So, this post is a pretty difficult one to write. For the most part, I have kept my opinions and thoughts about runDisney
and their recent changes to myself or shared them with people that are close to me. I haven’t really come out and taken a position one way or another. I’ve played this out in my mind for weeks and came to the conclusion that I owe it not only to myself but I owe it to you to share my thoughts openly and honestly. These are my opinions and this is my space…so I am going to try to frame these thoughts the best that I can.
Before we even dive into this, I am going to provide you all with my runDisney race resume. I am sharing this so you know that I have been doing this for quite some time…so maybe some of my thoughts will have some context against them when I talk about the changes I have seen over the years.
-Disneyland Half Marathon 2012
-Wine and Dine Half Marathon 2012
-Walt Disney World Marathon (Goofy Finisher) 2013
-Tinker Bell Half Marathon 2013
-Disneyland Half Marathon (Dumbo Double Dare Finisher) 2013
-Wine and Dine Half Marathon 2013
-Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend (Dopey Challenge Finisher) 2014
-Tinker Bell 10K AND Half Marathon 2014
-Avenger’s Super Heroes Half Marathon 2014 (Coming Soon)
-3X Coast to Coast medal recipient
Ok, now that I have that out of the way let’s get right into this post.
I discovered runDisney by accident. I began running in 2012 and found out that Disney had their own race series. I, being the huge Disney fanatic that I am was very excited and signed up for the Disneyland Half Marathon without hesitation. It was my third half marathon and it was A LOT of fun. I am local to Disneyland so travel wasn’t an issue and in 2012 I don’t remember the course or the expo being too crowded. I had the time of my life. I was moved and inspired and didn’t want this to end. Upon returning from vacation to Alaska (on the Disney Cruise Line no less…I left the next day haha), I signed up for the Wine and Dine half marathon. Food and wine and running…who says no to that. I went to that event alone. I was fortunate enough to secure a place in the Disney Parks Blog meet up group where I was formally introduced to Team #runDisney
. I had been chatting and conversing with many of these people online for a couple months. The group was small, yet welcoming. I continue to keep in touch with A LOT of these folks to this day. After finishing that weekend, I walked away with so many new friends. Again, I didn’t want that to end.
I have said it before and I will say it again, runDisney race weekends aren’t so much about the race…it’s about the people! The people are what make these racecations what they are. Hands down. Period. I like to think of it as a family reunion when we all get together. I mean, we run races that aren’t Disney and make it a point to meet up with one another just to say hi and steal hugs. THAT is what makes this special. I hang on to those memories and look forward to creating more both on Disney property and off.
As of the past year, runDisney has seen some major administrative changes in how they operate. The changes are not subtle and the changes in MY personal opinion are quite disheartening. Let me be perfectly clear. I was a cast member at Disneyland. One of my roles was a guest control/special events cast member. They are part of the team that runDisney leverages for race weekend logistics. So, I understand what it is like to be a cast member and the stress that comes with it. I am not blaming ONE single person for ANYTHING. These are my personal feelings and observations. You have every right to agree or disagree. I also welcome alternative perspectives as well. This is meant to generate conversation, not bash anyone.
Let’s talk about what runDisney does VERY well. runDisney knows their audience. One of the reasons they exist is to encourage families to get off the couch and be active together. They do that by holding races at their vacation destinations and hoping all will participate. BRILLIANT. I love that families can run/walk/play together. runDisney is also a great place to run if you are new to running and want to give it a try. I have always found runDisney races to be a safe haven and space for all skill levels. I find for the most part their races and expos are very organized. They have their moments when they aren’t so smooth…but so does everyone else. They really leverage their runners in their campaigns. This forms a sense of community and inclusion. I also find they are always on the hunt for continuous improvement. Not every race (Disney or non) is perfect. There is always something that can be done better. I find they address the big things and get them corrected. Jeff Galloway & Tara Gidus are wonderful resources that are warm, open, and available for the participants! I love that so much. The list of what they do well is much longer but these are just some of the things I really do appreciate.
