For the first time in two years, runners donned their costumes, laced up their sneakers and headed to the corrals for runDisney’s biggest race weekend of the year and one of the most popular marathons in the country, the 2022 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend.
After the pandemic forced the cancellation of in-person runDisney events for the remainder of 2020 and most of 2021, athletes were overjoyed to be off to the races again. Here are some of the highlights from Marathon Weekend at Walt Disney World:
A Colorado woman became the first person ever to win all four races
For the past nine years, some of the most ambitious runDisney runners have competed in the Dopey Challenge, running the 5K, 10K, half marathon and full marathon in four consecutive days. This year, one Dopey Challenge runner, Brittany Charboneau, made the 48.6-mile feat even more impressive by winning the women’s division of all four races.
“This event combines everything that I love — costumes, Disney and just everything that I love,’’ said Charboneau, who dressed as a different Disney character for each race, after winning the marathon, “so I could not have asked for a better day.’’
Official runDisney Training Consultant Jeff Galloway completed his first half marathon since recovering from a heart attack
Official runDisney training consultant Jeff Galloway is an Olympian and seasoned marathoner and pioneered the groundbreaking “Run-Walk-Run” training method that has made distance running accessible to nearly everyone. Galloway is a celebrity within the runDisney community — thousands of Run-Walk-Run devotees flock to his booth at the runDisney Health & Fitness Expo every race weekend to say hello, get tips, and join Run-Walk-Run pacing groups.
This race weekend was extra special for Galloway, who completed his first half marathon since suffering a heart attack earlier this year.
“It feels a little funny to say — but that was my hardest half marathon I have ever run!” Galloway, who had previously been running a marathon nearly every month for the past 30 years, said in an Instagram post. “It was hard physically, it was hard mentally, but what kept me going was YOU! The outpouring of support at the booth this week and on social media made this experience so special.”
Runners catch a glimpse of some beloved entertainment not seen since before the pandemic
Unique character sightings are a favorite component of runDisney races and runners were excited to spot quite a few characters they haven’t seen since before the pandemic. Backstage during the half marathon, runners were thrilled to see the Maleficent Dragon float from the Festival of Fantasy parade, announced to return in 2022.
Marathon runners got to seem some beloved “streetmosphere” characters as they raced through Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The Citizens of Hollywood, who haven’t been out in the park since before the pandemic-induced closure in 2020, came out to cheer on runners during the race.
Race weekend merch flies off the shelves at the runDisney Health & Fitness Expo
After last year’s hiatus, demand was through the roof for commemorative Marathon Weekend merchandise at this year’s runDisney Health & Fitness Expo. Queues were out the door on day one and the most coveted merch was scooped by the end of the day. The takeaway? Be sure to visit the first day of the Expo if you have your heart set on race weekend souvenirs.
The field was packed with feel-good stories
runDisney race weekends are unique for many reasons, says runDisney race announcer Carissa Galloway.
“I love RunDisney because of the magic of running but it’s the runners that really make these weekends so special,” said Carissa, who surprised half marathon runners by announcing she’d be joining them and running her first runDisney half marathon. “It’s an incredible feeling to be surrounded by a community of Disney-loving runners who are so excited to run and support each other. It’s magical and the energy is contagious! I mean where else do you have a costumed dance party at 4:30 a.m.?!”
Kayla Swope and Apryl Tidd met while participating in the Disney College Program in 2014 and bonded over their shared passion for running. The friends ran the Dopey Challenge as a duo this year. Swope is visually impaired and Tidd ran with her as her guide. While both runners have competed in runDisney events previously, each achieved a new milestone during the race weekend — Swope completed her first Dopey Challenge and Tidd finished her tenth marathon.
“For [Kayla] to trust me to do this and for us to finally be here at the finish line — this day will live with me forever and ever that we did this together,” Tidd said.
A quirky dish at the Expo got the internet’s attention
It’s not a Disney event without some good eats, and one specialty food item at the Health & Fitness Expo had the internet abuzz after runDisney tweeted a photo of the dish. “Popcorn Chicken” was described as skewered chicken nuggets tossed in house-made sriracha honey sauce served in a souvenir bucket with popcorn and candied garlic — and people had a lot of thoughts about it. We didn’t get a chance to try it but always love it when a Disney dish gets people talking.