WDW Marathon Weekend 2017: One to Remember

I am back from a somewhat dramatic Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. I had a great time as always. Perhaps even more so as this year really brought out the best in so many of the runners who were down there. Unfortunately it also brought out the worst in others.

The expo seems to have gotten more and more crowded and difficult to navigate each year. I think next year I will go later in the day. I am not that much into the merchandise anymore since I now have hundreds of runDisney items. Getting there at noon required almost two hours, mostly of waiting in line, to get through the whole thing. Maybe they need to have an express race shirt pickup for people who don’t want to traverse the rest of the expo floor. If you were a half marathon or marathon runner1 you were required to go to the second building, which had a line that stretched way down the field outside. FastPass+ for expo maybe?

This was the line to get into the second part of the expo. After waiting in line for number pickup. Yikes.

The 5K and 10K were uneventful (in a good way). Weather was nice, races went off well. My mother and sister completed the 5K again this year (congratulations). All good.

The real news this year was the Half Marathon. This was to be a milestone year for the race – the 20th running. They had a special medal, we got a luggage tag at the expo. It was all set to be special. And it didn’t happen. The storms that dumped snow all up and down the east coast came through Florida as well, only down there it took the form of a rather nasty thunderstorm.

To be clear, runDisney made the right decision here. These storms were dangerous. Lightning is deadly, especially in Florida, often referred to as the “Lightning Strike Capital of the World”. The half marathon course largely takes place on World Drive between Epcot and the Magic Kingdom. If you have ever driven to the Magic Kingdom park, you are probably aware that there is basically zero shelter on this road. If a storm suddenly turned violent it would take hours to get everyone to safety. Not to mention the volunteers, medical professionals, and security personal who would have been out on the course even earlier at the peak of the storms intensity. Yes, we signed wavers indemnifying Disney of any injury along the course, but imagine how damaging to their reputation it would have been if people were killed due to their holding a race in advance of a known storm, to say nothing of the moral responsibility. You did the right thing runDisney. They even offered refunds in the original announcement. By comparison, when the NYC Marathon in 2012 was canceled after Hurricane Sandy, it was over a month and a half before we got word of any refunds. They were not required to do it, but they did. Not that that stopped anyone from whining on Facebook and Twitter about it.2

But if you want to know about the good in all of this, a pretty large number of runners scheduled for the half marathon, including myself, staged our own unofficial half marathons at the resorts on Saturday morning after the worst of the storm had passed. Even more impressive, other hotel guests and staff came out in support, some even setting up makeshift water stations. I was staying at the Contemporary Resort, which was unfortunately not the best place as the grounds there are rather compact in comparison to other resorts. I considered taking to boat to Fort Wilderness Campground, but the weather still looked like it could turn and staying at Contemporary at least allowed me to be close to shelter should I need it. It was many many loops of the resort, but I completed 13.1 miles. Disney did not require you do this to pickup your medal or to complete the Goofy or Dopey Challenges, but I didn’t feel it was right to continue on to the marathon without completing this leg of the challenge in some form, even if an unofficial one.

The first, and hopefully last, Contemporary Resort Half Marathon

By the morning of the Marathon the weather had improved at least to where the race could be run. But we still got treated to a very cold and windy morning. I am used to waiting around in the cold for races, but three things made this one particularly brutal. 1) It was going to be just warm enough that dressing too warm would have been a mistake. Shorts were still appropriate for me. 2) runDisney races are notorious for their early start times, so not only was it cold, but it was 4am, and there was a lot of waiting around before we started. 3) It was windy. Extremely windy. And that wind easily made it feel 10 degrees colder, if not more.

Once the race was underway, I felt better, but still off. Probably since I did my personal half later in the day the day before. I just didn’t have enough recovery time. I finished easily within the allotted time, but my time was not good, and not where I was hoping to be.

But it was all worth it for this photo. On Bear Island Road there was a photo spot with old ride vehicles. Amazingly the line for a photo here was very short, they didn’t even have a Photopass person here. You had to use your own phone. Easily worth losing an additional minute for this one.

Past attraction vehicles. From left: Star Jets, 20000 Leagues Under the Sea, Snow White’s Scary Adventure, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Skyway.

There has been discussion online on Facebook and comment sections3 as to whether anyone actually completed the Goofy or Dopey Challenges this year in light of the Half Marathon’s cancelation. Since there was no race, it should be treated as a training run they say, and therefor the challenge never happened. Ironically these are the same people who get very upset about cheating complaining about runners who took it upon themselves to make sure they didn’t cheat, even by accident.

My take is this. I did not run a Half Marathon this weekend. I won’t include it on my list of races, nor factor that time into my average. It wasn’t a certified course or an organized race, and should not be counted as such. As for the Goofy and Dopey Challenges, according to Disney they happened. I ran all of the official races that I could run, and to maintain the integrity of the challenge I did the most reasonable thing I could do and ran the distance required for the race that didn’t happen. So yes, I ran the Dopey Challenge this year. The half is unofficial, but the challenge was completed. Had the race taken place and I merely missed it then run a makeup 13.1, no it would not count. These were extenuating circumstances and it requires nuance4.

Hundreds, possibly thousands of runners who could have stayed in bed all day instead chose to go out and keep the integrity of the challenge they came there to complete. The weather wasn’t going to dampen the experience for us. And in that sense, it ended up being the most special marathon weekend in the seven5 years I have been running with runDisney.

Only Time I have ever been given four medals at the end of a race.
  1. i.e. not running Dopey or Goofy
  2. Though to be fair that has become the reason for those sites to exist in the first place.
  3. Where all human decency goes to die.
  4. Something I realize the vast majority of humanity is unable to comprehend.
  5. Yeah, seven!
WDW Marathon Weekend 2017: One to Remember was last updated February 12th, 2017 by Michael Truskowski