2017 Walt Disney World Marathon Recap / Report

Update: This post has been archived. Click here to read more about the 2019 Walt Disney World Marathon and to get information on the 2020 edition of the race.

When we remember the 2017 Walt Disney World Marathon, we will remember two things. First, the half marathon the day before was cancelled. Second, it was cold.

Morning and Staging

The temperature at race start was 36 degrees with a "feels like" temperature of 28 and a wind chill that was allegedly dropping below 20 degrees.

Costumes can be tricky in the cold, but the truth is that ours were more faulted by our general poor planning and the wind. I was supposed to go as Steamboat Willie, which would have been fine in the cold as it required both a long sleeve shirt and black tights. Unfortunately, there was no way my ears were going to stay up. I swear they were sturdy running around the apartment, but in the hotel I couldn't get them to stay. My ears where made onto a headband, but a baseball hat would have been the way to go. Emily decided to ditch her Steamboat Minnie hat too, so we went out as two semi-costumed runners.


Having fallen for the RunDisney bus lies in 6 straight races, we finally decided to get on a bus at 4AM (the latest RunDisney says you can to be on time). We got off the bus by 4:18AM and were at the staging area shortly thereafter.

Disney had put out a few heaters to keep warm, but what really kept the warmth was the crowd around those heaters. As people started to head to the corrals and we got closer to the heater, we actually found ourselves getting colder with fewer bodies around.

The Start

Shortly after 5AM we finally decided to head to the race start, which is in a different location than the previous races. I'm glad we didn't push it much further, because the walk was longer than I remembered, taking closer to 20 minutes when I remembered it being only about 10-15.

Unlike in the previous races, Disney did fireworks at every corral start. I wished I had gloves, and there were actually a lot discarded at the early stages of the race (and even in the corrals), but I decided to tough it out. Once we got moving we warmed up pretty well, although the worst part about running in the cold is always when you have to stop (because your sweat cools), which made character stops a little chilly.

Character Stops

I tweeted character locations for the first half, but stopped as I fell farther behind the middle of the pack because I figured they'd be less useful (I was also seeing fewer likes/retweets — presumably most of those in the earlier races came from people waiting to start). I counted about 15 characters in the first half, and maybe slightly fewer in the second half. They were all pretty high quality, and we made about 10 stops.

My favorite character stop was definitely Oswald the Lucky Rabbit when we got into Hollywood Studios. We'd heard rumors he would be coming to Hollywood Studios, so a character stop there certainly bodes well for him.

I do feel like we are missing a few Photopass photos. For the most part, I asked the staff to take pictures with my phone as well (something they had a very efficient process for), but when we had shorter lines or I was a little tired, I didn't bother. This might have been a mistake as our bibs maybe weren't as visible as could be. I'm still waiting on word from RunDisney as to whether I'd be able to track down the missing photos.

The Race

There isn't too much to say about the Marathon course that hasn't already been said. You go through Magic Kingdom around mile 6, Animal Kingdom around mile 13, Wide World of Sports around mile 20, Hollywood Studios around mile 23, and finish in Epcot. The course through Hollywood was changed this year because of the construction, and I actually much preferred this year's route, which came in from behind Tower of Terror and went down Sunset Boulevard. Last year's course went around the back of the park to either Commissary Lane or maybe Pixar Place, which is a frustrating distance to spend behind the park for a not great route in the park.

The course is mostly flat with a few underpass-related hills and one ramp. It spends most of its time on highways or Disney backroads. It narrows a lot, which can make running even with one partner a challenge.

The spectators are amazing, though there were fewer this year than last (because of the cold, presumably). Plenty hand out snacks (pretzels, twizzlers, gummy worms, jelly beans, oranges, and more), which is always a nice touch of racing (except for the questionable hygienics). Luckily with the cold there were lots of gloves, which made giving high fives more hygienic.

We wound up finishing in just over 5 hours and 53 minutes, good for the slowest marathon of our five and longest run of our lives. I've said it before—I always have great respect for people who take 6+ hours to run a marathon. Running for that long is never easy, physically or mentally. It always takes a different toll on my body to run closer to 6 hours than to 4 hours.

A final note about the race—thank you volunteers! The volunteers were excellent, despite the cold. Unlike runners, they just stand there getting cold beverage spilled on or thrown at them most of the day. The volunteers and cast members along the course were great support, and we're always thankful to them for coming out to support us.

Other Fun Things

The only thing we did not do this trip that was sort of on our race list was the ride Everest. The line was pretty reasonable, so I wouldn't have expected to wait more than 15 minutes, but we decided it wasn't worth it. We had actually stopped at Thirsty River, which was happily open at the halfway point. We were there at about 8:45AM and they said they had been open for an hour. We split a beer there.

Our second split beer came at a stop we had planned at Germany in Epcot. We took the beer and walked for about 10 minutes through the World Showcase drinking it before getting back to running. Enough people had a similar idea and actually kept their drinks through the finish that the announcer actually commented on the number of "adult beverages" crossing the finish line.

The Finish

The finish line itself was great, with Mickey and Minnie on either side. After we passed through there, we quickly got our Marathon medals. Then through the Dopey tent for the Half, Goofy, and Dopey medals. The snack boxes were their standard amazing. We opted against waiting for the photo with Dopey since we'd gotten one last year and didn't want to wait in line. We took the bus back to the Swan, where we were able to walk along some of the course on the Boardwalk to the Beach Club, cheering on the runners as we went. We watched from the balcony until the balloon ladies and then the official sweepers passed by.

Planning a Disney trip in 2017? Check out our 17 things to know for Walt Disney World in 2017, including RunDisney offerings!