How Next Week’s Disney World Marathon Will Affect the Parks

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I’ve got a couple of emails from folks asking about how next Sunday’s Walt Disney World Marathon will affect crowds and touring the parks, so I thought it’d be a good subject for a quick blog post.

Here are a couple of facts and assumptions I’m making, based on last year’s event and my experience running the race:

  1. The race starts at 5:30 AM outside Epcot
  2. Because of the size of the field, the last group of runners will get started by 6:15 AM
  3. The slowest runners need to average around 3.75 MPH not to be disqualified and removed from the course

With that, it’s straightforward to map out where the runners should be at various points of the day. Here’s the course map showing when the last group of runners should be past the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios:


The Magic Kingdom is the first park visited on the WDW Marathon route. If the race pace goes according to plan, the last group of runners will be around mile 7, past the Magic Kingdom, by 8 AM. Crowd diversions should begin to be cleared around 8 AM, although traffic diversions will remain on World Drive until late afternoon.

The last of the runners should reach Disney’s Animal Kingdom by around 9:30 AM, and should be out by 10 AM. That’ll allow Disney to start clearing crowd diversions from inside the park, and traffic diversions from the west side of property. There’ll be runner traffic in Africa when the parks open, but the runners should be pretty spread out by then. You shouldn’t have any trouble walking around.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios is at Mile 23 in the course, so the tail end of the runners pack should be arriving around 12:30 PM, near peak lunchtime at the Studios. They’ll be out of the park around 1 PM, and cleanup can begin.

Epcot, of course, is going to be busy all day. It hosts the start and end of the race. The last of the Marathon runners should reach Epcot no later than 1:15 PM, and it’s traditional for families to meet the runners at the race. Expect larger than normal crowds outside of Epcot all day.

Roads throughout property will be heavily diverted, especially around the parks. It’ll probably be faster to take Disney transportation from most resorts to the parks, rather than drive.

If you’re wondering what crowds will look like inside the parks during the race, there’s good news. We’re anticipating lower-than-average crowd during the marathon, with crowd levels around 3 on our 1-to-10 scale. For reference, here’s what the crowds looked like for last year’s Disney Marathon, held on January 12, 2104:

  • Magic Kingdom: 4 out of 10
  • Epcot: 3 out of 10
  • Hollywood Studios: 2 out of 10
  • Animal Kingdom: 4 out of 10

Finally, no blog post about running at Disney would be complete without mentioning the Mickey Miles Podcast, run (ha!) by my dear friends Mike Scopa and Michelle Scribner-MacLean. They’ll be running most of the events during marathon weekend, so say hello if you see them.

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Len Testa

Len Testa is the co-author of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, and has contributed to the Disneyland and Las Vegas Unofficial Guides. Most of his time is spent trying to keep up with the team. Len's email address is You can also follow him on Twitter: @lentesta.

14 thoughts on “How Next Week’s Disney World Marathon Will Affect the Parks

  • January 5, 2015 at 7:48 am

    Thanks! Would love to see what Saturday (the Half) is anticipated to look like– need to do packet pick-up and trying to figure out the best way/time to get there from the Reams Road area.

  • January 5, 2015 at 8:48 am

    Great info! Thanks. We’ll be there all weekend and this answers many of my questions. We’ll be in MK Sunday. Hopefully taking the boat from WL will help us to avoid any traffic issues in the morning.

  • January 5, 2015 at 9:32 am

    Although this was a few years ago, I found touring Epcot from the Main Entrance at park opening on the day of the Half Marathon to be somewhat frustrating. First, the park opened late–the only time at a Disney Park that I’ve ever experienced that. The two-way race traffic going through Future World’s main drag got in the way of going anywhere other than Spaceship Earth, and Cast Members slowly letting through small batches of people at at “crosswalk” points (one for each of Future World East and West). This was frustrating while waiting, but it was nice by the time I got to The Land Pavilion because not that many people had made it in yet.

    Also, while visiting Epcot via Disney Transportation on either Saturday or Sunday, don’t be surprised if you’re bused to the TTC and told to take the Monorail. That has happened to me, even by late morning, so–wherever you’re going–allow plenty of time for transportation.

