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MousePlanet Mailbag for April 14, 2005

Before we present today's Mailbag, the following is a special cast member plea brought to us by Cast Place editor Shoshana Lewin.

The firing of New Orleans Square mime Lagniappe brought a mixed reaction from many MousePlanet readers. However, as a result of recent—and upcoming—events at the resort, we have received a plea from a current NOS cast member:

Help bring Lagniappe back for the 50th. We all miss him in the square and the shops. Scott Givens, vice president of entertainment, was walked out of the Team Disney Anaheim (Disneyland management) building last week. Scott is gone and so are his dumb ideas, one of which was to lay off Lagniappe. Disney's biggest celebration, and no one is in charge of entertainment.

Please send letters to:

Director of Entertainment
TDA building #354
P.O. Box 3232
Anaheim, CA 92802

Lagniappe is more fun than a talking trash can.

Feedback for Lani Teshima

Once in a while, we run an article that hits a nerve with our readers. “You can't go the distance: Marathon snafu shuts runners out of Magic Kingdom,” Lani Teshima's article earlier this year regarding an uncoordinated shut-out of slower participants in January's Walt Disney World Marathon elicited a deluge of e-mail. A handful of comments were unsympathetic, although most—including a number who participated in the marathon or half–marathon but had no inkling of the event because they finished at a faster time and did not have slower friends who were shut out—were very surprised by the incident for being so unDisney-like.

And then there were those who experienced the shut-out first-hand. Their e-mail messages are long, detailed, and passionate.

The following are samples of all of these categories.

Note: As Lani noted in “Follow the course,” her WDW Marathon Guide article discussing the changes to next year's marathon events, Disney has announced some revisions to the events that she believes will remove some of the worst of the issues of the weekend.


Rocky Raghib writes:

If this is the worst crisis you have endured in your life, you are a lucky puppy. Get over it.


Mickster writes:

This was the whiniest story I've ever read, and serves to just make people more ticked at untrained “runners” who choose to fiddly-fart through a marathon. I am buying more Disney stock as a result of their correct action to shut out the people who did not make the cut off. Yeah, Disney!


Clay writes:

I am having a really hard time feeling sorry for the people who were shut out of the Disney Marathon. The marathon is supposed to be a running event. The people who are walking at a 16–minute–mile pace had to know that they might not be able to finish in time. It is unfortunate that they failed, but they shouldn't blame Disney. They should train more and get ready for next time.

I ran the marathon and was extremely impressed with the quality of the organization and planning that went into it. Disney is to be congratulated and thanked for putting on such a wonderful weekend.


Deborah writes:

Your article was poorly written from the view of a group of people who did not train enough to run a marathon or half–marathon. How many of these people even had a watch on? From what I read on the DIS (boards), several didn't have a clue about the time. Did any of them run other races prior to the marathon to get an idea about the rules of marathoning? Training for a 15–minute–mile when the cut–off is 16–minutes, is rather poor in my book. That gave them a total of 13 minutes to go to the bathroom (wait in line for a porta–potty since they didn't think it was right to go behind a tree like many marathoners do), walk through the water stops, etc).

These were people who were talking about what they were going to carry in their fanny pack. They didn't have a clue about what it takes to run a marathon. There were 24,000 people signed up for the marathon and half–marathon. This is a small group of about 200. Less than 1% of the total people signed up.

I think they need a little cheese to go along with that whine.

Hi Deborah – Thanks for taking the time to write.

I'm not quite sure what you meant by my article being poorly written; do you mean that my article was biased and from the perspective of the slower participants? The article focused on a very specific incident that happened to this particular group of people, and overall I followed standard reporting protocols of journalism, so I'm not quite sure what you mean.

I hope you had the opportunity to read the entire article; while some were unhappy that they felt the gate was closed in front of them prematurely, the bulk of the concerns had to do with the way the participants were treated. Those I spoke to gladly conceded that they didn't mind being swept; it was that Disney did so in an unplanned and disorganized manner that people were specifically upset about. Considering that Disney has a reputation for organizing queues and events well, I think many people were very surprised that the mile-10 shut-out was done so unprofessionally.

Hope that clears it up a bit for you.

Deborah wrote back

Actually, I think you owe a big apology to those runners who actually trained to run the marathon and completed the race and did not whine about it. I read your entire article and thought it was a joke. You listened to a very small percentage of the total number of runners with no experience in marathons. They failed to train as they needed to and when they were swept they whined. Read a few of the Disney Marathon threads over on the Runner's World Marathons Board and see what real runners say about this situation.


Stephen Grubb writes:

I understand that it must have been a terribly disappointing experience for the walkers to be stopped. Obviously, Disney did not handle this in the best way. However, I think it's important to look at this in perspective. If the walkers got past the start line at 6:15 and were stopped at about 9:00, this is slower than a 16–minute pace. Have you ever tried to walk at a 16–minute pace? This is an incredibly slow rate of movement. I'm curious how much training these participants did to prepare for the event. Those aspiring to complete a marathon or half–marathon should not be striving for the slowest possible pace to complete the event by.

