food before or after the race, Race Retreat is highly recommended.

One big thing to note is that the Race Retreat for a half marathon may not be worth the cost. Depending on the runner’s race time, there may not be much opportunity to enjoy the amenities. During the Princess Half Marathon in particular, it was clear they were cleaning things up and informing runners to get their items and leave.

Overall, it is a fun experience, especially for the Walt Disney World Marathon or the challenges, or if you are just looking for a luxurious experience!

 

Magical Miles Buy Now 2016

 

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Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival

As spring begins, an event blooms in Epcot – the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival!

Epcot Flower & Garden Festival

From March through May, garden spaces blossom throughout the theme park. From vibrant colors in Future World to various topiary displays in the shape of your favorite characters, there is much to explore. A recent addition to the festival are outdoor kitchens throughout World Showcase, including fantastic food and beverage options. (Similar to a smaller version of the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival.)

If you have a green thumb, you will want to partake in the various seminars and demonstrations. Disney horticulturists and garden experts share tips that you can try at home. There is even an “Ask An Expert” series where the audience can ask their flower and garden related questions.

Want a little break from the sunshine? Head to the America Gardens Theatre for the Garden Rocks Concert Series! Previous performers have included the Village People, Georgia Satellites, Gin Blossoms and The Spinners. Shows typically occur on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings.

This festival is not only for adults, as there are play areas available for the kids as well. Take a stroll through the butterfly house or the English Tea Garden. Kids can also enjoy the interactive play zones, themed to their favorite Disney movies. There are even areas that will illuminate at night for a whole new experience!

Epcot Flower & Garden Festival

If your race plans include Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend – The Dark Side, be sure to set aside some time to enjoy the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. There is a lot to explore!

Magical Miles Buy Now 2016

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Walt Disney World Resort Hotel Hidden Secrets

There are many perks to staying at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel during your runDisney race weekend. Transportation, Extra Magic Hours, parking, and much more – along with the Disney magic throughout your stay. Yet many don’t know about some of the “hidden secrets” that these resorts also offer!

Walt Disney World Resort Hotel Hidden Secrets

While some of these items may be known to the Walt Disney World veterans, there may be an item or two below that your family wasn’t aware of. Take a look!

YeHaa Bob Jackson

At the River Roost Lounge at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside resides an entertainment fan favorite – YeHaa Bob! He combines his fantastic piano skills with comedy for a skit that the entire family is sure to enjoy. Be sure to ask the front desk for his schedule.

Grand Floridian Orchestra and Piano

Upon entering Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, you can’t help but enjoy the gorgeous lobby area. In the evening, it becomes even more magical as a pianist and orchestra take turns playing music that flows throughout the lobby. From ragtime, Dixie, jazz, and even a few of your Disney favorites, it is a great place to relax and listen to the sounds.

Deluxe Resort Lounges

Looking for a place to get a quick bite to eat or enjoy an evening cocktail? The lounges at the deluxe resorts are a great way to do just that! Reservations are not needed and a spot at the bar is usually available. The menus are actually pretty extensive and offer a great way to get away from the hustle and bustle of the parks.

Animal Kingdom Lodge Cast Members

There is no question that Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is a fantastic place to stay, or even visit. Heading outside to see animals roaming the Savannah is an experience like no other! However, during your visit, be sure to talk with the cast members as they offer incredible information about the animals, culture, art and much more. For another great experience, visit the resort in the evening and take a look at the Savannah through the night vision goggles!

Resort Tours

Many are aware of the many tours available in the parks, however there are also tours at a few of the resorts! Disney’s Boardwalk Inn is one resort in particular that offers a tour that explores the history of the original boardwalk in Atlantic City, as well as artifacts, artwork and architecture unique to the resort. (Other resorts with complimentary tours include Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and Disney’s Wilderness Lodge.) Check with your resort’s concierge desk for more information.

Tri-Circle-D Ranch

Nestled near Fort Wilderness is the Tri-Circle-D Ranch, where your family can not only explore the area, but take horseback trail rides, wagon rides, carriage rides and more! Watch as the blacksmith makes horseshoes and even meet the horses that parade through Main Street USA.

Flag Family of the Day

At Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, a lucky family is chosen to help raise the flags that fly over the resort. This family, known as the Flag Family, accompanies a cast member to the roof of the resort to raise the American flag, Florida State flag, Walt Disney World flag and two Wilderness Lodge flags. While there is no guarantee, be sure to ask to see if there are any openings when you check into the resort.

Princess Promenade

New to the line up is a special experience at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa. Every day at 3:30 PM, Cinderella and Prince Charming descend the grand staircase and dance in the lobby, where guests are welcome to join in. This is a great opportunity for the littlest of princesses!

Tri-Circle-D Ranch

This is only the beginning when it comes to fun you can enjoy at your Walt Disney World Resort hotel. Movies on the beach, Electrical Water Pageant, hula dancing, fan favorite resort greeters, campfires and s’mores – the possibilities are endless! Ask the cast members at the front desk or concierge desk at your resort for more information. On your next runDisney race weekend, be sure to check out a few of these (and many more) to make your vacation even more magical!

 

Magical Miles Buy Now 2016

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Jennifer Serna wins first place running her first runDisney race; Tinker Bell Half Marathon celebrates fifth anniversary; More than 24,000 runners celebrate a pixie-dusted Mother’s Day Weekend at Disneyland Resort

Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend 2016

Photo: © Disney

ANAHEIM, Calif. (May 8, 2016) – With faith, trust and plenty of pixie power, Orange County, Calif. resident Jennifer Serna flew in first place in the fifth annual Tinker Bell Half Marathon presented by PANDORA Jewelry at Disneyland Resort on Sunday. The 31-year-old runner dashed by her competition, finishing in 1:25:49. Kellie Nickerson of Albuquerque, New Mexico, fluttered in as the second place female finisher, clocking at 1:29:41.

“It was a surreal experience. All the cast members and locals were supportive,” Serna said. “Running through the park was really fun and exhilarating, I didn’t even feel like I was running.”

A resident of Fullerton, Calif., Serna works for a running shop and participated in the race as a Mother’s Day celebration, running in honor of her daughter and to support her local running club.

Celebrating its fifth anniversary, the Tinker Bell Half Marathon at the Disneyland Resort is one of the top three largest women-focused races in the nation. Approximately 950 runners participating in this year’s race have run all five years. In 2015, Southern California resident Lenore Moreno set the Tinker Bell Half Marathon record, completing the race in 1:15:55.

Grandmothers, mothers, daughters, aunts and nieces were some of the 10,700 runners who spent their Mother’s Day racing along an entertainment-filled 13.1-mile course through Disney California Adventure and Disneyland Parks, as well as by several Anaheim landmarks.

Runners competed in various events during the weekend that included the Never Land 5K, the Tinker Bell 10K, runDisney Kids Races, a health and fitness expo and the second Pixie Dust Challenge, which involved runners completing the 10K on Saturday and the half marathon on Sunday.

In total, there were more than 24,000 runners from across the nation and 32 countries. Finishers received a commemorative Tinker Bell “wings’’ medal. The Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend is one of eight annual runDisney events and one of two women-focused events. The other is the Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend presented by Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, which takes place in February at Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Fla. Both events are designed to celebrate and promote women’s empowerment, women’s health and an active lifestyle. And both are among the nation’s largest race weekends geared towards women.

Runners can register for any runDisney race weekend at www.rundisney.com.

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