Disney Princess Half Marathon: Things I Learned

19 Mar

As evidenced from my recaps, the Disney Princess Half Marathon was a great experience for me.  I would not hesitate to participate again, if timing (and my financials) was right.

Here are a few of my top takeaways from running this race:

1. I CAN do it.

No matter how many runs I complete in the future, I am 100% sure this will always be a top takeaway. I may not be the fittest or the fastest runner, but I can definitely get out there, stay positive and tough it out to the finish line.

2. It WILL be crowded.

runDisney races are quite different from some of the other local races I have run as far as size goes. The Princess Half had over 26,000 runners, the largest crowd this half marathon had seen. Disney is incredibly organized and does a great job of managing the crowds, but it is inevitable that the course will still be packed. The first couple miles can definitely include some bobbing and weaving and there are spots throughout the course where the running path narrrows to one lane, so it can be a bit tight.

3. You can’t predict the weather.

Being from the Orlando area, I have had a lot of friends run the Princess Half and other Disney races over the past few years. Each time, the weather seems to be drastically different. While Disney steers clear of offering any runs in the middle of the summer, it is impossible to predict what the weather may be like! For instance, one year it was freezing at the Disney Marathon in January but the next year it was almost 80!

This February, the weather has definitely been yo yo-ed quite a bit and we ended up having humid, hot weather for this half as well. It’s definitely good to be prepared for all types of weather, as you really never know what to expect.

4. It’s worth every penny.

runDisney races can be pricey. For me though, the cost was definitely worth it. Running through the Walt Disney World property  and theme parks I have grown up visiting and still love was amazing. In typical Disney style, the entertainment on course was also amazing. Fun DJ’s, awesome puppets and props from throughout Disney, character photo ops and other local musical groups were strategically sprinkled along the way really helping to break up those longer stretches of road.

5. Take your time at the expo.

I was on a tight schedule due to work when I picked up my packet, but if I had the opporunity I would take more advantage of the expo in the future. I still kick myself for not buying the Mickey eared 13.1 car magnet! They did have some merchandise for sale after the half, but sadly, the magnets were sold out.  There are so many other great vendors at the expo and wish I had taken some time to learn about their products! runDisney also offeres some great speakers at the expo, including Jeff Galloway and a runDisney nutritionist, so I would love to have the time to listen to them in the future!

6. Good energy is infectious

 I am so appreciative of my fellow runners. There was such an excitement in the air at this race, which I know helped keep me energized and motivated. From the beginning, I love seeing everyones racing outfits and costumes, because you tell how pumped they were to be a part of this runDisney event! I believe runDisney races get a good mix of experienced runners and those participating in their first race, which I fell definitely adds to the “buzz” in the air. Everyone seemed to be having a wonderful time, and that definitely kept me positive, too!

7. This race is about having FUN!

Lastly, runDisney events are runs where your #1 goal should always be to have FUN! As I stated, for this race in particular, the crowds and weather could be a challenge. My personal philosophy was to embrace the experience! Those challenges can be tough if you are focused on your watch or obtaining a PR. If you go into the run looking to have fun, enjoy your run and make some great memories you are  miles and miles ahead of the competition.

I wouldn’t trade my Princess Half Marathon experience for anything! Looking forward to my next runDisney events in the fall!

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Disney Princess Half Marathon, Part 3: Miles 6- Finish!

18 Mar

Picking up where I left off on Part 2, reaching the 5 Mile marker was a pretty big milestone on this course as it meant we were close to entering the Magic Kingdom!

Up until this point, I had felt my roomie and I were both doing pretty well but I could tell she was struggling a little bit more than I was. It was incredibly humid for February in Florida and I don’t think she was prepared for that.

With the help of my Garmin, we were following a 1 minute run/1 minute walk plan pretty well, but at this point we switched to mostly walking. I was still feeling pretty strong, but I didn’t want to abandon my roommate, as I could tell it was mostly a mental struggle and knew she could finish.

We were cutting through a bit of the Magic Kingdom’s backstage area, so I knew we were close to being on Magic Kingdom’s Main Street! Even though I frequent the theme parks, this was by far the part of the race I was most anticipating!

Main Street!

Main Street!

This was another part of the course that was FULL of spectators, so the energy was great! Once we got a little closer to the castle, I insisted on a picture! And managed to capture a photo of a guy running in an AWESOME tutu in the background!

