If you read today’s post title and just checked your watch, you’re right: This post is about two months late! As most of you know, I ran in the 2017 Walt Disney World Marathon on January 8th of this year, but I’m just now getting around to posting my review of it.
At the time of our Disney runcation, I posted a series of live blog posts, but I didn’t do a proper review of the race itself.
So, here is my official race review. First things first: all runDisney events are ridiculously expensive. Do not misinterpret this to be me saying they’re overpriced, because I think that for what you get, the high price tag is fair. But be aware that these are not cheap races.
For the 2017 marathon, I paid $180 for race entry, $120 for the race retreat, and $22.98 in processing fees. So, nearly $333, and that’s not even counting race souvenirs, official photos, hotel, or airfare.
But, it was totally all worth it!
The expo starts on Wednesday before the race weekend, which is great for flexibility in picking up your race packet.
I was pleased that the expo was very easy to reach via a free shuttle from the host hotel, and the lines all moved quite quickly. As usual, Disney puts on a top notch affair, and things run seamlessly.
The expo takes place at the ESPN Wide World of Sports and features loads of vendors selling all manner of race merchandise. All I will say is, be careful! I might have accidentally walked out with a new pair of Disney trainers, themed after Mad Tea Party, a.k.a. the teacup ride. 😉
All on-property Walt Disney World resort hotels are considered host hotels for the purposes of race day shuttles. From what I gather, getting to the race via your own car is extremely difficult, so I strongly recommend staying on-property.
By far one of the biggest complaints that runners, myself included, have about runDisney events is the very early start time. Race buses from the host hotels begin running at 3 o’clock in the morning. Yes, 3 AM!!
As the marathon weekend is always held the first full weekend of January, the weather can be pretty variable. As an example, the 5k runners on Thursday got to run in 70 degree sunshine, the 10k runners on Friday ran in a cool but comfy 55 degree overcast day, the poor 1/2 marathoners’ race got canceled due to horrible thunderstorms, and those of us running the marathon endured chilly winds in the 30s and 40s!
All of that is to say, there’s a reason I pay up for the race retreat at each Disney race I do, although many runDisney fans discount the race retreat as a money grabbing gimmick. Depending on your pre- and post-race preferences, I suppose that’s a valid opinion. Personally, though, I think that the guarantee of a heated tent full of food, hot coffee, a DJ, stretching area, Disney characters, and private porta-potties is totally worth the money. Plus, the race retreat after the race features a full hot brunch buffet in addition to everything listed above.
Around 5 o’clock, they announced that we needed to start making our way to the start line. And here is where my biggest complaint is: there is a long walk to the start line. Now, normally I will never complain about a long walk, but logging one or two miles before a 26.2 mile run can really impact your legs. I recall this being the same way when I ran the Disney Princess 1/2 Marathon in 2013, so it seems Disney haven’t responded to runner complaints about the excessive distances between where the bus drops you off to the race retreat, and then the length between the race retreat and the start line.
Speaking of the start line, I loved that they had a stage with rotating Disney characters taking the stage alongside Mickey Mouse to set off each corral. Another classic Disney touch: a magical sendoff from the mouse himself, complete with fireworks, for each corral!
The first six or seven miles were in complete darkness, which is actually kind of magical. My favorite part of this race, as it was with the Princess Half in 2013, was hitting the Magic Kingdom right as the sun was rising.
After leaving the Magic Kingdom, you’ve got about three miles of plain, boring road. Which serves as a perfect segue to what is probably the biggest complaint most runners have about runDisney events: the vast majority of mileage is logged along central Florida’s swampy highways and back roads.
I’m not sure I agree with this complaint. After all, if anyone truly thinks that Disney would be able to fill 26.2 miles with nothing but theme park views, said person must have never been to Disney before. The four parks are just not big enough, or close enough together, to fill up even a half marathon, let alone a full. So personally, I think anyone who complains about this just had unrealistic expectations going into the event.
We hit the half marathon mark somewhere around the Animal Kingdom, which was a delight to run through.
The next stretch of highway was the hardest mentally, because not only was it boring highway, but also it was the miles in the high teens (which I always find mentally tough in a marathon). One nice touch throughout the race was that each mile marker was themed to a specific Disney character. And look, I found my doppelganger!
Our next destination was the ESPN Wide World of Sports, which I thought was decently fun, given the caveat that it’s not a proper park. To compensate for this, Disney fills it with all the awesome characters!
Shortly after that, we hit mile 23 around the time we entered Hollywood Studios. It was cool – and surreal – to run the streets of Disney’s old Hollywood while patrons were milling about the park behind ropes to keep them away from the runners.
And finally, finally, we hit our final destination, EPCOT, around mile 25. I have never in my life been more excited to go through the World Showcase!
The finish line is right under Spaceship Earth, a.k.a. the giant golf ball. I love that Mickey and Minnie were at the finish line along with photographers, snack boxes, and of course, some pretty awesome bling.
After crossing the finish line, I will admit it was a bit of a zoo trying to find where to go to meet up with Dear Husband at the race retreat. However, once we met up again, we headed to the race retreat to enjoy the hot brunch they were serving. Be aware, however, that friends and family need to purchase their own race retreat entry!
All in all, I highly recommend the Walt Disney World Marathon. The course is flat, the entertainment is plentiful, and Disney ensures that the entire event runs very smoothly. The biggest drawbacks to the event are the prohibitively high price, the large amount of boring roads, and the amount of walking required prior to race start.
In fact, I loved it so much that I have already signed up to run it again next year as part of the Dopey Challenge!
Tell me, have you competed in any runDisney events? If so, what did you think?
Until next time,