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Check Out Our Exclusive Interview With a runDisney Celebrity

Check Out Our Exclusive Interview With a runDisney Celebrity

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There are some people who are famous in the runDisney world. I had the pleasure of interviewing this runDisney celebrity!


Photo Credit: Heather

runDisney has FOUR race weekends at Walt Disney World and will soon bring races back to Disneyland. I (Heather) can’t wait for these races to return, and I am not alone. They sold out in record time! Are you a member of Club runDisney or thinking about becoming one? Read HERE to find out why it may become even more popular to be part of club runDisney.

Check out some of previous runDisney posts below:

runDisney Pace per Mile

Photo Credit: Heather

Jeff Galloway is the official runDisney training consultant. When visiting the runDisney website you will find helpful tips from him on how to complete your runDisney race with legs that aren’t crawling over the finish line.

Galloway uses the run-walk-run method. These are intervals that range from running a few seconds to minutes with walk breaks to help you finish your race strong and even within your goal time!

Photo Credit:

runDisney enforces a strict 16 minute per mile pace from when the last person crosses the start line. The earlier you start (earlier corral) the more buffer you have, which will give you time for bathroom breaks, medical tent stops if needed, and character stops.

There are Jeff Galloway pace groups scattered through out the corrals. These volunteers will help you reach your goal time using the Jeff Galloway run-walk-run method.

They will carry a flag that designates which pace group they are and what intervals they will be doing. This information will also be shared at the expo. You can also get the chance to meet Galloway himself! Talk about an amazing meet!

Balloon Ladies

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Credit: Disney

What is a Balloon Lady? If you have ever visited a runDisney forum on any social media platform you are most likely to have heard of them. One quick trip to these online groups can quickly make you a pile of nerves. You may be thinking these women will chase you down and off the runDisney course.

However, these ladies are just like the rest of runDisney lovers. They have a passion for running and want to help others. They are not the “bad guys” and will be cheering for you, maybe even more than anyone else.

The Balloon Ladies are a visual aid to runners on what the 16 minute per mile pace is. I got to talk with Molly, a Balloon Lady, recently and ask the questions we all want to know!

How They Came To Be

Photo Credit: Heather

They are all runners just like us. They are volunteers and not Cast Members. Molly trains with the Galloway group in Orlando who partner with Track Shack. Track Shack does the timing and organizes the volunteering for runDisney. Track Shack decided they wanted a visual for the 16 minute pace per mile.

Molly was “volun-told” with her friend Sue, and the rest was history. The Balloon Ladies have been around for 15 years now, with their first race being the Princess Half Marathon Weekend.

Sue came up with the idea of the balloons a year or so into it because there was no way for them to stick out. Originally they bought their own balloons, but now Disney provides the balloons.

Photo Credit: Disney

There are six balloon ladies in total. They are Molly, Sue, Kathleen, Nancy, Connie and Heather. They rotate on who is representing them and some of that weighs on seniority for a particular race.

Molly works directly with runDisney and tells them who and what races they are doing. Because they are volunteering their time, they do not pay for their races. They still get their participation shirts and medals and are still a regular participant. They receive no special treatment just like the rest of us.

It is important to note that this crew of Balloon Ladies is only for Disney World. There is a separate group for the Disneyland races.

Training and Preparing for Crowding on the Course

Balloon Lady’s crossing the finish line Photo Credit: Heather

Their training schedules vary and depends on who you are talking to. Kathleen is a fast runner and does intervals of 5 minutes running and 1 minute walking. She is also looking to get a Personal Record at the Philadelphia Marathon this year! Best of luck to her with this great goal!

Nancy, Connie and Heather do 30 second of running and 30 seconds of walking. Molly primarily is a walker. She completes speed work during the week, mostly walking and maybe some intervals and practices at a 15 minute pace.

When it comes to race day, they are just like everybody else. Molly stated, “we all have our moments.” At every mile marker they meet with runDisney. If they are too fast, they get held at the mile marker. If they are too slow they have to run to get back on pace. Even they are threatened by the parade busses (the busses that pick you up and bring you to the finish if you are not on pace).

Credit: Susan

It has happened that the Balloon Ladies have caught up or passed the last 3:30 pace group at the very end of the race. It is extermely crowded at the very back, and Molly and her crew still maintain their pace. They find any open space they can and do this by playing games with all of the participants around them.

