Can there really only be 20 DAYS until runDisney’s WDW Marathon Weekend??? <<<don’t panic, Laura, it will all be okay.>>> We’ve shared many runDisney tips before, but we don’t have much cheering experience for marathon weekend. So we brought in a pro, our friend Stephen, to help you out! Enjoy and if you have any questions for Stephen, please leave them in the comments below.
Everyone loves the excitement and sense of accomplishment they get from running a marathon, right? Of course! But, what nobody tells you is that you can feel excited and accomplished by cheering for friends and family who are running a marathon. Plus, as a spectator you don’t have to worry about any pesky training and you get to use real rest rooms rather than Porta-Potties. Win-win.
This past January, rather than sleeping in or hitting a park, I decided to do the cheerleading equivalent of running a marathon. Okay, it wasn’t an equivalent or anything close to that. What I decided to do was to cheer for marathon runners from as many different places along the course as I thought I could during the race. Whether you want to do that or would prefer to pick one spot along the race course from which to cheer, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Giving Money to the Mouse
If you would like to pay for the privilege of cheering, Disney will be more than happy to help you. Shocking, I know. You can find information about these options from the “spectator” tab on the runDisney website for the race.
Typically, Disney will offer two different package options which you can purchase for either or both of the half and full marathons. The packages for the 2018 Marathon Weekend include first come-first served viewing near the castle in the Magic Kingdom and first come-first served seating near the finish line. Which package you pick will determine the other perks that you receive. So, how was it and was it worth it? Beats me. I chose to go it alone or, at least, to go it without this extra cost.
Picking Cheering Sites
Cheering doesn’t require as much preparation as running but it does require some. To plan, you’ll need to review the event guide runDisney posts on the race web site, particularly the course map.
There were many people I wanted to cheer (including Laura, Jackey, Robert and Megan,) with each of them running at different paces. I selected four spots from which to cheer, thinking that I would be able to see everyone at each of those spots. (Spoiler alert – that didn’t happen.) Those sports were in:
- The Magic Kingdom parking lot, shortly after runners enter the lot
- Near the Polynesian Resort
- A not-secret secret spot I’ll tell you about further down
- The path between Epcot and Hollywood Studios just a little bit south of the Boardwalk Resort.
Each of those spots were far enough apart that I thought I could see everyone I wanted to see and still get to the next spot in time to cheer all of them as they passed the next viewing location.Tips for Cheering during the @runDisney #WDWmarathon 🙂 #dopeychallenge #joyfulmiles Click To Tweet
Getting from Place to Place
Depending on the spots you pick, you may also need to review the transportation options in the event guide. You’ll definitely need to know how to get where you’re going.
To reach the Magic Kingdom parking lot while saving a little money, I took a bus from my Disney resort to the family gathering area at Epcot before the race started. From there, I took the monorail to the Ticket and Transportation Center and then walked to the spot in the parking lot, meeting up with several awesome friends who were already there.
*Note from Laura: Unless there is a change, the monorail will start running early for the half marathon and full marathon, but not the 5k and 10k.
From there, I walked to the Polynesian, from which I could have gotten to the next spot, along Floridian Way just to the west of the Poly. I used a ride-sharing service to get to the other two locations; one from the Poly to my not-secret secret location and one from there to the Boardwalk Resort, from where I walked to my spot south of the resort.
The ride-sharing service generally worked well. It took longer than usual because of road and lane closures. I also had one driver cancel on me. Grrr. So, if you do this, be patient. Each of the two rides were under $12, including a tip.
You’ll need to plan what to pack to bring with you while you cheer and what to use to pack it. As the saying goes, first put on your own oxygen mask.
What do you need for yourself? If it may rain, bring a poncho and/or an umbrella. Bring water…and/or any other favorite beverages. You’ll need to stay hydrated and there are no volunteers handing water or Gatorade to the spectators. Bring a few snacks for yourself. You could grab food when going from spot to spot but this way you won’t need to take the extra time. Bring and wear sunscreen! Of course, if there are any medications you may need, bring those as well.
