Tomorrow is the start of the 2018 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend with the opening of the Health and Fitness Expo at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. If you’re participating, here are some details to help you get the most out of your experience this race weekend.
One of the big draws for this particular Health and Fitness Expo, the first of each year, has been the annual debut of the new runDisney New Balance shoes. Usually by this point, the shoes have been revealed, but nothing has been announced so far so many are assuming that means no new shoes will be introduced for 2018.
Speaking of the Expo, it begins at 10 a.m. Wednesday, but only runners who purchased a VIP Race Retreat package will be allowed entry at that time. Other runners, spectators and the general public will not be allowed in until noon on the first day. This is different from other runDisney race weekends. The Expo hours are as follows:
Wednesday: noon to 8 p.m.
Thursday: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Friday: 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturday: 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Some of the most-sought-after merchandise at the Expo is the runDisney race-specific clothing and souvenirs that cannot be pre-ordered. I would expect marathon merchandise to be especially popular because it’s the 25th anniversary of the race. It’s also the 5th anniversary of the Dopey Challenge. Plus, it the 20th anniversary of the half marathon (if you don’t count last year’s canceled race), and all the runners who deferred from last year will be looking for items to commemorate their race. If merchandise is important to you, get to the expo early!
For those driving to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex for packet pickup (and the Expo), parking is free, except for the preferred parking option. For $10, you can park closest to the complex. The expo itself is free and open to the public.
If you are running the half marathon or the marathon, your friends and family can enter the Magic Kingdom for free to see you run down Main Street and near Cinderella Castle. This park will open to spectators at 5:30 a.m. To watch runners inside other Walt Disney World parks, you will need to purchase admission once those parks are open for the day. There also are a limited number of complimentary viewing seats along the finish line available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Runners and spectators should plan on arriving at Epcot by 4 a.m. for the marathon, half marathon, 10K and 5K. The main entrance of Epcot from World Drive will be closed to all traffic from 5 to 7 a.m. on the mornings of the half marathon and marathon. All traffic then will be directed to the Magic Kingdom parking lot where they will be transported to Epcot via monorail. Parking at Epcot is free before 7 a.m.
Finally, if you are new to runDisney races or it’s been a while since you’ve been a participant, don’t forget to plan for and check out your race photos. In 2016, runDisney switched from Marathon Foto to Disney’s PhotoPass. That’s good news for passholders who have Gold, Platinum or Platinum Plus passes, because the downloads of all race photos are included in pass benefits. My family and I have appreciated the substantial savings.
If you are not a Disney Parks passholder with Disney PhotoPass benefits, you can purchase Memory Maker One Day or the Memory Maker package that includes all photos from your Walt Disney World vacation. Memory Maker One Day is $59 and can only be purchased through the My Disney Experience app. (Click on the three bars at the top left of the screen and then choose “PhotoPass,” not “Memory Maker.” Tap a photo and your choices will appear.) Memory Maker One Day begins at 6 a.m. ET on the day you select. The Memory Maker package is $169, but guests who purchase it online at least three days in advance of their arrival at the resort will save $20. The Memory Maker package starts at 12 a.m. on the day you first download or unlock digital content and lasts for 30 days.
Runners also have the option to buy individual photos and photo downloads. It’s free to view your photos, but you must have created a complimentary My Disney Experience account. RunDisney photos are compiled by race and bib numbers. You will need to input one of these codes to see your photos: 2018-WDWK-IDSx-xxxx, 2018-WDWW-K5Kx-xxxx, 2018-WDWW-10Kx-xxxx, 2018-WDWH-ALFx-xxxx, or 2018-WDWM-ARAx-xxxx. Enter your bib number in place of the X’s; if your bib number is smaller than five digits, place 0’s in front of it. It can take up to 24 hours for the photos to appear in your account.
Be sure to check the runDisney website about two weeks after race weekend to download and print your complimentary official finisher certificate.
Good luck, runners!