Walt Disney World Marathon celebrates 20 years of running Disney

The Walt Disney World Marathon turns 20 with a special anniversary celebration and race. Photo: Walt Disney World Marathon medal with Mickey and Minnie

ORLANDO, January 12, 2013 — The Walt Disney World Marathon turns 20 years old on Sunday. More than 65,000 runners from all 50 states and more than 60 countries are registered to run at the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, which includes a marathon, half-marathon, Family Fun Run 5K, and Kids Races from January 10-13.

To mark the occasion, runDisney put together an anniversary celebration to commemorate 20 years of running at Walt Disney World, beginning with a new marathon course. Participants will run not only though the four Walt Disney World theme parks, but also through the Walt Disney World Speedway and the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex including Champion Stadium, a major-league style ballpark that the Atlanta Braves call home for spring training. Champion Stadium will also be home to a special entertainment spectacle at Mile 20.

Post Race Party After the Marathon

The marathon run through Disney World

“Running through the speedway and the ballpark should provide quite a thrill for the runners,’’ said race director Jon Hughes. “These very creative enhancements should make for a pretty memorable 20th anniversary marathon that people will probably be talking about for 20 more years.’’

Disney also added a new post-race party at Downtown Disney and a specially designed Mickey Medal for the anniversary, along with the usual events such as a Health & Fitness Expo.

Joining the party are a roster of running’s greatest luminaries, who have appeared through out the weekend at the expo and other special events, including Bill Rodgers, Frank Shorter, Dick Beardsley, Bart Yasso, Joan Benoit Samuelson, and Olympian Desiree Davila, along with Jeff Galloway, runDisney’s official training consultant.

Since the inaugural Walt Disney World event in 1994, Disney running has grown from one race with 8,200 runners to a series of seven major running weekends throughout the year at both Walt Disney World near Orlando, Florida and Disneyland in Anaheim, California including the Tinker Bell Half Marathon, Disney’s Princess Half Marathon, the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon and The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler.

The Perfect 20 Runners Have Done Every Disney Marathon

Over the last 20 years, the marathon has had 201,807 finishers, 95 of whom Disney has dubbed “Perfect 20’s,” runners who have run every single Walt Disney World Marathon since 1994. Disney honored them with a ceremony at Epcot Thursday night. Each “Perfect 20” runner received a special edition commemorative ring from Jostens. 

The 2013 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend is the largest in the event’s history. A record 27,000 runners tackled the half-marathon on Saturday and 25,000 will take on the main event Sunday — the Walt Disney World Marathon present by Cigna.

Perfect 20 Ring

A portion of those runners will also take on Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge by running both the half marathon on Saturday and the full marathon on Sunday. Among those runners are singer and Dancing With the Stars vet Joey Fatone and ESPN Colin Cowherd.

The 26.2-mile race will start outside Epcot and take runners to Magic Kingdom between miles 5 and 7. After Magic Kingdom between miles 8 and 9, marathoners will run on the high-banked one-mile track of the Walt Disney World Speedway, where stock cars, Indy cars and exotic supercars usually race.

The course then continues on to Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park between miles 11 and 13 before turning into the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex from miles 17 through 20. While inside ESPN, runners will dash around the track, jog through baseball fields and soccer fields before running through Champion Stadium itself, a major-league style ballpark. The marathon will then travel through Disney’s Hollywood Studios between miles 22 and 24, and finally finish with a run through Epcot from miles 25 to 26.

The Walt Disney World Marathon benefits The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, which uses the Disney marathon weekend to raise money and create awareness for the fight against blood cancers. Each year, the race raises roughly $7 million for the charity. Corporate partner Cigna also sponsors Achilles International athletes with disabilities in the race and teens from the Students Run Philly Style program, which pairs students with running mentors.

The 20th Anniversary Walt Disney World Marathon presented by Cigna will start at 5:30 a.m. on Sunday, January 13. 

Karla Bruning is host of On The Run, New York Road Runner’s weekly lifestyle web show about running. She has completed five marathons, two triathlons and trains with the New York Harriers. Follow Karla’s “Notes From a Running Nerd” at RunKarlaRun.com, Facebook and Twitter@KBruning.

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Karla Bruning

Karla Bruning is the host of On The Run, a TV and web show from New York Road Runners. Her work has appeared in Newsweek, American Athlete Magazine, RunnersWorld.com, Active.com, The Philadelphia Inquirer, San Francisco Chronicle, Orlando Sentinel, and two dozen other outlets including ESPN2, Universal Sports and ABC in New York. She and her work have also received mentions from The New York Times, Runner's World, Fox Sports, Canadian Running, The Baltimore Sun, and PBS among others. She also covered the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver for The Washington Times.


A former Newsweek reporter, Karla has won a Fulbright scholarship for American journalists and reporting grants from the Scripps Howard, Carnegie and Knight Foundations. Karla holds degrees from Amherst College and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.


When not pounding the pavement as a reporter, Karla is pounding the pavement as a runner. She has completed seven marathons, four triathlons, trains with the New York Harriers and is a member of New York Road Runners. She is a writer, editor, and on-camera reporter dedicated to covering the sport of running from a runner’s perspective. Find Karla on RunKarlaRun.com, Twitter@KBruning, Facebook and Google+.

Contact Karla Bruning


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