I Ran The Disney Races – Here Are My Insider Tips For The Goofy Challenge

4 days of Disney Magic (and running!). Here's how to survive.

I recently had the opportunity to go down to Orlando, Florida to run some of the Walt Disney World Marathon races.

Whether you are a novice runner, aspiring runner, or experienced runner, the runDisney Marathon Weekend events can be a great way to put an exciting event on your race calendar so that you have a motivating and achievable goal to work towards.

In this guide, I will discuss what the runDisney Marathon weekend races are like and give insider tips to have the best experience; whether you’re hoping to run the 2025 Disney Dopey Challenge or Goofy’s Challenge, the Walt Disney 5k, Walt Disney 10k, or anything in between.

Amber at RunDisney.

What Are The Walt Disney Marathon Races And The Goofy Challenge?

The runDisney Walt Disney World Marathon weekend includes four races: the Walt Disney World 5k, the Walt Disney World 10k, a half marathon, and the full WDW marathon.1Run Disney. (n.d.). Www.rundisney.com. https://www.rundisney.com/

Goofy‘s Race and a Half Challenge involves running the half marathon and marathon.

The Dopey Challenge involves running all four races that are part of the Walt Disney World marathon race weekend on consecutive days.

I had wanted to do the Goofy Challenge, but I knew that the full runDisney Marathon was going to be out of my wheelhouse in the limited training time I had between learning about the race opportunity and the slated 2024 WDW Marathon race weekend dates.

So, I had to temper my aspirations and settle for doing the other three shorter Disney Marathon Weekend races—the 5k, 10k, and half marathon.

Believe me, three back-to-back races are still an undertaking!

Why Are the RunDisney Races So Great?

The runDisney events are loads of fun and well-organized. Let’s take a look at some of the pros in terms of organization:

The WDW Marathon course takes you through all four of the Walt Disney World resort theme parks, including Epcot, Animal Kingdom, the Magic Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios, so you get to see it all!

The Walt Disney World 10k and half marathon also allow you to see a ton of the Walt Disney World resort as well. The Walt Disney World 5k is great for first time runners because it’s not timed.

As for all the races in general, there is fun pre-race entertainment to enjoy before the gun goes off, and hundreds of friendly volunteers.

The directions and course makers are clear for a smooth race day and weekend experience.

There are plenty of water stops and medical tents along the courses to stay well-hydrated and have any sort of help you would need at your fingertips.

There are also time clocks at every mile, so you can easily stay on track with your paces.

There’s music, entertainment, and Disney character experiences where you can take photos at almost every mile of every race as well as at the finish line areas.

You also get a huge bib and awesome race bling (medal)!

The post-race finish line area is streamlined so that you get your finisher’s medal bling, mylar blanket, and free breakfast box, and then get moved out to the reunion area so that runners still crossing the finish line have easy access.

As for training, they offer free marathon training plans or training programs based on your race and fitness level with cross training, distance runs that help build up your fitness level, tempo runs, speed work, etc., so that you are prepared for race day.

The race bib pick up sign.

Tips for Running the Disney Marathon Races

There are a few logistical things that first time runners should be aware of, especially if you are doing Goofy’s Race, the Dopey Marathon, or back-to-back Disney races like I did. 

#1: Stay In a Disney Resort

Although it is not required that you stay in a Disney Hotel or Disney Resort to participate in the runDisney events, I highly recommend that you do so if you have the financial means.

When I ran the 2024 Walt Disney World Marathon events, I stayed at the Disney Resort hotel called the Boardwalk Inn.

As the name suggests, the Disney Boardwalk Inn is located in the Disney Boardwalk area, which is relatively close to Epcot and Hollywood Studios.

Admittedly, this was my first time at Disney World, so I am a complete beginner when it comes to navigating the Disney World theme parks, let alone choosing the best place to stay for the runDisney marathon.

