In this post, we recap the 2019 RunDisney Walt Disney World Half Marathon race and provide some information on the 2020 race, scheduled to be held on Saturday, January 11, 2020.
If you’ve read our other 2019 race recaps, some of the information in here will be redundant. We suggest going down to the “race day” section for the information unique to this race. If you haven’t read them, here they are (links updated as we post):
Walt Disney World Half Marathon 2019 Recap + 2020 Information (you are here)
Walt Disney World Dopey Challenge 2019 Recap + 2020 Information (upcoming)
Walt Disney World Half Marathon Registration
We registered for the 2019 Walt Disney World Half Marathon as part of the Dopey Challenge. The Dopey Challenge consists of all four Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend races—the 5K (Thursday), 10K (Friday), Half Marathon (Saturday), and Full Marathon (Sunday). To register for the Dopey Challenge, you just register for a single event (“Dopey Challenge”), you do not register for all four races separately. We’ll have a full Dopey Challenge post up in a week or so.
The 2019 race was held on Saturday, January 12, 2019. Registration is done online at the RunDisney website. RunDisney used to use a third-party provider for registration services, bus has since switched to its own (better) system. You’ll now register using your Disney account. Registration for the Half Marathon is a straightforward process, so I’m not going to walk you through the specific process. Here are some relevant details.
Walt Disney World Half Marathon Price
We paid $623.61 (with tax) per person for the Dopey Challenge. The Half Marathon cost $200.41. Here are the other event prices (pre-tax):
Registration for all the Marathon Weekend races was originally set to open in April 2018, but was delayed as RunDisney changed registration systems. Registration opened to the general public on July 19, 2018. As Walt Disney World Annual Passholders, we had access to early registration on July 17, 2018. Unlike the 5K and 10K, the Half Marathon did not sell out in 2019.
RunDisney 2020 Walt Disney World Half Marathon Information
The 2020 Walt Disney World Half Marathon is scheduled for Saturday, January 11, 2020. As always, it will be the third race of the four-race / four-day Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend.
Registration for the 2020 races is set to move back to the old schedule, with Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend registration currently scheduled to open April 16th, 2019. Early registration is expected April 14, though I have not seen confirmation of this.
If you’re interested in running the 2020 Walt Disney World Half Marathon, you should join the official RunDisney email list and be sure to visit their website a few times between now and April to make sure nothing changes with registration.
Although recent RunDisney half marathons have not been selling out, you should always be prepared for the possibility. We recommend you be prepared to register as soon as registration opens (usually between 10AM and Noon Eastern). If you don’t have a Disney account already, you should set one up today by visiting DisneyWorld.com.
Running for Charity
Even if the race sells out, you may still be able to run by raising money for charity. While we’ve done this for several other races, we haven’t done it for any RunDisney events. Here’s an example charity registration page for the 2019 races. For that organization, the Half Marathon fundraising requirement was $900.
You’re required to complete a signed waiver to run the race. RunDisney will provide you a link (usually by email) to get your form. You can either print this out at home and complete it in advance or print it at the expo and complete it there.
Costumes are permitted and common at all the RunDisney races, though Marathon Weekend probably has the fewest due to its lack of a specific theme.
Always check the RunDisney website for the latest costume policy. This is more a time for creativity than just going out and buying a costume. This is also one of the few times of year you might get away with wearing a full costume to the parks.
This isn’t a “how to” guide to RunDisney costumes, but we want to remind you of some things. First, test your costume with a run (outside is better because of the wind, but a treadmill might suffice). We made the mistake of not testing our headgear for one outfit one year and basically had to scrap it because it the wind kept knocking it off.
Second, never wear something brand new on race day. If you’re an experienced runner, you might know your personal exceptions to this rule. If you’re not, don’t underestimate the damage a simple poor outfit decision can create, particularly if you’re running Dopey (chafing on day one is…not fun on day four).
Third, if you’re running Dopey, do your “complicated” costumes first. If it has bells and whistles, or if it requires an unorthodox piece of gear, wear it for the 5K or 10K.
Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend Expo
We’ll have more merchandise photos in our full Dopey Challenge recap. For now, we’re mostly focused on practical information for Half Marathon runners and Dopey Challenge runners.
What Is The Expo?
