A Look at the Walt Disney World Half & Full Marathon Courses

We are now just under a month away from the start of the 20th Anniversary Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend!  I’m not sure if I’m excited or incredibly nervous about running my first full marathon…maybe a little of both with some “what the hell was I thinking” thrown in there.

I received a few questions about elevation for the race, so I thought I’d take a look at both the half and full marathon courses and map out their elevations using Map My Run.  Let’s take a look:

Walt Disney World Half Marathon

I haven’t run this race, but I did run the Princess Half Marathon which is on the same course.  It is mainly flat with a few hills on the overpasses, but they are manageable.

Miles 1 – 4 are almost completely flat with a small downhill going onto World Drive.  This is a great stretch to start the race with because it is fast and there is usually a good amount of entertainment on World Drive.

Pirate Ship on World Drive During Princess Half Marathon

You will encounter your first hill just before Mile 5 as you go under the waterway between Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake.  Be careful here because the course is narrow and it tends to get very crowded.  Good news is you’re about to enter the Magic Kingdom!  Sadly, you are only in the Magic Kingdom for about 1 mile, but it’s the best mile of the race.  You will hit Mile 6 while in Frontierland and by the time you leave the park you will be halfway done!

**TIP: Make sure to use the bathrooms while you’re in the park to avoid the Porto Johns!!  You will thank me for this later :)**

Miles 7 – 9 continue to be flat.  Here you are heading down Floridian Way, past the Grand Floridian and Polynesian Resorts and back onto World Drive.  After Miles 10 & 11 are where you will hit your next set of hills…it’s like a cruel joke that these come towards the end.  The first is the worst.  It’s a slanted, circular on ramp leading to the overpass that takes you back towards Epcot.  Then just after Mile 11 you come across an even steeper overpass…yikes!  But that’s it, you’re now in the home stretch and get to run through Future World and to the finish line.  Don’t forget to enjoy the gospel choir right at the end…they are amazing!

Walt Disney World Marathon

From the looks of it, the marathon course seems to have a lot more elevation changes…oh boy!  As if I wasn’t worried about the distance, now I have hills to worry about!  Ok, maybe I’m overreacting here…humor me 😉

Miles 1 – 8 are basically the same as the half maraton above.  During mile 8 you enter a new part of the course, the Walt Disney World Speedway.  My hope is that it will be on the inside portion of the course that is flat and not along the banked track…that wouldn’t be fun.

After the Speedway, the next 3 miles are spent on Bear Island Road heading towards Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  I’ve never been down this road, but from Google Maps it looks very wooded and isolated.  You also run past some sort of environmental treatment plant…nose plugs anyone?  My hope is that they will have a fair amont of entertainment back here to keep us occupied on this long stretch.

Just after mile 12 you enter Animal Kingdom in a backstage area near Rafiki’s Planet watch.  The next mile is spent running through Asia, past Expedition Everest (take a ride if you dare!), through Dinoland USA and out into the parking lot.

Expedition Everest During Mickey’s Halloween 5K

Good news is, you’ve just completed a half marathon.  Bad news is, you have to do it all again!  Hopefully a 2nd (or 3rd or 4th) wind will kick in at this point and you will continue on strong for the next 4 miles as you head out of Animal Kingdom and down Osceola Parkway towards the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.  Be warned that the steepest overpass of the entire course is here on Osceola Parkway, so pop that Gu before hand! 🙂

The ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex is new to the marathon this year for the 20th anniversary celebration and we will be spending 3 miles here winding all throughout the complex.  runDisney has been tight lipped about the 20th mile celebration that they have promised for the 20th anniversary which will be taking place in Champion Stadium.  I know I can’t wait to see what this surprise celebration is…any guesses on what it will be?!

You will pass the mie 20 marker as you are leaving the complex and the next 2.5 miles take you over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  There is a great downhill here (of course followed by an uphill) so use that to your advantage as you start fading at this point.  Well maybe you won’t be fading, but I know I will be!  You enter the Studios by Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, run up the Streets of America, past the Great Movie Ride and down Hollywood Boulevard as you exit the park.  There is only about 1 mile that is run through here and most of it is backstage, which is a bit disappointing since they got about 3 miles out of the Studios for Wine & Dine.