Castle!

Castle Shot!

From Main Street, we made our way through Tomorrowland and into Fantasyland, making our way back around to Cinderella’s Castle and another fun photo op.

Fantasyland

Fantasyland

There were some members of the royal court playing trumpets and motivating runners on the run through the castle. I thought they were a lot of fun!

Trumpeters!

Trumpeters!

We made our way through the castle, and were able to enjoy a great view of Main Street and our fellow runners.

Main Street Crowds

Main Street Crowds

You can see how crowded it is- and also how gray the sky is. Definitely a reflection of the humidity in the air.

As we ran through Frontierland, we hit mile 6 and knew we were getting close to the half way point!

Mile 6!

Mile 6!

Soon, we were making our way through some backstage areas again on our way out of the park. Disney kept the backstage area fun, by having some of the parades and characters out greeting runners.

Steam Trains

Steam Trains

Cinderella and Prince Charming

Cinderella and Prince Charming

We made our way back onto the road. We passed by one of Reedy Creek’s, Disney’s personal emergency services department’s, firetrucks and a DJ pumping up the crowd.

Reedy Creek

Reedy Creek

Fans of runDisney on Facebook were able to vote for their favorite song to be featured as the anthem of the race at the half way point. Girl on Fire, by Alicia Keys, came out on top- so the fire truck fit perfectly. And, with that, we we had finished half of our run!

Half Way There!

Half Way There!

Not too long after, Mile 7 was in sight!

Mile 7!

Mile 7!

Right after Mile 7, we passed by the Grand Floridian Resort, where Mary Poppins, Bert and a chimney sweep were cheering runners on.

Mary Poppins

Mary Poppins

As we passed the Polynesian Resort, we saw Lilo, too!

Lilo

Lilo

Mile 8 was not far behind, followed by the musical stylings of an accordion club!

Mile 8!

Mile 8!

Accordion Club

Accordion Club

At this point, my roommate was struggling pretty bad, which was a challenge for me as I really wanted to make sure I was supporting her as best I can. I made sure she was fueling as needed and really did my best to keep her motivated! I consider myself to be naturally peppy so was trying to keep the positivity flowing. I did balance that with a littttlllleee bit of “Drill Sergeant Stephanie” sending a little tough love her way, too!

By this time we had made our way back onto World Drive and well on way into the home stretch towards Epcot and finished Mile 9!

Mile!

Mile 9!

About half way through Mile 9, my roommate insisted I run ahead. I had mixed feelings as I didn’t want her to get into her head being by herself and quit, but I was looking to push myself a little more. I did end up separating from her at this point, but not without her pinky promising me that she would cross the finish line.

I picked up the pace and made my way to Mile 10 and down World drive to Mile 11.

Mile 10!

Mile 10!

Road Running

Road Running

Mile 11!

Mile 11!

While the course is relatively flat, you do hit a few hills on the overpasses. Of course, these seem to happen more frequently at the end which definitely kept things challenging! Some inspirational signs were scattered throughout this part of the course, which always seem to motivate me to give an extra push.

Inspiration

Inspiration

Motivation

Motivation

After passing Mile 11, I knew I was approaching the entrance into Epcot, which gave me some added pep in my step. Just before entering the park, there was a photo op with Mulan and the Mile 12 marker!

Mulan

Mulan

Mile 12!

Mile 12!

With the passing of Mile 12, the course made it’s way pass cheering spectators and into Epcot through a side entrance and caught sight of the icon of Epcot, Spaceship Earth! The Epcot section of the course is relatively fast, making its way through Future World to the start of the World Showcase and back towards the front of the park.

Spaceship Earth

Spaceship Earth

At this point on the course my Garmin unfortunately died, but I knew Mile 13 and the finish line were not too far. The course wound it’s way backstage again towards the parking area.

Right before Mile 13, a gospel choir was singing backstage which was wonderful. Not only was their single excellent, it was just the right expression of joy and motivation to make the end to pump up my energy at the end of race!

Gospel Choir

Gospel Choir

Mile 13! 0.1 to go!

Mile 13! 0.1 to go!

As I passed Mile 13, you could begin to hear the roar of the crowd of spectators and the announcers at the finish line! I gave it my last push of energy and made it to the finish line!

