Race Recap: Disney Princess Half Marathon

The 2014 Disney Princess Half Marathon weekend is in the books!

Princesses make their way to their corrals

Princesses make their way to their corrals

The morning of the race, I woke up at 3 a.m. since you have to be on the bus or monorail by 4 a.m. to ensure you get to your corral on time. I boarded my bus along with a lot of sparkly ladies. The most princessy thing I had on was a silver Sweaty Band headband, but luckily my busmates let me on despite my lack of tiara, tutu, or makeup.

As we got to the start area (which was in a parking lot near Epcot), I was pretty amped. There were 25,000+ princesses streaming into the gates. After a long walk to my corral (we’re talking about a mile), I was impressed by the giant screens they had set up for pre-race entertainment. We were off and running shortly after 5:30 a.m. One of my favorite parts of this race was that each start wave began after a countdown by the Fairy Godmother and fireworks.

Fireworks went off for each start wave

Fireworks went off for each start wave

Post-race princess pictures

Post-race princess pictures

The course is mostly access roads with a trip through Magic Kingdom a little less than halfway through and a short jaunt through Epcot near the very end. Along the way there are characters, bands, and DJs. While I did not stop to take pictures with characters along the course, I did hang out with Cinderella, Belle, and Ariel after I crossed the finish line. They were polite princesses, seeing has how they stood in close proximity to stinky runners without any complaints.

Overall, I did okay – but the heat, humidity, and fog slowed me down towards the end. I finished in 2:05:40. I placed 1,079 out of 19,294 finishers – and 895th for my gender.

Pros/Favorite Moments:

  • Having the Fairy Godmother and fireworks start your race may be the happiest send off you could ever hope to receive.
  • Running through the Magic Kingdom was so fun. It made me smile to just be there.
  • Best moment of the race: the trumpets sounding as you exit Cinderella’s castle.
  • For those who would want to stop and take pictures along the way, the lines seemed pretty short. However, keep in mind that I was in one of the earlier start waves, so others may disagree with this perception.
  • This would be a great race for beginners – it’s a low-stress event with a fun twist. Plus, if you stop and take pictures it will give you a little break between the miles.

Cons:

  • The weather! Between the heat, humidity, and fog, this one was a tough one for me. I went back and looked at the low for that morning – it was 63 degrees with high humidity. Yuck!
  • Pre-race signage. When you have 25,000+ runners, you need to have great signage directing them to bathrooms and water. Sure, there was a map provided at the expo, but who really memorizes that or brings it along?
  • The end of the course was very odd. We’re talking a tight 180 right before mile 12 coming off of a ramp, followed by a weird snaking track as you finish at Epcot.

BibAndMedalI am so glad I did this race as it was fun and had special meaning for me (see my last blog post if you haven’t already). Truthfully, this will likely be my only Disney race but if you like the Mouse, it’s a must-do! Next up: Publix Georgia Half Marathon on March 23! Let me know what’s next on your race schedule – comment or send me a tweet @AtlRnnr.

Not Your Traditional Princess

The next race on my schedule has raised the eyebrows of quite a few people. Next weekend, I’ll be heading to sunny Florida to run the Disney Princess Half Marathon. Several friends and colleagues have said things like, “I never would have pegged you at that race,” and I certainly understand why. I am not the tiara-wearing, tutu-sporting, full-face-of-makeup-while-running girl that you may see at this event. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that… just not my style!) So why am I shelling out big bucks to run through Disney?

Dumbo

3-year-old me pretending to be Dumbo with the help of some leaves

I grew up on Mickey. We played the Disney classics nonstop in our Beta and VHS decks. My little sister and I spent a lot of quality time with Aurora, Alice, Simba, Genie, and countless other favorites. Those happy memories certainly play a part in my love for Disney, but there is another reason why this race was a bucket list item for me.

My grandmother probably loved Disney even more than we did. Her guest bedroom featured little glass figurines of all the major characters. When Beauty and the Beast came out, she bought the tea set with Mrs. Potts and Chip to have teatime with my sister. Heck, the woman even pinned big leaves to her ears and pretended she was Jumbo for me. I, of course, was Dumbo.

