The Casual Runner

2017 runDisney WDW Marathon Weekend Preview

The Casual Runner Team will be attending runDisney’s 2017 Cigna Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. For Casual Runners who have never run this weekend before we wanted to share our tips for and preview the weekend.  

As you read this, please keep in mind that this is based on what I experienced running the 2015 Dopey Challenge and the 2016 Goofy Challenge, as well as the collective experience of Team Casual Runner (see all of our race reviews and videos at the bottom of this article).  So here’s everything you need to know to get you ready to run these magical miles.

Click Here for the Official 2017 runDisney WDW Marathon Weekend Event Guide

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What is the Goofy Challenge?

The Goofy Challenge Medal will be awarded to those runners who successfully complete both the 2017 Donald Duck Half Marathon and 2017 Mickey Mouse Marathon.

What is the Dopey Challenge?

The Dopey Challenge Medal will be awarded to those runners who successfully complete not only the 2017 Donald Duck Half Marathon and 2017 Mickey Mouse Marathon, but also the 2017 Pluto 5k and 2017 Minnie Mouse 10k. Those completing the Dopey Challenge will also receive the Goofy Challenge Medal. 

What to Pack

Make sure you have everything ready to go before you leave home.  Depending on how many races you are running, make sure you have everything ready to go for your outfits: tops, bottoms (tutus and running skirts included), undergarments, socks, running shoes and all your food and wine accessories!

Speaking from personal experience it is always best to pack an extra running outfit in case something goes wrong. Maybe even pack that extra outfit in your carry on if you are flying.  If you are running multiple races it is a good idea to bring extra shoes as well in case it rains (yes it rains at Disney, Disney does not control the weather, contrary to what many seem to believe, ahem, anyone remember the 2014 Splash & Dash and the 2015 Wine & Dine??). If it rains, your shoes may not dry out before your next race, and no one likes starting off a race in wet shoes.

Other “must haves” while running include headphones, music playing device, charger for music playing device, GPS running device, charger for your GPS, ponytail holders (yes multiple, they break easily), and a running belt or something to hold all of your energy food/music playing device.

You may have noticed I left off a water bottle.  If it makes you comfortable to run with water, then definitely bring one, but runDisney does an amazing job of placing water and sport drink along the course.  I won’t bore you of telling you what to pack for the rest of your vacation but I will leave you with two pieces of advice for that. First: comfortable shoes to wear to the parks. Second: non chaffing bottoms. We HATE the chafe.

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The Marathon Weekend Expo

While we have an entire article with tips for Surviving a RunDisney expo, I wanted to share some Marathon-specific ones.

The Marathon Expo begins on Wednesday morning and goes thru early Saturday evening at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.  From past experience, runDisney expos tend to be the most busy the first day of the expo (particularly in the opening hours).  However if you want official race merchandise I suggest that you make it to the expo on the first day, preferably at or before opening.

Also another tip for getting official race merchandise is to go to the Josten’s Center before you go to the HP Fieldhouse to pick up your bib.  Your bib will be there no matter when you go, the merchandise may not.  The only people that absolutely have to go to the expo on Wednesday are the Dopey and 5K runners.  That being said, all 10K runners have to go to the expo no later than Thursday and all Half Marathon and Goofy Runners have to go no later than Friday. Thus, Saturday will have the lowest crowd levels because the only people left to pick up bibs that day are the remaining Full Marathon runners who have no already picked up their bibs.

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Once you get your bib, if you are running either the Goofy or Dopey Challenge, you will need to have your photo taken with your bib (this will be used to confirm your identity when you finish the race and claim your challenge medals).

You should never run a race without trying out your race gear before.  It can be very tempting to buy new things at the expo to wear for the race, but I advise you not do this.  That being said, if you’ve run in something before, you can always get a new version of that item.  I like to check out the Sweaty Band booth to see if I can find a new one to run in for the race or just for training runs at home.  I also tend to stock up on gels when I’m at the expo at the Fit 2 Run booth.  

Take the time and check out the booths.  Some booths give out samples and freebies, so it’s a great time to taste test running gels, blocks, and energy bars.  Or maybe you want to find a cool way to display your SMOs? There are multiple booths there selling racks and frames to do so.  Just have fun, this is all part of enjoying the weekend.

Make sure to check out more tips on Surviving a RunDisney expo.

