Hey folks! Well, I decided it was probably a good idea to come home and start writing about the Walt Disney World marathon weekend! I know a lot of you were following along over on Instagram and Twitter and I thank you for that. I was having the time of my life. One of the big moments of the weekend I know that stuck out for everyone was the cancellation of the Walt Disney World Half Marathon. So let me fill you in on what went down.
Throughout the day on Friday, runDisney was communicating that they were monitoring the weather. There were strong reports of lighting storms headed our way and these would likely threaten the half marathon on Saturday morning. Well, it happened. On Friday evening, runDisney made the tough decision to cancel Saturday’s race (which was the 20th anniversary of this race). It was the right call to make for the runners, volunteers, cast members, and all people involved. We don’t want anyone becoming fried food on the course. As you can imagine, many people were disappointed with the cancellation. Others relieved (looking at my Dopey people). Me? I looked at it as a way to get some extra sleep. It is so necessary during a Dopey Challenge weekend. If you are new here the Dopey Challenge means you run all of the races (5K, 10K, half marathon, full marathon) back to back. Early wake up calls…lots of miles…tons of fun. Anyway.
Saturday morning came and it was wet outside…it rained all night. There was still some precipitation in the air and clouds were still moving. I had an honest chat with myself. I had to decide between glory and the feeling of personal accomplishment and discipline or brunch. I had to choose between brunch. If you could have seen the look of crisis on my face. Ultimately, after a 10 minute conversation with myself I got dressed and headed out. The earlier I got the 13.1 miles in the sooner I could go play. It was like homework.
I was staying at the Pop Century resort which neighbors the Art of Animation resort. Between them is Hourglass lake. Around the lake is a running path which is sponsored by New Balance…who happens to be the footwear sponsor of runDisney. I knew from past experience that the loop is about a mile. So 13 times around the lake I went.
While I was out and about running (in between dodging lighting strikes that were passing) I couldn’t help but realize that the amount of runners on the trail was growing. They were showing up in droves. With smiles on their faces. HAPPY to have the opportunity to earn their half marathon medals. People came out of their hotel rooms and cheered for hours for the runners offering support and love. Let me tell you, for me that made a huge difference. The spectators were cheering and celebrating every single person who came out and there will small cheer stations all around the lake. My friend Sparkly Runner was going to spectate the race anyway, so she moved her “aid” station to the middle of the trail. I heard that other spectators donated bottled water and assorted snacks for the runners. There were even some fun “character” stops with kids in their Stitch costumes. I believe I heard someone call it the Pop Art Half Marathon at one point. Check out a part of the spectator magic.
I finished my 13.1 miles with a smile on my face. The feeling I had running that race with all of those amazing runners and spectators was absolutely unreal. You HAD to of been there. I am trying to find the words to describe it and I just can’t. The people were humble and loving. Every person out there supported one another and helped. I saw so many high 5s. I heard so many “You got this keep going!”
I can’t remember ever feeling such a strong positive vibe. If you followed my Insta Story than you saw the party that was going on. I finished my run and people were still cheering and still running. Part of the challenge is running the miles on the specific day. For me, it was important to run and show discipline and lead by example. I could have gone to brunch, but I wanted to earn my Duck. I don’t judge anyone that chose not to run…that isn’t my business. But I will say you guys missed something special if you weren’t staying at Pop Century or Art of Animation. I also heard there were some runners that took over Disney’s Boardwalk as well. Some took to Disney Springs.
Here’s the thing. Saturday affirmed my love for the running community. Groups of people came out and ran and supported one another. In the rain. In the cold. I saw more happy faces during that make shift half marathon, than any other race I’ve been to in recent memory. It was special. It was unique. I am blessed to have been part of it. So to everyone that ran and cheered no matter where you were, thank you.
To runDisney, thank you so much for being so thoughtful and organized in your approach to handling this cancellation. Your communication was top notch, and your options you offered the participants in the form of transfers or refunds was so excellent. You didn’t have to do ANY of that. But you did and that made the day even more magical. I heard the expo experience on Saturday afternoon was top notch as well. So thank you to the operations team for making the best out of a not so good situation.