So, it’s begun.
|What up, Snow? Haters gotcha down?|
A couple weeks out from the opening of 2015 Princess Half-Marathon registration, eight months before the race, long before anyone has even begun training in earnest for it, the ranting and debates about this race have already started.
From what I’ve seen in various online groups, the primary issue seems to have to do with participants who walk and on-course congestion. As a mid-to-back of the pack racer, I am entirely familiar with both of these topics, so I’ll say a little something here and leave it at that.
Confessions of a run/walking Princess.
That’s right – I walk some of my races. In fact, I’ve even walked most of several races. Sometimes due to injury, sometimes because I’m not feeling great, and sometimes because I don’t care about time and just want to have some fun chatting with a friend, stopping to take pictures, or otherwise enjoying the scene.
And here’s the thing: I am not alone. Lots and lots and LOTS of people walk in runDisney races. And a fairly huge percentage of Princess racers will walk some or all of the race. In a perfect world, all of us walking folks would be kept far away from the running folk, and we’d all only travel in groups going the exact same pace, and we’d never, ever bunch up and block another runner or walker in their quest to go faster.
Guess what? That scenario’s about as likely to happen as world peace.
|"What is the one most important thing our society needs?"|
"Harsher punishment for parole violators, Stan."
The reality is that, whether walking or running, a race with almost 30,000 participants is going to have a huge variety of individual speeds, all trying to move forward. runDinsey tries hard to get us starting with folks close to our own speed by asking our estimated finishing times… but registering eight months out makes that tough; how does someone who’s never before run a half-marathon distance know how fast they’ll be that far in the future? She doesn’t. We guess, runDinsey guesses, and we all do our best to make that an educated guess. If one is able to race a 10K or greater distance and submit that finishing time to runDisney, the guess is based on greater validity, but the end result is still just a guess that can’t take into account illness, injury, or other life happenings that can increase or decrease a racer’s speed.
So, come race day, a whole lot of individual situations converge onto a single race course. One person trained to run/walk set intervals, stayed healthy and is ready to stick to those intervals all 13.1 miles. The person next to her trained the same, but woke up feeling icky and has to walk more than she ever did in training. Someone in a corral ahead of them turned in a super-fast proof of time and regularly runs a sub-7:00 pace, but pulled a hamstring playing football with his kid a week before the race. Someone else in the very last corral is just as fast, but has been traveling non-stop for work and was unable to provide a proof of time. The race turns out to be hotter than expected and several hundred women end up walking, when they planned to run. The race turns out to be cooler than expected and several hundred women run more than they ever thought they could. Tutus turn out to be harder to run in than imagined. New shoes hurt. Characters on both sides of the course cause racers of all abilities to zig-zag back and forth to get photos. Runners not wanting to stop try to go around slower racers, but suddenly find the course narrowing.
Picture all of this happening, times 30,000, over 13.1 miles. Got a mental picture? A bit chaotic, no?
So, is it any wonder that sometimes a slow walker ends up smack-dab in front of a faster runner? Or that a speedy runner accidentally clips a person standing in line for a photo? I myself am guilty of the following infractions: walking in the center of the course, bumping arms as I passed a slower racer, walking more than two abreast, moving slower than my estimated finish placement. And I am sure that I've frustrated other racers.
What those frustrated folks didn't know was that I chose to walk in the middle because, before I slowed down, I looked around and saw that there were no walkers, only fast runners, on either side, but someone else walking in the middle, so to avoid clogging things up, I opted to walk behind him. And the woman with whom I bumped arms probably didn't know that I did so after someone on my other side bumped me, even though I did say "I'm so sorry!" as it happened. I'm sure the folks coming around a corner to see me and two other racers walking three abreast had no idea that I began walking in a wide open space, only to be joined by two strangers seconds later. And, certainly, there was no way for other racers to realize that I qualified for my corral placement with a personal record in another race, but had since sustained an injury.
I'm not excusing obvious, intentional rudeness here; that, too, happens on the race course, as it does in every other facet of life. But I want people - especially people new to runDisney and the Princess Half-Marathon - to realize that not every infraction against "proper race etiquette" is intentional or malicious. The reality is that there are a whole lotta folks with a whole lotta different abilities and experiences converging in one place and, well... shit happens.
I'm seeing that some folks have had it with the realities of the Princess Half and have chosen not to participate in the race again. I totally understand this and have had such thoughts, myself. But at some point I realized that, for me, the fun of running at Walt Disney World outweighs some of its challenges. And that I have lots of choices about how to handle the actions of others. Personally, I choose to assume no one out there is trying to screw up my race. I choose to assume we're all doing the best we can with the situation at hand. I choose to adjust my expectations and roll with whatever comes my way. I choose to be courteous, and kind, and supportive of my fellow racers. I choose to be honest and open with readers looking for information about races, to not launch into rants about who "should" or "shouldn't" be allowed to race, or how everyone "must" behave, in order to best prepare them for the realities of runDisney races.
As you may have deduced by now, yes - I'm planning to run Princess again. The Glass Slipper Challenge, in fact. And maybe - just maybe - the Triple Crown again. And I am determined to make it a great experience, for myself and for others!
|Happy Princesses make better dancers - and runners!|