I counted it up the other day, and I’ve personally participated in, mmmm,…well, a lot of runDisney race events.
I don’t say that to brag, I promise. I cringe a little when I think of the money I sunk into all those races, and I’m not sharing the number!
But everyone has a hobby? This one happens to be mine. No-guilt, right? RIGHT.
My point isn’t to brag or whatever; it’s to drive home this point:
I haven’t seen any weekend as conflicted in reviews as the Star Wars Dark Side Half.
At the race, after the race, all over social media: no one can agree.
You see one of two responses for the most part.
BEST. RACE. WEEKEND. EVER!
I’M OUT. DONE. NEVER AGAIN. runDISNEY SUCKS.
It seems like loudest complaints and concerns came from others in my shoes: the faithful (?) runDisney vets. I can’t say I disagree with much of what’s being discussed, but I also can’t say it’s making me swear off these events.
Issues are there, no question. But many of the issues I think spread out to the Parks and Resorts worldwide right now, and may not be entirely a matter with runDisney alone. Or maybe we are too jaded or too high maintenance in our expectations at this point?
Either way, I do hope runDisney is paying attention to the complaints, the suggestions, and of course, the ($$$) numbers.
So my question is this. Are we vets just jaded? Spoiled? Entitled? Want way too much?
I decided to ask the newest runDisney participants how they felt about the event. A few folks just back from the recent weekend chimed in on their experiences as first timers to runDisney events.
She’s a newer runner who recently moved to Florida. She answered a few questions for me about her first race experience.
I had wanted to run a runDisney event for over two years, and when I moved to Florida, I realized that it was finally possible. I had wanted to run the Princess half marathon, as my first run, but there were no spots available, so I looked into other races that I might like to run, and Star Wars was it. I also chose the Star Wars race because it was an inaugural race, and I thought that it would be special.
I absolutely loved the race. The course was great, except for the dirt path at the end, and the overall experience was amazing!
I was at the very front of corral G. There was a little congestion when they sent us off, but then people spread out, and I was able to get into a groove and run.
I am definitely going to run another race with runDisney.
Whitt and Jill
This married couple decided to give running a try in 2015 for health reasons. At over 300 pounds, Whitt knew proper diet and exercise was needed. Guys- they’ve lost a combined 150 pounds thanks to running and proper diet. NICE!
This was their first half marathon (and they completed the challenge).
Jill: Our neighbor ran the Wine in Dine last year, and I had serious FOMO (fear of missing out). It looked so fun. I looked up races. Saw this event was still available and near the time we typically take a vacation. I had to do some convincing to Whitt that it would be a good idea to run a half marathon as part of our anniversary vacation (5 years May 7th!). Took a few weeks to for Whitt to agree and the rest is history. I also enjoy having something challenging to look forward too. This was something I wanted to do to push ourselves physically and mentally. If you had asked us the end of 2014 to run a half marathon, we would have laughed in your face. Now I’m addicted!
Whitt: As Jill said I was extremely hesitant because I am more of a sprinter (see sub 30 5k’s), and the idea of running a long slow race wasn’t that appealing, but … StarWars.
Jill: I had a blast. I thought it was awesome from the pre-race to the finish.
Whitt: Overall I absolutely loved it, honestly how can you be mad when you’re in Disney.
Entertainment? How did they feel about the characters on the course?
Jill: I expected more characters and stops. I also wish Disney would find some way to manage the wait times. Since we started at the back of the pack, we didn’t stop. Lines were long, and we were unsure of how much time we had. We weren’t close to the 16mm pace requirements but with a fear of a 30-45min wait we opted not to risk it.
Whitt: The 501st showing up was really great, I think had we both had the ability to put in a qual time (We raced a 10k about a month before but it was too late to enter the time) we would’ve been more secure in getting pics. I really loved the marching band right at the start as that was a great kick start. I understand Disney’s rules on having the same character in a general vicinity due to the “Magic”, and if these races were geared towards children I wouldn’t say anything, but when we’re all adults is it really too much to have more than one Vader?
This. Right here.
You speak so much sense, Whitt. I AGREE, and I’ve been saying this for years. Hey runDisney, 2 Vaders on a course is even more freakin’ magical than one with a mile long line! And letting us know in advance who will be on the course and where would help with runner flow even more.
And it’s still magical. Just adult magic. That’s still a thing.
The couple also had some thoughts about the issues of the race. Course crowding was expected by both runners, but they also noticed some of the concerns that the vet runners see as well.
Whitt: It’s been said time and time again and honestly I see the argument from both sides when it comes to run-walking, but I think Disney may need to have course marshals now and again to keep the flow of traffic. I know I’m not the fastest runner (11min half marathon pace), but there’s really no excuse for me to be caught behind walkers before mile 1. I’m really happy that many people raised their arms to signify that they were slowing down but they would just stop dead on the course at that moment, and I think I almost steamrolled a couple of people, and I’m fairly sure nobody wants all 6’2 230lbs of me running over them.
Will you be back for a runDisney event in the future?
Whitt: We’re already talking doing the Kessel Run Next year
Brad is a long time runner- it’s in his blood! He’s been running since middle school with too many race experiences to count. You can find him on Twitter HERE.
I have heard good things about runDisney events and was looking for a new event to do besides my usual schedule. I also used to work at Disney and wanted also to see friends who I have in Orlando. Being a fan of the Empire sealed the deal as well, love the AT-AT’s and stormtroopers!
It was much better than I expected! The environment was so positive and fun, the great music, the people dressing up. Everyone was friendly and outgoing it was awesome, I met and talked to so many people from all over the country and world. When you have two main things in common, it is very easy to socialize.
The course entertainment was fun although there is room for improvement. Loved the big screens showing scenes from Star Wars movies and the speakers blasting familiar scores from the movies on the course. However, besides that, the entertainment was a bit sparse, but I can’t imagine it is easy getting a lot of live bands or cheer groups on a course at 5 am. I am thankful for those who did come out to support us, especially Disney castmembers and the 501st Legion.
The course was fine. No issues with it mostly because I was in an early corral so I had no issues with bottlenecking and crowds but I do know that was a problem for some people who finished later on.
A big issue was local non-participant people who went to the expo buying up all the merchandise before a lot of runners had a chance to buy any. Thursday and Friday should be open only to runners and guests who arrive with runners as they should be the ones who get first dibs on exclusive merchandise. Would like to see more photo-ops with characters at the Expo and at the race as well. Would love to see a lot of props and maybe even a replica ship
Will he be back to runDisney?
YES! Not only do I plan on doing this race next year, but I also plan on doing the light side race in Anaheim early in January as well. I think I will be coming back to run at Disney pretty often lol
So what does this tell us? To me, it’s clear: there’s still magic happening at these races. runDisney is not dead or dying.
Is it enough to justify the high-cost race after race? Maybe. Maybe not.
That’s up to you and your Visa to decide.
But the concerns and issues do not seem to be dampening the enthusiasm of the new runner.
While many vets may be taking a step back, there are certainly new runners to Disney filling in the void. I don’t think we have to worry about the runDisney brand crumbling anytime soon.
Star Wars Dark Side: chime in! Best of times or the worst of times in your experience?
Patty Holliday is a Marvel loving, Disney obsessed wife, and mother of four. She’s a travel agent specializing in Disney & Universal vacations- and loves a candid confession. Find her in Virginia (or anywhere frequent flyer miles or her trusty minivan takes her.)