runDisney kicked off 2019 with their largest race weekend of the year. Known as Marathon Weekend, the weekend featured a 5k on Thursday, a 10k on Friday, a half marathon (13.1 miles) on Saturday, and finished with a tour of all 4 parks during the Marathon on Sunday.
The Dopey Challenge consists of completing all 4 races. Completing just the longest two races is the Goofy Challenge. If you’re looking for the maximum amount of bling and race shirts, the Dopey Challenge will give you 6 of each – one for each of the races, plus a challenge item for Goofy and Dopey. But before you can earn any of the bling, you have to visit the Expo.
The weekend officially kicked off on Wednesday at the Expo which was located at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. There, runners visited the HP Field House to pick up race bibs before going to the VISA Athletic Center to pick up race shirts, unless you were a Dopey Challenge participant, in which case you could pick everything up in the HP Field House.
Pickup was super smooth, especially because I had my race waiver pre-printed and signed, along with my ID ready. However, if you forgot, there were quite a few available stations for runners to print off their waivers. Also, there was lots of signage to help direct you to the correct location and plenty of Cast Members and VoluntEARs to help you if you had any questions. There were also several photo ops, like this one especially for those runners doing Dopey.
After you viewed the race merchandise and visited the exhibitors, you could catch a bus back to your resort to store all your newly purchased merchandise and race shirts.
Thursday morning was the first of four early morning wake up calls and trips to the EPCOT parking lot, which was the staging point for both the start and the finish of the race every day. runDisney does a great job of providing characters for photos prior to the race and a DJ to keep you pumped.
The best part about the 5k, besides it being the shortest race, is that is has the largest percentage of the race inside of a theme park. Almost all of miles 2 and 3 were located inside EPCOT, offering great views of Spaceship Earth as we took a lap around World Showcase.
Special to running at Disney is the characters on course, which did not disappoint during the 5k. New for 2019, was the Oswald medal for completing the 5k.
Friday morning was a carbon copy of Thursday, except the distance doubled. The race start was in the same spot, with the first half of the race being on the roads outside of EPCOT before once more entering EPCOT and taking a lap around World Showcase, but this time, also included was a loop around the Boardwalk area resorts, before once again returning to EPCOT and entering near the International Gateway.
Unique to the 10k were all new characters compared with the day before. This was something that Disney did an excellent job of all weekend long. Even Pluto enjoyed admiring my medal which was Minnie Mouse themed.
On Saturday morning, the half marathon kicked off with a lengthy walk from the staging area to the actual start line of the course. This was also the first day that would feature two parks, as after the start runners would have approximately 5 miles before entering the Magic Kingdom, where runners would have the glorious run down Main Street, which is every bit as magical as advertised, no matter how many times I’ve done it.
Runners also made the journey through Cinderella Castle, but not before being greeted, or maybe heckled is the better word choice, by Cinderella’s evil stepsisters and stepmother. There are photographers stationed to try and get a shot of you as you exit the castle, but due to the on course crowding, a great picture isn’t a guaranteed thing. Instead, I chose to stop for the picture in front of the castle. The pictures turn out great and because there are multiple photographers, the lines move really quick. Pro-tip: if you’re going to try and doing a jumping picture, let the photographer know ahead of time by saying something like “I’m going to jump on 3- 1, 2, 3”. Your pictures still might not turn out, but you have a much better chance of it happening this way.
After leaving a character stop-filled Magic Kingdom, I was around the halfway point of the race. A little more than six miles led to EPCOT once more, though the half marathon did not include a lap around World Showcase. But, there was enough time to get in a ride on The Seas with Nemo and Friends. This is one of those opportunities that only a race at Disney can provide.
And even though it was Donald’s race, Goofy was more than happy to pose with me and my medal.
Sunday morning brought the final, and longest race of the series of races. As with the half marathon, runners took the long stroll to the starting line before copying the first eight miles of the half marathon. But with all new character stops, including a photo op with Cinderella and the Fairy Godmother.
From there the course differed greatly as runners entered Animal Kingdom for the first time during the weekend at slightly before mile 13. Before we got there, various animals were available to take a picture with.
A unique feature to the half marathon is that if timed correctly, runners can take a ride on Expedition Everest, which is located at almost exactly the half way point. Though I skipped this, there were many trains filled with runners enjoying this unique opportunity.
After finishing the run through Animal Kingdom, runners enter the ESPN Wide World of Sports. For a little more than two miles, we journeyed around the various sports fields and took pictures with various Disney characters, uniquely attired in their sporty outfits.
After seeing the various sports fields of Wide World of Sports, we once again took to the roads for a run to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. We ran down Hollywood Boulevard for just a short time and then it was onto EPCOT.
We entered EPCOT a little before mile 25 to cheering crowd for the remainder of the race. World Showcase had some of the shortest character stops all weekend as many countries had someone out to greet runners.
Crossing the finish line at the end of the 48.6 mile is an accomplishment that no one can take away. It included an awesome Dopey medal- to complete the collection of six medals.
Have you run in Marathon Weekend before? What tips do you have? Let us know in the comments,or on Facebook or Twitter!
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I am an annual passholder, runner, and teacher from Ohio. I am becoming a veteran of runDisney as I have completed 4 race weekends (2 Star Wars Half Marathons, 1 Wine and Dine Half Marathon, and 1 Goofy). I generally do Disney by myself, with a small group of friends, or my mom. I am a champion of the short weekend trip on a race weekend.