Saturday, April 23, 2022

2023 WDW Marathon Weekend Race Registration

Ahh... 2023 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend Registration...

I think the nicest thing I can say about it was that it was an "interesting" experience.  

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When Eliot and I woke up Tuesday morning, we were both a little bit anxious to begin with.  Race registration is often stressful since the shorter distances fill up and sell out quickly.  He and I had a plan to get us both registered for our races.  (Eliot signs me up for the 10K, then himself for Dopey while I focus on getting myself into the 5K.)  Eliot's parents had a plan to get themselves and both of Eliot's sisters registered.  We thought we were as prepared as we could be for what to expect... and we were very wrong.

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We had expected these races to be extremely popular.  Now that things are going back to "normal" after the pandemic, people are starting to travel and get out again.  Plus, this year is the 30 year anniversary of the Walt Disney World Marathon.  It's also the 10 year anniversary of the Dopey Challenge.  So a lot of people were going to sign up for those particular races as they usually have special medals.  

On top of that, the general consensus of the 90's race weekend theme is that everyone is obsessed.  Oh, and I can't forget to mention that the races also take place during Walt Disney World's 50th Anniversary Celebration.  Not everyone goes to Disney all the time, and people have been planning for this particular event for years.  So we all knew that these race registrations were going to be the hot ticket item.

By 9:50 am, all of us were in the waiting room queue ready for registration to open at 10 am.  Then it was 10 and... nothing happened.  The spinning wheel kept spinning.

Wanting to make sure we weren't the only ones, I went online to our RunDisney Facebook group to investigate and everyone was having the same problem.  I figured that things would be ready to rock and roll in a few minutes.  And then, that's when people were saying that the website crashed.  The entire RunDisney website was having problems, people couldn't get into the waiting room, and all you saw was the Seven Dwarves saying that they're working on the website.  Basically, there were too many of us and we all crashed the website by trying to register at the same time.

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Eliot and I stayed in communication with his family via text message.  We all assumed that things would be back up and running after a little bit.  But as the minutes ticked by, it was growing more and more apparent that this was a small disaster.  RunDisney finally acknowledged that they had a problem around 10:24 ish.  They let an entire hour pass before they updated the waiting room website.  It was very frustrating

Thankfully, social media came to the rescue.  Eliot and I passed the time browsing through our RunDisney Facebook group reading the memes, funny comments, and snide remarks.  That's what made the time pass by... because it dragged on for-ev-er.

And when I say for-ev-er, I mean for-ev-er.  The website came up and then it would crash.  About 10 minutes later, the same thing would happen.  Every time that it came back up, more people would try to enter the waiting room.  I had kept quiet on the text chain, but by 11:26 am, I was furious and commented that "this is ridiculous."  By 11:53, I notified everyone that I was ticked off and that "this is complete crap."  At that point, we were so long into this that the elite half marathon runners would have finished the entire 13.1 miles of running... and we couldn't even get into registration.  

The memes were funny and most people took it in stride.  But as time went on, people grew furious that there was no regard for their time.  Eliot had taken the morning off to register.  Thank goodness that I had originally thought that it opened at noon so he had taken time off.  But at this point, it was noon and I was worried that he was going to be late to work if it didn't open soon.  Eliot's Mom had to cancel her 9:15 (California Time) meeting.  We were over two hours into this and it was really becoming a problem.

At 12:15, RunDisney finally changed the update on the website to tell everyone that registration was opening up at 12:30.  They also made an announcement on their social media channels.  So naturally, everyone who had previously given up was suddenly back at their computers to register.

Right at 12:30, the website finally updated and I had "more than an hour" to wait in the queue.  It seems like that's what most people got at first.  Thankfully, 4 minutes later, I had only 46 minutes to go.  A minute after that it jumped down to 36 minutes.  As time went on, the number kept slowly jumping down as people were able to register.

Eliot and I both grew concerned that we weren't going to get in to register in time.  Eliot opened a window on his cell phone, even though it was almost dead.  I tried to open one on mine, but it didn't seem to be doing anything quicker than my computer.

