When I decided to run the Princess Half- Marathon (that’s 13.1 miles people) at Walt Disney World on 2/26/2012 everybody thought I was NUTS. I felt like Tiana singing “People down here think I’m crazy, but I don’t care”. I began training for the race in September of 2011 using RunDisney’s Official Training Consultant, training program. When I started I couldn’t run a mile the whole way through, so regardless of your current level of fitness please know that you CAN train your body to “Go The Distance”. Jeff Galloway recommends using a Walk/ Run ratio during your training AND your races. So YOU CAN DO IT!
The weekend begins with a giant Expo where you pick up your race packets. Essentially the expo is a shopping experience for running addicts with pretty much everything you want and a few things you might need before the race. I opted for some of the Official Race Memorabilia (hat and shirt) because I’m a gadget junkie and had almost everything else. It was cool to have Jeff Galloway there to answer questions. I got to ask him about chocolate milk (which he says is a no-no by the way). I almost said that my son beat him at the Royal Family 5K the day before, but restrained myself.
Disney makes transportation easier for people who stay in one of the few designated resorts. The provide special buses that go between your resort and ESPN’s Wide World of Sports for packet pick-up as well as to the race. They also will allow your family to get on the buses with you or ride to/from the race later. So for us it was a good choice to stay in a designated resort since we flew down. We opted for Port Orleans which I will review soon!
On the day of the race (Sunday) I woke up at 2:30am (Yes you heard that correctly) to begin “taping up” with K-tape and getting dressed. I set my phone alarm AND had the front desk do a wake-up call just in case. (It seems this is a major cause of stress it for Disney runners, but really you’ll be fine!)
Costumes are a big “DO” for this race, but make sure you get something you can run comfortably in and make sure you do a pre-race test of your outfit. Team Sparkle skirts were awesome and EVERYWHERE. I ran in a purple one (I decided to be a Villain instead of a Princess) and it was amazing. So be sure to plan ahead if you are getting dressed up for the race (which, honestly, almost EVERYBODY was!)
DIVA TIP: At the resort’s cafeteria they were selling “runners boxes” that had a bagel, peanut butter, a banana, and water to get us all ready. I would make sure to buy it THE NIGHT BEFORE the race as they will only take credit cards the morning off. I scarfed mine down so I could meet up with my friends (who I trained with by using Facebook as accountability) at the buses at 3:30am. They were at Port Orleans Riverside and I was at Port Orleans (which are side by side but not quickly traveled between). So we didn’t get to ride together, but since we were getting on at the same time we were still able to meet up once we reached Epcot.
We arrived at Epcot EARLY, EARLY EARLY. Like the butt-crack of dawn early and walked over to where they had set up LARGE tents. This is where you would drop off your bag (if you’re bringing one) and meet up with your friends.
DIVA TIP: Make sure if you’re meeting up with your friends that you agree on a letter for a tent to meet under. (example tend D). There are a lot of people there, like 20,000 people, so it’s easy to get turned around. Make sure you know where to meet AFTER the race and make sure your family/ friends know where to find you. I suggest meeting back at the same tent you originally chose.
My friends and I met up at tent “D” for Disney Diva. Clever huh? There are tons of port-o-potties all around this area also.
Around 4:40am they started herding 20,000 people towards the corrals. You would think this would be close yes? NO. Its about a 20 minute walk!! You’ll want to consider this if you’re bringing a bag of “stuff” because you won’t be able to take any of that stuff with you and you could be (like I was) standing in your corral for over one hour.
DIVA TIP: One of the best pieces of advice I got was that it would be cold in the morning as we stand around waiting for the race to start, so go to a local thrift store and get a robe, sweat-shirt, or something like that which you will not mind “throwing away”. This way as you finally warm up running you can throw your cover-up on the side of the road and not feel guilty. Disney picks them all up and donates them so its no big deal, make SURE you buy one and bring one because it was very cold.
