Disney concludes my 2014 calendar. I cannot look forward to the rest of 2014 until I look back and reflect on my concluding race of such a great year. Next week I will not only look at my 2014 season as a whole, but I will also look forward to my 2015 adventures and goals. For now, please enjoy my recap of the 2015 Walt Disney World Marathon.
Race Organization: 20/20
There is no race that is organized as well as the Disney races. They have thought of everything that could come up during the expo, the race and the post-race and addressed each scenario. Their staff and volunteers are always welcoming and happy even during what are a few long days since there are four consecutive days with early race starts. They have entertainment throughout the race and work to help the runners complete the race as easily as possible.
The one ding against runDisney is that they are so big and complex that they cannot adapt very well to unexpected events. When there was rain during the race the characters had to go inside instead of just being under cover to still allow the runners to enjoy the energy given by each character through the race. Despite this one criticism out of all the races that I have ran, runDisney and the Walt Disney Marathon is the cream of the crop.
For Disney being such a well put on and large running event Disney’s expo is lacking in size and attendance of the biggest and best companies and displays. The expo takes place in a great location, at the Jostens Center at the ESPN Wide World of Sports just across from where the packet pick up is. The organization getting into the expo is quick and easy, especially compared to getting into the expos at the Chicago and New York City Marathons. Also, the Disney expo, more than any other, has more custom apparel and merchandise than any other race. If you want anything running related to be Disney themed, you can find it at this expo. Be it t-shirts, running pants, jackets, headbands and even shoes it is available at the expo. Unfortunately many other large running companies are not present at the expo. Champion is the sponsor of the runDisney shirts and they seem to have a monopoly over all the other clothing companies including Nike, Adidas, Under Armour and Asics. No other large company has any presence at the expo also there are, for obvious reasons, no other races present to promote their upcoming events. I understand that runDisney competes with any other race since they have races throughout the year but giving other races the opportunity to promote at their events is good for the running community as a whole and a better experience for the runners themselves. Although the race organization is top of its class, the runDisney expo is definitely not near the best I have ever attended.
Race Experience: 18/20
Even to non-runners, the idea of running through Disney parks, during which some are not even open yet sounds like a great opportunity. This is the opportunity that every runner has during the Walt Disney Marathon. Getting to run through the Magic Kingdom Castle before the park is open and right at dawn is a great experience that you can only get if you run in the race. In every race you interact most with the volunteers that man the water stations throughout the long miles and often times after a few hours these volunteers understandably get tired and often will cheer just a little bit less but in Disney this is not the case. Weather the volunteers and crowds are at mile 2 or 22 they cheer loudly and excitedly for every runner. For anyone who has been to Disney they know that no matter how old you are you enjoy the parks and the atmosphere and running through the parks is no difference. It always amazes me how much energy running into the parks gives every runner. Even after 22 or 25 miles, when you enter those parks you quickly gain more energy and view the future miles as shorter than before. The only failure that I found in Disney’s execution was one that probably hurt me more than other runners. In the previous years they have served chocolate and fruit gummies just before mile 23, right as you enter MGM. This year those gummies were not available and I feel that runDisney saw this as a cost cutting measure. This treat helped take your mind off the fact that you still have a long 5K to go, and they also provided a refreshing flavor after a whole morning of GU, Powerade and Water. I hope that Disney just forgot to order these and did not try to save a few pennies by removing them. Besides that small change that I really didn’t like, Disney put on a world class race that is hard to beat anywhere in the country.
Post-race is usually the best part of the day…because the race is over! At the Disney marathon the post-race is a lot of fun for many reasons. The first is that you are in the shadow of Spaceship Earth at Epcot and surrounded by the “Happiest Place on Earth”. Secondly after the finish you are able to take many photos with more characters, backgrounds, friends and family that were waiting for you to finish. This was mostly the case in 2015 as well, with a few drastic differences. When I finished the race I saw that there were no nylar blankets available and the massage area seemed much smaller than last year, with a much longer line. I was rushed through the drink area to the picture taking section where I tried to get a picture taken with a friend who was running Dopey but was told that only Dopey runners were allowed to go into that area and I was not allowed as just a marathon runner. Lastly, after I got my bag my friend wanted to wait in line to get her picture with Dopey but it started to rain and they had to take Dopey inside, leaving dozens waiting in line. There was a good chance of rain the whole day and Disney should have been prepared to handle the rain. Disney made some big, and uncommon, mistakes during my post-race time and I am confident that these mistakes will not take place in the future if I were to run the race again.
Disney, as mentioned above, customizes anything that you would want. You could legitimately have a whole running wardrobe with just runDisney branded items. The one thing that runDisney doesn’t do well is provide extra items, or allow other groups to have items, to runners during the expo for in preparation for the race. Every branded item is tightly controlled by Disney and does not allow for some of the unique collector items that you can find at other races. I hope that in the future runDisney will reach out and open up the abilities of companies to expand the runDisney brand with more new and unique products.
MY OVERALL EXPERIENCE: 76/100
The Walt Disney World Marathon is one of the best in the country. Although some of the details of this year’s race were not to my liking, the most important aspects, the race experience and organization, are near perfect. While in Orlando for the race you get the opportunity to go to Disney, Universal Studios, the beach or any other activity that Orlando offers. As you run around the parks you get to see Disney like very few people ever get too, and you really get a lot of energy from the surroundings, the crowds and the excitement. I still believe that the Walt Disney World Marathon is the best marathon for any first time marathoner, and one of the most enjoyable for seasoned marathoners to participate in.