Women are now leading the pack when it comes to the sport of running! According to Running USA, the percentage of female participants in running events across the U.S. has increased by nearly 8% in the past seven years to a majority of 55%. This is a pretty amazing statistic for a sport that didn’t even have women specific apparel until the late 1970s when three friends stitched two jock straps together to create the first sports bra. Thank you ladies!
Women-only running events (95% or greater female) are on the rise as well, with over 200 events in 2011. Women of all ages, all shapes and sizes, and all athletic abilities are coming together to take on the challenge of conquering a long distance run. There is a sense of camaraderie and a lack of inhibition at these events that have women flocking to run. In fact, Disney’s Princess Half Marathon had over 13,000 women finishers last year, making it the second largest women-only event in the country.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Tammy Jacobson from runDisney‘s marketing department about not only the popularity of Disney’s Princess Half Marathon, but also the increase in women participating in all runDisney events. Like many runDisney events, Disney’s Princess Half Marathon began as a way to fill the attendance gap at the Walt Disney World resort during a slow time of the year. Building on the success of the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, this event combined the growing trend of women participating in running events with the popularity of Disney’s Princesses to create a one of a kind race. Participants not only get to don tutus and tiaras, but they can run through Cinderella’s Castle and meet Prince Charming while running 13.1 miles. This race has now become THE event for a fun girls weekend and is also the race of choice for many first timers. I know from experience, since this was my first half marathon. There is something a little less intimidating about running a half marathon when you are surrounded by smiling ladies in tutus 🙂
This popularity of runDisney events among women runners has sparked other events, such as the Tinker Bell Half Marathon in Disneyland which debuted in January 2012. This event is also centered around women and the 2013 race sold out to over 14,000 runners in just under a month this past summer. That is record breaking time! But this increase in popularity among women is not just for the women-only events that runDisney holds. For the first time in it’s 20 year history, the sold out 2013 Walt Disney World Marathon has more women than men participants…amazing! I’m so proud
and terrified to be one of those women!!
So what is making these runDisney events so appealing to women? Well the most obvious answer is the bling…we all love that bling. But there is so much more than that. Women have the ability to build family vacations around these race weekends and incorporate their family into the fun! Most race weekends include a Family Fun Run 5K and Kids Races that can get the whole family involved.
runDisney has also created many strategic partnerships over the years to make the sport of running more accesible to the everyday woman…someone (like me!) who may not have a ton of time to devote to training but is determined to conquer that 13.1 (or 26.2) miles. There is now a runDisney mom on the Walt Disney World Mom’s Panel to answer any of those travel planning questions around the events and they have also brought a nutritionist, Tara Gidus, on board to provide valuable nutrition tips for training and during the races.
By far the best partnership has been with Jeff Galloway. His Run-Walk-Run method has proven to be INCREDIBLY successful in helping people finish these races, myself included. It helps to ease fatigue and save muscle strength in order to push you though those long miles without getting tired. He also provides many valuable tips on training, running night races, and how to stay motivated.
But in my opinion, social media is what has played the biggest part in the growth of the runDisney brand over the past few years. There is a constant dialogue over networks such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram between runners reliving past races, sharing photos, and building up anticipation to the next race. runDisney is jumping in the social media game as well with the recent creation of the runDisney Twitter account and Facebook page. As Jacobson says, “Our runners are our family” and the daily interaction they have with participants through these mediums helps to make that more of a reality. They have also launched numerous interactive campaigns to get the fans more involved, such as the Choose the Tinker Bell Half Marathon Shirt Design, the Great Medal Caper for the reveal of the 2oth Anniversary Marathon Medal, and most recently the Run Like a Princess Sweepstakes to win a night in the Cinderella’s Castle Suite over Princess Half Marathon Weekend. I can’t think of a better way to entice more female runners to participate in a runDisney event than a chance to stay in Cinderella’s Castle!
Running has changed my life in the past year and I know I can say the same is true for many of my female friends. It started as a way to get healthy, but has turned into so much more. runDisney has obviously played a huge part in that journey for me and I can honestly say that if it wasn’t for the chance to run through those parks, there is NO WAY I would even attempt to run a marathon elsewhere. I’m just happy my girls will be there to support me 🙂
So ladies, I want to hear from you! Why did you start running? What is your favorite race? Do you prefer women-only events?
Running USA (2012, May 9). 2012 State of the Sport Part I: Growth of Women’s Running. Retrieved October 30, 2012 from Running USA website: http://www.runningusa.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=news.details&ArticleId=334&returnTo=annual-reports