We made it to marathon day!
It’s time to look at the grand-daddy of them all, the 2020 Marathon course for WDW Marathon Weekend!
This will be my 10th (10th!) WDW Marathon and I’m enjoying the old and new elements of this year’s course. Plus, the route helps me plan out a few fun course opportunities (weather permitting) with a bit better timing. I’m still not sure if some of it is an upgrade but we’ll talk about that in a bit. I’m mostly just really excited and feeling so blessed to be running this for the 10th time.
It was my first marathon ever in 2011. I was a senior in college at Syracuse and had listened to one to many podcasts talking about how awesome running at Disney World was (this was pre-official launch of the runDisney brand) and well I decided it was what I had to do. I still remember registering in July 2010 from my tiny student apartment in Brooklyn when I was interning in NYC. I spent the summer running across the Brooklyn Bridge, across Canal, to then running up the Hudson before turning around and running back. Signing up for this marathon forever changed my life and I can’t believe this will be my 10th!
So with that, let’s jump in to the course details for this race because, well, it’s an entirely new ball game kids!
New this year – a 5am start! This was announced earlier when they also announced that the course was being changed but honestly, in the grand scheme of things, this half hour doesn’t really make a huge difference to me. The wake-up call has always been obscenely early and it’s still obscenely early. If you are staying at a resort, there will be signs in the lobby area telling you what time you should be on the bus, read them and abide by them. If you are driving, follow the instructions provided to make sure you don’t hit a closed road (aka don’t just blindly follow your GPS). Be sure to check out the event guide here: Digital Event Guide
When the runDisney blog mentioned the course was changing I was hoping they’d combine the first half of the 2012 WDW Marathon with the 2019 Wine & Dine Half Marathon course, but that’s not what happened.
First things first, the start line. It’s pretty much the same but looks like it’s pushed further down the road so all the corrals will line up on just one side. Like the half, there are 8 corrals.
Now I’m going to briefly summarize the major course changes so bare with me because there are a lot. First, they added back in the early loop running through Epcot! This was something I was really excited for because it not only means an early park but it means the excitement of getting to the Magic Kingdom is a bit later in the race. After Magic Kingdom, we run to Disney’s Animal Kingdom (DAK) but we enter and exit from the back and we will not be running across the front of the park. Better for getting guests to the park, but I feel like this part always helped give me a boost because there were always a lot of people cheering at the front of DAK. After DAK, we run to Blizzard Beach and do a small loop there before running to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and then barely running through the park. The last 3 miles are mostly the same as last year, but like the other races in 2020 runners exit Epcot between China and Norway (might need to go a bit more off course for those margs!) and then finish the race running backstage before exiting to the parking lot like I’ve done for all of my WDW Marathons!
Let’s dive into the course a bit more detail:
A: After running on the Epcot roads we turn back into Epcot around mile 2.
B: The route through the Magic Kingdom parking lot is a bit different, we will follow the new entrance route and then run mostly the same route as the previous year.
C: See below for the MK changes.
D: It looks like we are taking Bear Island Rd to Animal Kingdom again.
E: See below for the DAK changes and then we hop onto Western Way to Blizzard Beach.
F: Let’s run through Blizzard Beach for 2 seconds and then take Beuna Vista Dr to DHS.
G: See below for DHS changes.
H: We run around Crescent lake taking the Boardwalk side again in 2020, maybe a stop into the bakery wouldn’t hurt.
I: The race finishes by running around World Showcase again but we exit between China and Norway (so you’ll need to figure out how you are getting your marg!), then running backstage, and exiting in the usual place to the Epcot parking lot.
Epcot Early Miles
A: The early loop in Epcot is similar to the end of the Half Marathon. We run behind the Seas and the Land before entering the park by Imagination. We then run across the front of Imagination and across the park.
B: We exit the park between Mexico and Norway to then get back onto the roads to take us to the Magic Kingdom!
Epcot Finishing Miles
C: We enter in the usual place near the UK before running around World Showcase.
D: We exit the park between China and Norway, running backstage, and then exit the park in the normal spot to the parking lot.
A: We are entering the Magic Kingdom the “old” way. We run through the backstage area before entering Main St near the Chapeau Shoppe, not through the front gates and under the train station. That’s the only change for 2020 but not going to lie I’m glad the Half is still running in through the very front of the park!
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
A: It looks like we may be entering slightly differently but this might just be an artist interpretation. Until we have the USATF certificates it’ll be hard to know for sure.
B: We exit the park in the same place but instead of running to the front of the park we run the backstage road around DAK and exit the way we came in.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios – this might be the most disappointing change since I always love running down Hollywood Blvd
A: While the map looks different, we are entering the same way we did last year when I look at my Garmin route. This is just an interpretation difference.
B: Like the first note, while the maps are different, when I look at my Garmin route the 2020 route is closer to what runners actually ran in 2019 so this is just an artist interpretation update.
C: Instead of running up Sunset Blvd and turning onto Hollywood Blvd, we run on the Fantasmic “pass through” before running the normal backstage route to exit the park. I get it, the park is really busy and it has extra magic hours that morning but this change is a bit of downer for me.
