I recently wrote explaining my decision to run a Walt Disney World (WDW) Marathon, one of the many events available as part of the runDisney program and one of the many events occurring during the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. Many people think that there’s only the training aspect to consider when planning for a marathon. However, I believe there’s more to it than that.
As I’m currently navigating the process for preparing for a marathon, I’ve learned that actually registering for the race is the first part of any successful marathon preparation! This is because up until you register, you have an out! One can talk about running across a finish line, however, there’s no way any official finish line will be crossed until an entry fee is paid. Further, as most marathons now fill up fairly quickly, the registration process can create a convenient excuse for not actually running the marathon. How easy would it be to say, “Yeah, I was really hoping to run that marathon but, man, it sold out so quickly! Oh well, next time!”
Once you register, however, you are locked in. Unless you want to lose your money, you’re running that race. So, join me as I continue my review on planning for and, ultimately, running the WDW Marathon, as I cover the main events that one is able to register for during the WDW Marathon Weekend. I’ll also highlight my experience with the registration process for the big event.
The WDW Marathon Weekend offers a variety of races and events that one can participate in, ranging from fun runs to a combination of all the major races! As there are so many opportunities available, it’s best to have an idea of what race and event you would like to participate in prior to advancing to the registration page. The following are brief overviews of the races offered as part of the WDW Marathon Weekend:
- Walt Disney World Marathon (Sunday, January 11, 2015, 5:30 a.m.): Advertised as the “most magical race on earth.” The Marathon is 26.2 miles with a route through the Walt Disney World parks, the ESPN Wide World of Sports, and the Walt Disney World SPEEDWAY. The map below shows the route from a previous year’s course.
- Walt Disney World Half Marathon (Saturday, January 10, 2015, 5:30 a.m.): The half marathon is 13.1 miles that takes you “through the magic, wonder, and sheer charm” of the Magic Kingdom and Epcot.
- Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge (Saturday, January 10 – Sunday, January 11, 2015): This unique race is 39.3 miles over two days. The participant runs the Half Marathon on Saturday and then the Marathon on Sunday. (As of early July, Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge is 74% full.)
- Walt Disney World 10k (Friday, January 9, 2015, 5:30 a.m.): This is a 6.2 mile course through Epcot.
- Disney Family Fun Run 5k (Thursday, January 8, 2015, 6:15 a.m.): This is the traditional 5k family race through Epcot.
- Dopey Challenge (Thursday, January 8 – Sunday, January 2015): This is a new event for runDisney where participants run the 5k, 10k, Half Marathon, and Marathon for a grand total of 48.6 miles!
- runDisney Kids’ Races – These events take place at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Track and Field Complex. According to the runDisney website, parents are allowed to run with their children. Various races include the 100m, 200m, 400m, and the Diaper Dash! There’s also the One Mile race. (As of early July, the runDisney kids races are 50% full.)
- Disney Castaway Cay Challenge (January 14, 2015): This is an all-new event combining the WDW Marathon Weekend with a 4-night Bahamian Cruise on Disney’s Cruise Line. To me, this sounds like a perfect combination. Having just run a Castaway Cay 5k on a recent Disney Cruise, I can say that the course is great fun and a perfect introduction to the island.
Besides the races, there are some other activities that one can participate in during the WDW Marathon Weekend. Note that some require advanced registration (e.g., Pasta in the Park Party) via the registration website and others are events that are open to runners and the public at certain points during the WDW Marathon Weekend. The following are my brief overviews of the additional events offered as part of the WDW Marathon Weekend:
- runDisney Health & Fitness Expo (Wednesday, January 7 – Saturday, January 10): The runDisney Health & Fitness Expo is advertised as the “One-stop headquarters for all your Race Weekend needs.” Besides offering official runDisney merchandise and providing exhibits on the latest running apparel and running information, the Expo is where runners will pick up race packets.
- Pasta in the Park Party (Evenings; Thursday, January 8 – Saturday, January 10): What better way to load up on carbs prior to the big race than by enjoying some time with some Disney characters and eating pasta! Along with your registration for the dinner comes reserved viewing for Illuminations: Reflections of Earth. Note: Requires advanced registration.
- Family Reunion Breakfast (Mornings; Thursday, January 8, – Friday, January 9): A chance for some post-race breakfast to celebrate your hard work and successful race. Note: Requires advanced registration.
- Race Retreat (Saturday, January 10 – Sunday, January 11): The Race Retreat includes extra amenities for runners and Platinum ChEAR Squad members both pre- and post-race. The pre-race amenities include food, climate controlled lounges, private restrooms and bag check, and other amenities to make your pre-race jitters a little more manageable. The post-race amenities include brunch, internet access, changing tents, and other items such as, massages (for an additional fee). Both include character Meet and Greets. Note: Requires advanced registration.
