Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend – Magic in Every Step
There is no better way to see Walt Disney World. The marathon and half marathon are racing opportunities where the fun doesn’t end when you cross the finish line. Take advantage of this unique experience to participate in a world class sporting event and enjoy all of the amenities of the world’s number one vacation destination; a place and a race where dreams really can come true.
Posted Monday, 18 October, 2010
There are many reasons for running the Walt Disney World Marathon or Half-Marathon and here are three really good ones—known the world over simply by their first names, they are Mickey, Donald and Goofy. It just so happens that the quality of entertainment built on those three lovable characters is like nothing else in the world, and certainly unlike anything else you’d be likely to see in a typical 26.2 or 13.1-mile running event. Many runners today are looking for more than just a “Show-uprundrive home” kind of running experience, and the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend in Orlando—from January 6-9, 2011 promises to deliver entertainment and fun on a scale that only Walt Disney World can deliver.
Get Ready, Get Set, Go!
The Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, presented by CIGNA, starts on Thursday, January 6 when the three-day Expo opens at noon. However, for many participants, their association with the event may have started about 18 weeks before race day if they chose to follow the training program designed specifically for the race by the official Disney training consultant Jeff Galloway. Many know Jeff as the best selling author, Olympic marathoner, and running coach known for his proven low-mileage training programs, and his RUN-WALK-RUN technique that has led thousands of runners to strong marathon finishes with little discomfort or injury.
The on-line training program is geared toward runners who have laid a training base of about 6 months, and the plan brings the runner right up to the day following the marathon. The training schedule is based on Jeff’s signature three-day/week program, designed to emphasize the value of the long run on one of those days.
Jeff Galloway will be onsite at the Expo of Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend before toeing the line himself.
The Weekend Really Begins – Get Your Carbs under the Stars
The Expo, held at the 220-acre ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, kicks off the weekend with a series of speakers, including Q and A sessions, celebrity runner appearances, and information on nutrition, training, racing, and the latest running and fitness equipment. This huge sports complex is also the number/packet pick-up location, and includes Disney commemorative merchandize and other vendors available to all.
Once runners have picked up all their goodies and gotten their number, they can relax for a while before going to Epcot on Thursday evening for a private pasta party, featuring a DJ, and followed by a spectacular showing of the nightly IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth, a fireworks, laser and water show. At this point early in the weekend, runners will have already had wonderful experiences and be glad they came!
Family Fun Run and Kids Races – Diaper Dash, Anyone?
Friday starts with the Family Fun Run 5K at Epcot, where about 4,500 runners will gather for a quick jaunt. Over the two-day period at the ESPN Wide World of Sports track, a series of races for the kids will be held on this state of the art facility. These are “official” races with T-shirts and medals for the kids. They start with the Diaper Dash and work up to the Mickey Mile, depending on age group. These events are popular for all members of the family, and have drawn up to 2,500 “mini-racers” in past years.
Half Marathon, Marathon, and Goofy Fun
On Saturday at the crack of dawn the serious fun begins when 20,000 runners take off out of Epcot toward the Magic Kingdom Park in pursuit of a Donald Duck medal for completing the 13.1-mile Half Marathon. The course is mainly “Florida flat” with the only inclines coming on the occasional overpasses on the roads between the parks. The half marathon distance is steadily growing in popularity around the country, and the Walt Disney World Half Marathon now draws as many runners as the full marathon distance.
Some will do it as a test as they increase mileage toward someday completing the full marathon. Some 6,000 runners will take the Goofy Challenge and use the Half Marathon as a tune-up before lacing up the following day for the 26.2-mile distance. It’s hard to say which would be more challenging—the half marathon distance followed by the full, or the other way around, but in either case, the hardy group that signs on with Goofy deserves kudos just for trying it. You could say that the coveted Goofy medal ensures the runner an “Ultra Magic” weekend for sure!
The crown jewel of the weekend is the full marathon on Sunday morning when another 20,000 runners leave Epcot Center Drive at a cool and dark 5:40 a.m., (typically around 50 degrees) for a most unusual experience. They will run first to the Magic Kingdom Park, then on to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park, where seeing The Tree of Life is worth the effort it took to get there. Then the back roads take the pack to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and finally back to Epcot. It is sport, it is entertainment, it’s both at the same time—what more could you want!
Along the course runners will be greeted by Disney characters as well as almost 8,000 volunteers, made up of local folks who love this race at least as much as the participants. These volunteers will staff 22 water/PowerAde tables and 4 refreshment stops that include bananas, Clif product, and candy, so runners don’t necessarily have to carry them.
Family and friends can also cheer their loved ones along the course, and Walt Disney World offers spectators opportunities to upgrade their cheer squad experience through targeted e-mails, maps, and for the highest level, even a VIP tent to gather in case of rain. Runners who have done a Walt Disney World race say that one of the great attractions is the self-contained nature of the weekend; once arriving, there is no need to travel to the race site as with most races, and spectators also find it convenient to move around to different vantage points.
There is probably no runner that enjoys the Walt Disney Marathon Weekend more than Adriano Bastos of Brazil. What Bill Rodgers was to the Boston Marathon, Bastos is to the Walt Disney World Marathon, and his goal is to take 10 titles at this event. Last year he defended his 7th consecutive title in unusually chilly conditions by holding off fellow Brazilian Fredison Costa by under a minute, winning in 2:22:08. Bastos is a triathlete, coach, and a trainer, and his “ownership” of this race has drawn many Brazilians to Orlando in January during their summer vacation. Bastos fits right in with the colorful characters of Walt Disney World, and he is a die-hard Disney fan himself. After each successive win, he has rewarded himself with another Disney tattoo as a permanent souvenir. He deserves it!
In the women’s race, Lisa Mizutani broke the tape for the second year in a row with a 2:51:20. Mizutani, 24, of Japan, beat out Floridian Christa Benton (2:56:43). Third place in the men’s division was also a Florida resident, Jay Lumpkins, who clocked 2:24:24. Both winners in the wheelchair division, Krige Schabort of Georgia (1:42:35) and Shirley Reilly from Arizona (2:22:30), were both repeat winners from the previous year.
All other runners will receive their personal award for crossing the line with the (new) Mickey Medal at the finish. The design of the 2011 race medal was selected by participants, and over 5,000 voters chose this year’s Mickey medal design.
The greatest reward will come on Monday, when Marathon and Goofy participants can forego a return to work, and enjoy complimentary entry into one of the parks! What better way to loosen the legs the day after the event.
Whether you are heading north from South America to beat the heat, or going south to get out of the cold, Orlando in January is a fine place to run. You can Run-Walk-Run under the virtual tutelage of Jeff Galloway, coach to about a quarter million other athletes. You can put on your running shoes and then dress up like Minnie or Tinkerbelle, or even Grumpy or Dopey. And many experienced distance runners want to chalk up this one, which is becoming one of the most famous in North America. Whatever your pleasure, you can be sure that the time put into training and the fun of planning a destination adventure will be well worth it when the magic of the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend is yours.