Disney Princess Half Marathon

Hello again, loves!

Everyone buckle up for a longer-than-usual post, because I’ve got lots to say today!

How is everyone doing out there?  Are you staying active and healthy throughout this chaotic time? Has your time of social distancing taught you anything about yourself? Are you practicing self-care?

Here in my household we are doing our best to find as many silver linings as possible – like the fact that I have more time to write some really awesome blog posts for you! I even had a chance to write a guest blog post all about Breathing Exercises to Calm the Mind on The Fit Savvy Coach blog last week – so definitely check that out if you haven’t yet!

This week I really wanted to bring you something light and fun, because it feels like we could all use a little bit of that right now! And what’s more fun than a trip to Disney World? Sadly, no one can actually visit Disney World right now, but I’m going to do my best to take you on a virtual trip there, where you’ll get to hear all about the Disney Princess Half Marathon!

Throughout this post I will tell you the story of my race experience, but I’m also going to include the type of details that I would like to know before doing a race. That way if you are considering doing this race in the future, you’ll know what you can expect!

Why the Disney Princess Half Marathon?

So first of all I’m going to back it up a bit and tell you why exactly this race was so important to me (other than the fact that I simply love Disney). The Disney Princess Half Marathon is an annual race that happens at Disney World every year, and it’s always in late February – which happens to be the time of my birthday. So, it has been on my bucket list for quite a while to someday participate in this race as a birthday present to myself! When my mom and I became running buddies while I was in college, it then became a bucket list item for both of us to run it together.

Now we can fast forward a little bit. About a year and a half ago, my mother-in-law decided that she wanted to do a big family trip to Disney World, and she asked me to help plan it because I am the Disney-savvy one of the family. We scheduled the trip in late February and invited my parents to come along too, which meant that my birthday dreams could come true!  Mom and I signed up for the race, and our friends Tatyana and Sarah ended up tagging along to race with us as well!

If you are someone who is considering this race – take note! Registration for the race happens far in advance (I believe it was 6 or 7 months in advance), and I HIGHLY recommend registering for the race THE DAY registration opens!  We literally logged on right at 8am the first day of registration to snag our spots. I’ve heard from many sources that it sells out FAST, so get on it! Also, be prepared for this to be one of the most expensive race registrations you ever pay for. But, in my opinion, it’s so worth it. 

Now, back to our trip. The entire trip itself was about 8 days, and our race day was right about at the halfway mark. There are actually 3 races that happen on race weekend – a 5k on Friday, a 10k on Saturday, and the half marathon on Sunday. So the park is full of racers that entire week leading up to the race, as well as the week afterward. We only raced on Sunday for the half (because we are only half crazy), but the whole time we were there we could feel the fun energy and good vibes that are associated with a great race.

 

Race Expo

In the days leading up to race weekend, you can attend the race expo. This is where you get your bib number and the shirt that comes with registration (so, really, you kind of have to attend the race expo). The most exciting part of the expo though is looking around at all of the different vendors after picking up your bib number, which is exactly what our party did.

There was no use dragging our whole party of 18 people to the expo with us, so we picked a morning and the 4 racers split off to go on our own little adventure. We decided to go the first day the expo was open because we weren’t sure how quickly things sold out. Since I didn’t go the other days I can’t say for sure how quickly things went, but I was very happy with our decision to go early because it seemed like a very popular place to be! Better safe than sorry.

There are two separate buildings of vendors at the expo – one building is filled with official merchandise from the Run Disney company that puts on the race. The other building has tons of third party vendors where you can basically find any run-related item you can think of, usually with a Disney-themed spin. Since the race is all about princesses, the princess vibes among the merchandise was strong.

Each of the three races has a princess associated with it, and they switch up the princesses each year. There is also an option to do the “Fairy Tale Challenge”, which means that you do the 10k AND the half marathon (and get an extra medal to prove it) – the challenge gets its own character(s) associated with it as well. This year the 5k was Moana, the 10k was Pocahontas, the half marathon was Cinderella, and the Fairy Tale Challenge was the 3 fairies from Sleeping Beauty. So, naturally, these particular characters were the ones most prominent in the expo items. These are also the characters that were found on the medal of each respective event, and on the official shirts and bibs that came with your registration.