Around 12:50, I still had 12 minutes left on my computer but Eliot's phone got in.  Eliot used his cell phone (which was at about 4% battery power) to register me for the 10K as quickly as he could.  While he was doing this, we got a text message at 12:51 that Sara was registered for Dopey.  (She was able to log in on a computer during her lunch break and she got in before all the rest of us.)

Things happened very quickly after that.  At 12:55, I received my confirmation email for the 10K.   Eliot's computer had finally let him in, so he got off of his phone and went onto his laptop to register himself for Dopey.  While he was in the system doing that, he alerted me that he thought the 5K was full.  I told everyone on the text message chain at 12:58, and also informed them that Eliot was signed up for Dopey.  Nori was still trying to get into the 5K and Rick was going to sign Elissa up for it.  I only had 2-3 minutes left to wait, so I told everyone that I would confirm once I was in.  

At 1:01 pm, I was finally able to get into registration.  The 5K was indeed sold out.

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I was completely livid at this point.  Not only was I completely ticked off, but I was also incredibly disappointed.  I had been looking forward to doing the 5K and 10K with Eliot, and now I was only going to be able to do one of them.

At this point, I think my biggest frustration was that not everyone fully understood my anger.  Eliot knew I was beyond mad and he let me rant and get it out.  I was furious with RunDisney for their incompetent computer system.  Eliot's family kept saying we were lucky we got into any of the races, and we were.  However, that didn't diminish the fact that I was still furious.  I am incredibly thankful that Eliot was able to get me into the 10K; but I can also be completely ticked off at the same time.  It's perfectly ok to feel both emotions simultaneously.  If Eliot hadn't gotten me into the 10K, I might not have gotten into anything.  And I was pretty angry about it.

As time went on, people went online to express their frustrations.  It was apparent that there were primarily two camps of people: Team I Got Into What I Wanted and I Don't See the Problem, and Team I Was On The Computer Since Before 10:00 AM And I Got Completely Screwed.  Most people were kind to each other because they knew how angry and frustrated everyone was, but not everyone was so kind.

In the aftermath, it also became clear with what happened.  RunDisney had told those of us in the waiting room at 10:00 am to sit tight and not refresh our screens.  The problem was that when everyone came back at 12:30 to register, people who hopped on the website closer to 12:30 were put in line in front of the rest of us who had literally been sitting on our computer for the past 2.5 hours.

RunDisney majorly screwed up, whether they meant to or not.  How they handled those of us who were waiting in line the entire time was complete crap.  And days later, I still stand by that fact.  They specifically told those of us waiting not to refresh our screens... and then the people who joined after us got put ahead of us in line.  And I know for a fact that's what happened, because Sara was in and out and registered before any of the rest of us even got past the waiting room.  

I also want to note that I'm not angry with Sara (or anyone else) because they got into registration before us.  I'm happy for those that were able to get registered... especially Sara because her wanting to run Dopey is the only reason any of us were signing up to begin with.  But I'm frustrated with how those of us waiting the longest were put last. 

I literally sat on my laptop for over three hours for the one race I was trying to register myself for to sell out minutes before I was able to finally get past the waiting room.

Naturally, people are furious.  The comments on the RunDisney Facebook page are not nice and I can't blame people for it.  I personally don't see the point in complaining to them about it, because there really isn't much they can do about it for this particular race.  Hopefully, they'll do something to make sure this doesn't happen again.  But, honestly I'm pretty doubtful about it.  All of the races sold out just over an hour after they opened registration.  They made their money and are moving forward.

However, I do hope that someone at RunDisney takes note.  This entire experience was a giant crapshoot and it makes Disney look awful.  When your registration process takes longer than it takes for people to run an entire half marathon, you know there's something wrong.  They're going to lose people... not that it will matter in the long run, because someone else will take their place.  But do you really want to lose guests over something as lame as registering for a race?  It's not like there aren't other races where thousands of people are registering.  Something needs to be done to make this better for guests... because I love you Disney, but this was complete crap.

Thankfully, my 2023 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend Registration experience ended on a positive note.  I'm still really mad about this entire experience, and I think that it's important people know what happened.  But my story has a happy ending.

