For 3 years I have always been the runner at RunDisney events. It was time to change that at this years Tower of Terror 10 Miler. Saturday October 4th, close to 11,000 runners journeyed into the darkness to hang out with some villains and enter into the Twilight Zone. Meanwhile my husband and I donned our highlighter yellow t-shirts in search of ways to make the runners feel even more spooktacular.
Our first shift lead us to the Health and Fitness Expo at Disney’s Wide World of Sports. As the closing shift of the day there wasn’t much hustle and bustle. But you could still feel the spirits aligning for the night's big event. We were selected for Volunteer Check In. This process never occurred to me as a runner. All those amazing volunteers somehow knew where to go and what to do, there had to be someone to help them. In most cases at RunDisney events, it’s more volunteers assisting and training the other volunteers. We helped check everyone in, select t-shirts and made sure they had something to eat. It was amazing to just sit and watch the other volunteers. Some of them give their service for every RunDisney event. There was a buzz among them all about the Wine and Dine Half Marathon and even more excitement about the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend that are coming up. Everyone we met at our first shift made us feel like family. Once we explained that we are usually on the other side of these events, they’d always exclaim “I’ve probably handed you water!” And instantly they would want to know what our next race is so they can look for us on the course.
We checked out all the expo and packet pick up volunteers and headed home to prepare for our event shift that was scheduled to end at 3:30am.
Prior to the event we were required to pick up credentials, these told us where to park the night of the race and which bus to board to make our way to the course. Once again a process I never thought about as a runner. Don’t the volunteers just magically appear? This is Disney after all. There is a precisely scheduled plan to get all of the volunteers to the course. We parked at the Magic Kingdom per our directions, checked-in, chose our snacks and sent to our bus. Once we arrived at Disney’s Hollywood Studios we quickly made our way to our designated job for the night. We were assigned to gEAR Check located at Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular. The amount of bags was unreal! Our team leader Bob, a Run Disney Cast Member walked us by the big boulder and airplane they use in the stunt show.
Bags were organized by first letter of the runners last name then again by number. A shift of volunteers that came before us arranged everything for us. We picked out a table of bags, introduced ourselves to the volunteers around us, and before we knew it the first runner was walking through. A roar of applause began at the site of the first male and female runners. It didn’t matter that they weren’t the first across the finish line, they were the first runners for us and we were excited to see them. Our team had a great system of calling out the bib numbers and two people searching. The best moments were when we were able to get the bag to the runner as they were just walking up. The smiles we created by just finding their bags were infectious. I truly now understand what it feels like when I thank a volunteer when I’m running. We had a few moments of frustration when a bag that should be where you were looking, wasn’t. But we did everything we could to find a runners bag including checking every table there.
After easily 1,000 bags, 2:30am arrived before we knew it. Our team leader walked us back to our bus for our ride back to the Magic Kingdom. Once we checked out, Disney provided every late night volunteer with a one day, one park ticket! What a way to say ‘thank you’ to all of us!
Overall there were moments of teamwork, happiness, frustration when you couldn’t quickly find a bag, and pride in the work we were doing. On our drive home I said to my husband that I felt like I ran the race that night too. It’s an amazing feeling to cross a finish line and it’s just as amazing to make a runners night that much more magical.
Congratulations to all who participated! And thank you to everyone who gave their time!