Racing v. Running – 2013 Disney Princess Half Marathon Recap
February 24, 2013 will be remembered for may reasons in my Running Journal. It marked the completion of my 2nd Half Marathon, my first Run Disney Event and also when I found myself in the typical runner dilemma of mental anguish and internal conflict of Racing v. Running.
Having run in my first half marathon the previous weekend in Jacksonville, Florida, I was glad to have at least one half marathon in the books so that I could “enjoy” the Disney Princess Half Marathon that I had initially began training for in late 2012. Notably labeled as one of the most over-rated runs by many runners and run bloggers with a host of pros and cons sure to make you scrutinize your own experience.
While I am happy to have marked Run Disney off of my Running Bucket List, the question of running another race with Disney is up for critical debate before I would officially register in the future.
– Here is my 2013 Princess Half Marathon Runner Recap –
We left Tallahassee on Saturday morning for the 4 hour drive to Orlando’s Walt Disney World to check in at our resort the Art of Animation and we thankfully opted for the Cars family suite thanks to my friend Shannon. The room sleeps 6 with two bathrooms, ample room for 3 runners and my husband who was my awesome cheerleader for the weekend.
After getting settled into our room we headed down to resort transportation to find our way over to Coronado Springs Resort for the Expo and packet pickup. With the earlier weeks half results in hand, I wanted to make sure I switched corrals in order to avoid the huge bottleneck of walkers that we had to dodge in the prior week, especially considering this run had more double the amount of participants. Check in was easy and runner assistance was very helpful and friendly (even though that volunteer looked at me crazy and said, “this race was last weekend, wasn’t it!?!”) Yes ma’am I replied and thank you.
Moving over to the Expo side of the convention hall to grab our t-shirt and bag-o-goodies was beyond annoying and crowded. Those single file lines from the school days came to mind and that no one in these lines had a clue what a line meant. Finally, I was able to push past the people who really didn’t understand where or what they were doing and find my way to my line and grab the rest of my race packet.
Here’s a shot of me with my bag-o-goodies post line nightmare
Now it was time to get a look around at the vendors and all the offerings at what was to date, one of the largest running expos that I have attended. There were many of the same vendors that I saw at the previous weekend’s expo and also many new ones, but still it was a little too crowded. I found my name on the Wall of Runners and then I was happy to head out and grab some dinner before the crowds did after leaving the parks and expo. We opted for a Cuban dinner in Disney’s Pleasure Island area and appeared to make the perfect choice on timing as we only had to wait about 15 minutes. Then a walk back to the transportation area to wait for our bus back to the resort and getting organized for the next morning. 2:30 am comes mighty early when you’ve traveled and fought crowds of little kids and cranky parents all afternoon.
The next morning I woke up well before my alarm was set to go off. Excitement, nerves, fear of over sleeping . . . it’s all relative the morning of a run no matter what the run or your expectation for the day. I hopped in the shower and took my time getting ready to make sure I didn’t forget anything I would need. I had previously made a plan to meet one of our Tallahassee Chapter’s Mom’s from Mom’s RUN This Town, Becky L., in the hotel lobby at 3:15 so that we could miss the crowds of people waiting until the 4 am runner bus deadline. We got a bus and off we went!
Arriving at the staging area, there were large crowds of people already arriving and some with very elaborate costumes. Ample pre-race potties were available, but they were already in pretty bad shape. I had to make a pit stop before walking to my corral and admittedly, my gag reflex was activated in just the short five minutes that I was in there. BUT, let’s move on . . .