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After I wasn't able to get into the 5K, the first thing my mother-in-law asked me was if I wanted to do the virtual 5K instead.  It was literally about 2 minutes after my hopes of running the 5K at the parks were dashed and it was too soon.  I immediately said no because signing up for the virtual 5K felt lame after I missed out on registration day.

But later in the day, I started thinking about it.  I still didn't see the point in signing up for the 5K.  I sign up for the RunDisney summer virtual 5Ks all the time so it didn't feel special.  Plus, I didn't want the medal as a reminder of my registration day failure.

No, instead I wanted to challenge myself to do something that I otherwise would never ever do... sign up for the marathon.  26.2 miles... gulp.

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Now, you're probably wondering what on Earth would possess a person with knee problems to sign up for a virtual marathon.  I have a few reasons... the first (and most important) being, I would never, ever be able to do one in person.  With the virtual races, you set the time and location and you challenge yourself.  You can run, walk, skip, bike, swim, or crawl your mileage, and no one is tracking your every move.

Let me be very clear- I have no intentions of doing the entire 26.2 miles in one sitting... not even doing them all in one day.  My thought, was that I could still be doing my own race challenge down at Walt Disney World.  One of my own design.  I'm going to walk a marathon while we're on our Disney trip.  Is that cheating?  I don't think so.  To me, the whole point of the virtual races is to challenge yourself to get up off the couch and do something you might not otherwise do.  Running a marathon is the furthest from something I'd ever willingly do.  But... here we are.

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Plus, I had another reason that I wanted to do the marathon.  All along, I was kind of bummed out that Mickey and Minnie were the characters for the marathon, and that I'd be missing out on the medal and all of the merchandise for that race.  I loved running the 10K when it was Minnie Mouse.  Don't get me wrong, I'm super pumped that the 10K is Chip and Dale this year, but I was still a little sad that I wouldn't have anything with Mickey and Minnie on it.  Now that I'm signed up for the virtual marathon, if I see something that I really like from the marathon, I won't feel guilty buying it!

Finally, the last reason I decided to do this is because this year is the 30th anniversary of the marathon.  I figure that this year is the year to do it if I'm going to try it out.  Who knows... if this goes well, maybe I'll try it again.  Or maybe I'll challenge myself to do a Dopey Challenge (48.6 miles) in a week someday.

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In the meantime, I'm excited about this race.  I have a plan to accomplish it- I already have to walk 6.2 miles during the 10K, so that means I need to walk an additional 20 miles during our trip in order to make my goal.  That's still a pretty high total.  When we were at Disneyland a few weeks ago, I was walking about 6 to 7 miles a day- so it's definitely do-able!  The real challenge will be how much walking we are doing on this trip.  With Eliot and Sara both doing the Dopey Challenge, they aren't planning to spend as much time in the parks.  I'll have to stay on top of it to achieve my goal!

Thankfully, virtual registration day went much smoother than Tuesday's in person race sign up.  Registration for the virtual races was yesterday at 10 am, and I was preparing myself for another disaster.  But it never came.  I got into the waiting room at 9:48 and waited until 10 am.  Right at 10, the screen switched over to the countdown queue and I had 8 minutes to wait.  The numbers slowly counted down and seven minutes later, I was being redirected into the registration screen.

Seven minutes.  That's it.

I signed in and entered all of my information.  It almost felt too easy.  By 10:10, I was paying and hitting the submit button.  Then, I got the congratulations screen and my confirmation email.  10 minutes is all it took for me to get into the queue, wait, and register for the race.  I'm sure there were only a fraction of the people online today trying to sign up right at 10 am, but still, it was nice to have my registration process end on a good note.  And I'm now officially signed up for my first virtual marathon!

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So 2023 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend Registration, it's been a real slice.  I can't say that I'm sad to see you go, because I'm not.  I'm grateful that I can at least be excited again for race weekend... because the past few days I've had a lot of mixed feelings about it.  But now, I'm excited to go to the Expo, I'm excited to run the 10K with Eliot, I'm excited to cheer him on while he's attempting his first Dopey Challenge, and I'm excited for my own virtual marathon adventure!  Let the race training begin!!!  °o°

Please Note: I did not make any of these memes and I don't claim ownership of the photos.  I just wanted to put them on here because we could use a laugh.

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