Walt Disney World Marathon is a massive event every year in January, and as usual, Disney puts on an amazing show. However, they don’t do it alone. In this case, it’s the cheering crowds that really add the magic. Spectators play just as important a role for the runners as the volunteers handing out water. In fact, this is so important runDisney actually has teams of volunteers strategically placed in backstage areas where guests aren’t allowed to make sure runners have support through tough parts of the race. If you’re supporting a loved one, know that your job is important!
Combined, Chad and I (Cindy) have completed 73 runDisney races and 30 runDisney challenges! We look forward to this weekend every year! We’ve put together a complete survival guide covering all aspects of the race. This six-part series will get you prepared and ready to run!
- Part 1 covers the 6 things you need to know before you leave for Marathon Weekend.
- Part 2 covers the Health and Fitness Expo, something many first-timers totally underestimate and do not properly prepare for
- Part 3 covers pre-race tips
- Part 4 covers race morning
- Part 5 covers the races themselves
- Part 6 wraps up the series with information for spectators
Being a cheerleader at a race like the Disney World Marathon is a lot harder than just showing up and clapping. Naturally, you’ll want to see your runner as many times as possible which means having a plan for where to be, when to be there, and how to get there. To enjoy your day to the fullest and give the best support possible, here are the top 10 Tips spectators need to know.
1 – You Matter More Than You Think
You’ve likely already been supporting your runner through the months of training leading up to the event. Now you get to make a real difference supporting your runner during the race. You may feel like you won’t make much difference, but believe me, you do. I’ve had races with family support and I’ve had races I’ve done alone. The support makes such a huge difference. Knowing that I have people there to support me is a huge motivator during the race. It will give your runner a pick me up and something to look forward to. It just may be the thing that gets them through the mental tough parts of a race. You have an important role to play race day. And hey, while you’re waiting, cheer from some people you don’t know. Runners will have their names on their race bibs to cheer people on by name. I’ve had races where a perfectly timed “you can do it Cindy” was the only thing that kept me running. Thank you for doing it!
2 – Make a Plan with Your Runner
As noted in Part 3 of our guide, hopefully, you’ve discussed with your runner where you’ll meet up afterward. You will also want to discuss the best plan of attack. While there are limited viewing points during the 5k and 10k, you will have many options during the half, and even more during the full. You’ll want to plan where you think you’ll be, so your runner can look for you. See below for tips for each race so you can make your plan.
3 – Track Your Runner
If you did not do so at the expo, you’ll want to sign up for text updates to be able to track participants with live online tracking for the 10k, the half marathon, and the 10k. Check the Event Guide for specific information on where to sign up for runner tracking. Be aware that sometimes a mat malfunctions and sometimes the text is delayed. The text (or email) will give you the split time, the runner’s current pace, estimated finish time, and estimated time of arrival. This will help you determine where you can go for spectator viewing and when you need to get back to the finish line.
There are other ways to track your runners, particularly if they race with an iPhone. The “Find My Friends” App by Apple, allows you to get the exact location of your runner if you have already accepted them as a “friend.” Learn how to set up this feature here: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201493. While this will give you their location, it will not give you an estimated finish and arrival time, but it can be very helpful to know where they are, especially if the tracker texts are delayed. Many runners also have Garmin Forerunner watches. These watches have Live Tracking through the Garmin Connect App that also lets friends track your time elapsed, distance, speed and elevation in real time. Read here (http://www8.garmin.com/livetrack/) for more information. Both of these methods require the runner to race with their phone. If their phone case does not have water protection, run with it in a sandwich ziplock bag.
4 – I Saw the Sign
Feel free to make posters and signs to hold up during the race. We’ve seen some really creative signs and they bring smiles to everyone. These signs and really help not only your runner but all runners. If you can’t think of any fun sayings, Google running poster ideas and you’ll get some great ideas.
5 – ChEAR Squad
Disney offers official ChEAR Squad packages that provide amenities and exclusive viewing locations along the course. These packages are NOT required but may offer you some extra comforts that make your day more enjoyable. If you purchased one of these packages, be sure to read the Event Guide for information and locations. As of December 16, 2016, there were still 2017 ChEAR Squad packages available.
6 – 5k and 10k Tips
Spectator Viewpoints for the 5k and 10k are limited to only the start and finish line. You’ll be able to line up just past the start line and cheer for your runner as they pass. There will be no tracking alerts for the 5k. For the 10k, you will receive an alert when the runner passes the 5k mark and then the finish.
7 – Half Marathon Tips
You have more viewing options for the half marathon. We do not recommend that you stay for the start at Epcot once your runner has left for the corrals. Why? Because you really won’t be able to see your runner pass you. The first few miles of the race are on Epcot Center Drive. Viewers can line up along the road, but because it is so dark and the runners pass on the far side lanes, you can’t really see your runner. Also, with thousands of runners going by in a very tight it’s very difficult to pick your runner out. We recommend that once your runner leaves for the corrals you get on the monorail and head toward Magic Kingdom so you can be ready to cheer for your runner on Main Street U.S.A. Spectators do not need to pay for park admission to enter Magic Kingdom.
Or you could see them as they go through the Ticket and Transportation Center and then walk over to the Polynesian Resort and see them pass by on Floridian Way. You’ll need to get back on the monorail to get back to Epcot. At Epcot, if you have a park ticket, you can see them pass at Spaceship Earth, but you will miss them at the Finish Line. Or you could see them as they enter the Epcot parking lot just before the bus stations, and then walk to the Finish Line to see them cross.
8 – Marathon Tips
Marathon spectators have the same options through mile 7 as the half marathon. After that, you need to decide what other areas you will attempt to get to. Keep in mind that with road closures, there will be delays to get to other areas on property. Animal Kingdom is probably the hardest park to get in and out of due to the road closures. Note that while you did not need park admission for Magic Kingdom, you will need valid park admission for the other parks because, by the time the runners are at those parks, the park is open to the public. Take that into consideration when deciding where you will try to meet your runner. See the Event Guide for more information.
9 – Finish Line
The Finish Line is located in the Imagine Lot of Epcot. There will be a limited number of complimentary viewing seats along the Finish Line available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Reserved seating is available for the ChEAR Squad. This area is very busy, but you may get to see your runner cross the finish line.
10 – Post Race Tips
Hopefully, you’ve discussed with your runner a place to meet up. If not, Disney has designated a “Reunion Area” with large letters for easy identification. Simply head for the sign of the first letter of the runner’s last name and keep an eye out. If they have their phone, then simply call.
Above all, celebrate with your runner! They did it! You are likely very tired as well. Offering race support is a tiring business! While your runner recovers from their race, be sure to recover from your spectating. Who knows, maybe you’ve been inspired to try a race for yourself? You never know until you try!
For a no obligation, FREE Quote on a Disney vacation package, please contact our travel partner Magical Vacation Planner at 407-442-0227 (407-442-0215 for Spanish). You can also request a FREE quote online by Clicking HERE.