The Casual Runner

Final Thoughts: WDW Marathon Weekend

2017 runDisney Marathon Weekend
Hits, Misses, & Everything Else

When we launched Casual Runner, we did so with the idea of providing runners with a voice for sharing their personal experiences and opinions. In so doing, we created a platform where fellow runners can learn from the experiences of their peers and enhance their own Casual Running adventures. It is from this starting point that, at the end of major race events, we like to take a step back and share our thoughts about what worked, and, what did not.

The purpose of these articles is two-fold.

First, for our readers, who have to decide how to spend their race and travel budgets, we want to provide a little more detail and insight that we may not have been able to cover in our race reviews

Second, we know that many race directors read Casual Runner, and we communicate regularly with many of them. So we want to provide honest feedback, from the consumer/Casual Runner perspective that they can use to improve upon their product. After all, delivery consistently great running and race experiences is better for everyone, so lets strive for this greatness together.

Check out Mike’s Final Thoughts from the 2016 WDW Marathon Weekend.

So, without further adieu, here are my final thoughts on the 2017 runDisney Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, the hits, the misses, and everything else.

Lets start with the biggest hit of the weekend:

Half Marathon Cancellation (Hit)

If you read my article about the cancellation of the Donald Duck Walt Disney World Half Marathon, you know that I applauded runDisney for their proactive efforts to put runner safety first, even if it resulted in cancelling the race. I also applauded them for taking the extra step of compensating runners for this. I continue to do so, which is why this hit leads off my Final Thoughts list.  

Marathon: Blink and You’ll Miss DHS (Miss)

Sadly, the in-park time in both Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom is disappointingly small. Perhaps if we did not spend so much time on the out-and-back we could spend more time inside the parks? Just saying. Please give us more in-park time! Blizzard Beach is just sitting there BEGGING us to run through it!

Marathon: Mile 5 Timing Mat (Hit)

Sometimes it is the little things that leave a lasting impression. This year, the course design changes resulted in moving the mile 5 marker back a few hundred yards, to just prior to the entrance to Magic Kingdom. Ok, that really is not that big a deal, EXCEPT, this year, runDisney included a timing mat. This means that, if your family and friends were gathered on Main Street USA waiting for you, they received an alert letting them know that you were about to stroll down the street.  This worked perfectly for our friends who were waiting to cheer us on and ensured that we did not miss that Magical Moment with them. I would actually welcome MORE of these mats on the course for this very reason.

Marathon: Down-and-Backs (Miss)

Ugh, the down-and-back on Western Way was just insufferable. It was crowded, and could not have been more boring or unmagical. While I understand that race miles need to be made up somewhere, somehow, this just is not the time or way to do so.

Marathon: The Bar is Open! (Hit)

Opening the bar in Animal Kingdom was a great move! It was placed just beyond the half marathon point near the entrance to Expedition Everest. For those waiting to ride, we could grab a quick ice water or, well, more exotic beverage is that if your pleasure! Loved it.

Character Meets (Miss)

This should be a strength to runDisney events as they are the only race series that can offer such a vast variety of on-course character meet experiences. While there were some GREAT characters out on the course (hello, Patriotic Mickey, Donald, and Goofy in one picture on the 10k??? awesome!), runDisney just is not getting these right. Logistically, they set these up in such a way that there is entirely too much lag time as they switch out characters, creating delays and contributing to longer lines. The goal should be to keep the lines moving. Instead, the logistics they employ only serve to create log jams. 

Marathon: Retired Ride Vehicles (Hit)

This was a truly great surprise on the course – and it took place during the most boring section of the course (so bonus points for that!). As Candace told you in her review, runDisney set up a display of ride vehicles from retired Walt Disney World attractions, including the Sky Way, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea , Snow White’s Scary Adventure, and an older version of Astro Orbiter. This brought out the inner Disney geek in all of us. Also, retired ride vehicles do NOT need to take bathroom breaks! The only problem was that there was no PhotoPass Photographer to capture the awesomeness of this photo op.

Digital Race Guide (Miss)

I often tell my nephews that it is not just what you do, but it is how you do it that counts. Look, I am not fan of the digital-only race guide. But, if runDisney is going to stick with this format, they need a platform that works. The current incarnation is slow, clunky, and hard to navigate, both on desktops and mobile devices.

Also, in past years, runners received discounts at various Disney Springs locations. I could not tell you if that was available this year or not, because, well, you get the idea.

Which brings me too…

Half Marathon: Where is the Castle? (Miss)

One of the biggest problems that I noticed was that, had the Donald Duck Walt Disney World Half Marathon been run, many runners would not have noticed that runDisney changed the course…TO NOT RUN IN CINDERELLA’S CASTLE. That’s right, the plan was to bypass runners down a narrow path to the side of the castle.

This is, without a doubt, a highlight of this or any other race and needs to be returned to next year’s race. Not only did runDisney remove it from the course, but they did not take the proper steps to let runners know about it. Instead, they simply slipped it into the digital race guide, which for all the problems I’ve detailed, meant that it went unnoticed by many runners.

Race Day Parking (Hit)

For the first time ever I drove myself to a runDisney race start, and lets just say their parking lot team brought their A-game. I have never made it into a Disney World parking lot so efficiently, they really kept traffic moving. Props to them!

Proofreading: Wrong Course Maps (Miss)

Without a printed race guide and with digital guides that are wonky at best, most runners’ best opportunity to study the course is at the large maps displayed at the race expo. The problem was that runDisney posted the WRONG maps for BOTH the Donald Duck Walt Disney World Half Marathon and Mickey Mouse’s Marathon.

To add insult to injury, not only were the wrong course maps displayed at the expo, but all of the race merch for these races that included the course maps were likewise wrong. I do not want to beat a dead horse here, but this is the second consecutive WDW race weekend where there was a big proofreading problem with the merch (see our Wine & Dine Final Thoughts). Once is excusable, twice suggests there is a problem that needs corrected.

The course maps displayed at the expo and on race merch were NOT the official courses for the 2017 races.

Marathon SMOs (HIT)

I LOVE the marathon medal. Love it. Love it. Love it. It is simple, it is classic, it is beautiful. I can’t say enough good things about it. I also really like the Goofy Challenge medal, but….

Proofreading: What is the Goofy Challenge? (Miss)

The Goofy Challenge consists of running BOTH the Donald Duck Walt Disney World Half Marathon on Saturday and the Mickey Mouse’s Marathon on Sunday. For those keeping score at home, that is 1 half marathon + 1 marathon. For some reason, this is what is engraved onto the backside of the 2017 Goofy medals:

A Marathon and “2 Half Marathon”? Yeah, I have no idea what they were going for with this one, but it is a big miss.

Well, those are our thoughts. What are yours? Please let us know by sharing them with us. And just remember, there are only 11 training months to go until the 2018 WDW Marathon Weekend! Enjoy the training trails.

Still want more? Check out our coverage of Cigna’s runDisney Walt Disney World Race Weekends

A decidedly-Dopey botched course map.

Enjoy the freedom of going wherever your feet, imagination, & determination take you!

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Enjoy the freedom of going wherever your feet, imagination, & determination take you!

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