Welcome aboard the Special Edition Magical Blogorail Loop, where we embark on a magical journey through a year of runDisney events.
There’s something about pregnancy that ignites a desire to run, and for me, it was during my first pregnancy that I decided to take on the challenge of long-distance running. It all began when my husband and I signed up for the Walt Disney World Half Marathon in January of 2011, just 13 months after our son was born. Little did I know that this would become the start of my running journey.
Previously, I wrote an overview about Marathon Weekend on another Special Edition of the Magical Blogorail, but that was a more generalized account of the entire weekend, rather than focusing solely on the races themselves.
In recent years, I had the unique experience of participating in Marathon Weekend while six months pregnant. Despite not being able to physically run, I still took part in the festivities by participating in the 5k and cheering on my husband, friends, and other runners during the half marathon. It was a different perspective from my first Marathon Weekend in 2011, but nevertheless, it was still a remarkable experience. I even had the opportunity to meet Mary Poppins, Bert, and a Penguin outside the Grand Floridian, adding to the magic of the event.
Marathon Weekend, held in early January at Walt Disney World, offers several different events that cater to runners of all ages and abilities.
One of the highlights is the Marathon Weekend Race Expo, which takes place from Thursday to Sunday at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. This bustling event showcases various athletic apparel and accessories vendors, as well as hosting informative lectures and providing information about race options.
For those with young ones, the Family Festival Kid’s Races are a must-visit. These races cater to children of all ages, starting with the adorable 50-meter diaper dash and going up to a one-mile race. With DJs and entertainers keeping the little runners engaged, it’s truly a Disney-inspired experience.
The 5k is a popular option for many participants, covering a distance of 3.1 miles and taking place early in the morning on Friday. Each year, the 5k features a unique theme. In 2011, it was based on Buzz and Woody and their friends, while in 2012, the theme focused on the Three Caballeros. The route takes runners through EPCOT’s World Showcase and Future World, offering picturesque views and plenty of character photo opportunities.
The Half Marathon, covering 13.1 miles, takes place early in the morning on Saturday and requires participants to be at the Epcot parking lot before 5 a.m. The route takes runners from behind Epcot toward the Magic Kingdom, passing through the Ticket and Transportation Center and immersing runners in the enchanting atmosphere of Main Street, U.S.A., Fantasyland, and even venturing through Cinderella Castle. After a quick tour of Future World in EPCOT, runners head towards the finish line, their spirits soaring from the incredible experience.
For those seeking a more challenging feat, the Full Marathon stretches over 26.2 miles and commences early in the morning on Sunday. Unlike the Half Marathon, the Full Marathon takes runners through all four theme parks at Walt Disney World. The exact route may vary from year to year, providing a thrilling surprise for participants.
No matter which race you choose, there are abundant opportunities for memorable photos with characters, live musicians, DJs, and support from local high school bands. Water, sports drinks, and food stations are conveniently placed along the course, ensuring runners stay hydrated and energized throughout their run. Additionally, some of the major attractions, such as the Tower of Terror and Expedition Everest, offer Fast Passes to runners, allowing them to enjoy these beloved rides while proudly wearing their race bibs.
For those seeking the ultimate test of endurance, there’s the Goofy Challenge, which involves completing the Half Marathon on Saturday and the Full Marathon on Sunday. The Goofy Challenge has seen a significant increase in participation since its inception, with around 5,000 runners taking on the challenge in 2012. Finishers of this daunting feat receive individual medals for completing the half and full marathons, as well as a special Goofy medal for conquering both races in the same weekend.
And if you’re still up for more, there’s the unofficial Dopey Challenge, which adds the 5k on the Friday before the Half Marathon and Full Marathon. This is truly a test of endurance and determination.
Marathon Weekend at Walt Disney World is undoubtedly the most popular race weekend, drawing in over 20,000 participants for each of the major races. Adding to the allure is the fact that the Christmas lights remain up throughout the weekend, providing an extra touch of magic as you make your way through the theme parks. Additionally, if you stay a few days after the races, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the lack of crowds, creating a perfect opportunity to enjoy the parks at a more relaxed pace.
If the excitement of runDisney events has piqued your interest in running, I invite you to join me and my fellow blogorailers in raising money for Autism Speaks, an extraordinary organization dedicated to raising awareness and finding a cause or cure for Autism. We will be setting a small minimum for donations, along with a cost for a commemorative t-shirt. We would love to have more friendly faces join our team and support this worthy cause. Please check out our team on Facebook for more details.
Thank you for joining me on this adventure through Marathon Weekend. Your next stop on the Magical Blogorail Loop is Adventures of a Disney Princess. Enjoy the rest of your ride!
1st Stop ~ Disney Babies Blog
2nd Stop ~ Adventures of a Disney Princess
3rd Stop ~ The Disney FAITHful
4th Stop ~ A Disney Mom’s Thoughts
5th Stop ~ Growing Up Disney
6th Stop ~ DIStherapy
Final Stop ~ Tips from the Disney Diva