Disney marathons have become A Huge Thing, with some guests racing to sign up the moment a runDisney marathon registration is opened – and other guests anxious to know when marathon weekends are taking place in order to avoid the throngs of guests they attract (not to mention the road closures)! Be aware that the weeks on either side of races will be busy with runners and their families. (Some like to run the race at the end of their vacation to avoid soreness when park touring, while others run at the beginning of their trip so that they can relax afterwards – following a restorative visit to the massage tent and a couple of ice baths back at the resort!)
Historically “quiet” intervals at Disney (such as early January) have been transformed by the marathons into busy and exciting times – affording far-flung friends and relatives the motivation and anticipation of months of training and the excitement of rendezvousing in sunny Florida to marathon together (and with Mickey!) for a fun-filled “racecation.” It’s a whole new World!
January 2018 will mark the 25th anniversary of the first Walt Disney World Marathon. People obsessed with twin passions for both running and for Disney have been in heaven as they’ve watched the series of marathon events expand over the last 25 years. The “big one” – the 26.2 mile “Most Magical Race on Earth” begins and ends at Epcot (after a 3:00 a.m. bus pick up at your resort!), with a course taking runners through all four parks and the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
For most runners, the marathon is more about the Disney characters (some of them the rare variety!), entertainment, and surprises (even fireworks!) encouraging them along the route than it is about the actual running! Of course, it is possible to submit a “Proof of Time” from a (verifiable) officially timed race in order to be placed in one of the first corrals to start the marathon (consult the runDisney website for requirements and deadlines). But most Disney racers aren’t keeping an eye on the clock. Who wants to just zoom right by Mickey, Minnie, and other characters? This isn’t just any marathon – it’s Disney! Most runners stop for hugs and photos – and Photopass photographers will be on hand to capture the moment for you! These races are also about the fun of planning a Disneybounding-type themed outfit. Of course, if you’re going to run in a costume, be sure to train in the costume. And note Disney’s rules for attire. Runners get creative with t-shirt designs and tutus. Etsy has many options!
Finishers will proudly take home their 25th Anniversary Walt Disney World Marathon commemorative medal and T-shirt (after wearing them around the parks to garner admiring congrats from cast members and other guests!). During the same week, there will also be a half marathon, 10K and 5K runs (you can run all of the races that week to complete the Dopey Challenge). (No puns, please!) There are shorter runs for children of various ages, including a Diaper Dash for babies. No kidding! And you can join the Disney Cruise Line after the races to continue the fun on Castaway Cay with a 5K run. It doesn’t even need to stop when you get home – Disney has vitual runs that can be done anywhere.
At the end of February, you can join the Disney Princess Half Marathon, a 13.1 course through Epcot and the Magic Kingdom or the Princess Enchanted 10K run through Epcot. Darth Vader himself will “Force” you to complete the Star Wars Half Marathon at the end of April (“May the Course Be With You”), and Tinker Bell sprinkles pixie dust on her own marathon in the middle of May.
The whole family may enjoy a visit to a race Expo at the Wide World of Sports Complex. This might be the first opportunity some guests have had to tour this beautiful venue. Here families can make signs to hold up to encourage their runners and everyone enjoys shopping the exclusive souvenirs. Vendor booths often have running celebrities on hand.
In an effort to help guests maintain their healthy active lifestyle while on vacation all year round, Walt Disney World has worked with New Balance fitness footwear to identify as well as create more than 16 miles of running/walking trails winding throughout the resorts. You’ll see the routes marked on the resort map you’ll receive at check-in. (If you have direct-to-room check-in, stop at the front desk for a resort map – they’re pretty!) The running trails are also clearly marked with signs at the resort.
An overview of route locations and lengths:
- Boardwalk Canal Run – 1 mile
- Yacht and Beach Club – 1.3 miles
- Epcot Resort Crescent Lake run – 0.8 miles
- Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort – 1.2 miles
- Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort – 1 miles and 0.75 miles
- Disney’s Contemporary Resort – 1 mile
- Disney’s Old Key West Resort – 1.5 miles
- Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort – 2.5 miles
- Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort – 1 mile
- Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – 1.7 miles and 1 mile
- Disney’s Pop Century Resort – 1 mile and 1.5 miles
- Disney’s Polynesian Resort – 1 mile
- Disney’s Saratoga Resort – 1.5 miles and 1 mile
Whether you want to get in a shakeout run before dinner at Via Napoli or a fartlek (Swedish for “speedplay”) to start your day, these courses can really add to a runner’s contentment on a Disney World vacation. Of course, you can also enjoy a leisurely stroll along the routes – enchanted by palm trees, birds, and flower by day or twinkling lights by night! Remember that the routes in some cases are shared with inexpertly steered surrey bikes and other hazards – and that many of the routes are not shaded, so will be arduous on a summer afternoon. Experienced runners will already be taking into account avoiding the worst of the Florida sun, staying hydrated, choosing routes with no vehicular traffic, refraining from the use of headphones while running in areas with foot traffic … and they won’t forget to pack their running shoes and sunglasses!