How to win Disney races? Rachel Booth knows

The reigning Disneyland Half Marathon and Disney Princess Half Marathon champion talks training, goals and juggling running, work and parenthood. Photo: runDisney

NEW YORK, Aug. 30, 2012 — The Disneyland Half Marathon on Sunday, September 2 will put more than 17,000 runners to the test on the streets of Anaheim, Calif., as they charge through Angels Stadium, Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure theme park. Among those runners will be a mix of Disney fans, celebrities like Sean Astin, and former Olympians like Suzy Favor-Hamilton and Jeff Galloway.

But when it comes to winning Disney races, no one knows better than Rachel Booth. She won the 2010 and 2011 Disneyland Half Marathon and 2012 Disney Princess Half Marathon in February, becoming the first woman to win events at both Disneyland in California and Walt Disney World in Florida. Her fastest time on a Disney half-marathon course? 1:15:19.

Like many Disney runners, Booth juggles raising two children, a part-time job and training. But unlike most Disney runners, Booth is a professional athlete who competed in the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in January, where she set a personal record of 2:37:59 and finished 31st. She followed it up with the USA Half Marathon Championships in June, where she finished 17th.

But getting to combine a family vacation with racing is a unique experience.

“This is one of my most exciting experiences — being part of the Disney events,” Booth, 31, told runners at Disney’s Princess Half Marathon in February. “This was a lot of fun to have my two children there to enjoy the whole experience and just to see mommy cross the finish line with Minnie and Mickey.”

So what does it take to win “The Happiest Race On Earth?” Moderate levels of mileage to fit with her busy schedule and help keep her injury free. Booth describes herself as an injury-prone runner who uses regular massage and one day of rest per week to help keep injury away.

“I’ve found out what my point is when I get injured and when I don’t. The highest I had gotten for the Olympic Trials was 70 miles, and a lot of women I talk to and a lot of my teammates, they run over 100 easily on a weekly basis,” Booth said. “For me, to balance two kids — I do work a part-time job and then I do my training — to do it all, it’s a little bit challenging. But I feel like my quality of my workouts are more important rather than having just a few more miles on my mileage log just to have them.”

Like many running parents, Booth said getting up at 5 a.m. and getting out the door is one of her biggest challenges. But her goals — like running at the Olympic Trials — keep her motivated.

“The biggest thing for me are goals,” Booth said. “If you have that goal, I feel like that’s my motivation every day, and I’m kind of keeping that in the back of my mind.”

She also wants her running to be an inspiration for her children, who she says are “extremely supportive.”

“The one thing I always have lived by is if I don’t follow my dreams, how do I teach my children to do that?” Booth said. Her son is 6 years old and daughter is 3 years old. “So instilling those values and goals and things like that have been my motivation, especially now as a mom.”

It’s the same motivation so many parents have, whether they are elite runners or not.

Booth won’t be running the Disneyland Half this weekend, so the title is up for grabs. The Disneyland Half Marathon will take place on September 2 in Anaheim, Calif. at 5:45 a.m. In addition to the half-marathon, the weekend includes the Cars Land 5K, runDisney Kids Races, the Disneyland Health and Fitness Expo and a Pasta in the Park Party.

The Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend is one of seven signature events produced by runDisney that take runners through the Disney theme parks from the 5K Expedition Everest Challenge to the Walt Disney World Marathon presented by CIGNA, the original event in the runDisney series. The marathon will celebrate its 20th anniversary in January 2013 with a new course, a special 20th anniversary Mickey Mouse finisher’s medal, extra entertainment at Mile 20, and a new post-race party at Downtown Disney.

Karla Bruning is a veteran journalist and running nerd. She has completed four marathons, two triathlons, trains with the New York Harriers and is a member of New York Road Runners. Follow Karla’s “Notes From a Running Nerd” at, Facebook and Twitter@KBruning.

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Karla Bruning

Karla Bruning is the host of On The Run, a TV and web show from New York Road Runners. Her work has appeared in Newsweek, American Athlete Magazine,,, The Philadelphia Inquirer, San Francisco Chronicle, Orlando Sentinel, and two dozen other outlets including ESPN2, Universal Sports and ABC in New York. She and her work have also received mentions from The New York Times, Runner's World, Fox Sports, Canadian Running, The Baltimore Sun, and PBS among others. She also covered the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver for The Washington Times.


A former Newsweek reporter, Karla has won a Fulbright scholarship for American journalists and reporting grants from the Scripps Howard, Carnegie and Knight Foundations. Karla holds degrees from Amherst College and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.


When not pounding the pavement as a reporter, Karla is pounding the pavement as a runner. She has completed seven marathons, four triathlons, trains with the New York Harriers and is a member of New York Road Runners. She is a writer, editor, and on-camera reporter dedicated to covering the sport of running from a runner’s perspective. Find Karla on, Twitter@KBruning, Facebook and Google+.

Contact Karla Bruning


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