Walt Disney World Marathon Course Guide

run Disney, runDisney, Disney running, Walt Disney World Marathon course

The Walt Disney World Marathon finish. (Photo: runDisney)

Tribesports asked me to create a guide to the Walt Disney World Marathon course for their social networking site for active minded folks. “Whether you’re a novice or a pro, we think seeing your friends sports activity, and sharing yours will make you want to be more active and do more sports,” their website states. Seems like a good premise to me, since that’s what the blogging community does in a different way.

So I thought I’d share my Walt Disney World Marathon Guide here as well since it highlights the race in a different way than my race report. If you’re thinking of signing up for the Walt Disney World Marathon—registration is still open for the 2014 race—here’s a play by play of what you can expect on the course.

Guide to the Walt Disney World Marathon Course

runDisney, Walt Disney World Marathon course, Walt Disney World Half Marathon, Cinderella Castle

Runners fill Magic Kingdom. (Photo: runDisney)

The Walt Disney World Marathon is the crown jewel in the runDisney series of races. Nearly 25,000 runners tackle the 26.2-miles around “the World,” many dressed in costume in homage to their favorite Disney characters. The vibe on-course is as much party as road race with Disney’s signature entertainment lining the way: marching bands, DJ’s, cheerleaders, acrobats, rock bands, and, of course, those famous Disney characters.

When runDisney invited me to be their guest at the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend as author of the blog RunKarlaRun.com, I simply couldn’t resist. I put together a Cinderella in Rags running costume and dragged my husband along as Jacques the Mouse.


When it comes to organization, it doesn’t get better than runDisney. From the time you register to the time you cross the finish, runDisney will make sure you know where to be, what time to be there, and how to get there. Pre-race e-mails start three months out, and an informative race site paired with detailed pre-race instructions released one month prior have all the info you need.

Walt Disney World Marathon course, Disney running, run Disney

Fireworks at the start (Photo: runDisney)

Runners pick up bibs at the Disney Health & Fitness Expo at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex from Wednesday through Saturday before the race. With registration, runners receive either a men’s or women’s cut technical shirt and a signature finisher’s medal.

Runners can also participate in other events throughout the weekend like Kids Races, Pasta in the Park Party, character breakfasts, a Race Retreat and Cool Down Party at Downtown Disney, some of which require an additional ticket for entry.

The Start

Set your alarm early. The Walt Disney World Marathon begins at 5:30 a.m. But once you’re in the starting corral, you’ll forget the time and be glad for the cloak of darkness. How else would you see the fireworks at the start? Runners are broken into multiple corrals by anticipated finish time. Every corral has its own start, complete with fireworks, every 5 minutes. For 2014, runDisney is adding more corrals to help ease crowding on the course.

Walt Disney World Marathon course, Disney running, run Disney

Runners dash through Cinderella Castle (Photo: runDisney)

The Course and Race Highlights

The Walt Disney World Marathon course has 21 hydration stops with Dasani water and PowerAde, placed roughly every 1.5 miles. In addition, the marathon has four food stops with items like Chiquita bananas, Clif Shots, and candy, as well as medical stations and bathrooms aplenty.

The Walt Disney World Marathon course starts just outside Epcot and works its way north to Magic Kingdom between Miles 5 and 6, where runners are treated to a jaunt through Cinderella Castle.

Be sure to pause for a photo in front of Cinderella Castle, still decked out in the Castle Dream Lights for the winter holidays. Also be on the lookout for a cadre of Disney characters stationed throughout the park. You might see Pixar characters in Tomorrowland and Disney princesses in Fantasyland. Prince Mickey and Princess Minnie and other popular characters like Cinderella and Prince Charming have been known to hang out right outside the castle.

Walt Disney World Marathon course, Walt Disney World Speedway, run Disney, Disney running,

Runners charge the Walt Disney World Speedway (Photo: runDisney)

After exiting Magic Kingdom through a backstage entrance, runners head south on the Walt Disney World Marathon course to the Walt Disney World Speedway between Miles 8 and 9 for a run around the racetrack. In 2013, Disney stationed dozens of vintage cars around the 1-mile track, as well as characters from Pixar’s Cars.