Disney's literature makes it quite clear that a 16–minute pace is the absolute minimum. If you have trained properly, then you know what pace you can maintain. If you cannot go faster than the minimum speed, you should really consider a shorter event such as the Family Fun Run they have each year the day before the Disney Marathon.

Ultimately, it is each participant's responsibility to train properly for the event. If you can't maintain at least a 16–minute pace, you probably shouldn't be doing a marathon/half–marathon in the first place. Finishing an event such as this isn't someone's “right.” A marathon or half–marathon is meant to be a difficult and challenging thing to accomplish. There are 23,800 other participants there who made sure they had trained properly and could keep up with the pack.

In addition, the “horrible conditions” the walkers faced were exaggerated. The temperature that day at 9 a.m. was about 70 degrees. Being in 70 degree weather for 40 minutes should not be a factor for those who are in good enough physical shape to participate in such an event. The “no food and water” complaint was also an exaggeration. The course map clearly shows that food and water was given at mile 9, just 1 mile before the walkers were stopped.

Could Disney have handled the removal of these walkers better? Of course! However, it is ultimately the responsibility of the participant to make sure he or she has adequately trained for an event such as this.


Kelly States writes:

I just read your article on MousePlanet about the approximately 200 runners shut out of the Magic Kingdom during the 2005 marathon and half–marathon. I was a half-marathon participant in 2005 for the first time ever.

I know my opinion will not be popular, but Disney clearly states their required pace time from the start of registration. While I realize that there is some discrepancy about whether they closed the gate early, I do not believe that everyone should be allowed to finish just because they started.

Even if Disney historically let people finish later than the official time, it doesn't mean they have to every year. Again, they clearly state their pace requirements at every juncture. This was my first and last half-marathon, simply because I wouldn't consider myself a runner and just wanted to complete the challenge. However, I think anyone using common sense would train for a 15 min/mile pace or better in order to account for any stops along the way.

I think Disney did a fantastic job. They are not obligated to the participants beyond providing a set course as advertised. They certainly weren't obligated to provide non-finishers with finisher's medals and I would hope they wouldn't feel obligated to compensate these participants in any way.

Hi Kelly – Thanks for taking the time to write. You don't mention what your finish time for the WDW Half-Marathon was, but if you were like most of the participants, you were able to finish with no problem and crossed the finish line. I fall into that category as well, having finished at a time of 2:21 for the half.

I agree with you completely that Disney is perfectly within its right to require a minimum pace. It is spelled out clearly, and those who fail to maintain that pace should be (and are) swept.

Although there are some within the group of 200 who feel they were unjustifiably cut off prematurely, the bulk of those I have spoken to will admit outright that they were not surprised they were swept; the biggest issue for them was in Disney's unpreparedness, and the way the participants were treated once the shut-out occurred.

We have yet to hear anything official from Disney, but we hope they eventually at least apologize to those shut-out participants who took the time to write to them, and that that specific problem (of an impromptu closure) doesn't happen in the disorganized way it did.

Again, thanks for writing! I didn't consider myself a runner but it's been over three years since I decided to get back in shape (after having done two full marathons earlier in my life), and I'm happy to say I still manage to waddle along!


Louis writes:

A couple of points regarding your article about the Disney Marathon/Half Marathon entitled “You can't go the distance”:

1) It took 11 minutes and 21 seconds for the last half–marathon participant to cross the start line and it took 12 minutes and 1 second for the last marathon participant to cross the start line (not 15 or 20). That time was added on to the overall time, thus giving everyone the full time to complete each race.

2) All participants must maintain a 16–minute–per–mile pace throughout the race or they could be picked up. They could be picked up at mile 1 or any point during the race. Race staff (official ones, not volunteers) always make an effort to warn participants that they are behind pace, but it is ultimately up to the participant to stay ahead of pace. Many of the charity groups had reps out on the course and many of them said it was the best year for keeping participants informed.

3) If you maintained a 16–minute–per–mile pace through the 10 mile mark, you would reach there at 2:40 plus the time it took you to get to the start line. The last person to cross the start line took 12 minutes, so everyone needed to be there by 2:52. Every person that contacted the event via e-mail, letter or phone call that was stopped had a 10 mile time of more than 2:52. Thus, they were stopped for not maintaining the 16–minute–per–mile pace.

4) Participant medals were given to those who were picked up along the course. These medals were also given to those picked up on the course last year. This is a planned practice, so it does not indicate that something was done in error.

5) I am not sure why some “coaches” of the charity groups would claim that these participants were ahead of pace, since the gate was closed just before 9:00, which is at least 5 minutes slower than the required pace.

