Race Review: Walt Disney World Marathon (and Goofy Challenge)
January 13, 2013
The Walt Disney World Marathon is my favorite race. Why? Organization, atmosphere, quality and consistency. Disney is the master of big events and the team at RunDisney knows how to put on a race. In 26.2 miles you cover all four theme parks and you really get to see all the special ways Disney can make your race the best experience possible. I have run the Disney marathon twice and have been impressed both times at how the race organizers handle any problem along the way. For instance two years ago when it was 22 degrees and the water stops were freezing over with in 15 minutes Disney had solved the problem by using sand to melt the ice. They think and are prepared for everything…
In my post yesterday I detailed the expo and transportation to the race start. Check those details out here. Some of todays tips will be the same but it will be helpful to read both.
Here are the race shirts for the marathon and the Goofy Challenge.
Tip: Disney race shirts run big so order an x-small if you are petite
Race start time is 5:30 Am, but the starts are staggered by corral. You will have to be on a bus VERY early in the morning to get to the start. The long walk to the corrals through the entertainment zone will keep you occupied so your wait doesn’t seem that bad. We chose to pay in advance for the race retreat package. The race retreat cost $110 but I believe it is well worth it. It is held in a climate controlled tent with private bathrooms, baggage check, stretch areas, medical help and food! Since Florida weather is so unpredictable in January, it is money well spent. Also laying on a soft stretch mat after 26.2 (or 39.3) is priceless.
Our group relaxing in the tent before heading to the corrals.
TIP: Keep in mind that the walkway to the corrals is crowded and it could take you 20 minutes so make sure to head that way with plenty of time to spare! We lined up at the back of corral B at about 5 AM and waited for things to kick off. There was plenty of entertainment from the race MC and also just crowd watching, there were some great costumes out there!
Before you know it its time for your corral to start! There are 5 minutes between each corral to make sure you are all well spaced out.
Miles 1-3: These first few miles were surprisingly less crowded than the half marathon the day before, with only 10,000 runners. The miles and flat and fast so try not to go out too hard. Along the way we spotted Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean characters and a highschool band.
Miles 4-7: Mile four started our journey into the Magic Kingdom! Before you get to run in the park you take a few winding side roads around Disney’s Motor Speedway and in front of Disney’s Contemporary Hotel. Just like with the half marathon you enter the Magic Kingdom from the side and run right down main street with cheering fans on both sides!
TIP: When you’re headed to the castle be careful not to run into anyone who has stopped to take pictures. There are some great photo points along the way but the best one is right in front of the castle after you run through it, you will most likely have to wait in a long line!
After running down main street we headed along the same path as the half marathon through Tomorrowland and Fantastyland where we snagged some photos with a Princess or two. Surprisingly the lines were much shorter than during the half.
Right before the end of mile 6 you head through the castle. This is definitely one of the highlights from the run! Make sure to give some space between you and the person running in front of you so you can have a great picture. Once through the castle we made our way through Frontierland and out of the park.
Miles 8-10: After the Magic Kingdom we headed back to Disney’s Motor Speedway for a new part of the course. This year they added a loop around the speedway lined with old and new muscle cars. It was really cool to get to run by so many awesome cars and their drivers who came out early to cheer us on!
This was a great touch to the slightly boring part the race between the Magic Kingdom and the Animal Kingdom.
Miles 10-12.5: After the speedway the next couple of miles were uneventful highway flats as we made our way towards the Animal Kingdom. Disney did a great job keeping us entertained. There were quite a few characters along the way to pose with and like always plenty of water/powerade stops. At this point the sun was out and it started to heat up. Unfortunately through most of the course, and especially during these miles, there isn’t much shade.
Miles 12.5-14: These couple of miles get a little hilly but it’s not that bad. Right before we headed into the Animal Kingdom we passed by Disney’s waste treatment center, don’t be alarmed the smell only last about a mile… Disney counteracts the horrible smells by posting cute signs about the energy/waste savings that the park does every year by using the smelly treatment center. As we turned the corner and ran away from the smell we were greeted by a head of goats and sheep (no I’m not kidding) as we made our way into the Magic Kingdom.
Running in the Animal Kingdom makes you feel like you are in a different place altogether as you head through Africa, Asia and by Dinoland. The running path gets pretty narrow and is a bit uneven so watch your step. I don’t think they let any crowd support into the park because I only recall seeing cast members.