Walt Disney World Marathon, Disney running, run Disney, Cinderella in rags, Jacque the mouse, running costume

Safari Pluto and Mickey greet runners. (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)

From there, the Walt Disney World Marathon course continues to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park between Miles 12 and 13. You’re sure to see some animals—real and imaginary—and plenty more Disney characters like Safari Mickey, Minnie, Daisy and Pluto. In the park you’ll run past Expedition Everest, Discovery Island and Dinoland USA.

After Animal Kingdom, the Walt Disney World Marathon course tracks along the highway before heading to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex between Miles 17 and 20. Don’t worry, there will be entertainment roughly every half-mile.

Walt Disney World Marathon course, run Disney, Disney running, Champion Stadium

Runners in Champion Stadium. (Photo: runDisney)

Once you reach the Sports Complex, you’ll see athletes playing on the soccer fields and baseball diamonds, as well as a few Disney characters along the way too. The highlights of this section of the Walt Disney World Marathon course are a run around the track and through Champion Stadium, the Atlanta Braves’ spring training home. Pause for a photo behind home plate and be sure to listen for the stadium announcer shouting your name as you run by.

Walt Disney World Marathon course, runDisney, Disney running, Hollywood Studios

Disney’s Hollywood Studios on marathon morning. (Photo: runDisney)

Runners then head north into Disney’s Hollywood Studios between Miles 22 and 24. Before you enter the park, keep an eye out for some green Army men from Toy Story who will help motivate you up a small hill. Once inside the park, you’ll be greeted by a few movie characters and treated to music from some of Hollywood’s most iconic soundtracks, along with robust crowds of people lining Hollywood Boulevard.

run Disney, Disney running, Walt Disney World Marathon, Cinderella in rags, Jacque the mouse, running costume

With Jasmine and Aladdin in Epcot. (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)

Next, runners charge onto Disney’s BoardWalk after running along the canal that leads from Hollywood Studios. You’ll go past the Yacht & Beach Club Resorts and into the back entrance of the World Showcase at Epcot between Miles 24 and 25.

The final mile of the race takes runners “around the world” at Epcot. You’ll see a string of Disney characters outside of each country. You might spot Belle in France, Mulan in China or Aladdin in Morocco before heading straight for the iconic Spaceship Earth attraction. Spectators line the whole course at this point.

At Mile 26, a gospel choir ushers runners out of the park and into the finish chute, where Mickey Mouse and friends pass out high-fives to the 20,000 runners who cross the finish line.

Walt Disney World Marathon, run Disney, Disney running

Goofy high-fives finishers (Photo: runDisney)

From the organization to the entertainment, Disney gets just about everything right. The Walt Disney World Marathon is a fun run that will make you feel like a kid again.

For more information, visit rundisney.com. For more photos and an in depth look at runDisney races, visit my runDisney page. To view the original guide, visit Tribesports.

As part of the running media, runDisney provided me with complimentary race entry, hotel, park tickets, airfare and some meals for the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. But as always, all opinions are purely my own. I really do believe in being honest about my experiences and Disney is no exception. For more information read my Disclosure Policy.

Karla Bruning


Karla Bruning is a race announcer at the TCS New York City Marathon + other major events, TV host for the New York City Triathlon + contributor to Shape, Redbook, Runner's World + other publications. She used to report for Newsweek but spent her free time squeezing in workouts. Now it's her job. She's run 8 marathons, 30 halves, 10 triathlons + open water swims. When she's not running, talking about running or writing about running, she's snuggling her baby, spoiling her dog + compulsively traveling.


