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9 Tips for Spectators: Disney World Marathon Weekend Survival Guide-Part 6

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!

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 9 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 on 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 the text is delayed. The text (or email) will give you the split time, the runner’s current pace, the finish time, and the estimated arrival time. 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” 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/HT210400. 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. 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 that bring everyone smiles. These signs 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 – 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.

    • Start Line: EPCOT. Accessible 5:00 am-6:00 am via EPCOT Explore Parking Lot
    • Finish Line: EPCOT. Accessible 5:30 am-7:45 am via EPCOT Imagine Parking Lot

6 – 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.

    • Start Line: EPCOT. Accessible 5:00 am-6:00 am on Epcot Center Drive via foot ONLY from the Epcot Parking Lot.
    • Finish Line: EPCOT. Accessible 5:45 am-9:30 pm via EPCOT Imagine Parking Lot.

7 – Marathon Tips

Marathon spectators have a lot of options. You need to decide what other areas you will attempt to get to. Keep in mind that with road closures, there will be delays in getting 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 do not need park admission for Magic Kingdom (before 7:30 am), you will need valid park admission for the other parks because the park is open to the public by the time the runners are at those parks. Take that into consideration when deciding where you will try to meet your runner.

    • Start Line: EPCOT. Accessible 5:00 am-6:00 am on Epcot Center Drive via foot ONLY from the Epcot Parking Lot.
    • Finish Line: EPCOT. Accessible 5:45 am-1:00 pm via EPCOT Imagine Parking Lot.

8 – 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. This area is very busy, but you may get to see your runner cross the finish line.


9 – 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.


Chad & Cindy Nykamp

After years of multiple Walt Disney World vacations, Cindy and Chad's dream of living in Orlando came true in 2010. After friends and family made them their go-to-people for Walt Disney World advice, Cindy and Chad launched DisneyLists.com in August 2015 to share their knowledge and love of Disney. Chad and Cindy have been Disney World Annual Passholders for years, DVC members, together have raced more than 70 runDisney races, and particularly love cruising on the Disney Cruise Line. Chad and Cindy also regularly represent DisneyLists.com at Walt Disney World media events. While attending these events, they get an insiders view of all the new things that have come to Walt Disney World. These experiences have helped them gain knowledge and expertise they happily pass on to their followers. They still can't believe how lucky they are to have such an amazing opportunity and will continue to share Disney with anyone who will listen!
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