The Finish!

The Finish!

Whether a 5K, 10K or half marathon, crossing the finish line always feels great and makes me a bit emotional and this was no exception.

I continued out of the shoot, collecting my finisher’s medal and some water. I decided to stop and get some ice for my hip. While it wasn’t bothering me much, it seemed like a good preventative measure. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to make it to a good viewing area to watch my roommate cross the finish line, so I continued on and grabbed some snacks. Disney provides a snack box that includes a bunch of health snacks- hummus, nuts, crackers, chocolate and, of course, a banana. I grabbed a Powerade too and found a spot to wait for my roomie.

She was about 20 minutes behind me and with the help of a couple text messages were able to find each other pretty easily. We had had intentions of walking around Epcot for a bit after, but she was a little bit more worn out than she expected and I could feel the starts of a headache so we decided to make our way home, after once last photo.

Finishers!

Finishers!

This half was such a great experience for me. Running around Disney, a place I truly love, and accomplishing something that I feel is still such a huge fitness feat for me makes me feel so wonderful!

And clearly, I’m addicted as I’ve signed up for two more runDisney races in the fall! I already can’t wait!

Coming soon, I’ll provide a quick summary of my thoughts on my overall thoughts on the race, in terms of pros, cons and just helpful tips for future Princess half runners!

Saturday Snapshots

16 Mar

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Disney Princess Half Marathon, Part 2: Miles 1 through 5

15 Mar

The Princess Half Marathon started with a super early wake up call.

Up Before Daylight

Up Before The Sun

As a chronic over sleeper and lover of the snooze button, I decided to set a few back up alarms.

Runners were supposed to be at the start line by 5AM, but a lot of the roads leading to Epcot closed as early as 4AM. So even though my roommate and I live about 15 minutes from Epcot our goal was to leave between 3AM and 3:15AM. We weren’t sure how bad traffic might be, but we made it to Epcot without any major delays. Since we had gotten there pretty early we took a few minutes to wait in the car and relax before heading to the starting area-without the sun up, it was still quite chilly!

In the Epcot parking lot, Disney had set up their pre-race area which included bag check, concessions, merchandise and various photo ops. There was also a DJ pumping up the crowd and a VIP Race Retreat area. We chose not to wait in line for any of the organized photo spots, but did spend a couple minutes taking pictures in this area.

Ready to Run!

Ready to Run!

We didn’t have any bags to check or need to use the restroom, so we decided to make the walk to the starting area. It is quite a bit of a trek, probably about 20 minutes to where the race actually begins.

DSC03249

There were roughly 26,000 people running, so Disney breaks the group into several “corrals”. I was in corral C but my friend had been placed into corral F. While Disney requires you to stop at Runner Relations at the race expo in order to move to an earlier corral, if you want to move back it’s usually not a problem. I opted to move back so that I could at least start the race with my roomie.

She was planning on following the Galloway method with a 1 minute walk/1 minute run plan. I had never run more than a mile two in this manner, so I wasn’t sure it was something I’d feel good sticking with for the 13.1. I decided to give it a try with the hopes of cutting down on the risk of injury since I’ve had trouble with my hip in the past and to enjoy some of the run with my friend.

We had quite a bit of time before our wave would be starting, so we were able to get comfy for a bit and do some stretching. runDisney has some really entertaining race announcers, so I enjoyed listening to their banter and the interviews they conducted. Actor Sean Astin was there and completing the Coast to Coast challenge and Ali Vincent the first female winner of the Biggest Loser was also running for a charity, so it was fun to hear their story! They also interviewed a woman who was the last finisher of the Tinker Bell Half Marathon at Disneyland who was determined to continue on her health and fitness journey and  complete her second half at WDW too! It was inspirational to hear her story and see the drive and determination that she brought to the run.

Waiting Our Turn

Waiting Our Turn

Soon, it was time to get the first wave of runners started with the help of the Fairy Godmother and an explosion of fireworks! A great thing at the runDisney races is that each corral gets the same sendoff at the start line. It’s helps keep the energy up and keeps you anticipating your turn at the start line.

Soon, it was our turn. Our corral was directed up to the start line relatively quickly.

Approaching the Start

Approaching the Start

The announcers were preparing us for the start and soon the Fairy Godmother was getting ready to count us down!

