*Cue trumpet fanfare* I am officially a half marathoner. I hope that’s a word, but if not, oh well! This past weekend marks my very first half marathon. Even better, it was in Walt Disney World. Better still, it was a Disney Princess themed half marathon. Genius. Having dreamed of being a princess from a small age (and coming to terms with the fact that I am a princess regardless of royal bloodlines and inherited tiaras), this was a dream literally come true. Running the race with my best friend was the only way to make it the best race ever run. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t truly know what to expect. Keeping in mind that this was a Disney event, however, helped me realize it would be a sensational spectacle and experience like no other. I maintain that if Disney took over the world, it would be a better place. Needless to say, it was glorious. If only they could also control the weather, but alas, some things are still just beyond our reach.
The weekend started with Friday with the Disney Half Marathon Weekend Expo. Because the Royal Family 5K took place Friday morning, the Expo actually opened on Thursday. Arriving a day after it first opening, you could tell it had already been slightly picked over. There were still plenty of products and merchandise to peruse and purchase. And boy did I purchase. How could I not? It was a massive Expo Center full of princess inspired athletic gear. I was in girly running heaven. The piece de resistance, however, were the signature New Balance RunDisney (NB 860v4 and 890v4) inspired shoes. Of course I had my eyes on the Cinderella shoes. No detail was left unaccounted for: the glass slipper at the base of the laces, the pumpkin coach on the inside tongue of the shoe, the extra blue satin laces to “princess-ify” your shoes even more… And the list goes on. These shoes were perfect. The problem was that quantities were so limited last year and demand so high, that New Balance had instituted a pick-up policy. You were to sign-in online the day that you would be attending the Expo, beginning at 6:00am EST, and select a time slot in which to try on and purchase your shoes. Friday morning, my friend and I logged on at 8:30am and all time slots had been taken. We assumed we would be unable to purchase them, but would try again Saturday morning to select a time. I set my alarm for 5:59am on Saturday morning just to log-in, and got a very disheartening message: “Due to limited quantity of runDisney shoes we will be forgoing the online runner signup and on-site virtual queue process in favor of a first-come, first-served standy line. The standby line will form at the New Balance tent outside the Josten’s Center and we will begin accepting people when the Expo opens on or before 9:00am.” I felt right then and there our shoe dreams were dashed.
My friend and I wanted to do a short warm-up run Saturday morning, then leisurely get breakfast and get ready to head to the parks. We decided to just try for the New Balance shoes, and headed first to the Expo. At this point it was already 11:00am so we weren’t terribly hopeful. We walked right into the New Balance tent, found a representative, and were told there were shoes in our size and we could try them on right then and there. Now that’s Disney magic for you. So I can happily say I am the honored owner of Cinderella athletic shoes! Who needs a Fairy Godmother when you have magical shoes?
Saturday we spent the day primarily in the Magic Kingdom, meandering through the crowds and enjoying a few of the sights. We rode Thunder Mountain (which I always forget is amazing), sipped on LeFou’s Brew at Gaston’s Tavern, commented on massive lines at Under the Sea and the Haunted Mansion, and found a fabulous tiara to don on race day. We ended the day back at the hotel and completed Christine’s tutu in preparation for the main event.
Sunday morning we rose at 3:00am (just so you know, this was 1:00am MST…) and I was surprisingly energetic. We got dressed in our terrific tutus and tiaras, attempted our best running princess faces, and headed to the bus stop. I cannot thank the running gods enough for the sheer luck of it all. Our resort was made up of numerous small buildings, rather than one large hotel. We were located almost furthest from the main building and dining hall, but just a stone’s throw to the first of 4 bus stops at the resort. Within minutes of arriving at the bus stop, the 4:00am bus drove up and picked up our group. Race planners had warned that the last bus of the morning would arrive at 4:00am. After our stop, there were 6 seats left, and a line of at least 30 people at the next stop. Many of the ladies there had been waiting 45 minutes or more. I had waited maybe 4 minutes… By the time we got to the third stop we had to turn on our lights and drive by slowly, indicating that there was no room. We didn’t even go to the fourth stop. We later heard that a few more busses arrived about 20 to 30 minutes later, but I cannot imagine having that amount of stress before having to run 13.1 miles. We made it to station, took some pictures, grabbed some goodies, and made the 15 minute walk to the corrals.
I was in corral K out of P, and I was thankful not to be last. Although you need to be lined up for the start at 5:30am, we didn’t begin our run until 6:00am. Corral K was full of life and cheer by the time we all made it to the starting line. “I Will Survive” blared over the speakers and we all sang along. Finally, we were given the go ahead and began our run with fireworks and fanfare. On the route you pass by costumed characters, high-flying kites, ChEAR Squad members with white-gloved Mickey Mouse hands waiting to give you a high-five (or would that be a high-four?). Music plays all along, and tutus abound. It’s really just an energetic, exciting race. Women, and men, of all ages, body-shapes, and experience levels crowd the course. It’s truly an opportunity for all to be a part of a magical moment. The start of the race is just outside Epcot. You run along the service roads, under the sign for the Magic Kingdom, traverse through a cast member entrance, and are suddenly transported onto Main Street USA. After making a congested right turn, the castle is in sight (well, it kind of was… it was really foggy). You run up Main Street and turn right into tomorrow land, where you loop behind Cinderella’s castle. Once you run underneath, there is a line of photographers waiting to capture this moment. Afterwards you make your way through Frontierland, and out another cast entrance. You follow more service roads along, until you return to the original course and head straight into Epcot. There you follow your way around Spaceship Earth and past the fountain, then back and through a cast entrance into the parking lot for the finish. To say that it was a surreal experience would be a massive understatement.
This was possibly the best first half marathon you could do. Everything is perfectly thought out, and no detail is left unnoticed. I may have actually over-trained, given the amount of people walking and the congestion that can build up during the race, but it’s never bad to have built-in walk breaks. Besides, it gave me plenty of time to take ridiculous pictures along the way. I thought I would tear up more throughout the race than I did, but mostly I was exuberant and giddy. My friend told me I just had this little girl smile on my face the whole time. When I was given my medal, however, reality sunk in. I did it. And I cried.
Afterwards, we were able to snap a few more photographs, head back to the hotel for Mickey Mouse waffles, get cleaned up, and return to Epcot with tiaras and medals (we left the tutus at the resort this time). Again we meandered through the park, enjoying some of our favorite spots (including Figment, adorable!), took pictures with Belle (my trip was complete!!), and sipped on some Snake Bite Blacks from England. We ended the day with the Illuminations fire work show (my favorite!), and traveled back to the Magic Kingdom for Space Mountain, Under the Sea, and pictures with the illuminated castle. It was the most perfect princessy weekend ever imaginable. I wouldn’t have changed a thing.