‘RHOA’s’ Sanya Richards Ross on First 5k With Walt Disney World’s runDisney and Season 15 Filming (Exclusive)
Sanya Richards Ross is lauded as one of the fattest women in the world. The four-time Olympic gold medalist may be retired from running on a professional level, but health and fitness remain a priority. Since her retirement in 2016, she has gone on to become a track and field TV analyst and reality television personality, currently starring in the Bravo reality series The Real Housewives of Atlanta. But she always comes back home and she’s showing such by recently partnering with Walt Disney World’s runDisney, where she completed her first 5K. Richards Ross took part in the 2022 Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon from Nov. 3-6, entering in the 5K on Nov. 5 and made additional appearances during the race weekend.
The Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend blends music, stories, and culinary delights found during the EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival and the Walt Disney World Resort’s 50th-anniversary celebration. In addition to the weekend’s 5K, guests can also experience a 10K, half marathon, and a health and fitness expo. PopCulture.com’s Brenda Alexander was on hand for her first-ever runDisney event, and had the chance to chat with Richards Ross about her foray into the Disney family. She dished on running her first long distance, interacting with the other runners, her hopes for an expanded partnership with Disney, and of course shed light on what to expect on the forthcoming season of RHOA.
PC: How did your participation in Run Disney come about?
SRR: They reached out to me and asked if I had any interest in joining, and I was like: family fitness, Disney World – count me in. It’s just been an incredible experience so far. This actually exceeded my expectations. Obviously, I’m a sprinter, so I’m not used to running far distances. But this was just perfect. It was so much more than a run. It was community, entertainment, and the parks. It was just the perfect place for anyone, no matter what level you are on your running journey, to be able to come and have this experience. I think it’s so worth it.
PC: With this being your first 5K run and specifically with Disney – a little birdie did tell me that you were very nervous going into this – you’re not used to running long distances, but aside from that, what did you find to be the biggest difference between sprinting and a marathon?
SRR: Outside of the fact that obviously, when you sprint, it’s over much quicker. And so you kind of wrap your mind around a minute run or whatever it is. When you go for longer runs, you’ve got to push yourself through whatever comes up, whether that’s physical or mental. And so for me, it was really fun. I actually ran most of the run with the Disney ambassadors, Raven and Alec. It was just so much fun because it was also Raven’s first run as well. And the sentiment around you could feel that, for a lot of people, was their first run as well. So you just felt safe, and I just felt easy. It didn’t feel like there was a lot of judgment. It was just really a lot of fun. I thought I might run and walk some of it. And I never had any desire to walk. I just wanted to keep going, and I wanted to keep pushing. That definitely came from the inspiration from everyone around me.
PC: You spoke a little bit about this earlier, but there are so many great champion stories that we’ve heard throughout the morning throughout the day with people talking about overcoming health ailments and more. What inspired you the most?
SRR: It was the fact that no matter what people had been through, we had all gotten to that start line, and we were committed to finishing this race. And I think this is one of the most diverse groups of people as far as I saw people with disabilities. There was a woman who came up to me who was hard of hearing, there were people in wheelchairs, there were older individuals there, there were kids as young as I saw a 9-year-old girl here. And that’s what I think just makes this run so special, is that it is so welcoming to everyone. And I just admire people, no matter what stage they are in life, doing something like this, whether it’s for themselves or for a cause, or is their hobby. It just means a lot like as human beings that we continue to push through whatever the circumstances are. And I feel like this race is a picture of that today.
PC: As a four time Olympic gold medalist, and as a health and fitness expert, how does this tie into and further expand your passion and your brand?
SRR: It’s a perfect tie-in. When you think about health and wellness, it’s about staying committed to moving. And this is what this opportunity provides. The Run Disney with the 5K all the way up to the marathon and all the races in between – it presents an opportunity for us to challenge ourselves physically. And that is what it’s all about. And I think when I was competing, I used to always put on the calendar these things that were like little milestones or important moments. And that’s what gets you through the training, that’s what gives you through the other workouts. And so I think for people to have the opportunity to do that with Run Disney, where I hear people talking about the next thing, and that’s what inspires you to keep going. And so having these milestones or mom markers makes it significant for people who are so excited to get their medals at the end of this race. It’s like you always have something to look forward to. And so now for me, I’m looking forward to doing this again, it was that much fun. And I want to bring my friends, I want to bring my family to come and experience it because it can be life-changing.
PC: And you spoke a little bit about this earlier, that one of the things that you were so excited about was that you saw people of all ages on the spectrum participate. And I spoke with my friend earlier about how kids are not necessarily as active nowadays. They’re a bit lazy. There’s an issue with weight and obesity and things like that. So what is your advice for people to get their families, especially kids nowadays, because everything is so digital, they are in the home and a lot of them were stuck in the house for COVID so they kind of got used to that. What’s your advice to get them up and out?