6) No participant wants to get picked up and no race official/staff wants to pick them up. Every effort is made to get everyone as far as possible, but still, it becomes necessary to pick them up along the route and at various locations throughout the course.

7) Thanks for making the point that people should train at a 15–minute–per–mile pace or better, in case of problems.

Hi Louis – Your calculations as you present them are based on false data. You obtained the time of 11:21 from the official time of those who are on the official marathon/half-marathon results page at Disney's Wide World of Sports Web site. What it fails to do is take into account those individuals who were farther behind at the starting line, and who did not finish the event.

Unless Disney decides to disclose the official starting time of their “designated last person,” all of our calculations—based on those who are listed in the database are not relevant.

I have received considerable feedback from many individuals who participated in the event—both those who finished and those who did not, and both the full and half–marathons—and one of the things I learned was that Disney selects an official “designated last person to cross the starting line” for the two events. Disney takes down their bib number, and keeps an eye out for that person's ChampionChip to blip across the starting line mat, and that becomes the official “last starting time.”

What becomes particularly interesting for the purposes of our discussion is that it turns out this “designated last person” got excited once the starting gun went off, and found herself surging forward in a faster-then-anticipated pace. Because she did this, she actually passed a number of individuals before she crossed the starting line, and she was far from the last person to cross the starting line! That means that even if we went by the “official” time, it is still off.

Regarding non-finishers getting their medals:

This may be the official procedure, but I have also learned that this did not happen to a number of individuals who were shut out outside of Magic Kingdom. My understanding is that after the sole bus picked up a busload, those who were left took the monorail… and because they were not given any instructions, a number of Half-Marathon finishers went to the Epcot finish line instead of the Magic Kingdom parking lot half-marathon finish line. In their minds, they began the event at Epcot, so it made sense to go back to where they started.

Those individuals who were registered for the half, and who showed up at the Epcot finish line were not given Mickey Mouse medals because they only registered for the half.

My understanding is that there were other groups who did not receive medals, but that one particular instance is one where I have verified the information by those who experienced that firsthand.

Regarding “coaches” claiming their participants were ahead of pace:

This is one of the clues to the mystery, as far as I'm concerned. How is it possible that professional coaches, whose jobs it is to oversee their participants' paces, would tell their participants that they were on pace? The fact that there were several coaches and trainers who were shut out at Magic Kingdom is evidence that something went terribly awry on the organizational end—not on the coaches' end.

Regarding participants not wanting to be swept:

Yes, and I agree completely. While we can talk until we're blue in the face about the correct starting time and so on, the crux of the issue is that a sweep was done at an unplanned location where Disney appeared to be wholly unprepared to sweep the participants. Every person I've spoken to (and at this point it's probably close to 20% of those who were in the shut-out, if not more) concurs that this is the main issue at hand. At least half of those I've spoken to acknowledge that they knew they were close to the cut-off pace, and that they would have been fine had they been stopped at an official sweep location.

Thanks for taking the time to write and share with me your thoughts, Louis. You don't mention in your e–mail whether or not you participated in the event yourself.

Louis wrote back:

Absolutely wrong. I was at the start line of the half–marathon and timed it myself on my watch (has the stop watch feature like most runners should have). The last person to cross the start line (back of the pack) did so at 11 minutes and 21 seconds. That is a fact. Unless a person was late getting to the start line and began once the complete crowd crossed the line, they would have made it to the start in that time. The marathon had a few more at the start line than the half and did take 12 minutes. I am not sure where you get your information, but it is 100% incorrect.

If any of those “professional” coaches, who didn't get their “people” trained to do a better than 16–minute–per–mile pace, want to inquire about any of those individuals, I am sure the results people would be more than happy to tell them their times at the 10 mile mark. If they saw that these people were there after the allotted time, they would see that they were wrong. All the times are based on the ChampionChip timing system and not people just making the times up. Some participants, who sign up through the groups, are never told about the time limits or the consequences if they don't maintain a certain pace. You can imagine their surprise and disappointment when they find out on race weekend or even during the race.

Medals were present on the sweeper vehicles, but if they didn't get one on the bus, it may have been difficult to get one. Again, Disney is/was trying to accommodate the masses that don't finish and make the pain of getting picked up easier to take. They didn't and don't have to give any non-finisher any medal, but they thought it would be nice for many to get something. You try to please people and some get offended or hurt. You can only do so much.

Finally, and to repeat, anyone can be picked up at any time if they don't maintain the pace. You say it was “unplanned location.” If they were behind pace, they can be picked up at any point. There may have been some locations that were/are more critical than others, but that doesn't mean that you can't be picked up at any point along the course. The way it was handled after everyone was gathered together was definitely non-Disney-like and I am sure changes will be made. If any of those people writes or e–mail the event, I am sure they will get a response that will help them in this matter. They can go to www.Disneyworldmarathon.com and the e–mail address should be Disneysports@emmi.com.