Sorcerer’s Hat During the Tower of Terror 10-Miler

Only 2.5 miles left as you exit the Studios and head along the pathway towards Crescent Lake and Epcot!  The pathway narrows as you pass the Boardwalk and gets congested with spectators, so be prepared to slow down a bit here.  I love this resort area in the morning as they are waking up and it is starting to get bright out.  Unfortunately, I probably won’t come through here until close to noon so it will be lunch time for me!  But for you fast runners, make sure to appreciate the sights for a second as you zoom through.


Two final (and killer!) uphills here.  The first is as you are leaving the Beach Club resort and heading into Epcot, and the second is after you pass through the International Gateway and up into World Showcase.  Good news is that there is only 1 mile left after this and it is all spent through Epcot.  The course heads right and you get to run around all of World Showcase.  By this time, the park will be open when most of us are going through so I know having all of those spectators in there is really going to help push me though!

Running Through World Showcase During the Wine & Dine Meet Up

You exit Epcot in the same area as the half marathon and out into the parking lot to cross the finish line!! Oh and don’t forget about the gospel choir 🙂  I have a feeling that those last .2 miles are going to be the longest ever.

Well I don’t know about you, but after going through the course in detail and seeing all of the amazing things that are in store, excitement is actually taking over!!!  Yes, I haven’t been training like I should be but I still think I can do this!  Who’s with me?!?!

What are you most looking forward to on either the half or full marathon courses?

**Don’t forget to enter my giveaway for a bunch of runDisney and RAD swag!!  You have until Sunday morning to enter…do it now!**

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  • I didn’t realize that you could stop and ride attractions during your race! I don’t know if I personally would for fear of being swept up but that’s a fun thing for those experienced runners who can track their time and know if they can do it or not.

    Wow.. you’re getting to run in all four parks.. that IS pretty exciting!

    btw, great tip on using the restrooms in the parks as you go through them. When you are in the parks early though, before they open, are there certain restrooms that are open only or can you just pop into any of them and use them? Weird question maybe.. I was just thinking like maybe there’s only one restroom open and you need to make sure you know which one it is so you don’t pass it up or something. LOL. Ok, I’m thinking about disney restrooms way too much now! LOL.

    • From what I’ve seen, all of the restrooms are open in all of the parks during the races. For Princess I actually used the Men’s room in Frontierland 🙂 I figured there wouldn’t be a line since the majority of the runners were women and I was right! They guys didn’t seem to mind.

      It really is a HUGE perk of running a Disney race. You don’t have this option at other races so take full advantage of it while you can!

  • Awesome description of what we will be running. DD & I ran the half last year and are going Goofy this year. We are so excited…..and scared, but we know it will all be magical!

  • Regarding Bear Lake Road – it is pretty isolated, and technically “Backstage”. The family and I were down there in November for the AP Fantasyland preview and we were trying to figure out a way to get back to 535 from MK and got lost. Garmin told us to get on Bear Lake Rd, so we did, even though there was signage otherwise (it was like midnight!).
    We were enjoying the ride and got to the end of the road and saw a gate and we just started laughing at how funny it would be that the gate wouldn’t let us OUT! We got out though, onto Western Way and we were on our way home quickly after that!
    It’s a two-lane road through service areas like the Bus maintenance area and some Reedy Creek buildings.
    Enjoy the marathon – I’m doing my VERY FIRST half-marathon at the Princess in a little over ten weeks! I feel like you do about the full marathon!

    • Thanks for the info on Bear Lake Road! I’m glad you didn’t get trapped out there 🙂
      You will LOVE the Princess Half!! It was my first big race and it was so fun! Hope to see you there 🙂

  • Bear Lake Road is one of my favorite parts of the marathon. It’s wooded but you won’t feel isolated because of the other runners. By then the field has strung out and the road is not overly crowded. Yes, they will have some entertainment (weather permitting).

    Good point about the bathrooms. My favorite is at mile 4 in the Transportation Center. Very quick in and out. There’s also a sneaky one right before you go onto the rubberized track at WWOS (mile 18).

    Looking forward to flying around that banked track at mile 9!

    • That actually sounds like a nice part of the race…I’m used to running in wooded areas up here in CT, so I’ll probably feel right at home 🙂 Thanks for the extra bathroom tips…I’ll definitely keep the one at WWOS in mind!

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