Training for the Disney Marathon – Part 14 – Spectating and Cheering for Runners

Join Trey Brush on a 20 part weekly journey as he previews one of the best marathon's in the world, the Walt Disney World Marathon on January 11th, 2015!  He will share his current training as well as his past experience from the great event.  To find all his past posts please click here!

I have had the chance to run this race many times since 2007.  One of the reasons I really enjoy running the marathon and not the 13.1 is that it gives me the opportunity to cheer on my family and other runners on the 13.1 race day.  Being a support to others is a great way to experience the Disney Marathon Weekend. 

If you are running and taking family with you on marathon weekend, maybe this can help them.  If you are like me and running on one of the race days, let this be your guide for how to watch and cheer others on.  I am going to focus on both the 13.1 and the marathon.  Let’s start with the 13.1.

One of the first things you have to decide is, “what is most important?”  You have to make the decision in order of what and where you want to see the race.  Is the finish line a high priority for you?  If the finish line is important you really have to decide how important the other parts of the race are.  Depending upon the speed of your runner it can make a big difference.  If you are watching a runner inside the Magic Kingdom or close to the Polynesian Resort you could be looking at 40-60 minutes before they are done.  In that time you need to get all the way back to Epcot to see them finish.  So let’s just talk locations.  You need to do the math ahead of time.  Understand how fast your runner is and determine what are their estimated times will be at each mile.  Runner tracking is available, but don’t completely rely on it.  Over the years the runner tracking has been hit or miss with getting updates.

Locations for Spectators

1. The Start

Start line

Simple enough right.  You will not be alone in the start area.  Now, the start area is not the start line.  You will be on the runners left after the start of the race.  One thing to think about, it is dark and hard to see.  Seeing your runner here will be the most challenging spot of the race.  If this is where you start, you need to decide where to next.  Do you hang out in this area or do you follow your runner.  You need to be quick and hop on the monorail.  If you do the math and your runner is quick, seeing them will be a challenge at other spots.

2. Ticket and Transportation Center  

Ticket and Transportation center

This is the 2nd location to view your runner.  Personally this is one of my favorites.  Many times I will start here and either go around to the Grand Floridian or Polynesian and watch again or head back to the finish.  If you are hoping to start in a location and go to another, this is a great place.

3. Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom main street

This is by far the most popular location.  I don’t think I need to tell you why but you will be lined up on Main Street.  I would suggest getting there early.  If you do the Magic Kingdom your best bet is to head back to the Finish Line after you see your runner.

4. Resorts 

Grand Floridian

You have a few to choose from.  I have seen a few people in front of the Contemporary but you really need to be staying there because it is hard to get to.  The other options are the Polynesian and Grand Floridian.  These usually have good support in front of them and they are very easy to walk to.

5. Epcot


There are actually a handful of places you can watch from around Epcot.  First you can get them as they are getting ready to enter into Epcot.  This is just past mile #12.  I like doing this because it is not overcrowded and I can see really well and if I hustle I can make it to the finish line as well.  The final location is the finish line which will be crowded but it is worth it.  There is nothing like seeing the faces as they approach that finish line!

On to the Marathon..

The marathon is a little different.  Since the distance is 26.2 you have more time, unless you are cheering for the winner who might run it in less than 2 ½ hours.  I have nothing for you!  What you do for the marathon depends on how much effort you want to put into it.  I have only ever run the marathon, so I am going by what I have seen alone. Getting around property might be challenging, but it is doable based on the effort you are willing to put in. 

I won’t talk about the first few options because those don’t change except that it is a longer race so now you have a decision to make: the start area, TTC, Resorts around the Magic Kingdom and the Magic Kingdom itself. Do you go other places or just go back to the finish area and watch the runners come in?  It is really important to know the speed of your runner?  This will give you an idea of when they will be arriving in different area.

The final location we left off was at the Polynesian Resort.  If you watch runners at this point even if you are following a runner who is pretty quick, they still have a couple of hours left to run from that point. 

1. Animal Kingdom

animal kingdom safari

Animal Kingdom is the next and most logical point for you to see runners next.  The only trick is the majority of runners will come through this park before it opens.  If you want to see runners here, it will have to be as they run around in front of the park.  I would say this is not an ideal location but it is an option. 

2. Wide World of Sports  

Wide world of sports complex

This is one of those places if you can get to it, you can have some great views.  The trick will be getting there and back to the finish in time.  I am not sure how difficult that is.

3. Hollywood Studios 

Hollywood studios

This is a pretty solid location.  It is getting very late in the race and for a good number of runners the park will be opening so you would have access to see them.

4. Trail of Pain

Not really but it feels that way a lot of the time.  This is what I call the stretch of this race that goes from the Hollywood Studios to Epcot.  If you don’t care about seeing the finish this is an amazing spot where you can get up close.  There are spots starting outside Hollywood studios, along the water to the Boardwalk, over the bridge and down by the Yacht Club and Beach Club resorts.  There is great viewing all along this route until the runners go into Epcot.

5. Epcot

It will depend on the speed of the runner.  Epcot might or might not be open but for many runners, it is open.  You can’t go into the World Showcase but you can line up in Epcot and get a great view of your runner.

6. Finish Line

finish line

As you see, there are a ton of options.  The biggest piece of advice I would give you is to grab a map of Disney World, understand your runners speed and make a plan early.  Don’t wing it, plan it. The other piece of advice is, don’t stress. Enjoy getting around and seeing what you can see and don’t try to do too much.

So, let’s get back to the race. 

Last time we left off on the walkway from Hollywood Studios to the Boardwalk Resort area.

After you pass under the overpass and hit mile #24 you will have a chance to get hydrated.  I would take the hydration.  You are getting so close.  On a warmer marathon day you will feel it along this stretch.  The sun will be overhead and there is not too much shade to be found.  You will also begin to notice more and more people along the side of the course cheering.  You will pass the Boardwalk resort on your right.

Just ahead you will take a left away from the Boardwalk resort and an immediate right over a small bridge and one more right turn to start your trek to Epcot.  You will pass the Yacht Club and Beach Club resorts.  You will pass the pool and I always imagine how nice it would be to dive in.  After you pass the Beach Club it is another small incline and you will take a left to enter the backstage area of Epcot.

You will have one last chance to grab some hydration as you get backstage.  You will enter into the World Showcase area of Epcot around the UK area and take a right to go counter clockwise and go towards that last mile.  As you cross the bridge from the UK to France you will hit mile marker #25. 

You know what that means 1.2 miles to go!

Next up…we talk about the schedule for marathon weekend.  We also finish the course preview of the marathon!