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

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Don’t forget to link up with Erika, Marcia and me for this week’s Tuesdays on the Run.

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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Patty Holliday


Patty is a 40-ish mother of four living in Virginia. A bit geeky, sometimes sarcastic, lover of a candid confession. She's trying to love running, she swears. But much like her marathon, it’s taking a very long time. Ahem. She's searching for the perfect way to balance family, work, travel, and fitness. Perfect defined as high on fun, low on guilt.

TMOM Travel Writer