It’s every race director’s nightmare – elements that are out of your control. For the 2017 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, storms threatened the Walt Disney World Half Marathon.
On Friday evening, runDisney made the extremely difficult call to cancel the race for the following morning to keep all staff, volunteers, spectators, and runners safe. This was obviously very disappointing to all, especially after the months of training, travel, and excitement for the race itself.
However, many runners decided that their medal was going to be truly earned. In between or after the storms, runners came out by the hundreds to complete their 13.1 mile event. Some headed to the fitness centers and ran on the treadmill. Some ran loops and loops around their resorts. A few even drove to other locations to complete the mileage with friends. Take a look at just a glimpse of the many amazing stories!
Hakon from Norway and Kagan from Canada met in a taxi on the first day of their trip, and planned to run the races together. When the race was cancelled, they ran together to fully completed their 48.6 mile Dopey Challenge!
Jordan completed his half marathon the treadmill, and even “saw” a few characters along the way! Not to mention, he wore his runDisney costume and received his medal (the replica medal luggage tag) at the finish!
Sarah heard of runners at the Pop Century and Art of Animation Resort areas wanting to complete the half marathon, so she decided to cheer on the runners. Others including Nathan and Jim quickly followed suit, adding Powerade, candy, cups, and more – creating an actual aid station! Even more adorable, a friend’s toddler came out in a Stitch costume to create a character stop. In all, they spent over 5 hours cheering on the runners!
Brittany had been training for her first Goofy Challenge and wanted to earn the half marathon medal. Thankful she could sleep in a bit, she woke up around 5 am to complete her 13.1 miles around the Epcot resorts. Spectators not only held items for the runners, but handed out water and held up signs. She had to run a few of the miles inside on the treadmill when lightning appeared, but was able to complete the mileage outside again once it had passed.
Juan and his wife, Trina, completed their half marathon around the All Star Resort and Coronado Springs Resort areas. They even found a few photo opportunities along the way!
James completed the half marathon with quite the crowd of fellow runners!
Branden finished his run along the Boardwalk, just as the storm was rolling in! (Thankfully he stayed safe, although appears a little wet!)
Andrea and her colleagues waited until the storm passed to complete their half marathon around the Epcot resorts. However, they made a quick stop in Hollywood Studios to get a photo with Donald himself! It was Alyssa and Drew‘s first Dopey Challenge, and Andrea’s first half marathon while pregnant.
Felicia and her family (5 total) met up with their fellow Disney runners at the Starbucks in Celebration to get in their 13.1 miles. It was her first half marathon, and she had been training months to complete it. Along with the encouragement of each other, a few families came together to hand out water!
Heather was obviously disappointed in the race being cancelled, however it took her less than 30 seconds after the announcement to decide she would still complete the mileage. After the morning storms had passed, she headed outside of the All Star Resort and couldn’t believe the number of runners outside. Many had their bibs on, some even wore costumes, and the families came out to cheer and hand out water!
Patti completed her half marathon along the Boardwalk. She was especially excited to see her fellow runners, as well as the spectators out cheering!
Andy may have only run the marathon, but he was part of the spectating crew at Art of Animation. He saw runners making the 10+ laps around Hourglass Lake to complete their half marathon. He estimated over 100 runners out as early as 6:30 am, with friends and family cheering loudly!
James and his wife have an amazing story of how they signed up for the 2017 Dopey Challenge. When they heard of the cancellation, they decided to complete the half marathon around All Star Sports. The rain didn’t stop the runners, nor the spectators who were even handing out water bottles!
Kenneth completed his half marathon on the treadmill at Old Key West Resort. After coming all the way from Denmark, he wasn’t going to let Mother Nature get in the way of completing the Dopey Challenge!
Cliff decided to get his mileage in around the Grand Floridian and Polynesian resorts. He received a lot of hellos and waves as he ran around the resorts, and a water station popped up just as he was finishing. He also heard that the Cast Members in the marina set up a “finish line” ribbon!
Dan couldn’t sleep after hearing about the race cancellation, so he headed to the fitness center at Animal Kingdom Lodge to complete his race!
Jason didn’t let the rain bother him as he completed his mileage around the Grand Floridian and Polynesian resorts. He even saw Donald and Daisy!
Candace happened to have a room at the Yacht Club which looked out over Crescent Lake. She was overcome watching all of the runners in their costumes completing the mileage!
Timothy put together a wonderful email, highlighting the entire experience from beginning to end. Below is a snippet:
I was awoken after 8 am by cheering outside my room at Pop Century which overlooked Hourglass Lake and the ~1.3 mile New Balance running trail that circles lake between Pop Century and Art of Animation.
Much to my surprise there were a number of runners going strong and smaller groups of spectators gathering along the trail to cheer on all the runners getting in there miles to complete the Walt Disney World Half Marathon. Before long there were at least a hundred of runners at some point running the trail getting in there miles. It was simply awesome and many runners were also rocking there bibs, which represented Half Marathoners, Goofys and Dopeys.
One of the more interesting story was meeting a family that had traveled down from Buffalo for the Half Marathon which was their son’s 15th birthday present. It was awesome to see the Mom cheering on the Dad and Son team as they went by ~10 loops to complete the Half Marathon.
The most awesome part of the experience was to see the running community coming together in an effort to help everyone achieve whatever goals that were to be accomplished. There was a large group of spectators that were gathered at the Pop Century end of the Hourglass Lake bridge. Before you know it, everyone was collecting water, sport drink, snacks, gels, fruit, etc; as a unofficial aid and cheering station for all the runners.
The first 20th anniversary Walt Disney World Half Marathon medal will have such a unique story and memory that I don’t think that I ever could have had as a participant in the actual race.