After dozens and dozens of runDisney contests, it was my turn. Oh, I had attempted early on in the life of the franchise to volunteer as a medical volunteer, but the process was complicated and disjointed. In general, the runDisney volunteer process (for all positions) has greatly streamlined itself in the past couple of years. During the 2017 Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend, this princess turned physical therapist finally had the opportunity to trade in her running shoes for a stethoscope. Let me share what every runner should know about the runDisney Medical Team. Just in case…
Florida Hospital Celebration Health has overseen the health of runDisney runners for over 20 years and is its Official Medical Provider. They service over 200,000 runners every year!! State and out-of-state licensed/certified physicians, osteopaths, chiropractors, physician assistants, advanced registered nurse practitioners, physical therapists, registered nurses, paramedics, and emergency medicine technicians (EMTs) are qualified for this “elite” team. (Some healthcare students who meet the standards for supervision are permitted.)
All certifications are reviewed and verified prior to each contest, waivers are completed, and coded credentials sent approximately 3 weeks prior to the race. The runDisney Medical Team is a separate entity and not otherwise affiliated with the runDisney Volunteer Ambassadors who perform functions such as race packet or snack pack distribution. (runDisney Dress Code, however, does suggest comfortable yet professional attire for every volunteer and prefers khakis to jeans/shorts.) Florida Hospital Celebration Health provides professional liability insurance for the runDisney Medical Team on race day.
Interested? Apply or request additional information, contact the Medical Volunteer Hotline at (407) 303-4053. As with the actual race, these spots fill up quickly, so make your intentions known months before each contest!
I will admit that I had a tinge of “what the hey?” when I discovered I would have to report to Disney Wide World of Sports for my bus at 3:15 am. There was another touch of “oh gee” when I saw the tutu-ed runners start to arrive. But then, duty called! The treatment areas were already well-prepped from the days before (Disney Princess 5K and Disney Princess Enchanted 10K) and before-the-dawn volunteers were aplenty. We reviewed protocols and stations. And waited. We watched the sun come up over the medals being “hung with care,” and I was filled with awe. A runDisney race is a production whose scale even I had not fully appreciated until that moment.
I was positioned in the chute area, with the responsibility of screening the runners as they crossed the finish line. Any participant who appeared stressed, dehydrated, or in obvious pain was personally addressed. As in, one-on-one eye contact was made and a short conversation was had. Some required wheelchair assistance to reach the runDisney Medical Team. There, a triage process was established. Distressed runners were directed to one of several areas. For instance, the outdoor self-treat area applied to runners who needed to sit and/or apply ice to the sore bits. An outdoor treatment team wrapped iced, applied topical analgesics (such as Biofreeze), dispensed advice, instructed runners in simple stretching exercises, and the like. Lastly, an interior tent was equipped for more serious medical attention and possible hospital transport.
What All Runners Need to Know About the runDisney Medical Team
From the very first Wheelchair Division finisher (lightning!!) to the very last run/walker (see the Fairy Godmothers/photographers waiting with Pixie Dust??), we were there. Stationed in the pre-race areas, along the race course, EMTs riding on bike patrol, and at the finish line, the runDisney Medical Team professionals were poised to assist with everything from a blister to life-threatening conditions. After the initial finisher, it was requested that we use a megaphone to alert runners, that the medical tent and Self Treatment areas were at their disposal. We had to sell it! Though I protested, this ex-chEARleader and general big mouth was given the mouthpiece. This is what I wish I could have shouted to each runner:
- There was a venerable army of medical professionals- some top in their field- at their disposal.
- No medical question is too insignificant.
- Whether at the start, on the course, or at the finish, the runDisney Medical Team can make your race experience that much more rewarding. And comfortable. Pain in not part of the magic. Your next race will be that much more successful!
- Our advice is free. What runDisney spends on building this team of experts is formidable; each of us received breakfast, a wind breaker, and 1-day Walt Disney World park ticket in exchange for our work. I can’t even begin to estimate the cost, as there were literally hundreds of us there during that one race. Runners need to take advantage of this invisible runDisney perk!
Approximately 48,000 runners came through that chute over that weekend. Whether they realized it or not, they had an army of medical staff alongside them. The weather during last year’s Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend was unusually comfortable and NOT in the red hazard zone. In my experience as a runner, that was an anomaly! Had temperatures been in the more typical range, we would have been far busier. Heat stroke/exhaustion is always a concern in endurance contests run in Florida. But we were manned for anything. runDisney had made sure of that.
There was beauty in the backstage that I never would have anticipated: the silence, the commitment to excellence, the genuine care paid to every aspect. Including, no especially, to the elements no one may ever notice. So many human stories, smiles, tears, and hugs. And ice packs. Plenty of ice packs. Each one making sure every mile is magic.