Sunday, January 19, 2014

WDW Marathon - a Volunteer's view

Last weekend WDW had their Marathon weekend where over 70,000 runners participated in a combination of 4 races; 5k on Thursday, 10k on Friday, Half Marathon on Saturday and Full Marathon on Sunday.  It's the largest marathon weekend in the US and Disney knows how to do it right.

I didn't participate as a runner last weekend but did sign up to volunteer.   Registration for volunteering RunDisney events usually open up a couple of months prior to the event.  You can sign up through Sports Enthusiasts.  Once confirmed they send you a confirmation email.  Closer to the event, you receive an additional email with additional information/instructions for the event.  I also received a letter in the mail about 2 weeks prior to marathon weekend with instructions that marathon volunteers must have volunteer credentials and where I could pick it up.

For the volunteer credentials, I had the choice of picking it up at the race expo on race weekend or prior to the event at the RunDisney office.  There were two dates to pick from for the early pick up.  I chose to pick up my credentials early.  The directions to the location were easy to follow and the pick up process was quick.  At this time I received a lanyard, driving directions to the check in location for volunteers (Blizzard Beach), a clear bag to put my stuff in for race day, my volunteer id to hang on the lanyard, and a "coupon" to redeem for my one day park pass.

On race day I left my home at 2:45am as I live about 45 minutes from WDW and was instructed to arrive at  Blizzard Beach at 4am.  I made a quick stop to grab a diet coke and a snack for the ride.  I arrived at Blizzard beach right at 4am as there was a bit of traffic already on property due to runners and spectators going to Epcot.  Upon arrival, the volunteer there took my name, scanned my volunteer id, I was told to pick out a wind breaker volunteer jacket and then pick up a ziploc bag to put snacks provided - bananas, Chex mix, chips, breakfast bar, etc.  I was then instructed to find my bus (bus number was on my volunteer id).
The buses were lined up in order and I quickly found it, checked in with the team lead outside the bus and loaded the bus.

Volunteer wind breaker
Ziploc bag filled with snacks

A few minutes later, after a few words from our team lead, we were on our way to our volunteer spot - mile 12.9 Power Aid station.  We would be adjacent to a water stop and would be helping them with their set up as well.  Our ride to our spot took us through some back areas of AK.  Once we arrived at our spot, it was a bit chaotic.  There was no real direction of what to do so I just followed others and helped set up the tables.  Once that was done we started to set up the cups on the table and add water.  These were set up three levels high.  It was at this time that myself and the two ladies that were setting up the table with me realized we were actually suppose to be on the Power Aid  tables.  So we finished the third level of water cups and headed over to the Power Aid side.  We were directed to the third table from the start and again started setting up cups and filling them up with Power Aid that other volunteers were making in large Power Aid containers (the big ones that you see them pour over winning coaches).

Time was flying by and before I knew it, we were hearing that the first runners were about 20 minutes away.
The Power Aid was ready for them to come by.

Shortly after, the wheelchair came flying by shortly followed by the elite runners.  They were so quick, I didn't have time to take out my phone and get a picture. This is the best I could do... they were already on the bend in the road.  We all cheered as they flew by.

We had a little break before the next runners came by so I took a picture of mile marker 13 that was set up right before the Power Aid stations. 

The next few hours flew by as we passed out Power Aid and cheered the thousands of runners that went past mile marker 13.  It was so much fun to watch them all.  I even got to see the infamous balloon ladies towards the end of the shift.
Runners coming through Mile Marker 13 
The Balloon Ladies

Once all the runner came through, it was a quick clean up process (started as the tables cleared of cups) and back on the buses to the volunteer check in spot.  Before loading the bus, some of us took pictures by the mile marker.

The check out process was just as quick as check in.  A scan of the volunteer id, you are then given your one day pass and then there was more snacks if you wanted to pick up something else.

This was a great experience and I will definitely do it again.  In fact, I'm already signed up to volunteer the Expo for the Princess Half Marathon weekend. It was busy the entire time but well organized (after the initial chaos upon arriving at the volunteer spot) and lots of fun. 

There was lots of traffic leaving the resort area but I did manage to see more runner on their way in to DHS.

Runners at WDW Marathon
Runners at WDW Marathon

Have you ever volunteered for a RunDisney event or any race event?  How was your experience? Would you do it again?


  1. My first experience volunteering was during TOT Weekend at the Expo and then I just did the 5K during Marathon Weekend. I think it's a great experience, and if i'm not running the race I make sure to sign up!

    1. Disney does a great job with the volunteers. I think going forward, I will do the same, sign up to volunteer if not running the race. Or volunteer on a non race day like I'm doing for the Princess half.

  2. I volunteered at our local marathon in 2012 and it inspired me to run the half the next year! Maybe I'll see you at the PHM Expo this year. I can't wait for my first runDisney race!

    1. I'll be at the Expo on Thursday afternoon. I can't wait for this race! Let's share corrals once they are released. Maybe we can meet up prior to race.

  3. Awesome! It looks like you had a lot of fun volunteering. I always make it a point to volunteer at a race or two during the year. Last year I helped out with a triathlon and it was SO much fun! I'd love to volunteer at Disney but usually when I'm down there, I'm running. :)

  4. Yes, it was tons of fun. That's awesome that you volunteer at local races.

  5. Looks like a lot of fun, thanks for the link to Sports Enthusiasts!