Marathon Weekend 2023: in the Rearview Mirror

It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly a week since the great summit of runDisney fans convened in Orlando. I’m personally still on a cloud from a sucessful Dopey Challenge, and I see race memories every time I close my eyes. I’ve got 90s grooves on autoplay in my head (I2I and DuckTales, I’m looking at you).

As with all things, there were highs and lows, but for me at least, it was mostly highs.

The Expo

I was lucky enough to get into town on time and with all my luggage, so everything started out on the right foot. I had early access to the merchandise at the expo, so I headed there bright and early on Wednesday morning to take a look. I’ve never been to the very start of the expo before so it was a bit of a different experience from what I’ve seen in the past. I have heard rumors about the “eBay” shoppers that hit the merchandise hall at the start and wipe it out. I was hoping that description was a bit of an exaggeration, but unfortunately I walked into some madness that morning.

Club runDisney Platinum members got access to shopping at 8:30 and Gold members entered at 9:00. I was in the arena just after 9, and was a little unprepared for what I saw. People were just scooping up armloads of everything the could get their hands on and were retreating to a corner where they were trying things on and/or facetimeing their shopping clients for feedback on the loot. Cast Members were scrambling to restock the hoodies, jackets and Loungeflys that were flying off the racks. I’m not the kind of person that is going into this for the hassle of reselling items, so I grabbed the few things I wanted (which incedentally ended up selling out) and got out of there with my sanity in tact. There were lots of complaints on social media later in the day that people had missed out on choice items, and it’s was rather sad to see said items available on eBay at the same time. One example is the Mickey-shaped Dopey 48.6 car magnet I grabbed for $9.99. That same afternoon after they sold out, I saw one on eBay for $40. Sad face.

I skipped the vendors in the main expo area, so I don’t have any commentary to add there. Someone else will have to fill you in.

The line for bib pickup was unlike anything I’ve seen before. Not only did it extend out of the building and wrap around a courtyard, it then ran the full length of Wide World of Sports all the way to the parking lot. Whoa. This was a bit after 10:00 a.m. It was moving quite quickly, but wow am I glad I was there early. Note to self: never go to expo at 10:00 a.m. on day 1!

Race Conditions

We really lucked out with the weather over the course of the 4 days. Mornings were quite chilly at the start line, particularly on Saturday for the Half Marathon. I picked up a great pro tip observing some of the other racers. Sure, you can bring old clothes to discard at the start of the race or a mylar blanket, but the real winners were the ones that showed up with discardable bathrobes. Hats of to you, my friends! Living remotely, it might be tough for me to bring 4 disposable bathrobes on the plane if I keep flying Frontier. I still have a comic vision in my mind of wearing so many bathrobes on the plane that I can’t straighten my arms. It’s evoking of Ralphie’s little brother in A Christmas Story crying, “I can’t get my arms down!!!”

Race officials were concerned about Marathon heat and humidity on Sunday and “yellow flagged” the race. They’d had some challenges at previous races so they wanted to throw some caution out there proactively. I think this is why the corrals on Sunday seemed to be released quicker than on the previous days.

I drew some unfortunate corral placement for the weekend, and waited nearly an hour to start during the first 3 days, but on Sunday, I crossed the start line in about 40 minutes, so that supports my theory that they were trying to move runners through as quickly as possible.

Anyway – the weather turned out to be not so bad on Sunday, and they didn’t need to shorten the course or get overly watchful for heat exhaustion. There were lots of challenges on the course, but thankfully the weather really wasn’t a main contributor.

“Obstacle Courses”

Much has been already been bitched written about regarding the crowding on the courses, bad runner etiquette, etc. etc.. I’m not going to go there. If you’ve run a Disney race, you know it’s not about getting to the finish line as possible. It’s about music, fun, great costumes, meeting your spirit animals and general good vibes. I won’t be lining up in the complaint department, however I will say that I personally saw 2 runners go down tripping on uneven surfaces, and a few others who were being treated. runDisney does their best to move a LOT of people through a lot of fun experiences and don’t-miss locations. At the end of the day, though, running a race, any race, is not without some risk. That’s why we sign waivers.

