At a glance
I registered to the 2014 edition of the Walt Disney World Marathon being held in Orlando, Florida (Sunday, January 12). The registration fees were $185.88, which is just insane regarding the service provided (see later). The race go through the different parks: it starts at Epcot and you go through Magic Kongdom, Animal Kingdom, ESPN World of Sports, etc. The Disney characters are there and you have a professional to take your picture with them. But you have to wait because there are plenty of people that want their picture with Mickey!
The race starts officially at 0530am. But to be able to check-in, you have to be there around 04am. So, considering all the people attending the event, you have to leave your hotel around 0330am-0400am … and take a cab (driving is REALLY crazy). Once you get there, you can drop a bag and go to the pre-race tent, but it costs additional money (probably around $100). Then, the race starts at 0530am … for the first in line! You are placed according to your estimate finish time and the slower starts later. Considering I did not specify any time, I started in the next wave, that is … 0630. Useless to say that when you wake up at 0230am, waiting for the start for 04 hours is already exhausting.
In my wave, people started to walk at mile 0.5. So, you have to pass them. But the road is really narrow, so, this is very difficult to pass everybody without touching them (which I hated because you feel intrusive and too pushy while they just want to enjoy their race). In total, it added an extra mile for me to pass people and go through everyone without trying to hurt someone (with occasional failure to do so). There are water stop every 2 miles (water and powerade) and food from mile 10 (approximatively) with banana and cliff gels.
The road is ok but … you finally end up by being a small amount of time in the park and most of the time on the road between other parks. Also, in the beginning, road were closed whereas later, you have to share with cars (yes, Mickey does not wait to make money and he does not want to close the road to other customers!). So, after a while, you end up by running on the road next to other cars. Really not appropriate for such a race…
At the finish in Epcot, you get a big medal and a box that contains some food and a banana. In case you want champagne or beer, you can go at the designated tent and pay extra for that (probably $10 or $20 a glass). Of course, you also have the rest area but you will have to pay extra (probably included in the checkin package for an additional $100).
The organization of the event is ok: you do not have wait for anything and the event go pretty well. There are a lot of medicine support, water stops, etc.
The pick up packet contains a shirt, some food and race information. Nothing else.
The main concern here is that the race seems to be just a way for the park to make more and more money. As running is mostly something fun for me, we share this fun with the race organizer and we race because we enjoy this moment. Most of the time, going to a race is more sharing a moment with a community, no matter is your fitness level. In other words, the relation with the race organizers is more like a community where in Disney, you just feel like a customer. You have to pay for everything and they is no way they will try to attract runners with any special offer. Even if the race registration is moderate compared to the event, all the extra are really expensive (pre-race pasta party for $10/person, race retreat $100/person, beer at the finish, etc.). And if you race with your family, they even do not give tickets for the park (the Hershey’s half gives 2 tickets so that you can enjoy the park before racing). Finally, the post-race party is nothing than a discount on the restaurant in downtown! Considering that this race is on January, you cannot stop thinking this is a marketing strategy to fill the park during the off-season package … and makes you feel like the primary concern of Disney is not that you enjoy the race (of course they want so that you come back next year but this is minor …) but having your money and your family.
To conclude, the race is nice and well organized. I liked it so far but it could be better organized for the start so that you do not have to wait for so long. Also, you might be able to have a better way to start early if you really want to run.
Pros and cons
- Efficient organization for water stop, aid station, etc.
- It’s Disney: characteres, etc.
- All the marketing/business behing the race that kills the spirit behing running …
- Flat course
- Start time … waiting more than 1 hour after the official starting time at 0530 is really painful
- Sharing the road with the cars … I know some race directors died for less than such an issue!
Let’s do it ?
Obviously, if you are a big Disney fan, you should consider it at leat once. Even if the race is expensive and, considering the marketing/business behind that, you will enjoy it. If you are not a big Disney fan, pass your turn and signed up for a better event. Go to a local race, spend your money on travel and enjoy visits in the Nature, good restaurants and just enjoy a race with friends!
This is after this race that I had the idea to make the guide how to behave during a race. This guide might also be helpful to explain other runners behavior during the race. Also, after this race it seems that Disney was ready to buy the badwater ultra to add other races to the fun! Would be fun to walk 100 miles in Death Valley!
To finish, let’s illustrate the race with a single picture and an accurate/appropriate comment.
“Erg, may I pass please while you have a 1min run and try to make your best smile to the cam with your Minnie earings?
No offense but I have to check out my hotel room and would like to finish before the sunset! Thanks, you’re welcome!”