WDW version 15.0-Litmus Test for the Sport

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The fifteenth anniversary of the WDW Marathon and Half Marathon has started off 2008 without a hitch. As always, the WDW is a litmus test of the health of the sport. Consider this for a moment, on the very weekend of the WDW, where 34,000 plus are signed up for the half marathon and marathon, over 35,000 are at the PF Chang's RNR Arizona, and the Chevron Houston Marathon has nearly 20,000! All on the same weekend!

The WDW has been one of the testing places for changes in the sport of road racing. Whether by plan or accident, it has worked out that the WDW is either seer into the future or just plain lucky. First, in the mid nineties, WDW decided to focus on Florida locals and top masters instead of the management challenges of having an elite field. WDW became a desitation marathon before there really were other major destination marathons.

Disney Sports has many other events here, but the WDW is unique. The half marathon is now over 16,000, the marathon was at 18,000 and the thousands of family members and well wishers shower the finish line with cheers and whistles.

The average finishing time has continued to increase, with 3,000 finished by three hours, and the prime time being five hours to seven hours, where 8,000 finishers are expected. In a destination marathon, the participation is key, not the time. In a destination marathon, the number of cause runners is many times more than one third, sometimes, half of the fields. And, in destination marathons, many, many continue to come back each and every year.

This weekend, runners in the full marathon have come from all fifty states, with D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands as well. Florida has 5,464 registered in the full marathon, with Georgia at 888, New York at 875, Illinois at 665, North Carolina at 589, Texas at 584, Pennsylvania at 559, Virginia at 558, Massachusetts at 546 and California at 520.

We had mentioned earlier in this piece that 34,000 were signed up for the WDW Marathon and Half Marathon. A total of 40,000 runners of all ages participated in
WDW activities over the weekend!

On Saturday, January 12, Brooks Hanson' Chad Johnson, C. Fred Joslyn and Patrick Rizzo went 1-3, leading 16,000 plus to the half marathon finish in Epcot Center. Chad Johnson won in 1:06:53 to Joslyn's 1:06:54 and Rizzo's 1:07:05-their times were the fourth through sixth fastest times ever at Disney. Brooks Hanson's team owns 13 of the top 20 times ever run on this course!

All three Brooks-Hanson's runners had been recuperating from the Men's Marathon Trials. Chad Johson spoke to runblogrun, noting: " I felt pretty good. It was humid out there, but we ran pretty close to our goals. My next race is London, where I hope to run in the 2:13 to 2:14 area, my best is 2:15." When asked how he felt at the Trials, Johnson, a Wisconsin native, observed, " The course was pretty tough, it really beat up my quads. I was dissappointed that I did not run faster, as alot of guys got their personal bests at the Trials."

On the women's side of the half marathon, Florida native Kim Pawalek took the women's half for the fourth time, in 1:18:07. Yolanda Mendoza of the Brooks Hanson's team took second in 1:18:49, forty-two seconds behind Pawalek. Yolanda had a tough experience here last year, and noted that this year she felt very good in the race.

Brooks Hanson's Lori Zimmerman took third in 1:20:22. At 37, Zimmerman is training for her fourth Olympic Trials marathon, having recently joined the Brooks Hanson team.

The Brooks Hanson team was noted all over the course on Sunday, cheering on and encouraging athletes in the WDW Marathon. Coach Kevin Hanson took a red eye out on Saturday to Houston to observe his other runners at the U.S. men's half marathon championships.

Adriano Bastos of Brazil won the WDW marathon in front of 18,000 fellow marathoners, with a time of 2:20:58, his slowest of the four tries. In second, fourteen minutes later, was John Garton of Voorhees, New Jersey. What probably slowed Bastos down was his last hundred meters of gymnastics and take-offs of a male synchronized swimming program as he celebrated win numero quattro. " Every year I win, it builds the pressure to come back and win the following year." Bastos noted.

Saul Mendoza, a former Athlete of the 20th Century in Mexico, won for the eighth time, his first since 2004!

Mary Peters, 24, from Michigan, now a student at the University of Miamai won the women's marathon in 2:47:32, looking very relaxed and within herself. In second was Sonja Friend-Uhl of West Palm Beach, Floria in 2:49.27 and Christa Benton in third, from St. Petersburg, giving Florida the first three on the women's side!

The Florida Finest program, where Florida Running & Triathlon Magazine picks the top
prospects from around the Sunshine State was right on this year. Lorraine Evans was three for three as all of the top three women marathon finishers were from her well picked team. It should be noted that both the women's and mens' current course records are held by athletes picked by Florida Running & Triathlon to run at WDW when they had an elite field.

Disney staff and security, in this day and age, is always vigilant. This blogger had an experience with the aforementioned crew this morning, as a taxi that said blogger was a passenger in, drove over the grass and entered an exit that was clearly blocked off by Florida's finest. The scene from Gone in 60 seconds quickly ended with Florida's finest stopping the yellow vehicle and presenting the driver with a ticket for $118 and suggesting, politely, but firmly that passengers should evacuate said vehicle and walk the rest of way to Epcot center.

The weekend is also the annual meeting of the Running Network LLC where represented publications come and meet to discuss business and sport issues of the day. Brook Gardner, editor of Race Center Northwest, one of a dozen runners from the RN pubs to participate in the half marathon, ran a personal best of 1:25, barely missing the top five his age group! John Craig, editor of Athletics magazine, not only had his sons, but his twin brother running this weekend. Craig was former elite miler for Canada in the 1970's. Other RN participants included Eliot Wineberg, Chicago Athlete and Steve and Tamara Lackey of Endurance magazine.

In the end, the weekend was wonderful, with mostly sunshine, a few good football games to watch ( both the Packers and the Patriots won), and events from the kid's runs to the WDW Half and Full Marathon.

It is six hours, ten minutes into the marathon and there are thousands yet to finish, each with his and her own story why they run, why they trained and the long line of runners and walkers continues to pour over the WDW Finish line.

For more on the WDW Marathon, please check http://www.disneyworldmarathon.com

1 Comment | Leave a comment

Great writeup of the experience - the actual run was a blast!

Tamara, it was great seeing you and your family in
Disney. Congrats on your wonderful magazine,


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