Walt Disney World Marathon 2016 Report – Part 2
Before we dig into the second half of the 2016 Walt Disney World Marathon, I want to revisit the topic of entertainment cuts during runDisney events, because that generated some interesting feedback here and on social media. I want to start by saying I love runDisney. I think it’s exceptionally managed and largely a showcase of Disney at the top of its game.
Still, cuts bother me because they are a potential harbinger of things to come. I mentioned in Part 1 of the Walt Disney World 2016 Marathon Race Report that runDisney could be in the red and still be hugely profitable for Disney. Elaborating on that, like many large companies, the various business units within Disney bill one another internally for services rendered. At some point, internal billing from Entertainment, Operations, etc., in addition to overhead could be greater than the entry fees for the races. RunDisney entry fees are pretty high, so I’m guessing they don’t, but let’s just assume for the sake of argument that runDisney events–in isolation–lose money on paper.
The problem is, that doesn’t account for the indirect revenue driven by runDisney. January is typically a slow month at Walt Disney World, and yet hotels are near full occupancy over Marathon Weekend as compared to the following week. Given hotel rates, I’d hazard a guess that these bookings (and park tickets, dining, merchandise sales…) are far more important than entry fees in terms of runDisney’s impact on the overall bottom line. To my knowledge, there’s no clean way of attributing this indirect revenue to runDisney when evaluating the business unit on paper.
Years ago, Disney did not evaluate each business unit in isolation and treat them as de facto competitors with one another. It didn’t matter if something like The Adventurers Club lost a bit of money, because overall, it positively affected guest satisfaction. Evaluating units in isolation is a problem, and one that if carried to its natural conclusion would stifle the development of wow-factor E-Ticket attractions because they don’t directly generate enough revenue to justify their investment.
Specific to runDisney, it’s a problem because these events are often held in the off-season, and have a loyal demographic that travels, often with a decent amount of disposable income. This is a juicy demographic, and one I’d think Disney would not want to disillusion with the product by nickel and diming on-course entertainment simply for the sake of that unit, in isolation, appearing more profitable on paper.
This is a reductionist explanation, and I’m not contending we’re at this point yet. I’ve really enjoyed every runDisney event I’ve done, and registration for these events fills quickly. However, it does concern me when I hear from friends who have been doing runDisney events for a while that the quality is declining. I’ve seen this trend play out at Walt Disney World (thankfully, I think we are seeing a shifting tide) to the detriment of guests and the parks’ long term business health.
I bring all of this up because I don’t want to see the same thing happen with runDisney in the name of short term profitability. Disenchantment among the hardcore runDisney fans would be far more debilitating than the added costs for a bit more on-course entertainment. Everyone has a tipping point in terms of value-for-money, and I want to be running these events when I’m 50, so I don’t want to reach my tipping point anytime soon.
Consider this a rambling cautionary tale for runners to consider when completing your feedback surveys, more than anything else…
And now, back to your regularly scheduled boring stretch of Marathon course.
By this point, my per-mile times were creeping up above the 10 minute mile mark.
Until I saw it. Like a beacon of light in a desolate landscape, it beckoned to me with the promise of a deliciously greasy breakfast that would drown out my running sorrows.
…and somehow that motivated me to have my best mile of the race if the time above is to be believed (I’m not so sure it was totally accurate). Actually, it wasn’t the McDonald’s at all. It was my stubbornness in trying to catch up to and keep pace with that 4:45 pace balloon (which would guarantee me a sub-4:30 finishing time since I started about 25 minutes after the 4:45 pace).
I kept pace with them through Mile 17, as we headed into the ESPN Wide World of Sports. (Why I think the Mile 16 time was inaccurate is because there’s no way a ~14-minute mile would be a 4:45 pace.)
The wastewater treatment plant and Wide World of Sports have a contentious battle going for the crown of “worst stretch of the course.” To its credit, Wide World of Sports has interesting sections, including the track and baseball diamond, but its downfall is that you spend approximately 16 miles running through the WWoS, or so it feels.
Many a runner has gone insane during this stretch of course, only to be found weeks later curled up in the fetal position in a clubhouse muttering, “it. never. ends.”
Another fine photo demonstrating my photographic prowess during the race.