The obstacle I really wanted to address though was the “hard sweeps”. Race officials were not playing around this time and there was very little leeway given to stragglers. There was an “unofficial” guideline (rumor? myth?) in the past that once you were inside Epcot you were safe. Not anymore. I don’t necessarily agree with this approach, but there was a hard sweep point set up about a quarter mile from the finish line, no joke. So it’s true that you’re really not safe until you’re in the finsih line chute. That being said, I read an unofficial stat that approximately 25% of the marathon registrants did not cross the finish line.That doesn’t mean that all of them even started. I did see another number with a bit more math behind it that said more than 5% of the starters were swept. That’s higher than in previous years. In that perspective, finishing really means something, no matter what the struggles or pace.

Lines for the character stops during the shorter races were ridiculously long. I know there is a mentality that once you’ve spent a certain amount of time in a line, you’re not going to give up. Honestly, that’s not a very sane approach if finishing the race is at all important to you. There was a line for Darkwing Duck (super rare character) somewhere in Epcot. Race officials warned people in line (I heard this with my own ears) that the Balloon Ladies were coming and runners would be swept if they fell behind. Unforunately I heard a number of stories where people in that line in particular didn’t heed the warnings and ended up with a DNF. For their sake, I hope they’re happy with their decision. If that happened to me, I’d just be mad every time I saw the picture.

All the Feels

I personally got everything I hoped for and more. Coming into this season, I had 2 goals beyond finishing:

Goal #1: Get some character stop photos

In the past, I was just too fearful at my turtle’s pace to risk stopping in a long line. Working with a faster partner, we devised a system that worked really well for us. He would run on ahead and look for character stops. If he found a good one, he’d wait in line until I got there and I could join him for the pic. I know that doesn’t work for everyone, but in our situation it was a great solution. Also, the lines for characters were plentiful and short on marathon day. I got more pics than I ever imagined possible – some of them I even dared to get on my own.

Goal #2: Cross the marathon finish line with a margarita in hand

This was only possible again thanks to my running partner. 3 years ago when I last ran the marathon I wanted a margarita and was sorely disappointed to see that everyone else wanted a margarita too. Getting in that line might have jeopardized my finish, so I passed. It was sad, but a picture, snack, or even a margarita is not even close to being worth risking a Dopey medal.

My fast-running friend surged ahead and grabbed the drinks and met me close to the exit of Mexico. It was orange in color, flavored like mango, a little melted, and everything I dreamed it would be. Knowing we were safe from the sweepers, we walked the last bit into Future World and took it all in. This was the emotional moment I’d dreamed of. Not my first Dopey, but let’s be real… Dopey is always a big deal. A lot can go wrong. By the time I got that glorious margarita, I knew there was no stopping me. My legs were on fire. No big deal. My feet hurt. No big deal….

I just ran 48.6 miles in 4 days in my Happy Place. With my people. With my friends. I got my challenge medals. So did my friends. I met thousands of amazing people. I saw costumes that made me ponder, “Why didn’t I think of that?” I heard stories of resilience and bravery. I found out that when people hear the DuckTales theme, there are thousands of other people (not just me!!) who also sing “woo-ooo” in response to the call of “DuckTales”! It was a fairy tale ending to nine months of planning and dreaming.

“Double Dopey”. My new designation. Way more significant to me than any professional credentials.

It’s Go Time! 2023 Marathon Weekend Details and Packing Checklist

Its hard to believe that after what feels like 50 years of planning, we are less than a week away from the 2023 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend!

