Just thinking about trying to recap this experience is a little overwhelming, because there was so much (and thus will be split into two posts)! I’ve already talked about spectating the 10K and Kid’s Races, the Expo and the Race Retreat, so check out those posts from last week for more details on those parts of the weekend.
I find myself thinking back to the day I signed up for this race, back on a warm summer day sitting on my deck. I’d just made Lifetime status at Weight Watchers and wanted a new physical activity goal to help me keep on track. All of the statistics you hear about maintaining weight loss are pretty dismal and I did not want to regain the 110 pounds I’d just spent a year losing. I was doing well on my goal of running four 5Ks for the year (3 done) and had just run 4 miles, a new long run record. I was toying with idea of trying to run a 10K and looked at the runDisney races just out of curiosity as Disney is our happy place and running the Castaway Cay 5K was a very good motivator to keep me running when I’d first started. What better setting than Disneyworld for a new goal race, right? The 10Ks at Disney were all sold out, but there was still some space in the Princess Half Marathon. Somehow I convinced myself that 6.2 miles and 13.1 miles weren’t that different, so if I thought I could run a 10K, I could run a half marathon, right?
When I arrived in Florida and saw the first Princess Half Marathon sign in the lobby of the Polynesian, I found myself thinking back to that sunny day on the deck when I committed to this journey. I couldn’t believe I was actually about to run a half marathon, that all of those months of work were about to pay off.
I spent Friday night settling into the room (lots of baggage comes with a 2 year old on vacation for a week) and Saturday spectating some races and meeting up with a friend at Hollywood Studios before hitting the Expo. Darrell & O arrived Saturday afternoon and we went to Epcot to ride Nemo and hit Via Napoli for dinner (full restaurant reviews will come later). After such a full day, it was surprisingly easy to get to sleep that night at around 9 o’clock. Thankfully Darrell had O in bed with him so I slept like a rock until I woke up at around 2:15 (before the alarm clock, which was set for 2:45!). I’d set up all of my gear on Saturday afternoon before my guys arrived, so it was easy to get everything set to head to the starting line.
I’m glad I ended up waking up early. It took a while to be sure I got BodyGlide everywhere! The weather app was reporting 95+% humidity, so I wanted to be extra careful about chafing. While my little toe was still pretty sore, I didn’t want to tape it and end up with a blister so I just crossed my fingers that my socks and shoes would keep things stable enough. I did make sure I got my socks on the correct feet since this was a big race day after all. 🙂
Ready to go! Pre-race selfie!
I walked from my room to the Transportation and Ticket Center (a perk of the Polynesian) and was the first and only Princess on my monorail. I got lots of encouragement and cheers from the cast members on the monorail, which was nice, including a shout out over the PA system when I got off the train.
It was a little hike from the monorail around to the security bag check for the race, which went quick and easy, and then around to Race Retreat. It seemed like no time at all before I was heading out to main race area. It really hit me that I was about to do something huge when I walked through this little path:
After going through the gates, I started the LONG walk to the corrals. The nice thing about all of the walking was the chance it gave me to warm up and settle my nerves. It also helped me realize what 26,000 people really looks like!
The runners split into two paths to get to the corrals and there was another big bank of port-a-potties near the corrals (as well as lots of princesses squatting in the woods). Given the length of those lines (and my desire to avoid having anything stick to my already sweaty self by squatting in the woods), I decided to skip a second pre-race pit stop. I was nervous about missing the start! I enjoyed listening to the chatter around me at the starting line and also enjoyed not actually having to make any conversation myself since I was alone (fellow introverts will understand – conserving mental energy!). Before I knew it, the first corrals were starting. Things seemed to move very very quickly! I’m not sure how long there was between corrals officially, but it seemed like it was only a few minutes at the beginning.
Faster than I could imagine, we were off! It was incredibly crowded for the first two miles and I felt like I was constantly trying to pass people to find some space to run. It was so crowded I didn’t see a water bottle someone had left in the middle of the road and stepped on it, squirting another princess. Sorry! Those first two miles felt so slow and hard. It was so humid that I was immediately soaking and hot and my left foot was really bothering me in those first few miles. In the first mile, my little toe hurt, which I was expecting, but after that it shifted to pain in the base of my big toe. I suspect that was because I was altering my gait to account for the broken little toe, but regardless I ended up feeling like there was nowhere on my foot that wasn’t hurting when it struck the ground!
