(Really) Running around in Walt Disney World

Entering The Magic Kingdom via a backstage entrance - one of the perks of running in the parks!

Does this conversation sound familiar? “What did you do for your vacation?” “We went to Walt Disney World.” “Fun. Did you do anything special?” “Nah, we just ran around in the parks.” Well, this January I will be joining about 40,000 of my closest friends as we really run around the parks. We will be participating in running events as part of the 2015 Walt Disney World Marathon weekend Presented by Cigna. I did my first Disney race – the Walt Disney World Half Marathon – in January of 2013. This was my first race ever and it has gotten me totally hooked on running. Since then I have finished 10 additional half marathons and 4 full marathons. As much as I have enjoyed all these races, I have been aching to return to The World for the chance to run through the parks again. And now I will be taking advantage of this opportunity – in a big way (more on that later).

Runners in Epcot nearing the end of the 2013 Walt Disney World half Marathon

Runners in Epcot nearing the end of the 2013 Walt Disney World half Marathon

Running events at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland have been growing increasingly popular over the last several years. The events include 5K races (3.1 miles), 10K races (6.2 miles) and half marathons (13.1 miles) themed to everything from Disney Princesses to Star Wars and Marvel characters. And then there is the Grand Daddy of them all, the Walt Disney World Marathon (26.2 miles). First run in 1994, the Walt Disney World Marathon has been a January tradition for 21 years. The first marathon was held in 1994, with a half marathon added in 1998. Initially both races took place on the same day and included a relay themed on Chip ‘n Dale. Later the races were split over two days. This allowed runDisney – the Disney division that manages all their races – to offer “Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge”. This event, in its 10th season this year, challenges runners to participate in the half marathon on Saturday and the full marathon on Sunday. The hearty folks who complete this challenge are awarded with a special medal for their efforts (finishers of each race earn a different medal).

castle running

The author running past Cinderella Castle in the 2013 Walt Disney World Half Marathon

For most of its history the race weekend included kids’ races, a 5K, half marathon and a full marathon. Last year Disney upped the ante by adding a new race as well as a new challenge. The new race is a 10k, extending the weekend of events to four days with the kids’ races and the 5K on Thursday the 8th, the 10K on Friday the 9th, the half marathon on Saturday the 10th and the full marathon on Sunday the 11th. With the addition of the 10K, runDisney also added a new challenge – the Dopey challenge. This includes all four races, and finishers will receive another special medal (in addition to the medals for the races as well as the Goofy medal). That’s a total of 48.6 miles over four days. Truly dopey!

Entering The Magic Kingdom via a backstage entrance - one of the perks of running in the parks!

Entering The Magic Kingdom via a backstage entrance – one of the perks of running in the parks!

And speaking of being dopey, yours truly is signed up to be one of those intrepid souls who have committed (pun intended) to undertake this challenge. As you can imagine, participating in an event like this not only challenges you as a runner, it also challenges you as a guest at Walt Disney World. During the race weekend it is important to manage your vacation in ways that most guests don’t have to think about. Everything from how you visit the parks and how to get enough rest to where and what you eat needs to be considered. In my next post I will outline what I am doing to plan for this vacation, as well as some suggestions of what you can do if you want to try running at Disney. Until then – keep running around in the parks! About the author: John Thompson and his wife of over 20 years are the parents of two wonderful young women. John, who grew up in Southern California in the shadow of Sleepy Beauty castle, is a life-long Disney fan. He has been blogging about travel – Disney in particular – for 17 years. He is also the host of the Runner of a Certain Age podcast.

*The information contained in this article represents the opinion of the author, and not necessarily the opinion of the DIS.

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