Thanks for your concern about the marathon and the running business in general. I have not run for a number of years due to leg injuries, but have been involved in many of these events for almost 15 years and see the dedication that many staff and volunteers put into them.

Hi Louis – Thanks for your clarification on the starting time issue.

Regarding what you said about any part of the marathon weekend not being up to Disney's standards getting fixed next year, I hope so. My personal opinion though, is that while I hope the organizers have a chance to do a “lessons learned” post-mortem for the event, that someone there takes the time to apologize to those participants who wrote to Disney.

There are many people who have written to Disney because of the way they were treated outside of the Magic Kingdom, and from what I am told, at this point they would like an apology for the way they were treated. So far nobody has received an acknowledgement from Disney, and even if the event is completely snag-free next year, it may end up being too late for those folks who have vowed not to return unless Disney at least acknowledges what happened outside the Magic Kingdom.

By the way, do you work for Disney, or were you a volunteer tasked to time the starting line? I ask because you speak with authority and I'm wondering if you are a Disney Wide World of Sports CM. If you prefer not to be identified I can respect that, but if you can talk to me about what is going on within the marathon office I have a number of questions.

Louis wrote back:

No, not a cast member at Disney. I have worked on various events around the east coast and Midwest and worked/volunteered at Disney. I just wanted to let you know some of the facts and figures on this year's event as I know of them. I was one of a few that were asked to start a watch when the “gun” sounded and to stop it when the pack totally cleared the start line at the half–marathon, so I am positive about the time. That is why I was so frustrated when I read your article (and others). I have seen in this business that when participants don't get what they want or things don't go the way they want, that they make up or exaggerate things to make others look bad. They don't want to take any responsibility for their actions and put all the blame elsewhere. Beyond the items I mentioned, I don't feel informed enough to talk.

I know that if areas of the marathon weekend were not up to Disney's standards, they will be fixed next year. Stay positive on the industry, as we know how important it is for people to stay or get in shape. Good health to you and all your readers.


Wendy writes:

Hi Lani,

I read your article and I do feel bad that these people were treated badly (they shouldn't have been forced to wait 40 minutes for the sweep bus), but I'm sorry, a 16 min/mile pace is not running or jogging. It's not even a fast walk. I think a big problem here is that these people were mislead to believe they could “train” for a 16 min/mile pace. No one does a marathon at that pace. I have done 11 marathons. My “slowest” was 4:30. I have a friend who did her first marathon in 5 1/2 hours. Disney shouldn't have led these people to believe they'd make the cut off with that kind of pace. It's not realistic. From what I understand, the participants were aware the park was going to open at 9am. Whether or not it took them 17 minutes to cross the starting line, the park STILL was going to open. There were 24,000 runners. I've done large marathons before (Boston, Chicago). You have to factor in that it will take you a while to just get to the starting line. Again, I think it's unfortunate that these people had a bad experience, but they should have realized they were going to get swept. Disney had to open the park. Thousands and thousands of people traveled from all over the WORLD just to go to the park. Yes, the runners paid too and took part in Disney activities, but the park was opening for tourists. Had the park opened late, you can be SURE there would have been a huge problem.

THe 16 min/mile pacers should consider a 26.2 mile walk, rather than a marathon. Marathons are for running, but 16 min/miles is not running, I'm sorry.


Alex Matskevich writes:

Dear Friends,

I ran all the major marathons in the world, New York, Chicago, L.A., Boston, Miami, London, Paris, Rome, Moscow, Beijing, New Zealand, and many more. But I will never run Disney. I will not support the marathon where the runners are supposed to pass through all the major parks, and still, after bringing so much money and business to the Disney World through themselves and their families, are not even given a symbolic complimentary ticket to at least one of the parks on the day of their race.

What has happened at this marathon with the walkers is, in my opinion, another sign of a big trouble with the marathon as a sport in the United States. It is good that (the late) Fred Lebow (former director of the popular New York City Marathon) can't see the $100+ entry fees for most of the U.S. marathons, and the running clubs, including his own (NYRR), becoming simply big and profitable businesses concerned just with the sponsor dollars. It is such a pleasure to run in Europe—friendly organizers, low entry fees, excellent food every 5K. I am sure they will catch our virus eventually, so skip Disney and go to Monte Carlo (mid–November) instead before it is too late.


Robin Ashton writes:

I was not one of the participants who were not allowed to finish and were treated so horribly, but my heart goes out to them. I have just started training to run a marathon and had planned on running the Disney Marathon in January 2006. I can tell you it will not be the first marathon I run. I would have been travelling from Ontario and bringing my husband and three daughters with me. Friends of ours had even discussed scheduling their next Disney trip at the same time just to be there when I crossed that line for the first time. That experience is not one I want to even have a remote chance of ending as it did for those people who worked so hard only to have it end in such a bitterly disappointing way. I cried when I read what happened, shame on you, Disney!


