One of my favorite things about all of the Princess Half Marathons I’ve run are the guys embracing the sparkle. The Tinker Bell Half Marathon is the west coast version of this and John is here to share the guy’s perspective with us. So fun!!
Runners live by many motivational phrases. Phrases like “pain is temporary, glory is forever” or “no one ever drowned in sweat.” For males running the Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend at the Disneyland Resort, it could be “be careful what you wish for, you just might get it”. As the name implies, the “Tink” (like its WDW Disney Princess counterpart) is marketed towards women. But the appeal for me was multifold: I had not yet run a Disney race, and that was high on my priority list. When runDisney added the 10k to the existing Tink roster, the thought of earning a medal with the word “Inaugural” stamped on it was appealing. Plus, several other Cast Members in my department were running (oops, the secret’s out! Yes, I’m a DLR Cast Member, and nope, I can’t sign you in!), and it seemed only fitting that there be at least one guy representing the male species of my department. So how does a guy adapt to what is otherwise a girl’s weekend? There were just few caveat emptor moments.
Before the day of the race, runners must stop by the runDisney Expo to pick up their race bibs, shirts, and appointed swag. Participants in runDisney events know that “Expo” is defined as “take my money now”. There were plenty of vendors selling fairy-themed merchandise. If I were daring enough to wear wings, a tutu, or frilly shoelaces, I’d have had no problem finding a source. Even though I was secure in my manhood, I decided to pass: I run for time, so wearing attire that would slow me down was a no-no … at least that’s the excuse I went with. Thankfully, there was plenty of other running-themed merchandise catering to people of both genders. I emerged with my wallet only slightly thinner. My one major purchase was a FlipBelt, which worked impressively during the race. More on that in a future column…
No visit to the Expo is complete without a look at the runDisney exclusive merchandise. Again, lots of wings and wands, and plenty of themed merchandise for the Half Marathon. For the 10k, not so much. Perhaps it was the fact that the race was added later, or that men were a small portion of total runners (out of 8300 participants, just over 1500 were men), but male-specific merchandise was pretty much nonexistent. From a male perspective, this was rather disappointing. There were some unisex white tees with the 10k logo, and several styles of shirts in women’s cut, but that was it. I ended up getting a 10k logo pin; I would have been willing to spend considerably more, given the opportunity.
The most notable gender concern happens just prior to entering the Expo, when runners are getting their race shirts. Now, I gotta give kudos to the runDisney team for making their race shirts available in men’s and women’s cuts. Even though women make up 60% of runners in the average race, unisex shirts are often the norm, completely ignoring more than half the demographic. runDisney knows their market, at least when it comes to sizing. When it comes to color, well, that’s a different story. The color of the shirts for the 10k was a very non-manly lavender. This one actually bothered me a little, given the cost of entering a runDisney event. I hope for future races, they choose colors that are a little less gender-exclusive, such as plum, teal, or even a deep jewel-tone pink.
As for the race itself, Disney races are definitely the gold standard. The organizers have this race well-executed. Runners are corralled into very specific pens. I was corralled near the starting line, and my corral was about two-thirds female, and one-third male. For a race where women outnumber men more than 5 to 1, this surprised me somewhat. As runners were released through the starting line in waves, it became clear that there was plenty of space in between waves to mitigate bunching. The on-property portion of the course was clearly marked, clean, and lined with Cast Members and Characters. Being a Cast Member, I’ve seen backstage a million times, but there’s something special about seeing it as part of a special public event. Whenever I saw a Cast Member that I knew, I had to resist the urge to slow down and say hi. So if you’re a Cast Member reading this, and I stopped to say hi to you, you must be very special indeed! One of the most endearing moments was when I passed my own building. Seeing my fellow Cast Members taking the time out of their busy morning to cheer us on was very heartwarming.
The off-property portion, which winds through the streets of Anaheim, was considerably less impressive, but not at all disappointing. Unlike my previous Laguna Hills 10k experience, there were several local high school musical groups, cheer squads, and similar on-course “enter-couragement” (my word for entertainment and encouragement). The most fun was that moment at the end of the race when I came back on-property, saw the chEAR squad, heard the roar of spectators, and crossed that finish line, my first Disney race becoming a part of history. Oh, and my time? I finished the race in 1:01:31, placing me 680th out of 8331 runners (274th place out of 1539 men). Soon after, I regrouped with my fellow Cast Members. Together, we reveled in our achievement.
There is a famous bible verse written by the Apostle Paul to the early Christians in Galatia, where he wrote, “there is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female”. I would say this applies not just to those early Galatians, but also to modern runners. Despite concerns about running shirts, expo merchandise, and male-to-female ratio, the moment my feet passed that starting line, I was no longer a male in a female race. I was a runner, an athlete, and a winner. We weren’t people of color, race, or gender. We were champions. For those who don’t see the appeal in running, this concept might seem incomprehensible. But to those of us who have set foot to pavement at a starting line, felt that runner’s high halfway through, raised our arms at the finish, and basked in the satisfaction of a medal around our necks, that concept is irresistible.
Sarah’s Note: Next year John, we will get you in a tutu!! 🙂 Congrats on a great race!!
John grew up in the Orange County area of California, always living in the shadow of the Disneyland Resort. Known as the consummate storyteller to his friends, he has had an admiration of Disney since childhood, and is most interested in the Company’s history and heritage. His favorite memory to date is setting foot in Walt’s apartment over the Main Street Firehouse. John lives by what he calls the three F’s: faith, fun, and fitness. Being healthy isn’t about adding years to your life; it’s about adding life to your years. Nothing sums that up more than making Disney races a goal in every fitness plan.