Countdown Time

Countdown Time…and a Lady’s Head 🙂

And then, with some more fireworks, we were off!

Fireworks Start

Fireworks Start

The course starts out right outside of Epcot, on Epcot Center Drive and makes it’s way up World Drive towards the Magic Kingdom. This can be a long stretch of road, but Disney does a great job at filling the course with fun entertainment along the way which makes it a lot of fun!

Mile 1

Mile 1

Each mile has a fun decorative marker. We didn’t stop for many pictures on the way, but I did manage to get a picture of each one along the way! With the large number of runners, the clocks aren’t super accurate past the first corral but it’s always great to see how far you’ve come.

I tried to catch on the go shots of a lot of the entertainment as we ran.

The Princesses

The Princesses

Bird Puppets

Bird Puppets

Mile 2!

Mile 2!

Us On The Go!

Us On The Go!

Paparazzi Shot of the Men of Disney

Paparazzi Shot of the Men of Disney

And soon we were approaching the entrance to the Magic Kingdom!

Here it Comes

Here it Comes

The Magic Kingdom (Toll Plaza)

The Magic Kingdom (Toll Plaza)

If you’re not familiar with Disney, this can be a little deceiving, as you still have about three miles until you actually enter the theme park! While I was aware, it was still the first, of many, milestones for me!

After passing through the Magic Kingdom toll plaza, the course makes its though the Magic Kingdom parking lot, by the Richard Petty Driving Experience and towards the Ticket and Transportation Center.

Mile 3!

Mile 3!

Lightning McQueen by Richard Petty

Lightning McQueen by Richard Petty

Evil Stepmother and Stepsisters

Evil Stepmother and Stepsisters

This was the first spot on the course where a lot of spectators were present cheering the runners on. I always get a kick out of reading all the inspirational and funny signs that have.

Haha!

Haha!

The green one above is a bit hard to read, but says “I took the monorail, it was faster”. Definitely one of my favorite Disney themed signs!

Mile 4!

Mile 4!

The next stretch took runners back onto the road by Disney’s Contemporary Resort.

Cones, Cones and More Cones

Cones, Cones and More Cones

As someone who has frequently seen individuals preparing the course, I never cease to be amazed by the sheer number of cones used on this portion of the course!

As you get closer to the Contemporary, you approach a pretty steep decline in the road followed by a steep incline as you pass under a water bridge connecting to lakes.

Down and Up

Down and Up

The course also gets a little narrow, making the crowds a bit of a challenge, but Disney must realizes runners can use a little motivation and has a DJ above looking to keep the energy up!

DJ Pumping Up the Crowd

DJ Pumping Up the Crowd

After making it back up the hill, which was mostly challenging due to the thick crowds of runners, there were some neat decorative puppets/parade floats and the mile 5 marker.

The Genie!

The Genie!

Sebastian

Sebastian

Mile 5!

Mile 5!

With the passing of Mile 5, we were close to making our way onto Main Street of the Magic Kingdom…

Disney Princess Half Marathon, Part 1: Preparing for the Half!

14 Mar

At the end of February, I was lucky to have the opportunity to participate in runDisney’s Princess Half Marathon. The second of the three half marathon’s that take place at Walt Disney World, the Princess Half Marathon is geared towards women and the opportunity for them to embrace their inner princess!

I hadn’t been sure if I’d be able to participate (and definitely hadn’t been training) but I found out I could run the week prior which was fantastic news!

Disney races are BIG on wearing costumes, so my first task that week was coming up with a costume. Despite being a huge Disney fan, I can’t say I have a favorite princess, so I opted to dress like Minnie Mouse! Priorities, right? 🙂

Through Pinterest, I was able to find a tutu tutorial and made a red tutu, only needing some tulle and elastic from the craft store to create it. I paired my tutu with black running capris, a red tank top and some sequined Minnie Mouse ears that I bought in the gift shop at the resort where the expo was held.

It was a quick creation, but it worked out pretty well! I tend to get easily annoyed by my running gear- the way my ear buds cord bounces, for example-  but surprisingly the tutu and  ears didn’t bug me at all! Maybe it was the adrenaline during the race? If I recylcle the costume in the future, I would make sure to find a red tech shirt, rather than the tank top I wore. All I had was a cotton tank, which wasn’t horrible but I know I could have been more comfortable. “Fashion” clearly won out though.