However, the Disney Boardwalk Inn resort worked perfectly for my needs. I stayed with my husband and we had a lovely room with a king bed, pull-out couch, and mini fridge so I could keep my hydration up.

There was a great pool with a huge water slide, a gym, and free Disney movies on the green every night.

I liked staying in the Disney Boardwalk area because it is much quieter than some of the other resorts. Also, you can walk to Epcot and you can run around the lake there. 

The day that I flew out of Orlando for my trip home, I was able to go for a run at 4 AM when it was still dark, but everything was illuminated around the boardwalk jogging path and canal so that I could get in a good easy run before heading to the airport for an early flight.

The free shuttles for the runDisney races operate every 15 minutes or so on the morning of each race.

Even though I am autistic and tend to get super stressed finding the right bus when there is a huge sea of buses all going to different hotels, it was always easy to find the bus that would go to and from my resort because the numbers stay consistent and they are clearly labeled.

I never had to worry about parking, or navigating to any of the starting line or finish line areas, and once you are done with the races, there is free transportation all day long to and from any of the parks.

My husband and I got to go to the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Epcot. I took a walk to Hollywood Studios one day, too.

A Disney resort.

#2: Understand You Won’t Be Able to Do a Warm Up

My main complaint has to do with the early start. I have no problem starting any race at 5 am.

I think it makes a lot of sense, especially for runners who are coming from cold-weather climates such as myself because the heat and humidity in Florida in January is way different than the weather we have been doing during training runs. 

However, you have to get to the corral area by 3:15 am or 3:45 am at the latest, depending on which starting corral you are in and the race distance (5k, 10k, half marathon, or full marathon).

Again, this isn’t a huge deal, but there is this strange holding pattern to get into the starting corrals that I have never experienced at any other type of road race I’ve participated in.

I understand why runDisney has to operate with these policies, but it can be challenging as a runner nonetheless.

Once the corrals open, there is a mad dash for runners to sort themselves into their starting corrals, from A to F.

Thousands of runners start sprinting to their respective corrals in the starting line area. Then, you are packed in somewhat like sardines and have to stand in your spot for the next 90 minutes or so until the gun goes off.

This is because the corrals close and you can’t get into your starting corral area after 3:45 am. 

Plus, all of the experienced Disney race participants seem to want to get a “good spot“ in the starting area, so they sprint to the front of the corral once it opens.

The problem with this situation is that you can’t warm up before the races. 

Theoretically, you could warm up before 3:15 AM, but because the race start time is at 5 am, you aren’t going to be loose and warm by the time you run the race.

I felt super stiff once we finally started because I had been trapped and smushed between other runners for nearly 2 hours because I was advised to get to the start line early.

#3: Bring Throwaway Clothes

I highly suggest bringing a plastic bag or your runDisney mylar blanket from the race the day before to keep you warm and to sit on in the starting area.

Even though there is a bag drop (gEAR bag) for each of the runDisney races, you have to get rid of your bag before you go into the corrals, which means that you have almost 2 hours without your extra layers.

Bringing throwaway clothes like cheap gloves and sweatpants is a good tip to keep you warm and comfortable while you are waiting around. 

The clothes get donated after the race, so you won’t get them back, but at least they will go to those in need.

Even though the weather in Orlando, Florida, is relatively warm by mid-morning, for all of the days that I was running, it was only about 50°F in the morning. 

I tend to get very cold, so I was uncomfortable, even with a mylar blanket. 

Bringing a plastic bag on the day of the 10k after experiencing the corral situation for the first time with the 5k helped a lot. I was able to sit on the bag on the ground and do a little bit of cramped stretching because there were so many people around me. 

However, it’s nice to take a load off and not stand on your feet for two hours before you are trying to run a certain goal race pace. 

Disney Marathon start line.
Photo: Disney Sports Media

#4: Be Prepared to Stick Around the Finish Line for a Long Time

My other small gripe with the logistics of the races has to do with the road closures and getting out and back to your hotel once you are done. 

