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8 Things You Need to Know About Race Morning: Disney Marathon Weekend Survival Guide-Part 4

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 the 5k to the 48.6-mile Dopey Challenge. Race morning is an exciting, hectic, stressful, and 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!

To make what should be a great life accomplishment as awesome as possible, here are eight 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 when 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). Remember 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 for up to 10 or 15 minutes.
  • Allow time for a port-a-potty stop before the race (we’ve been in lines for 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 5 – arrive at parking lot by 4:00 am
  • Disney World 10k, Friday, January 6 – arrive at parking lot by 4:00 am
  • Disney World Half Marathon, Saturday, January 7 – arrive at parking lot by 3:45 am
  • Disney World Marathon, Sunday, January 8 – arrive at parking lot by 4:00 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 5, 5:00 am
  • Disney World 10k, Friday, January 6, 5:00 am
  • Disney World Half Marathon, Saturday, January 7, 5:00 am
  • Disney World Marathon, Sunday, January 8, 5:00 am

Here is our example to give you an idea of when to get up. 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, giving us enough time to get there, drop off our bags, use the bathrooms and get in the corrals between 4:15-4:30 am.


2 – Arriving by Disney Transportation

If you are staying at a Disney Resort, you can 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, remember 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!

Transportation Hours

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: 3:00-5:00 am & 6:30-8:30 am.
    • Monorail transportation is not available.
  • 10k on Friday
    • Bus transportation: 3:00-5:00 am & 6:30-9:00 am.
    • Monorail transportation is not available.
  • Half Marathon on Saturday
    • Bus transportation: 2:30-4:30 am & 6:00-10:30 am.
    • Monorail transportation to EPCOT will be available starting at 2:30 am. Transportation back to Magic Kingdom will begin at 4:30 am. Guests staying at Magic Kingdom Resorts MUST use Monorail transportation to EPCOT for the Half and Full Marathon.
  • Marathon on Sunday
    • Bus transportation: 2:30-4:30 am & 7:30-1:30 pm.
    • Monorail transportation will be available starting at 2:30 am. Transportation back to Magic Kingdom will begin at 4:30 am. Guests staying at Magic Kingdom Resorts MUST use Monorail transportation to EPCOT for the Half and Full Marathon.

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 be unable to rely on GPS or other mapping services. See the Event Guide for special directions and road closures. Parking is free if arriving before 6:00 am.

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. Disney suggests all runners bet at EPCOT by 4:00 am on each race morning.

Ride Share Instructions:

For those taking Ride Share please follow the signs to the designated Ride Share Drop Off area. Athletes and spectators should arrive at EPCOT by 4:00 am for all races. Please note EPCOT Toll Plaza via World Drive North is open all four race days. However, on Saturday (01/07) and Sunday (01/08), the EPCOT Parking Lot Exits will be closed from 4:30 am-7:00 am due to Race Course related road closures. Traffic won’t be able to exit EPCOT during this timeframe until roadways have reopened. Please plan any and all transportation accordingly.

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.

Waiting for the 5k to start.

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 the 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 check 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, and 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.


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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