‘Magical’ Boston Qualifier Remains in Results at Disney


Most course cutting at Disney is done towards the back of the pack. Some runners cut to avoid the infamous ‘balloon ladies’.

The balloon ladies are the unofficial sweepers. They start at the back of the pack and stay just ahead of pace needed to avoid being swept.

A combination of the course setup – with a long out and back and a general unwillingness by RunDisney to disqualify runners makes Disney an easy target.

In reality, disqualification means little to the back of the pack course cutters. For most of these runners, the on course photos and finisher medals are what they are there for, and an after the fact disqualification does nothing to discourage the behavior.

Over the past few years, however, I have found a fair number of runners that cut at Disney as a way to get into The Boston Marathon.

In February, one would be Boston Qualifier was disqualified from Disney. His time would have placed him fifth overall. Cheating your towards the top of the leader board will almost always result in a disqualification.

Over one month later, another Boston qualifier remains in the results. A quick review leaves no doubt that his result is not legitimate.

Through the half marathon, his pace followed a typical trend of someone who is tiring. His pace was increasing at a predictable pace. His pace from the half to 20 miles (5:11)was faster than the overall winner (5:26). It is clear that he cut the loop going through Animal Kingdom.

I don’t know whether this runner intends to use this time as a qualifier for another race such as Boston. It is my hope that he is not given the opportunity.

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  1. Disney awards age group awards through fifth place, so this guy is stealing an actual physical award from someone. The awards are mailed out after they are verified, so Disney may end up disqualifying him anyway, but it is surprising that they have not already.

  2. I’m confused as to how you would skip a loop at the Animal Kingdom. Unless they changed the course in 2020, you cross the 13.1 mark in Animal Kingdom and it has a chip recorder, just before Expedition Everest. I would think there would be more of a possibility of skipping some mileage at ESPN before getting to Hollywood Studios. Either way, I just can’t understand why someone would put in the miles to train for this and then cheat. Definitely enjoy reading this site!

    • Yes, the course was changed because of construction. The beginning was back to how it was before the the 25th anniversary, so you hit Magic Kingdom ~ mile 10 and then after Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom and Blizzard Beaches were both easily cutable loops before going to Hollywood Studios and finishing at Epcot.

      Also, because of the heat, they “modified” the course so that later finishers all skipped the Blizzard Beach loop. I finished ~5:40 and shortly after I finished, I got a text from a friend that she was being diverted to skip Blizzard Beach. The results do no indicate who did/did not do Blizzard Beach other than those that would have gotten age group awards are labeled with an * if they finished too slow to have done that loop (generally old and smaller age groups).

      • Wow.. I heard it was really hot this year (unlike the two FREEZING runs I did in 17 and 18) but didn’t realize they shortened it for people. So is ESPN skipped altogether?

    • Not sure why this interested me, but based upon the paces run you could estimate that the runner cut ~2 miles from the course. Checking the Disney course map there appears to be a spot at ESPN where a runner could easily cut about 1.5 miles or more off the course shortly after mile 18 to just before the mile 20 mat inside Champion stadium. To do so you’d simply need to run straight past field 19 and the HP field house rather than doing the loop around the perimeter of the park. If there were port-a-potties at those corners it would not be unreasonable to see someone running to/from these locations. (I’ve never run the race so wouldn’t know).

  3. If you look at this runners times on Athlinks his fastest previous Marathon was 3:35:10 (2018 Disney Marathon) which would mean he beat his PR by 40 minutes.

  4. He had a good run so that is why the cheating is more interesting to me. The pace generally indicates a 3:09 run. I understand that cheating be based solely on getting a BQ (3:03) but people that talented that cheat always seem weird to me–you could actually achieve the goal and feel great about it.

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