Race Preview: the 2005 Disney World Inline Marathon
Smaller Field to Include Olympians Jennifer Rodriguez and KC Boutiette
Last year, a wet boardwalk bowled a near strike at the Walt Disney World Inline Marathon. As slippery as wet marble, it knocked down just about the entire pro men's field -- and many of the skaters who followed.
Aside from the boardwalk, skaters complained about confusing course markers and a lack of race officials.
This year, Disney appears to be paying the price.
Although it has given the Florida event a safety makeover, participation has dropped by 25 percent.
About 1200 skaters are expected Sunday for the 2005 Disney Inline Marathon. That's enough to make it the third largest inline marathon in North America, but 400 skaters fewer than last year.
"Some people probably did not return because last year we had more spills than we would have wanted," said Paul Ortolano, an endurance sports manager for Disney's Wide World of Sports.
"I really think that contributed to the lower numbers this year. Some people last year did not have that exhilarating experience that we try to give our athletes here."
To try to win back the trust of skaters, Disney has made several changes in this year's event, including routing the racecourse away from last year's dangerous boardwalk.
This year, the course (which passes through Walt Disney World) will again include a stretch of boardwalk. But the boardwalk will be less than 100 yards long and every effort will be made to keep it dry, Ortolano said.
Last year, a coating of dew and water from an overeager sprinkler system transformed a quarter-mile section of boardwalk into a skate hazard.
Copyright © 2006 by Robert Burnson