Last weekend I had the opportunity to work at the Walt Disney World Half and Full Marathons. Working at Disney differs from Track Shack races in that you have to get up really early. I had to be there at three in the morning, so I awoke at 1:30 to make sure I made it there on time without getting lost. I did arrive at the meeting location, but I also got lost on the way there. It turns out that I don’t read road signs that well that early in the morning.
When I arrived with the rest of my cast members I was signed in and then was given a safety vest, staff credentials and a jacket! The jacket was more like a windbreaker and said runDisney race staff on the front. It made me feel like part of the team.
After our team meeting we headed to the start line on carts (If you have run a half or the full at Disney before you know that it is quite a walk to get to the starting line). Once there we received our runDisney tape and light wand, and then headed to our respective corrals. I was in “O” this time, which was the second to the last corral. When I arrived my volunteers were already there. I told them everything that I needed to and answered all of their questions. Luckily they had all volunteered before and one had even been in corrals!
At about four O’clock the runners started making their way towards us. The corral entering went pretty well with the exception of some people in “P” trying to get in my corral. Really?!? One corral isn’t going to change much. If someone has an issue with their corral then they should have taken it up at the expo, not at the corral gate on race day.
The walk to the start line went great except for the occasional foot stepping on my shoe. I had three volunteers walk behind me holding the runDisney tape to separate the corrals, but they didn’t always follow my lead and walked faster sometimes. The walk up is one of my favorite parts of working at Disney races. There is so much excitement in the air and it makes me excited and nervous for my upcoming Disney races. At one point we had to make a turn so one of the other corral leads came to assist as we had to pivot around the turn. After that it was straight to the starting line. I lead the corral up there and then the volunteers and I got out of the way. I stood to the side and watched as the corral started the race. As soon as the balloon ladies crossed the start line the remaining corral leads and I got in a cart and headed back to EPCOT.
Once we were back we had about ten minutes to go to the restroom, eat a snack, and then we headed to the finish line. I was put right before the finisher photos. My job was to make sure everybody kept moving. The finishing chute at Disney races is very long and runners are not allowed to stop or sit until they get out of it. There is a family reunion area where runners can meet their family members or wait for other runners to finish.
After the last runner crossed the finish line we were allowed to go home for the day. I went home and took a little nap. I didn’t feel too tired even though I had gotten up so early. I ended up going back to bed at about six, though I didn’t fall asleep until after eight.
At 1:30 my alarm went off for the second day in a row. I got ready and headed back to EPCOT for the marathon and this time I didn’t get lost! We had our morning meeting at the same spot and then took a group photo before we headed back to the corrals. I was in the same corral and it felt really good when my boss told me that I did great yesterday while she handed me my tape for the day.
When I got to the corral there was only one volunteer there. He said his wife, daughter, and wife’s friend were also volunteers, but they had gone for a short walk. I went ahead and told him everything that was to be done because he had never volunteered before. When his wife showed up I was happy to see that she was one of my volunteers from the day before. I made sure they all knew what they had to do and then we waited. The runners arrived about the same time as the day before and we were ready to work. After a while a man came over to me and asked me to call medical because he was feeling lightheaded and thought that he had been bitten by ants. I called medical and they looked him over for a while. He decided to run so I hoped everything was okay. There were some more “P’s” that wanted in “O,” but I did not let them.
About forty minutes after the start of the race we started moving towards the start line. This time no one came to help me. It was my first time leading a corral to the start line all by my self and I was very proud of that. I led that corral and they arrived safely. Again we moved out of the way once we were there and the racers were able to start their race about an hour after the official start time.
Before they all crossed the start line we headed back to EPCOT. This time we had a lot longer time to wait around because the race was twice as long. There was no point in heading to the finish line before there were any finishers, so we sat in the carts and had a snack. They did have lunches for us in our tent, but someone had taken them all before we had even gotten there that morning.
About two hours after the start of the race, we headed to the finish line. This time I was put at the very end of the finishing chute. I got to my spot before there was even a winner to the marathon. After standing there for about five minutes, two women walked toward the finishing area. They started going through the chute the opposite way, so one of my co-workers walked over there to see what they wanted. They were wearing marathon medals which I though was odd because there wasn’t even a winner yet. Apparently they were swept and were looking for their challenge medals. If you don’t finish the races and complete the challenges then you don’t get the challenge medals. I honestly wouldn’t want a medal for a race that I didn’t finish, but some people just run or walk for the bling.
I was able to see the first finishers on a big screen that was in the family reunion area. It was so great to see these elite runners come through my area. I cheered and clapped for them as they passed. The winner was Fredison Costa with a time of 2:33:24. This was his fifth win and third consecutive win. After a while there were more and more finishers and it started to get crowded. My job was to make sure no one would go back in the finishing chute. Seemed easy, but there were so many people that did not like to follow the rules. I had two gates with a volunteer at each gate. They were really good at directing the runners and helping their problems. I stood there and helped people and answered any questions that they came across. I feel like I did a great job and it didn’t even feel like I was standing there as long as I was. After two o’clock we headed to the finish line to meet everyone and were released.
It was a very long weekend, but I learned a lot about Disney races and had a great time! Despite how tired I was, I did not go to bed when I got home; that is what Mondays are for. I did relax and not run because I had walked over seven miles working at the marathon. I can’t wait until I can work at my next Disney race, though it won’t be for a while because I am running the Glass Slipper Challenge and 5k during Princess. Hopefully I will get to work at the 10k during Star Wars the Dark Side. We shall see!