In Part III of our series on following your runner during Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend Jessica Atawonta and Dave Aulen summarize all that they and their families have learned regarding how to follow runners during the half and full marathons on that weekend.
Here are those helpful hints that we hope they help you successfully watch your runner during these races:
- Before each race study and become familiar with the course. Study the course map. Check the http://espnwwos.disney.go.com/events/rundisney/spectator-tool on the runDisney website. It allows you to input your runner’s expected running pace or finishing time and then choose from different viewpoints, and it gives you instructions on getting from spot to spot.
- Give yourself plenty of extra time. As mentioned before, traffic on these two days can be slow and frustrating. When the roads are closed you will be detoured which will add to your travel time.
- During the races ask cast members what transportation options are available. The original plan for the full marathon was for Jessica’s family to go from the Magic Kingdom to the TTC and get a bus from there to the Animal Kingdom. There were no buses running between the two parks at that time and they had to take the monorail to Epcot and take the bus from there to Animal Kingdom.
- Stay in contact with your runner as much as possible. Let your runner know by phone or text where you are standing. Your runners should give a call or text when getting close to your location. This would allow the spectators to start looking for their runners and for runners to know specifically where their cheering section is. It takes
a long time for texts to get through sometimes though so if you need to get in contact with your runner or spectator quickly, the best thing is a phone call. If that is not possible then sign up BEFORE the race for tracking notices to monitor where your runner is at certain points in the race.
- It’s easier for your runner to find you than for you to find your runner. There are thousands of runners to look through to find that one familiar face. Wear something distinctive for your runner to look for. This can be a bright piece of clothing, or a brightly colored and distinctive sign. Jessica’s dad wore a bright colored hat that I
could spot quickly in a crowd. Dave now has a bright red Team AllEars shirt for Holly to spot him. In our experience the runner always sees their cheering section before the cheering section sees the runner.
- When you tell your runner where you are located be as specific as you can. If you just say Main Street, it will be more difficult for your runner to find you than if you say you are in front of a specific store on Main Street.
- Spectators have more time to get to Main Street to see their runners for the full marathon. During the half marathon, runners come through the Magic Kingdom around mile 5. The full marathon runs through the Magic Kingdom around mile 10. The marathon relay should have similar mileage milestone points as the full marathon.
- The only park open early for spectators both days of WDW Marathon Weekend is the Magic Kingdom. To be seen in any of the other parks, your runner will have to be slow enough for the park to be open by the time that park opens. You will have to use a
park ticket to get into those parks to cheer for your runner. This was the best thing about being a “slow” runner. Jessica’s family got into Animal Kingdom just after the 9:00 am opening and was able to get into World Showcase soon after the 11:00 am opening. If runners are really fast, they will be through these parks before they open. The best bet for seeing fast runners is to go to places outside of the parks. The Magic Kingdom has the left side of Main Street open at 5:30 am on race mornings and does not require park admission to get in.
- When you get to the park to see your runner, go to the furthest place of the course they could be at and then walk against the grain to find a good spot. An example of this strategy is; in World Showcase full marathon runners come in between the UK and
France pavilions and go counterclockwise around the lagoon to the front of Epcot. If you are unsure of where your runner is, the best bet would be to start at the front left of Epcot and walk around World Showcase clockwise to your favorite viewing location.
- Before the races start arrange with your runner to meet in a certain spot after they finish. The last thing runners want to do after running 26.2 miles was stroll around the family meeting area trying to find their group. There are tents with letters on them, pick one (maybe your last name?) and plan to meet there.
- What’s the most important tip? HAVE FUN!! Cheer for everyone, it lifts the runner’s spirits and can be a really great time for those cheering too!