New Balance & Special runDisney Running Shoes

Wondering what you should check out at the expo? My first priority at every runDisney expo is to head on over to the New Balance booth so I can check in to collect points on the MyNB app (I was very disappointed at the 2016 Wine and Dine expo because they did not have a check in for this program).  In case you’re not familiar with this program you can collect points on the app to get rewards such as…runDisney race bibs! (Yes this is amazing, go ahead go sign up… just don’t forget to come back and finish reading this article!)  

Up until the past couple of months the only way to get your hands on a pair of RunDisney shoes was at the expos.  However, New Balance Factory Stores have received shipments of the 2013, 2014, and 2015 shoes at amazing prices!  It will be interesting to see how crowded the New Balance booth will be from now on when people know they can get older versions of these shoes at their local outlet store. If you are looking for the 2017 shoes you need to sign up for a virtual spot in line the day before you go.  This year’s shoes are featured rides at the parks and are pretty impressive.  I definitely have my eyes on the Space Mountain shoes (however I will be waiting until they go to the outlets).

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The Courses: 5k, 10K & Half Marathon

Note: the following tips will focus on the WDW Marathon course. If you would like more information on the Half Marathon course it is exactly the same as the Princess Half Marathon course – so for half marathon course details please check out my Princess Half Marathon Preview. The only significant on-course changes from Princess will be in theming and character appearances.

If you would like more information on the 10k course it is exactly the same as the Enchanted 10k during Princess Weekend, so please click here. 

If you would like more information on the 5k course, please read our race review of the 2015 Pluto 5k

Click Here for the Official 2017 runDisney WDW Marathon Weekend Event Guide

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The Mickey Mouse WDW Marathon Course

The 2017 Mickey Mouse WDW Marathon will begin on the same course as the half marathon does they day before all the way up until about mile 8.5. You start on Epcot Center Drive near Port Orleans French Quarter and the back of the Epcot Parking lot.  The mile 1 marker will be on Epcot Center Drive and you will continue on until you take the exit ramp onto World Wide Drive toward the mile 2 marker.  

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I’ve run this part of the course multiple times from running the WDW marathon, the Princess Half Marathon, and the Donald Duck Half marathon, and there tends to be quite a few characters in this stretch of this course so keep your eyes out for them.  As you head down World Drive you will pass through the Magic Kingdom toll booths and come up on the mile 3 marker – keep an eye our for monorails overhead when you are on World Drive! 

Its time to cross over the 5K marker after the water station following the toll booth, which is also the first timing mat that will let your family and friends know where you are if you sign up for runner tracking.  As you come up on mile marker 4 you are now at the Transportation and Ticket Center.  This is both your your first real experience with on-course crowds and your first chance to use a bathroom that is not a port a pot (on your right just as you pass under the roofed area)! The crowd support here is usually pretty amazing thanks to guests staying at the Polynesian and getting on/off the monorail.

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It’s finally time to make your way to Magic Kingdom.  You are probably used to hopping aboard a ferry or monorail at the TTC, but that would be cheating…so time to head by foot, which means running past the Contemporary Resort and Bay Lake Tower.  On this stretch to the mile 5 marker you will come up to your first “hill.”  You will head down hill under a water bridge where a DJ is cheering you on with Giant Mickey hands, then you will head directly back up the hill and the 5 mile marker will be within your sites as you make the turn next to Space Mountain.

It is now officially time to head into Magic Kingdom via a side gate that puts you into Town Square.  This is the best part of the entire course!  Slow down (unless you’re trying to PR) and take it all in.  You will turn right and head up Main Street and run straight to Cinderella’s Castle. Once in the Hub you will turn right and head into Tomorrowland.  Next you’ll head toward Fantasyland, where you depart from the Half Marathon course slightly by heading deeper into the park to run around the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train past Storybook Circus and the Little Mermaid attraction area before heading back past the Carousel to the Castle.  The past few races Elsa, Anna & Kristoff have been up on the castle cheering you on as you head through it. This can be a part in the course where it can become very congested for runners in the later corrals.  Remember, just put a smile on your face and carry on, nothing takes away the magic like people yelling “let me though!”

After going through the castle you will turn right toward Liberty Square and Frontierland. However if you want a picture in front of the castle you will have to go left.  In Frontierland you will pass the mile 6 marker before making a spin passed Thunder Mountain and Splash Mountain.  You will leave Magic Kingdom by exiting to the left of Splash Mountain and crossing over the train tracks (keep an eye out to your left for a closeup with a Walt Disney World Steam Train!  You will then be backstage to see things that not everyone gets to see at Magic Kingdom.  Typically a float from the parade is set up with a princess to stop for a photo op and another water station!