Once in the corrals they play some music while we all wait for Corral “A” to start the race. They shoot fireworks at the start line AND they do them towards the back near the corrals so we ALL get to see fireworks.
AND they do it EVERY TIME a corral starts! So lots of photo opportunities!
The corrals start about 6 minutes apart. So my corral (G) did not officially start the race till 6:15am! (so we stood around freezing for over an hour).
Finally it was our turn at the start line! And we were off.
It’s very congested for the first mile and a half. I had to run on the side of the road A LOT which I’m not use to and ended up really killing my feet.
I had been running about 10:03 on my first mile, but it took over 24 minutes to complete mile 1. Many times you’re just forced to walk because you can’t get around anybody. This was very frustrating to someone who is pretty competitive.
Diva Tip: Don’t just run on sidewalks, asphalt and treadmills. Make sure you do some trail running. Many times to pass people you have to run on the side of the road. There are divots, holes, and just generally uneven surfaces. This KILLED my feet. Make sure you train some trails too.
There were bathrooms at the corrals and another one at about the 2 mile marker for people to use if they needed them.
Finally we were upon our first “character” we could stop and get photos with. It was Jack Sparrow and Barbosa, but I had heard they would also be on the other side at mile 9 (when fewer people stop). There were a ton of people waiting to get their photo. I would imagine it would have added a minimum of 5-7 minutes to anybody’s mile. The ship was cool though!
The NEXT one, however, I should have done. Even though the line was insane and would have easily added 10 minutes to anybody’s time, but now I think it would have been worth it! It’s the hotties!! Aladdin, Tarzan, John Smith (from Pocahontas), Flynn Rider, Shang (from Mulan) and Prince Eric (little mermaid). SOME were on the other side at mile 8ish, but not as many.
Then you run into the Magic Kingdom! As we got into Magic Kingdom I had to make a “pit stop”. The wait was…. INSANE. I don’t know another word than that.
It was pretty much infuriating as I watched 12 whole minutes tick by. I wasn’t sure how far we were from MK and if there would be anymore bathrooms before that, so I had no choice.
At this point I knew my time was screwed. The first mile was more than double of my normal and then another 12 minutes were added to mile 3.5. So I got a little grumpy. However, I decided to keep moving forward and doing what I could with what I had. In retrospect I’m not entirely sure WHY I didn’t just start stopping to get photos with characters, it kind of frustrates me now that I’m thinking about it.
At mile 4 there were some AMAZING characters, but again, a LONG wait. So I guess I wasn’t completely convinced enough to stop and get a photo huh?
Who all is there? The Queen of Hearts, Cruella Devil, Snow White’s Evil Queen,as well as Cinderella’s stepmother & the two ugly step sisters. A-MAZ-ING.
They route you into backstage which is always so fun to see:
You are running up main street, and only one SIDE of Main Street, so it is very crowded and there are the big ruts for the trolley rails.
Isn’t it lovely though?
I cried…. just a little.
After Main Street they route you to Tomorrowland. DIVA TIP. THERE ARE TWO GREAT BATHROOMS ALMOST COMPLETELY EMPTY TO HIT WHEN YOU FIRST GET IN THERE!
I also got a peek at the construction:
And then they route you by the carrousel.
Right before you turn there’s Cinderella and Prince Charming together:
There was a pretty good wait for this one too.
Finally you hit the big mama! THE CASTLE ITSELF. Its almost at the half-way mark of the race. The trumpeters up there blew their horns right before I went through. Very cool!
And then you get a beautiful view of main street and the hub:
Once you go backstage there’s a big character greeting with the float AND Aurora, Philip and the Three Fairy Godmothers. COOL!
And its time for the “second stretch” between Magic Kingdom and Epcot.
I’ll leave that to a second post since its time for me to go and get my marathon massage at Saratoga Springs Spa!
You will be able to click HERE for the second half of the race!