The Casual Runner

Final Thoughts: 2016 WDW Marathon Weekend

We have TONS of coverage of the 2016 runDisney Walt Disney World Marathon coming your way! Here is a quick guide so you don’t miss any of it:

Can’t get enough of this great event, including the Dopey Challenge & other race events? You can check out our past coverage of the 2015 Walt Disney World Weekend now:

So, by now you’ve seen our coverage of the 2016 runDisney Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend (If you haven’t, why not? All of the links are above!).

IMG_2014Now its time to share my final thoughts on the changes that runDisney made to this year’s event from previous years. As events continue to evolve over time, it is important for runners and race directors alike to take stock of what worked, what did not, and what areas of improvement are out there that can help make great events even better. It is for this reason that, when it comes to great races, runners can run the same event multiple times and yet get a very different experiences each time. So, here we go…

Costume Policies. There was no bigger topic of conversation than the changes to the costume policies that runDisney announced just prior to the start of the event. Yes, some people were inconvenienced by these changes, especially those who arrived in Walt Disney World prior to the announcement. However, from what we saw, runDisney really did their best to accommodate and assist runners with these policy changes.  In so doing, they made the best of the situation, and these changes should become a non-issue at future race weekends when runners and organizers alike have more time plan.

Security Screening. This ended up being the biggest non-issue of the race weekend. The checkpoints were plentiful and efficient. Some small tweaks to the physical layout of the queues may be in order so that runners will evenly feed into all of the checkpoints and reduce logjams, but overall, this worked pretty well.

IMG_3536Transportation Issues. What issues? I have never seen such problem-free transportation at a runDisney race weekend. The buses were plentiful and frequent, and they kept traffic moving. Whatever runDisney did to make this happen, keep up the great work!

Marathon Course Change: Fantasyland. With the elimination (and removal) of the WDW Speedway, runDisney needed to make up the lost distance elsewhere on the course. This year the course changed to turn right at the Teacups so we ran around the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (look! we have a new on-ride video of this roller coaster) and past the Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast attractions. This was a nice, scenic change to the course that opened up some new character picture opportunities (can anyone say Sebastian and Lumiere walk around characters!?!?!!).

Marathon Course Change: Frontierland. Another small, but great change. Instead of continuing straight through Frontierland and out of the park, we turned right towards Big Thunder Mountain (yes! we now have a new on-ride attraction video for this roller coaster too!) then made a quick turnaround past Splash Mountain before heading out of the park. I loved this as, while it did not add all that much in terms of mileage, it did help to increase our in-park time and did so with a scenic stretch of the course. Very nice addition.

IMG_3047I would love to see runDisney explore new ways to increase our in-park time at both Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, but we may have to wait for the major ongoing theme park construction to be done for that.

Marathon Course Change: Bear Lake Road and Western Way. Ugh. Yeah, course designers had to add some distance somewhere, so we made a detour into an out-and-back in an area that was not at all scenic and did not add anything to the course. I can’t say I am a fan of this out-and-back and we’ve heard a few credible reports of some course-cutting in this section. I guess you can’t win them all.

Marathon Course Change: Wide World of Sports. This was the best change to the course! You will hear a full spectrum of runners’ opinions of this section of the course.  This year, race organizers reordered the way we progressed through ESPN Wide World of Sports, which had the benefit of moving the baseball stadium portion later in the race. This seemingly simple change was HUGE in terms of the mental “game” at this stage in the marathon. Plus, once we exited the stadium, we did so into a huge crowd of supporters ushering us out of the complex. The unexpected benefit of this was just how many bathroom stops there are in this section of the course and how they are dispersed. Well done runDisney!

Overall, the course changes this year were excellent. Now, if only we could get some changes to the Half Marathon Course…speaking of…

IMG_3034Character Changes. In years past, there was a lot of repeating of character stops between the Half Marathon and Marathon events. However, this year, runDisney did an excellent job of swapping out characters. Essentially, they used the same set pieces in the same course locations, but they inserted different characters into these locations on the second day, freshening up the on-course experience for runners.

New Characters!!! I do not have any insider info on this one, but from a guest perspective, it appears that runDisney’s Team is working hard to dig deep into the character archive to find some “long lost friends.” If they continue to do so, it will make these races even more appealing to runners. After all, while seeing the same characters that you can and will see in the parks during your runcation is run, seeing a character you rarely see makes the race that much more magical. Among this year’s lineup of “long lost friends” were the aforementioned Lumiere and Sebastian walk around characters, PLUS Scrooge McDuck, Genie (in his vacation outfit), Oogie Boogie, the Evil Queen (as the old lady WITH her cauldron), Shan Yu (the villain from Mulan), and Team Casual Runner cosrunning favorites Boo in her Monster Costume and George Sanderson.  Honestly, I for one am glad that runDisney does not disclose the characters beforehand – it adds extra excitement to the race experience to “discover” what characters are waiting for you along the course.

IMG_2009The Vibe: Celebrating all runners. In the past, runDisney over-hyped the Dopey Challenge, to the point that it had the unintended consequence of overshadowing, and even diminishing the experience and accomplishment of non-Dopey runners. In fact, a few weeks ago, in reflecting on their year of running every runDisney race weekend, Jake and Jennifer, who at the 2015 WDW Marathon Weekend ran 16.2 miles over 2 days running Pluto’s 5k and Donald’s Half Marathon, had this to say about their experiences:

“Jennifer’s 6-Word Story: Dopey runners overshadowed my events. Bummer.”

“Jake’s 6-Word Story: If you don’t Dopey, don’t bother.”

It seems as though runDisney listened. This year they made a noticeable effort to promote the 2016 Walt Disney World Marathon WEEKEND, and in so doing celebrated the entire event and, in turn, every runner. From the event merchandise (which seemed to equally represent all 4 races and both challenges in terms of quality), to the pre-race announcements, runDisney actively celebrated all runners regardless of their race programs. This was both refreshing and nice to see, as each and every runner deserves to be celebrated. We hope this trend continues as it enhanced the experience for everyone.  Again, runDisney deserves props for this change.

 

Can’t get enough of this great event, including the Dopey Challenge & other race events? You can check out our past coverage of the 2015 Walt Disney World Weekend now:

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