Thoughts on this Year’s Wine and Dine Half Marathon

Back in March, Preston and I registered for this year’s Wine and Dine Half Marathon.  That was about six weeks before we found out that we were pregnant, and when we calculated the weeks we realized that I’d be 33 weeks pregnant during this year’s race.  Although I ran/walked Rock ‘n’ Roll Philly at 32 weeks pregnant, we didn’t want to plan an expensive racecation for a race that I would have had to walk the majority, if not all, of.  The cost of the two races was a huge difference in why I still participated in Rock ‘n’ Roll Philly (which I participated in for free as part of my participation as a Rock ‘n’ Blogger this year).  After fees, our race registration for Wine and Dine was over $200/person, and we didn’t want to feel like we wasted money on a race that we would wind up having to walk.

So we deferred the race.  It wasn’t a difficult decision, but one that we wish that we hadn’t had to make since we had been looking forward to registering for this race for so long.  Throughout the race weekend this past weekend, the more that I saw everybody’s pictures on social media the more that I longed to be there.  Ever since running my first half marathon at Disney in January 2014, I’ve been eager to participate in another runDisney race weekend, and seeing the Christmas at Disney pictures had me reminiscing about our Christmas vacation there last year.

Crossing the finish line of my first half marathon! Photo Credit: MarathonFoto

Crossing the finish line of my first half marathon!
Photo Credit: MarathonFoto

Due to pregnancy insomnia, I’m not sleeping currently sleeping through the night.  Saturday night I woke up around 11:45 p.m. to a number of runDisney Twitter alerts on my phone.  It was then that I first learned that the start time of this year’s Wine and Dine Half Marathon had been delayed due to inclement weather, and that the course had also been shortened to about 6.7 miles.  Many on social media started nicknaming this year’s race “The Wine and Dine Half of a Half Marathon.”

Some of the tweets that runDisney tweeted Saturday evening

Some of the tweets that runDisney tweeted Saturday evening

The course started at ESPN Wide World of Sports, and normally would have taken runners on an out and back on Osceola Parkway, with a brief run through Animal Kingdom.  Instead, the out and back on Osceola Parkway was eliminated, as was Animal Kingdom, and runners instead were rerouted to run on World Drive to Hollywood Studios, where they ran the rest of the originally planned race, which ended at Epcot.

There’s lots of speculation as to why the course was shortened.  There was a threat of additional thunderstorms in the area between 1 and 2 a.m., when many runners would have still been on the course.  I also read about downed tree limbs on the course in Animal Kingdom.  There was discussion that the medical and security staff were only contracted until a certain time, and that by delaying the start of the race until 10:45 p.m. that these staff would have been working beyond their contracted time.  There was also discussion as to where runDisney would direct runners to that were on Osceola Parkway in the event of a second thunderstorm, and how those runners would be safe from Mother Nature.  And lastly, it was mentioned that the roads had to be reopened by 2 a.m., which with the delayed start wouldn’t have allowed for the maximum 16 minute/mile pace that runDisney offers its participants.

I’d like to believe that those are the reasons for the tough decision that runDisney had to make.  I’m trying to not believe the complainers who have argued that runDisney cut the race short in order to ensure profits for Disney at the race after party at Epcot, which still went on as planned.  That thought never crossed my mind until I read about it in several of the runDisney Facebook groups that I belong to.

Several people are naturally upset about the course being cut short, especially those for whom this would have been their first half marathon.  I’ve been trying to think about how I would have felt had Preston and I been in Florida for this race as originally planned.  Of course, I would have been disappointed about the weather’s interference with the race, but nobody can control Mother Nature’s ways.  Its hard to even begin to put myself into the shoes of those who had signed up for this race as their first half marathon, and just how disappointing it would have been to not be able to complete this race as planned.  But the reality is that safety comes first, and I would never want a race organization to put my health and safety in jeopardy just so that the show could go on.

Wine and Dine wasn’t the only race that had to have last minute changes made.  Earlier in the day on Saturday, Rock ‘n’ Roll Savannah’s full marathon course had to be cut short due to unseasonably high temperatures and humidity.  Given that a runner passed away during the race, it seems to me like Rock ‘n’ Roll made the right decision on Saturday.