If you’ve run a race before, you probably already know all this. The expo serves two purposes. First, it’s where you need to go to pick up three items: your bib (required for running), your complimentary race shirt, and your gear check bag (comes with your tshirt).
Second, it’s a chance to buy more things. You can purchase official RunDisney merchandise, and there are a huge number of third-party exhibitors. Not everything is a sales pitch—there are speakers, demonstrations, and some fun things like free temporary tattoos.
When we first started running, we loved race expos. Now we’re sort of over them. If you’re a new runner—or if you’ve never run a really large race—you should definitely plan for two hours at the expo just to soak in the excitement of race weekend. The expo is open to the public, and they sell spectator gear. Go ahead and bring any friends and family along.
Expo Location & Getting There
The Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend Expo is held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Parking at the complex is free marathon weekend. If you’re coming from a Disney hotel, Disney will have chartered buses taking you between Disney hotels the expo.
These buses run roughly every 30 minutes and stop near (but not always at) where the regular Disney buses stop at hotels. Each bus route has a color and/or number. When you return to your hotel, you’ll get on at the bus stop with your route number (it’s really easy and there are tons of volunteers to help you).
The Expo is held on Wednesday through Saturday of race weekend. This year, the Wednesday hours were 10AM to 8PM. Dopey runners need to pick up their bibs at the expo on Wednesday for the Thursday 5K. Half Marathon runners can pick up their bibs Wednesday, Thursday (10AM to 7PM), or Friday (9:30AM to 7PM).
Expo — Bib and Gear Pickup
When you arrive at the expo, just follow the signs for bib pickup. If you already completed your race waiver, you can proceed straight to bib pickup. If you haven’t completed the waiver (like we didn’t), you’ll stop at a computer at the entrance, enter your last name and date of birth, print out the waiver, and sign it.
The waiver has your bib number. Bib pickup will have different stands for different bib numbers. For Dopey Challenge, the pickup was one stop—we got our bib, tshirt, and bag all in one building.
Dopey Challenge runners get two bibs—one for the 5K and 10K and one for the Half and Full Marathons. Dopey Challenge runners need to get a photo taken to confirm it’s actually them who completes all four races.
Half Marathon runners got their bib here and then proceeded to get their race shirt in the main expo building. Your shirt will be in your gear check bag. Check your shirt to confirm the size is correct, it fits well, and it is in good condition.
Expo — RunDisney Merchandise
This year, there was a building dedicated to Official RunDisney Merchandise. We felt like RunDisney went a bit overboard with the amount of merchandise this year. There was a huge variety of shirts, pins, mugs, hats, ornaments, and anything else. Obviously if you’re a collector or just excited about your big race, then you might love this.
It is good to see that Disney had seemingly everything in stock in large quantities when we were at the expo Wednesday night. In the past, eBay hawkers have created a real problem, but this didn’t seem to be the case this year. You can pay for official merchandise by any accepted Disney payment method (card, cash, MagicBand, gift card, Rewards card).
Expo — Other Merchandise
Vendors at the expo sell all manner of things—running gear, race registrations, spectator gear, massagers, running fuel etc. As these aren’t Disney vendors, you’ll need cash or card.
Walt Disney World Half Marathon 2019 — Race Day
If you want a play-by-play of race day, check out our instagram profile (@mousehacking) for the highlight “WDW Half.”
Waking Up and Getting To the Staging Area
The race was scheduled for a 5:30AM start—the same time as the shorter races. Buses from the hotels began departing at 3:00AM—thirty minutes earlier than the shorter races—and Disney recommends you be on a bus by 3:30AM—also thirty minutes earlier than the shorter races.
In the recaps for the shorter races, I pondered how late someone could push their arrival. Well I know there was no way I was getting on a bus by 3:30AM. Emily wasn’t as excited about ignoring Disney’s suggestions, so I agreed to aim for before 4AM.
Anyways, I woke up at about 3:40AM. I always get my race outfit ready the night before, particularly for these early RunDisney races. For every race, I pin my bib on my shirt (or wherever I’m pinning it) the night before so I don’t have to deal with that.
The half marathon is the first race of the Dopey Challenge that we put serious thought into. You probably could take it incredibly easy, but we find that mentally we like to do the first ten miles roughly how we plan on running those same 10 miles of the marathon. Because of that, and since the temperatures were up to mid-50s this morning (compared to mid-40s the past two races), we were more comfortable in some standard race gear.