Ok…here’s where it’s gonna get dicey. In today’s technical age social media presence is important. Lots of us turn to Facebook or Twitter for news and customer service…they miss the mark on this hardcore. I find the accounts go nuts during race weekends and then are pretty quiet there after. New participants have legitimate questions that only runDisney can answer and those vehicles would be a great way to close the gap. I know the staff is limited. I know they have a lot on their plate. But client engagement and loyalty is important. For most inquiries I will direct you to the Team #runDisney blog/forum/Facebook group because they are an amazing resource with seasoned runDisney participants…myself included. I always wondered why they don’t have a formal race ambassador program to help with this…then it hit me. Why do they need it? Bloggers like me do the work for free. We recap our experiences and answer questions for free. They don’t need to create or leverage a program for that because the need is already addressed. Makes sense to me. Although it would be a nice idea.
The prices are now out of bounds. Yes, we can discuss the “value” you get for the races. Yes, the tech shirts are usually awesome (and have improved drastically in both design and materials that are used), yes the medals are usually awesome (I’ll come back to this), and the on course entertainment is usually spot on. I still have a hard time justifying $195 for a half marathon. Some high profile marathons don’t cost that much. When you factor in travel, housing accommodations, food, and swag at the expo…it adds up. Fast. Especially for someone coming from Southern California to Orlando. Now, no one is forcing any of us to make these commitments and sign up and everyone has an individual circumstance. For me, I’ve done these races find a better value in using those available funds to explore and experience other races. It’s not cost effective for me to repeat these races at the high price point…that continues to climb. That’s just me.
I was REAL disappointed with the 2015 Goofy medal. Why? Because it looks EXACTLY like the ING Miami Marathon medal from 2012!!!!!!! The only thing missing were the palm trees. I am all for leveraging ideas for inspiration and such but this is THE WALT DISNEY COMPANY! You are known for creativity, innovation, and for using your imaginations to bring ideas, concepts, and stories to life. You bombed that one guys…sorry ’bout it. Normally the medals are breathtaking. I have some that just make me say WOW that rocks to this day! Even the 2014 Goofy medal is stellar! The Marathon medal this year as simple as it is, still has charm and appeal. I don’t know what happened, but I want to see that flare come back. Racing isn’t all about medals…but having one that you can fall in love with is always nice. Now, everyone has the same taste in design so this opinion is completely subjective…like most of this post but you get what I mean.
runDisney has realized it is officially a cash cow. They sell out races in record times at high prices (which is their prerogative), the merchandise isn’t the cheapest (and sells out quickly), New Balance shoes are a hot item (I waited for my pair), and everyone wants to sign up for what’s next. Why wouldn’t they as a business play to these strengths? And they do. And why shouldn’t they? It’s about the bottom line at the end of the day. A business exists to make a profit. And they have found new and “creative” ways to do that. Introducing new challenges for one (Dopey, Glass Slipper, whatever is going on on Castaway Cay).
For me, it’s exhausting to go to these events. I literally need a vacation after the racecation. Dopey about killed me. The mileage wasn’t the issue. It was the constant 3 am wake up calls, hardly any park time, and early bed times. It starts messing with your head. I hung out and met old and new friends that weekend and I will forever be grateful for that, but it’s just too much mental stress for me. I love the concept of runDisney, but I think since they have made their changes they primarily focus on the bottom line instead of the runner. The runner will always be there because let’s face it…y’all are still stalking the website and social media grasping at those registration dates and links. The demand is there. I don’t see that changing. This post isn’t trying to steer you away, do what you love! I am here sharing my perspective because I have seen a shift and it makes me sad.
Wine and Dine will always be my favorite event, and I plan on returning to that in 2015. This isn’t goodbye by any means, but this is I need to reduce my participation. runDisney has give me SO SO SOOOO MUCH!!!! Memories, friends, and magic. I want that to continue and I wish all participants find the same happiness that I have been fortunate enough to experience in their own races and trips.
This has been on my spirit for a while. So there it is. Now you know. It’s not the bubbly funny post that you usually get from me, but it is honest and from my heart. And it’s taken me some time to get here and put it down on paper err…computer screen. Whew. It sure isn’t what it used to be…and sadly it’s pretty obvious.