|That time I went to a runDisney meet-up|
But I came back for marathon weekend this year. I came back because a dear friend wanted to attempt her first marathon, and wanted me to be there with her. I came back because it was my first marathon and I remember those 26.2 miles and the friendships that were made and the change that was made in my life because I became a marathoner that day. Those were 26.2 grueling miles, but they were also 26.2 FUN miles. Fun because I had my peeps with me. Fun because of the on-course entertainment. And fun because as a Disney fanatic, I was getting to experience parts of the park that most people never see. I was the nerd who thought it was uber cool to run through the environmental services area between Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom and learn about all the green initiatives taking place behind the scenes at the parks.
But you know what? The weekend just wasn't what I had hoped it would be. Sure, runDisney did AN AMAZING job handling the situation on Saturday. The weather was no condition for anyone to be out - from the volunteers who would have showed up around midnight, in the thick of the storm, to the runners and on-course personnel that would be there in the early morning hours while it was still raining and occasionally lightning. And then to offer the opportunity to be compensated for the cancellation - UNHEARD OF! We all signed waivers agreeing that there was no compensation in the event of cancellation due to weather. But instead we were given the option to transfer to a future event, get park tickets (for those only registered for the half), or a gift card in the amount of registration to use in the parks. Things were handled really well on Saturday. I was really impressed with runDisney as I walked out the expo and mentally focused on the marathon ahead on Sunday.
Around late afternoon Saturday we started to get the alerts from runDisney that it was going to be much colder than expected and to plan on layering as much as possible. Looking at the forecast, I was starting to get more worried not about the temperatures but about the wind. In another race setting, those conditions may have warranted a delayed start, but runDisney doesn't have that option because of the logistics of road closings and navigating through the parks after opening. And yet no consideration was made on how the weather could impact pace. And this is where my real beef with the weekend (really just Sunday) lies.
|Seeing rare characters during my first half marathon|
Ok, wait a minute. At 16:33 average for the first 5 miles, we were only 2:30 off pace over finish time. There was no WAY they started only 2:30 minutes behind us!!! But we caught up to them as we were coming out of Magic Kingdom, and managed to stay ahead of them as we passed the second pick up, and turned onto Bear Lake Road. It was here at this point that we heard one of the balloon ladies tell another runner that she was running a 15:40mm pace at that time.
Ok, wait a minute. Aren't they supposed to be maintaining a 16:00mm and pulling up the "rear?" Also, shouldn't they be next to each other, matching each other's steps? What we heard one of them explain (because the other was already ahead of us again) was that if they were ahead of pace at the mile marker, they would wait, and then start going again. And yet, still not paying attention to the 16:00mm pace as they made their way between mile markers...
So on Bear Lake, as we curved around environmental services, the balloon ladies managed to get ahead of us again, still well within sight, and the bicycles were riding around us telling us we needed to pick up the pace. As we passed mile marker 10, we were told we had until the next mile to catch up to the balloon ladies or we would be swept. They were still within sight, and we knew we could catch them before mile 11. (oh yeah, I forgot to mention after we passed the second pick up, one of them mentioned we would have until the half marker before the next sweep point) And yet, as we came up to Western Way, around the 10.5 mile marker, busses pulled into view just as the balloon ladies crossed the street, and we were unceremoniously forced onto the bus.
|Everybody castle jump and #holdontoyourmedal|
How was it that the balloon ladies had caught up to us so early, and had passed us?? The math just didn't seem to add up. Reaching out we heard that they had started only 5 minutes behind us according to official times. Ok, wait a minute. How much time is supposed to elapse between corral starts? We started very near the front of our corral, O, which was the second-to-last corral. They should have started at the end of P. Also, are the times between corrals between the end of one and the start of another, or just between the start of each. But still if the corral behind us started 5 minutes after ours started, and they were at the back of the group, how were they still only 5 minutes behind us?
Putting all that aside, we were told we had until mile 11 to catch up to them, and yet at the moment we were picked up - somewhere between 10 and 11 - they were probably only 10-20 seconds ahead of us. A time that definitely could have been made up before the mile marker. And why scoop people up before Animal Kingdom anyway? We were about 100 feet away from clearing the road - a road that is not a main thoroughfare by any means - and entering the backstage areas of Animal Kingdom. The park was already set up to manage park guests and runners, so why not allow us to run through the park, and then do the sweep after if we were still behind pace? It's not as if it would be difficult to do a sweep as runners exited the park.
|Cha-Cha finish at 2013 Marathon|
|Castle-jumping to celebrate the fun|
But after my experience on Sunday, I can say, it's just not fun anymore. Sure we know that some concessions have to be made especially on the marathon, because of the enormity of conducting a race within the confines of the park. Race starts can't be delayed, and roads have to open at some point to accommodate other guests. But almost every other person we were on that sweep bus with had the same thought - why now? We didn't feel like we were ready to give up, to have that chance to become a marathoner - whether for the first time or the tenth time - taken away from us. We still had more to give to the race.
And to top it all off, we were told we could not receive our Goofy medals because we had not completed the marathon. I know this is a whole other post in and of itself, but my friend was devastated by this whole outcome. Why would we get the marathon medals for not finishing (and the half medals for not even running at all) but have the Goofy medal withheld? Since when did Disney medals become finisher medals - but only in certain instances?
Ok, wait a minute. So, after being told at the cancellation of the half marathon that we had the options listed above, we're suddenly being told that transfer isn't an option any more?! We have tweets from runDisney specifically stating that we could choose to transfer when the decision was made to cancel the half. Granted, we know they didn't have to do anything to compensate us for that. But at the time, they said these were our options, and now that we're following up with them - liked they requested - we're being told no? And a friend who was at the Light Side Challenge this past weekend - the race we'd like to defer to - said there were very few character stops during the race. runDisney just seems to be charging more and more for these events and offering participants fewer and fewer perks. Why am I agreeing to spend $185 on a half marathon when I could use that money for at least 2 races that are a better value for my money? At least when there were rare and even regular character stops on the course, and I got the chance to run through parts of the parks regular guests rarely see, it was worth the extra money.
Nope, I just don't see the fun in it anymore... so maybe if you tell me again my option is gift card or park tickets, I'll simply take the gift card and enjoy Disney some other time. Because I can never be mad at the Mouse... just the people that are taking the magic out of it all.