This is a race report unlike any other, because there actually was no official 2017 Walt Disney World Half Marathon. Nonetheless, circumstance still produced something worthy of a post.
Weather had been on everyone's mind for the past week, with Saturday, the day of the half marathon, forecasted to have thunderstorms. While the forecast changed throughout the week, it mostly stayed with more than 50% chance of thunderstorms for the hours of 3AM to 7AM. Disney first sent out an email on Friday at 10AM indicating they were paying attention to the weather. At about 7PM Friday, they started posting and emailing that the race was cancelled.
The Amazing Response of the RunDisney Community
There was plenty of disappointment online, but the RunDisney community is something special. Almost immediately following RunDisney cancelling the race, the runners started organizing their own races. The aim wasn’t to run in unsafe conditions, which is important to understand. The half marathon takes place in the morning and takes hours to setup. There were thunderstorms throughout the night, so setting up and running a race at 5AM was not going to happen. Running around 7AM (or later) was perfectly reasonable.
There were multiple group runs, the big two being at the Pop Century / Art of Animation lake and the Boardwalk. We’re at Beach Club, with a view of the Boardwalk, so we got to watch (and cheer for) the runners. These runs were awesome. There were even improvised aid stations and character stops!
The weather wasn’t beautiful, either. It was a decent temperature for running, but it rained a lot, and at times poured. It takes a lot to run in that.
If you’re not a runner, you might not understand why people did this, but it’s a couple simple things. First, people running the Dopey Challenge (all four races) or the Goofy Challenge (the half and full) wouldn’t feel like they earned their medals without the half. Second, people whose first (and maybe only) half marathon was this race didn’t want all their training to be for nothing.
My response when Disney cancelled the race was to attempt to arrange a bar crawl. I’m sure plenty of people were out drinking for fun instead of running. We didn’t run a fake half for two reasons. First, this was our second Dopey, and we just didn’t see the value in putting ourselves through the half. We knew we were capable, so it would just add to our suffering. Second, Emily was sick, so the chance for a recovery day was not something we could pass up. Seeing those runners out there was incredibly inspiring, though. They really reminded me what being a runner is about.
Disney’s response was surprisingly good (Disney does a lot well, but I didn’t expect this). They offered half runners four options: (1) refund in the form of a Disney gift card; (2) two one-day park hopper tickets; (3) deferral to another RunDisney half marathon; and (4) deferral to the full marathon. 1,500 people took the fourth option, and I bet a lot of them wound up finishing with a story of a lifetime. I’m expecting to use the first or third option, and will update if anything interesting happens there. Keep in mind, Disney and most race managers are very clear that the races are non-refundable, so offering a refund is an act of good will.
I’m sure the half marathon would have been an awesome race. For those who running on their own was not feasible, it’s a stinker. But those who did probably had a better time and a better story than they ever would have gotten from the race. I wasn’t truly a part of it, but just seeing those runners going around the Boardwalk and reading about the runners at other hotels was an incredibly moving experience.
We're still working on our 10K recap, and we'll have a recap on the Marathon and Dopey Challenge coming up shortly, so be sure to check back!