21 October 2013

Remain on Designated Trails

Running has always been an integral part of the Walt Disney World experience. Of course, Cast Members have for years asked guests to walk, not run, as guests, typically men and teenage boys, sprint to grab Fastpasses or be the first person to get on an attraction each morning. Over the past two decades, running in and around Walt Disney World has begun to take on a new life, from a marathon weekend to races that now span the entire calendar year.

Guests with a penchant for running as their main form of exercise, and who don’t want to give up on their exercise regimen while on vacation, have always been able to get in their regularly scheduled run. Whether finding a way on their own around the resort sidewalks, utilizing fitness rooms, or grabbing a map from the front desk, runners have always found a way. With the increasing guest awareness of and participation in runDisney events, the fitness community has taken notice and a partnership has emerged with New Balance.

Oh sure, there are merchandising opportunities with such a relationship, such as the limited edition footwear that were available for the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, but that isn’t going to be how most guests relate to the partnership. New Balance and runDisney are both keenly aware of this fact and have put in place more functional tools, such as signage for posted running trails around resorts.

Adding in such signs won’t take away from the aesthetics of a given resort, such as the signs that have popped up around the Polynesian (noted on the signs now as Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort). Rather, these running trail postings go a long way to cut down on confusion. Guests will no longer be searching for their own way to run around the resorts, estimating how far they’ve run and wandering onto sidewalks that come to abrupt ends or enter Cast Member only areas. They will also not have to go down to the front desk first in order to obtain a map, or print one out from online, that they need to carry with them.

The trails make use of already built sidewalks, which means that runners will regularly come into contact with other guests, but they are definitely a start. Fitness trails, such as the one the connects Fort Wilderness and the Wilderness Lodge, would be great additions for all the resorts, but I don’t see that happening any time soon. That said, putting in dedicated running and fitness trails, perhaps one that can be easily accessed from multiple resorts in an area (i.e. the Value Resorts, Epcot Resorts, Animal Kingdom Lodge and Kidani Village, and other groupings), is likely something that may need to be explored if runners and walking guests create congestion problems and complaints.

I like the idea of having running routes plotted out, with signs to show guests where they are going and where they have been, around the resorts. If this is the next step in creating healthier options for Walt Disney World guests, then I cannot wait to see what comes next!

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