We left our room at All-Star Sports at about 3:55AM and caught the 4AM bus. We arrived at 4:18AM before making the 5-minute walk from the drop off to the staging area.
If you’re checking gear (we never do), you’ll go drop that off (just follow the signs). Remember to use the big, clear plastic bag you got your tshirt(s) in. No other bag will be accepted. There was a Green Army Man at gear check (which is also the entryway to the corrals for these races) getting everyone excited.
The biggest activity before (and after) the race is the opportunity to meet some characters. For the half, the lineup is usually Mickey, Donald (he’s the featured character for the race), Goofy, and Dopey. There are four separate lines.
Depending on how early you arrive, how fast you are, and how long you stay after, you can meet up to all four characters. We don’t have much advice on this, but we usually meet Dopey after the marathon. That might seem like the worst time, but the marathon has such high variance in finishing times—people trickle in over 3.5 hours—that it’s usually not a bad wait.
Other than that, there are simple snack items for sale and a Joffrey truck. There’s also a merchandise booth (usually open only after the race), though you’ll definitely prefer to do your merchandise shopping at the expo.
The race has two announcers / hosts who are on the main stage up until about 30 minutes before the race, when they move over to the starting line stage. Any normal person with a heart and a sense of humor will swing between laughter and having your heartstrings tugged by the heartwarming stories. And even if you're heartless and without a sense of humor...you will get wildly pumped up by their energy!
The corrals for the longer races open earlier—about an hour before start. Only runners with bibs are allowed into the corral area. Unlike the 5K and the 10K, the corrals for the Half Marathon and Full Marathon are about a 20-minute walk from the staging area.
The announcers move over to the starting line stage when the corrals open, so you’ll get to enjoy them until you depart. I was put in Corral A (which means that Corral has become much slower over the years, because I sure have), and Emily was in Corral C. In the ten marathons and numerous other races I’ve run, I’ve never been in one where you couldn’t move back to run with someone. So I dropped back to Corral C to run with Emily.
The race starts in “mini-waves” released every two to three minutes. Every mini-wave gets fireworks. These waves are smaller than the corrals, so even if you’re in Corral A, you probably won’t start right at 5:30AM.
Course & Race Notes
The course map changes a bit every few years, but has a few consistent elements. You run north on World Drive, through the Magic Kingdom gate, and into Transportation and Ticket Center. Then you enter Magic Kingdom through the front and run up Main Street U.S.A. and through Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Liberty Square, and Frontierland—including going through Cinderella Castle between Fantasyland and Liberty Square. That’s the first half.
The second half is basically just taking the highway south back to Epcot. It’s actually pretty miserable as the sun rises and it gets warmer. You then enter Future World from the west and exit the same way you exit all four races through the northeast corner. You do not run around the World Showcase for the Half Marathon.
Overall, this is probably the marathon weekend race I felt best during. Not taking the 10K seriously was probably a mistake given my low level of training. Between my attitude and my choice of gear, I let my form really slip which caused some physical strains.
By contrast, for the half I really tried to maintain form and—between character stops—an even, comfortable pace. This wound up working out well, as I really felt in top form after the half. The worst part was the preview of that Florida heat we’d see the next day. By miles 8 or 9, the sun was already making the race uncomfortable.
Most of the people staffing the race are volunteers. Thank them every chance you get.
The Half Marathon has good spectating at Transportation and Ticket Center, along Main Street U.S.A., and outside of Grand Floridian
We have a full post on RunDisney race etiquette here. We recommend it even for veteran runners.
There were eight Powerade / water stations and one food (energy beans) stop
There are port-a-potties, but the better option is usually to use a restroom in Magic Kingdom
The Half Marathon and Full Marathon also have a few other features the shorter races don’t. You’ll see choir groups, high school bands, and DJs scattered throughout the course. There also is a Green Army Man on course encouraging runners (though this is much more fun at the full marathon, in our opinion).
The Half and Full (and the shorter races, but it matters less) also ranges from having an incredibly wide course to incredibly narrow. We’re talking four lanes of traffic across as some points and four people across at others. The particularly narrow sections are right before and right after Magic Kingdom (as these are on limited access roads, not major highways), so if you’re planning a push you’ll want to make it before mile marker 3 or after mile marker 7.
