Registration is just around the corner for the granddaddy of all RunDisney races, the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend! Are you thinking about running? With race distances starting from an untimed, non-competitive family fun run 5K (3.1 miles) all the way up to the full marathon (26.2 miles), there is a distance for every person and ability.
Over the next week, in a four-part series, we will explain everything you need to know about the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, including what it has to offer, how to get signed up and how to prepare for your race.
Not convinced running is for you? Here are the top five reasons why you should think about lacing up your running shoes next January:
1. See the parks in a whole new way
Have you ever had the chance to say you’ve covered all four Walt Disney World parks in just a few hours? Run the Walt Disney World Marathon, and you can check that one off your bucket list! How about running around EPCOT in the dark, with the torches lit up? Or feel like you are the star of the Magic Kingdom Parade as you run up Main Street with hundreds of cheering spectators? Even if you have been to the parks 900 times, I guarantee you will find a new experience when you participate in one (or all!) of the marathon weekend events.
2. Start your year off right with a healthy resolution
I think the most popular New Year’s Resolution is starting a new fitness or health routine. Sure, you can accomplish that by hitting your local gym and running on the treadmill but wouldn’t it be more fun to kick your year off with a jaunt around Walt Disney World? It’s the perfect way to jump start your resolution goals and help motivate you to maintain healthy habits all year long.
3. Rare character meet and greets
Disney pulls out all the stops on course entertainment – including rare meet and greets. Some of the characters I have seen along the course include a group photo with all the princes, Jack and Sally from the Nightmare Before Christmas, the evil hag from Snow White, Tinkerbell and all her fairy friends, Cinderella’s mice, Vacation Genie, Haunted Mansion Gravediggers, Mickey and Minnie in royal attire, a group of villains, and so much more! While the lines for the character stops can get very long, very quickly, there is always the option for a selfie as you run by, if you don’t choose to stop.
4. Beginner friendly, non-intimating road races – or a great chance to run a personal best
While there are time limits for each course (after all, Disney does have to open up the roads eventually for all the other guests who are not competing in the race that morning!), Disney races are still one of the most beginner friendly race series in the country. The courses can be quite fast (the only real “hills” on the course are highway ramps) as long as the weather cooperates, and there is so much entertainment along the entire course to keep you amused. However, the best part, I think, is that runners come in all paces, all shapes, and all sizes. If you are worried that you are not a traditional “runner” and you don’t “belong” in a race, it is an entirely unfounded fear. As long as you can maintain the 16 minute per mile pace requirement, you can run, run/walk or walk the course – and I guarantee that you will not be alone. On the other side of the coin, if you are an experienced, competitive runner looking to run a personal best, there is absolutely no reason you can’t run a smoking fast race if you choose. Whether you are looking to place in your age group, conquer a new distance, or just join the party – a Disney race is entirely what you make of it.
5. The perfect excuse for a run-cation
I mean, if you sign up for a Disney race, that is guaranteeing you a vacation to Disney World, am I right or am I right?! Marathon Weekend is actually one of my favorite times to go. The weather typically is not unbearably hot, resort pricing is not as high as compared to the summer, and since this year’s Marathon weekend is the weekend after New Year’s, the crowds should be nice and manageable. Plus, is there any place in the world better to celebrate a big accomplishment than Walt Disney World? I think not!
6. Bonus – the BLING!
Did you know every finisher is awarded a gorgeous medal at the end of each race? Each finisher’s medal is themed to a different Disney character, and it’s a unique piece of Disney memorabilia that you can’t buy in any store – you have to earn it! And in true Disney style, you will be treated like a rock star when you walk around with your medal after your race.
Choosing a Race Distance
Now that I’ve convinced you to sign up, it’s time to choose a race distance! The weekend kicks off on Thursday, January 10th with the 5K (3.1 miles) hosted by Pluto. Ages 5 and over are welcome for this family friendly non-competitive event around EPCOT. Although RunDisney does ask all runners to maintain a 16-minute per mile pace, this is not strictly enforced as the race is not timed (with the exception of Dopey Challenge participants.)
Friday brings Minnie Mouse’s 10K race (6.2 miles) on a course similar to the 5K with some extra mileage on the highways outside of EPCOT. Please note this race is a competitive, time road race with a 16mm pace requirement and an age restriction of 10 years or older. Don’t get me wrong – it’s still a fun filled RunDisney event, complete with Disney magic and characters. However, unlike the 5K the day before, the pacing requirement will be enforced more strictly.
The distances start to get much longer as the weekend progress. Saturday is Donald Duck’s half marathon (13.1 miles) race through Magic Kingdom and EPCOT. Like the 10K the day before, all runners must maintain a 16-minute per mile throughout the race, and must be 14 years old to participate.
Want to run through all four Disney Parks? Then there is no other race besides the full marathon (26.2 miles), hosted by the main mouse himself, Mickey Mouse! All runners must be at least 18 years old and maintain a 16-minute per mile pace.
Looking to add extra miles to your weekend? Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge is the classic race challenge – half marathon on Saturday, full marathon on Sunday for 39.3 miles covered for the weekend and an extra challenge medal. For the ultimate racing challenge, the Dopey Challenge (a whopping 48.6 miles over four days) entails all four races, and an additional two challenge medals (6 in total!) to those who can successfully complete the challenge.
Although it is absolutely possible to successfully complete these challenges with no prior marathon experience, you should have at least one marathon finish under your belt before tackling these grueling race challenges. For a more relaxing challenge, check out the Castaway Cay Challenge, a chance to run a 5K on Disney Cruise Line’s exclusive private island, immediately after Marathon Weekend.
Don’t forget about the littles! Kid’s Races, hosted at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports, include the diaper dash all the way through the one mile race, depending on age and ability.
Registration for the 2019 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend opens April 17.
Ready to sign up? Check back for the next post in the series on registration.