Tips for Dealing with Disney Races

by Daniel Rajnik
AllEars® Guest Columnist

Feature Article

This article appeared in the November 13, 2012 Issue #686 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.

EDITOR'S NOTE: We may still have 40 days until Christmas, but that means it's just a little more than eight weeks until the Walt Disney World Marathon and Half Marathon! Even if you're not a runner, but you're supporting a runner, it's not too soon to start thinking about it.

More than 55,000 runners from throughout the United States and beyond will lace up their running shoes and head to Walt Disney World Resort for the sold-out Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend presented by Cigna, January 10-13. Several celebrities including Drew Carey, Sean Astin and Alison Sweeney, will join the celebration as runDisney marks the 20th anniversary of the Walt Disney World Marathon. To celebrate two decades of the Marathon, runners will enjoy several unique features, including a special 20th anniversary medal, course enhancements taking runners onto the track at Walt Disney World Speedway and through ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, a Mile 20 spectacular featuring special entertainment and a new post-race party at Downtown Disney. Marathon Weekend features runDisney Kids' Races, a Family Fun Run 5K on Friday, the Half Marathon on Saturday and the Marathon on Sunday. Thousands of runners will run Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge, which involves running both the Half Marathon and the full Marathon — 39.3 miles! The Health and Fitness Expo runs throughout the weekend at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and features the latest in running technology and fashion, as well as renowned running experts like Jeff Galloway, the official training consultant for runDisney.

With so much to plan for, here are some not-to-be-missed tips for both those who will be running the course, and those who will be cheering them on, from seasoned runner and Team AllEars® running team member Daniel Rajnik. (Note that these tips apply to most runDisney events at the Disney parks, not just the Walt Disney World Marathon — Princess Half Marathon, anyone?)

Info Symbol


Stay at a Disney resort if you can. You'll maximize your sleep time the night before race day. Plus, you'll let the Disney buses fight the traffic for you.

If your family is traveling with you to cheer you on in your marathon adventure, make it easy on them and stay at a resort along the racecourse. The Boardwalk area resorts (Boardwalk Inn, Beach Club, Yacht Club, Swan/Dolphin) put them right on the course when you need their support the most — the last few miles.

Be Prepared! Many Disney races require more walking in addition to the miles in the actual race. For example, walking from the corrals to the start line, the finish line to bag pick-up, walking through the parks to get to the buses… keep that in mind when training!

Pack your patience and check your running gels! Consider TSA rules on liquids before packing any hydration or running gels in your carry-on luggage.

Keep in mind that the marathon will still be going on when Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Epcot are opening up for regular park guests. Guests not associated with the marathon may want to make Magic Kingdom their park choice for that morning.

If you are flying to Walt Disney World for marathon weekend, be sure to pack your running shoes in your carry-on bag (and running clothes, if you have the room). If your luggage gets lost, the one thing that you don't want to have to break in race-morning is new shoes!

Read all of the race info and become familiar with how everything works BEFORE the race. It will help you navigate the pre and post areas. Become familiar with race day etiquette as well, this will help you during the race, and you will be helping out your fellow runners as well!

thumbs up


Make sure you give yourself enough time to enjoy the race expo at the Wide World of Sports complex. There are all kinds of wonderful keepsakes to shop for and special “runDisney” merchandise just for the marathon weekend.

Packet pick-up (where runners go to get their race credentials) is at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. It's essential you give yourself enough time to get there and pick-up your race materials. We ran into several people last year in the Magic Kingdom and Epcot who thought they could pick-up their stuff at the parks.

If you get to Walt Disney World and discover you forgot a key piece of running gear and you don't have a car – don't worry. The runner's expo has everything you need and each Walt Disney World resort has bus service to and from the expo.

Race expos are fun to check out, but if you are going to buy new running gear at the expo, DO NOT use it for your race that weekend. Wear something you are comfortable in already, that has been tested on one of your long runs.

for Runners


Think about breakfast! Consider if you can get your normal Pre-race meal at your resort or if you need to bring it with you.