Is there one “right” answer to when the weather doesn’t cooperate?  Of course not.  runDisney has their zero refund policy stated on multiple pages on their website, and they could of course have made the decision to cancel the race altogether.  But they didn’t.  They made adjustments, still passed out medals at the finish line, and honored this race as originally planned for the Coast to Coast Challenge.  Some said they had difficulty wearing and/or displaying their medals since they didn’t complete a half marathon, but many would have also complained had they not distributed any of the medals.

Since I wasn’t there, I haven’t been able to come to a 100% conclusion on how I would have felt had Preston and I been there as originally planned.  Sure, it would have been a disappointment to not complete the race as planned, but at the same time, health and safety always come first.  And for that reason, I support the decision that runDisney made to shorten the course.

QOTD: How would you have felt if you were at Wine and Dine this past weekend? Or if you were at Wine and Dine, what are your thoughts on how runDisney handled the situation?

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60 Responses to Thoughts on this Year’s Wine and Dine Half Marathon

  1. I think a lot of people also don’t realize how crazy the lightning can be here in Florida. runDisney and the race director made the absolute right decision! Whether or not maximizing dollars at the after party was part of it – which I’m sure it was, (this IS Disney after all!) – it was still as great a time as you could make it. We had an absolute blast and regardless of all the complaints, Disney still put on one heck of a show. Hopefully next year Mother Nature can finally get her act together!

    • Glad to hear that you still had a great time at this year’s race! And yes, hopefully Mother Nature will finally cooperate for next year’s race. Its about time, especially after how much of an impact she’s had on this race for the past two years.

  2. I felt bad for the runners, but having experienced horrible thunderstorms in the south, I can understand why the decision was made by runDisney to shorten the course. The other thing is, many runners would have been swept with the late start and that could have gotten ugly. The pace requirements would have to be dropped and I suspect that was also part of the decision. In any case, safety is first and foremost for race directors and I respect how it was handled. It gets tiring seeing so many complaints on social media!

  3. jennuhfer says:

    I was one of those runners that W&D was going to be my first half marathon, and there were a number or those like me in my corral. From the time I got to WWoS Saturday night, there was a lot of cloud to cloud lightning, some good wind, and a few sprinkles. We saw one strike of cloud to ground lightning and then we were alerted to evacuate into the baseball stadium and the field house. My ONE complaint is that Disney did not do a good job of informing us what was happening. Sure, they posted it online, but no one there could get online on their phones because the networks were probably overloaded or something. Once in the corrals, we knew there were rumors of the shortened race, but no one knew for certain how short it would be (we heard a variety of 10 miles, 10k, 7 miles, etc). I completely understand why Disney shortened the race, and there are a number of reasonable and logical explanations why, and truthfully it was probably some combination of everything. I don’t buy the maximizing profits at the after party at all. I also didn’t wear my medal to the parks on Sunday because I was having a hard time with accepting that my first half was not actually a half. But now, almost a week out, I’m at peace with it. I’m still disappointed, but nothing can be changed now.

    • I can only imagine how frustrating it must have been to not know exactly what was going on. With so many people packed in such a tight space, no wonder so many people struggled to receive the information that runDisney did try to provide via Social Media.

  4. This sounds like a great race. I would love to run one of these.

  5. I would have been scared at the first sign of thunder or lightning pressed submit to fast.

  6. Chaitali says:

    I was disappointed but I absolutely felt like Run Disney made the right decision. I had been seeing lightning flashes while we were waiting to go to the corrals and it had been making me nervous. One of the podcasts I listen to mentioned on Tuesday that they had heard from a volunteer who was at Animal Kingdom that there was a downpour there (though we didn’t see it at the start line) and that there was a lot of debris on the ground. And the hour delay with the extra standing/walking plus the humidity would have really thrown me off my game, and I assume the same would be true of others. It seemed like shortening the course was the best compromise they could make given the circumstances. As someone said in an earlier comment, the only thing I wasn’t happy about was the communication.

  7. adriadc says:

    I was there, and I still cannot get over it. It was so weird seeing the Lightning so close and when the evacuated….oh boy, chaos. I was one of the lucky ones who sat inside out of the impending storm.
    We were not sure we were going to run after the hour delay, but we did. It was a great race! We got pictures, medals and had an after party because the weather cooperated. It worked out well. So Run Disney did well. Hey, it’s better than running in cold rain (last year).