SRR: It’s so it’s crucially important. And obviously, the statistics show that when young people start moving and fall in love with sports at a younger age, they’re more likely to do it throughout adulthood. And so I think the best way for us to do it, as parents, is to be examples. You got to get out there, too. I think it’s easy for us to have our kids on their devices all day while we’re doing what we need to do. But if we’re committed to it ourselves, to moving for 30 minutes a day minimum and then getting our kids to do it, there’s no doubt that they won’t pick up on that as well. So, unfortunately, we can’t just talk about it. We’ve got to be about it. And so events like this where you can run with your children are a great opportunity to get them moving and get them excited about being active. I think we have to model it for our children.
PC: And then, obviously, tying it in with Disney is every kid’s dream. But let’s switch gears a little bit because you gained a new fan base from The Real Housewives of Atlanta. As an established and decorated athlete, what was the show’s appeal?
SRR: Being able to actually be introduced to a new audience, obviously track and field is a great sport and wildly watched and consumed overseas, but in the United States, it doesn’t have as big of a fan base. And so to be able to join and do something different, that would introduce me to new people, I was I thought that was very appealing. And I also admire a lot of the women on the show. I see them as bosses and entrepreneurs and just really great individuals. So it’s been a lot of fun. It is a different world. People really do love the show. They take ownership of the show and the individuals on the show, and they’re very invested in the show, which I really appreciate. It’s been an exciting journey so far. I’m filming for my season two, which is season 15 now and it’s been a lot of fun.
PC: You did have your own show on another network, so why transition from having your own show focused on you and your family to an ensemble?
SRR: Having my own show was a lot of fun, and I would have done it again. But we didn’t get another season. The SVP ended up leaving, and it was just a lot of things that happened behind the scenes. But an ensemble cast is appealing as well because it’s not as much pressure on one family to always bring all the drama and carry the storyline. It allows for people to see a diverse cast of individuals and storylines and kind of pick who they love and pick the stories that they want to follow. So it’s really fun. I always say that I say yes to life. So when opportunities come, I say yes, and I figure it out later. And so I thought it was just a great opportunity for me to bring all of who I am to this really robust and incredible platform.
PC: Going into your second season, how are you balancing showing up as yourself and fan reactions because it can be very tough? I felt like last season, you were a fan favorite for a bit, and then it kind of switched. So what is your goal to showcase this time around?
SRR: I think I learned this as an athlete, I don’t focus on that. You have to block out the noise because people can be very fickle. And so my only goal is to just show up authentically as myself every single time and not be in my head trying to figure out what are they going to think of this or that? The experience happened very quickly. You’re in the moment, and so it’s like, ‘How would I genuinely react if this happened to me?’ And I always think about life as a long game. I’m in it for the long haul. So I know that I’m a great person and I have a great family around me. And over time, I believe people will see that. I’m not really here for the instant moments, like, ‘Oh, let me make sure I do this.’ You never know how they’re going to react. So it’s just about being yourself. And that’s what I want to do.
We’ve seen some things leak on the blogs about what happened at your husband’s 40th birthday party. What can you tease about what went down? And then a lot of people have been cautioning you not to trust Marlo [Hampton] and Sheree [Whitfield] because of their history within the circle. What’s your response to that?
SRR: Well, first, the party was epic. My husband thought it was epic, and a lot happened at the party that didn’t leak. So that was actually our first week of filming. So this season’s going to start off with a bang. I definitely don’t want to tease any of the storylines, and the storyline seem to have not gotten out, which I think is really great for the most part. So that’s going to be really fun.
And then, like I said earlier, I really don’t read a lot of comments about what people are saying about the show because I think it can be draining. And so I’m just going to trust my own instincts when it comes to the ladies on the show. And Marlo and I have really built a really strong friendship. She’s been nothing but amazing to me, authentic, reaches out to me almost every day, we talk on the phone every day. So I’m just going to show on camera what’s happening in real life behind the scenes. I’ve had that experience with both Marlo and Sheree. So we’ll see where the relationship goes. But I’m just going to keep leaning into the people who show me a lot of love.
PC: Because it’s an ensemble show, everything cannot fit into 42 minutes. But are you hoping that this time around we’re able to see more of what you’re doing in this space? We saw a little bit last season with your mommy brand. Now your partnership with Disney is in effect, and hopefully, you can expand upon that. What are you looking forward to viewers seeing in your professional and personal life?
SRR: That’s a great question. It’s tough. Those are probably the most important thing to me is for people to see the work that we do, all of us individually as women. And so I think they’re doing a great job this year of covering a lot of stuff that I’m doing. I work on a project that I can’t wait for people to see that’s going to be on the show. But of course, like you mentioned, Mommy Nation, which is my passion project, really supports Black moms on their motherhood journey. That’s really important to me. My husband’s business is now coming to Atlanta, and then obviously, all the things that I do with Disney or NBC or Nike, and they do a good job of trying to capture as much of it as they can. But at the end of the day, it’s there are seven of us in the cast. So it’s like trying to squeeze in all of that goodness. But so far, so good.