When you think of visiting a Disney theme park, you likely equate it with family vacations. But, what if you could experience the “happiest place on earth” in a whole new way? Each year, Walt Disney World and Disneyland host multiple marathons and half marathons where runners set out through one of the parks for a race like no other.
RunDisney is a program that holds various races throughout the year, with each one taking place at a different park. Picture a sunrise sprint through the countries of Epcot or a midnight run through Disney’s Hollywood Studios. If you want to bring the family along and turn it into a vacation, runDisney has options to involve your family members like Disney-themed kid races, family 5K, diaper dash, health and fitness expos, and a finish line party. Many participants have claimed it’s the most fun you’ll have running a marathon.
What many of the runners find is that they make connections and friendships with people from all over the country. They also hear inspiring stories about people’s personal experiences or struggles. One runner told us that she had beat breast cancer and had since participated in the marathon annually to raise money for cancer research. “My family comes to root for me on the sidelines and then we spend a few days after the race enjoying the parks,” she says. “I have met a group of women (and cancer-survivors) who participate each year. These women have become friends and penpals and we look forward to seeing each other. It also feels wonderful to walk around the park after the race, sporting my medal and hearing feedback from strangers.”
Like most elements of Disney, the races are meticulously organized. Although each marathon can be extremely crowded, the courses are well-lit, start on time, and the service is first-class. Runners rave about the fantastic volunteers and thousands of supportive spectators throughout. Expect Disney character photo ops along the way, piped-in music, photographers, multiple aid stations with water and snacks, and substantial medals at the finish line. As one runner noted, “Where else can you run through Main Street or Cinderella’s Castle and high-five Disney characters along the way?”
Things to keep in mind
- Marathon weekends sell out very fast, so plan ahead!
- You don’t need to purchase a theme park ticket to participate.
- The New York City marathon this ain’t! You will see plenty of people walking, but you will also find serious runners as well. Each race is focused on having fun and is the perfect marathon for a first-timer.
- Start times are often early in the day.
- The race is flat. No strenuous hills.
- Arrive early. There’s a relatively 20 to 30 minute walk to some of the start lines and races start right on time.
- Find out about perks ahead of time. For instance, if you run the marathon, you may be entitled to a free day at the park, or a “fast pass” for rides.
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