It’s really difficult to convey just how terrible the Wide World of Sports stretch of the course is in photos, since there are stretches that look cool.
The baseball field is the best example of this, and it is cool. People cheering in the stands and just the act of running around the field is fun and gives you a jolt of energy.
It’s just the sheer number of miles that late in the race that makes it unpleasant. Cutting down the WWoS section to <2 miles and running farther along the highway with entertainment along the way would be better.
As you can see, my times were really starting to balloon. At this point, I was beginning to worry that I wouldn’t finish in under 5 hours–under 4:30 was already totally off the table.
You might wonder why I took a photo of the backside of a shirtless dude, but I say, WHY NOT?!
Actually, it’s because this lady was next to the shirtless dude, and wanted to take a selfie with the green army man. He let her, but made her do pushups for stopping. At that point, if I bent down to do pushups, I wouldn’t have been able to get up, so huge kudos to her for being a good sport.
Knowing we were close to entering Disney’s Hollywood Studios and the home stretch, I picked up my pace and did the next mile in “only” 11 minutes.
Okay, on the next page we’re in the home stretch, where things actually good. It’s not just a bunch of my crappy photos of mile markers, so if you’ve already tolerated this report to this point, don’t give up–it gets better, I swear!
My goodness. I’m a swimmer, always have been, so I don’t have legs that were built to run but for some reason I decided that I will be running (walking?) the Dopey challenge in 2018. I’ve been looking for opinions on the race since registration opens tomorrow and yours is funny as hell. I don’t want to read about how “GREAT! :D” it was; I wanted to know that your legs started giving out and that you slightly regret park time and late nights so I can be as prepared has humanly possible. I’ve run 2 of Disney’s half marathons and with literally no training what so ever I finished in 3 and 2:30 hours, which I thought was pretty amazing for a non-runner. Just ran a 5k last week (again with literally no training like an idiot) and finished just over 30 minutes so I think with a little training thanks to Jeff Galloway, I may be able to finished in the times you did. Maybe I’ll even see you on the course!
Loved this recap.! Your posts about the marathon have partly been an inspiration for me to start running again. Problem is my 5k time is barely under 30 minutes and so my marathon time would probably be something like six and a half hours with a 50/50 chance of death. But hey a year a from now I’m hoping for incredible improvement!
My 5K time was above 30 minutes and I didn’t die!
Totally thought the shirtless dude picture with the army men was you! Haha, thank you for the awesome recap! Your recaps are such a fun read and it makes me snicker quietly in office at work! You guys are my most favourite Disney blog to read, keep up with the jokes and awesome photography!
Hey dopey…get a running watch. Jk…but it’s the only way to see and measure progress. Congrats on the challenge…some of those photos look like you are passing kidney stones
Thanks for the recap – lots of fun to read! And congrats on running the race!
I’m not a runner in any way, but I loved hearing your stories and enjoyed your photos.
Thanks for posting it all.
It looks like an amazingly good time!
And, I will say I give Sarah credit for accepting the dipping (and I assume sweaty wet) kiss, in her pretty dress!
There was no dip. I could barely support myself…I’m sure if I tried that, we both would’ve ended up on the ground.
As someone whose college team did a week of spring training down at Disney’s Wide World of Sports each year, your pictures of running through the complex gave me PTSD flashbacks to runs I never, ever wanted to remember again.
Certainly an accomplishment to be very proud of!
Well done Tom!! You had a brilliant time and I know you will get to your goal time regardless.
You truly are Dopey in the best way!!
Congrats Tom, that’s quite the achievement! Your posts have encouraged me to register (or I will at the start of Feb when it opens!) for the inaugural runDisney at Disneyland Paris.
Great to hear. I am really hopeful that the event is a blast. If Disneyland Paris could flesh out the slow seasons of its calendar with races, that would be HUGE for that park’s fiscal well-being, too!
