Walt Disney World – Where You Don’t Have to Run 26.2 Miles To Be a Marathoner


The Walt Disney World Marathon is  a different beast. Not very many people chose this race to qualify for Boston. People run it to go to Disney, experience the parks and the atmosphere.

There are some real challenges like the Dopey Challenge where you get a special medal for completing the 5k, 10k, 1/2 marathon and marathon in the same weekend. If you complete all 4 races you get some cool bling.


1/2 Marathon Canceled

The problem, this year, is that the 1/2 marathon was canceled on Saturday due to rain/lightning. So No one earned Dopey Medals (or Goofy Medals). But that didn’t stop Disney from still handing them out. That’s their prerogative, I suppose.  It’s one way to appease those that signed up for the challenge and could not complete it do to circumstances beyond their control.
However, the culture of ‘everybody gets a medal’ is no more apparent than on the TeamRunDisney Facebook group. There are numerous posts similar to this.
Many people were seen in the park with their 1/2 marathon medals, and Dopey medals this weekend. Hey, I guess if Disney gives them out, why not wear them?
There were reports of people running on their own, in the park , and even on the interstates to complete the 13.1 miles. Good for them, I admire their motivation. (Except for the idiots that ran on the interstates). But they did not complete the 1/2 marathon or earn a medal. they had a nice training run.

The Marathon

I downloaded the results and have concluded that at least 200 marathoners cut the course, and still crossed the finish line. It is worth noting, that only a small handful of these did so in Boston qualifying times, and most of those were disqualified almost immediately.

Most of the likely course cutters registered splits up to 13.1 miles and missed the 20 mile mat. There were more than the 200 runners that missed mats. I have heard from more than 1 runner that the 13.1 mile mat did not cross the entire road. Therefore, it would be reasonable to expect some runners innocently missed the mat.

In my estimate of 200 runners, I excluded those whose only anomaly was missing the 20 mile mat. However if you missed this mat, and ran a 1 hour negative split, it is obvious you cut the course.

In addition to the course cutters, there is a bit of a trend at Disney to collect your medal even if you do not finish the race – whether you drop out or get swept. In this case, the runner is making a claim that they are a marathoner because they put in the training.
There is a long thread relating to this post. Kudos to this runner for running 19.3 miles. That’s 19.3 miles more than I  have run in a long time. But if anyone dare to point out the obvious, that she did not complete the marathon, they can expect to be ridiculed themselves before they get booted from the group.
Encouragement is great, but let’s stop short at taking credit for being a marathoner before you run the 26.2 miles in a sanctioned race. It diminishes the accomplishments of those that did run the complete marathon.

I’m sure this runner will feel a whole different sense of accomplishment if they run the additional 6.9 miles in their next effort. Then she will understand the difference between attempting a marathon and completing a marathon.

Thanks to all of you that that support Marathon Investigation!


One Time Contribution



  1. It should be added that one of the "refund" option Disney had was to let people who registered for only the Half run the full marathon, and about 1500 people chose this. These are all people who Friday night had no intention of running a marathon Sunday morning. Some people were experienced marathoners and finished and even BQ'ed, some people were planning to be first time half marathoners and finished the full, some ran to the 14 mile marker sweep point and "completed their half" and called it a day, and some are probably are in your cheater group. If you wanted to quantify who registered for a half and was in over their head and cheated, versus people who had planned on running a marathon for months and cheated, the half marathon bibs had numbers in the 40,000 series.

  2. Thank you for the post. As someone who froze for 2 hours before the run and the completed the marathon in a disappointing 4:46 time it is nice to see someone point out the obviously idiotic thought process demonstrated by both of the above folks. If you cheat you should be banned, period. And if you don't cross the starting line and finish line then you are not a marathoner. Keep up the great website.

    May I also say that having done a few marathons, Disney was my least favorite. For folks who are going to do one, make sure you submit your previous times for corral placement, this can really affect your run.

  3. The first excerpt you gave was of a gentleman as a part of the dopey challenge. You presented only the first paragraph of many. In the final paragraph he explains that he did run his 13.1 miles at Coronado Springs as he came to run and that's just what he does now. You can say that doesn't count all you want,but to me that man earned his half as a part of his full Dopey Challenge. You forgot to hilight how many people (hundreds) chose to run their 13.1 as they wanted to earn their medal. It wasn't the official race, but it is certainly meaningful and I don't think it should have been degraded as just a training run.

