The first big runDisney event of the year is always the Walt Disney World Marathon. In 2020 it is being held January 8 – 12 and involves a weekend with four major races (five if you’ve booked a Disney cruise after your race) and a fitness expo.
Walt Disney World marathon weekend is always a little extra busy around the parks. But this year, with an extra weekend buffer after New Year’s Eve, it means most schools will be back in session and the crowds should be fairly manageable.
If you are visiting Walt Disney World during the marathon, we have some tips. First is if you are driving and see runners on the course, slow down and avoid causing an accident. Disney does a good job keeping cars and runner separate, but there are a few spots where they are near each other.
If you’re not running, there are some opportunities for spectators to watch the runners on their race across the resort once the parks open (best bet is Animal Kingdom or near the end or the race inside EPCOT). Disney also sells reserved grand stand seating near the finish line at EPCOT with a spectator package, so if you know someone in the race you can be there at the end to cheer them to the end.
Check the race map and times to avoid the route or see if your WDW bus transportation from your resort may take longer. We’ve heard reports that it make take up to an hour longer to travel do the parks due to changes in bus routes before and during the Saturday and Sunday races. Driving your own car can be difficult due to the same detours.
The parks are fairly empty in the mid-morning after the race. This is because the racers tend to go back to their rooms for a nap and shower before returning to the parks in the afternoon. So the mornings are actually a good time to be in the parks.
The 2020 route through Disney’s Hollywood Studios avoids Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, so if you’re planning to do the early morning boarding pass thing, you won’t have to deal with runners once you get into the park (although they do pass through the entrance plaza).
When you’re in the parks, you may notice some yellow or orange cones. That is the race course. Look for Disney cast members at certain points along the route for the best opportunity to cross the race course if you need to. Don’t try to cross the course yourself as it is difficult to judge the speed of runners. Once the last runner has jogged by, Disney is fairly quick about taking down the cones and other racer markers so the park returns to normal fairly quickly.
Later in the day, if you do see a runner sporting a race medal (or by Sunday multiple medals), be sure to offer them congratulations for acheiving that amazing feat of endurance and speed. No need to go crazy, but a quick “Congratulations on your race” is fine.
Note: The Marathon starts 30 minutes earlier than previous years. With a 5AM start that means all but the very last racers will be off the course by 11:30 or noon-ish. Since the race heads to the Magic Kingdom first, that means the roads in that part of the property will clear up first.
Have you visited Walt Disney World on a marathon weekend before? What was your experience like?