The Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend Experience

The Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend Experience
walt disney world marathon weekend logo

I started running while I was in college. I really enjoyed it and found myself training for and running 5k after 5k after 5k. I started to crave a longer, more challenging race and decided that a half marathon would be the perfect challenge. Then, I learned about the epic runDisney races and it was a no brainer. My desire for a longer distance paired with my love of Disney made this the perfect place to start.

My dad had previously ran several Disney races so we decided that we would run the half marathon during the January 2010 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend together. He really took the lead on creating our training schedule and setting up the logistics for us to travel to Orlando, Florida for the race.

Here is my breakdown of our race training and prep and our before, during, and after the race experiences.

Training for the Walt Disney World Half Marathon

As a 5k is 3.1 miles and a half marathon is 13.1 miles, I had a ways to go to boost up my endurance and to add more mileage into my training. One of the best ways to add mileage is to add a mile to your distance every week. Often runners will continue to do several 1-4 mile short runs throughout the week and then do their long runs on the weekends. This is exactly how my dad and I trained. We did short runs throughout the week on our own and often met up on the weekends for the long runs.

Jeff Galloway Run-Walk-Run

In addition to adding mileage each week, we decided that we were going to run the race using Jeff Galloway‘s run-walk-run method.

list of run-walk-run ratios
Jeff Galloway’s website and his books are great resources for this type of training.

We decided to pace ourselves at a 12 minute per mile training pace in order to finish the race in a little over two and a half hours. For our pace, we would run two minutes then walk one minute and repeat. Training in this way makes the distance much more manageable and also greatly decreases the risk of injury.

Often people think that they have to run 13 miles prior to a half marathon which is not always the case. We trained up to 12 miles with the race day being our 13 mile run day. Since we were already comfortable at a 5k distance, we were able to start training 8-10 weeks out before the race and this gave us plenty of time to work up to the half marathon distance.

Before the Walt Disney World Half Marathon

The runDisney Health & Fitness Expo

We arrived in Orlando, Florida a few days prior to the race and attended the runDisney Health & Fitness expo to pick up our race bibs and packets. Big races always have incredible expos full of running vendors selling goods and other activities to get you pumped and excited for the race ahead.

rundisney health and fitness expo photos
In addition to our race bibs and packets, we even picked up disposable jackets to wear for the race.

Race Prep

The morning before the race, we went for a short 6am run to prepare to help get our bodies accustomed for the race the next morning.

early morning photo
Getting a taste of running in the dark and cold.

The evening before the run, we loaded up on carbs with pasta for dinner and set out our race stuff so that we would be prepared for the next morning. I set out every article of clothing and race gear, even down to the safety pens for my race number which were already pinned in the holes of my bib so that they would be easy to find. This step is so important so that you are prepared for an early morning run.

photo of race clothing and gear
I spy my old iPod Shuffle. Talk about a throwback!

Walt Disney World Half Marathon Race Day

Before the Race

On race day, we woke up at 2:30am to get dressed and to fuel for the race. These races have very early start times as the entire race needs to start and end before the parks open up to guests.

photo of mollyann at 2:30am
I was barely feeling awake in this photo but I managed to eat half of a bagel, a banana, and hydrated with some Powerade.

It was freezing that morning, literally a record cold day for Florida which was a bit unexpected. Here I am wearing 3 layers of shirts including the race shirt that I had just received at the expo and I am wearing a bandana to serve as a bit of a scarf.

photo of mollyann dressed for the race
Pointing in case you can’t see my race number.

We even put on additional layers and then took a shuttle to the race start.

photos of being bundled up for the race
Isn’t Florida supposed to be warm?!

There was an area where we could store our belongings during the race. Once our belongings were stored, we wore some additional disposable layers that we could shed as the weather and our bodies warmed up during the race. It was very cold just standing around and waiting for the race to start.

photos wearing trashbags
Our disposable layers consisted of trash bags and white disposable jackets. It’s a cute look, right?
crowded race start photo
We were in Corral C. They organize runners in order of their qualifying speeds with Corral A being the fastest runners who start off the race.

There were fireworks, music, and of course Disney characters getting everyone hyped up for the race to begin.

photo of mickey mouse, minnie mouse, donald duck, and goofy

During the Race

When we started running, it was still dark out but we quickly shed our layers. Below, is a rather dark photo in front of the castle in Magic Kingdom. By the time we ran through Epcot, the sun had finally come up. One of the most shocking parts of the race is that you run through the parks just a little bit. You spend most of the race running on the road between parks. They do have photo worthy mile markers and additional characters along the way though.

photos at magic kingdom and epcot

The Finish Line

After running 13.1 miles in the bitter cold we finally finished. Here we are crossing the finish line!

finish line photos
The guy on my right is STRUGGLING.

I’m not going to lie, this race was tough. It rained, it sleated, and it even snowed a bit. While we were running, it was manageable but almost immediately after we stopped running, our body temps dropped. Our clothes were soaked and I was shaking like a leaf. These tin foil blankets were much needed to insulate our body heat.

photos wearing tin foil blankets
We did it!
photos with race medals

photo with goofy
Did you know that Disney has a Goofy Challenge where you run the half marathon then the next day you run the marathon? My dad has done it!

After the Race

As soon as we returned back to the hotel room, I took a hot shower and then napped in the fetal position for several hours. Once we had recovered, we returned to the parks and had a chance to enjoy the rides.

To this day, this is the longest race that I have run and I am really proud to have completed it. There is a lot of prep and training for a long distance run. My biggest regret after the run is that I did not keep up my mileage. Instead, I actually took a bit of a break from running through the winter and became what I like to call a “seasonal runner”. I much prefer running when it is a nice day. A temperature of around 60 degrees is my ideal running weather.

My dad and I did return a few years later to run the Inaugural Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler race in 2012 which was an evening run.

tower of terror logo
It doesn’t look like they have this race anymore!

Upcoming runDisney Events

I think that every runner aspires to run a Disney race one day. However, they do sell out rather quickly so you will want to plan your run pretty far in advance and register as soon as registration opens in order to secure your spot. The Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend takes places annually in January but they also host several other popular races:

  • Following the Walt Disney World Marathon weekend, in February is the Disney Princess Half Marathon. I totally thought that the Princess Half was only for the ladies. However, the website encourages both Princes and Princesses to participate!
  • The notorious Disney villains even get their own race! The Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend is described as being “Wickedly Delicious.”
  • Sadly, the Star Wars Rival Run Weekend was canceled this year but it would be amazing especially with the new Star Wars park being open for all of you Star Wars lovers out there!
race logos

To follow along with updated race weekend information and updates, you can visit or follow them on Instagram at @rundisney.

Love Disney? I interviewed my friend Michelle Clark for an Expat Chat and she has recently started up a fun Disney-inspired enamel pin company, Chipadeedoodahs. Definitely check it out!