I’m back! It’s time to recap a unique race weekend, this trip to Walt Disney World and Universal was both the best and stupidest thing I’ve done during the pandemic. Yes, we are in the peak of peaks of the pandemic and yes I still decided to race and park hard. I felt so many emotions leading up to it, shame, guilt, anxiety, and excitement, and right now I’m glad I went and took all the precautions I did while I was there. As of right now, I have not tested positive for COVID but someone in my travel group did so I’m just hoping for the best.
So with that preamble, let’s jump into the WDW Marathon Weekend!
This year’s Dopey Challenge recap/review is going to be a little different. Instead of breaking down each race in a different post I’m just going to summarize across all four races in one massive post and break up the information by type (start, getting to Epcot, characters, etc). Hopefully, this will be more useful!
So I’m going to kick off with the elephant in the room (in the race?) that was COVID-19. runDisney really didn’t acknowledge the surge that was happening leading up to and now last beyond the race weekend. The policy on property is that masks must be worn in all indoor spaces but are not required to be worn outside. Technically, indoor spaces would include bathrooms along the course and I didn’t end up using any “real” bathrooms in the parks, only port-o-potties along the course, but I’m assuming no one was abiding by this during the race.
There was no encouragement from runDisney to mask in corrals or when in tight spaces which was disappointing. Basically, to get zero acknowledgement of thee public health situation was really unnerving given that record daily cases were being set. Honestly, this was probably due to one reason, legal precedent across property. How is a corral different from waiting for/watching fireworks on a crowded Main St? Or different than sitting in an outdoor theater for a show like Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular? Without acknowledging other areas of similar risk on property they really couldn’t do much so that’s what WDW and runDisney did, nothing extra to acknowledge the increased risk at the time of race weekend. To say I was disappointed in this and also that it added to my nerves is an understatement. During the races and the trip I continued to make the choices that felt right to me which included masking in nearly all situations indoors and outdoors except for in the middle of the race/while running or while eating and drinking.
I didn’t go to the expo until 7pm the first day so my experience was really easy and fast but everything in the Official Merchandise area was very picked over. All the general race weekend merchandise was gone and all that remained were the race specific items. I kind of wish I could’ve gotten some of the cool race weekend stuff but I’m not one to lament not feeling compelled to spend more money at Disney so it’s no real loss. I heard earlier in the day that the waits were similar to past years with an hour or more for merchandise. We zipped in an out fast. Last hour for the win!
Start Area/Bus Drop Off
Another major change which I didn’t like at first but didn’t mind by the end of the weekend was how resort bus drop off happened. The resort buses dropped off at the normal park resort bus area and then we walked through park security instead of through a makeshift bag check table. Below is how I remember the path taking us each morning from the resort buses to the start area.
I’m guessing this was to keep with park protocols and limit the contact park security has with runners bags and stuff. Those driving also were directed to the front of the park to go through security. The morning of the 5k this was really surprising and I was not a fan but by the half marathon I actually kind of liked it. It eliminated that HUGE backup at the bag check tables and allowed runners to just keep walking, however it meant you were walking A LOT before even starting the race.
For the 5k between this walk to the start and then the buses being staged in the Journey parking lot, which was actually an improvement because it meant the resort buses could leave ASAP instead of having to wait for the last runners to get past mile 1ish, I feel like I walked a 2k on top of the 5k.
Overall, the corrals felt less crowded than in past years. The 5k (I started in S2) and 10k (I started in S5) were crowded but not overly packed, there weren’t any announcements to fill in all space which was welcome. The 5k and 10k did the same starter chute as in past years where we walk from the corral to the official start chute and that’s where it definitely felt more crowded. Being in S1 for the half marathon and marathon gave me plenty of space. It wasn’t until we were ready to go and getting our countdown that it got a little to crowded.
I was also pleasantly surprised by the number of people choosing to wear masks in the corrals. Probably about 50%-60% for the 5k and maybe 40% for the rest of the races which I will take. I wore my mask in the corrals and then on the course until it wasn’t so crowded or I needed to get better breaths and I never felt like I was alone in this choice.
The 5k and Half Marathon courses were very similar to past years and it was nice to be back out on them!
The 10k course was brand new and took us into Hollywood Studios and Epcot and very fun! Basically, the first 5k was on the roads outside Epcot/DHS and then the last 5k was a really fun journey through Hollywood Studios, around the Yacht/Beach Club, and then into Epcot. I was running with friends who were all new to WDW runDisney and by the end they were sad it was over because so much excitement had built up in those last few miles. I’m really hoping they keep this course for future WDW Marathon Weekends!
The Marathon was very similar to the 2020 course with a few variations. I thought the two “bunny ears” near Blizzard Beach were going to be annoying but honestly they weren’t that bad. Not running through DHS more was a bit of a bummer but at that point in the race you just want to be done so I wasn’t took sad in the moment.
I felt like there were the same number of characters on each course as in past years. Granted you couldn’t run right up to them, you posed in front of them and got the picture that way but I actually really liked it and I’m sure the characters liked it too not having to get that close to a bunch of sweaty runners. One of the fun things they did was “themed” miles. Every race there was a mile where they spaced out characters from the same movie (Toy Story, Cinderella, Incredibles, and I’m sure others I’m forgetting) and have music related to them an maybe a screen showing a part from the movie. For example the Toy Story miles showed up a few times, so the first character would be Woody, then Jessy, then Bo Peep, then some music, and then the green army man. It was kind of cool and something different!