This morning, I read my friend Megan’s post about the reasons she is sitting out runDisney events for the foreseeable future. After a second read, a snack, and a third read, I have finally pieced together my somewhat complicated reaction to her post.
You see, I too began my running journey closely entwined with the goal of completing a runDisney race – my eyes were set on the 2011 Disneyland Half Marathon; but as fate would have it, I learned, just months before it – that if I could set my mind to completing the 2011 Walt Disney World Marathon first, I could earn my Coast to Coast medal. So, as daunting as it sounded, I pulled the trigger in October 2010, just two months after my first race (a 5K) and began my 13.1 training.
Now, many people do not realize this, but when I first set my goal, runDisney did not exist – at least, not in the way that we think of it today. You see, the branding, introduction of Jeff Galloway as the official training consultant, and even the Facebook page – those are all relatively new (2010) additions to the mix of what was to become the newest blend of Disney magic and endurance events. Yes, you read that correctly – although the Walt Disney World Marathon had been “running” since 1994, its dominance did not quite pick up speed until much more recently, partly (I believe) due to the recent popularity of running, and the prevalence of social media.
Social Media: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
In her post, Megan laments the drama and general sense of negativity in Facebook postings, group conversations and other communities that discuss runDisney. While I definitely agree with her (I had to distance myself as well, even as I attempted, several times, to balance out conversations with useful information, tips and advice) it is not something that I can pin entirely on, or is limited exclusively to, the runDisney community.
I know this will make me sound like an old fogey, but “back when I was starting out with runDisney,” there were no groups on Facebook. No hashtags on twitter. No secret groups snarking on random things, or, well, anything. I looked up my own plan to train for my first half marathon, I followed it, traveled to my races and relied on information in the official race program (which I received the day before the race, at the expo) and had a great time. That was it.
Today, we have so many amazing resources at our finger tips – from online communities to share training tips, forums to ask questions, and heck, even opportunities to tweet Jeff Galloway himself! We can look up course maps, watch videos on YouTube, and so much more! But, instead of appreciating these things, we start our complaints early when we can’t find a leak of waivers, or bemoan our supposed corral placement before it’s even announced, or stress about the 983,083 things that are quite honestly, out of our control (like the weather). While it is realistic that everything will not always be perfect, it is this sort of negativity that sets the stage for disappointment long before we even arrive under the Walt Disney World gates.
Don’t agree? Well, that brings me to my next point…
Arguing…just to argue
Some general themes that emerged over Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend could be summed up into these three topics:
- New Balance shoes
- Corral Placements
- Official Meetups
Now, I can see lots of sides/opinions/discussions about each of these topics, and believe me, many of the comments brought up in these discussions were completely valid. While I do agree the idea of these shoes is fun, I have to admit that I don’t really understand the frenzy behind them. True, I do own a pair of the 2013 versions, but this was pure luck, as I won them in a local sweepstakes.
I do honestly believe that this partnership between New Balance and runDisney is a good one. While many begin their endurance adventures simply with the goal of completing a race, or just soaking in the race weekend experience, many are excited to take their journey further, and search for ways to improve their future performance(s), whether that means more technical gear, a more serious approach to training, or any combination of the two. New Balance is a fantastic company, and locally, they are an incredible resource for many, going beyond purely the retail experience and truly emphasizing the importance of overall wellness.
On the flip side, the spectacle of new shoe releases, their overcomplicated (again, just my opinion) process to simply purchase shoes is quite simply, over the top. I personally will not jump through a hoop, let alone multiple hoops for the opportunity to buy something – but that’s just me; and really, this is not like it’s some new phenomena or anything, I mean, two words: Air Jordans.
Second – corral placements. Okay, I admit it – seeing that letter can really boost or dampen your spirits, but seriously: it is JUST a letter. I’m not the biggest math buff, so I am glad that someone else broke it down, but again – corral placements are done, first and foremost with guest safety in mind. Sure, it bummed me out a bit that you can no longer do corral changes at the expo (especially since you have to register so far in advance – though you can still email until pretty close before the event) but when events get so large, sometimes it’s best to reduce any sort of “extras” as much as possible. So, unless a completely blatant error takes place (say, a sub-4 marathoner in the last corral or something) I do trust my safety to Disney in this regard.
Lastly, and most *sigh*-inducing: the meetups. At Outrunning the Monorail, I have written so many posts on the last iteration of these events that I have lost track, (What is a Meetup and why should I care?, How to get into a runDisney meetup, twitter analysis on the meetups...the list goes on) and yes, I was fortunate enough to participate in two of these events (I chose one on each coast – the 2012 Wine and Dine Half Meetup and the 2013 Tinker Bell Half Meetup, both on my own accord, doing it the old fashioned way (refresh! refresh! refresh!) and again, yes I would not trade these experiences for anything – for the special attention runDisney paid toward us, plus the truly priceless fact that I was able to meet so many incredible people – both from previous online experience, or just for the first time, face to face.
I treasured these experiences so much that after two meetups, I went into a sort of “retirement” and did my best to help others “get in.” If others chose to try again, and attend, that did not bother me – I just wanted to even the playing field for anyone that wanted to get in, and I did this through the previously mentioned blog posts and offering to tweet/text people when I saw the announcement – and I am proud to say that this helped several people, and many sent thoughtful notes of thanks, which truly warmed my heart. I always saw these special meetup opportunities as “special extras” and it was fun sharing the information.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and I began to really view, first-hand, the negative tide of attitudes somewhere around 2013 Princess Half weekend and seemed to have gone somewhat downhill since then, really peaking at the first iteration of a nighttime meetup (2013 Wine and Dine) and all out crashing early this year when no meetup was announced for the 2014 WDW Marathon Weekend.
The ugly words I saw about people upset at runDisney for “not telling them” felt weirdly personal to me. Who were these people? Why the sense of entitlement? I mean, I understood how much people wanted to go, but to complain about something that was never even alluded to was kind of out of hand….and then Tinker Bell came and went without a meetup. Everyone was confused…until the news of a special “Welcome Event” for 2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend – an $89 event that sounded a lot like the meetups of the past.
What came then was truly the biggest surprise to me: the amount of backlash that was directed toward Disney about its greed at charging for a once-free event…and I get that, I mean, I too wish I had a money tree planted in my backyard, but honestly – if I were Disney, I have to be honest: I would have charged for these long ago, too. Which brings me to my last point…
Money, money, money
Yes, this is the thing I definitely agree with Megan the most. Heck, it’s a big reason I will never run Dopey, but that’s the KEY POINT here – we all are adults. We can all make our own decisions. Sure, we can sign up for all the races, buy all the swag, pay for all the race retreats, and eat all the expensive food, but WHY? Because someone else is doing it? Because you saw someone’s review and don’t want to miss out? Whatever the reason is, just think about it: is someone forcing you – beyond the race registration fee – to spend all your disposable income in one weekend (or in the case of WDW Marathon Weekend – more like a week) on ALL THE THINGS? No. And if they are, you should reevaluate your relationship to this unspoken person.
runDisney is something, to me, that is still in its infancy, and sure, I read about people talking about “breaking up” with the series, or trying other things – and that is all good. This does not offend me one bit – and until runDisney goes back to its struggle to fill hotel rooms and registration slots (even as recent as 2011, Marathon Monday was a thing) I can promise you one thing: prices will rise. It’s okay to take a break, and you know what, it’s also okay if you still want to run all the races in a year – the power to make these decisions is our own (okay, maybe also our spouses, but I digress).
So, if you made it to the end of this monstrous post (almost 2000 words, whew) I give you serious kudos. Maybe I should issue a special, commemorative, spinning medal with it 😉