Photos and video from the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend 2011


By Don Gworek

Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend is one of the biggest group events in the Orlando area with a registration of more than 50,000. This is the size of some of the major conventions that come to town. When you factor in non-running guests who join their family members on the trip, it’s easily 100,000 visitors coming to Orlando for the weekend events.

The weekend included a health and fitness expo, marathon, half marathon, Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge, Buzz and Woody’s Best Friends 5K and Mickey’s Marathon Kids’ Fest.

All registered athletes start here, at the HP Field House in the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex.

Among the Expo attractions in the Field House is this Disney running merchandise store.

The HP Field House also hosts speaker sessions. Picture here is Dave McGillivray, Director of the Boston Marathon, who moderated this session. In the background are the senior management team for the Disney Marathon Weekend. The young lady to the left is an audience member who was brought up on stage and given a medal as an ice breaker – a congratulations for taking the first step months ago and committing to doing one of the events.

Also at the ESPN Wide World of Sports is the Jostens Center.

The Josten Center had practically everything you could need for running, and running better.

A “friend” I sometimes track down in the Epcot parking is the marathon finish line. This is how my long-time friend looked this past December. Note the smooth asphalt at the lower left.

This is how this same area looked for the 2011 Marathon Weekend. The smooth area has been painted with the finish line graphic. Note Spaceship Earth at the center top. To the left, with the large windows, is the VIP viewing area for the race finish.

Here’s a video summaring all aspects of the marathon. What follows are a series of images that show more than the video will allow, with additional detail and descriptions.

WDW Marathon Weekend 2011 - Walt Disney World

There are a few 5K races at Epcot each year. You can see a smattering of backstage along the course. To the right is the chilled water plant. Nearly all of the Epcot air conditioning is operated out of this plant, which circulates very cold water to air handlers throughout the park show buildings.

Sometimes Test Track does its morning operation checks, which continually dispatch empty vehicles, while we run underneath.

Most of the Epcot 5K course is a lap around World Showcase.

All of the marathon weekend races end in this stretch, with 1/10 mile remaining out to the finish line in the parking lot.

The half marathon starts at 5:35 a.m. So a large percentage of the participants run the course in darkness. Sunrise isn’t until about 7 a.m. One of the cool things is running up Main Street at the Magic Kingdom with the Christmas decorations blazing brightly.

This year, Off Kilter, the popular rock and bagpipes band in the Canada pavilion, welcomed us back to Epcot.

The half marathon ends with an out and back down to the World Showcase, before returning here to run backstage at the Energy pavilion, out to the finish line.

The full marathon starts with a four-mile lap of Epcot, in darkness, before heading north to the Magic Kingdom. The extra miles in Epcot mean we arrive at the Magic Kingdom at sunrise. What you see here is what we see as we run through the castle and down the ramp. Note the thousands of family members and friends at the hub, hoping to see us run by.

The full marathon takes a service road to the service gate of Animal Kingdom. This is the only time of year that guests get a glimpse of these Walt Disney World and Reedy Creek facilities.

For example, this is the treatment plant, which processes guest restrooms and bathrooms materials.

The course also includes a run by the Walt Disney World greenhouse area, where the park floral displays and landscaping are prepared.

It’s hard to say, but these floral balls may be destined to hang from the lamp posts on Main Street U.S.A. very soon. Perhaps after the Christmas decoration come down.

The full marathon course runs in front of Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom.

And then behind Everest, revealing some of the show buildings.

By the time the full marathon reaches Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the park is open for ticketed day guests. The yellow cones mark areas for the runners, the other side is where guests will walk to the park attractions.

These were the first guests to enter Sunday morning. They are being held and will be allowed to cross Sunset Blvd whenever a signifiicant gap is found between the runners.

Note the mile marker sign, mile 25. Now you know a fact you can share with your friends – this kiosk in France is approximately 1.2 miles away from the Epcot parking lot.


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L. Murphy January 11, 2011 - 9:09 am

Thanks for the great photos. Our daughter ran the Marathon and she talked about the scenery. Now we know what she was talking about! Thanks again!!!!

Allison Jones January 11, 2011 - 10:33 am

Way to go runners! These are some incredible pics of the marathon. Thanks for sharing!

David January 13, 2011 - 10:02 am

I ran the half and it was great! It was so cool to run into the Magic Kingdom with thousands of people cheering! It pumped me up so much I ran the fastest pace during that mile that I did all day! The overpasses going back into Epcot SUCKED! Overall, a great race!


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