Laura Milton writes:

I was one of the hundreds of those left stranded by Disney in this year's marathon. I was walking for the Joints In Motion Arthritis Team and was on my 16–minute pace (I crossed the start line at 6:13 ) when I came around the corner to see the Disney officials closing the gates behind Tomorrowland. It was my first 1/2 marathon experience and boy, what a bad first experience it turned out to be.

I had trained with four coaches from the Joints In Motion Team plus a personal trainer of my own. I had raised $3,500 for the Arthritis Foundation of Massachusetts in order to be there for the marathon.

My fellow teammates have been very supportive to the three of us who did not get the luxury of finishing thanks to Disney. I have fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis and still would have completed the half–marathon within the 3 1/2 hours if the time I crossed the start line was the time used.

I also feel the medal they gave us as a consolation is worthless. But I'm also determined to prove to myself that I would have finished—I have signed up for the Nashville Country Music Half–Marathon April 30, 2005, in which they have a wave start and allow 4 hours to complete the 1/2 marathon. And I will be back to Disney to try again, if not 2006, then 2007. I'm not going to let them get the best of me.


Phyllis McCool writes:

I was one of the 200 who got stopped at mile 10….. This was my first 1/2 marathon. My 2 daughters and 2 of my friends signed up for it back in January of 2004. We made our reservations on WDW's Caribbean Resort.

We are from Oklahoma and we took days off from work so we could have a nice vacation and see all of the sight besides just do the marathon. I had read all of the rules and it states that they will pull you off at the 10k (not 10 mile)if you are not doing a 16–minute–mile.

I was at the very back, at corral N to start and it was at least 12 minutes before I hit the start line, the rules stated that it would not start until the last person crossed the finish line.

I was constantly told by workers along the route that we were on schedule. I did not take a potty break until the seventh mile because I thought once I got past the 6.5 mile marker which is what the rules stated, that I was doing well.

I was so excited to hit the 8 mile, 9 mile, and then suddenly at the 10, they stopped us (by my calculations I was right on schedule). I was very, very upset, all I wanted to do was finish. I was so excited at the thought of bringing back my Donald Duck medal to work, to prove that this 50–year–old woman could do 13 miles. I was so upset, as were all of the people.

It was very unfair to the ones who were running for charities. I believe that they did want to stop us just to open the park. That is basically what they were saying to us. If I had of been stopped at the 6.5, I would have understood, but to let me go 10 miles and think I had it made, was so unfair.

And then after we had stood in the sun for 40 minutes, and they finally got a bus to us, and we got on, they brought us a Mickey Mouse medal that was from last year! I had not done the full marathon, I had done the 1/2, I wanted the Donald Duck medal. Then when I got off of the bus, I had to walk another mile to the finish line that was already dismantled. I had to hunt for someone to take my chip and I insisted that they take back the Mickey Mouse medal and give me the Donald Duck medal, which they did.

I was so disgruntled with Disney that my daughters and I cancelled our plans to go to another park. They lost $150 plus what we would have spent on food and souvenirs. By the time they made us stand around for all of that time, we could have finished the race and not bothered anyone at all!


Cherie Ferguson writes:

Everything happened exactly as stated in your article. I actually finished the 1/2 Marathon then met my mom at mile 8 to finish the race with her. She was doing great. I timed her and she completed mile 9 in 15 minutes. I told her she was on track. We reached mile 10 and the shut-off point at maybe 8:55 at the latest.

I ran Disney as my first marathon in 2004 and convinced my mom, who is 63, that she could do the half if she walked. She was really a good sport about it all and happy to have completed the 10 miles. We have since signed up to complete the Nashville Half Marathon on April 30th, my mom's 64th birthday! One of the main reasons we chose this one is that the cut off time is 4 hours.

Anyway, I really feel that Disney owes us all an apology and free entry into next year's event… at the very least.


Debbie Buono writes:

Hi Lani. My name is Debbie Buono, and I was in that awful half–marathon in Disney World too. It was the first marathon I've ever been in and probably the last.

My grandmother passed away last May 2004 of congestive heart failure and about a week later, I received a post card from the American Stroke Association asking for help fundraising in Disney's marathon. I decided to do it in memory of my grandmother and started training and fundraising right away.

I raised over $3,600 For the American Stroke Association, trained for over six months, spent thousands of my own money to mail letters, postcards, a membership to a gym with a track, air fare and hotel accommodations for my husband, three children and my parents to stay in Disney World! Not to mention all the money I spent the nine days after the race we stayed in Florida for an extended vacation.

This was one of the most disappointing experiences I have ever been through (and put my family and friends through) and it was supposed to be for a good cause!