Tip: There are NO water stops in the parks. So make sure to grab water or powerade before you go into any of the four theme parks!
Miles 14-17: These next few miles were probably the hilliest of the race with a few overpasses to tackle. At this point you may be getting bored with running on flats so it’s not that bad. As we ran towards Disney’s Wide World of Sports we passed several characters most of which we passed by even though the lines were short. The one character I could not not stop at was Phocohantus! She was my favorite Princess growing up.
Miles 17-19.9: Just before mile 17 we started our way into Disney’s Wide World of Sports. This is a new part of the course so I was a little nervous! I’m glad to say that I thought it was a really fun and exciting part of the race. We ran around the building that the expo was held in and then towards a track. Basically during these miles we ran around every kind of sports field possible.
Baseball, soccer, track and field you name it we ran by highschool athletes out practicing for each of them. We also got to run around the bases of the Braves spring training camp field.
Running around the field was hot but there were so many distractions that it made the difficult miles easier. I’m glad they changed the route to include the Wide World of Sports.
Mile 20: THE BIG SUPRISE WAS a bit underwhelming but it was still fun.
The heat was warping my pictures
Miles 20-23: After leaving the Wide World of Sports we were on are way towards Disney’s Hollywood Studios. These last few miles were my favorite because at this point it is a reasonable hour of the day and there are lots of fans out along the course. It’s only a short and flat 2 miles before you head into the back entrance of Hollywood Studios and wind around the Backlot Tour path. Its sort of like taking the Backlot Tour ride without waiting in line, a win win! The best part about these miles is the Chocolate bars that are handed out near the water stops. Candy has never tasted as good as it does at mile 22 of a marathon!
The only downside to your run through and around the sorcerers hat at HOllywood Studios is that most of the park goers in the park are a bit annoyed that your taking up a lot of space while they are trying to enjoy the rides. I would say you might even get glared at! But oh well they can get over it! Disney does a wonderful job at making sure no one crosses in your path.
I wish I has a picture or two from Hollywood Studios but I don’t because the guy who said he took my picture with me and the sorcerers hat did not… If you don’t know how to use an iPhone say something… ugh!
Miles 24-26.2: Almost there, but first we had to run from HOllywood Studios down passed the Boardwalk and the Yacht and Beach Club Hotel towards the back entrance of Epcot. There are a few water stops along the way here, but not as many as I would have liked. Make sure to drink up at each stop.
At this point everyone around me is in pain but the cheering crowds and the rush kept me going. My favorite sign was a lady whose sign said “I don’t know you but I’m proud of you”. I love that!
There are a couple of small inclines that feel much worse than they should but hey its the final stretch anything but downhill is going to be hard! Your run about a mil and a half on the boardwalk before you head into Epcot just after mile 25, entering near England by the back entrance of the World Showcase.
The last mile of the race is my favorite, the World Showacse is full of energy and excitement. You can even stop for character on the final stretch. I couldn’t resist stopping to take a picture with Sleeping Beauty.
Me at mile 25.5, almost there!
After circling the World’s Showcase you head towards the “golf ball” and around the side to exit into the Epcot parking lot. No Disney race would be complete with out an awesome gospel band to push you to the finish. The finish shoot is lined with spectators and the announcer does a great job shouting out names as runners finnish. What a great finish to a great race!
The Finish: Besides the fact that they seem to want to rush you through the finishers shoot the finish is perfect. There is plenty of room to stop, stretch or to just relax after running for so long. I was able to easily access the medical tent, water and food. The entertainment zone was pretty packed with family and friends and you could buy any sort of food or drink you needed if they didn’t have it available for free. Again I suggest paying extra for the race retreat. It really is worth it.
The bling bling…
Pros: Flat and fast course, lots of water, gel and powerade, plenty of medial tents, tons of bathrooms along the run, entertainment around every corner, the Disney experience, you can wear crazy costumes and no one judges you, great medals
Cons: Expensive… that’s about it!
If you’re trying to decide between the half marathon and the full marathon you should definitely pick the full. The course runs through all four parks and loaded with fun. Disney puts on one heck of an event. It is my favorite race EVER!
Goofy Challenge: I once thought that I could never do this race. But I did and I had a lot of fun. I think Disney might be the only place that I could run that many miles and at that early in the morning. Never say never…