Last July I agreed to my first runDisney race with a very close friend after a few mimosas (the ultimate confidence booster) and trained for my first ever half marathon for the 2016 Disney Princess Half Marathon weekend. I had always been intrigued by the race. I was familiar with the Disney World Marathon by accident, as my dad and I would regularly plan WDW trips in January and run into (pun intended) the runners at our resort. I had seen friends run the Princess Half in previous years looking incredibly happy and vowed that one day I would do the same.
After an intense registration process, I was amazed to visit the runDisney website and see that there were multiple races, training and healthy eating tips, vacation planning suggestions, accompanying social media pages, and of course, a huge following of diehard fans. I quickly studied and printed out the Jeff Galloway recommended training schedule for “Beginner Runners.” At that time, I was running up to six miles, but still wanted to be cautious. My two goals for this race were to finish the race within the time constraints and have as much fun as possible.
Slowly but surely, I diligently checked off each running day on my Jeff Galloway printout and trained hard on Saturday mornings with fellow runners (though these were MARATHON runners- I figured I was in good company!)
Race Recap: Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend 2016
On race weekend, I came prepared with the essentials and attended the mobbed expo. I was so overwhelmed I didn’t even realize I missed an entire section of and hadn’t picked up my t-shirt. I had to rush back the next day! Despite the frenzy, I loved the excitement and energy of it all: the booths selling glitter skirts, princess-themed tops, running shoes, fuel snacks, and the Disney touches of photo opportunities and character greeting spots. After such a spirited running expo, I felt ready to take on the race.
On race day I wore my basic running outfit, subtle princess hat and lovely trash bag from my resort for tossable warmth and made my way through the pre-race dance party and corral. Going into the race I wasn’t convinced on the tutu. I figured I would look silly. Much to my surprise, everyone in costume at the race looked amazing. And most importantly, they looked like they were having fun! I made a note of a few costumes and determined that if I were to do this again, I will most definitely dress up!
Anxiously awaiting the start of the race, I killed time around the pre-race party in the Epcot parking lot and made my way to the corral. Waiting for the gun to go off and the announcers to call your corral fees like waiting for a gladiator battle. Since this was my first half marathon race, I did not submit a time, so I was all the way in Corral N (Corrals went A through P). Corrals went off every three minutes. Finally when it was our turn, I took a deep breath and started moving one foot in front of the other.
The course took us up highways through Magic Kingdom via Main Street. My boyfriend, Tommy, greeted me on Main Street as the sun began to rise. We ran around Tomorrowland and through Fantasyland to reach the backside of the castle, where Anna, Elsa and Kristoff waived to us from the balcony. Running through Cinderella Castle was breathtaking. The chearing fans from the Castle through Main Street was worth every mile, every early morning, and every cold, snowy training day. In that moment I knew why runners flocked from all across the globe to race in these events. As we made our way around the back of the Magic Kingdom, I did my best to shield my eyes from service and staff areas (I’d rather not see the backside of Splash Mountain – I don’t want to spoil the magic!)
Throughout the race I managed to maintain negative splits, since I was running on extra adrenaline, and managed to make my way up through the race past many participants I started with on the starting line. I was frustrated at times by the bottlenecking on the course and some participants not following basic race etiquette. By making my way up further past the runners in my original corral I felt like I was making decent progress. We rounded out the second half of our race up the highways back toward Epcot, where we made a finish through Future World. By the time I had made it to Future World, I couldn’t believe I was approaching the finish – I didn’t want the experience to end! During the race I experienced a rush of overwhelming emotion – my two great joys: running and Disney were united. As I ran across the finish line, I knew this was just the beginning. I couldn’t wait to sign up for another runDisney race.
Have you run a runDisney race? What has been your favorite experience?