Disneyland’s Magical Marathon


When Disney gets involved in the sports field, it does so in a big way--witness the Mighty Ducks. So it should be no surprise that the first-ever Disneyland Marathon and 5K is getting the full Magic Kingdom treatment.

For starters, how about a purse of $50,000 and a chance to run right through Sleeping Beauty Castle? Runners in the marathon will also pass through Anaheim Stadium--and see their names on the scoreboard as they enter.

The usual complement of Disney characters will be on hand, naturally, and the top finishers will even be feted with a parade down Main Street, U.S.A.

All in all, this Sunday’s event is a splashy return to the marathon for Orange County, which hasn’t seen a road race of that distance (26.2 miles) since 1991, the last time anyone tried to establish a regular marathon here. Among the elite runners in the marathon are Eddy Hellebuyck of Belgium, Juan Samuel Lopes Escorcia of Mexico, Sharlet Gilbert of the United States and Eva Olas Marquette of Poland. Prize money is $19,000.


The 5K pace, meanwhile, should be blistering. Matt Guistu, the 1994 U.S. 5,000-meter track and road champion, will be matched against the No. 2 and No. 3 road runners in the world, Benson Masya of Kenya and Phillimon Hanneck of Zimbabwe, respectively. Among the women will be Annette Peters, the U.S. record holder at 5,000 meters, Yvonne Graham of Scotland and Chris Pfitznger of New Zealand. The runners will be chasing a $31,000 purse.

Disneyland raised eyebrows last year when it announced the races for a date only three weeks after the Los Angeles Marathon. To head off potential charges that they were trying to steal the thunder of the L.A. event, Disneyland Marathon officials had worked out a cooperative agreement with the Los Angeles Marathon, which included placing more emphasis on the 5K portion of the event.

Both courses are described as flat and fast.

The marathon course is a double loop that will take runners twice through Disneyland, east on Katella to Anaheim Stadium and around The Pond of Anaheim, then back to Disneyland for the finish. The 5K course will take in six of Disneyland’s seven themed lands.

Runners will not be able to stay in the park after the events unless they buy a separate admission. Each race has a time limit: five hours for the marathon (that’s a 12-minute-per-mile pace) and one hour for the 5K (about 19 minutes per mile).

Race-day registration is not available. Those who have not yet signed up must do so in person at the Disneyland Hotel during a two-day health-and-fitness expo. The hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.


Here’s the early word on a series of fund-raising hiking tours through Laguna Coast Wilderness Park at 9 a.m. each Saturday next month--April 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29. For a $20 donation, hikers will get a three-hour docent-led tour of Little Sycamore Canyon, along with a “Keep It Wild” T-shirt.

Proceeds will go toward a fund to buy the Laguna Laurel property for inclusion in the park, which straddles Laguna Canyon Road. The park is open only to docent-led groups. For information on the hikes, call (714) 855-7275. Reservations are required.

* What: Disneyland Marathon and 5K.

* When: Sunday, March 26, at 7 a.m. for the marathon and 7:15 for the 5K.

* Where: Disneyland.

* Whereabouts: From the Santa Ana (5) Freeway, exit south on Harbor Boulevard. The park entrance is on the right.

* Wherewithal: $55 for the marathon, $20 for the 5K (includes T-shirt). There is no race-day registration; see story for details on signing up.

* Where to call: (800) 524-9200.