Thursday, December 6, 2012

Spectating the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend Races

Dave was a guest on Episode 20 of The Mickey Miles Podcast talking about spectating the 5K, Half Marathon, and Marathon races held at Walt Disney World each January. We thought this would be a good opportunity to pull some of Team Tizzel's resources together to show you what the spectators see and give you some tips if you are going down to the races next month. Also, be sure to check RunDisney's website for more information.

General tips:

  • The races start very early in the morning. Be prepared for 3am or earlier wake-up calls.
  • All three races start in Epcot's parking lot. Road closures make getting around difficult. If you are staying off-site plan to leave your hotel extremely early. If you are staying on site take the buses from the resorts to the start lines or leave your hotel by 3:45am if driving yourself (5K departures can be around 5am) . Monorail resort spectators have the option of going straight to the Magic Kingdom via Monorail or walking from The Contemporary Resort.
  • Make sure you have supplies on-hand that your runner may need along the way.
  • Make sure you have everything you need to be comfortable. As a spectator you will log a couple of miles walking from place-to-place. Use the bathroom as soon as you get to your spectating area and get snacks and beverages ahead of time.
  • Be visible. Have a balloon, bright shirt, anything so you stand out.
  • Keep in contact with your runner and share your general spectating plan with them. It's easier for them to see you rather than for you to spot your runner.
  • All parks except the Magic Kingdom require admission to watch the race within the park. The finish line is in the parking lot of Epcot so no admission required.
  • Have your post-race meeting area picked out. There's a family reunion area after the finish line with signs for all the letters of the alphabet - ideally to match your last name.
  • As RunDisney improves the race experience changes may occur each year. Some of the advice we give here may not be valid come this year's race weekend.

  • The 5K has only two possible spectating areas. The first one is just passed the start line. The second one is right before the finish line. To get to the finish line spectating area you would follow the bleacher line away from the finish to an area that has a clear view of the course and Spaceship Earth.
  • This video from the 2012 race will give you an idea of where both locations are. Note you will see folks standing in the area in front of the start line in the video, but they are 5Kers waiting to get into the corral for the next heat. You want to be beyond that area and race announcer Rudy Novotny.

Half Marathon

  • Most people want to see this race in the Magic Kingdom and the finish line at Epcot. This is easy to accomplish for folks following the average Disney race runner. It's difficult to do for folks with fast times (under nine minutes per mile).
  • Our base spectating plan is to leave Epcot around 4:30am and start walking to the Epcot Monorail. From there you will transfer at the Transportation and Ticket Center to the Resort/Magic Kingdom Monorail.
  • The Magic Kingdom does not open until 5:30 (based on prior years) and the Monorail will not stop there until that time. Best bets are to keep doing laps or get off at The Contemporary and walk. At the Contemporary you can get a real cup of coffee at the lobby coffee stand (and some sweets) or get other portable breakfast items from Contempo Cafe.
  • At the Magic Kingdom we suggest not standing with your back to the Emporium or Casey's. The course is narrow and your line of sight is limited. We suggest the corner of the Emporium with you back to the train station, or anywhere from the 6'oclock position of the hub (the direction Walt and Mickey face) up to the Tommorowland Bridge. Note: the hub is a coveted spot so get there on time.
  • Once your runner passes you may have time to make it to the front of the castle (access point is by Tomorrowland Bridge) for a picture of them running out of the castle.
  • Head back to the Monorail and over to the Transportation and Ticket Center. Transfer to the Epcot Monorail. Lines will be longer this morning than normal. They do a good job of getting everyone over to Epcot quickly.
  • If you think you can....head to the right after getting off the Monorail to watch your runner enter Epcot at Mile 12. After that you should then have enough time to walk quickly to the bleachers at the finish line area.
  • This video from the 2012 Half will show you a view from Magic Kingdom, mile 11/12 before entering Epcot, and the finish. The Castle shot is seen in the Marathon video in the next section.


  • Everything mentioned for the Half applies to the Full Marathon as well. One change this year is the fact that the Marathon course follows the Half course for the first 8 miles. Last year runners got to the Magic Kingdom around mile 10 Marathon Day. In 2013 they get there at mile 5.3. This means the spectator has about 20 miles of race time to kill until the finish. If you follow the Magic Kingdom-Epcot strategy you should have time for breakfast at the Polynesian Resort and then take a walk over to the Transportation and Ticket Center to get the Epcot Monorail.
  • Alternatives to the Magic Kingdom-Epcot Strategy:
    • After leaving the Magic Kingdom go over to The Contemporary and catch a bus to Animal Kingdom. Depending on your runner's pace you may see them around mile 13/14. You can then take a bus to Epcot.
    • The Studios have Extra Magic Hours for resort guests and opens at 8am. Make your way over there to watch the race. If you see your runner in The Studios or along the Epcot resort path area you will not see them finish.
    • Spend some time in Epcot when it opens at 9am. You should have time to shop and get a snack before having to make it to the finish area.
    • Watch the final mile of the race from World Showcase. If you do you won't see the finish. Here's a pro-tip: Watch your runner enter Epcot at the UK Pavilion then head towards Canada and the World Showcase Promenade area to see them again.
    • There are points near the Monorail Resorts and Epcot Resorts to watch the race without entering the parks.
    • There are other parts around the course that require a little work to get to, but allow you to camp out and see the runners twice without moving. Miles 16/21 and 17/20. You may have to walk quite a distance to get to these areas (with no bathrooms around).
  • This video from 2011 shows the Magic Kingdom-Epcot strategy. In this case we take some video at the Castle and watch runners enter Epcot in the UK, then again as they enter Future World.

Hopefully this crash course in spectating Marathon Weekend has been helpful. We want to make sure you have a great time at the RunDisney events. If have any questions you can ask Dave via email, or post a comment in the section below.

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