Did all the WDW Marathon Weekend updates on Twitter last week make you think “hey, I could do that” and not “those people are crazy?” Were you a half or full marathon participant and felt left out when Goofy asked “how many of you are running my races?” Then you – yes *you* – might be a candidate for Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge 2011. What is the Goofy? Well, 5 years ago Disney realized that people were signing up for both the half marathon AND the full marathon for that weekend in early January and they decided to designate it the “Goofy.” That’s right, just under 40 miles in two days. This combination is sold as a package of races and it does tend to fill quickly because there are only a limited number of spaces. Registering for the half and full marathon separately will NOT get you the swag you get if you sign up as a Goofy runner.
What is the price?
You might think the registration fee for the Goofy would be equal to the half plus the full, but you would be wrong. For 2011, registration for the full is $135, the half is $135, and the Goofy is $310. What do you get for the extra $40? An extra t-shirt and the coveted Goofy medal – a third piece of bling sure to impress friends, family, and strangers on the flight back home. Interestingly, Disney has really increased its profit on the Goofy in the last year. For the 2010 race, in the fall they increased the cap on runners to 7500 from 5000 after it had already sold out that spring (possibly to continue to fill the full marathon which had not sold out). And historically the Goofy premium for registration has been around $10, not $40. Only you can decide if the price is worth it to you.
Planning your trip
So you’re in, you’re accepting the Goofy Challenge. Now what? Now you have to figure out where you want to stay, what day you want to arrive, and how long to make your trip.
As far as accommodations go, this is the weekend is treat yourself as well as you can. You’re going to be getting up around 3am or earlier to get to the starting line. If you are traveling with your family, they may well appreciate some extra room for you to lay out your race clothes and get dressed without waking everyone up. And having a room with a refrigerator and coffee maker will definitely help with your pre-race food needs. This may not be the trip for 4 people to share a room at Pop Century. I travel to the Goofy with my husband and stay in a one bedroom DVC unit. I can get dressed and eat while he sleeps away in the bedroom. Plus he can be in the other room when I go to sleep at 9PM to get up early.
Onsite or offsite? Onsite gives you the benefit of Disney transportation to the race and back. Offsite may give you more space and a less expensive rate. I have only stayed onsite, but my advice for those staying offsite is to really familiarize yourself with the road closures on the mornings of the race and know exactly when you need to drive to Epcot.
These recommendations are based on the assumption that you will take Disney transportation to the races and back and maybe to the expo. My experience (with the exception of the year I stayed at the Beach Club Villas) is that taking Disney buses to the expo and races is far more convenient than driving. Driving involves thinking and directions, and, let’s face it, if “thinking” was so great you probably wouldn’t sign up for the Goofy in the first place. Plus it’s nice getting on a warm bus with all the other runners instead of walking out to your cold car and driving by yourself.
Magic Kingdom/monorail resorts
People staying at the Grand Floridian, Polynesian, Contemporary, and Bay Lake Tower take the monorail to the TTC and then transfer to an Epcot monorail to the race start. You can then take a monorail or bus back to your resort after the races. I have never done this, but it does sound like a pretty cool way to get there. The walk from the monorail station to the runner area may be a bit of a hike.
Epcot area resorts
I stayed at the Beach Club Villas for the 2009 races and won’t do it again. Why? Because the shared buses for the Yacht and Beach Club, Boardwalk, and Swan and Dolphin were really crowded and slow. In theory, you could walk back to your resort after the race through Epcot, but you probably won’t want to do that after the full and the park may not be open when you finish the half. Please leave a comment if you stayed in one of the resorts this year and let us know if the bus situation has improved.
Single-building Deluxe and DVC resorts – Wilderness Lodge and Villas, and Animal Kingdom Lodge Jambo House and Kidani Village
I have stayed at Jambo House (2008) and Kidani Village (2010) and was really happy with the transportation. Why? Because the buses picked up at the porte cochere (where Magical Express drops you off) and you didn’t have to hike from a far flung building all the way to the lobby just to get to the bus. There were even separate buses in the morning at each Animal Kingdom building. Wilderness Lodge and Villas should be the same situation except for not having 2 stops since they share a main lobby.
Multi-building DVC resorts and moderates – Old Key West, Saratoga Springs, Port Orleans, Caribbean Beach, Coronado Springs
Most of these are fine from a space standpoint or if you’re traveling solo, but I asked around and found out that the marathon buses do not make a loop through the resorts, they pick up at the main lobby. Walking all the way from the end of Old Key West to the Hospitality House may add more time to your morning than you want. If you stayed at one of these resorts and have first hand information about the transportation, please leave a comment.
Values – Pop Century and All Stars
If you’re traveling solo, on a budget, or with a really sound sleeper, these just might work for you. I will say the very worst lines I saw after the races were for the buses to these resorts. Consider driving yourself or have a companion pick you up after the race.
How long to stay
There are 3 days you must be at WDW – Friday to pick up your race packet and Saturday and Sunday for the actual races. You can pick up your packet as early as Thursday afternoon and there is a race after-party Sunday night (hard-ticketed). If your journey to Florida is long or across time zones, you will want to arrive at Walt Disney World a day or two early to adjust. How long you stay is a matter of what you want to do on your trip. Do you want to run and go home or is this a WDW vacation for you or people traveling with you? Getting on a plane in the 24 hours after the full marathon is not a great idea since what you will need be doing is walking around to keep from stiffening up. And heavy duty touring in the days before the races is just foolish. Plan on staying at least 4 nights just for the races.
What to pack
As we saw this year, weather is a big factor race weekend. If you don’t have access to a wash and dryer (one more reason DVC rocks for marathon weekend), you will need a warm and cold option for each day plus throw away clothes. You also may want to pack old towels and garbage bags for warmth and protection from the rain (or sleet as was the case this year). You may want to pack your shoes in your carry-on since they are the one thing you will really have trouble replacing if your luggage goes to Bora Bora. I had access to a washer and this is what I packed:
- regular tights
- super cold weather tights
- throw away yoga pants to wear over the tights
- shorts in case the weather forecast was really off
- long sleeve wicking shirt
- short sleeve wicking shirt
- throw away sweatshirt
- light sensitive sunglasses to wear from dawn to the end of the full marathon
- throw away fleece (that I kept on for both races)
- fleece hat, gloves
- 2 garbage bags
What I wish I had brought:
- longer socks to keep my ankles warm
- pocket warmers like hikers and campers carry
- a hat I was willing to toss
A final note
The Goofy is a very stressful race, even for experienced runners. Getting up to run 2 days in a row is harsh. That’s in addition to the physical stress of running 39.3 miles. I don’t have the number of Goofy runners who scratched this year, but out of 24,000 (Disney’s number) or 22,000 (more likely the real number) registered runners for the full marathon, there were 16,883 finishers. That is a lot of people who were unable to either start or finish the marathon. Know your limits and if 2011 isn’t your year, aim for 2012 or 2013.