I felt like this year was MEANT to be the year that I did the race, because Cinderella was my favorite princess growing up, so it really just felt meant-to-be.

Luckily the lines to get our official bibs and shirts weren’t bad at all, and even getting into the building of third party vendors wasn’t bad. However, the line to get into the official Run Disney merchandise building was no joke. They could only let in a certain number of people at a time in an attempt to tame the crowds as much as possible – so you had to stand in line just to get in. They would let in a group from the front of the line, we would all have false hope as we moved forward a few feet, and then we would come to a stand-still again for another 15 minutes or so until the next group was let in. I think we ended up being in line for around 2 hours when all was said and done. Luckily it was our first full day in the parks so we still had lots of “OMG WE ARE AT DISNEY” energy, which helped to keep us going. We enjoyed people-watching and scoping out the best Disney merchandise that other people were wearing so that we knew what to look for in the parks. We also had fun laughing at the fact that there was a bar in the middle of the room where you could grab a drink while you waited in line. It was only about 10am when we were there and we were STUFFED from a huge breakfast, so we did not partake – but we still appreciated the humorous option.

Once we finally got into the Run Disney portion of the expo, this is where we spent the majority of our money. None of us really needed to purchase anything for our actual race-day-outfits because they were already picked out and ready to go – but we definitely still wanted some swag!  Tatyana and Sarah were very proud of their self-restraint, but mom and I went a little crazy since it was such a bucket list item for us. I ended up with a Cinderella running jacket, a sparkly running cap, a Disney collectors pin with the race logo on it, and a Run Disney tank top. NO REGRETS.

Race Morning

First things first, this race is not for you if you can’t be an early bird! The race itself starts at 6, but you have to bus over from your hotel. There are A LOT of racers that they have to bus over, so they recommend getting to the busses at 3AM. 

I know, I was appalled too.

We made sure to turn in somewhat early the night before the race (which is really hard to do, because you’re in Disney World and want to stay out late to do ALL THE THINGS). On our way back to the room that night we stopped by the resort food court and bought some snacks for the next morning – we were excited to see that their pre-made “snack packs” for racers had a good selection of yummies and grabbed those and some additional fresh fruit. We laid out all of our race-day necessities (including our very important Winnie the Pooh themed running outfits) before hitting the hay, and then we rolled out of bed at 2 in the morning. Oof.

By the time we were ready and at the bus stop it was just a little later than 3. By the time we stood in line, got on the bus, and got to the drop off point it was probably around 3:45.

Disney definitely takes care of you here and takes pity on the fact that you woke up earlier than any sane human ever should. As soon as you get off the bus they have fun music playing, DJs on stage to entertain you, and characters that you can stand in line to take photos with.

The main thing to keep in mind during this time if you ever do this race, is that the actual starting line for the race is probably another 3/4 of a mile away from where they drop you off. So you don’t want to get too swept up in the Disney fun, because you need to walk towards the starting line before the 6am start!

We ended up wandering around a little bit, standing in a line for about 45 minutes to take photos with Minnie Mouse, and then walking over to the starting line. It was pretty cold out that early in the morning, but my mom is smarter than I and brought a cheap metallic rain poncho that we shared to keep warm. It was surprisingly effective!

Entertaining ourselves before the race by taking photos with princess Minnie Mouse! We had never seen her in her princess outfit before, so we were pretty excited.

This is one of the races where they split you into different corrals based on your predicted time, so that determines what part of the line you stand in. Once we got to our corral it was around 5:15 or so, and there were already so many people lined up! We claimed a spot, sat on the ground, and huddled together until the start of the race.

Even at this point Disney was still on top of it when it came to entertainment. They had announcers at the front of the line that were talking about the race and making us laugh, and big screens all along the starting area so everyone could see and hear what was going on. After all, there are literally THOUSANDS of people in line to race, so one screen isn’t going to cut it.