Before you leave Magic Kingdom, let me give you a hint as to convenient bathroom stops inside Magic Kingdom. There are several options, but some are blocked by spectator areas and others are too far off of the course to be practical options. There will be a bathroom on your left directly across from Tomorrowland Speedway, but that tends to get crowded. A better option is the bathroom to the right of Pinocchio Village Haus, on your right before you reach the Carousel (this one is a little ways off the course, but you’ll be glad you took the extra steps as there will be no waiting). Once in Frontierland, many people will hit the bathrooms on your left in the tunnel that leads to Adventureland just beyond the Diamond Horseshoe, so keep an eye out as this will be your last shot at a “real” bathroom for many many miles. There are some port a potties backstage after you exit the Magic Kingdom, just in case the emotions of running in the park lead you to forget to stop. But make sure you stop because you are about to enter a bathroom wasteland for several miles.

Unfortunately it is now time to head onto the most boring part of the course in my opinion. The Mile 7 marker will be at the Grand Floridian, which tends to have Mary Poppins, Bert, and/or the Penguins for a photo op. You will continue on Floridian Way past the Golf Course and come up on the mile 8 marker.

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Around mile 8 the course begins to change from the day before so that will make for a more exciting course (hopefully).  Next it’s off to run on Bear Lake Road.  This can be a very boring part of the course, but Disney tried to keep us entertained last year with some rare characters such as, Shan Yu (the villain from Mulan, yes I had to look up his name).  There was also a down and back extension on Western Way to make up some of the miles lost from the removal of the speedway.  During the 2016 Wine and Dine Half Marathon they did have a timing mat at this down and back to prevent course cheating. This is the first change from the 2016 WDW Marathon course as the down and back has been extended to makeup for lost mileage later in the race due to construction at Hollywood Studios. The turnaround will happen just after you pass the mile 11 marker. Keep an eye out for your first food station (bananas!) in this section. Hopefully Disney will have lots of characters along this stretch for some much-needed entertainment!

You will be approaching the rear entrance to Animal Kingdom when you approach the mile 12 marker  In years past, some furry and four-legged residents of the Animal Kingdom woke up early for an impromptu on-course petting zoo, so make sure to have your cameras and “oos” and “ahhs” ready. 

Depending on what time you enter Animal Kingdom it will make all the difference if you can hop a ride on Expedition Everest.  My first year running the marathon I arrived at the park once it had already opened and had to wait in a short line to ride it, however this year we reached Everest 12 minutes before park opening and decided it was not worth waiting to ride it as a line was already forming.  It is completely up to you if you want to ride Everest but it is definitely a great story to tell. With the extended out-and-back before you get to Animal Kingdom, many runners will be entering the park later than previous years, giving more runners the chance for this unique in-race experience. Also, Everest will be located roughly around the mid-way point of the race.

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Some in-park bathroom tips for Animal Kingdom. The first opportunity will be on your LEFT soon after entering the park.(in the Africa section). If there is a long line, don’t fret. As you make your way along the Discovery River there will be 3 more bathrooms: on your left before you reach the Flights of Wonder Theater, on your left before you pass the entrance for Everest, and and again just beyond the Finding Nemo theater. Your last bathroom opportunity will be on your right in Dinoland just before you exit the park. 

You will then make your way out of Animal Kingdom to make up some mileage in the parking lots.  Usually this is a great area for some crowd support and local marching bands. In prior years, you would find the mile 13 marker here, but now it is the 14th mile – trust me, this will be a big mental boost!

Now it is time to make your way onto Osceola Parkway for a longer stretch with some minor hills.  You will spend about three miles on Osceola Parkway, unfortunately in years past there have not been characters along this stretch.  There does tend to be some great course support on this stretch though including charities, such as RODs racing and local running groups.  Around mile 17.5 you will turn right onto Victory Way (at the big ESPN sign). The course narrows here to allow for 2-way course traffic, and right before mile 18 it is time to turn right into the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex.

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Personally I find this part of the course the hardest/most challenging mentally.  When you are going into the sports complex you will see people running towards you. These people on the other side of the road are people crossing the 21 mile marker heading toward Hollywood Studios, so you know you are going to be in there for three miles.

Upon entering the complex in years past we were given sponges to help cool you down.  Right after the sponges there also tends to be bathrooms right up ahead on your left that you can use. Unfortunately I have stumbled upon these bathrooms in the past and they are small and tended to be out of toilet paper and disgusting.   So if you can skip these bathrooms do, because there will be two more small bathroom stops in the complex.

