I’ve read a few race recaps from the Dark Side Challenge and apparently I’m the only person who enjoyed it.
In some respects, though, I think the narrative regarding runDisney can be easily summed up as “moving on.” A lot of people started running around the same time I did, around 2012. It’s been theorized that part of the uptick in running over the past 10 years can be attributed to financial instability and the recession in 2007/2008. That people have more time to run, they need a way to relieve the stress of an uncertain financial future and when you’re funemployed you’ve got a bit of free time on your hands but no money so running seems like a viable option.
In the runDisney narrative, though, I think that what I’m reading in the general disappointment with the Dark Side Challenge and race weekend is an aging out of the runDisney phase. A lot of people are like me, we started running in 2012 and we really, really liked Disney and Disney was what inspired us to run in the first place. For some of these people, they transitioned into just generic recreational runners. Those individuals came to find running a hobby worth pursuing on its own without the castle or they now consider themselves more “serious” athletes than previously, and I think what we’re seeing is that they’re moving on from Disney as runDisney shows its own limitations.
The financial recession itself receded and overall, Walt Disney World has become more expensive as attendance has gone up–the marathon and the perks that came along with running it were a way to “put heads in beds” at empty hotels. I mean, yay for unemployment under 6%, but at the same time that affects the reality of how Americans (and foreigners) travel. It makes shit more expensive when more people have the money to spend on a luxury item like a marathon.
The reality now is that there are really only so many ways, even in the large expanse of Walt Disney World, to plot a 13.1 mile or 10 kilometer course. Much like New York Roadrunner has 10+ races that all run varying distances on the exact same stretch of Central Park, it’s fun after your first race but after the 9 races in one calendar year that you need to get into the marathon, it’s boring and old and all you’re left with is a choice over what themed overlay you want. At Disney, you can pick from Star Wars or Princesses, at New York Roadrunner you decide Pride Run or park beautification on your t-shirt.
And I think the reality is for a lot of people who have been diehard runDisney fans, it’s not so much that runDisney has changed a lot, but rather that they have. They consider themselves “runners” now, not just “people who run in Disney.” They want less crowded courses because they want to PR. They want to see a different course because they’ve already run some iteration of this one 3 times this year and that’s after 1 race weekend. And perhaps equally as important, they’ve experienced other races. Where once this group of individuals only ran at Disney and had only that as their frame of reference, they’ve experienced the amenities other races offer at a different, much lower, price and demand those at Disney. If anything, simply by requiring proof of time more stringently than in the past, runDisney has forced its participants to experience other races and compare them to Disney ones and that comparison is not always in Disney’s favor.
The pervasive ethos of entitlement is something common to people who love Disney, and I get it, it’s a lot of money to spend. More and more people are doing the math and it’s just coming up short, the excitement they had the first time they ran through the castle isn’t there for 14th time. So it’s time for them to move on, to find new courses and new places to make them excited about paying money to run.
Have you ever grown out of a race?