The Half that (Almost) Wasn’t | Tuesdays on the Run

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I’m sharing another runner story this week from the canceled Walt Disney World Half 10 days ago. More runners coming together to support each other. Gotta love the running community!

 

The Half that (Almost) Wasn’t

By KJ Simpson

We’d all been watching that extended forecast for weeks- hoping for a last minute change. Lightning and thunder were solidly hovering for the wee hours of January 7, right at the time that thousands of Walt Disney World Half Marathoners would be heading to busses, monorails, and cars, making their way over to corrals to await the start of the race.

runDisney sent out a few warning emails and social posts Friday evening, letting everyone know they were monitoring and that an announcement would be coming soon. The first leaked photos of resort signage started showing up online. The race was cancelled! No, now the race was delayed! Apparently, resorts had multiple signs for different contingencies, and they were waiting for official word on which signs to display. It finally came- first via social media messages from runDisney, then through emails and signage- “in an abundance of caution”, the WDW Half Marathon was canceled.


I was crushed. I had worked so hard, and I had been anticipating this race for so long. I worked all year for it. I kept hoping it was a mistake. I was staying at Disney’s Beach Club Resort, so upon hearing the news, I headed down to Martha’s Vineyard lounge and ordered a glass of wine. If I wasn’t getting up at 2:30 am for a race, I sure as heck was ordering some wine. As I sipped and perused social media, the space filled with disappointed runners. I started hearing the first rumblings of a “DIY Half”- because so many people still wanted to race, cancellation or not!

When my sister and I woke in the morning, we both wanted to run, at least a little bit; it just seemed like the right thing to do. We checked the weather. It was rainy, but not too cold (sorry Marathoners- the frigid air was waiting for you the next morning!), and the thunder and lightning seemed to be over for the most part. We headed out to the boardwalk for a better look. Storm clouds were definitely still hovering, but it seemed safe.  

My sister and I decided to just… “go for a run”- maybe a loop or two around the boardwalk. We didn’t initially have any intention to go out and do the whole 13.1, but we wanted to at least run some, since that was what we were here for. Shortly after we started, though- and after getting a feel for the course and for the people out there running- we both decided to go for it (separately- we run at very different paces, me with intervals, so we were both running alone). The support from other runners, as well as spectators, was absolutely incredible.

I ran around the Boardwalk (many, many times), with a few out-and-backs to Hollywood Studios thrown in to mix it up a bit.

No character stops? I did a DIY Character Stop with Kiley, one of the (slightly disconcerting) “nanny chairs” in the Boardwalk lobby:

We all have stories about people who get us through certain running situations- and this day was no different. There were three areas throughout my makeshift half course where I knew I’d get encouragement each time I passed.

First was cowbell man in the orange t-shirt, standing alone in the stretch near the boardwalk wedding pavilion for hours. He was out there earlier than anyone, and stayed almost until the last runners were done.

Next were two of the most enthusiastic and adorable cheer squad members ever:  two tie-dye-clad women bursting with energy, whose enthusiasm never waned. They were there for every person who ran past them behind Jellyrolls, where the path to Hollywood Studios meets up with the Boardwalk. They were incredible and made me feel like they were truly proud of me every time they saw me.

Last was a duo from Team Fox, who set up on the wall at the start of the out & back path to Hollywood Studios. They had high fives and words of encouragement for everyone who passed them- and for most of us, we passed them many, many times! When I was passing for the final time, I showed them my tracking app indicating that I was at 13.08 miles- and one of them jumped down and ran the final .02 with me! For someone whose slow pace and inconsistent intervals means always running alone, having someone do that final little stretch with me meant so much. Cheer squads rule!

As time went on, more and more runners had come out to run, and more people set up cheering spots. As I was finishing, someone was passing out bottled water to runners near Beach Club, and by later that morning, CMs from ESPN Club had a water stop set up in front of the restaurant. Word had spread that there were DIY Half races being run all over various Disney resort locations, and beyond. Coronado Springs, Pop Century, Bonnet Creek, and more… all seemed to have pop-up race courses, complete with runners, cheer squads, and that indomitable runDisney spirit.