Once the race itself actually starts at 6, each corral is released separately. So the people in corral A get to start at 6, but if you’re farther back you might not start until closer to 7. We were right around the middle and ended up officially starting the race at 6:30ish. On the bright side, each time another group starts they shoot off fireworks – so even if you’re at the back of the line waiting your turn, it’s a party every few minutes each time fireworks go off!

Towards the end of the waiting-our-turn period I was definitely starting to feel a little claustrophobic. We’d been huddled together for over an hour, and with every minute the crowd got denser. But by the time we actually got to the front, there were obviously less people standing in line directly in front of us since they had already taken off – so it got a little easier to breathe! Plus, once you get to the front and the announcers are RIGHT THERE and the music is blasting, it doesn’t take long before you’re pumped and ready to go.

Race Time

The buzzers sounded, the fireworks boomed, and off we went!

If you’re a runner you probably know that really awesome feeling when you’re running a race and everyone around you is super excited and happy. The energy is contagious. For a lot of races, that energy is only super strong at the very beginning and the very end of the race – the parts of the race where all the racers are packed in together tightly. Well, for the Disney race, it was pretty strong for the entire 13.1 miles.

There were a couple reasons that the vibes were so strong – first of all, there are characters to take photos with all along the course, so the Disney magic is always present! Secondly, you get to run through not one but two of the parks – including running through the castle in Magic Kingdom (my personal favorite part of the race). Thirdly, there are so many racers that you never really reach a point where you feel like you’re alone. It definitely thins out about a mile or so in (thankfully), but you’re always surrounded by other racers who are just as excited to be there as you are! Plus, nearly everyone is in costume and it provides some great people-watching.

And, of course, if you’re crossing off a major bucket list item by being there, that can boost your energy too!

Let’s talk about the character photos. One super cool thing about these is that there are Disney photographers at each spot. That means that if you have a park photopass these photos are included in that! Just link your photo account to your bib number, snap the photo, and then they will all show up in your Disney app later on!

The main drawback of the character spots, however, is that you usually still have to stand in line to take photos – so if you’re trying to get a good time, you probably aren’t interested in spending a few minutes in line every quarter mile. BUT it’s also cool because they have a lot of characters that you don’t regularly see in the parks themselves – we saw Jafar, Cinderella with her prince (you don’t usually see him!), the fairies from Sleeping Beauty, and Tinkerbell – to name a few.

If you’ve read previous posts about past races, you probably know by now that my goal for any race is almost never to get a specific time. And this time was no different! I was racing to have fun and to spend some time with my mom and our friends. This time in particular we really weren’t concerned with getting a great time, because Tatyana was nursing a knee injury before the race started. We decided to take things slow and keep the group together! Because we were already going somewhat slow, we didn’t want to spend extra time standing in lines – so we chose not to stop for any character photos. But we really enjoyed running by all of the characters and seeing who was there! Having silly mice and princesses all along the course just adds some whimsy that you don’t get to experience in any other race atmosphere.

Around mile 6, so a little less than halfway through the course, you get to run through the castle. This is my favorite part of the race just because it feels so Disney! What would a Disney race be if you didn’t get to run through a castle? Shortly after running through, there is a photo spot in front of the castle. This is the one and only photo that we stopped and stood in line for! Sarah and Tatyana continued running, while mom and I got a mother-daughter photo in front of the castle. Luckily the line was only a couple minutes, so it wasn’t too hard for us to run ahead and meet back up with them after taking our very important photo.

So very happy that we got this photo!

Around mile 7, Tatyana decided to drop out of the race because her knee was hurting her. We were sad that she wasn’t able to finish with us, but we all agreed that she needed to take care of herself! She stepped off the course, found a race official on the sidelines to help her, and the three of us continued on.

Towards the end of the course you hit Epcot. The park isn’t officially open yet by this time, but people can come in to cheer you on along the course. We knew that my husband and dad would be somewhere cheering us on, but it was an extra special surprise because a bunch of my in-laws showed up to cheer us on as well! This included 4 of my nieces and nephews, who all made adorable “Go Aunt Laney” signs in my honor. They cheered us on and held up their signs as we passed them in Epcot, and my dad took some photos as we ran by. Seeing their happy faces gave us a great boost to get through the last leg of the race!