05 2013

15 Comments Add Yours ↓

The upper is the most recent comment

  1. 1

    I totally need to save this and review it when I decide to do Disney, would be a big help! Nice and informational but fun with the photos!
    Laura recently posted..Good, Bad & Yummy 5/10-5/12My Profile

  2. 3

    Jealous of your Aladdin and Jasmine pic! Only Jasmine was out when I ran by : (

    I can’t believe the WDW Marathon is so far away, I’m seriously ready for it to be here already! Great guide to the event though, I’m sure it’ll be very helpful for first time participants!
    Danielle recently posted..Weekly Training RecapMy Profile

  3. 5

    I can’t wait to get to do this! Of course, I have to wait. I’m not doing the WDW marathon until I do it as part of the Goofy in 2015. I would like to do it sooner, but I think I’ll need the “newness” of the course to help get me through. And your costumes are always so great! This one included! :)
    Kellie recently posted..You Like Me! You Really Like Me!My Profile

  4. 7

    Of course I love this post and your photos!

  5. 9

    I love this! Thank you so much! Getting even more excited for January :)
    Karen recently posted..WDW Marathon WeekendMy Profile

  6. Cilla #

    Dear Karla, i am glad i found your blog. I am running WD marathon in Jan 2016 and have some questions. I would love to hear your opinion. I haven`t been to WD, so apart from running marathon, I would also love to see the park. Do you think it will be too crowded the weekend when running is going on? Which hotels do you recommend? I would love to be as close as possible (especially because of the early start), but we are a bit financially limited, so would love to hear your opinion. Because I haven`t been there, I also can`t properly imagine where is the best position to stay and where all the activities during the weekend are positioned. thank you for your answers.

    • Karla Bruning

      Hi Cilla, How exciting to be visiting WDW for the first time! You picked a great event. The WD marathon is one of my favorites. I’ve found that’s actually a great weekend to visit the parks. On marathon Sunday is the most empty I’ve ever seen Magic Kingdom. While the marathon is going on and the hours afterward, the park is largely empty, with so many runners and their spectators busy with the race and eating/resting afterward. That won’t do you much good if you’re running the race itself, but I haven’t had any issues visiting the parks that weekend as a runner. The parks are pretty crowded in general these days, but it won’t be any worse marathon weekend. As for where to stay, if you want to stay as close as possible but save some money, I highly recommend the Hilton Bonnet Creek. It’s on-property, with free transportation to the parks and race, but less expensive than most Disney properties. It’s fantastic bang for your buck. The Disney “value” resorts are another good option with free transportation to the parks and races–Pop Century, All-Star Music, All-Star Movies, All-Star Sports, and Art of Animation Resorts. Another lower budget option are the Downtown Disney hotels. You’ll have free transportation to the parks, but not the races. Those hotels are on property, but much less expensive than Disney resorts. If price isn’t an object and you want to stay in the thick of it all, I’d recommend the Contemporary Resort, WDW Dolphin or Swan, or Beach & Yacht Club Resorts. I go into detail about all the resorts here: http://www.runkarlarun.com/2014/05/09/disney-hotels-walt-disney-world-marathon/ Most the weekends activities are centered around Epcot (start and finish for the races) and the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex (Expo & Kids races). For proximity to those, all but the hotels on the Monorail and Animal Kingdom Lodge are pretty well located). Here’s more info on the Hilton, which I think might be the best value in WDW: http://www.runkarlarun.com/2015/03/18/hilton-orlando-bonnet-creek-disney-marathon-weekends/ Good luck planning your trip and with marathon training!

  7. Anna #

    I am registered for WDW marathon in January. As you said (and it is written also on their webpage), the e-mail should started coming into our mailboxes 3 months prior the event. It is less than 2 months now, and I haven`t got anything. I sent them question, but didn`t get a reply. Are you registered for that event and if yes, have you got any e-mails from them?
    Thanks a lot, A.

  8. Mark M. #

    Thank you so much for the great detail information about the race. I was looking for info on water station and the web brought me to your article. Running the Dopey Challenge 2018 and am even more excited about the weekend because of your detailed article. Counting down the days. Thanks again.


  1. Run, Karla, Run! » Blog Archive Disney Cinderella in Rags Running Costume… - Run, Karla, Run! 11 06 13
  2. Run, Karla, Run! » Blog Archive Disney Running Character Profile: Sleeping Beauty - Run, Karla, Run! 11 06 13

Your Comment

CommentLuv badge