Olympic track and field champion and Real Housewives of Atlanta newcomer Sanya Richards-Ross was among the thousands of runners at the 2022 Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend at Walt Disney World Resort on November 4th as Disney’s featured partner. The Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon weekend blends tourism and culinary delights from Walt Disney World. The race weekend included a 5K, 10K, half marathon, and a health and fitness expo, perfect for family fun. All races have runners of every fitness level, allowing them to run through Disney theme parks, experience world-class entertainment, and earn Disney medals.
“It was an honor to have Sanya here for the Disney Wine & Dine 5K and a testament to how special our run Disney races are. As a world-class athlete, I am certain she inspired every person she met along the course and beyond,” said Rosalyn Durant, SVP of Walt Disney World Operations
As a fitness and wellness enthusiast, Richards-Ross decided to enter the race, marking her first runDisney event and first 5K. Richards-Ross, who won four gold medals in the 400-meter and 4×400-meter relays at three Olympic Games from 2004 to 2012, remains one of track and field’s most decorated and revered female athletes. Since her retirement in 2016, she transitioned into reality television, entrepreneurship, and motherhood but hasn’t abandoned her fitness roots.
Through her partnership with interactive personal training company iFit, she leads an intermediate six-part workout series designed to emulate a professional track and field program. She shows her students various running workouts ranging from endurance to sprints, a progression run, and intervals.
However, for her recent race, Richards-Ross planned to put less pressure on herself. Instead, she simply looked forward to her support system cheering her on. “I think it’s a perfect first run for an Olympian or first-time runner because there’s no entry time, no judgment. It’s all about having fun,” she said to ESSENCE. While completing the race is important to Richards-Ross, she also wanted to interact with the other runners and fans. “It’s more about committing to doing something that I know is good for myself and not putting a lot of pressure on myself to try and break records,” she emphasized.
Richards-Ross believed it would be a great first 5K experience for her because the race wasn’t rooted in competition. “The race feels like Disney, very welcoming, family-oriented, and fun. I want to go out there and give it a good effort and hopefully inspire other people to do the same,” she shared.
She takes pride in being an accessible fitness example to other Black women and often inspires them through her social media and blog platform, MommiNation. With around 143,000 followers, MommiNation is a lifestyle platform created to intentionally support Black mothers through fitness and other lifestyle and wellness topics. The platform does a challenge twice a year called the “Fit Mommy Challenge,” which centers Black moms and supports them on their health journeys. “Every chance I get, I try to be an inspiration by modeling a healthy lifestyle for people. On my platforms, I try to showcase how to eat well and be active,” Richards-Ross said.
A proud mother and wife, Richards-Ross, decided to bring her multi-generational family down to Florida from Atlanta to partake in the festivities and watch the race. “It’s going to be nine of us total. We’re all going. My mom, my sister, her two boys, my son, and my husband, unfortunately, had a last-minute work engagement. So he’s hoping to come for the final day. Disney has always been a family experience for us. When I was even a kid living in Jamaica used to come to Florida and go to Disney World. So it’s nostalgic for me,” she said.
As a mom, Richards-Ross also tries to set a good example for her son while incorporating sports, fitness, and wellness. This upcoming race and Disney experience check all the boxes for her.
For Richards-Ross, Walt Disney World has always been a family experience and tradition. “For our family, it’s tradition; Disney brings all the best parts of life together,” she shared.
The runDisney Wine & Dine race isn’t just about fitness for Richards-Ross. It’s also an opportunity to cultivate memories with her family, which can be difficult for her as a working mom with a busy schedule. “Being able to travel with my son means everything, especially to a place like Disney, where the environment sparks imagination and is all about love, joy, and happiness. We can’t get enough of that for our children right now. So it’s super important to our family to be able to want to take advantage of going to travel together,” she said.
Aside from being a devoted and loving mother, Richards-Ross is known for bringing her authenticity, love for fitness, and Jamaican pride to the Real Housewives of Atlanta platform, and it’s no different in real life. “Being on the show [The Real Housewives of Atlanta] has always meant bringing all of me authentically to the platform. Introducing myself as the first Jamaican woman on the show, living in a multi-generational home with my extended family, to how important family, health, and wellness are to me was paramount. It’s not just for the cameras – all of this is important to me in real life. I also respect how vital health and wellness are to Disney,” she stated. When asked if any RHOA castmates would run beside her, she laughed and responded, “Shereé Whitfield would’ve been my best bet.” Perhaps there will be a Real Housewives of Atlanta cast race at Walt Disney World in the future, and if that happens, ESSENCE will need credit for the idea.
Nonetheless, Richards-Ross remained excited about the race. “I’m looking forward to being out there with a large group of people who are also passionate about running. That makes events like this fun. You have brand new accountability partners on this journey with you. No matter how you’re feeling, they’re probably feeling similarly and pushing through,” she said.