Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend
Travel and fitness are two concepts which tend not to necessarily intertwine with overwhelming ease and this is exactly why I have become of the mindset to travel FOR fitness. Yes…you see what I did there. Its called multi-tasking, and the result…Run Disney events. One month ago I had the opportunity to participate in the Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend, and this is how it went.
Why the Princess Half Marathon Weekend? Well because it is exactly that. It is a weekend of running, a true event. With the fit for a princess expo open all weekend, a 5km on Friday, a 10km on Saturday, and a half marathon on Sunday, Run Disney ensures that every princess feels like they are special, like they are celebrating their fitness all weekend long. How better to celebrate than running with 25,000 other princesses.
The Fit for a Princess Expo
This is where you pick up your Princess Half Marathon race bibs, race t-shirts (which every race supplies) and the elusive Run Disney merch. The expo opened Thursday at 12:00 noon, so naturally I arrived at 11:00, thrust my family into the RunDisney merch line (a line that leads to a massive arena because that’s how much merchandise there is) and made my way to bib pick up. I had hoped that they would open the expo no later than 11:30 (early), so that I could quickly pop in to get my race bib before re-uniting with my family at the hunger games…I mean…the merch building. At 11:20 the lines of people began to move slowly, each being careful not to cross the tape line on the floor…oh the civility of it all…at bib pick up that is. I had printed my wavier at home so I was able to slowly walk in, spot the Corral A numbers, grab my bib, get my picture taken, and get out. I braced myself as I headed towards the merchandise building where my family was waiting to purchase official 2018 Princess Half Marathon Weekend swag.
At the merch building was Cinderella’s carriage, a prop made available for photo opps. I decided to skip this photo stop because of the ever growing line. I entered the building and spied the sign for ‘pre-ordered merchandise’. I figured I might as well get this now while my family continued to wait in line for opening of the “hunger games”.
I call it the hunger games because at the Wine and Dine half marathon weekend, I once witnessed participants literally shove over volunteers and workers in order to get their hands on any merchandise…of any size! I couldn’t even form a human hand chain with my family because people were pushing so hard. Oh…and the poor person who was re stocking wine glasses would have his box emptied before taking 3 steps forward. It was savage.
I was directed to the pre-order pick up area when I realized…it was IN the merch building…like beyond the line. I asked the worker if it would be alright if I walked to merch after picking up my things…she said no…I looked again…there wasn’t a separate area…yah right lady. I grabbed my pins and my jacket which I pre-ordered and walked straight to the Pandora line. Sorry Run Disney internet.
I am so glad I went straight to the Pandora line because the combatants wanting Pandora, Alex and Ani bracelets AND Dooney and Bourke merchandise were all in the same line! This was an organizational mistake! The demand for these items was so great that every 5 minute delay in getting in that line added a half an hour or more wait time to procuring your merchandise. I hope they fix this because that line is actually where I saw my first shopping nervous breakdown of the day. I found my family, picked up my desired merch and with Alex and Ani bracelets in hand (they were so pretty) proceeded to shop for another hour picking up every piece of Disney Princess Half Marathon merch I could have wanted. I handed my haul over to my dad who was so lucky as to get the opportunity to wait in the 1 hour long cash line, while Mom and I proceeded to make our way to the Fit for a Princess Expo. I am not even joking, he was in the line waiting to make the purchases for an hour. The Fit for a Princess Expo is definitely meant for a team of 3.
Meanwhile, we casually walked over to the Fit for a Princess runners expo where we were greeted by D.J. Prince Charming. This venue provided everything and anything a runner might need (or want). Yes, everything you could imagine was available. From nice running clothes, running shoes, race gels, sparkle skirts, to compression socks not to mention Jeff Galloway; having every running brand you could think of. If you forgot to pack something…you could find it here. Being an experienced runner, I had already packed what I needed so I enjoyed the ambiance and got my nails done with princesses on them while we waited for my dad to reunite with us. After acquiring my race shirts at a booth in the corner, complete with fresh nails, I was good to go. I stopped at a few of the photo spots on the way out, and headed to grab an early dinner at Tony’s in The Magic Kingdom and to take advantage of some fast passes. Stage 1 complete.
The Enchanted 10km Race
2:30 AM came early…yes…that is right…2 freaking 30. The race requires participants to be in their corrals no later than 5:00 for a 5:30am start…and they mean this. When it comes to RunDisney events, I prefer to get up earlier, relax, drive to the race start at the Epcot parking lot and wait in my car for the race to begin. I would just rather have lots of time to eat, wake up, and not worry about traffic. I will always drive if I am able. We left the house at 3:00am, and arrived at Epcot at 3:20. After sitting for 40 minutes in the car, I decided it was time to make the great toilet pilgrimage. Give yourself a solid 40 minutes to get into the toilets as the lines are LONG and you do not want to miss the race start because you had to poop. After having my ‘me-time’ in the toilet, we walked over to the runners entrance where I traded my pants for my tutu, took some pictures, and headed into my corral.