I met up with my Mom’s RUN This Town group for a pre-race group shot near the Pace groups which included Rudy, Goonies and Lord of the Rings star, Sean Astin (see group pic I snapped below of him just a few feet away from us)
After our group photo we began to make our way over to our corral areas. I was assigned to Corral B, which would be the second corral to be released at 5:42 am. While waiting, we stretched, talked and prepped for the start of the run. Run Disney has a strict policy that no men are allowed in any corral higher than C to make it fair for women runners. While my running partner and I stood there waiting, we were startled by a Disney employee yelling and pushing, but as it would happen, he was busy ejecting a would-be cheater from our corral and the race. (Happy to see that Disney is not afraid to enforce this rule even minutes before the start of a race)
It was a very humid morning in Central Florida and much higher temperatures than I really wanted to run in even in those early hours. We stood and listened to the announcements and pep talks from the various runners, including Sean Astin, the first female winner of The Biggest Loser, Ali Vincent who gave a shout out for her 2013 running goal of 13 in 2013 Challenge, which is a group that I am also a member of that includes runners setting a goal to run 13 races in 2013. It was pretty awesome!
FINALLY the wave starts began and each wave welcomed an explosion of fireworks that I still heard going off on Mile 2 and 3 of the run. Staying hydrated was very important with the Florida humidity and Disney made sure that porta-potties were available to runners along the way. My running partner was thankful as she veered off around mile 2 to take a pit-stop telling me to not wait for her, but to go ahead and run on, which I reluctantly did.
It was official, I was running this with 22K other people in the dark and I was a little overwhelmed. The run was full of places to stop for photos, but it was not in the parks as event photos seem to elude to in advertising. We ran through the Magic Kingdom and we ran around a bit of Epcot, but mostly we found ourselves on the dark back alleys of the Disney properties that you don’t normally get to see as a visitor. Lots of broken down props, parking lot cut throughs, highway overpasses and much of what appeared to be bus only transportation areas.
There were quite a few photo opportunities along the way that you could stop and take character pictures, but I opted not to stop because the lines seemed to be so long and the thought of stopping for any significant amount of time seemed to make me feel a little nervous because it was hot. I don’t think I have had so much sweat on a run since training last summer! There were an ample amount of hydration stations which offered water and Powerade along the way. Several medical tents were also available after the half-way point where it concerned me that they were handing out Bio-Freeze in little cups but not telling people what it was. My first though, “SOMEONE IS GOING TO EAT THAT!” and then I overheard one runner saying he had no idea that you could not eat it.
Pushing through to mile 8, I found myself overwhelmed with the urge to hydrate more because my body was starting to cramp up due to all the perspiration that was going on. So each hydration station I made sure to grab at least one Powerade and two cups of water. Mile 9 and 10 were tough (I even ditched my Minnie Mouse ears and my tutu) and it appeared that we were beginning to retrace our steps a bit because we passed the Pirates of the Caribbean ship on the left that we passed initially going out where my running partner took a bathroom stop. Rounding the corner to begin mile 11, I knew I had to walk so that I wouldn’t injure myself. I decided to start pacing myself to finish with a run. I would walk for 30 seconds and then run until I cramped. Mile 12 gave us a boost because we thought we were entering Epcot and the finish, but it just took us around the fountain entrance and compounded the humidity and a large chemical smell that was being held down due to the overcast skies. “Ughhh, will this run ever end!?!” was pretty much all I could think about. My body was tired, I was tired and I was mentally over the large waves of people who overloaded the paths. So I began to think about it and why I was feeling that way.
Which brings me to my thoughts about the Run Disney experience. Don’t make it a “race” make it a run. Yes, you spend what totals at least two normal half marathon registration fees, but it’s Disney and you need to make it about a fun run instead of a stress race (which is what I found myself having). Take time and take pictures with characters even if it takes you three hours to finish. Make it magical and dress up! Get outside of your “runner head” and use the this run to have fun then pick back up on another race to get back on track. This is not a run through all the parks, but it is a run on Disney properties and most of all, it’s what YOU make of it, good or bad.
Finishing this run, I was very happy to see my husband at the finish line cheering me on. He is always so supportive and he was a happy sight at the end of a hot and grueling 13.1 miles for me on Sunday.
When I finished all I could think about was rehydrating, food and sitting down!
I’m celebrating the end of my recent runs and the end of February with a “Whey-2-GO” Designer Whey GiveAway. Check out my Facebook Giveaway page for details.
Winner will be announced on March 5th (MY BIRTHDAY!!)