  4. I don't agree with your first point at all. The challenge was to run a 5k, 10k, half marathon, and then a marathon over 4 consecutive days. For the people who got up early and ran 13.1 miles in the rain, despite the race being canceled, that's earning the medal. 13.1 miles is 13.1 miles. If anything, it was harder because those people needed to organize on their own and provide their own motivation.

    Your 2nd point I completely agree with. If you cut the course, you did not complete a marathon. If you did not run the full 26.2 miles, you are not a marathoner and it does take away from the people who did complete the whole race.

  5. If I ran those distances in my hometown on those days, should that count? No official timers, not on an official course. Congrats on running 13.1 ish miles. But it's not official.

  6. The course has a big problem between miles 16 and 17. Folks need only cross the street to shave 5 miles. I've seen it done in front of me the year I ran 3:23. Who knows what that guy ran? His place was out of pace so I figure he had already cut the course elsewhere.

  7. Given the general type of runners the Disney races attract, I have no issues with the non serious runner who trained, accepting their half medal. How many people may not even shoot for a half (or any exercise) otherwise. I was/still partly am in that group, but taking this serious for increasing speed and distance, weight loss & overall health. If you chose a very expensive run disney event only to BQ, then you are really missing the point of these races- more fun than serious- call it what it is. If you planned and trained for a half and did 19.3 (maybe your longest run ever) then kudos to you- not a finisher today, but maybe a reason to try 26.2 next time. If you cheat and benefit from it – then you should be banned. If you cheat and now have a PR that you can never duplicate then you may never PR again (PR is fun and a sense of accomplishment ).

    I run for me. I don't run for money or placement or BQ. Only I care about my time and distance and progression. I am only cheating myself if I cut a course.

  8. Cheating is cheating. It does not matter how far they planned on running on Saturday, because that race was cancelled. All that matters is how far the race was on Sunday, and it was 26.2 miles. Cutting the course to make it less than that is cheating.

  9. I got myself blocked by the person who posted the "my two cents" post. She did not like me to tell her that she did not earn that medal. Especially since her original post said she run 8-12 miles every second day and 3 days earlier she posted that she had not done much if any training and was worried. Liars that get caught usually resort to blocking

  10. And, I am not a member of the group where those posts originated. I'd be happy to respond to them, if only they'd admit me to their group. My request is 'pending'.

  11. If I train for a full marathon using the Higdon novice plan, I will run more than 13 miles on at least 5 occasions should all of those count as running half marathons? If so, why register for a race? I suppose if I wanted to I could run five or six 5k marathons a week then on my own then right?

  12. You are quoting a runner who signed up for the half, it was cancelled, and then attempted the full. So that person SHOULD be proud of the fact they made it to 19.3, when they had only trained for the half. They TRIED their best to give the full a try, and not making it DOESN'T mean they shouldn't be proud of the effort they gave. I'm sure, with more than an evening's notice and training, the runner could have completed the full without any problem.

  13. Why can't the runner be happy with his/her effort without needing to embellish the accomplishment? They ran 19.3 miles when only training for the half! That's great! But that doesn't make them a marathoner.

  14. I just saw some responses on email, not sure where to find them here…lol. The 19.3 miler person was not switching from half to full. She trained for the full and said she got to 20 miles in training. Stuff can happen to everybody, just don't set yourself up and put yourself in the limelight. I am sure she knows she was stirring the pot since she has been in the WDW scene for years.

  15. Yes, the runner that went 19.3 should be proud. But she did not complete the marathon or earn the medal on that day. Accepting that, and accomplishing it another day will bring her more pride than convincing herself she already has completed a marathon, when she has not.

  16. Exactly. I run 13.1- plus miles all the time for training runs but do I count those in my half marathon totals? No. Because they aren't. This is the new culture where everyone thinks they deserve a medal and it diminishes the accomplishment of running the actual race for those that do. It's all about giving the appearance that they "ran" it.

  17. It is not cheating if they keep and even wear their medal. Even Disney says it is a participation medal. They participated. Who cares if they finished. They came out, and they tried their best.