  8. I support the decision they made. I think you can’t control mother nature and it’s best to keep runners safe. However, I do think there should be some refunding or guarantee into next years race or equivalent for shortening the race.

  9. Kevin says:

    I was at the race and had been following the weather from about 7pm on. I was actually surprised we didn’t get hammered with bad weather given it was happening around us. There was a severe thunderstorm warning in the same county with significant lightning and reports of 40mph winds. I would not want to run through that.

    Whatever the actual reason for shortening the course (I heard all those same reasons on twitter), I’m just glad we were able to race at all. I do feel bad for those who trained specifically for this race, especially it it was their first. Communication was definitely an issue. Outside in the staging area, my ATT 4g service was awful. Once we were evacuated into the HP field house, I was able to connect to Disney’s wifi and keep up to date that way

  10. I would have felt very disappointed but I think it’s a tough call. By shortening but continuing, everyone who paid to travel there got to run something. OTOH, had they delayed it, some people would have had to go home without racing, but others would have gotten what they paid for.

  11. Lesley says:

    During the race there’s no shelter for runners if lightening hits, but World Showcase does provide cover if runners need it. I know people are upset about the decision, but it was the right one. I read the pathways in AK were slick, and if runners were on that in the dark, I could see a lot of injuries stemming from it. They can’t control the weather, but rD can make decisions on safety.

  12. Wow I would have been really disappointed if I was signed up for that race, but there are things that are out of our control. Hopefully everyone was still able to have a good time.

  13. Rebecca Jo says:

    I’m sure as much as people hated it, Disney would be the #1 organization to watch out for people’s safety…
    Love your finish picture – you both are literally walking on air!

  14. I would have been sad, naturally, but I would have supported runDisney’s decision for sure. I really think they were trying to keep everyone safe. Living on the Gulf Coast…which is super similiar weather to Orlando…thunderstorms and extreme lightning can pop up in no time! Better safe than sorry in my opinion!

  15. Rebecca Kovach says:

    I was there. It was my first run disney and was supposed to be my first half marathon. I trained for 6 months with my father in law, and we planned a family vacation around the race. While I am disappointed that I did not get to achieve my goal, I understand that things happen outside of my control, and that safety is the number 1 priority.

    That being said, I am extremely disappointed in run Disney’s lack of communication. The lack of communication and no attempt at any sort of apology, unfortunately makes it seem like it is all about money. If the safety reasons that others listed were really the reasons why wouldn’t they have said that? Or posted a statement? Or sent us some sort of email?

    I was in wide world of sports where people were in the outdoor seats of the stadium doing the wave. While I sat in a stairway, my family was drinking and spending money at epcot (certainly no evacuation there, lol). Then, when we were told to get to our corral, the announcer repeatedly was promoting it as a positive decision, that we’d get to start drinking earlier… Also, does anyone remember this, that he said the decision was not weather related?? It was just so strange….

    We paid $200 for a half marathon. We did not get a half marathon. Yes it was a fun 10k+, but it was not what we paid for. It’s really bothersome that there has been no acknowledgment from run disney whatsoever. Given that they won’t even give the reason why or to apologize, I know it’s wishful thinking to get any sort of gesture to show that run disney is about running and sport. There could have been a rain check to another Disney race, entry into the upcoming half (create a corrall for us…? Make us pay again who cares), or refund of the difference between a half and 10k.

    I had fun, but it was a fun 10k… And I don’t understand the reason why.

    I’ll find a local half in December to complete my goal 🙂

  16. It never turns out when you’re trying to predict mother nature! I think Disney handled it as well as any. Looks like you lucked out on this one. I’ll be in Disney in January and crossing my fingers for great running weather. 🙂

  17. I heard about this, and I agreed with a lot of runners on a page I follow. Although you can’t plan for the weather, if the course was shortened you would want to feel you earned the medal, so I heard a lot of runners finished it up later on their own to get the miles in, and then they were comfortable wearing the medals as earned.
    But ya, I have heard of races cancelling and they hand out the medals anyway because its what runners apparently want and it just saves them the complaints. But I don’t think I would ever wear one like that, I’d donate it to one of those ones that gives them to special olympic athletes on their mini hometown races, those special needs individuals just light up with those and ya I would want it to go to them to earn:)
    Although Disney is a money maker, I don’t think they would delibritely do something like this. They make millions on all that race merchandise pre race there is no reason for them to fix something like that, I don’t see them doing it. Having been a race director in the past. Likely it was the permitting and insurance liability for the weather. I’d be like you and not assume the worst.
    But I’ve always thought it would be such a bummer if a race was cancelled especially a destination race I traveled to, but you never know!