The race expo took place at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort on the Friday and Saturday prior. Typically, the expo is held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports, but due to other events taking place there the expo took place at the convention center at Coronado Springs instead. The convention space seemed a little smaller than what would have been available at Wider World of Sports but since I got there when it opened on Friday, packet pick up was actually a breeze.

I was able to pick up the packets for both myself and my roommate, commemorative pins we had pre-ordered and our race shirts very quickly. I made my way through the official runDisney merchandise area, but decided against purchasing anything as the line was a tad long and I had to get to work. I do wish I had bought one of the 13.1 car magnets, though. I tried to get one after the run, but they were all sold out.

The busiest area at the expo by far, was at the New Balance booth. New Balance partnered with Disney to create limited edition Mickey and Minnie inspired sneakers, that are only sold at the runDisney race expos. You can view them here on the runDisney blog! They are a pretty fun offering and I’d love to see some more styles that pay homage to other characters!

 

While my trip to the expo was relatively quick, it was good experience for me. I did hear that the expo got pretty crowded later in the day and on Saturday. It was also challenging logistically as expo visitors had to take a shuttle to the resort in order to get to and from the expo due to limited parking at the resort so that seemed to get a bit rough for some visitors!

All that was left after the expo was work on Friday and Saturday, a  quick roommate fashion show to “model” our race day gear and some sleep!

Minnie's Ready!

Minnie’s Ready!

 

And just try and ignore the dog treat on my carpet aaannndd the size sticker still on my tank top!

Race recap coming soon!

 

 

Oops, I Did It Again

13 Mar

And registered for two more races! It always seems that I can never sign up for just one race at a time.

I’m officially registered for the Pig Run of Lake Nona  on March 23rd.

Pig Run

Pig Run

 

Annnnnnddd runDisney’s Wine and Dine Half Marathon! Super pumped for this one!

 

Wine and Dine

Wine and Dine

 

Both should be a lot of fun! Registering for runs is such an easy addiction though!

Long Overdue, Part 4: Winter Garden 10K

12 Mar

The second race I participated in during February was the innaugural Winter Garden 10K. Through Facebook, I had found my way to the website for Tri & Run of West Orange, a running store in the neighboring town of Winter Garden. As I learned a little bit more about them, I discovered that they organize several road races in the Winter Garden area.

I saw they were planning an innaugural race- the Winter Garden 10K. Through Facebook, I could see that the race organizers had received a lot of positive feedback from people who had run with them before AND they were providing a finsiher’s medal, so I was in! I can’t remember the exact entry fee for the race, but it was pretty inexpensive, which is always a plus.

The race took place on a Saturday, with a starting time of 7AM. Since the area was a bit new to me, I made sure to get their super early since I always seem to have parking issues. When I arrived in downtown Winter Garden, I realized there was ample public parking and lots just off the main road which was a welcome surprise.

Since parking was such a breeze, I had plenty of time before the race started. It was a little bit colder by Florida standards, so I just sat in my car until it got a little closer to the start time. Another great thing about this race area was that there were some public restrooms available, so I was able to make a quick stop there before heading to the starting area.

This race was a lot smaller than most that I have run, with maybe around 500 or 600 runners. Even though there was only ten or fifteen minutes until the start, no one was lined up. Most were just haning out by the store for some warmth or in the park like squares in the middle of the road. It was kind of nice to see this relaxed approach, as you knew everyone was just there to have fun!

The race started promptly at 7, with runners lining up just a few minutes before. Since the group was on the smaller side, I pushed myself to get a good start so that I wasn’t running too close to the end of the pack. The course made its way mostly through residential areas, which still managed to include some pretty scenery! For typically pancake flat Florida, there were a few hills on this course, which were a nice challenge.

It was definitely fun to try out a new distance. I love running organized 5K’s but somehow get stuck in a rut where that’s all I want to do during regular running workouts. It’s always good for me to try something that pushes me a little further than 3.1!

As I made it to the finish line, I was handed my finish medal and stocked up on some snacks for the road.

I also wandered through some booths that had been set up for a farmer’s market taking place downtown that morning.

This race was a new experience- and automatic PR- that I really enjoyed! It was fun to take part in something new and enjoy it with a more intimate crowd.