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Creating runDisney Course Magic

Each year, more than 200,000 runners from across the globe participate in runDisney races. One of the things runners frequently want to know is, "How does Disney create runDisney course magic?"


To find out, we talked with the people who make the magic happen, starting with runDisney event manager Paul Morris, who is responsible for designing courses at Walt Disney World® Resort.


Running by Cinderella Castle in Magic Kingdom Park


Most Magical Courses on Earth
"Runners just love to run inside our Parks," says Paul. "There's no other experience like it. That's why they come."


When our course designers begin creating a new course they try to locate as much of the course as they can inside the Disney Parks.


"We want to create the most magical, visually stunning and entertaining race courses for our runners while still keeping safety our main priority," Paul says.


As for our races at Disneyland® Resort, race director Mike Bone has to be creative with only two theme parks to work with so his team sets out to find other exciting views for runners.


"While trying to maximize the amount of time in the Parks, we also try to find iconic venues in Anaheim," says Mike. "We want to make the courses as interesting as we can for runners."


Two of these venues that are unique to our Disneyland races are Angel Stadium of Anaheim and the Honda Center, home of the Los Angeles Angels and Anaheim Ducks, respectively.


Running through baseball stadium


"Togetherness, for me, means teamwork." – Walt Disney
Designing and building a runDisney race course is a huge partnership. Theme park operations, logistics, transport, engineering, and resort operations are all included. Many of the roadways don't belong to Disney so partnerships with local, county and state municipalities are needed. In fact, Rick Morris, Manager, Disneyland Sports, tells us that depending on the direction of a course, our Disneyland races could pass through up to four different cities in California!


At Disney, runners are a priority. According to Nancy Belanger, ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex Director of Experience Integration, "when a major construction effort is underway, like the new flyover on Osceola Parkway and changes along the Magic Kingdom Toll Plaza, the runDisney team works hand-in-hand with its governmental partner Reedy Creek Improvement District to create exciting new course alternatives that will entertain our runners."


More Magic on Its Way
What makes running through Disney Parks so special is you never know what you will see on course. There may even be some behind-the-scenes magic!


"Runners love seeing where the magic happens," says Mike, who remembers how exciting it was for runners to get a glimpse at Cars Land as it was being built not too long ago in Disney California Adventure Park.


Likewise, at Walt Disney World, Paul and his team will incorporate new attractions into course designs, including the recent popular additions of Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom Park and Harambe Market in Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park.


"There's always new and amazing experiences on the horizon at Disney," notes Paul. "So we'll also develop courses that let our runners run around the upcoming magic and catch a sneak peek at all the future excitement coming their way."


Disney Entertainment
With course layout and theme in hand, John Phelan, Entertainment Show Director for runDisney and his team begin the creative process of deciding the entertainment offerings for each race.


John sees the entertainment on the course as "inspirational, aspirational and just plain fun." Runners like to have motivation to keep on running. So every half mile or so, entertainment is spotlighted to surprise and delight the runners. Disney characters, live bands, floats, stunt people, actors, musicians and dancers are all featured throughout the races.


"It's an amazing experience for the runners," explains John. "Characters and entertainers cheer as the runners make their way through the Parks. It's exciting and emotional. Definitely a big part of the magic."


So what does it take to create runDisney course magic? Start with plenty of imagination and teamwork, and blend in great Disney entertainment. And of course a little pixie dust never hurts!