While I was really disappointed in not being able to run the official Half Marathon, our DIY Boardwalk Half was an amazing substitute. It had some things going for it- as well as some drawbacks. Here’s my breakdown:

Cons:

  • not an official runDisney race
  • no course timing
  • no entertainment
  • no water stops (until later in the day)
  • no medical support
  • no PhotoPass (I was sooo looking forward to finally having race pictures, by taking advantage of my free Annual Pass downloads)

Pros:

  • didn’t have to get up in the middle of night
  • serious runner support from people cheering and encouraging the whole way
  • got to see many people repeatedly at various points of the run (many of us were going in different directions and taking slightly different routes, so we kept crossing- it was nice to see familiar faces over and over)
  • was running right past my resort room- very fortuitous when I had to run in and grab a much-needed bandage for my foot
  • no porta-potties- real bathrooms in multiple places!
  • got the medal, and felt like I earned it
  • was able to get a deferment or refund- which means another race for me this year!

We hit the showers, headed to the Expo, and then went to Animal Kingdom for a most delectable celebratory dinner at Tiffins.  It was the perfect end to a not-so-perfect race day.

Official runDisney race? No; but definitely a most memorable one!

One regret: I had a super fun Mary Poppins costume ready to go, and I ended up leaving most of it in my room when I went out for my “short run” that morning- so…you might just see me as Mary out on the Wine & Dine course this November!

KJ Simpson is a Disney fan who loves reading and writing about the magic. Epcot is her favorite place, and her main areas of interest include Imagineering, design, resort dining, and park history. Follow her on Twitter @PlusTheMagic, or visit her blog at www.PlusTheMagic.com.

 

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Comments

  1. I just love how runners made it work and got their own races in. I didn’t realize that there were many different routes that people were using. So cool!

  2. What a great way to make the best of a bad situation! Its awesome how supportive people were with coming out to cheer even though it wasn’t an official race!

  3. What a bummer about the race cancellation. but I’d say the pros outweigh the cons– way to still run the race and make your own photo opps!!!

  4. I would have run too! I was glad to see so many people took the cancellation in stride. Pun fully intended!

  5. I absolutely LOVED seeing all the pictures from that day! The toilet paper finish lines were hilarious! Congratulations, KJ, for getting it done and making the most out of the situation. 🙂

  6. I just think it’s amazing (and not surprise there) how the running community is such a force to behold. And, this also showed the support from the non-runners. I’m glad it all worked out despite the circumstances.

  7. I can’t imagine the travel, the training, all for nothing . . . and yet not. That’s so cool that there were still people out there cherring! Kudos to you!

  8. Real bathrooms are always a plus! I know that boardwalk well, and you can have fun with it.

  9. I love how so many people went ahead and run a half anyway. Runners are such awesome people 🙂 Sounds like despite it all it was a great run

  10. I would have been heartbroken to have my race cancelled, so kudos to everyone who made the most of it and still went out and tackled some miles! Thanks for sharing her story.

  11. This was so disappointing on so many levels. I’m very glad to hear many made some pretty sweet lemonade out of those lemons!

  12. I was there for a marathon and it was so inspiring seeing all of the half runners doing it anyway. We stayed at Saratoga Springs and there was a group running there, so we made sure to cheer for them as we walked past.

  13. I was so amazed to hear about all the stories about impromptu races and all the support that was offered (among both runners and spectators).

    Okay Patty, I thought for sure you’d have something to say about cold weather running gear now that you moved from sweltering Arizona to the East Coast. You’re gonna need some warmer gear lady!

  14. I love all of these race stories! People did some amazing things that day!!

  15. I live 35 minutes from Disney and felt so bad for all the runners that were looking forward to that race. I ran that morning at home and got poured on. I am glad you made a good time of it!

  16. Pretty cool story of all the cheer squads! Definitely a memorable time.

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