It’s a battle royale! Two Disney races on opposite coasts, both celebrating girl power. So which one is the fairest of them all?
This year, I was lucky enough to experience both Disneyland’s Tinker Bell Half-Marathon AND Disney World’s Princess Half-Marathon. Having run the Princess last year as my first half-marathon, I was eager to experience the west coast equivalent. Running them both a mere month apart earlier this year, I could not help but compare the two races. I thought it might be helpful to share my observations for those trying to decide between the two. Of course, you could always do what I did and just run both (for research purposes only, obviously). But if you are planning your first big runDisney event – or your next runDisney adventure – read on and see how the pixie dust settles!
Round 1: Theme
Both races are aimed at women, welcoming runners of all levels, and both involve a lot of sparkle! So perhaps the bigger question is whether you’d rather run in a tiara or fairy wings? (Both are totally doable, of course.) With the Princess Half, you have many princesses to choose from in terms of costuming if you’d like to dress with the theme – trust me, dressing like up like a princess and running through a castle is a very magical way to do a half-marathon.
The theming changes a little each year based on the featured Princess – for example, 2014 was the year of Cinderella. You are also able to choose your favorite princess at registration and have your bib color coordinated with your outfit! Speaking of the bibs, they will add “Princess” to your name which is quite a royal touch. Now Tinker Bell is not without her share of pixie dust, but there are not quite as many fairies to choose from if you do want to dress with the theme. Many runners gravitate towards emulating Tink herself so be prepared for a sea of lime green! There is no featured fairy each year – it is all Tink all the time. She’s bossy like that and does not like to share the spotlight. There is also no option to personalize the bibs by preferred fairy or color (although, ALL Disney bibs will be personalized with your name). Both races are fun, both races are sparkly – but the red carpet is (literally) rolled out for Princess, with every detail taken to the next level.
Round 2: Race Route
Tinker Bell has a very lovely course to offer where you will flutter to the finish after 13.1 miles through California Adventure, Disneyland and Downtown Disney before taking to the palm-tree lined streets with mountain vistas. Half of the race route is IN the parks! With Disneyland Resort being so much smaller than Walt Disney World, it is entirely doable to see the whole resort during the race. This makes for so much fun on the run with one magical thing to see after the next. The race, most appropriately, truly flies by!
At Princess, you will run from the Epcot parking lot to Magic Kingdom and back, finishing in Epcot. It is fabulous to run through Magic Kingdom, but ultimately you only spend a mile or so inside the parks. Disney does a lot to keep the rest of the route interesting with character stops and music, but it really is an out-and-back course on Disney highways. Compared to Tinker Bell’s course with so much time in the parks, the Princess race route loses some of its luster. That said, the Fairy Godmother sends you off with fireworks at the Princess start line whereas the Tink send-off is markedly less theatrical with just a quick appearance by Tink before you spread your wings.
Round 3: Runner Experience
As you may already know, there is so much more to a Disney race than just the experience you have between the start and finish lines. For one thing, there is the Expo which is a must-do both because you need to pick up your race kit and because, well, you need to shop! The Tinker Bell Expo is very easy to access as it is within walking distance of the Disney and Good Neighbor hotels. No waiting for buses! The Expo itself was a dream to navigate with no real line-ups and a hop, skip and a jump to Downtown Disney if you needed a break to refuel. Similarly, you can walk to the race itself – quickly and easily! And you can walk back to your hotel after the race – again, quickly and easily!
If you have ever run Princess, you know that nothing is exactly quick or easy. First, you need to wait for a bus to hit the Expo. Last year, the Princess Expo had ridiculous lines at every turn and was a bit of a gong-show from start to finish in its alternate location at Coronado Springs Resort. In fairness, this year the Princess Expo was back in its home at the Wide World of Sports and was much more organized; however, you still need to depend on Disney busing. Similarly, you will need to rely on busing to the start line and from the finish line. This process adds – literally, no exaggerating – hours to the pre and post race experience. Having experienced both, I cannot rave enough about the ease of being a runner at Tink. It certainly helps that Tink is a smaller race as well. Princess boasts double the runners and well, that’s just a lot of princesses.
Round 4: Medal
OK, let’s be honest: all Disney races boast beautiful bling! Whether you choose to earn your wings or earn your tiara, you will be thrilled with the heavy hardware placed around your neck at the finish. These medals represent a whole lot of awesome! After your race, you WILL want to wear it around the parks and wear it proud. So which one is the best? I can only compare this question to being asked which child is your favorite. But let’s try, shall we? The Tink medal is HUGE and HEAVY and Tink even spins! It is gorgeous. It is bigger than the Princess medal. When it comes to medals, size does matter!
On the other hand, the Princess medal is shiny and sparkly and set with beautiful gems. Not only that, you can earn a special Challenge medal at Princess Weekend by running the Enchanted 10K and the Princess Half for an exclusive Glass Slipper Challenge medal. More BLING for your buck! I will admit that the Princess medal is my sentimental favorite because it was my first half-marathon, but I think the Tink medal is the most unique. Tink takes the prize for quality while Princess wins for quantity – the sheer volume of bling you can collect if you run all the races is pretty staggering!
