If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to participate in a Run Disney event, and the Princess Half Marathon at that, then keep reading. This post is for you.
And, if you’ve ever wondered what kind of woman dresses up like a princess to run 13.1 miles – I’ve got that covered too.
Welcome to my Run Disney Princess Half Recap!
Fit for a Princess
If you haven’t read my earlier post about the Princess Half Marathon please check it out. However, as long as you’re here, let me start by telling you about my accommodations. They really were fit for a Princess!
There are many places to stay on and off resort; and, after changing my reservations a few times, I finally decided on the Walt Disney World Port Orleans Riverside Resort. This was my first stay at there, and I was amazed by the beauty of the grounds as well as how quiet the area was. It was the perfect place for a momma traveling solo looking for a little rest. Check out the slider below for a tour of the resort.
Run Disney Race Expo
I arrived in Orlando on the Friday before the race with enough time to head to the ESPN Run Disney Race Expo. I’ve been to a few Race Expos before, but trust me, none compare to the Disney experience. (Be prepared to spend some money.) From Margaritas to sunglasses and everything in between, there is a little something for everybody!
Race Day Timeline
If you’re planning to participate in a Run Disney Event, it’s important to make sure you understand what the Race Day Timeline looks like. Here’s a glimpse at mine.
Time to head to the main lobby to catch the first bus to Epcot. At just a couple minutes after 3:00 a.m. it was already half full!!
After making my way down the slim aisle way of the bus (my tutu brushing against the elbows of the other early risers) I grabbed a seat, nursed my instant cup of Starbucks Coffee, and chatted with the ladies around me.
It was a quick ride from the Riverside Resort to the Epcot Parking; I left the bus in the already humid temps and made my way to the race retreat. Given the humidity, and the remaining two hours to race time, I couldn’t have been happier that I’d decided to splurge for the Pre/Post Race Retreat. The air conditioned tent, chocolate milk, coffee bar, bananas and pre-t0asted bagels with peanut butter made for an excellent alternative to sitting on the ground in the parking lot at 4:00 a.m. The separate, assigned portages potties, meant short lines and even a wash sink. The retreat even had its own medical center, gear check post, D.J., unique character photos, and promised a post-race bar and buffet. (I can’t imagine taking advantage of the bar in the post race condition I was in but there was the promise of Mimosas.) Again, if you’re thinking of doing a Run Disney Event, I personally found the Race Retreat to be well worth the additional investment. (More on that later.)
I left the Race Retreat and made my way toward the corrals. Even in the wee morning hours I found myself bright-eyed and bushy-tailed fueled by excitement inspire of the little sleep I got the night before. There is a certain magic, an excitement that surpasses any other pre-race jitters I’ve experienced. I loved walking in the crowd, meeting so many different people, checking out all the amazing costumes, and the people of all ages and backgrounds.
The 11th Annual Disney Princess Half Marathon Race Weekend hosted nearly 56,000 racers with approximately 25,000 running the Half Marathon that weekend.
If you haven’t picked up on it yet, this event is big.
Jeff Galloway addressed the runners, encouraging us to be mindful of the heat and humidity. And, he reminded us to keep an eye out for one another. To take care of each other – to not abandon the magic of the people and the place for a personal best. And then, not to much later, newly crowned Miss America, Nia Franklin, a classically trained opera singer, sang the National Anthem and we were off. The first wave of runners started at 5:30 a.m. announced by fireworks and music. There were several waves of corrals, each wave honored with fireworks of their own. I was in the second wave of corral F. We were a large group, crossing the starting line around 6:05 a.m.
At the start of the race the temperature was in the low 70s and the humidity at 94%. Even the esteemed Jeff Galloway reminded us to slow our pace in light of the temperatures and humidity. The first half of the race was amazing. The sun didn’t rise until almost 8:00 a.m. and the darkened sky made a difference while running on the highway. I stopped for pictures, remembering to pause my watch with most of the lines. I took the time to walk my way into Disney World taking plenty of pictures and live-streaming as I entered on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom. By 8:20 a.m. I’d been on the course over two hours and covered just over 8 miles.
I still had another five miles to go.
It would take almost another 90 minutes to finish up the remaining five miles. Yes, there were more pictures, and a walk/run through Cinderella’s Castle, but the last 5 miles included a return route on a heated highway under the bright morning sun. (I never thought in my training that running on the highway would require hill work, but in light of the on and off ramps as well as the overpasses I really should have prepared better for that.)