I also ended up stopping for a pit stop between miles 1 and 2, which was frustrating but necessary. I did get to check out the first aid tent while I was waiting (port-a-potties and a small station of water at the med tents). They look well equipped and people were already grabbing Biofreeze very early in the course.
I think I was there for about 5 minutes, but it felt like an eternity! I kept reminding myself that a) waiting now was better than an accident later and b) I really wasn’t worried about time – I was worried about finishing safely, so 5 minutes now didn’t hurt. When I rejoined the course, I spent a lot of time passing people again until I got back up to a more open part of the course. Once the character stops started, it seemed like things spaced out quite a bit for the most part as more and more people were stopping for photos.
I decided to stick with my plan for character photos, stopping for things that O would like to see. That meant I didn’t stop for the long line for the princes or the villainesses, although I did get pictures of the groups as I passed.
There were lots of cast members cheering us on (and warning us about the speed bump) at the Magic Kingdom sign, which was about the point where I started getting really excited about what I was doing and started forgetting about the humidity and my foot (and my lost time at the potty stop).
That haze would be the warm fog we were running through.
Of course, I’d forgotten that it was still a couple of miles after this sign before we entered the Magic Kingdom! We passed our first big group of spectators between the sign and the Magic Kingdom itself, which was exciting. My favorite sign (which I saw several times along the course – that guy was getting around fast!) said something to the effect of “My princess said I had to make a sign. Here’s your sign.” It made me smile every time I saw it.
We passed the race track and there was a photo opportunity with race drivers and a couple of cars, as well as very motivating “vroom” sound effects from the track and then we were heading into the park itself. We approached Main Street via a back stage area, so we were almost upon it before I realized it.
It was incredibly narrow getting down Main Street because more than half of the street was roped off for spectators.
It was so foggy you could barely see the castle (and I love that one of my official MarathonFoto pictures from Main Street is of me holding up my iPhone to take this photo).
When I got near the circle in front of the castle, just before the turn into Tomorrowland, I stepped off to the side and asked a cast member to take my photo in front of the castle.
He took this picture and then showed me how he thought I should pose instead:
I love how into the spirit of things the cast members were (and how lumpy the Gu’s made my waistline look!)!
As I got into Tomorrowland, I knew the Buzz Lightyear photo stop was approaching and it was one I wanted for Oliver. Fortunately, when I got there the line was really short as Buzz was out for a break and heading back in the next minute. They move people through the photo lines really quickly and before I knew it, I had a great photo and was off again.
During my walk breaks (taking one every 3/4 mile at this point) I was texting the photos to my mom and my husband. My mom was amazed at how happy I looked during all of the photos, but how could you not be smiling when you’re running a race where you get to stop for a photo with Buzz Lightyear?
Coming up to the castle, I was excited that the crowd was moving quickly enough to actually run through the castle. There were trumpeters over the entrance to the castle celebrating our entrance and before I knew it we were running through! I really like one of my MarathonFoto pictures from that moment and it is also one of the places that MarathonFoto offers video footage of, so I have that as well. I’ll have a separate post with the race photos, once I get them downloaded.
Coming down from the castle, there’s a sign directing people over to the left if they want an official photo in front of the castle with MarathonFoto. I was feeling good and motivated at that point, so I kept going and stopped on the bridge for a selfie with the castle in the background instead:
We continued through Frontierland (and every time I walked that section of the path for the rest of the week I thought “I ran here!”) and I skipped the line for Woody since he wasn’t actually out. The longest lines of the day that I saw were in the Magic Kingdom, for Mickey & Minnie and for Princess Aurora & Prince Phillip at the castle float. I’m not big on Princesses (weird for this race I know) and knew I had lots of Mickey & Minnie meetings coming with O at character dining for the rest of the week, so I didn’t stop for those lines. We headed across the train tracks and through a backstage area before hitting the road again.
Selfie with the train because I knew O would like the train. 🙂
Tune in tomorrow for the rest of the story! (At least you already know how it ends!)