My runDisney experience is a 100% positive one. I began training for the 2015 Disney Princess Half the week after the 2014 Princess Half weekend. I saw some posts on social media and thought "That looks like fun!" I had never ever once before then thought about running being fun or even entertained the idea of running a race let alone a half marathon. As I did more research on the race I encountered the sweetest, most encouraging and inspirational people. This helped me gain steam on creating a game plan. I signed up for the gym, set a reminder for registration and I started running!
Signing for event was stressful! The site was crashing and it took multiple times for me to get all the way through registration but when I did there was no turning back! As I continued to train, I signed up for smaller events to track my pace and see how my body held up to long distance running. Throughout the year, I posted to twitter and instagram and received so much awesome advice, both in general about running as well as how things work at a runDisney event. Being part of the runDisney family helped me stay positive and accountable for the half marathon.
Finally, after a year of training, it was time! We flew down to Orlando Friday night landing just after midnight. After picking up our rental car we headed to our hotel, Grande Villas Resorts (read my review here). Saturday morning we were headed to the Race Expo at ESPN World Wide of Sports!!! I was just too excited to go past those Welcome to Disney World signs!!! The expo was packed and was held in two different areas. One of the indoor areas was for packet pickup, chEAR squad pickup and some minor souvenir items as well as a couple of character meet and greets. The next building was where you picked up your clear runDisney bag for race day bag check as well as your race shirt and there were TONS of vendors. This area was packed and I was only interested in a few of the Disney licensed merchandise so we skipped most of the vendors. Unfortunately, being that we arrived on day 3 of the expo most of the items were picked through already. After the expo we ran some errands, got some groceries, dinner and went to Downtown Disney. DTD was packed so we didn't do much but I had an early bed time so that was fine with me.
Welcome to Walt Disney World!
After going to bed decently early (read before dark), I ended up waking up around 1 am and getting ready for RACE DAY. It was finally here, I just couldn't believe it. We left our hotel around 3 to head to the starting area. I am glad we left early, we had ZERO traffic but I did speak to others in my corral who had a lot of traffic so runDisney tip: LEAVE EARLY! They had some areas to buy drinks, some leftover merchandise, a DJ and some character meet and greets. The lines for these were soooooo long, I wish I had realized earlier. I was in line for Cinderella but she was done with her time frame and in came Merida. Brave has a cool story but I was too old when it came out, had never seen the whole thing and really love Cinderelly so I was a bit disappointed. I stayed in line because who doesn't love a character meet and greet, especially when you have nothing better to do! It was a bit chilly this morning but not as cold as for the 5K and 10K thank goodness. runDisney tip #2 bring a throwaway hoodie to keep you warm until your corral starts. The jackets thrown to the side of the road are collected and donated to a good cause!
Meeting Merida from Brave before the race
As it got closer to race time I started to get a bit nervous! I said goodbye to my sister and BF who were there to cheer me on and headed through bag check (didn't use it) to the porta potty line. I must say there were a ton but they were disgusting, as in the worst that I had ever seen in my life. After that episode I headed to Corral I. I was pleasantly surprised that I was up so high (corrals are assigned based on previous races). Once in my corral I stretched, watched the screen of the announcers and met with some fun ladies I would be running with! While waiting, I noticed a woman in our corral holding a balloon with a time of 2:45 on it. Intrigued, I learned that she was a pace leader for people who wanted to finish around 2 hours and 45 minutes.
runDisney tip #3 join a pace group. This group saved my life, seriously. The pace leader used a run 5 minute, walk 1 minute pace and watched the time to ensure we were right where we needed to be. Once the fireworks go off(yes, for every corral!) you walk through the starting area and it is very congested off and on until you get to the Magic Kindgdom entrance around mile 3 or 3.5. Being that the beginning of the race is entirely on the highway and you have to share on ramps with thousands of runners, it gets a little cramped. Once you make it to MK it gets much better. I kept pace with the leader most of the time until I realized I would need to tinkle soon. At this point the porta potties were out of the question for me so I headed to Tomorrowland (I think) by the Buzz Lightyear area so that I could use a real potty. The ladies line was a little long so runDisney tip #4 use the mens room! I wish I would have done this. There were seriously such a small number of men running you most likely would have only run into 2 or 3. While waiting in line my pace group passed me so I tried to catch up as best I could.
Map of the Disney Princess Half course
Soon I was running through the castle! This part was so amazing and pretty emotional! By the way, be sure to have your camera out as you first approach the castle. Many Princesses were taking selfies with the castle! Around the 10K marker I saw @pinkcupcakegirl which was exciting. After this area I needed to regain my focus since I had lost my pace group. I kept my eyes out for her balloons and finally spotted the group around mile 8 or so. The girls in my group were awesome so I was happy to get back and gain motivation from them. Ending up back on the highway was rough, again getting kind of congested. From here on it never really thinned out but it was pretty easy to maneuver around people. Once you get to mile 10, 11 the overpasses really start to get you although there is really only one large one.
Passing now to mile 12 you start to head into Epcot passing Spaceship Earth which was almost as exciting as seeing the Castle! Here you really start to get excited that you are going to make it and I deviated from my pace group to head around to the finish line. As I am going around who do I see but @bamagirlruns and Carrie Burrows! Pause for me to tell you that these runDisney runners are AMAZING, so very inspiring (remember that 48.6 challenge I was telling you about? Yeah, they do that). Once my fangirl moment was over, I was racing as fast as I could to the finish. So fast and focused that I didn't even realize there was a Prince Mickey at the finish line to take photos with. I didn't stop for any of the character stops at each mile since I was focused on my time but I would have gone back for Prince Mickey.
Once you finish (which was a bit emotional again for me) you head through this never ending area of people. There are race finishers as well as the amazing volunteers who give you your medal, some Gatorade, your snack box, Mylar blanket etc. I finally met up with my sister and BF and mistakenly ate what was in my snack box, fast. I felt sick around mile 9 which never really went away and unfortunately eating made it worse. I embarrassingly got sick with tons of people around but who cares I just ran a HALF MARATHON!!!! My time was 2:42:58 seconds. I was thrilled! I dreamed of being around 3 hours so the pace group was amazing.
Running past Prince Mickey to the finish
Crossing the Disney Princess Half finish line
My medal and race shirt (both beautiful)
The race was just an amazing experience and I couldn't have asked to run my first half marathon in a more magical place. runDisney tip #5 if you arent worried about a PR, do the character meet and greets. There were some really neat ones like the Army soldier from Toy Story who was making people do push ups, you can see all the Villains, or all the Princes. runDisney tip #6 DO STOP at the water stations, some had snack areas, some had cliff bars and gels. This is a very important need for runners and runDisney provides tons of stations like this as well as first aid areas. I already have some race plans in mind for the rest of 2015 and 2016 but I will be back to runDisney again!
runDisney tip #7 find a runDisney event for you! There are tons events throughout the year at both Disney World and Disneyland as well as a inaugural Half Marathon at Disneyland Paris next September! Go to www.rundisney.com to check out the race schedule, see when registration opens for your event and for great training guides.
Are you signed up for an event, runDisney or otherwise? Get on social media for great motivation and tips from fellow runners! Read @bamagirlruns blog http://bamagirlruns.blogspot.com/ to follow her training for the 2016 Dopey Challenge. Another favorite running blog of mine is WeRunDisney! Follow Mom & Daughter duo Pam & Christine as they run Disney as well as other major races like the Boston Marathon!