The technical pace limit for all RunDisney races is 16 minutes per mile. In the 5K and 10K posts, we glossed over this because it’s only semi-enforced. For the Half Marathon and Full Marathon, this pace is strictly enforced from the back of the corrals by a group of runners known as “Balloon Ladies.” The Balloon Ladies have balloons, and you’re essentially done if they catch you.
There’s some wiggle room—but we’re talking yards, not miles. If you get caught by the Balloon Ladies, you’ll be stuck on a bus at the next sweep point and driven back to the staging area.
RunDisney in Florida uses the PhotoPass photography system. This means annual passholders and guests with Memory Maker will have complete access to their photos. Everyone else will either have to buy them individually or via Memory Maker (or some other package Disney offers). You can read more about these systems in our Guide to Disney World PhotoPass and Memory Maker.
Not all character stops have Photopass—the occassional (to use a loaded term for this) “minor” character will not have a Photopass photographer. For those characters, you’ll have to have their Cast Member handler take your picture on your device.
You’ll usually be able to spot on-course PhotoPass photographers ahead of time by their green tents, one on each side of the course. This might be covered in the etiquette post, but just try not to be a jerk about getting photos. If you want to jump or fly or whatever, go ahead, but don’t cut in front of someone just to get your perfect picture—it’s rude and dangerous.
Photopass is also present in front of Cinderella Castle. They have multiple photographers there, so this is actually one of the quickest photo spots you’ll encounter.
RunDisney Walt Disney World 2019 Half Marathon Characters
We saw fifteen character stops on the 2019 Walt Disney World Half Marathon course: Jack Sparrow and Angelica, Lightning McQueen, Ralph and Vanellope; Evil Queen (not pictured), Maleficent, and Queen of Hearts (not pictured) (three separate photos with three lines in one spot); Mike and Sully (not pictured), The White Rabbit, Goofy; Lady Tremaine, Drizella, and Anastasia; Woody and Bullseye, Cinderella and Prince Charming, Dapper Chip and Dale with Clarice, vacationing Donald and Daisy, Mr. Incredible and Edna Mode; Carl, Russell, and Dug; Clarabelle Cow and Horace Horsecollar.
Lines are typically around 5 minutes, though anything from 0 to 10 occurs. The character stops are (almost all, see note on Photopass above) staffed by Photopass, and they’re happy to take a photo on your device as well (be prepared with it). Mind the fact that your lens might get sweaty and need a wipe to avoid lens flare (plenty of my pictures have it).
Finish & Getting Back To The Hotel
We finished at 8:19AM.
At the finish, they handed out:
medals (always get one because duh)
cooling towels (remember that the previous two cooler days had mylar blankets)
water and Powerade
snack boxes (nachos, “cheese”, pretzels, applesauce, chia bar)
There are photographers setup to take finisher photos. Gear pickup is right after the finish line. From there, you’re back at the staging area.
This is a good time to grab some character photos (the four from before the race are back). People really lounge around after the Half Marathon, and it’s a good idea to take some time to walk between sits before hopping on the bus.
Especially if you’re running the Goofy or Dopey Challenge, we really recommend you spend the afternoon in the parks! You need to stay loose and be active in paying attention to different aches and pains.
2019 RunDisney Walt Disney World Half Marathon — Conclusions
Let’s break it down. Pros: goes through Magic Kingdom, lots of character stops. Cons: doesn’t go around World Showcase or past Boardwalk, starts at 5:30AM. Emily’s gut reaction is that she preferred the Half Marathon to the 10K, mine was the reverse.
Personally, there’s one big factor that holds me back from fully recommending this race, and that’s that it’s the only RunDisney half marathon that isn’t the “feature” race of its weekend. This is definitely intangible, but all the excitement, all the energy comes to a peak on marathon Sunday. By contrast, all the other RunDisney weekends are highlighted by the half marathon.
That said, Disney doesn’t hold back for this race. Could I really point to specifics to back up that last paragraph—probably not.
Like every RunDisney race, you’re paying for something a little different, and the Walt Disney World Half Marathon definitely delivers the RunDisney experience.
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