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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.