When it comes to sporting events, no one puts on a better show than Walt Disney World. Every year, nearly 100,000 runners and spectators descend on the Happiest Place on Earth to participate in running events ranging from 1-mile kids races to the 48.6-mile Dopey Challenge. Race morning is an exciting, hectic, stressful, overwhelming experience. Whether you’re running in one of the races, cheering on a friend or family member, or thinking about participating next year, knowing what to expect on race morning will make the day a little easier.
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
To make what should be a great life accomplishment as awesome as it can be, here are 8 things you need to know about race morning.
1 – Wake Up Early
To lessen the impact of the races on traffic in and around the parks, Disney starts the races very early in the morning. That means a very early morning (or mornings). Here are things to consider when deciding what time you need to get up.
- Allow yourself enough time to eat and digest breakfast (2-3 hours before the race)
- Allow time to get dressed and ready to walk out the door
- Allow plenty of time to arrive by Disney Bus (30-60 minutes depending on how long you need to wait for a bus) -or-
- Allow plenty of time to arrive by car (depending on your starting point). Keep in mind that traffic can be very heavy getting into the Epcot parking lot. Expect backups extending onto World Drive and surrounding roads.
- Allow time for security checks and dropping off gEAR bags. Again, expect lines here up to 10 or 15 minutes.
- Allow time for a port-a-potty stop before the race (we’ve been in lines as long as 20-30 minutes).
- If doing the half or full marathon, then allow 15-20 minutes to walk to the race start.
- Disney encourages you to line up in your corral at least 30 minutes before the race start.
Here are the official requirements* for arrival:
- Disney World 5k, Thursday, January 6 – arrive parking lot by 4:00 am
- Disney World 10k, Friday, January 7 – arrive parking lot by 4:00 am
- Disney World Half Marathon, Saturday, January 8 – arrive parking lot by 3:30 am
- Disney World Marathon, Sunday, January 9 – arrive parking lot by 3:30 am
* Note that while this is a “requirement,” if you arrive 5-10 minutes after the time listed, they are not going to turn you away. With thousands of runners, Disney doesn’t want everyone waiting until the last minute to arrive.
Here are the official race times:
- Disney World 5k, Thursday, January 6, 5:00 am
- Disney World 10k, Friday, January 7, 5:00 am
- Disney World Half Marathon, Saturday, January 8, 5:00 am
- Disney World Marathon, Sunday, January 9, 5:00 am
To give you an idea of when to get up here is our example. For many years, we have stayed at Ft. Wilderness Campground. For the half and full marathons, we would set our alarm three hours before the race start. With a race start of 5:00 am, we set our alarm for 2:00 am. We leave the campground around 3:15 by car, which gives us enough time to get there, drop off our bags, use the bathrooms and get in the corrals by 4:30 am at the latest.
2 – Arriving by Disney Transportation
If you are staying at a Disney Resort you will be able to use Disney transportation to get to the race. Please note, event buses are NOT the normal Disney buses. They are charter buses hired specially for this event and the pickup and drop-off areas will be in different locations than normal bus stops for the parks. If you are unsure, ask. There are always lots of event staff members around to help. Lines will form. Be sure to give yourself enough time to get to the start corrals on time. Also, keep in mind that the buses will have to tackle much of the same traffic as those arriving by car, so plan accordingly. You don’t want to miss the start. Give yourself enough time to get there!
runDisney event transportation will be provided to/from all Walt Disney World Resorts, Shades of Green, and the Swan and Dolphin Resorts.
- 5k on Thursday
- Bus transportation: 3:00-4:30 am & 6:00-8:30 am.
- 10k on Friday
- Bus transportation: 3:00-4:30 am & 7:00-9:00 am.
- Half Marathon on Saturday
- Bus transportation: 2:30-4:30 am & 6:00-10:30 am.
- Monorail transportation will be available starting at 2:30 am.
- Marathon on Sunday
- Bus transportation: 2:30-4:30 am & 6:30-1:30 pm.
- Monorail transportation will be available starting at 2:30 am.
Also, note that no Skyliner transportation will be available to the race site during the race weekend.
3 – Arriving by Car
Runners not staying at host resorts or those who prefer to drive themselves will need to arrive by car. All four races begin and end at Epcot. Please note that there will be road closures so you may not be able to rely on GPS or other mapping services. See the Event Guide for special directions and road closures.
In the past years, we’ve experienced relatively light traffic for the 5k and the 10k. Both of these events have around 12,500 runners. Saturday and Sunday will have heavy traffic due to the much larger number of participants, around 26,000 each morning. Expect delays and give yourself plenty of time to get there.
4 – You Must Enter the Race Area Through the Explore Lot of Epcot
For those staying at resorts close to the corrals on Bonnet Creek Parkway and Buena Vista Drive (Old Key West, Port Orleans, and Saratoga Springs), be aware that you may not walk to the corrals from those resorts. Disney will prohibit you from doing this for security reasons. You must access the start corrals through the Explore Lot at Epcot. Those who attempt to enter through any other area are subject to disqualification. Don’t risk it for an extra hour of sleep. Plan to get to Epcot by bus or car.
5 – Security Bag Check and gEAR Bag Drop Off
When you arrive, all bags, including fuel belts will be searched. So, you’ll want to wait to tie up your gEAR Bag until after you’ve gone through security. gEAR bag drop-off will be clearly marked with large letters. You’ll go to the one marked with the first letter of your last name.
6 – Expect Long Lines at the Port-a-Potties
Portable restroom facilities will be available in the staging area for runners and spectators. Runners-only facilities are located on the other side of bag check and near the race start. Plan accordingly, especially for the half and full. Again, there are around 26,000 runners at each race and they all want to go to the bathroom one more time!
7 – Understanding Corral Placement
Many first-timers are surprised that they need to walk to the race corrals for the half and full marathons. As we’ve said before you’ll want to give yourself at least 15-20 minutes to walk over there. With thousands of people and a narrow pathway, it is very crowded and the walk is more of a slow crawl. Do yourself a favor and don’t wait until the last minute to start the approximately half-mile walk.
You’ll be directed to your designated start corral which is indicated by a letter on your race bib. Follow signs to the lettered corral that matches your bib. As a courtesy to others, please line up in the appropriate corral. If you are running with people who have different corral letters, you may line up together in the corral that is the furthest back. Runners may move back but not forward in the corrals. Security staff will be checking letters before they allow you to enter the corral.
runDisney will also be utilizing Start Groups to manage the flow of participants from the staging area to the start of the race. Your start group designation is a small “s” followed by a number (such as s1, s2, s3, s4) and is located in the upper corner of your bib.
8 – Be Prepared to Wait (some more)
You may have noticed a pattern. Running a Disney race involves a lot of waiting. Once you get to your corral you’ll have a little more time to wait in the corrals. Many people stand, others sit. In the past, we’ve brought towels that we can sit on for extra padding. We leave it behind with the discarded clothing. Disney picks up all items left behind and donates them to charity.
Soon enough, the race will start and you’ll be on your way to completing your magical runDisney race. Be sure to check out Part 5 of our series which gives tips for running the races and Part 6 will give tips for spectators!
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.