If your house looks anything like mine, there’s an intersection of holiday cleanup and Marathon Weekend prep that makes the household look a bit like a Wall-e cityscape – but it’s all good stuff, so I’m not going to sweat it. In the offhand chance you’re caught up in the same turbulence, I’ve put together a checklist to help navigate the packing part. The rest may be up to the travel gods, who have seemed pretty angry lately.

My 90s-inspired Dopey costumes:

So far the weather is looking pretty ideal for Marathon Weekend. Thursday is forecast for a high of 80, and Fri – Sun, the high is not expected to get over 73. What that means for us runners is that while we’re waiting in the corrals, the temps should be in the 50s. Temps during the races probably will hover in the low 60s. Ski parkas probably won’t be required, although I still recommend bringing a throw-away layer of some kind. The only day where there is a bit more chance for rain is Thursday for the 5k. Fingers crossed that the weather leaves us alone in the pre-dawn hours!

  • Costumes: If at all possible bring at least the first day’s costume in carry-on luggage. What a bummer if you make it to Florida but your costume doesn’t
  • Costume accessories: Don’t forget your “finishing touches”: ears, character companions, & other props
  • Undergarments: Have you planned out bras, leggings, shorts for all your outfits?
  • Socks: Unless you have access to laundry facilities, bring extra!
  • Throw-away clothes: It can be pretty cold waiting in the corrals. Bring some cheap clothes to toss away before you cross the start line. runDisney donates everything left behind to charity. Other options include mylar blankets (you’ll need to bring your own) or garbage bags. Garbage bags are also great to sit on while you’re waiting.
  • 2 pairs of running shoes: This is especially important if you are doing Goofy / Dopey. There’s nothing worse than starting out the day with a pair of wet, nasty shoes.
  • Dry clothes: For after the race. You can gEAR -check them and change in a port-a-potty.
  • Sunscreen
  • Anti-chafing cream
  • Sunglasses
  • Fuel for the course: Generally Gu or some other fuel is available, but probably not exactly what you want exactly when you want it. Do yourself a favor and bring along your “must-haves”.
  • Fanny pack or other belt: If you don’t have pockets in your costume, you’re going to want to carry a phone and some cash or a credit card. You can’t buy a margarita in Mexico without some pesos!
  • Headphones
  • Smart watch
  • Magic Band
  • Chargers of all kinds: watch, phone, headphones, Magic Band +
  • Power bank

Packing List (race-related stuff only – you’re on your own for the rest):

Other notes to keep in mind:

Virtual Queue for Merchandise

runDisney will once again be utilizing a virtual queue for merchandise purchase on the first day of the expo. Check out this previous post on how the virtual queue works.

Merch preview has been released! Here’s the sneak peak:

Bibs and Corrals

Bib numbers have not been released yet. You can expect to get them when the check-in passes are emailed, probably on Monday, January 2. You won’t know your corral placement until you actually pick up the bib.

Above all, if you’re headed to the Marathon Weekend, enjoy it all! Take it all in! And if you see me sporting one of those awesome costumes, please say hi!!

2023 Marathon Weekend Details Released – Course Maps!

Anticipation has reached a fever pitch and today the official 2023 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend Event Guide has been released. Here’s the scoop on the race courses!

As always, the published maps are almost invisible to the naked eye, but I’ve had a look at the courses with my magnifying glass and have a few thoughts.


This is the same course for the recent Wine & Dine. Starting from the back of the Epcot parking lot, the first mile is a bit dull in terms of stuff to look at, but we’ll be full of plenty of anticipation and will be busy trying not to step on the other runners.

Once we hit the entrance to Epcot near Mexico, it’s all fun ’till the end. A loop around the World Showcase Lagoon should yield a few character stops. During the Wine & Dine they were in Norway, France and near the UK.

Another great photo op is as you cross the bridge back into Future World. You’ll get an awesome view of Spaceship Earth on the way to the finish line.

Rumor has it that the sculpture of Te Fiti has just been installed in Moana: The Journey of Water which is still under construction. Not sure if we’ll get a glimpse at this angle in the dark, but it’s possible.

