January 7th, 2017 was scheduled to be the 20th anniversary of the Walt Disney World Half Marathon. This half marathon is part of a huge race weekend of over 60,000 runners who take part in events over four days. Events range from diaper dashes for the little ones to a full marathon. runDisney has become a major piece of Disney in not only bringing in revenue, but also bringing in people to the resorts during what used to be slow times.
As someone who was registered to take part in the 2017 Dopey Challenge, a race challenge that included running in all four of the major events over the weekend totaling 48.6 miles over four days, I was excited to take part in the 20th half marathon. As I, and many others I am sure, monitored the weather going into the weekend, the possibility for rain on January 7th became more and more likely. I think we all expected it was going to be a wet race and something we were just all going to have to deal with.
On Friday, January 6th, updates were starting to be posted on the runDisney social media pages and their website. They said that runDisney was monitoring the weather situation and they would keep all of us updated as the day went on. An update then came around 7:00 PM that read, “In an abundance of caution, WDW Resort has cancelled all running events 1/7/17 due to weather conditions”. This race had over 23,000 people signed up and was the 20th anniversary. Initial reaction of the cancellation was shock for many. Then around 10:00 PM, runDisney gave runners a refund option:
- Option 1: A full refund of race registration in the form of a Disney gift card.
- Option 2: Two one-day park hopper tickets.
- Option 3: Transfer registration to another runDisney half marathon in the U.S. within the next 24 months.
- Option 4: Transfer to run the full marathon on Sunday, January 8th.
Not only did runDisney give runners an option for a refund, they gave runners four different options. runDisney did not need to do anything. The race was cancelled for our safety as runners and safety of the volunteers who would be out setting up the course and working on the course in the wee hours of the morning. In addition to the refund option, all registered runners were given their race medals even though they did not complete the race. Disney and runDisney can control a lot of things, but weather is not one of them unfortunately.
As Saturday rolled around, hundreds, if not thousands,of the registered runners got up and went out to run their 13.1 miles that they signed up to run and trained for. All day Saturday, runners were out getting those miles in. People created running groups Friday night on social media and went out and ran that next day. Cast members within the resorts, as well as total strangers, set up water stations and food stops for runners doing laps around the resorts. My favorite part was the people who even dressed up in costumes and made makeshift character meet and greets along the running paths.
I deeply regret not going out and running with all of these awesome people that Saturday morning. This dedication and love for Disney and running is what makes runDisney so great. I truly believe this is one of the reasons that everyone who loves Disney should experience a runDisney race at some point in their lives. Disney did not have to give refund options, Cast Members didn’t have to set up water stations and cheer runners on, and people didn’t have to get up and run since the race was cancelled. All three of those things happened though and that, in my opinion, is part of the magic of runDisney events. Disney and the people truly made the best out of a bad situation.