February 20, 2006
Disney Half Chaos
Originally Posted 01.09.06
This year, in support of the "Goofy Challenge," the folks at Walt Disney World split the half marathon and marathon up, running them on separate days. Saturday, the day of the half marathon was not a good day at Disney.
The first mistake Disney made was starting the half marathon on a one lane road. This became apparent 29 minutes after the race started when Disney Officials would not let anyone else cross the start line.
How bad was it? My wife and I could not see the starting line from our corral. We reached the start more than 22 minutes after the gun went off. This means the leaders were already well past mile four when we began the half marathon. It took us 37 plus minutes (gun time) to get through the first mile. We received somewhat of a reprieve around mile two, when the course expanded to two lanes. In retrospect, this did not help all that much.
I did not realize how many walkers had signed up for this race. I have nothing against walkers and I believe that anyone who can get out and do a marathon or half marathon within the time limits should be allowed to participate.
But, Disney apparently placed walkers in several different corrals. With the course being mostly one lane, it was nearly impossible to get by slower participants. Two of our cohorts started in Corral D and both finished in under 2:30. A woman we met on our flight, who is a confirmed walker, finished in 3:28 and started in the front of Corral G. My wife and I started in Corral H, which was by far the largest Corral (I estimate it was the size of three or four corrals). We were about 2/3 of the way back and finished in 3:16 (Gun).
The most frustrating thing isn't the finish time, which I was relatively unconcerned about. It was that my wife and I never got to get into a running groove. Too much speeding up and slowing down. Although the term "speeding up" is relative. There was never that much speed. Frustration was the word of the day.
The half marathon course is basically an up and back, with the "up" including a tour through the Magic Kingdom, before heading back to Epcot the same way you came. The aid stations were hard to find and the water stations were inconsistent as far as whether Powerade or Water was first. Few of the stations had people actually calling out what was on their table.
The good thing about the half marathon is that Disney provided busses to move spectators to different locations. This meant a little bit more support than the event has seen in the past.
On the other hand, busses were a part of the problem. On Saturday, busses ran late; drivers did not know where they were going and they were not properly marked, which caused some confusion, especially after the race. Further, post race transportation was a farce as drivers dropped runners off at the first stop at each resort, rather than proceed through each of the resorts designated bus stops. This means that some runners were forced to walk a mile or so back to their rooms.
Disney normally puts on a good event. And I also try to keep in mind that this is the first year of the format. I am sure Disney will make the necessary changes to make this a worthwhile event for everyone.