The course makes a right turn and heads backstage between Mission: Space and Test Track and snakes to the finish line on the other side of the parking lot. Woo-hoo!


Starting from the same spot in the back of the parking lot, the course heads in the opposite direction. We get the boring highway running out of the way up front with a couple of zig-zags and hairpin turns, then it’s back to the park.

Passing behind The Land and into the park to run in front of Journey into Imagination, the course takes a right into United Kingdom and briefly backstage to re-emerge near the Skyliner station.

After a loop around the Boardwalk, the course heads back through the International Gateway into Epcot. A spin through the back of France drops the runners back on the the main concourse around the World Showcase Lagoon.

Once back in Future World, the finish is the same as the 5K – by Test Track and behind Guardians of The Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind to the fun-filled finish.

Half Marathon

The start for the Half Marathon is moved out to Epcot Center Drive. We get a lot of the boring highway miles out of the way early as we head up to Magic Kingdom.

In Magic Kingdom, its the iconic run up Main Street and then a spin adound Tomorrowland and through Fantasy Land and through the Castle for the best photo op of the course.

The course heads through Adventureland past Pirates of the Carribean and then behind the soon-to-not-be Splash Mountain and out of the park on the quest for the water treatment plant…

From there it’s pretty much a straight shot back to Epcot, except for a little loop-de-loop right at mile 10.

Off to the Epcot parking lot and then finally sweep across Future World to our now very familiar finish line run.

Full Marathon

Once again we start out on Epcot Center Drive and do A LOT of looping around on the highways before there is much to see. To be completely honest I really like it this way. I like to get the dull stuff out of the way first so that there’s more to look at late in the race when I want to die.

Between mile 2-3 the course passes through Future World and then do ANOTHER loop around the Epcot parking lot. I really hope they have a lot of character stops and distractions planned here because it’s a long run up to Magic Kingdom.

The Magic Kingdom course adds a bunch of interesting sharp turns and I am expecting tons of course congestion. The good news is that we should see most of the Most Magical Place on Earth.

Next is the long jog through the waste water treatment plant again and the we head towards Animal Kingdom. The AK loop is a little interesting. We head through the park and past Everest (yes, you can ride if the park is open). Instead of exiting the park through the front gate, the course doubles back and makes a complete loop to the back of the park.

The next piece of the course is a bit controversial. The route I have run in the past went through Wide World of Sports (which I hated HATED), but instead this year, we head to Blizzard Beach. Yeah at first that sounds great, but if you zoom in, it’s just the Blizzard Beach parking lot. Really. With tons of turns and zig zags. I think I am underwhelmed.

Finally, the miles are starting to wind down and its just a quick hit at Hollywood Studios. The course really only kisses a corner of the park, and it doesn’t even look like we run Hollywood Boulevard. I’m OK with this for 2 reasons: A) by the time most runners get here, the park will be open and the race does complicate operations on the narrow streets. B) by the time most runners get here they just want to get to the finish line as fast as possible. Screw the sight seeing.

Finally, we head back to the Boardwalk and into Epcot through the International Gateway. Taking a right and heading the long way around the World Showcase Lagoon, finally we are so close. Don’t forget about the margaritas in Mexico. I am sending a runner ahead to get in line for me so that I can cross the finish line with a margarita in hand (before the Balloon Ladies).

That’s it! One more pass through Future World down our familiar finish route, past the gospel singers and we are there! Marathoners! Goofys! Dopeys! Hoooray!!!!

Castaway Cay 5K

I’ll be honest, I have no frame of reference here. This race is for lucky guests who are cruising on the Disney Wish immediately following Marathon Weekend.

I think the course at Castaway Cay is always the same. There is actually a running for every cruise that stops here, but this is THE running – meaning the only one with a non-rubber medal. Have fun, lucky cruisers! Maybe some day I’ll get to join you.