2013 was supposed to be my year of running.
After finishing three half-marathons in 2012, I resolved to pick up the pace and finish six races in 2013. The new year started off well—I finished two half-marathons in the first two weeks of the year, and was really looking forward to filling in my race calendar. I registered for the inaugural Disneyland Dumbo Double Dare, and considered my other race options.
Then I stumbled, literally. It might have been during the Castaway Cay 5K, it might have been at Knott's Coaster Run—but somewhere along the way, I took a bad step and hurt my foot. Running hurt. Walking hurt. Shoes hurt.
Although my primary doctor said there was nothing wrong, I sought a second opinion from a podiatrist when the pain persisted for months. After I described the pain, she gently pressed a specific spot on my foot. After she scraped me off the ceiling, she confirmed my fears: my foot was broken. Worse, since the break had been left untreated for so long, she said, it might never heal properly.
Suddenly, my year of running was over. I definitely wasn't entering any other races, and there was no guarantee that I'd even be able to complete the races for which I'd already registered.
I did everything my doctor, herself an avid runner, advised to try to heal my foot. I iced, elevated, wore the dreaded walking boot, used crutches, and even rented a wheelchair during a Walt Disney World trip (in the rain, I might add). I used an electronic bone stimulator faithfully every night, and returned for regular checkups.
The Friday before the Dumbo Double Dare, my doctor reluctantly approved me to walk—walk—the 10K race on Saturday, but was told that I was not to even think about crossing the starting line of the half marathon Sunday under any circumstances.
So, there was one race entry fee down the drain. While Disney allows runners to "defer" registration to the following year in the event they can't participate in an event, there are no refunds, and your registration fee is non-transferable. Sure, you have a reserved spot next year, but you pay for that spot.
Fast-forward to this month. Although I am registered for both the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend 10K and half-marathon, I won't be at either starting line. Instead, I'll be with my family attending the funeral of my beloved grandmother. And that's the way it should be. Still, that's two more race registrations I won't be able to use; three in 12 months—$500 in registration fees lost because I can't predict the future.
Hundreds of other runners are facing the potential loss of their race fees from the WDW event because of winter storm Ion and the polar vortex. These are runners unable to get out of their driveways, much less their state. And there's nothing they can do—Disney's policy is clear. Of course, the Mouse is not alone in this—most American road races have no-refunds policies, but most will at least mail your race shirt if you ask them to.
I don't know what the rest of 2014 holds for me. I don't know if I'll remain injury-free for another training season. I don't know if I'll have another family emergency, or if an earthquake will turn Southern California into quicksand. What I do know is that I'm not willing to gamble with non-refundable race fees anymore, so I've made a big decision. II am passing on the 2014 runDisney race cycle, specifically because runDisney refuses to offer the Registration Protector insurance available through Active.com, the company Disney uses to process its race registrations.
Introduced in 2012, Registration Protector is an optional insurance policy that costs runners $7 per event. The insurance provides a refund in the event a runner can't participate in an event for a covered reason, such as an injury, loss of job, or travel interruption. The program is administered directly by Active.com, which means Disney doesn't need to change its own no-refunds policy. The coverage is underwritten by Allianz Global Assistance, a well-known travel insurance provider—in fact, it's the same company that underwrites the travel insurance offered by the Disney Cruise Line.
Disney raised the price of the Dumbo Double Dare by $40 in one year. The Disneyland half-marathon alone is nearly $200 now, a $100 increase in nine years. These are not insignificant amounts of money. Yet while Disney offers travel insurance for cruises and vacations, it has deliberately opted not to do so for runDisney events by disabling the Registration Protector option on their events.
So I'm sitting out 2014 as far as runDisney is concerned. I won't be part of the mad dash trying to snap up fewer Dumbo Double Dare slots this year—you can have my spot. Instead, I'll focus on smaller races with lower registration fees, where the no-show penalty isn't quite as steep.
And I'll hope that runDisney reconsiders offering a service that costs them nothing, but protects its customers from simply being human.