Ran the Walt Disney Half Marathon last Saturday and can report that it is an event not to be missed if you haven't run it already. 27,000 Half Marathoners. Still cant believe that many people really ran that. Last time I ran any race with that many people was Boston 1996 (the 100th anniversary).
The start consists of 6 'waves' (determined by expected finishing time) each about 5-10 minutes a part. Each wave gets a Disney send off with explosions, large music and fireworks. I'm willing to bet that the local Orlando Audiologists showed an increase in visits this past week.
It starts from Epcot, travels the service road to the Magic Kingdom, through thee Magic Kingdom, back to Epcot, through it, finishing right outside the park. along the way, you are able to get photo ops with almost every Disney big name character, they really do this right.
Although i think Disney does its great job of running this race, there are a few changes they could make to improve on it. First, getting to my first observation, the number of runners they allow in this race. I've often heard runners complain at other races that 'the organizer needs to open this race to more runners'. This was an example of why race directors don't.
I had fun because I was not taking the run seriously. But if I was, or if I had trained for 12 plus weeks for it, i would've been mad about the number of walkers, width of the running path, etc. that would've made that serious training useless. Its a party race, not one that you are using for any PR (personal record) or qualification standard. So if you are going to run this race, put it in perspective.
Another change would be in how the 'waves' are set up. Yes, they did it by predicted finish times - fastest in first wave, slowest in last one. But unfortunately, it was the runner's predicted finish time. So, since I was in wave four with my wife and son, we were constantly running into walkers from wave one, two, and three within our first five miles. And yes, I know there are runners that use the Galloway Run/Walk method, I'm one of them. But these walkers were wearing clothing that i know were for walking only. This led to bumping throughout the race for those that didn't like the swerving around the runners... that weren't running.
Lastly, I would consider having the start of the race closer to a parking area that didn't have 27,000 runners walk a mile to their starting chutes/wave. I felt already warmed up by the time i got to the start, and then had to wait 40 minutes until my wave started. If there wouldn't have been such a walking jam, I would've ended up waiting one hour for the start. Disney does make it clear you are expected in your 'corral' by 5 am, regardless of you starting time. Since the first wave starts at 5:35 [five minutes after the wheelchair racers take off], that is long time to wait. Thank God it didn't rain!
But I don't want this criticism to diminish the fact that it was a fun race. I know I had fun at least. But it was an expensive race, at least I haven't paid $135 for any race I entered before that, so if you are going to run it, remember that you are doing it not to get a PR, but to be part of an event.
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