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Experience the Magic: Running Events at Disney Parks Worldwide!


Did you know that there are distance running events at Disney Parks around the world?

The first Walt Disney World Marathon was held in 1994 and while many specific races have come and gone over the years, what began under the name Disney Sports Attractions and then Disney Endurance Series is now called RunDisney and tens of thousands of runners and walkers participate in every race weekend. Race distances include 5K’s (3.1 miles), 10K’s (6.2 miles), one 10-miler, half-marathons (13.1 miles) and one full marathon (26.2 miles) each year.  Runners can also opt to complete challenges by finishing back-to-back races on multiple days.


Walt Disney World currently hosts four race weekends – the Princess Half-Marathon Weekend in February, the Springtime Surprise Weekend in April, the Wine & Dine Half-Marathon Weekend in November, and the granddaddy of them all – the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend in January, the only time there is a 26.2 mile race at any Disney Park. (Disneyland had one full marathon in 1995, but it’s never been run again).


RunDisney returned to Disneyland Resort in January 2024 after a 7-year hiatus. The West Coast Park previously had up to four race weekends a year but currently offers the Disneyland Half-Marathon Weekend in January and the Disneyland Halloween Half-Marathon Weekend in September. The return of races to Disneyland also brings back the Coast-to-Coast Challenge which awards runners a special medal for completing a 10-mile or longer distance at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort in the same calendar year.


Disneyland Paris held a race weekend starting in 2016 that ran for four years but was canceled in 2020 and has not returned. It offered the 5K, 10K, and half-marathon distance and there was a special challenge medal for those who completed a half-marathon at either Walt Disney World or Disneyland Resort and Disneyland Paris. This was called the Castle to Chateau Challenge.


The Disney Parks in Asia also host some running events, but they do not fall under the RunDisney umbrella. Hong Kong Disneyland holds a 10K Weekend in November. It started in 2016, was canceled in 2020, 2021, and 2022 but returned in 2023. This year there will be a 3K, 5K, and 10K event. In addition to a finisher’s medal and an award trophy, the winner receives a night’s stay in one of the suites at the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel! Shanghai Disney Resort will open registration this summer for their inaugural Disney Inspiration Run. The weekend will feature a 3.5K, 5K, and 10K event.


So, what makes people want to get up at crazy-early hours of the morning to run on their vacation? FUN, of course! No one puts on a race like Disney. Coordinating three or four days of races that start in the wee hours of the morning to minimize disruption to regular park-goers along a huge packet pick-up & race expo, deploying thousands of volunteers along miles & miles of race course to keep runners safe and hydrated, transporting tens of thousands of runners from their resort hotels to the start and back again after the finish, and bringing the FUN with entertainment and characters all along the way is truly a Herculean effort… and sometimes Hercules brings along Megara, Hades, and Pain & Panic too! Yes, runners actually stop running to line up for photos with the characters on the course!  A few have even been known to catch a few attractions during the second half of the marathon when the parks are open while runners pass through.


My personal Running-At-Disney experience began back in 2008 with the Inaugural Expedition Everest Challenge.  It was a 5K, obstacle course, and scavenger hunt combo that happened at night at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  I'd never been a runner. In fact, it was something I was told I “couldn’t do" as a child because of asthma. But I saw that the race was happening at the time we’d planned a Walt Disney World vacation with our then-4-year-old twins, and it sounded fun, so my husband and I completed the Couch-to-5K training plan that summer and had a blast on the night of the race and the after-party in the park.


After that, I thought I might someday progress to the 10K distance and thought maybe the Race for the Taste 10K in 2010 would be a good goal.  But Disney threw a wrench into that plan by changing the Race for the Taste 10K into the Wine & Dine Half-Marathon, creating the RunDisney brand name, and bringing in Jeff Galloway as the official “coach” of RunDisney! So, I increased my distance and that fall I completed the Wine & Dine Half-Marathon for the first time. I’ve run it every year since, adding in the Wine & Dine 10K to make it a Challenge when that started, so I’m what Disney considers a “perfect” runner - someone who has completed a race or challenge every year since it started.  


Tackling the half-marathon distance was a huge step for me. I wasn’t sure that I’d ever be able to go from 13.1 miles to 26.2 miles for a full marathon, but I knew if I ever did, it would be at Walt Disney World. My first few years of running half-marathons I tried to run all the way without stopping to walk as programs like Couch-to-5K made me feel I needed to. Finally, I heard Jeff Galloway’s message enough times and was convinced to try his Run-Walk-Run method where walk breaks are taken throughout the entire run and found that it worked much better for me! That gave me the confidence to tackle the Walt Disney World Marathon in 2013 and the Inaugural Dopey Challenge in 2014, the pinnacle of all RunDisney events - running 48.6 miles by completing every race at WDW Marathon Weekend - the 5K, 10K, half-marathon, and full marathon on back-to-back-to-back-to-back days. I went on to complete the Dopey for 10 years, actually running 9 since 2021 didn’t happen, and finally retired from being a “Perfect Dopey” after the 2023 race.  I hope to keep my status as a “Perfect Wino” and “Perfect Wine & Dine Challenger” for as long as Disney continues to host these races.  


Over the years I’ve also run the now-defunct Tower of Terror 10-miler and Star Wars First Order Challenge at Walt Disney World as well as the Dumbo Double Dare Challenge and Avenger’s Challenge at Disneyland Resort. While they haven’t all been easy, every mile truly has been magic. It’s a family affair - my husband runs as well, although he’s always faster than me.  And my now-20-year-old twins have run their fair share of Disney races as well, starting with the no-longer-offered Mickey Mile at the Kid’s Races all the way to the Star Wars First Order Challenge.  They were even the 1st & 4th place finishers in the 10-13 age group for the Inaugural Wine & Dine 10K in 2016!


If you’ve made it this far, you are either thinking, “wow, I need to check the race calendar and avoid visiting Disney Parks during race weekends” or “how do I sign up?". If it’s the former, know that the races start at 5 AM and all but the full marathon at WDW have runners out of the parks before opening time. While there might be a few road or sidewalk closures, races really don’t affect the day-to-day normal operation of the theme parks. If it’s the latter, www.RunDisney.com is your source for All. The. Details. The next race weekends that will open for registration are the Disneyland Half-Marathon weekend 2025 and Disney Princess Half-Marathon weekend 2025. With all the different race distances, there is something for everyone. Participants are encouraged to train to be faster than a 15-minute mile pace because everyone must be faster than a 16-minute mile from the time the last person crosses the start line.  There are also some spots along the courses as well as at the start & finish lines where spectators can cheer runners on, and that support is always appreciated.


Registering for these events is much like getting Taylor Swift tickets. It’s a “mark your calendar, take a sick day, be online an hour early and cross all your fingers & toes” situation. Some races sell out in less than an hour and there are no refunds or transfers. Once you do get registered, be sure to reach out to your Touring and Cruises travel agent for assistance in booking your Racecation stay. All Walt Disney World resorts offer bus transportation to the race expo and races and at Disneyland, everything is within walking distance. One of the best parts of running Disney is wearing medals and race shirts to the parks for photos afterwards!



Jen Upton, Travel Advisor

 

To learn more about runDisney visit Discover the most enchanting running events on earth| runDisney.


For details on booking your next stay at Disney Resorts and participating in runDisney

events, connect with our travel advisors!


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