    • January 5, 2015 at 10:03 am

      Totally agreed! Our last trip to WDW included at day at Epcot on a half marathon day. I even checked with CMs to see if normal operations at Epcot or transportation to Epcot would be affected, and they assured me everything would be functioning like normal. Not only were we taken to the TTC on a one-hour one-way bus ride thanks to traffic, making us miss rope drop, but we missed two of our FP+ reservations due to being stuck in the normal-visitor corrals waiting for crosswalks to open. It took over an hour to cross from the east to the west side of Future World, and over an hour to get back. It was mass chaos, and the only time the Disney ‘magic’ has truly been broken for us. Haven’t been back since. Lots of folks stuck in those corrals with us were very vocal about being upset that Disney would prioritize the racers over day guests without even informing day guests about the crosswalk measures and alternate transportation.

    • January 9, 2015 at 10:42 am

      Thanks Len!
      We’ve asked this question for several years.

      On Sunday a few years ago, we went to the Studios, and were stopped from crossing the park in multiple locations to allow the runners to proceed. We understood why, but our children had a harder time with it. We would not go to the Studios on Sunday of the Marathon ever again. As you have explained, the runners are there through mid-day (not gone by early in the morning).

      In the years when we went off property on Sunday, we avoided all the frustration of the crowds, and were not bothered by the crowds on the other days. At least that’s our suggestion.

      Again, thanks, Len, for addressing the issue of navigating the Marathon when you are not one of the runners!

  • January 5, 2015 at 1:58 pm

    Take a cab to beach club and use the international gateway entrance for epcot. I pretty much do this anyway. I dislike parking at the normal parking.

  • January 5, 2015 at 2:03 pm

    Disney prioritizes the extra $$$ every time.

    It is very disrupting to morning touring planners that are serious about getting a lot done.

    It totally blows the day away. At least crowd levels are lower. Except that the wait is actually higher.

  • January 5, 2015 at 5:15 pm

    Is it possible to do this for all the races (5k, 10k, half) that weekend?

  • January 5, 2015 at 5:27 pm

    I would love a breakdown like this for the Princess half in Feb. We are planning on doing MK that day.

  • January 5, 2015 at 8:06 pm

    I love visiting MK on marathon days. I leave extra early and plan for delays, then enjoy being ahead of everyone! Last year it was really slow in the park until noon. 😀

  • January 5, 2015 at 8:10 pm

    If you have scheduled your fpp for first thing in the morning and were planning to spend the day at Epcot. What would be your best advice to deal with the race issues? We plan to be there on Friday, Feb 20 during the princess half marathon. We are staying at WLV and were planning to take the monorail from MK.


  • January 6, 2015 at 10:36 am

    This is great, the only correction I would give is that I think the idea that all runners will be released by 6:15 is optimistic. My guess is that it would be closer to 6:30 or later by the time everybody is out. I was in Corral “L” out of “A”-“P” last year and I think I was released a little before 6:15. And those last corrals are huge. If you want to make sure you avoid traffic I would push this timeframe back at least 15 minutes if not more. Not to mention that, yes, you have to keep up a 16 min/mi pace but not everyone will, and it takes time to pick people up off the course, so you can’t assume they are snapping all the roadblocks up at exactly the time the balloon ladies walk by.

  • January 11, 2015 at 7:04 pm

    For future reference, I watched the marathon live stream this morning, and here are what some of the actual times were:
    – Last person across the start line: ~6:35AM
    – Last person across the finish line: ~2:00PM

    The last corral was let go about an hour after the first, but it took a few minutes for everyone in that last corral (P) to cross the start. For the finish, based on what I saw with both the 1/2 and full marathons this weekend, Disney seems to add about a 30 minute buffer to the 16 min/mile pace.

  • January 11, 2015 at 9:49 pm

    DO NOT visit Epcot or Disney Studios in the morning on a marathon or half-marathon day. We were very inconvenienced trying to get from one side of Future World to the other for our Fast Pass reservations – they use a disorganized crosswalk system that takes over 30 minutes to cross the walkway that is being used for the race. And there is NO WAY to get around it – sorry, using the International Gateway entrance will do nothing for you.

    We were staying on property, and no one gave us any heads-up about this going on. We were, however, woken up at 5:30 AM on Saturday and Sunday by the multiple rounds of FIREWORKS that announce the start of each round of runners. We paid $350 a night for this?

    This was the first time I had been to Disney in 20 years, and after this experience? My next Disney trip will be to Universal.


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