Anyway, the way we were treated was another story… And as far as there only being 200 people who were not able to cross the finish line is bull! There was probably 700 people or more, it was the 200 or more that were “trapped” like animals at the 10 1/2 mile marker that day. I am personally writing letters to every board member at Disney and requesting an official apology to all that were involved. My family and friends will not be spending one penny at Disney World until this is resolved. I hope something or someone takes care of this wrongdoing.

Hi Debbie – Thanks for taking the time to write. I can't begin to imagine how you must have felt after the incident happened. I do hope that the rest of your vacation was a good one, and that you didn't let this incident sour your whole trip.

Do let me know if you hear back from anyone about this.


Caroline McDonald writes:

Dear MousePlanet: Thank you for writing this article. As a journalist who was at the 10-mile sweep—because I raised funds for the American Stroke Association—I was surprised when I searched the Orlando Sentinel Web site and found no mention of it. I also called the managing editor to see if they were aware this had happened and he said they were not. But there is still no mention that I can find on the Web site.

The events were as you described, but to make matters worse, I and several others in my group who were swept still have not received medals. Our time was good, but since we did not start at the front of the pack, we were among the first to be stopped at mile 10. It was upsetting and a lot of people were crying out of frustration, mainly because we were assured along the way that our time was good.

Would I do the Disney run/walk again? No. I am planning to fund raise again in the fall and will participate in the Phoenix half-marathon unless another favorable venue is selected to replace Disney.

Hi Caroline – Thanks for taking the time to write. Since we ran the article, we have heard from a number of individuals in that group of 200 who were shut out, and all of them without exception have been left with a bitter experience.

If you talk to the managing editor at the Orlando Sentinel again, tell him/her I will be happy to provide background information if they want to pursue this. I realize this is somewhat stale news now, but we're also still hoping for some sort of official press release from Disney acknowledging anything related to this incident. We have yet to hear anything.

If you write to Disney and you hear back from them, please feel free to let me know. I would like to find out what their public stance is on this.


Lucy Gratzon writes:

Hi Lani, I was one of the 200 people stopped very abruptly at the gate….one of the first 5 to be exact. I trained as part of the Train to End Stroke team and this was supposed to be a big accomplishment for me.

I had started out training to do the full and took it back to the half when I learned of the time restrictions. I was keeping up my pace… I missed the previous sweeps and the fact that I was stopped was completely unjustified.

I was put in the last gate so I was one of the last to cross the start line somewhere around 6:17 a.m. In addition, I never did get any sort of metal… I could not fit on that first bus they sent over so I had to wait and take the monorail where I had to get off and wait on the end of the line to get back on the monorail to Epcot.

No one from the marathon even talked to me or acknowledged my being part of this marathon. I had my chip on all the way to the area where I claimed by bag….I asked the girl there to cut it off and I saw her throw it in the garbage… can you imagine? I had to then search through the garbage to get it out. She claims she did not know. I finally handed it to a person at the Train To End Stroke tent.

I am extremely disappointed in the way they treated us when they stopped us. You cannot imagine how let down I was… my mom was waiting at the finish line and did not even get to see me. She paid so much money to come along just to see me and because someone made an error and stopped us when they should not have, she basically wasted hundreds of dollars. I have written e-mails to Disney and not even gotten a response other then to acknowledge that they received my e-mail. I have yet to hear and apology from them for my pain and the stress I went through by waiting 45 minutes in the heat, no water, and no bathrooms. I just walked 10 miles and they just did not care. I am also waiting for a medal.

Thank you for printing this article. I am sorry to say that Disney does not care about people as much as they say!

Hi Lucy – I'm sorry to hear about your experiencing getting shut out of the Magic Kingdom. You must have been very frustrated if you were one of the first five people caught at the shut-out.

So far, everyone I've spoken to who was caught in the shut-out have been very disappointed with the way they were treated by Disney, and it sounds like you feel similarly.

I have yet to hear from anyone caught in the sweep about any formal and personalized communication from Disney, but you can be sure that I will get the word out if they publish an official press release for it.


Lisa Lebowitz writes:

Great article Lani! I am Andrea's pregnant friend Lisa (we met right after we got our medals on race day). I sent my own e–mail to Disney regarding the race and am waiting to hear back from Guest Relations (I'd be happy to forward it to you, if you'd like). Erica has already heard back from them and they pretty much told her on the phone that they felt they were right about the timing and they're sorry we had a bad experience but they are not planning on doing anything regarding compensation.

I had suggested in my e–mail refunding this year's race fees or complimentary entry into next year's race. The latter would be a win-win situation for everyone I thing, as Disney would make money off of all those participants from hotel fees, food, park admission, etc.

If I get the same response, I most definitely will not return—not as a race participant or as a park guest. I'll spend my money next year at the Miami Tropical 1/2 Marathon instead.

I feel very strongly that even if Disney was technically correct on the timing (and I still dispute that, especially since we were all advised to slow our pace by 30 seconds/mile due to the weather conditions) there is no excuse not to have the necessary facilities at a designated cutoff point. The participants being stopped were supposed to be stragglers—I would think they would be even more in need of fluids or medical attention. We were very lucky that no one in the group got seriously ill.