It was all I could do to keep the wheels from falling off the bus.
When I crossed the finish line, it was all I could do to make my way back to the race retreat. My legs wanted to stop, my hips ached, and there was nothing I wanted more than the air conditioning of the Race Retreat tent. Walking into the tent, I found the closest table to the medical station and grabbed two bags of ice and some bio-freeze – shamelessly reaching my hands down my sweat drenched pants and slathering my hips in the green gel. Once I sat down, I belatedly realized I did not have the strength to get back up. I was light-headed and suddenly realized the toll the heat and miles had taken. I was glad I’d parked by the medical station because I thought passing out was a distinct possibility.
I stared longingly across the room at the chilled chocolate milk dispensers.
I was sharing the table with another runner (slightly older than me) and her mother. They both had the look of born runners, even though the mother said she was “just there” for moral support. And the daughter, well, she looked like she hadn’t even broken a sweat. In any other race she would likely have been the type of person I would have avoided – feeling sharply the difference of our training and ability. But today I was at Disney, and frankly theirs was the closest table to the medics and the food. I’d opted for ice and getting off my feet – and they looked friendly, encouraging, and honestly, perhaps even a little concerned.
My fellow runner and her mother were preparing to depart (I don’t think I drove them off and made best efforts to not appear so pitiful in our conversation) when the racer, asked if she could get me something to drink.
I almost cried.
She came back with a large glassful of chocolate milk. Then she asked if I would like some food and my enthusiastic shake of my head sent her off and brought her back with a heaping plate full of breakfast food.
Carbs make me feel good.
Truthfully, the Princess Half was both exhilarating and exhausting. I had an amazing time with some amazing strangers and was so happy to check this event off my bucket list.
But, trust me, despite my best efforts not everything went as planned. Maybe, you can learn from some of my basic mistakes – or at least have a good chuckle!
Lessons Learned at the Disney Princess Half Marathon
Of course there were a few lessons along the way. Here are a few “must share” lessons.
- Don’t Wear White Pants: I thought in the summer sun white was the “way to go” – this wisdom was complimented by my desire to run as Mary Poppins. Unfortunately, just a few weeks leading up to the race I decided to “test run” my costume at the gym. Let’s just say the sheerness of the white pants on a prolific sweater doesn’t make for a good marriage unless I was willing to model my tattoo like a statement piece at WDW and run the risk of having it memorialized forever on the internet in pictures. I decided to maintain my modesty and avoid internet infamy by pairing the costume with a full tutu. If I’d had it to do over, knowing what I know now, I would have reconsidered my costume decision and avoided anything white.
- Order the Tutu on Etsy: Since I’d already spent enough money on the race registration, my accommodations and costume I decided that I would make my own tutu. I was certain I could make it for less than what I would pay to buy one on Etsy. Boy, was I wrong. I underestimated that amount of tulle required to make a full tutu, one that would cover my entire waist and backside. All the Michaels coupons were helpful – but looking back at what I found online, I would have spent less by just ordering one.
- BENGAY is not Your Friend: After the race and a brief rest in the race retreat, I returned to my hotel, changed clothes and made my way to Epcot. I didn’t return to my resort room until hours, 48,429 steps, and 23.17 miles later. I hurt everywhere. I hobbled my way to the resort gift store to see if I might find anything to ease my discomfort. The gracious and sympathetic cast member sent me on my way with a bag of epsom salts and a tube of BENGAY. Following a long soak in the tub I dried off and slathered my aching limbs from the waist down in BENGAY. It was the mistake of a life time. I crawled into bed ready for my early bus to the airport when I began to shiver. I shook and shook and shook. So much that I jumped out of bed and tried futilely to rub off the chemicals that were already absorbed into my skin. Still shaking, I donned the insulated pants and shirts I flew into Florida wearing and crawled back into bed.
Still, I could not stop shaking. I got out of bed and grabbed the spare blanket and bedding from the other bed in my room. To no avail. I believe I might have been shaking harder but now my teeth were also chattering. I made a last-ditch effort to warm myself as I popped out of bed and grabbed the spare towels to wrap around me. At some point I passed out and woke up a few hours later sweating.
Next time I’ll just hunt down a hot tub.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this Race Recap – there is so much to share and these are just a few highlights of the things I experienced and enjoyed. Please, if you’re considering the Princess Half, share any questions you might have in the comments section and I’d be happy to answer them.