It’s official. I’m running every other half marathon from here on out in costume.
And you can’t stop me.
I had four different alarms set this morning. I was paranoid – not only that an alarm wouldn’t go off, but I would sleep right through all of them! Luckily I shot right up when the first one went off (at 3:05am!). Apparently 5 hours of sleep is just enough when you’re ready to run a race!
We were told the last bus heading to the start line would depart the hotel at 4:00am. We were also told (more like warned) the last bus is also the bus everyone tries to take and we should aim for a 3:30 am departure. Callie, Theodora, and I picked somewhere in the middle and met in the lobby at 3:40am.
Luckily our hotel (Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge) didn’t seem to have many runners. We were able to walk outside and hop on the first bus with minimal waiting. The bus ride was quick and dropped us on at the starting line a little after 4:00am.
And ‘by the starting line’ I mean a good 10 minute walk to the race village (for bag drop off) and another 10 minute walk to the actual starting line. RunDisney is really organized, but boy do they like to spread things out!
We also had our own little detour along the way.
Race Retreat is a relatively new perk added to RunDisney’s marathon and half marathon registration packages. For $99, runners can add the Race Retreat perk to their registration and enjoy access to a climate control tent, snacks, private bag check, and private porta potties before and after the race.
RunDisney was kind enough to pass along the Race Retreat perk to the group of bloggers for the Princess Half Marathon and I about kissed their feet when they did. Our group felt like VIPs entering the private tent before race start.
I’ll admit that the private bag check and restrooms were pretty cool (especially the no-waiting part!).
But the pre-race food was what I was really excited about. It didn’t hit me until I had arrived in Disney World that I didn’t bring any pre-race or race fuel for the half marathon. Luckily I was able to buy a package of Sports Beans at the expo and chomp down on a bagel at the Race Retreat.
One bagel with cream cheese and jam and an orange to be exact.
Turns out I wasn’t the only one with a love for Belle in our group. Heather, Callie, and I made up the Belle trio in our costumes.
Oh! Speaking of my costume! I was able to add my extra sparkle fabric to my skirt to fill it out a bit, cut the top band of fabric so that I could tie it in the back, and double layered the top wrap around my shoulders. The results definitely resembled a homemade costume, but most people were able to easily recognize me as Belle (bonus point) and the costume survived the entire race without creating any chafing issues (double bonus points).
What do you think? Did I look like Belle?!
At 5:00am the volunteers began ushering all the runners to the start line. Theodora and I made a pact to run this race for fun together and slowly made our way to the B corral. Theodora and I have run several of the same races, but this was our first time actually running together. Our rule – no princess left behind!
RunDisney has timed corral releases. Each corral has it’s own send-off with it’s own set of fireworks and a Fairy Godmother blessing. It’s nice; this way no one misses the fireworks (bonus!) and – if you’re in a later corral -you get multiple fireworks. Win. Win.
There’s something empowering about the women who participate in the Princess Half Marathon. As I waited for our corral’s release, I took a good look around and tried to take every person in. Most had some hint of glitter, sparkle, or pink on their person, but all were strong, determined, and about to run a freakin’ half marathon. In those corrals, the glitter, sparkle, and pink became more than just a way for a grown woman to play dress-up, it became proof that we can still get out there and kick major butt – even in a tutu – and we’re darn proud about it. Girl Power!
The first mile or two of the race was just as I remembered – narrow and crowded. Theodora and I ran on the grass for a bit so we could get out of the masses. Theodora asked if the crowd ever thins out and I told her no – the roads just get wider.
Luckily, we hit the wider road a couple of miles in and hit my favorite set of characters (the princes) for a photo opt.
See that line? Umm… yeah – we waited in it and about half a dozen that looked exactly the same. There were close to 20,000 runners running the Princess Half this morning and I’d say 75% of them were in it for the character photos. Ok, not the photos exactly (there’s also the bonus of the nice bling at the end and the actual running experience), but I’d say the character photos are a huge plus of the experience. Because of that, many runners stop and wait in line for photos. Some lines are short, but most are long. I’d say we waited on average about 3-5 minutes for each character.
Luckily, Disney is a well-oiled machine and the lines moved relatively quickly. It wasn’t long before we were smiling with the princes, then off and running again.
Just after mile three we knew we were getting close to the castle.
We did have a close call with some evil villains, but we were able to hold them off with a quick photo and were back on our way.