Keep up the great work!


Karen writes:

Lani—As I read your article, you mentioned something about the timing being “official” by the last person crossing the starting line. Well, on the way from the Magic Kingdom monorail to the Ticket and Transportation Center, we sat next to a woman who said that she was designated by race officials as the last person that should cross over the start line. However, she also told us that she actually was not the last person to cross over the line.

In her excitement to get going, she got going and crossed the start line before many others. She was a little embarrassed by that, and I was honestly surprised to hear her even say something. But I think she did because her running companion had kinda made a comment about it, and I think she needed to clarify what she meant by it. Perhaps this is another reason why the timing was off?

Hi Karen – Wow, the mystery deepens, huh? I didn't realize Disney officially appointed a designated person beforehand! I just assumed they waited to witness the last person, and then kind of did a “tag, you're it” as they crossed the starting line. Interesting! Thanks for this info.


Lisa Edwards writes:

Hi Lani! I just wanted to compliment you on your very informative and well-written article. I am not a runner or walker, and was totally unfamiliar with WDW's Marathon and Half–Marathon races (other than knowing that they actually exist and are run annually).

I found your article very interesting, and I appreciated the chance to learn something new about a WDW event. I found your reporting to be admirable in its unbiased, fact-of-the-matter tone, and remained entertaining enough for me to keep reading to the end, despite its length. Thanks again for a great, informative MousePlanet article!


Sandy Behe writes:

Thank you Lani for reporting this mishandled, unmagical marathon event. It was billed as a beginner's event; who are they kidding? It's all about the money.

I had seven friends participating in the 1/2 marathon; two who were swept at the MK gates, one who was forced backstage. I've listened to them tell about rude cast members, long waits for the bus, no port-a-pots, and lack of water. This didn't get my 2 friends down as much as the disappointment in not finishing the marathon. They had trained for so long to be denied because a park manager was worried some conventioneers would be inconvenienced is deplorable.

The marathoners and their families spent a great deal of $$$s for the privilege to participate. The charities lost money when the volunteer marathoners were unable to complete the race through no fault of their own. Good press? No. WDW the most magical place on earth? No way. What can be done? Have you sent this article to Disney management? I feel that all the runners ! involved and the charities affected should receive a letter of apology for this horrendous mishandling of the marathon runners. Thank you for speaking out on their behalf.


Sue M writes:

Lani,

This was my third year running the Disney marathon so I was prepared for the usual chaos that ensues when you try to coordinate 15,000 people at 4 in the morning. However, the literature does indicate that you will be assigned to corrals by predicted finish time. Because I was attempting to qualify for Boston Marathon (as I have done for the past three years), I indicated a predicted finish time of 3:40, assuming that was a fairly good time for this field that would place me near the start line. Much to my surprise I was assigned to the last corral with a majority of walkers.

Now I love walkers and give them all the credit in the world for their commitment and tenacity. However trying to run an 8–minute mile when I'm surrounded by people walking a 15–minute mile made for an incredibly frustrating experience. As I passed the one–mile mark, there were 23 minutes on the clock and any hopes of qualifying for Boston were immediately dashed.

Like many, I have written to Disney to identify yet another flaw in their system but given the other more serious issues that arose, I don't expect to hear from them. I feel so badly for people who were not even given an opportunity to finish nor were they taken care of when they were stopped. I think this year will be a death knell for the Disney Marathon.


Not everyone who entered the marathon events were caught up in the impromptu sweep location. Marcia Mayne writes about her experience of being swept at mile 18:

My Train To End Stroke teammate, Lorna and I decided to stay with another teammate, Phyllis, who was in the last corral of the full marathon. Her time was slower than ours, so she couldn't join us, we had to join her.

In the end, she developed leg pain and we had to leave her behind. We crossed the halfway mark at 9:30, 18 minutes slower than my personal best but I figured we could finish within the seven hours Disney had allotted. We were taking it slower than my normal pace but I wasn't worried. I was more concerned with becoming dehydrated so we stopped at all the aid stations to get enough water.

We were having a really good time, enjoying the cartoon characters and the party atmosphere. It was my first visit to Disney. By about mile 16, we stopped for about 5 minutes so I could rub Biofreeze on my feet. At about mile 18, a man on a bicycle asked how we were doing. I said we were fine and he continued. But a little further on, we were asked by a group of men if we needed help. We both said we were tired but would continue. He said that we couldn't; that we were on public roads and Disney had to open the park and he had to take us back to Epcot. At first I didn't get it. I had assumed if we were to be picked up, it would be closer to the 7 hour mark. It was between 10:45 and 10:50 a.m. We still had more than 2 hours to go and I know we could have made it, even if I had to crawl.