Hunger games take 2! Getting to the front of Corral A was ridiculous! I MEAN ridiculous! There were people literally forcing themselves to the front. I even saw a mother push her 10 year old to the start line. Personally disagreeing with this for a number of reasons, the first being that the poor kid was going to get trampled by the relentless corral A runners. The second that some people are trying to win and I believe they should have their space at the front. Regardless, what I did see was people pushing their way to an already full corral A front line. Insane.
Fairy Godmother started the race…obviously…who else would do the job. The fireworks went off and we sprinted into the night…I mean…morning. After clearing the crowd I could see Mulan in the distance. I could not resist. I pulled over to take a picture with her and then continued the race. As I was leaving I saw Mushu in the distance! Dang, he was too late to the party for me. We ran under the Epcot entrance sign and up the bridge onto Epcot Center Drive and to my heart’s desire…there he was, Mr. Stitch and his date Lilo….I had to stop again…I mean HAD to. Picture taken, I continued on the course.
Getting on to Epcot Center Drive I could see the photographic flashes indicating another character up ahead….Pocahontas and Miko. Three characters in a row…you’re right…I stopped for her too. The next portion of the run seemed pretty fantasy free with only a few lights set up and the occasional movie screen playing…you guessed it, Disney clips. We also passed a toilet stop and a water station. Take note…the white cups have water in them…the blue cups have Powerade. Its amazing that I didn’t figure that out until the half marathon.
As we reached the half way point, we turned the corner from Epcot Center Drive and entered the park between the Chinese and Norwegian pavilions. All of the lights were on in the World Showcase and the fires were lit around the lagoon. The buildings all glittered like the Eiffel tower but with a pink undertone, and the music of Epcot played in the background. It is a site to see…an empty Epcot in the dark that is. I took my time here, enjoyed my surroundings, and snapped a few extra magical pictures. I ran into Pinocchio, the Genie, and Marie from the Aristocats, who might I add was quite a distance off course. We continued up through the International Gateway towards the Boardwalk.
Once in the Boardwalk area, you should note that at 6:00 am the wood is super SLIPPERY with the Florida morning dew. There was a crowd of fans here, some displaying funny signs, to keep up the spirit of the runners…as well as coach Goofy (yeah I stopped). Around the Boardwalk, past the Yacht Club Resort and beyond the Beach Club Resort, we turned behind the new Skyliner construction, ran backstage and came out on the other side of England. Talk about a trip around the world. With about 1 mile left we ran towards the Epcot entrance where we would eventually cross the finish line. I ‘sprinted in’ with only one last stop, a visit to Pluto. Streaming into the finish line, at 23rd in my age group (woo hoo with all the pics), I collected my medal and my snack box, chugged like 3 Powerades and reunited with my family. I mean, of course I stopped by for a picture with Princess Minnie and Jasmine but I mean…obviously.
After taking a few moments to watch some of the other runners come into the finish line, we headed home for a well deserved nap, followed by some carb loading at Tutto Italia and soaring once around the world.
Disney Princess Half Marathon
This was it, my race, my distance, I had been waiting for the Disney Princess Half Marathon for what seemed like forever… because it was. I signed up some time last March. Waking up was the same as the day before, 2:30am came early but also with much excitement. After giving myself the most reasonable snow white hair possible, forcing myself to eat a bagel with peanut butter and a banana, I was out the door, tutu in hand.
We once again arrived at the start area in the Epcot Parking lot with time to relax, use the toilet, and get prepared for the race (shoes, compression sleeves, glide, watch, music). I left my family at the runners entrance and proceeded to walk to the race start which was probably close to 20 minutes away. There are D.J.’s along the way, more bathrooms, and excited princesses to keep up the vibe. TMI here but I took an Imdodium at this point, no bathroom issue was ruining the day for this girl! Corral A was MUCH more reasonable today! There was space, people were stretching and the runners chatted among themselves as they anxiously waited to start the race. There was no pushing, just pleasantries.
The push-rim corral started first. This race supports the Children’s Miracle Network which provides handicap accessibility to the homes of children in need. As a result of the charity there is a corral for the children to run with their parent or guardian pushing them in fancy wheel chairs. This is an absolute feat, very cool and inspiring to watch them in action. We also get to see the wheel chair start which is also cool…and then finally…with a Bibbity Bobbity Boo, the Princess Half Marathon begins.
