So if you want to know about the Disney World Marathon Weekend, you have to go way back. You also have to start with the running community in Orlando and Jon Hughes. You don’t talk running and Disney without Jon Hughes. The very first endurance event to be run on property was in 1979 followed by a 5 mile race in 1980. I was told that working with Disney was a lot different from a logistics point of view! That was back when Disney World was one park.
Jon had a vision of the Disney World Marathon years before the actual birth of Disney Marathon weekend. His vision was way ahead of his time. When Disney came calling and the time was ready, it was just a matter of dusting off the playbook he had made years ago. At the 1993 Boston Marathon they introduced the Disney World Marathon. They had about 7,000 runners the very first year of 1994 and would have been the largest first year marathon had they not been a little nervous and capped the event at that point. Talk about coming in with a boom! 7,000 marathon runners in the very first year!
When I think Disney Marathon winners, I think about Brazil and I think about Adriano Bastos. He won 6 years in a row, but has been given some real competition from some of his fellow countrymen in the past few years. The last and only American to win was Matthew Dobson in 2004. The women’s results have been much different because American’s have provided the majority of the wins with a total of 10. Including the 2011 winner Leah Thorvilson, one of my favorite marathoners.
Disney introduced the idea of the 13.1 in 1998. Through the 2005 race, both events were raced on the same day and in 2006 they introduced the Goofy challenge. The races have been run on different days since that year. I think RunDisney is probably credited most with keeping Disney Parks packed year round. During what would be slower times of the years in the parks, Disney has provided a race and now brings in tens of thousands of runners and families. They do this by creating an amazing experience for the runners and guests for the races.
So how do I get in the Race?
In a word….Quickly! Gone are the days where you registered in December for a January race. My first Disney Marathon I think I registered about 2 months before. Now there are plenty of races that fill up in 2 hours! So plan ahead. Follow RunDisney via e-mail and social media and keep up with important dates. The marathon and Goofy Challenge are the slowest to fill up of the races on marathon weekend. If you want to run the Dopey, 5k, 10k or 13.1 you better be on top of your game and register quickly.
This is my only regret with these races. Sometimes I don’t know what I want to run a race 8-9 months in advance. I fear Disney might be going the way of the rest of the lottery driven races. I hope not, but selling out races in just minutes is crazy stuff. When RunDisney released the Star Wars running event in Disneyland it was sold out before I knew registration was even open! So my message is be alert and be quick!
Now back to the course...
So last week we left off passing the TTC (Ticket and Transportation Center). This week we will pick up right there.
So after leaving the TTC and the wall of cheering, you need to back it down. Whether you are running the 13.1 or the 26.2 it is a long race still so after all that excitement stay in control. One thing to know about the next few miles, it gets narrow and it is still dark, so watch your step. After you pass the water stop we narrow down into one lane. It gets really narrow and it is really dark with very little street lighting in this area. Guess what?! After almost 5 miles of nice flat running, you get a hill. As you approach the Contemporary Resort, you will go under the waterway that connects Bay Lake with Seven Seas Lagoon. Look up! There is usually a DJ or a character on top of the waterway. The hill will feel stressful because you have not run any hills to this point. That being said, the hill is good for you and will break up the monotonous flat step after flat step. Once you crest the hill and pass the contemporary, you will pass mile marker #5.
The two miles you are now running might be one of the biggest highlights of the race for you. The crowds at the TTC are fantastic, the crowds in the Magic Kingdom are overwhelming. As a runner who has completed a good number of marathons, it takes a bit for me to get emotional on any level. Running up Main Street in the Magic Kingdom does it every time.
After you pass mile marker #5 you will take a left to head towards the Magic Kingdom. With every step you will hear it getting louder. You will know what is ahead. You initially follow a bus path and then take a right hand turn and go back stage. If you are familiar with the Magic Kingdom you enter from the side right into the area between Tony’s Town Square and the candy store. You will be hit right in the race with the noise, the music, the lights down Main Street and on the castle, the cheering fans and the emotions. It is almost a sensory overload. The worst part is just how quickly you are off of Main Street. I encourage others to slow it down in the Magic Kingdom just a bit.
A couple of reasons for this. First, there are a quite a number turns and it is very crowded. That combined with the footing not being perfect in a theme park and you should exercise some caution. Second, enjoy the moment. Most of this race is not run in front of large crowds, so enjoy the moment. Running this mile a few seconds slower will not be a problem at all.
You will begin to navigate through the Magic Kingdom. As you do, you will turn into Tomorrowland and run up into Fantasyland. You will exit Fantastyland right through the middle of the castle. Be sure and smile and give a good pose. One year I looked as if I just woke up or was at the end of a 24 hour run. I looked like I was sleep running! This makes for a great photo opportunity. As you come down hill out of the castle you will run into Liberty Square and turn left into Frontierland. In this area you will hit Mile Marker #6.
I will go ahead and take us out of the park. After you pass mile 6 you will continue to go straight to enter a backstage area right between Peco’s Bill and Splash Mountain. You will go up a slight incline and head back stage. Waiting for you backstage is usually a little entertainment and your next water stop. I usually encourage getting a splash of water right here. Because of the excitement you probably went harder than you should. You have a nice long stretch ahead of you. Get hydrated and head out of the park. Make sure to watch your step through the guard shack. It can get slick. Get ready to run strong mentally, the next few miles turn into a bit of a grind.