For the 5k and 10k, the courses are right around Epcot, so none of the shuttles or cars can leave the race area until pretty much everyone has finished.

This was problematic for me because I wanted to cool down by jogging back to my hotel but I didn’t realize everything was going to be closed off. 

There really wasn’t anywhere to cool down, and I had to wait almost an hour and a half after I had finished running to get back on the bus from my hotel. 

I was really cold, and my phone battery had died (hey, I wanted to take a lot of photos!), so I didn’t have any way to communicate to my husband that I was running late.

All of this is to say that one of my tips is to plan on sticking around the finish line so you might want to check a gear bag with extra stuff to keep you comfortable after the race.

There also isn’t really anywhere to cool down, so don’t expect to get in extra miles at the race site; you’ll have to run later once you are back at your hotel or just walk around and stretch your legs like I did.

#5: Take the 5k Easy

I didn’t read the pre-race instructions all that well so I didn’t know that the 5k wasn’t going to be a timed race. This is super important for anyone who is doing multiple races in a row.

You might as well do the 5k as an easy run and focus on hitting a faster mile pace or goal time for the 10k, half marathon, and full marathon because you don’t get official results or a finish time from the 5K. 

I have no idea how fast I ran aside from what my GPS watch said. 

However, I was so focused on the fact that it was my first time crossing the finish line in over seven years that I didn’t stop my watch for a good five minutes or so so I don’t really have an accurate finish time. 

Runners who are doing the runDisney Dopey Challenge do get results from the 5k since their Dopey Challenge finish time is an aggregate of all four races.

Magic kingdom.

What Is It Like to Do the Goofy Challenge or Multiple Disney Races?

When I went to the runDisney Marathon Weekend, I planned to run the 5k, 10k, and half marathon on back-to-back days.

Unfortunately, for the Walt Disney World half marathon, there was a tropical storm forecasted for the morning of the race.

The runDisney race organizers decided to change the half marathon course last minute so that runners would be off of the roads before the thunder and lightning were projected to occur.

Like many of the race participants, I was super disappointed that we weren’t going to be able to run a full half marathon because I was keen to see what kind of shape I was in and to use the race as an opportunity to do a long run as I am trying to build up my distance right now.

The half marathon ended up getting modified to only 7.2 miles.

Despite my own personal disappointment with the ramifications of the change in regard to my own running goals and training plan, I have to give credit where credit is due.

The organizers made the right call because safety is always paramount, and there was indeed a tropical storm the following morning with high winds, some severe rain, and occasional lightning.

Some runners were really disgruntled because the faster finish times would have been done before the major peak of the storm, but it wouldn’t be fair for only the fast runners to get to run a full half marathon course.

After all, one of the differentiating factors of the runDisney Marathon and other races relative to many of the top marathons in the US is that it has a very generous cut-off time (7 hours for the full marathon and 4 hours for the half marathon):

This allows walkers, slow joggers, and first time marathon runners to enjoy the races, and greatly increases how accessible the runDisney events are.

The last starting corral–F–has almost all walkers or beginners doing the Jeff Galloway run-walk method, so it takes these athletes significantly longer to get to the finish line. 

Plus, the final corral starts quite a bit later than the corral with the elite runners, which puts the finishing times for the slower participants even later in the day.

What was most impressive about the last-minute change to the race is that the runDisney organizers and volunteers pulled off the decision, course modification, and communication to all of the thousands of participants the night before the race, and everything went smoothly for runners just a few hours later when the gun went off at 5 am.

There are so many moving parts to coordinate, so this was really demonstrative of how much of a well-oiled machine the runDisney running events are at this point.

I have been running races for over 25 years, and to pull off four huge races with so many runners in such a busy theme park area is pretty impressive.

So, are you ready to take on one of these fun and exciting runDisney challenges? Whatever race you choose, we have the training plan for you. Check our our training databases to find your training programs and start today:

References

Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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