Now that you’re ready, prepare to help your friends and other spectators. I sent out a message on Facebook asking people I knew if they would like me to bring anything for them. Laura accepted and I was happy to oblige.
*Note from Laura: THANK YOU, Stephen, you were a life saver!
Make sure you agree on the spot that your runner expects to want the items so that you can be certain to look for each other. I also brought a few miscellaneous snacks to offer to any runner passing by. Although I was ultimately able to hand out all of the goodies, it took a while. Maybe no one wanted to accept food from a 56-year-old stranger?
Don’t forget to make at least one sign to help cheer people on. I brought one for each place from which I planned to watch the runners. Plus, I brought a cowbell that one of the vendors at the Expo was giving out. And, of course, I also cheered people on with encouraging words that they may or may not have heard over everyone else’s shouting.
Going with the Flow
Things will not go exactly according to plan so just roll with it. A few things I didn’t expect occurred on my cheering day.
First off, when I got to Epcot to take the monorail to the TTC, Disney had security personnel very thoroughly checking the bags of everyone who wanted to get onto the monorail. As the race came shortly after several terrorist attacks elsewhere, I appreciated the caution…but not the execution. The line for security was enormous and clearly overwhelmed the security resources. As the line continued to build, security sped up the bag checks and ultimately stopped checking any bags.
The lines delayed my arrival at my first cheering spot, near the TTC. The spot is a great place for cheering. It’s not too crowded, with plenty of room for spectators to spread out. Also, because the location is relatively close to the start of the race, the runners are still smiling. However, at that point, the course is fairly narrow and runners are still pretty speedy. I saw a few of the people I was searching for but others I missed entirely (I’m looking at you, Jackey!)
It took a looong time before I realized that I had missed people. So long, in fact, that I was pretty sure that if I went to my next cheering location, near the Poly, it would put me too far behind to see everyone at my coveted not-secret secret spot. So, I walked from my TTC spot to the Poly and made my first ride-share request. That’s where the ride-share accepted my request…and then cancelled on me. The second request worked.
My Not-Secret Secret Spot
Now it’s time to reveal my not-secret secret spot. It can’t be secret because, well, people running the race see you. But, far and away this was my favorite location from which to cheer.
I’ll give you a hint: would you like fries with that?
Yes, my favorite spot was at the McDonald’s on Buena Vista Drive at Osceola Parkway (not too far…by car, at least…from the Animal Kingdom). Or, more specifically, the spot was on Osceola Parkway up the hill adjacent to the parking lot at the McDonald’s. I loved this spot. It was roughly at mile 17 of the marathon. The race course is wide at that point and the runners can be clearly seen as they’re coming towards you down the straight parkway. Best of all, at least for those of us watching the race, it had a very “chill” vibe there. There was plenty of room for spectators. Several people made it a family affair with children watching whichever parent or other relative was running. Some people even brought beach chairs and the like. Which, come to think of it, may have annoyed the heck out of the runners.
About that Castle
At which popular spots did I not watch the runners? The start, the finish and on Main Street as runners entered from Cinderella’s Castle.
Anywhere near the start, (is there even a place there from which to watch? I’m not sure,) would be too dark and too crowded to see anyone. Plus, with the music, announcers and adrenaline from starting the race, the runners are not going to focus on any spectators.
I also skipped trying to find a place near the finish line. It’s another place where I think runners are more focused on their great achievements and on getting their coveted banana. And medal(s).
The castle. Runners love going through the castle. Spectators love watching people run through the castle and down Main Street. It’s iconic. What’s not to love? For me, though, I was trying to avoid the especially crowded locations. Also, with the time needed to get there early to stake out a spot and the challenges of then leaving the Magic Kingdom, I felt that it would be too difficult to get to the other spots from which I wanted to watch. But for you, if you want to watch from there, go for it! And take a few pictures for me.
I had such fun watching the runners and cheering people on! Personally, I have no desire to ever run a marathon. (Really! Though people keep saying I’ll change my mind.) I’m happy to stick to no more than half marathons. But, would I cheer people on for a marathon again? You betcha! Look for me next month at the same spots.