So now that we’ve gone through the changes, let’s talk strategies. I’m going to bet that the first 4 or so miles when we run into and around Epcot will be pretty crowded. The paths aren’t going to be as wide as the road leading to MK and with the turns, I’m expecting that these early miles will be a slightly crowded. This will be a help with keeping those early miles conservative though! You aren’t going to win a marathon in the first 4 miles but you can certainly set yourself up for failure here if you go out too fast.
Once we are leaving Epcot and heading to MK this will probably be less congested than usual since we’ll have 4 miles to spread out ahead of this. At mile 5 we are also going on the overpass and then coming down the ramp (reverse of the Half) so some slight uphill. We are then going to running on the other side of the road leading to the MK tollbooth (if you are thinking about it we’d be running against traffic if there were cars).
The cone alleys will be another section of congestion as we run to and then out of the Magic Kingdom. These are approximately from mile 9.25 to 10 and then from 11.5 to almost 13. Hopefully since these are later in the race though it will mean less congestion.
Running through the castle is also always congested so just pack your patience & try to be courteous to the runners around you. We are all trying to get that perfect runDisney shot and your race will not be lost if you slow down a little for 100 ft. Keep to the left if you want to get a pic in front of the castle!
Honestly, the rest of the race should be pretty fine. We’ll see how the Blizzard Beach section plays out but since I’ve never been to Blizzard Beach (because Typhoon Lagoon is better : P) I’m not sure what the paths are like there.
Sometimes the run around Crescent lake from Disney’s Hollywood Studios to Epcot can be a little crowded which is frustrating if you are really trying to crush the final miles but again just try to pack some patience and find you opportunities without being a jerk.
So that’s it for race course strategies, let’s talk possible character locations:
Mile 3: I remember in 2012 I got a pic with Darkwing Duck in Epcot early in the race but I doubt that they will do more than one maybe two character in these early miles. They want to keep people moving to the Magic Kingdom to get runners through and clear the park for regular park hours.
Mile 7: The road leading to the MK tollbooths normally have some sort of photo op, character or otherwise.
Mile 8.25: I would assume they would put a character here but this is a new route portion so maybe not.
Mile 8.75: This is normally where they have an awesome character setup, usually villains or Nightmare Before Christmas
Tomorrowland: Buzz Lightyear or the Monster’s Inc crew are sometime taking pics here.
Mad Tea Party: Usually characters from Alice in Wonderland are there for a photo op (usually not a long line for this one either)
Fantasyland: We’ve seen a lot of different character here like Sebastian, Cogsworth, the Mime from Tangled, & the Fairy Godmother. Really any of the classic animated characters could be here.
Castle: Smile as you run through the castle but watch for the runners around you. Stay to the left if you want to get a nice picture in front of the castle from the Photopass photographers!
Liberty Square: I’ve seen Tiana here in the past but it’s been awhile.
Frontierland: Woody/Jessie/Bullseye have been here in the past on the left side of the running route.
Exiting the Magic Kingdom: Likely a parade float/great photo op in the backstage area here! This is usually one of my favorites!
Mile 12.25: Outside the Grand Floridian, Mary Poppins characters are usually out for a photo op.
Mile 12.5: Across from the Wedding Pavilion they usually have some fun characters, it’s been the “bachelors” (guys dressed in tuxes) but one year it was the Christmas parade reindeer so they mix this one up.
Mile 13: At the golf course on the right side, they usually have the mickey golf cart out with classic characters in their golf costumes.
Mile 13.25: There is usually one more character between mile 12 and this point, it’s been Lilo and Stitch, the Genie, or some other fun character in the past. It tends to change but I’d expect maybe one more character somewhere along here.
Mile 14/15: They’ve had some entertainment out here. It’s been really varied though. It could be old attraction vehicles, anbOrange Bird figure, a Scar/Lion King setup, or some streetmosphere type actors. I’d expect something but just not sure what.
Mile 16: There are usually some live animal friends as we enter Animal Kingdom followed by characters like Jiminy Cricket or Rafiki.
Animal Kingdom: Expect a few animal characters. In the past I’ve seen Baloo, King Louie, the Ostrich from Fantasia, and this year I’m hoping for a Kevin sighting! I’m also hoping the Festival of the Lion King performers are out somewhere!
Mike 19/20: My best guess would be 2 that there will be at least characters stops and some marching bands along this section. Since this is new I’m not really sure what they can bring to this area.
Blizzard Beach: I’m hoping for one of the Fab Five in some beach attire and maybe the Blizzard Beach Gator mascot, Ice Gator. They also may set up some characters or bands in the parking lot since we aren’t going to get much until we get to the Studios. We may see a green army man as we make our way to DHS.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios: I’m guessing a character in the backstage area where we enter. It’s been the Incredibles and Oswald in the past.
Epcot: As we run around World Showcase we will probably get to see some of our favorite characters in their story’s country origin. Maybe 2 or 3 more character ops!
Exiting to the parking lot: There is still the opportunity for the Hallelujah chorus to be there welcoming us to the end!
And that will do it, my thoughts on the final day of WDW Marathon Weekend 2020!
What are you most excited for? What characters are you hoping to see out there?