The Finish Line

Shortly after exiting Epcot, we hit the finish line and got our Cinderella medals! You always know it’s a good race when you still feel energized by the end. Don’t get me wrong, we were ready to not be running anymore! But it was only 9am by the time we finished and we were still ready to tackle the rest of our day in the park.

Across the finish line we go!

Upon crossing the finish line we called Tatyana. We learned that since she hadn’t needed an ambulance, the race officials unfortunately couldn’t offer her much assistance unless she wanted to wait 3 hours for a bus. So instead, she had decided to continue walking the course. She crossed the finish line about 45 minutes after us, found some ice at a nearby medical tent, and grabbed a wheelchair so that we could wheel her around for the rest of the day. Her knee was definitely angry with her, but she was such a trooper – and was very proud of the medal that she had wholeheartedly earned!

After gathering our group back together we took some photos, ate the snacks that were handed off to us at the finish line, hydrated (a lot), and then continued on with the rest of our day! We loved walking around the park with our medals and seeing all of the other racers with theirs! Everywhere we went the park employees and other park guests saw our medals and congratulated us on a great race. Plus, wearing a medal just makes you feel special!

The whole gang, medals and all!

Since we were dressed as Winnie the Pooh characters, we had specifically made lunch reservations at the Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom – where you get to eat with Pooh Bear and friends! We enjoyed sitting and enjoying our meals, and we were all very excited to get photos with our respective Pooh Bear characters.

Piglet was very excited that we matched!

As a bonus, mom and I discovered that the chef will make you a special order of vegan chocolate chip cookies if they know you are vegan. It may have been because we were exhausted and hungry, but we both still swear that they were the best cookies of our lives.

Seriously. You HAVE to try the vegan cookies at Crystal Palace.

Wrap Up

Overall, this was a super fun race. I’m probably biased because our entire trip was a total blast, but the race is included in that! I was so incredibly happy to get to experience race weekend with some of my favorite people. The energy was high, the magic was real, and good fun was had. I’m so grateful that my in-laws included my family in the trip as well so that mom and I could live out our dream!

My only real complaint is that the race officials weren’t able to better help Tatyana when she needed it. The medical tent was able to help once she arrived at the finish line, but it was disappointing to us that she wasn’t able to get more assistance earlier in the course. BUT we were very proud of her for keeping up a positive attitude!

Let’s sum up some of the tips I’ve shared in this post if you are considering this race:

  1. Register the DAY registration opens – even the exact minute it opens if you can!
  2. If you are staying in the parks and have a photopass – link it to your bib number so that you’ll have easy access to all your race photos!
  3. Get to the expo on the first day if you are able!
  4. When you go to the expo, grab your bib and number first so that you have what you “need” out of the way – then prepare to stand in a long line if you want to access all the other fun stuff (and trust me, you do!)
  5. GET TO THE BUSSES AT 3AM. I know it sounds insane, but it really will make your morning go so much smoother if you just do it!
  6. Keep in mind that you have to walk to the starting line FROM the drop off when you get there – give yourself enough time to do that!
  7. Bring a cheap metallic poncho or something along those lines to stay warm when you’re waiting to race! Make sure it’s something that you don’t mind parting with once the race actually starts.
  8. Be prepared to pick and choose what characters and photo spots you want to stop for – they always have lines but can be really fun if you’re willing to wait!
  9. Eat vegan cookies at the Crystal Palace after you race. Highly important.
  10. Be ready for some magic! Every mile will be worth your while.

So yes, it’s an expensive weekend. It’s crowded. It’s a really early morning. But, at least for me, running a Disney race while being surrounded by people I love was well worth it.

 

If you don’t take a post-race selfie, did you even race?

Check out the Run Disney website if you are interested in doing a Disney Race sometime in your future! You won’t regret it.

 

Stay healthy, lovelies!

<3 Laney

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