A First Timer Gets Ready For Marathon Weekend

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Before you get too excited, no, I’m not running the Walt Disney World Marathon.  However, my wife and my mother-in-law are running in the Family 5K, so our family is taking our first trip to Walt Disney World during Marathon Weekend.  It’s exciting and scary all at the same time, because I’ve heard so much about it over the years from WDW Today and lots of other Disney sources.

The Family 5K includes a run through Epcot

So what’s involved in the Marathon Weekend?  Quite a bit it turns out.  If you’re running or cheering, there’s a good bit to keep in mind.  For my relations, the 5K is the race we’re concerned with, but there are several other races to watch and be aware of while touring.  Besides the 5K there’s the Half Marathon, the Full Marathon and family races, all of which will affect traffic and touring patterns around the parks.

For our purposes, the first thing we have to do is pick up race packets for the 5K.    Packet pick up is at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, so I expect traffic to be fairly heavy around that area, leading to Pop Century and Animal Kingdom.  Packet pick up is spread among three days, though, so that all the racers have time to tour the parks as well.

The next thing on our to-do list is the pre-race meal.  Disney offers some special meals for runners, but we chose to instead schedule our own dinner at Sanaa.  Of course our pre-race dinner is on Thursday night.  I imagine on Friday and Saturday nights it will be near impossible to find an Advanced Dining Reservation at Tutto Italia or Portobello, as the runners load up on their pasta before the Half or Full Marathons.

The main thing I’m concerned with on race day is the early start time.  I don’t want to get up that early!  Seriously, though, it’s an early race.  Participants are instructed to be at Epcot by 5:45 a.m. to start the race at 6:30.  Spectators, such as myself, will be waiting eagerly out in the Imagine parking lot while the runners are cruising through World Showcase, around Spaceship Earth and back out into the parking lot.  We will be waiting with coffee, have no doubt about that.

After the race, our main concern will be touring the parks, so the crowds become a concern for us right away.  Looking at the Crowd Calendar, crowd levels are predicted at a 6 for Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  That’s not a bad crowd level, but it’s enough that a good touring plan will be essential.  We’re sorting through options now, but I imagine that we’re going to find a good Late Arrival Touring Plan for the afternoon of the race and then start fresh on Saturday morning.  One thing we have to keep in mind while touring on Saturday and Sunday, though, is that there are races going on throughout the resort, so roads will be closed and transportation could be an issue.

Disney's online tool helps figure out when the runners will pass Cinderella Castle.

In addition, we plan to cheer on some of our friends participating in the Half Marathon, such as TouringPlans.com’s own Todd Perlmutter, so we have to check out the spectator areas for that as well.  Since the route for the Half Marathon goes all around the resort, there are many more spots to check out the runners.   Disney has a fantastic online tool that allows me to put in the estimated finish time of the runners  and find multiple locations where we can see them run by.

Those are the things we are keeping in mind as we prepare for our first Marathon Weekend. What about you?  Have you been to Marathon Weekend before?  Do you have any tips?  And if you haven’t been, is there anything you’re curious about that I can research for you?

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Posted on December 26, 2011

2 Responses to “A First Timer Gets Ready For Marathon Weekend”

  • We are going to our first marathon weekend too. I was excited because the crowd levels didn’t seem too bad, but I was disappointed to get updated crowd levels last week. Do you know how many people will be running the 5k and 1/2 Marathon?

  • Build extra travel time in for getting to your spectating spots. If you’re used to being able to get to a parking space at Epcot from anywhere on property in 15 minutes, you need to increase that to at least 25 minutes for even the 5k, even at that early hour.

    We spectated during the full marathon from inside the Magic Kingdom in January 2011, and we had planned to take the bus over. However, since we were getting out of our hotel at a time when it would have been impossible for a runner to get to the starting line in time (but still before the start of the race), the buses had stopped running. (And I’m not entirely sure there is bus service for spectators to begin with.) So we drove over and were shuttled from the parking lot to the TTC, where we hopped a monorail to the MK. At 6 AM, the turnstiles were wide open, and we didn’t need to show park admission to get in to cheer, though of course we weren’t allowed past the Hub either.

    We still didn’t need to show park admission even after the runners finished coming through and the park opened…however, since we hadn’t activated our passes at the turnstiles for that day, we couldn’t get any fastpasses either. But with a very sleepy 7-month-old with us, we didn’t have much energy for more than a couple of rides anyhow…but being at the Hub at rope drop outside, we certainly would have been in a good position to start an Ultimate Tour otherwise!