On Sunday, Jan 8th, 2017, I took part in the Walt Disney World Marathon. Last year I ran 17 races including two Marathons in November (TCS New York City Marathon and Philadelphia Marathon). I was fresh off what I called my back-to-back championship medals and basically decided to take the entire month of December off from running. I still went to the gym, but stayed as far away from objects that moved when you press go. I wore shorts on the plane. Why? Well, it’s January and I’m going to Florida. I obviously didn’t check the weather report. –Cue Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s—Well, it was freezing Saturday and Sunday would be no different. This is not your typical Orlando weather so I don’t want to scare anyone away from doing this wonderful race. Here are 7 things to remember if you’re planning to use a marathon as your excuse to visit Disney World.
- The scheduled wake up time is real. This if for all you race junkies who enjoy waking up for 8:00am corral call. The race starts at 5:30am. Yes, you read correctly, 5:30am. It is also key to note that the last shuttle bus leaves most properties at 5:00am and some say 4:30am. It is important to check with the concierge for details. The powers to be apparently don’t want 20,000 runners interrupting where they really make their winnings, all the families who are there to see the actual park.
- Staying on property is key. While most people will tell you that the only way to get there is the shuttle bus. They’re wrong. I was staying at the Walt Disney Swan, which is pretty close to the boardwalk and Epcot. It’s not walking distance to the corral/start, but it was a very short $8 taxi ride. And we pulled right in. This allowed me an extra hour of much needed sleep. I’d say 8 bucks is a small price to pay.
- The Expo. If you’re running your first marathon or you 20th marathon, you have to love the Expo. It first is a place for anyone who forgot something, including shoes. The Expo is a big part of the fun. I always go get my bib/packet first. Then I check out the official gear. Then I go look at all the product vendor booths. There is where you’ll see the latest and greatest.
- Ignore what the bloggers say about poor runner’s etiquette. I read quite a few reviews that talked about the poor runner’s etiquette. They mostly talk about elbowing, pushing and stopping abruptly. I actually think I saw more hand signals here than any other race I’ve ever run. I didn’t see a single person get elbowed or pushed. I mean, it’s Disney, who’s coming to this race with anything other than smiles and giggles?
- Be prepared to have fun. As previously stated, this is Disney World at its finest. The course has some dead zones. But the highs definitely outweigh them. You run around and thru the castle. You trot pass Goofy in a goofy outfit. You take pictures with Donald Duck. The green toy soldier? He’s hilarious. The Animal Kingdom is pure fun. But ending in Epcot is epic. This might just be the marathon that you’ll have the most fun running. Time? Who cares about time when the trade-off is standing in line to get your picture taking with characters at almost every mile? You’ll get to be a kid again for 6 or 7 hours.
- Dressing up is half the fun. You’ll see more Disney themed costumes than anywhere other single event. I must have run by 50 Incredibles. You name a Disney character and you’ll see them at least twice on the course. So think of something good and don’t be ashamed to dress up.
- It’s still a marathon. I often describe fun easy going places to be “Like Disney World”. Well, this IS Disney World. However, do not forget it is still a 26.2 mile run. They are the most lenient on time, but again, it’s still 26.2 miles. I highly recommend training for this like any other marathon or you’ll risk getting into trouble. Train hard. Be safe. Have fun!