My little sister and my grandmother at Disney World

My little sister and my grandmother at Disney World

My grandmother doted on her grandchildren. After saving up money she made from selling custom-made decorative flags, she took us to Disney World for Thanksgiving in 1994. That magical trip is one of my fondest memories. I will never forget how delighted she was as we entered It’s a Small World. She was thrilled to spend that time with us at the Happiest Place on Earth after sewing countless flags featuring sports teams, holiday themes and people’s initials.

My grandmother passed away the day after I turned 18 after her fight with leukemia. I still think of her often, always with a smile on my face. One of the times I think of her most is when I’m running – sometimes I feel strangely connected to her. I think it’s because my mind is quiet. I ponder where she is now, what she thinks of all of the things that have changed since she was taken from us 15 years ago, and whether she’s proud of me.

So I’m heading back to Orlando to run with my Grammee. I can’t wait to see all of the beloved characters that she enjoyed with us and make my way through Cinderella’s castle. But I refuse to wear fairy wings or a princess costume 🙂

Old Man Winter vs Runners

My neighborhood two days after the snow initially fell.

My neighborhood two days after the snow initially fell.

As everyone has heard by now, my darling city of Atlanta was once again crippled by snow. This time, all it took was 2 inches to bring us to a screeching halt. There has been a lot of talk regarding how state and city officials handled SnowJam 2014, but this weather event made me think about training in tough conditions.

Every runner has their happy place in terms of weather conditions. Personally, I love running in colder weather – I’m thrilled if it’s between 30-40 degrees on race day, which may be odd considering I have no use for winter outside of running. Conversely, we all have our least favorite season – you’ll learn more in the coming months about what I lovingly refer to as my Summer Slogfest.

So… let’s say you can’t bear the thought of going outside in a wind chill of 10 degrees, snow or no snow. Here are some tips that can motivate you and keep you comfortable despite your distaste of the winter running season:

  • Plan ahead. If you don’t like the idea of running in snow or ice, keep a close eye on the forecast and rearrange your schedule. I’m a huge klutz (just ask my boyfriend), so I made sure to move last week’s runs to days where I wouldn’t constantly be worried about slipping and eating it. Same goes for temperatures – if you’d prefer to run on the warmer days, pay attention to temperature swings.
  • Guilt trip yourself. Leaving the warmth of your bed can be tough on frigid days. Set things up so you’re not comfortable ignoring your alarm: put your running shoes someplace you can see them, set your GPS watch on your nightstand, lay your clothes out on the dresser the night before. If you have visual reminders of your daily goals, it’s a lot harder to just press “snooze”.
  • Own/choose the right gear. You need items that will keep you both warm and dry. Two words my friends: dry fit. Runner’s World even has a great tool to help you figure out how much layering you should do. Click here to check it out!
  • Always take the hat and gloves. Yes, they also make these items with wicking material. My favorite skully even has a ponytail hole built into it! If you’re not sure whether you need the hat or gloves that day, BRING THEM ANYWAY. You can always take them off and shove them into a pocket or the back of your pants/tights.
  • Chapstick: It’s not just for your lips. This one’s a life changer. In addition to putting chapstick on your lips, dab some around your nostrils. Windy and cold conditions can make your nose raw too, so show it some love. Just don’t directly apply it from the tube to your nose and then lips… eww.
  • Hit the treadmill. This one is painful for me to write because this is an absolute last resort for me, but not everyone shares my aversion to the treadmill. If it helps you get your miles in, hop on and run your little heart out.
  • Change it up. If this is going to be the coldest, snowiest, most awful week ever, consider changing up your routine. Maybe this is the week to incorporate more cross training, take a yoga class or do core workouts inside your favorite room with central heating. Remember, the point is to be healthy and keep working towards your fitness goals.

My best advice: smile and suck it up! If not, you’re just going to be miserable when bathing suit season inevitably rolls around again 🙂 However, don’t beat yourself up if get a little off track! Get back out there as soon as you can.

Do you have a tip to help shake off the Winter Blues? Post a comment or send me a tweet: @AtlRnnr.