    And as for the 20 mile mat, it was in a baseball stadium. There was no skipping it. There was really only a few spots you could cut the course. One would have taken about .8 of a mile off and the other would have taken off 4 miles. That one could not have gone un-noticed.

    And if it has been so long sing you went this distance why don't you lay off those who got up at 3am, stood in sub-freezing temps, and attempted to do what most people won't even consider.

  18. Cutting across Osceola Pkwy prior to entering WWOS could cut nearly 5 miles off of the distance and would be incredibly easy to do. You would just need to go into the road median to "stretch" and come out the other side. I doubt anyone would call you out on it.

    As for "who cares if they finished." I do, and so should anyone else who has any respect for the sport or the sportsmen and women who take the time and energy to prepare and compete in the race. If you can't finish the race, then suck it, drop out, and prepare better next time.

    It's supposed to be hard, if it was easy than you would have nothing to brag about when you finish. Cheating is a bad look, and anyone who does it, regardless of the reason, should be embarrassed.

    I have way more respect for the person who gets swept after 3 miles because they just couldn't do it, than I do for the person who runs 25 but cuts the course course short. That person deserves to be banned from the race.

  19. My deleted reply: You can totally cut the 20 mile mat by not going into WWOS at all. That's a typical shortcut cheaters take. And yes it did go noticed. That's why Derek is posting about it, because he noticed.

    And doesn't the medal say "finisher" on it?

  20. And the "who cares if they finished" is incredibly insulting to me and other marathoners who finished. I proudly wear my medal around my neck when I finish the race. Saying "who cares" if I finish is really insulting.

  21. As a Dopey Challenge parficipant, 2 things really bothered me about the weelend. First, of course is the race cancellation. There was some rain and some tbunder and so some lightning. The storm occured during the overnight. Perhaps for the safety of course workers working at that time the decision was made to cancel. At race time, as far as I'm concerned, the race could have been safely held. The reports of people running on their own is accurate and heartwarming since Disney employees joined in on creating impromptue water stations. Runners make the best of difficulties.
    As to cutting the course, there were a couple of out and back areas that had not timing mats so a runner who knew in advance could cut…those who did, and i so no one do it, that says more about them than anybody else.
    To conclude, Disney runs this race to make money and as entertainment, not as a Championship. Had it been a Championship I suspect the Half Marathon would have run. If all Disney loses is some prestige among elite runners, Im guessing they'll happily trade that to make all that money and not face any liability for running a race in a storm. This despite the fact that the waivers all runners sign indemnifies from everthing. You even sign away your right to a trial by jury.
    In short, know what youre getting here. A vacation with a series of runs included.

  22. A previous entry said hundreds but i believe it was more into the thousands of people that spontaniously ran the 13.1 (including myself) and yet I believe those that trained..PAID and attempted to participate in the race should get the medal. Also, if you didn't train, pay and attempt to participate then your opinion holds no water

  23. If you trained, paid and attempted to run then you should get the medal given it is a disney event and mainly for fun. Many (over a thousand) ran anyway (such as myself) and i have no issue. So unless you paid trained and attempted to participate your opinion is heard but not relevant.

  24. I was supposed to run the half and flew down Friday found out it was cancelled and got a bib for Marzthon as option . The race w the a long tempo and drop at 18-20 . I saw that at 20 miles I was still on 3:34 time and said why waste a possibly BQ for 2018 . I'm in training for 2017 as ran 3:25 as a 55 year old so this was well in my goal range . I found at wide world sports was a turnaround area as I could see how you can cheat . The 20 mile mat was on the baseball warning track as the amount of turns and tangents is crazy in this race. Very mile marker from 6 on was off by 200 yards as the course should be checked and rechecked . It's a concrete race as not friendly on the feet . Sadly it's bittersweet for me as finished with a BQ of min and it wont hold up . The course is not a good course to BQ and is a long fun run basically . My choice as ran conservative but too much of a difference in mile markers and last 10 was 54 min for me ay off my 20 mile splits . A lot of good runners also had off last 10 k . I would say it's not a Rae to run ever seriously as now I still have to perform at Boston to get in next year . Cheating is cheating yes but I'd look at the course measurements as I have run the half numerous times and also long as similar layout . It's the BQ runner who needs the time and we know a second could keep you out . Btw have 10 BQ s and 2:35 best when BQ was2:50 open u think I understand racing by now . Please investigate the distance for the future