Running through the Magic Kingdom never gets old. RunDisney does a great job with this part of the race. You run through the ticket and transportation center, pass The Contemporary Resort, and a back entrance before you make your way into the park. Along the way you get a great view of the hotel, Space Mountain, and bus entrance, but Cinderella’s Castle is somehow blocked until you make that final turn onto Main Street. It’s that final turn – when the castle finally come into focus and are really able to take in the large crowd of spectators for the first time – that is my absolute favorite moment of the race. That’s the moment that always gives me goosebumps.
That is the moment that makes this race worth it.
Theodora managed to find a frog wandering outside of the castle. Was it her prince? Give it 10-20 more years and we’ll see.
Cinderella’s Castle is a double whammy. You see it as you enter the park, then go for a loop through Tomorrowland and Fantasyland…
… before coming back around to enter the castle on the back. Those horns playing as you enter? More goosebumps.
We waved good-bye to Cinderella and her Prince Charming before entering mile 6 in Adventureland.
On our way out of the park I heard someone shout ‘Meghann!’ at a water stop. I looked to my right to see Healthy Ashley’s smiling face!
Ashley and I are race buddies who go way back. In fact, I think the last time we may saw each other was at last year’s Princess Half Marathon. It was so good to see her again – even for just a minute!
I’ll admit that the first 6.5 miles of the Princess Half are my favorite. The adrenaline high from the beginning, mixed with the anticipation and excitement of running through Cinderella’s Castle, causes the race to peak somewhere around the halfway mark.
After that, the high wears down and you realize you still have 5 more miles to go before you see Epcot. Five miles of back roads with nothin’ but cones, runners, and signs.
It was this stretch that I was finally able to track down my twin for the day.
What do you think? Pretty close, right? Apparently Gaston was not impressed. Where’s the Beast when I need him?!
Theodora and I began to pick up the pace at the point. We were a little bored and just ready to finish and eat (I had some spots beans, but my stomach wanted real food).
Around mile 8, I saw a familiar yellow tutu that could only belong to one girl.
Woo hoo! Go Callie, go! Callie was kicking serious butt and taking names. This was only her second half marathon (her first being St. Pete – a mere 2 weeks ago) and she was looking fantastic. I was so proud of her and told her to rock hard in the final stretch.
By the way… how did I forget the final stretch was full of so many bridges?!?! We like to refer to them as ‘Florida hills’ and -real hill or not – unexpected inclines are never fun at the end of a race.
We entered Epcot at mile 11, made a short loop, and gave it our all through the final stretch.
IIIII seeeeeee ittttttt.
I’m not sure what I was more excited about – seeing the finish line or Callie’s sisters.
Theodora and I crossed hand-in-hand at 2:29. Not bad considering my siblings and I ran it last year in 2:44. Woo hoo for a new Princess Half PR.
While the volunteer was placing the medal around my neck, she paused and said “Wait, do you have a blog? I know you!” Ha! Sweet volunteer – YOU ROCK!
Actually, she wasn’t the only reader or blogger that Theodora and I saw on the course (or through the weekend). A BIG SHOUT OUT to every reader or blogger who ran, spectated, or volunteered at the Princess Half Marathon. All three deserve a big CONGRATS. Neither are easy, but all are rewarding and amazing in their own way.
What comes after a medal? Fairy Godmother dust!
And a castle. Every princess deserves a castle!
This is where the Race Retreat perk really started to spoil us. Not only were we served a hot breakfast…
But mimosas too!
I was STARVING and quickly filled a bowl with oatmeal and fruit and made an extra side plate of even more fruit, eggs, and a potato.
Did I mention the fruit? I went back for more and half a cinnamon muffin.
They even handed flip-flops out to all the finishers in the Race Retreat.
Heaven. Pure heaven.
We took our time making our way back to the hotel, where we all showered, packed up our things, and said good-bye to this amazing weekend of incredible opportunities.
THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! FitFluential and RunDisney for making this all possible. RunDisney races truly aren’t just races – they’re an experience. An experience I can’t wait to experience again and again.
And I lied. I wasn’t ready to leave Disney World just yet. I met my sister in Hollywood Studios for one last hurrah with my Media Fast Pass (aka Disney Gold).
*sniff* I’m going to miss that thing *sniff*
We had lunch at the Fairfax in the park and I had the salad without dressing.
And 1/2 a carrot cake for dessert.
On the way back to Tampa I nibbled on the trail mix that came in our post-race box of goodies
And made a simple plate of veggies and hummus with cheese and pita for dinner.
Now I’m hope and ready for some quality cuddling time with my main man and my pups. I missed them!