We streamed out of the blocks and settled into race pace as we proceeded towards World Drive and The Magic Kingdom. They had marching bands at 5:30 am in the middle of the fields to entertain us and cheer us on as we ran by. The first bit of the race usually flies by for me as it is both exciting and I am working on finding my half marathon race pace. Turning onto World Drive from Epcot is always inspiring because well…The Magic Kingdom sign is closer than you would expect. It was pitch black as I made my way down World Drive focusing only on the sign ahead, and stopping for every water break possible. It was HOT this morning and incredibly humid and so staying hydrated became a priority. It is always fun crossing under The Magic Kingdom sign because you know you are close to the fun, the characters, the castle, and well…half way. Weaving around the parking lot we ran into a group of hero’s, Prince Eric, Flynn Ryder, John Smith, and Phoebus to be exact. Yeah…I stopped, I also stopped for Snow White’s evil queen further ahead. Passing a water station, I grabbed a blue cup then hopped on the road to The Magic Kingdom. Up and down a few hills, around the bus station and there it was, the entrance to the Magic Kingdom and I was stoked!
There were characters waving at us from the train station as we ran through the entrance and out on to Main Street, USA where a massive crowd of supportive fans waited to cheer us on. It is so magical you could never understand unless you were there. I am trying to help you feel what it is like to run down Main Street, USA with all of its lights on and the elusive Cinderella Castle in the background. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t holding back a single tear every time I experience something like this. I ran down the street waving at the fans and took a turn into Tomorrowland, passed the Laugh Floor, Buzz Lightyear, the Speedway and into Fantasyland where I ran into Alice and the March Hare himself as well as Gaston and Belle. Photo Break!
The next part is my favourite. Rounding the corner in Fantasyland I could see the entrance of the Castle just ahead of me. After stopping for a picture with Lady Tremaine, Anastasia and Drizella, it was time to run through the castle…and I was alone. It is always a spectacular experience to run through the castle and look down at a packed and lit up Main Street, USA. I even pulled into the center to take a photo in front of the castle. The course then made its way through Liberty Square and Frontierland where I met Woody, Goofy, Tiana, Naveen, and eventually Aurora, Cinderella and their Prince’s. We then exited The Magic Kingdom and made our way on to Floridian Way.
The course cruised by the Disney Golf Course and the Grand Floridian Resort where I stopped to take a picture with Tinker Bell and the Genie. At this moment in the race I took a deep breath, had a snack, and relaxed back into my natural race pace. As we hit World Drive once again I was excited to experience my second favourite part of the Princess Half Marathon. See, as a Corral A runner we miss the general camaraderie of the princess half marathon, the positivity, the support, and the costumes. It is a different kind of fun, but it is certainly more solitary. It brightens my day when we run on to World Drive and have the opportunity to see the rest of the princesses running down the opposite side. To see the costumes and the support, the laughter and the fun is always a positive moment for myself. The crowd distracts me all the way to the Epcot turn off where the Green Army man spends his morning yelling hilarious comments at the runners.
After running up and down 3 hills, and watching the Balloon Ladies run by on the opposite side, the course takes a final turn towards Epcot. It is a double edged sword at this point, where you are looking forward to finishing the race for the sake of not running, but also are a little sad to see it end. Along this final highway stretch before Epcot, the road was lined with pictures of children from the Miracle Network, which I found to be a nice touch. I also saw the hand-cycle winner at this spot cheering for the runners and pointing at the ‘soon to be ours’ medal.
Running into Epcot I passed Mrs. Incredible with whom I took a picture, before heading down the right side of the bridge towards the world showcase. Once there, the course returns down the opposite side passing a Gospel Choir in full song. At this point you would find me sprinting towards the finish line…high fiving Goofy on the way by. The race was over and with a little Pixie Dust a volunteer placed my finisher medal around my neck. Pulling over to down a bottle of water and grabbing a couple Powerades, a cooling scarf and snack box, I followed the gates towards the finisher photo stop where I would receive my Challenger medal for completing the races on consecutive days.
Exiting the race area I was reunited with my family, well, kind of…Actually I saw Elsa and Anna in the distance, so I hustled by my family to get a picture or two. They caught up to me at the photo spot (prearranged). We spent a few minutes taking pictures with the princesses, and talking to other runners before the crowds built up. We then escaped towards the Garden Grille for a perfect post race breakfast. You would not believe how hungry you can get after completing a 21.1km run.
Run Disney events are like no other. There is a reason that every year thousands of people dedicate their holidays and weekends to taking part in one of these events. How it feels to stand with 25,000 other princesses all dedicated to having fun and supporting fitness is phenomenal. The entertainment value of these races unmatched. The organization of an event this big, unreal. RunDisney keeps me coming back for more, and I can promise it is more than an excuse to run a race in a tutu. The courses are spectacular and the spirit and vibes of the other runners who are all having a blast makes all the difference. Once again, the fact that this race feels like an inclusive celebratory event is what makes runDisney weekends worthwhile. The 2018 Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend remains one of my favourite experiences of the year.
I am looking forward to participating in the Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon Weekend this April, and if you are heading to the event, please let me know in the comments!
PS. I am aware that the characters change through out the race so if you ran in the 2018 Princess Half Marathon Weekend and experienced different characters than myself, comment below because I would LOVE to know!
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