3 Things You Should Know Before Running the Disney World Marathon

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This is what you should know before signing up for the Disney World Marathon, according to someone who’s done it four times

My husband and I ran the marathon at Disney World to celebrate our first anniversary back in 2012. Like most first-timers, we both said, “never again” after crossing the finish line. While this turned out to be true for him, I have since returned for a second, third and fourth marathon, most recently in January 2024. 

It was a huge accomplishment for me to train for and cross the finish line of the most recent marathon. I have a full-time job and five young kids. So finding the time to train consistently was a challenge, to say the least. Fortunately, the experience that comes with being a veteran marathoner gave me the confidence to get the job done. In this article, I’ll share my top tips for runners preparing to go the distance in their first Disney marathon. 

When planning for the Disney World Marathon, first-timers should prepare for the elements, plan for crowd support and make friends with the pace leaders.

Marathoners Run Toward the Cinderella Castle
Prepare for cool or rainy weather when running the marathon (photo by Kirby Russell/HeyOrlando.com)

1. Prepare for the elements

Orlando weather can be unpredictable at any time of year. It was super cold for my second Disney Marathon in 2018. The toughest part was standing around in the corral waiting for the start line. Lots of people bring black trash bags or inexpensive sweats that they end up discarding. They’re pretty effective at holding in body heat until you get moving. This year, the temperature was ideal. It stayed in the low to mid-50s for the entire race. However, it rained while I was running through Magic Kingdom around mile 10. The rain itself was not bad, but running through standing water in Liberty Square and Frontierland soaked my shoes and socks. 

I heard from some other runners who were a bit behind me that cast members cleared the water from the course pretty quickly. But for me, the damage was done. That moisture stayed in my shoes for the remaining 16 miles of the race. Fortunately, my 17-year running career has left my feet pretty tough. Just ask any poor unfortunate soul who has given me a pedicure lately. That combined with high-quality wool-blend socks saved me from blisters. So if the forecast looks like rain, I’d suggest wearing a hat and moisture-wicking socks. If you’re worried about blisters, you could also pack an extra pair of dry socks. 

Family Supports Marathon Mom With Signs
Tell friends and family members where to be ahead of time so they can cheer you on (photo by Kirby Russell/HeyOrlando.com)

2. Make a plan for crowd support

While the Disney Marathon course takes runners through all four theme parks, the majority of the miles happen on closed highways on Disney property. This means that crowd support is very limited, especially compared to other big races that happen in cities. If you have friends or family members there to support you, do some research ahead of time so they’ll know when and where to find you. There’s usually a detailed spectator guide published on the runDisney website a few weeks before the race. It includes information about which transportation options will be available, where guests can park and also viewing locations. 

This year, spectators were encouraged to park at EPCOT, and then take the monorail to the Transportation & Ticket Center and/or Magic Kingdom. Spectators were allowed to enter Main Street, U.S.A. to cheer on the runners until 7:30 am. Theme park admission was not required since the park was not yet open. Spectators could also see runners inside Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and EPCOT, although tickets were required. My husband and kids cheered for me just outside Hollywood Studios. 

Marathon at Disney at Night
Disney offers official marathon training as well as team leaders for the marathons (photo by Travis Russell/HeyOrlando.com)

3. The pace team leaders are your friends

Disney partners with Jeff Galloway to create official runDisney training programs. This former Olympian turned coach is known for his run-walk interval method. I’m a big fan of this method because it makes the sport more accessible and inclusive for a lot of people. However, I typically don’t use the run-walk method in my training. I prefer to go slow and steady rather than changing my pace. 

That being said, the 5:15 pace team leader saved my bacon in 2024. Seasoned endurance athletes will often say that your mind will quit on you before your body. Around mile 18, the 5:15 pace team caught up to me and I decided to stick with them at least for a couple of miles. At that point, I’d been running for approximately 3.5 hours and still had over 90 minutes to go. 

I estimate that the leader was in his mid-60s. He said this was his 76th marathon. At that point in the race, it was so helpful for me to just stick with him and the group. He was carrying the mental load of watching the clock and keeping track of mile split times. From there it was just left foot, right foot, repeat. I stuck with the pace team until the final mile of the race and finished with a personal best time of 5:14:50. 

Have you participated in any runDisney events? Let us know what tips you would add to the list!

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Kirby Russell

Kirby Russell is a freelance contributor for TheSmokies.com LLC – the parent company of TheSmokies.com and HeyOrlando.com.

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