There is no doubt that the name “Disney” means quality entertainment, and the same is true of the “runDisney” brand. No race that I have ever seen comes close to the quality and quantity of entertainment and eye candy on the course as Disney. If you are a true Disney junkie, there is no excuse for not running at least one race on each coast. But for the purist, one destination stands out as being vastly superior.
Since the beginning of Disneyland, Walt knew that he had created something special, but always wished that he had been able to do more. Disneyland was a remarkable place, but even stretching his financial abilities to the limit, he was only able to secure a very small patch of land in Anaheim to build his theme park. Soon the expanses of open fields that once surrounded this magic place became choked with motels, houses, and stores that detracted from the fairy tale feel of Disneyland itself. The suspension of disbelief that the interior of Disneyland invoked was all too often shattered by cheap motel signs, blaring sirens, and traffic jams. So began the search for the place that became Disney World, and such is the difference between races at Disneyland vs. Disney World.
The longest Disneyland race is a half marathon. While many whine and cry that they should put on a marathon, the reason is obvious when you think about the scale of the property in Anaheim. There is scarcely enough room to run a 5k without crossing Anaheim controlled streets in Disneyland. While the Disneyland events are fun, you spend precious little time on property, and a whole lot of time on city streets. While running backstage and through the parks is a lot of fun, once you hit the road, it feels a lot like a generic urban half for most of the race.
In Disney World, every bit of land that the course covers is controlled by Disney, one way or another. This allows Disney a great deal of freedom to place branded entertainment over the entire length of the course. There is almost nowhere to run that you aren’t in sight or sound of some form of Disney character, float, cast member, icon, banner, or music. You just can’t run far enough in Disney World to get away from the mouse!
With this in mind, if you are thinking of taking the “Coast to Coast Challenge” and running Disney in Florida and California, I would strongly suggest that you run Disneyland first. If you enjoy the west coast race, then you will be completely thrilled when you make it to Florida. If you run Disney World first, then Disneyland may be a bit of a let down. It’s still fun, but the long mileage on Anaheim streets just can’t compare to a 100% on property experience. You can run them in the reverse order (which is actually easier, logistically), but know the differences, and be prepared for a completely unique experience on each coast.
Next time: Mile High Marathoning