In the past to get three miles in the ESPN Wide World Of Sports complex we have run around the Olympic training track and the Atlanta Braves spring training complex, including the main basebal stadium, which may have a large cheering crowd gathered in it, depending on what time you enter the stadium. Inside the stadium you will cross mile 20 – less than 10k to go!!! Trust me, this is a HUGE mental boost. 

Once you are out of the sports complex you will be back on Victory Way and the 21 mile marker will be in sight! You will head back down Victory Way and make a left onto Osceola Parkway, for a short jaunt before you head onto the exit ramp to World Drive.  The mile 22 marker will be on World Drive before you make a right onto Buena Vista Drive to head to Hollywood Studios.

This is where the biggest course changes will be noticed. You enter Hollywood Studios via a backstage entrance off of Buena Vista Drive near the Tower of Terror. Instead of making your way around the backlot areas, you will pass the mile 24 marker and then proceed directly to Sunset Boulevard. As the park will be open when most people are on this stretch of course, be ready for a fun atmosphere. There will be bathrooms on your left as you make your way onto Sunset (just after Tower and before you reach the entrances for Fantasmic and Beauty and the Beast). Just past the Carthay Circle Theater facade will be a second bathroom opportunity on your left.

Your time in Hollywood Studios will sadly be all too brief, as you will turn left onto Hollywood Boulevard and be heading towards the main gates and your exit. As you reach the Crossroads of the World, there will be a bathroom stop on your left.

As you exit the park near the park’s main gate you will make your way against the flow of day guests heading into the park and via the path along the canal. The path here is beautiful, though it does get narrow. You will pass mile 24 and another water station.  Strong crowd support is found along the Boardwalk and can be a much-needed motivator to finish strong. There are some bathrooms in the Boardwalk hotel pool areas, but frankly, they are hard to describe if you do not already know where they are – so they should only be used in the event of an on-course potty emergency. However, they do have the nicest on-course toilet paper, so there is that. 

After running past the Boardwalk you will head up an incline to cross the bridge (the Swan and Dolphin will be on your left) and onto the Yacht and Beach Clubs for more cheering crowds. You will pass under the resort waterslide – we may know a few runners who have enjoyed this slide mid-race, but we make not guarantees that you will be allowed on!  There is one more small hill climb past the resorts towards Epcot’s International Gateway entrance. 

Prior to that entrance you will turn left towards a backstage side entrance into the backstage area of Epcot, where you will find another water station.  Ok folks, if this is your first time running this race, hold on to your running socks, because they are about to get blown off.

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You enter World Showcase in the United Kingdom and the crowds tend to be large and loud! You will begin your journey around World Showcase and hit the mile 25 marker right before entering France. This is one of the best miles of the course.

For those not running for time, World Showcase has become a well-deserved victory lap, so enjoy it! With the park being open there is great crowd support. Lots of character stops can be found at this point as well!  

Race tip: if you have friends or family cheering you on, a great race tradition is to have them waiting for you here with your favorite adult beverage of choice.

You will finish the last mile by running the rest of World Showcase heading toward Mexico then making your way to Future World to exit to the right of Spaceship Earth.  Keep an eye out for on-course directions as they will re-route the course to allow day guests to make their way into the park. The mile 26 marker will be backstage and you only have 0.2 miles to go! Pin your ears back and leave it all out on the course in the finishers chute – you’ve earned it!

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Post Race

After crossing the finish line make sure you collect your medal!  A first-aid tent and self-treatment areas are available if needed, if not, its time to collect your goodies.  You will get your water and Powerade, then it is time to stop for a finisher photo!

It is important that, if you earned your Goofy or Dopey Challenge medal (or both), that you head through the appropriate tent to do so.  Volunteers will verify your bib with the photo you took at the expo for the Goofy or Dopey Challenge.

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Next, make sure you pick up your banana and runDisney snack pack.  You have officially made your way through the finish line at this point and it is time to spend time with your family and friends or hurry back to your hotel to shower and spend times in the park!  Don’t forget if you’re going out to the park to celebrate wear your medal(s)!

Good luck Casual Runners!

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More runDisney WDW Cigna Marathon Weekend
Event Information & Reviews
Click Here for the Official 2017 runDisney WDW Marathon Weekend Event Guide

Enjoy the freedom of going wherever your feet, imagination, & determination take you!

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Enjoy the freedom of going wherever your feet, imagination, & determination take you!

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