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6 Things to Know Pre-Race: Disney Marathon Weekend Survival Guide-Part 3

Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend is one of the largest special events held on Disney World property all year. Between the 100,000 runners and spectators in five different events, Marathon Weekend is massive. For the participants, this weekend is the culmination of months of preparation. The excitement and emotion of the big weekend finally arriving can be overwhelming. With so much on the line and so many questions, you need to be prepared.


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!

You’ve gone to the Expo, and now you just need to wait for the race. Here are six things to consider in the days leading up to your race.

1 – Eating Right Before the Race at Disney

Getting the right kind of nutrition the days leading up to your race is essential. You’ve probably heard about carb-loading with pasta, but there is a lot more than to consider than just the last meal the night before the race. We are not nutritionists or dietary experts. We’ve been merely participating in endurance events for many years and have gained some experience and insight. Common sense goes a long way here. Look for healthier meals, lower in fat and fiber. Consume reasonable portions. Save the treats for after the race. Avoid spicy foods or other foods that may cause digestive troubles. Stick to what you know your body can handle and have tested in training. While Disney isn’t exactly known for healthy food, they have come a long way in offering a wide variety of healthy food options. Be smart about your choices in the days leading up to your race, and you’ll be fine.

2 – Stay Off Your Feet

It’s essential to stay off your feet as much as possible before your race. This one is very challenging, especially at Disney World. You’ll spend hours at the Expo standing in line, and your family will likely want to spend time in the parks in the days leading up to the race. Only you know what your body can handle and what your family can handle!

Determine what your race goals are. If you are not worried about setting a personal record, then you may be able to go into the race a bit more fatigued. However, if you are looking to do your absolute best, you’ll want to put your race needs on top. It’s best to discuss this with your family before you go and make plans accordingly. One year, Chad ran the marathon while I was unable to race due to an injury. I took the kids into the parks on Saturday, while he rested at the resort. He met us for dinner, but he went back to the room to get to bed early. We balanced family time and recognized that we couldn’t do a “normal” Disney vacation until after the race.


3 – Lay Out Everything You Need for Race Morning the Night Before

You’ll want to gather all of the items you need for race morning the night before your race. You’ll be getting up early on race morning, and you don’t want to risk being late or panicking because you can’t find something you need or forgetting something important. It will save you extra stress on race morning. Lay out your attire for the race, shoes, watch, fuel belt, etc. Be sure you have your race bib! You may not run without your bib!

4 – Pack Your gEAR Bag the Night Before

You received a gEAR bag during the Expo. Use this bag to store items you will not carry during your race. Disney highly encourages guests not to bring gEAR bags. All items will be inspected. If you bring items, do not bring anything unnecessary or valuable. While we’ve never heard of problems, don’t put anything in the bag that you can’t live without if it is lost. Disney is not responsible for any lost, damaged, or stolen items. Also, you must use the clear bag provided to you-you may not use any other bag. Once you finish, your race number will be used for you to collect your bag.

What you put in the gEAR bag is mostly personal. Think to yourself, what do you want after the race? I usually put in flip flops, clothes to change into (I don’t always change, but I like having the option), and post-race food or treats you can look forward to, etc.

5 – Discuss Your Race Day Plan with Your Family or Friends

You’ll want to go ahead and discuss a race day plan with your family and friends. There are an estimated 50,000 spectators, and you don’t want to overlook the importance of their support! We have tips for spectators in Part 6 of this series.

At the very least, the night before the race, be sure to discuss how you will find each other after the race. The half and full marathons have had 26,000 runners each in years past! Add to that the spectators, and it’s easy to imagine how difficult it will be to find each other after the race if you don’t have a plan. To make this easier, Disney has designated a “Reunion Area” with large letters for easy identification. Plan to meet up in the spot for the first letter of your last name. Here are some other tips:

  • Let your family and friends know your race number, anticipated finish time, and what you are wearing.
  • If they are tracking you, be sure they understand that the tracking reporting can be slightly delayed.
  • Determine a location to meet up after the race. The Reunion Areas is a great place to do that.
  • Have a backup meeting location.
  • If you run with your cell phone, then a phone call may be all you need. If not, be sure to discuss a meeting area!
Reunion Area
Reunion Area

6 – Get to Bed Early the Night Before

This might seem obvious, and hopefully, it is. You’ll want to get to bed early. You have to wake up very early for these races. You’ll want to be as rested as you can. It may be difficult to get to sleep by 8:00 pm, especially if you are a west coaster, but even if you are not asleep, you at least will be resting, and you’ll be off your feet.
Dopey Challenge participants should make this their top priority throughout the weekend. What is the hardest part of running 48.6 miles in four days? We completed the Dopey Challenge for the first five years, and each time the answer was the same: getting up at 2:30 am four days in a row! Seriously, it wasn’t the mileage; it was the alarm. Sleep is critical in recovery, and even more so when you put your body through a four-day challenge like Dopey. So plan for it and get to bed early! Before you know it, your big day will be here!

In Part 4, we discuss what to expect race morning, including when you should get up. Be sure to set multiple alarms! You do not want to miss your event because you slept in!

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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