Round 5: Runner Extras
Want to go the extra mile (pun intended!) and add some special touches to your race weekend? runDisney has you covered on both coasts with a Pasta in the Park party before the race, a family 5K, all-new 10K races, plus Kids Races. Princess adds the Kids Mile to the race distances though, which Tink does not offer. Both races have the shorter dashes, but only Princess offers the “bridge” between the dashes and the 5K with the Kids Mile which was the perfect distance for my kids. The dashes would have been far too easy and over much too quickly, while the 5K would have been a struggle for my youngest (and for me, with the Glass Slipper Challenge still ahead!). Princess Weekend also offers some breakfast events around the shorter races which can be a great way to celebrate with your family (and your favorite Disney characters too!).
The biggest extra that is missing from Tink, though, is Race Retreat. Race Retreat is a VIP-style area to enjoy pre and post race, with private port-a-potties and bag check as well as stretching areas and continental breakfast before the race. After the race, the breakfast spread is a hot brunch and there is a massage area. Race Retreat also includes special character photo opportunities, a live video feed of the start/finish, immediate race results and a Kiddie Korner for little fans who have purchased Platinum ChEAR Squad. It is all very costly but, having done the race both ways, it is definitely a royal way to start and end your magical day! To be fair, with so much ease in getting to and from the start and finish lines, there is not much need for this option at Tink – but I’m sure it would still attract its fair share of pixies who want some pampering!
Round 6: Weather
Oh boy. I almost died running the Princess Half. Twice. Last year, it was “unseasonably warm” in the high 70s with 97% humidity. So I ran it again, hoping to experience it in all its glory. Well, this year it was low 70s with 100% humidity. It felt even hotter and more miserable, if that is humanly possible. When you train in the winter in Canada, this weather is quite the shock to the system. I will be honest, it was downright unpleasant. In fact, it was a slog. You can still have fun if you embrace the day for what it is, take your time and do your best. But, it is not ideal. Apparently, there have been Princess weekends that were brisk and cool. It can happen, I am told. But my only experiences have involved humidity, heat, fog, haze and more humidity.
Let’s compare that to Tink which was perfect, perfect and yes, totally perfect. Although the locals deemed it a little cool, this Canadian found the Tink weather to be absolutely gorgeous for running! Not too hot, not too cold, no wind, and most importantly: NO HUMIDITY. Heavenly. Granted, the Tink Half is moving from January to May, but my money is still on the west coast for weather.
Round 7: Family Vacation Destination
So you want to run a Disney race, huh? Chances are this idea will be very popular in your household, particularly if you have young kids. In fact, they may be the reason for choosing a Disney race in the first place. Whatever the reason, if you are turning your big race event into a “runcation”, you need to think about what will work best for the family. Leading up to the race, you are not going to want to pound the parks and ride Space Mountain 10 times. The temptation will be there, for sure, but you’ll want to save your legs and start out slow by enjoying some resort time, taking in some character meals, and reserving the real park touring for after the race.
For my family, Walt Disney World has it all – and every piece of it is nicely wrapped in a bubble of Disney magic, right from the time you land at Orlando International Airport and hop aboard Disney’s Magical Express. With 4 theme parks, as well as water parks and Downtown Disney, there is no shortage of things to fill your vacation. (Shhh – you can even hop over to the “dark side” at Universal with a 15-minute cab ride = 2 more parks!). Disneyland does not have the same immersive effect. Most people stay off-property as the hotels are just as close, if not closer, than the Disney resorts and are waaaaaaaaaaay cheaper. Disneyland is also smaller, meaning you don’t need as much time to see it all. You may be done and ready to move on after a couple of days. Lots of other things to see and do in California, of course, but that would involve moving around between locations, driving or renting a car, and adding that extra element of coordination to your trip. I thoroughly enjoy that all of the planning is done by the time I set foot in Walt Disney World and I really don’t have to think about what’s next for even a minute!
Obviously, both races have their strengths. But only one race can take the prize as the fairest of them all.
(Cue the royal trumpets……………….)
OVERALL WINNER: Tink!
Well, there you have it. Sorry Princess, but the Pixie has you beat, fair and square. Many have called Tink the best kept secret of runDisney and now I see why. However, this does not mean that Princess isn’t a fantastic, wonderful, epic adventure too! We are comparing the best of the best here.
Depending on your life, needs and goals, the categories above may not be equally weighted. For me, as long as my kids are squeezing their eyes tight shut and wishing on stars for the next trip to Disney World, the family vacation aspect will always trump other considerations. This means any west coast races, for now, will be Mommy’s time with BRFs. They may be short on time, but they are big on fun (coming up next: Avengers Superheroes Half in November!). But in terms of family vacations, I’ll continue to choose Walt Disney World where my kids can watch Mom run like a princess, and run for their own medals too, before enjoying the magic of a full Disney vacation. But that does not mean I am married to the Princess Half: in fact, our calendar is marked for Wine and Dine 2015!
There are lots of reasons to choose one of these races over the other. Maybe you are California dreamin’. Or maybe you really want to be a Princess. I get it. I wanted to be one too. And I wouldn’t do it any differently. We all have our own reasons for running and we are all chasing our own happily ever afters. The magic of Disney running will help you find yours, just as it helped me find mine.
Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo, may all your running dreams come true!
Tell Us: Do you agree with the rankings? How do you think these races compare?
…Want to read more? Check out our Princess and Tink Race Recaps here:
- Princess Alana’s Princess 2013 Recap
- Princess Jodi’s Princess 2013 Recaps: The Meet-Up, The Expo, The Half-Marathon, Kids Races
- Princess Jodi’s 2014 Tink Recaps: Expo, Half-Marathon
- Princess Jodi’s 2014 Princess Recaps: Expo, Enchanted 10K, Half-Marathon