  25. Agreed all points it's a vacation run and not a race for the BQ runner as not friendly on the body as concrete and sitting at 4 am outside for 5:30 am start n dark and yea I knew this but ran the full as workout 20 and continued as running well . Got a BQ on a whim but sadly it won't hold up bitter sweet . Last 10 k was 5 min off my pace at 20 miles . Mile markers all off . I would like the course looked at for distance as everyone runs slow at this race even my half times are off 2 min and I run NYC Central Park races since the 1980s . It's a fun run with the option to give it a shot for a good race if you choose . I think 1-2 percent BQ out ofte 17 k that ran for a lot of reasons . Please investigate the distsnce as seem long on half as well

  26. Nope. The 19.3 mile person was NOT signed up for the half. That person was indeed signed up for the full from day 1!

  27. I ran the races this weekend and I am with you. I was registered for Dopey and the half was cancelled, so I don't think I deserve the medal. Yes, it was given to me (along with the Goofy and half marathon medals) when I finished the marathon course. I didn't want to be rude to the volunteers who have no say in this so I took it, but I don't consider myself having done the Dopey challenge. I've been joking that I only did the *Grumpy* challenge, because Goofy and Dopey did not happen this year.

    There is great value in trying something as monumental as it is a marathon or a multi-day challenge, and I don't think the efforts of those who attempted it should go unnoticed. But if you didn't finish (because you couldn't/it was cancelled/got stopped mid-way) then guess what? YOU DIDN'T FINISH. Go back and try again until you succeed.

    As for the course cutters, there is no excuse. There was absolutely no way anyone could have 'gotten lost' in the course. The 20 mile marker was in the stadium, there was no way you'd miss it, and they had a live feed so it should be relatively easy for Disney to know who the course cutters vs 'bib didn't read' were. I understand they give out medals at the finish line because when you have 20K-ish runners going through the finish line it is next to impossible to check everyone has crossed every timing mat on the spot. But upon inspection, if you didn't cross the mat and you were not in the video feed your results should be deleted and you should be disqualified. Hey, these days almost everyone runs with some sort of tracker (Garmin/Fitbit/Apple Watch), if you can provide a file that corresponds to your magical negative split we can talk about adding you back to the official finisher's list.

  28. I was entered in the half and was staying right at about mile 8. I was up at 6:30 am, which would have been when I would have run past my hotel and noted the sky was a light show with bursts of lightning every 5-10 seconds. Disney made the right call.

    Remember as far as Disney is concerned it's not about our waivers nearly as much as it is about their brand and cash cow. They aren't gonna risk that.

  29. I agree it's a bad BQ race but I've run it twice and got 26.29 on my gps once. As a faster runner you can start in the a corral and run the tangents. Under 3:30 gives you all the open road you could ask for.

  30. Saw the usatf cert . It's just a million turns a guess but said no gravel and no track . 600 meters track and that was nice but ball warning track 300 meters I guess .its a rough course to save distance . Is what it is . A BQ is still a BQ just a little bitter sweet as won't hold up

  31. Some have made their Boston qualifiers at Disney merely by crossing the start line, never crossing the intermediate mats and making a left turn to the finish line at Epcot a few hours later

    An example from the 2013 Walt Disney World Marathon:


    Anita ran at 2014 Boston with this time. She was disqualified from Boston for cutting the course there (missing all timing mats between 10km and 40km) and also from the 2014 Go St Louis marathon for cutting (missing timing mats in first 7 miles and also at mile 20).

  32. Amazing how people will cheat to get in Boston and then cheat in Boston . Ran my first Boston 1983 as 2:50 was BQ no cheating like now I mean yea Rosie Ruiz but it was hard as 2:50 you had a profile and people knew the good runners . Now it's too big

  33. I am one of the people that came here to run the half and ended-up upgrading to the full. I have never trained for a full marathon and was just hoping to finish because I felt that simply finishing would be a wonderful accomplishment in itself. I was able to finish and even though I was 8 minutes over the 7 hour time limit, I feel that I can say that I am a marathoner. As some have mentioned above in receiving medals that they did not earn, I did get my half marathon medal and plan on taking it home and donating it to charity.