- Cool Down Party at Downtown Disney (January 11): This is a post-race party open to all and offers the opportunity to celebrate your hard work and successful race completion at Downtown Disney.
Prior to registering, I knew I wanted to run the WDW Marathon. However, because there are many other events open for registration during the WDW Marathon Weekend, be sure to read about them all to know which event you want to participate in. And, just remember that entry fees for the runDisney events are non-refundable so choose wisely!
I knew I wanted to run the WDW Marathon much earlier in the year so I waited some time to be able to register. Finally, it was April 22, 2014, the day registration opened. As it neared noon, when the website would open, I began to get that nervous apprehension that overcomes you when you both want to, and not want to, do something at the same time.
Having never run a marathon before, I was at first a little overwhelmed by the registration process and wanted to be sure I didn’t miss my opportunity to sign up by making a rookie mistake. So, at 11:55am, I closed my office door so as to not be disturbed. With high noon rapidly approaching, and knowing that previous runners had noted how quickly the WDW Marathon Weekend registration filled up, it was with an eager anticipation that I sat and waited. As I waited I thought about all of the people who I told I was going to run the race…and the thought came to mind that if I didn’t get in they’d prefer to believe that I, in fact, simply just chickened out. So, recalling the reasons why I had decided to run my first marathon at Walt Disney World, I knew it was time to pull the trigger.
At 11:59 I started trying to log into the runDisney website and the registration game began. For the next twenty minutes or so, I tried my best to get through to the registration site. (Apparently I wasn’t the only person who wanted to be the first to sign up.) At the height of my attempts I even tried calling runDisney directly and was greeted with, “We are experiencing higher than normal call volumes.” No help there. Finally, at about 12:20, the registration site let me in. “Awesome!” I thought. This excitement was short lived, however, as my browser froze. Oddly enough, a few tries later and I was allowed to enter the registration queue.
Registering for the WDW Marathon was actually fairly easy. Once I got through to the registration site, I was redirected to a runDisney-specific webpage of active.com, which is a common website used for road race registrations. If you’re not already a member of the active.com community, you have the option of registering an account on active.com (which makes life a little easier if you plan to run other races) or continuing as a guest. After selecting which race I wanted to run during the WDW Marathon Weekend, and accepting the legal waiver language, I was presented with a few questions. Some of the questions were regarding logistics for the race itself, while others inquired as to what Disney products/programs I was associated with (e.g., the Disney Vacation Club and Disney Rewards Visa card). In all, the hardest part of the process was selecting an “Anticipated Full Marathon Finish Time.” (My initial thought was, “I don’t know, I just hope I actually finish!”) If you say your time is under 6 hours and 30 minutes, you’ll be required to provide proof of time to determine your start corral placement. Having never run a marathon before, I noted that I anticipated finishing in 6 hours and 31 minutes. So, we shall see.
From there, registering was pretty easy and I was presented with the opportunity to register for some of the other events being held during the weekend (e.g., Pasta in the Park Party) and to buy commemorative items. Working through all this, I paid the race fee and then successfully received my official confirmation for the WDW Marathon. I had my receipt printed out as proof of my commitment to run by 12:29pm!
Overall, the registration process was fairly easy and about what was expected. Indeed, all of the advice to register early is correct. To give an idea as to how quickly the weekend events filled up, here are some simple statistics taken on April 23, 2014, the day after registration opened, from the runDisney website:
WDW Marathon: 50% sold out
Half Marathon: Sold Out
WDW 10K: Sold Out
Disney Family Fun Run 5k: Sold Out
Dopey Challenge: Sold Out
Admittedly, I’m a bit torn on the takeaways from these statistics. On the one hand, I’m glad to see that the events sell out quickly as it demonstrates that the weekend is worthwhile. However, on the other hand, it is a bit discouraging knowing that you have such a short window to register. So, for the future, if you are thinking of registering, make your decision early and get online right at the specified time. The good thing is that the actual marathon was one of the last to sell out completely. However, based on other reviews, it seems that with every passing year the runDisney program is becoming increasingly popular; thus, races are selling out faster and faster.
So, there’s no turning back now. I’m locked in. And, with that reality comes the glorious burden of now engaging in the training. At least now I have some official training clothes!
Join me next time as I provide an official update of my race training. Additionally, I’ll cover planning for the visit, including traveling and staying at Walt Disney World during the race.
Do you have any Disney marathon stories or tips for success? Share them below!
First Three Photos courtesy of runDisney