He put a lei around our necks and handed us medals. Then he cut the timing chip off our shoes. That's when it hit me: We were out of the race. I was so mad, I took the lei off.

“How can I wear this when I wasn't allowed to finish?” I asked.”Everyone finishes at Disney,” he replied. I felt like a fraud. What would I tell my family, my friends, my supporters? The money I raised was for the Stroke Association. This, this was for me. This was my personal goal. I ran the half at the Toronto Marathon in 35 degree October weather in cold and rain (and completed it in 3 hours) plus several hundred miles in Central Park just to get ready for this and I wasn't even given the satisfaction of finishing!

I returned to my hotel only to discover that my roommate, Maxine, was among the 200+ half–marathoners who were swept at the 10th mile. It made my blood boil even more. I decided not attend the victory celebration, but my roommate made a point: if we didn't go, we'd have to pay Disney for dinner and we certainly didn't want to give them another cent!

I had to ask our Train To End Stroke director, why TTES participates in a marathon that is unfriendly to its participants, most of whom are walkers. I haven't been given a satisfactory response. At this point, I really don't care if they respond or not. My mind is made up: Disney will never see me again—neither for their marathon nor for their theme parks. And I will continue to spread the word about Disney's unfriendly behavior to everyone I know. That was my first and last appearance at this “Mickey Mouse marathon.”

Hi Marcia – Thanks for taking the time to write. If your various time points are correct, it does sound like they swept you a little prematurely. Did they load you on a sweeper bus? This is the first I've heard of this happening to folks on the full marathon.

If you hear anything more from your TTES director or from Disney, do let me know. I would be interested to find out what their official positions are.


Lorna Reid writes:

Like many other participants, we were picked up by bus at 10:40 as we were coming up on mile 19. The reason we were told by two men wearing Disney uniforms was, “We need to open the streets for visitors.”

We did not cross the starting line until 6:18am. We were maintaining 16 mins/mile as we were asked to. I decided to do this for a good cause, to raised money for stroke awareness.

We felt like no one cared, no one listened to us, they got their money, what the hell? Just imagine going back to my job, to 98% of the people who sponsored me, to tell them we could not finish the marathon because Disney “had to open the streets.” My family was so upset. My husband called it a “Mickey marathon,” and sadly I had to agree with him.

Disney had the nerve to offer us generic medals to appease us, (medals that can be picked up at any Disney store ) while the people who were allowed to finish had medals with “2005” hanging at the bottom. If I wanted a souvenir I could pay for it myself. Walking a marathon and receiving a medal is an accomplishment. There is a difference.

I believe Disney cheated us out of our big accomplishment, and because of that I believe we deserve an explanation, as well as an apology. I had to put money from my own pocket to meet the fundraising amount, as well as spend money for breakfast, shirts, and sweatshirts for my family.

Believe me, I will never ever participate in another Disney marathon, nor anything that Disney will benefit from.


Pam Meyer writes:

I'm sure you have probably heard enough of us gripe about the WDW Marathon/Half Marathon already. I have a transportation story for you if you want it!

My daughter and I stayed at All-Star Music Resort and were told the buses to the marathon would run from 3 to 4 a.m. we were in the food court and out by 3:30 and standing in line for a bus until well after 4 a.m. (there were at least 2-3 bus loads of people after us in line) all trying to get to the starting line.

Neither of us had a problem getting swept but getting back to the resort after the race was a different thing entirely! I finished before 9 a.m., met with teammates and took pictures, etc., for awhile. I'm sure that by 10 we were leaving. My daughter had some friends along (one had volunteered so had a car) as there were four of them I said I would take the bus back to the resort (five people in a Mercury Sable after two of us running for almost 3 hours was more than I wanted to experience).

The line for the bus from the family meet–and–greet area was about 3 miles long and not moving. Disney reps (cast members or volunteers, I don't remember) told us we could walk to the TTC. No problem, a good workout for my legs to keep cramping at bay—I walked. From there I was told to get in line for the monorail to Epcot. Why? I don't know—were they not running buses from the TTC to resorts that morning?

The poor people on the monorail that weren't runners (needless to say we weren't the sweetest smelling bunch to ride and enclosed (heavily packed) monorail with. After arriving at Epcot I then walked to the All–Star Music Resort bus stop. There was quite a line there and a bus was loading at the time—not everyone waiting got on the bus so we waited patiently (in the sun) for another bus. Well over 35 minutes 3 buses came and left empty from the stop next to the All-Stars stop while we were standing there and we could see buses parked (with drivers in them) the entire time. Why weren't all the buses with drivers being utilized? I didn't get back to the resort until well after noon. Although I enjoyed the half–marathon experience I can't believe this was something WDW couldn't have prevented.

Thanks for listening!


Thoughts, questions, or comments about the marathon article (or about the Walt Disney World Marathon in general)? Contact Lani here. To send general comments to our Mailbag, contact us here.

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