The Walt Disney World Half Marathon has been held on a Saturday in early January since 1994 at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla. As part of the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend -- a four-day, running-centered, Disney-sponsored festival -- the half marathon is one of the few such races held in the winter. Florida temperatures in January top out at a comfortable 72 degrees Fahrenheit (22 degrees Celsius). The racecourse's fully paved surface provides a smooth run for 17,000 entrants age 14 and up.
The registration fee (which you can pay online) is $135. The higher price is in part because of the exotic race location. The fee includes a race handbook, a shirt, a disposable camera, a goody bag and a number bib. It also covers admission to the Health & Fitness Expo and transportation to and from the race (if you're staying in an official Disney hotel). Additionally, the fee covers on-course and post-race food and drink for runners. Runners also gain access to a post-race Web site where they can find their times, view photos of themselves and other runners, and print out participation certificates.
This mini-marathon starts very early: Runners line up at 4 a.m. for the 5:40 a.m. race time. Disney groups runners into gender and age divisions: masters (the marathon pros), open (everyone else), and classes for runners 13 and under to 80 and over. Like other mini-marathons, Disney also has a wheelchair division.
Once the half marathon begins, it's unlike any other race -- this one follows a circular route through many Orlando tourist attractions. It starts at Epcot Center, then winds through Disney World (past Tomorrowland and Cinderella's Castle) and MGM Studios before ending back at Epcot. The entire race occurs before the parks open, giving the runners plenty of space. Even without the traditional tourist crowd, Disney-costumed characters are there to cheer on the runners. In fact, some runners even dress up as familiar Disney characters, too!
If you want to learn more about mini-marathons, we have lots more information on the next page.