The runDisney support contact form only allows like 3 paragraphs before it cuts off, so upon publication of this post I will be sending them a link. I will also tag them on social media in the hopes someone on the runDisney team might read it.
I am also interested to hear what my fellow runDisney runners think about the letter below. Has your experience been similar or different from mine? What did I get right? What did I get wrong? Send me your perspective via any channel you wish – comment below, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or DM/tag me on Instagram or Twitter. I’m not vox populi and if there’s anything to clarify, add, or debate, let’s do it!
I’ll get straight to the point: the present runDisney race corral situation is untenable.
The evolution of runDisney corrals has definitely sped up the race start process since I began running in 2013, and for that I commend the organizers. However, the compression of predicted finish times per corral has had a negative impact on the race experience. This relates to not only enjoyment but also safety.
The situation wouldn’t be so bad if not for the recent advent of Club runDisney and the member perk that moves them up a few corrals.* When there were more corrals and this only meant they made it into the first corral without a proof of time, this was not so much of a problem. However, it has come to my attention that Club runDisney members are now placed in the S2 wave, and that explains a lot about my last runDisney experience.
* Edited to note: it has been pointed out in the comments that the Club runDisney numbers are small and that poor corral seeding on a whole is the greater problem. Nevertheless my thesis remains unchanged.
My Tower of Terror 10 Miler was miserably bogged down by crowding. I am a 2:01 half marathoner, just outside of S1 eligibility, and there were people stopping to walk in front of me immediately at the start line. I understand that everyone starts the race at their own pace, and that the run-walk method is popular, but the relative speeds within individual groups should not be that disparate.
The uneven pacing of the runners also caused huge backups at the photo stops. I have observed that lines are always long toward the beginning of the race before the herd thins, but as the herd never really thinned, photo lines never shortened.
These are frustrations but not hazards, and you may dismiss them as such. Yet I also witnessed multiple interactions that were more than frustrating; they were unpleasant and even dangerous.
At one point a wheelchair participant, who had perhaps stopped for a bathroom break or gear check, was trying to get by. There were MANY, MANY walkers to the right, which the wheelchair participant ultimately wound up repeatedly screaming at to “MOVE! MOVE!” until she was finally able to pass.
There were also many faster runners dodging, spinning, and lunging crazily around the slower movers in attempt to get to a clear area. I was hit multiple times, luckily not severely, but it was a long series of accidents waiting to happen. And I’m sure I hit others, because it was borderline impossible not to at times. I know people who have been severely injured in falls and collisions due to race crowding and it’s irresponsible of runDisney, a group planning huge events attended by thousands of people, to assume it’ll work itself out.
I promise you I am not the only person whose experience was marred by the inappropriately seeded course. All around me, at various points during the race, I heard people complaining about the course conditions and how difficult it was to get around.
To be clear, I would never suggest runDisney require faster minimum pace times. Everyone should have the right to participate in a runDisney race regardless of where they are in their fitness journey. But corrals should serve a real purpose, not just arbitrarily divide a large group of people into clumps. That completely negates the point of providing a proof of time in the first place unless you’re able to qualify for the first corral.
(And yes, I realize this is a great motivator to train for a faster time, but that shouldn’t be a deciding factor in whether I’m set up for a good race or not in the here and now.)
I’ve been told that positioning yourself at the very front of the corral is a huge help, and you can bet I’ll be doing it from now on. But shouldn’t everyone’s race, from the first runner across the start to the last, be equally destined for delight?
Besides, this goes both ways. I can only imagine slower runners don’t love being yelled at and mowed down by people whose hurry shouldn’t be their problem.
The current corral system may be easier and make the start procedures more efficient, but given the negative impact to the race experience itself, it needs to be reevaluated and tweaked. Runners who submitted 12 minute mile estimates should not be in a corral with people who submitted numbers under 10 and even close to 9.
Further, if you must provide a corral boost to Club runDisney members, they should get their own corral right before the start group with no proof of time. If they can’t otherwise qualify for a POT corral on their own merits, they shouldn’t be admitted. It’s for everyone’s safety and comfort, and no amount of money can change that.
I realize that runDisney is wildly successful, and as such you may feel that the voices of dissent don’t matter. It is my hope that by publishing this open letter, it will inspire others to similarly raise their voices. Above all, I want runDisney to be a source of joy for all of us, not irritation and risk. Under normal circumstances I love it! I want it to succeed!
So I ask runDisney: please reevaluate your corral placements. We can all wait a little extra time at the start if it means a better race in the end.
Don’t forget, you can follow FRoA on Twitter @fairestrunofall and on Instagram @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions or thoughts, leave a comment or email email@example.com. See ya real soon!