  34. Are each of those half marathons on disney property on the day your half was canceled and you are making the best with what you were given? Not at all. It's not a timed race, but in my opinion (and I'm sure the opinion of the people who did this) it's their half marathon and should be celebrated.

  35. Each of those training runs is as much a half marathon as your training run was on Saturday. I'm sorry your race was cancelled, but, it was exactly that, cancelled. Staging your own run is nothing more than a group training run, something you can find on any given weekend in any city around. I'm sure you had a great time getting out there with everyone else, but, that didn't make it a race.

  36. As far as medals and accepting them who cares ? I have been running since 1980 and 10 bqs 2:35 Boston best ,1:13 half . When I ran in the day plenty times ran a great race either 5 k ,10 k whatever never placed . Finishing medals is a new thing as Boston started in 1983 giving out these tiny medals . If you run for a medal good for you . I hink it has gotten to the point of bling means more than race or your time . I always want to run my best time could care less about medals . I have hundreds in boxes that I'll never look at again . My favorite medals are my college meet medals and they are the smallest of all . Boston are the only road race medal I care about . The achievement is not the medal it's the clock and seeing it as you cross the finish line . The picture of me crossing Boston finish lines last forever and it's me !!!!! .you can buy a Disney medal on eBay and show it off

  37. Three of us signed up for the Dopey Challenge as the 5k, 10k & half had all sold out. We knew we could finish the 3 races. As for the marathon (our first), we said we'd start & see how far we could go. Well, ALL 3 of us finished the marathon – & ALL 3 of us went the entire 26.2 miles. We did NOT cheat by cutting the course; not even 1 single step's worth! Actually, we weren't aware of this practice until we saw it happen several times by quite a few people. To say we were shocked (& angered!) would be an understatement! Since our finish on Sunday, I've been reading online about these disgusting cheaters. Unbelievable! Hopefully, more & more efforts will be made to stop these people from being "successful!"
    One more thing… we received all 6 medals for the Dopey Challenge. The Goofy & Dopey medals, & the 1/2-marathon medal will NOT be in my display case as I did not earn them.

  38. >>>I did get my half marathon medal and plan on taking it home and donating it to charity.<<<

    What a noble donation. I just hope the 19 orphans that are feed and clothed with that medal realize how lucky they truly are.

  39. As a multi marathon finisher, this angers me in addition to the insult it does to all actual marathoners. FINISHING 26.2 miles and earning your medal is the reward one receives. Claiming to be something you are not is simply taking credit for doing something you were not ready to achieve, dulling the actual achievement of those who put forth the actual work to do so. Respect the sport, and respect the distance. #endrant

  40. Dopey runners? Goofy runners? Half marathon? WTF does that have to do with the stated mission of this website? Author and some comments comes off as petty. Stick to what you say you do. Investigate the marathon cheaters. You also failed to mention that the 20 mat did have a failure. You become judge and jury without proof ("I conclude..?"). You might be correct but why not concentrate on the mission that you have made for yourself. The person who ran 19 miles and took the medal? Who cares in relation to your mission– she is certainly not a BQ cheater.

  41. In regards to the mat failure, it doesn't change the conclusion. I didn't automatically pit those that missed the 20 mile mat into the cheater category. They had to miss that mat and have a significant negative split. I helped pinpoint when the mat failure took place, and I don't believe the estimate of the 200 runners that cut the course includes anyone that was affected by the failure. Also, I occasionally write about related topics that arent necessarily about Boston qualifiers. I determined that there were approximately 200 course cutters as part of the process of identifying BQ cheating.

