Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Walt Disney World Marathon Preview

This post is part 2 of a 3 part review of Walt Disney World's Marathon Weekend, a preview of the .....


For information on Getting There, Pre-Race, Rules, Pacing Requirements and Intangibles, see my preview of the WDW Half Marathon. This year will be my fourth consecutive Walt Disney World Marathon, so, I have a bit of experience with this course.

History - 2008 marks the 15th of the running of the first Walt Disney World Marathon. The race typically takes place on the first or second weekend in January, which happens to be a time when the Disney parks are fairly quiet. Strategically, this event tends to draw crowds into the Disney area at a time when visitor levels are a low.

Pre-Race and The Course - The only pre-race difference between the Half Marathon and the Full Marathon is the corrals (and the waves - the Marathon begins at 6:00 AM without the wave start discussed in the Half Marathon preview). Runners are assigned to one of two starts, Blue or Red. Placement depends on a runner's assigned corral.

Marathon Blue and Marathon Red both start on Epcot Center Drive. The course takes both groups up Epcot Center Drive and into Epcot. After winding through and around Epcot, Blue and Red merge at around the 3.4 mile mark. The difference during the first 3.4 miles between the two starts revolves around what parts of Epcot they traverse. The Blue start goes around the outside of Epcot, but then takes runners through parts of the World Showcase Lagoon. In fact, all runners will spend a good portion of the last mile going around the World Showcase Lagoon, meaning that runners in the Blue start get two stops here. The Red start goes through the Spaceship Earth Pavilion before seeing a much much smaller portion of the World Showcase Lagoon.

After joining forces in Epcot, runners head toward the Magic Kingdom. The trip to the Magic Kingdom consists of a bit over 6 miles of nothing but roads (from about 3.6 miles to 10 miles). Once in the Magic Kingdom, runners travel through Tomorrowland and Cinderella Castle - the best picture opportunity is immediately after coming out of Cinderella Castle, so, make sure to smile and look up. Total time in the Magic Kingdom is only 1 mile.

After a quick stop in the Magic Kingdom runners head to Disney's Animal Kingdom, passing by one of Disney's newest rides, Expedition Everest. Again, getting here isn't scenic....4 more miles of roads (miles 11 to 15). The good news is that you get about 3 miles (to mile 18) in the Animal Kingdom.

The stop at the Animal Kingdom is followed by, what else, roads (mile 18 to a bit past mile 22), passing briefly by Disney's Wild World of Sports. This portion of the roads presents a little challenge to runners, a turn-around. There is nearly a full mile stretch where runners will see those ahead of them going in the opposite direction. For some, seeing this at a stage in the race that for most is "The Wall" can be deflating.

This portion of the "road" trip ends at about mile 22.5 when runners enter MGM Studios. Runners will spend a little over a mile at MGM before heading to the coastal village of Disney's Yacht and Beach Club Resort. While in MGM runners will run through Washington Square Garden, pass by the Sorcerer Mickey Hat, and stroll down Hollywood Boulevard.

Miles 24-25 are spend in and around the coastal village, followed by a return trip to Epcot. Thus, I would estimate that runners spend a total of 8-9 miles in Disney theme parks, and 17-18 miles on roads with little to no scenery.

As far as aid stations go, there are plenty of them. 22 beverage stops offer water and PowerAde. In addition, there are 4 food stops offering bananas (at mile 14), Clif Shots (at mile 16), Clif Shots and bananas (at Mile 19), and candy (at Mile 23). Sponges are distributed at Mile 17.5.

The Weather - Ah...everyone asks about the weather. Do you pack for cold (Orlando in January has been know to get a bit chilly) or the heat. Well, for the most part I have found the temperatures to be just right for pleasant race, with temperatures in January typically being in the 60s to low 70s. One year, I believe 3 years ago, it was super cold in the AM - I froze between 4 AM and the 6 AM start. Then again, one year I recall sweltering heat. I suppose the solution is to being clothes for both a hot day and a cold to cool day.

My Take - Like the Disney Half Marathon, the Full Marathon is a fun experience - twice the fun, actually. There are many characters out on the course, and a nice uplifting surprise toward the end of the race that will move you and get your heart pounding. If you want to hit Disney at a time when park attendance is at a low, and run a marathon, this is the perfect event. On the negative side....too many roads. For an event in such a "magical" place, it is a shame that so much of a marathoners time is spend on Disney park roads that traverse in between the theme parks. But, this is really the only negative. The course is fairly flat, so, you can push to get a good time here. This is an event that I would recommend doing once, just to say you ran a marathon at Disney.

Ok, so, the road aspect of this event is a downer, but I keep going back (maybe because I take the kids). Yet, the roads alone are cause to give the Walt Disney World Marathon a 6 out of 10 (sorry Mickey).

Check back soon for a very brief look at the Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge.


  1. Wow. I knew a lot of the course was NOT in the park, but i had no idea it was that much. 22 water stops, wow. That is really interesting, never been to a marathon with that many stops :)

    I hope you get to see some good wild life in the animal kingdom!

  2. Dude, I found you - thanks to Trail Goat, because somehow your link from the comments lead to an empty profile! Yay for next season!

  3. Ran it last year.... Two words: OVER CROWDED

    I saw very little wildlife in the animal kingdom and a whole lot of pavement! Just do yourself a favor and enjoy yourself, its just a big party!


  4. girl. Glad you found me. Bookmark it. See ya soon.

  5. Tony Said:This is an event that I would recommend doing once, just to say you ran a marathon at Disney.
    Exactly !! I am going to push hard to get me a ton of pictures with the Disney Characters--lol Hopefully I will finish under 7 hours :-)

    Ok back to my cold beers --whew training in NJ is ummm not starting out to well--haha

    Great Re-Cap--Thanks!

  6. Bob -

    Plenty of photo ops along the course...plenty. It will be fun...looking forward to hanging with you.

  7. LMAO Bob!! Now I've gotta see those pics!

    Dang I didn't realize there was that much pavement, and not so much scenery. Should be killer anyway :-)