Better late than never, I always say…
So let’s go back a number of months…to late February. I left the chilly climes of Winnipeg to run the 2013 Princess Half Marathon in Disney World. Initially I had hoped to achieve a PR, but the combination of cross fit, an injury and having a horrible training session, didn’t make that happen. In fact, it was my slowest race time ever…but I finished–which actually speaks a ton to the enjoyment of this race.
Registrations topped out at 23,866–not sure how many people participated…but they were all of all shapes, sizes, abilities… and costumes. In fact, you were an anomaly if you were not in a costume. There were also 34 countries represented in the race. There were 22, 525 female participants and 1,341 male participants.
Getting to the race was a bit of an ordeal, given the road closures and lack luster shuttle option from my crappy hotel–by the way, any future participants of this race–stay on Disney property–the coming and going to the race is much simpler and worth the extra $$. I ended up being at the race almost 2 hours before I needed to be in my race corral–that is a long time to sit/stand and be chilly.
There is a lot of excitement, photos and music pre-race They have a dj playing pop songs and trying to pump people up to run 13.1 miles in the middle of the night (or at least that is what it felt like to me). At 5am local time, the ask people in the first corrals to go ahead and get into their spots. I’m not entirely sure where we were at this time, aside from an Epcot parking lot. When we got the call to get to our corrals, we had about a 20 minute walk to get there. It seemed like some sort of Disney back roads..but it was lit with crazy spotlights that I have seen at movie shoots in Winnipeg and had DJs.
I was in the first corral, after the wheel chair start. I can’t seem to find the paper, but I was told that there were something like 7-8 corrals and the last corral started an hour after me. I have one word for that–YIKES! I have so much respect for those late runners/walkers. It was fun being so close to the starting line..but there was a TON of people–it was hard not to get caught up and start too fast (which I totally did). As your waiting for the race to start, they bring up celebrities and inspiring participants to chat to the runners…they had one of the Biggest Loser winners, Ally and Sean Astin (from The Goonies and played Sam in Lord of the Rings). I briefly ran with Sean and I told him I thought he was the bomb. Was weird chatting with a celebrity while running a half…in Disney World, who was wearing a tiara.
Did I mention that it is weird running in the middle of the night? It totally is. It’s also weird running in the middle of the night and then seeing bright lights in the distance that are different Disney scenes and characters, etc…but boy is it encouraging. Despite being horribly under trained, ridiculously sleep deprived, and fighting both a knee injury and the beginnings of a nasty cold, these little scenes kept me going. They had a replica Pirates of the Caribbean ship with Davy Jones and Captain Jack out for you to take pictures, among the “bombs” going off (so authentic..it brought a big smile to my face). They had opportunities for you to take pictures with the princesses, the princes, the villains and other random characters from Lilo and Stich, A Bug’s Life, The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, etc. One of my favourite potential photo ops were two guys in tuxes, holding a glass slipper, standing next to a throne. You could have them post to “fit” you with the slipper, while you sit on the throne If I ever go back, and they have this opportunity, I am SO doing it.
The course is surprisingly hilly–but this is also from the perspective of someone who lives in some of the flattest land in North America. You are running up and down a lot of freeway ramps–so be prepared. On that note too, be prepared for the slant of these types or road ways–it can definitely aggravate knee or hip problems. Actually, a lot of this race is run through highway type roads in the Disney property and it feels like your run through the Magic Kingdom is incredibly fleeting….but…it is FANTASTIC.
It takes forever…or at least that is how it feels, to get to the Magic Kingdom when running this race. You run out of the Epcot parking lot for awhile…then you run past the race car track thing. Then you run through the Magic Kingdom signs that welcome you when you drive to MK…and in the distance, you can see the glow of MK, but you still have a long way to go, running back service roads to reach the park without the ferry or monorail. You end up coming into MK where the parades and characters tend to go in and out of…basically to the right of Main Street U.S.A. (if you are facing Cinderella’s Castle). There are lots of people cheering you on and it’s dark in MK so it’s filled with all the beautiful lights of MK…which is equally wonderful and annoying. It’s wonderful simply because its fun running it at night. It’s annoying because all of your photos are crazy dark.
So…you run through Main Street U.S.A. And make a bee-line to Tomorrowland. Tomorrowland goes by in a blur and from Tomorrowland, you run past the newly expanded portions of Fantasyland (can’t wait to see Rapunzel’s Tower when it is completed), and have the chance to get a picture with Gaston. You then make your way through the older part of Fantasyland and around the beautifully lit up carousel before running through the magical doors of Cinderella’s Castle. This is where you best be ready for your close up and there are lots of photographers Make sure to make eye contact with a few, wear a big smile and just roll with how awesome it is that you are running through the castle. Again, only bummer here, is if you are in the earlier waves of the race, your pics will be dark and it will be hard to tell that you are running through the castle.
Once the castle is over, you run through Frontierland and make your way out of the park. This is a little over 10K or the six-mile mark. I managed to make it to eight miles without stopping…but by then I was done. My poor training, injury, illness and lack of sleep was getting the better of me and I stopped…and truthfully, once the excitement of the MK is over, it’s hard to get excited to run highways again that are, for the most part, desolate aside from the odd character encounters which are welcome treats to see. Truth be told, if this would’ve been a regular road race, I think I would’ve quit. The fact that it is Disney and every mile had something fun, well, it made it much more worth finishing…plus I wasn’t leaving, no matter how awful I felt (and believe me, I felt awful), without my piece of bling.
You are running the back part of this out and back course around mile 9…well, let me rephrase, you feel that you are running the back part as you are seeing some of the fun attractions from when you were running out…they’ve just switched sides and/or there are some additional/new characters being represented. When I saw the Pirates of the Caribbean ship again, I was feeling pretty thrilled as it meant that the suffering would soon be done.
From mile 11-the finish, it is a bit mentally tough…or, at least it was to me as I didn’t really study the course, but I knew we did a loop around the Spaceship Earth in Epcot…but I didn’t realize that you actually go further than that…you head out past the globe-y thing and go out to the lagoon that marks the entrance to the World Showcase. Oh and before you even enter into Epcot, you can see the lights and road signs telling you how much further you have to go. There is also an incline that raises you up just before you hit those last few, winding miles into the park. Then you do the aforementioned loop and, eventually, you hit the finish line. Mickey Mouse happened to be there and give me a high-five as I finished. I took great satisfaction in this moment…though I wish there was a picture of me giving the high-five the THE Mickey Mouse. lol.
Upon finishing you get your uber fab medal, a sports drink, a bottle of water (I think I snagged two), a bag of ice (which was heaven), and a box of food, including hummus and crackers, a packet of nuts and seeds, some chocolate, some chips, a banana and some fruit snacks. You also get a chance for a photo shoot with your medal in front of a pink Princess Half backdrop, but sadly, I looked a bit too pink or the pink backdrop so I decided on the picture below instead.
I would definitely run the Princess race again if I am lucky enough to have the opportunity…but I would do a number of things different–like try to establish a sleep schedule that would make getting up for this race easier(I was up at 2:15am to do it…which is 1:15 Winnipeg time–a time I would normally go to bed), and I would definitely stay at a Disney Resort, as my hotel’s shuttle was an hour late and by the time it came I was sore, frozen, hungry, thirsty and cranky.