Women lead at Disney's inaugural Tinker Bell Half Marathon

Answering the growing demand for women’s running events, Disney adds a new women-focused race to its running series: the Tinker Bell Half Marathon at Disneyland. Photo: runDisney

ANAHEIM, Calif., January 27, 2012—The half-marathon is the fastest growing distance in the U.S. It’s also runners’ favorite distance to race according to Running USA’s National Runner Survey. Who is driving this phenomenon? Women.

It’s no wonder that when runDisney decided to add another flagship race to their series, they opted for a women-focused half-marathon. The Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend will enjoy its inaugural run at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., on Sunday, Jan. 29. More 17,000 runners are expected to participate in three major running events over the course of the weekend: 12,000 runners will tackle the Tinker Bell Half Marathon, 4,000 will jog the Never Land Family Fun Run 5K, and 1,300 tykes will try the runDisney Kid’s Races.

Women-only or women-focused races are a growing segment of the running industry, fuelled largely by an influx of women into the sport. And while races welcome men as well—920 men will be lining up at the start of the Tinker Bell Half along with 11,080 women—race directors are luring women with extra perks like preferred placement at the start, ladies cut race T-shirts, and expanded awards for women only.

At Tinker Bell, the first corral is reserved for the fastest female runners; no men allowed. Also, only women are eligible for overall and age group awards, as well as awards for the top mother/daughter teams who both run the half, sister teams, open division teams, military women, wheelchair athletes and masters women. Men who run as part of a coed team—where each member runs the entire half—can win a coed team award, but other than their finisher medal, that’s it. The focus is on the ladies.

The half-marathon has been the fastest growing race distance every year since 2003, according to Running USA, which tracks stats on racing in the U.S. From 2009 to 2010, the half-marathon saw a record annual increase in finishers, growing 24 percent. Since 2000, the number of half-marathon finishers in the U.S. has nearly tripled from 482,000 runners to 1.385 million runners in 2010. According to Running USA, no other race distance has matched this level of growth.

The inaugural Tinker Bell Half Marathon medal. (Photo: runDisney)

One of the key factors in the half-marathon explosion has been increasing participation by women, Running USA reports. Women account for 59 percent of all half-marathon finishers, up from 49 percent in 2004. In fact, since 1995, the number of women running half-marathons has increased six-fold, from 135,000 women in 1995 to 820,000 women in 2010.

Why? When it comes to racing, women love the half-marathon. More than 38 percent of women say it’s their favorite race, more than any other distance. And almost 77 percent of women say they are looking forward to running a half-marathon in the next year, compared to just 48 percent who want to run a marathon. The half-marathon is also the favorite race distance among men, but not as passionately: 69 percent say they want to run a half-marathon in the next year, but 57 percent say they also want to run a marathon.

As for women-only events—which are defined by Running USA as races where roughly 95 percent or more of finishers are women—the half-marathon is also the queen of the road. Seven of the 15 largest women-only events are half-marathons. Disney’s Princess Half Marathon is the second largest women-only event in the U.S., behind the Nike Women’s Half-Marathon in San Francisco. The inaugural Tinker Bell Half Marathon will likely debut in the top five largest women’s races of 2012. The event will be one of the approximately 30 new half-marathons that debut each year.

The Tinker Bell Half Marathon is a cooperative effort between Disney and the City of Anaheim. The course runs through Downtown Disney and Disneyland Park, including Pixie Hollow, the home of Tinker Bell herself. Runners then make their way to downtown Anaheim, running by Anaheim Ice, City Hall and Anaheim GardenWalk before heading to Disney’s California Adventure Park. Disney entertainment will line the course, including live bands, Disney characters, cheerleaders and more.

The Tinker Bell Half Marathon begins at 5:45 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 29. Finishers—both women and men alike—will earn their “wings” with the new Tinker Bell medal. Race organizers anticipate a bevy of runners in Tinker Bell costumes to honor Disney’s favorite fairy. Making it through 13.1 one miles will certainly take determination, but perhaps a pinch of pixie dust too. 

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


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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, RunnersWorld.com, Active.com, 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 RunKarlaRun.com, Twitter@KBruning, Facebook and Google+.

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