  18. Michelle says:

    This was my first half marathon and first runDisney experience. I can’t fault rD for shortening the race for safety, but I was frustrated at the lack of timely communication to runners. I think it’s great they posted on social media, but no one in my group was able to access that information in a timely way. I also had poor experiences with fellow participants – I watched one particularly rude walker (holding hands with her husband, blocking over half the sidewalk during a narrow part of the course) elbow a runner after the runner yelled “on your left” and exclaim that she didn’t have to get out of the way of the runner. After witnessing/experiencing a few moments like that, on top of the bummer of the race being altered… It was not at all what I expected from my runDisney experience. A major bummer after all the time, training, excitement, and money spent looking forward to it!

  19. mkadens1 says:

    I’ve run races in full blown thunderstorms before that, imo, should have been cancelled. The lightning was just that ridiculous and if there was anywhere I could’ve gone to take shelter I would’ve stopped running on my own. I always respect the call the race officials make if they decide to cut a race short.

  20. kristenk says:

    I think it’s so silly that people would be saying that about Disney just wanting to make money! I’m sure they knew how angry people would be with a shortened race, but they chose to do it to keep people safe. Lightening is no joke, so while I would have been upset that I didn’t get to run the race I trained for I would have been happy to get to run a safe race. Hopefully you’ll have great weather if you use your deferment next year!

  21. Cynsspace says:

    I get upset by last minute changes in courses, no matter what the distance, even if they are for a good reason.
    Good call deferring your race. You have more than yourself to look after.

  22. Ariana says:

    I would definitely have been bummed out, but at the end of the day there’s nothing you can do about Mama Nature. It’s quite common for triathlon organizers to consider getting rid of the swim portion if the weather is poor. At the end of the day organizers are just looking out for our safety!

  23. Jessica says:

    I’m sorry you didn’t get to do the marathon! And I hate that theres all this drama surrounding the event.

  24. I had friends that did run this race as their first half so it was quite diassapointing for them that it was cut short. Logistically there are so many decisions that go into cancelling or postponing a race. I would hope that they didn’t do it to make money after the race at Epcot but I a, sure that factored in, above all I think their decisions are based on the safety of their runners.

  25. elenasonnino says:

    Such a tough call when it comes to weather – but I remember thinking whenI saw the news online that it was great that runDisney was making what sounded like a great decision given the forecasts for safety reasons. The same thing with Savannah – seeing all of the incredible runners that I know struggle with the heat – it was a real issue that despite the training and cost of these events, needed to be dealt with. In the end, a race is just a race to me – and the risk to life is too great.

  26. I definitely was disappointed not to run the whole course (I LOVE running in Animal Kingdom, especially at night and they had some of the best character photo opportunities too!) but safety is first! I still had a blast

  27. Sue @ This Mama Runs For Cupcakes says:

    Safety always comes first and I can’t believe that people still don’t get that!

  28. It’s definitely a tough call, but I totally agree on safety first! I’m a big wuss with storms and I probably would have been too nervous to run the event at all with the storm situation.

  29. Britsrundisney says:

    We travelled from the UK to do the race (our first half) and were obviously disappointed when they announced it would be shortened – but I totally understood why they did it even then, they had 12000+ people’s safety to look out for. I’m so thankful we still got to run at all after travelling all that way, and not being used to the heat in Florida it was an incredibly tough race for us anyway. I do agree that after the evacuation they could have communicated a bit better as to what was going on – it was the longest hour of my life waiting to see if it would still go ahead, but all in all safety first, and I think most people (though disappointed at the time) once they reflect on that have realised that it was the right decision.

  30. It sounds like runDisney made the right call. And, it certainly looks like it was a good decision for your to defer your entry to next year. Hopefully the weather in FL will be less fickle this time next year!

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