Rewind to the first Disney Marathon in 1994
The Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend has just begun, all leading up to the twenty-sixth running of the popular race.
At the first running of the event, in 1994, Disney expected 4,000 runners to sign up. They capped enrollment after 8,200 people enlisted. But while it was unexpectedly popular, the first Walt Disney World Marathon faced challenges.
The elite runners launched out from the starting line at 6 am, Sunday, January 16, 1994, a full 80 mintues before sunrise. The 26.2-mile route began at the EPCOT parking lot, snaking through the Magic Kingdom and Disney’s MGM Studios. Chilly 30 degree Fahrenheit temperatures were forecasted, which was enough for Disney to prepare literal white flags, to wave if participants were risking hypothermia.
Several restaurants at Epcot were open for runners ahead of the race, but organizers encouraged people to bring their own Thermos of coffee or tea.
Reports say that 7,205 runners actually showed up on race day, including 4,448 from Florida. While 2,000 spectators were expected, roughly 1,500 showed up, according to the Orlando Sentinel. Less than 100 stuck around for the finish line.
Leonid Shvetson won the men’s open category, and in 1995 set a long-standing record for the event. The Russian would go on to compete in the 1996 and 2004 Summer Olympics, in the marathon.