  42. Derek ypur doing a great job as we need you to police the BQ cheater . The runner who runs a race marathon and wants to cut the course but does not affect a race outcome like a age award or a cheat BQ that's personal . Those runners are not doing anything wrong in the cheating sense maybe just themselves . You still need to live with yourself but again maybe they are hapoy with a 20 mile run or whatever . It's not a crime there ,it is a crime when you steal a award by cheating and a BQ as now you affect others . The harmless runner who cuts a course and takes a medal that's a personal choice that only is affecting them and personal accomplishments . No issue at all with them

  43. Not bragging if you can back it up but when I train run my ass off and people cheat that could hurt me that' where I draw line you want to do your own thing don't cross finish line or pull tag off so no recording of race

  44. Several things pop out here.

    A the question of what would be considered an ok way to have completed the Dopey challenge or if since they cancelled the event it just null and void. I am in the category since the official race was cancelled but if you went out and did the miles on your own you could call yourself a Dopey. But if you didn't go out and do the miles you should donate the medals for both goofy, dopey and the half to that medals for kids charity as is no way in form did you earn them. But if you did them keep them and consider yourself a dopey. But that's a personal choice. I am a triathlete and have this argument all the time that some people don't think you can call yourself an ironman unless you do a WTC official race. I think as long as you finish and complete the 140.6 miles then yea call yourself an ironman. Heck I am from Saint George which had the hardest ironman in North America and one of these days I am going to go out and do it on my own using gas stations for aid stations and yep I will call myself an ironman. I am sad that I never got to do the official race here. I would have a hard time though calling myself an ironman if part of the race got cancelled or shortened like the swim in Florida or the bike in Texas.

    Secondly some people have no pride in themselves if you try and tell them what they are doing belittles the sport and or themselves they aren't going to listen. If you only did 19.3 miles guess what you are not a marathoner a marathon is 26.2 miles. I mean if you want to argue if you did 26.2 miles on your own in training or for fun and wanna call yourself a marathoner that would fall under the first category. I am not going to say one way or another you went the 26.2 miles its up to you if you consider that enough to be a marathoner. Running 26.2 miles is hard enough with race day support doing it on your own (I have knocked on peoples doors before and asked for a drink of water as I live in the desert) is even harder. But she didn't go 26.2 miles on race day nor did she do so in training, she went 20 and 19.3 miles neither of these are the marathon distance so in no way or form is she a marathoner. Take pride in yourself complete the actual distance and don't belittle those who do so.

    Thirdly the lady who is just trying to find out how far she needs to go to get a medal has zero respect for herself or those who work hard to complete 13.1 miles. Earn the medal don't find some cop out way to get one. She might as well run 1 mile around her house then go on ebay and buy one she has zero respect for herself nor the sport so why even bother. Tons of virtual medals you can buy if you want.

    Fourth those cutting courses to get into Boston are just plain down dirty cheats and they know it. If you really wanna do Boston that bad go raise money for a charity and help people while doing it, there is charity spots. Don't cheat people who work very hard to get there out of a spot.

  45. Patrick Awsome note . I'm I'm the catagory of exp runner first Boston 1983 2:50 BQ not the times of today . I ran 3:39 Disney as was in half and just took full option . At 18 I said just finish on 3:34 pace and I'm 56 so 3:40 BQ need 3 min cushion l ladt 6 rough as Mara attempt was spur moment 54 last 10 k legs tire no wal, . Training Boston 2017 so I'll get a better BQ there as will be ready . Problem is like you said cheaters cutting course steal spots for the weak BQ runners like my 3:39 won't hold up . You want it bad enough CHARITY great option and help others in the cause . Win win there . You cheat and lie you will be BANNED forever in the majors !!!! They know who you are .

  46. I've done quite a few runDisney races, and by far the most rewarding of them all was the 13.1+ I did at Caribbean Beach on Saturday morning with all those other great people. If you think that was 'just a training run' then you clearly weren't there. We should all be so lucky to have that kind of experience, to see the full potential of what the running community can be, but unfortunately most never will.

  47. Count me in as another Dopey who did their own half to feel like they earned their medal. I ran an uninterrupted 13.5 (to account for extra tangents as in actual race), providing my own hydration and route (around Epcot resort area and studios). The support we received while doing this was heart warming. We didn't ask to have it cancelled. We made the best out of a bad situation. I will call myself Dopey, proudly.

  48. I just discovered your site. I'm not a runner, don't have any aspirations to be a runner, but have absolutely fallen in love with your work! I just cannot fathom how all these people cheat! And I definitely concur with your Dopey medals logic. Just can't see how people say they 'earned' something they didn't actually run. Keep the medals all you want, but don't whine and say you 'earned it'. Keep up the great work!

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