Get a good night's sleep two days before your race because the night before the race you'll be up early and probably won't sleep anyway.

The counter service restaurant opened early at our resort for both the Half and Full marathon mornings, but NOT the 5K morning. Make sure you pick up some snacks the night before so that you aren't starving during the race.

The 5K race starts early enough that it is still dark. If you are doing it as a family, make it more fun and stop at your local Party Store and pick-up some glow bracelets and necklaces for really cheap. This will really help emphasize the "fun" in the 5K Fun Run!

Thank the volunteers! If it weren't for them, we wouldn't have the races.

Because of traffic and the number of people participating in the events, be ready to get on the first bus out of your resort, so you are not stuck in traffic getting to the pre-race area. Because of this, you could potentially be in the pre-race area for a long time. Bring pre-race food and water or power drinks with you.

The Disney races have lots of characters, including many you no longer see in the parks, so make sure you run with a camera.

Don't overdo the parks the morning of a night race, or the day before a morning race. Remember, you want to enjoy the race. If you are in pain even before the race starts, you will not have a great experience.

For colder races, bring clothes to 'toss'. Old sweatshirts, sweatpants, long sleeved shirts, gloves, etc. will help you stay warm before the race, and the clothes tossed on the sides of the racecourse will be picked up, cleaned and donated to charity by Disney.

For the 5K, go out in the first corral. This will allow you plenty of time for character pictures and not worry about any cut-off.

for Cheerers


You may be able to see your runner twice during the race. Catch your runner as they go through the Magic Kingdom, then jump on the monorail and get to the finish line outside of Epcot.

If you plan to cheer for your runner on Main Street, get there when the park opens for spectators to enter (about 5:30). Spots along Main Street fill up fast, especially near the castle.

For the marathon: If your runner has more than a 10-minute per mile pace (and you don't care about being at the finish line) you can see them twice in World Showcase. Wait by the Rose and Crown in the UK. When your runner goes by, head toward Canada and the World Showcase Plaza. You should be able to see them as they head to Future World.

You can get great unobstructed photos of you and the castle on the race days. Simply go to Main Street to cheer and stay until all runners have passed. Cast members won't rush you out and you'll get fantastic photo ops!

Make sure you know your runner's pace and the course map. This will help you plan your viewing locations and the time it may take to get there.

If you don't catch the buses early as a spectator, be prepared to catch a cab. You really need to be on the buses almost when the runners are.

If you are watching in the Magic Kingdom for the Goofy Challenge on both days: This year the marathon course is the same as the Half Marathon course when it enters the Magic Kingdom. Don't stand in the same place both days. Some recommended spots: The 6 o'clock center of the hub in front of the Partner Statue, by the Tomorrowland Bridge, and the corner of the Emporium facing the runners coming in from backstage.

For taking pictures of your runners, plan to either use a flash or have a low aperture lens for your DSLR.

Caution: The Monorail from the Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC) to Epcot will typically have a long line. The cast members do a good job of moving things along, but you can expect to spend about a half-hour or more at this stop.

Usually the coffee kiosk in the Contemporary is open at 5 a.m. and provides delicious coffee (as opposed to the NESCAFE served in the parks). This means you can grab a latte before you walk into the Magic Kingdom to find your spot to view the race.



Post-race tip: get up and walk around after the race, it is a good idea to keep your muscles from tightening up. Take a slow stroll around your resort or around Downtown Disney where there are plenty of places to sit down if you need it!

Wear your medals proudly the day of the race, and the day following. You will get congrats from the cast members, other runners, and park guests!

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

For more information about the Walt Disney World Marathon and Half Marathon, and other runDisney events, visit

Read more about the Team AllEars® Running Team and follow their journey as they race toward the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend in their blog:


Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.