She said some games include “go make a new friend and learn all about them. We play light poles or lines on the road and run them or walk them.” She also said, “if you don’t fill in the empty space, we will.”

Race Day Start

Photo Credit: Heather

Dead Last Start or DLS crew (these people purposefully start last and try to see how many people they can pass) are right with these ladies at the start but a few steps ahead. Molly said her and her crew stop “sync up (their) watches with runDisney and huddle up with the bikers and do a big countdown. On hot days they will hold us for a minute or two before we start. But normally it’s just for 30 seconds, but not much.”

The runDisney bikers are the ones who will actually close the course and will notify you of how far behind or ahead you are from the Balloon Ladies. You will hear them shout out things like, “You are three minutes ahead of the Balloon Ladies.”

Keeping Pace

Photo Credit: Heather

It is important to train to keep that 16 minute per mile pace. The course will close and you will not be able to finish the race if you do not maintain pace. The Sheriff’s Department, motorcycles, bicycles and police trucks are out there and block the road. At other points the bikers line up.

“If someone is crying, I am crying with them. One time and one time only I looked back when the bus picked everyone up, and I will never do that again.”

Molly, runDisney Balloon Lady
Photo Credit: KtP Writer Heather Alosa

There is a new race director who has made it “tighter on pickup.” With this Molly said, “I have never seen flaggers at mile 26 before and they have been there…the bikers are really good. If someone is struggling they will get off their bike and run or walk with someone if they need to and will do whatever they can… and as much positive reinforcement as they can to get you going.”

Everyone is really cheering for you and encouraging you to complete the race. Nobody wants to see participants removed from the course.

What about Molly and her fellow Balloon Ladies’ paces? Can they stop for characters? Besides being a character stop themselves (people love to meet them!), they do get their photo opportunities throughout the course. She said runners tend to be more trained at certain events so they will “be by ourselves until mile four… and if we are ahead of a mile marker by a few seconds we will stop to take a picture.”

Information and Advice

Credit: Disney

A silly question but one can wonder, does the ballon slow them down? Believe it or not, it can! Molly said, “during one of the early Princess races, they gave us the life size Belle and life size Cinderella, we were getting blown away…sometimes depending on the wind they can help or they can hurt.”

How do you feel about people being afraid of you? “It is entertaining, but then they get to meet us. Always the scary people before the race and most loved after the race.”

Photo Credit: Friend of KtP blog

When asked for advice for experienced runDisney runners she says “have fun and make sure you are trained.” For new runDisney runners “make sure you are trained, and get as far up in your corral just to give your self some grace period…be safe and have fun.”

A fun fact about Molly is that she is perfect for Princess Half Marathon Weekend and Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend. “I really enjoy it, fun, entertaining, I love helping people. I love seeing people’s faces who didn’t think they could do it. I love it when people get to meet their goals when they didn’t even think they had a goal.”

Photo Credit: Heather

One more thing is costumes! “you need to practice in the costume. Tutus are not your friend.” You will find people losing pieces to their costumes throughout the course if they are not good running attire. Tutus will chafe your arms, so you tend to see many of these. Also on cold morning you will see cold weather gear that gets tossed once runners are warm. Molly said, “I am also known to go shopping and trade up and trade out my cold weather gear.”

Another helpful tip she says, “runDisney has been big about having ice ready for people at the med tent and along the course. Take it. Ask for it. Ice helps in so many ways.”

Final Thoughts

Photo Credit: Heather

It was really great talking to Molly, and I am so grateful for her time. She was so kind and definitely not scary at all.

Use the Ballon Ladies as a visualize guide and know they are cheering for you too! Enjoy your race and soak it all in, no matter what happens on race day. Life happens. The best thing you can do is train and prepare for you race the best you can.

If life happens and you don’t finish the race, as long as you start the race you receive your medal. The only medal you would not receive if you did not complete the race is the Challenge medal if doing any of the Challenges.

I’m quoting Edna Mode, “luck favors the prepared.” So go out their crew and train for those Magical Miles and enjoy that race!

Have you met the Balloon Ladies before? Were you scared of them prior? Did you know what a runDisney Balloon Lady was? Let us know in the comments below. Share this post with a friend who loves to runDisney too!

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