Congrats Tom! I absolutely agree with you on the WWOS section! I swear I’d taken a wrong turn a doubled up somewhere because it just wouldn’t end! (Plus at that point I was slightly out of it!). I think Disney organized an amazing race, and everything about it on their part was so well thought out. I was bummed, however, that it is not stressed more that people whe are walk/running should not stop running right in the middle course and continue walking….in the middle….most of the time shoulder to shoulder, leaving little room for runners to get through and also leading to a lot of people dodging. I was running an 11:15 pace and dodged so many stoppers that at mile 19, while dodging a guy who dead stopped in front of me, I threw out my knee. Luckily I had to get out of WWOS and I was crossing the finish even if I had to crawl! So I dragged my leg through the rest of the course, and stayed all the way to the right side so as not to be in anybody else’s way! Moral of my story, I too will be back next year, I must have Disney Marathon vindication!
That REALLY sucks! Running etiquette is something I’ll be discussing in my Idiot’s Guide, as it is a big problem. Unfortunately, it cuts both ways. Being back in Corral O, I was with a lot of walkers (and really, that far back it’s pretty much fair game, IMO) and I heard several runners yelling at people quite rudely when trying to pass.
Some walkers need to learn about proper protocol when slowing, but some runners also need to realize that runDisney events aren’t the Boston Marathon.
Would love to hear how you replenished all of those calories back in the park. All-you-can-eat turkey legs? Dole whips? Buckets of ice cream?
Thank you for sharing your experiences, I enjoyed reading!
Here’s a teaser of what our day looked like following the Marathon:
-L’Artisan des Glaces
-Jock Lindsay’s Hangar Bar
That’s all in a single day. It was glorious.
Tom – I love Sarah’s Baymax dress. Make sure she knows. I tried to buy a plush Baymax at DW back in Dec 2015 but they had absolutely nothing. Reminds me of the Frozen debacle when they did not have enough stock for months. Big Hero 6 had just come out a couple of months earlier. But I did meet Baymax and have some photos like Sarah’s Instagram post.
FYI, Sarah just updated her What to Wear to Walt Disney World post with where to find that Big Hero 6 dress and some other outfits that she has recently purchased.
Tom, I completely agree with you about the WWoS section! While all of the sports fields and greenery would seem to add some visual interest… I was about ready to die with each winding turn through the complex!! Leaving that section gave me such a mental boost, I really thought it would never end. Can’t wait to read your recap, and great job on your time!!
Hey Tom…question for your wrap up post. You mentioned the runDisney races routinely sell out. Are we talking Rolling Stones at Madison Square Garden, selling out in 10 minutes or, selling out over the course of a few days, weeks, etc.? I plan on signing up the day registration opens in April, but I want to know how quickly I need to pounce. Thanks!
Lee, jumping on your question here, but I registered for the marathon in July and it was only 84% full, so that was my experience! From what I’ve heard, the Dopey and the half marathons sell out quicker.
The marathon takes a while to sell out, however all the shorter races (half marathons, 10ks and the various challenges) typically sell out in an hour or so.
I plan to be on the computer the moment registration opens.
I must say that I’m disappointed in your attire. I kept looking for that fly figment hat and never did see it. You probably passed me around WWOS, and it would have been just the pick me up I needed to get through that tedious section. Plus it would have been a good distraction from the muscle gel I accidentally got in my eye and had to find a restroom to flush my eye with water.
My husband doesn’t remotely understand my love of Disney but we really enjoy your runDisney blogs – we still laugh about you getting stuck in an innertube last year. Thanks for sharing your experiences!
Congratulations!!! Just a few questions…
Did the earlier races (5k, 10k, and half) have an impact on your performance in the subsequent races?
If one were to choose just one other race besides the Marathon, which would you recommend?
The Half Marathon. That way, you can do the Goofy Challenge!
Do you think the Dopey Challenge really adds something to the experience? It looks like the marathon by far the best event. I’m thinking to run it again next year for the second time, however the Dopey Challenge doesn’t look to add much to the plate, it doesn’t appeal to me.
Am I wrong?
I wouldn’t necessarily say that you’re wrong, but I enjoyed each of them. The big downside of the Dopey is the cost and having to get up so early 4 straight mornings. In addition to being really early, that really impacts your ability to go out and enjoy the parks.
The upside is all the sweet bling, and the sense of accomplishment you feel when all is said and done. I’ll likely do the Dopey again, but wouldn’t recommend it for everyone. I’ll cover this in greater depth in the recap post.