The WDW marathon is over. It is Monday morning as I take my walk over to Pleasure Island and enjoy the quiet morning. Runners are seen everywhere, wearing their WDW shirts, and their proud limping as the legs begin to recover from the weekend of pounding. The special shirts from team Goofy runners-those who did the half and the full marathons-are seen as well. 3,000 of the team Goofy runners registered!
After my column on Monday, a thoughtful reader asked me about ING New York as a destination marathon. ING was the first big city marathon. The late Fred Lebow changed the sport, with his Five Borough New York City Marathon. One of the first sponsors was former RW publisher George Hirsch, who, a fine runner in his own right, and publisher of the seminal New Times magazine, Hirsch saw the future of the marathon as well.
Lebow invented the big city marathon. New York is both elite and big city marathon. People from all over the world come to run ING New York and see the city. This past year, the marathon gave us two days of marathoning to watch: the Men’s Olympic Trials and the ING Marathon on Sunday. The Trials were a labor of love of the sport by the New York Road Runners-as working with the USOC on an Olympic Trials is no one ‘s idea of fun or an example of how to work together. The USOC dictates and anyone else involved does it or looses the wonderful opportunity of doing an Olympic Trials.
WDW is a destination marathon, just as I said. It was and is, the first of the destination marathon genre. Orlando is not a big city like New York. WDW does not really worry about an elite marathon and has chosen its own direction. And for WDW, it has been successful.
The addition of the half marathon on a different day several years ago, doubled the runners and walkers who cross the highways of Orlando so early on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
The lesson to learn from WDW is that each marathon, each event, must choose its own destiny and path. ING New York’s path would not have worked down here and WDW would not have worked in New York.
As Jon Hughes, the race director of WDW, finally slept on Sunday night, he should have rest assured that thousands would be on the web site on Monday morning to sign up for 2009.
Marathons have a two way communication-their sign ups for the next year. Consumers, which is what runners are, vote their support of races by re registering for the next year.
And WDW number 16 will be as popular, if not more, than its previous versions.