80-year-old inspires as he finishes 30th Walt Disney World Marathon in Orlando, Florida


ORLANDO, FL – It’s an iconic weekend for runners: the 30th anniversary of the Walt Disney World Marathon in Orlando, Florida.

The event gathers more than 100 thousand athletes and spectators. But there are a select few that stand out in the crowd. Among them is a runner who has crossed the finish line all 30 years that the Walt Disney World Marathon has been in existence. He took his love of running around the world.

“I’m just enjoying the morning until the sun comes up. It’s a nice feeling,” Rudy Smith, 80, said of his preferred practice time.

Smith is originally from Greta, Louisiana, which is near New Orleans. He maintained his love of running for decades.

“Back in the late ’70s, I was just doing a 5K race,” he said of his first racing experience.

The famous “Runners High” captivated him and inspired him to go further and further in his races.

“I just gradually worked my way up,” he said. “(I) started with a 5K, then moved to a 10K, then eventually ran a half marathon. And then in 1988 I ran my first marathon in New York.”

Then he heard about the most magical marathon of all: the Walt Disney World Marathon. He and his wife ran the very first Disney Marathon together.

“It was so beautiful. So my wife and I ran it that year. And we came back for the second year, and it all snowballed,” he said of the marathon, which runs through all four Walt Disney Resort parks in Orlando. “I don’t think there’s a marathon in the world that can compare to this.”

Smith would know because he ran marathons all over the world. The goal came to him many years ago.

“I have a feeling why don’t I do one on each continent?” he said.

That’s exactly what Smith did. He ran a marathon on every continent.

“I’ve done London. I’ve done Paris,” he said, before mentioning a marathon he ran in an unusual place.

“(I went to) Beijing. The Great Wall Marathon was held there,” he noted about his run along the Great Wall of China.

In total, Smith completed almost 70 marathons. He also ran the Empire State Building twice in the race. In September, he completed the Berlin Marathon to officially compete in all six major world marathons and earn a Major World Marathon medal. However, the Walt Disney World Marathon has kept him coming back every year for all 30 years. He is one of 59 runners who are aptly described as “perfect” – having completed every Walt Disney World Marathon since the race began.

“It’s wonderful,” he said. “Something you’re very proud of.”

You can still be proud of the fact that at 80, Smith is still going strong. The secret?

– That I knew! he said, before noting that he still eats his wife’s fantastic Louisiana dishes, including red beans and rice and, of course, gumbo.

“I think part of it has to do with just running, you know?” he said. “Consistency is the most important aspect.”

He advises any aspiring runner to just start with the first step.

“Not trying to eat the whole elephant,” he said. “You just take it one step at a time. One bite at a time.”

The runDisney season includes five race weekends. Four of them are at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. One of them is at the Disneyland resorts in California. The Walt Disney World Marathon is the premier weekend on the runDisney race calendar. The marathon is the signature event of Disney runDisney.

RunDisney bills itself as the perfect event for both beginners and experienced runners, with those running their first full or half marathon facing no qualifying times. For more information on runDisney, including the recently released race schedule for the 2023-24 season, click here: https://www.rundisney.com/

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80-year-old inspires as he finishes 30th Walt Disney World Marathon in Orlando, Florida

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