Yep, you read that correctly—22.4 miles was our combined distance during this year’s Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend. This was the third year my sister and I have participated in this particular race weekend. Our first year (2012), we only ran the half marathon race. Last year, ran the half marathon and the Royal Family 5K. This year runDisney not only added a 10k race to the Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend, but also added an additional challenge for those runners crazy enough to take on both the 10k and the half marathon, called the Glass Slipper Challenge. My sister and I jumped at the chance to be a part of this inaugural event and registered for the Glass Slipper Challenge and Cinderella Family 5k. It seemed like a great idea—last June, when I registered. However, as race day approached, I became nervous about my ability to complete three races in three days. While I had trained to run all events and my weekly total mileage was equivalent to that which I would run come race weekend, I do not run everyday but rather only three times a week. Racing three consecutive days was not how I had trained for fear of injury (I had sustained injuries the past two years while training for the Princess Half). Even though I felt great physically, I was still uncertain that I would be able to “go the distance”.
Cinderella Family 5k took place on Friday morning. Participating along with my sister and I were four of my five kids and our mom and dad. Of course, we had to have costumes—that is part of the race day fun! It is not easy to come up with a costume theme that will fit boys and girls AND eight runners. The kids decided they wanted to be Minions. I know, not Disney-esque, but I let them pick. My sister and I worked together to make the costumes for the Minions and pieced things together to make my dad’s Gru outfit. He even took it one step further and decided to buy and wear a skullcap!!
Since it was my daughter’s first 5k (she’s 5) and Mom isn’t a runner, we decided to split up. My dad ran with my boys, 13 & 10, and my sister and I walked with my mom and my two girls, 8 & 5. My mom was EXTREMLY nervous. This was her second 5k ever, her first being last year’s Royal Family 5k. She was worried she would be last or not finish at all. I assured her she would do just fine and would most certainly earn her finisher’s medal.
Participants in the 5k were separated into 5 corrals (A-E). The first corral began around 6:15 a.m. and subsequent corrals were allowed to start in 8 minute intervals. The course took participants from the Epcot® parking area, through parts of World Showcase and Future World before finishing in the Epcot® parking lot. The course is MOSTLY flat and is great for both experienced and beginner runners alike. My mom finished without a problem and much to her delight, she was not the last person to cross the finish line!
The next day was the inaugural Disney Princess Enchanted 10k. Since my husband volunteered to stay back with the baby while the rest of us ran the 5k the day before (this year’s family 5K did not allow for strollers) he most certainly did not want to miss out on participating in race weekend. So he ran this 10K race with my sister and I. For this race, we decided, like many racers this year, to go with a Frozen™ theme. I was Anna, my sister, was Elsa, and my husband was Sven. It was great! I probably spend entirely too much time working on my costume, but on race morning, I could not have been more impressed with the way we looked as we headed to the start line.
The Disney Princess Enchanted 10K course was similar to that of the 5k course, except that the 10k route took runners down Disney’s Boardwalk/Beach Club Resort areas. That part of the course was incredible! I was a little disappointed in the on course entertainment, as I had expected a little more than what we saw during the 5K. However, overall, I thought the race great and I would most certainly do it again. Runners received their awesome finisher’s medal at the finish line and those participating in the Glass Slipper Challenge were ushered into a separate corral in order to receive their “proof of finish” wristband. This wristband would be needed the next day, after completing the half marathon, in order to receive the Glass Slipper Challenge medal. Once we received our wristbands, my sister and I met up with my husband for post race pictures.
Sunday morning began much the same as the two previous mornings, just a little earlier (3 a.m.). My sister and I had purchased entry to the Race Retreat and wanted to take advantage of some of the pre-race perks. If you are unfamiliar with the Race Retreat, it is a “race extra” with a separate admission fee. It is open to runners (you could purchase the race retreat for the 10K , the half marathon or both) and those ChEAR Squad participants who purchased the platinum level package. The Race Retreat was open to runners of the half from 3 a.m. to 5:30 a.m. and for runners and ChEAR Squad guests from 5:30 a.m. to10:30 a.m.. Before the race, guests could enjoy such amenities as private bag check, private (but still portable) bathrooms, seating and stretching areas and pre race nourishment like fruit and bagels. Water and Powerade were also available. My sister and I were able to arrive at the retreat tent (located in the family reunion area in the Epcot® parking lot) in enough time to check our bag, utilize the bathrooms and grab a little pre-race bagel and water. Finally it was time for us to walk to the corral.
The race began close to 5:30 a.m., with subsequent corrals starting at two-minute intervals. A friend who was is corral M said the spacing between the start of corrals became a bit longer as they moved through the alphabet. My sister and I were in “G” and up to that point, at least, corrals were starting every two minutes.
Since this was my third year running Disney Princess Half Marathon, I was quite familiar with the course, as it was the same as in year’s past. The advantage with running with my sister every year, is that we have a routine as to where we will stop for pictures, where we will speed up, and when we will slow it down a bit. The course itself is great running from the Epcot® parking lot, to Disney’s Magic Kingdom® and then looping through Future World in Epcot® before finishing back in the Epcot® parking lot. The on course entertainment is incredible, and provides a great distraction from the “pain” of running. My sister and I always stop at around mile two so we can get a picture with Jack Sparrow and Barbosa , we have to get pictures of us on both Main Street, USA® and in front of Cinderella’s Castle, and we always stop in front of the half way point sign, this is usually to let our friends and family know we are still alive—haha! The best parts of the course are, of course, running down Main Street, USA® and running through the castle. Those are two of the biggest appeals of this race. However, one of my most favorite parts of this course are the gospel singers right around mile 12.5. These incredibly talented performers emanate such positive energy at a time when many runners are struggling to get to that finish line.
Finally, we crossed the finish line. Our finish time was quite a bit slower than what we would usually run, but we run this race strictly for fun. That way we are free to take as many pictures as we want and we can enjoy the experience without feeling pressured for time. Plus, runDisney races are not cheap and we want to be sure we are getting the most out of our race experience. Once we received our medals (one for the half and one for the Glass Slipper Challenge), we moved through the photo area, picked up our free (and unexpected) mesh race backpack, and made our way back to the Race Retreat tent. There, we were treated to a Disney Princess Half Marathon towel and flip-flops. Our parents decided to purchase the ChEAR Squad platinum package so that they could meet us at the retreat once the race was finished. Once we found them inside the tent and made a quick bathroom stop, we were ready to eat (at least I was. I get so “run”-gry after a race). The Race Retreat offers runners (and ChEAR Squad participants) a hot breakfast that consists of eggs, potatoes, fruit, muffins, oatmeal, coffee, Powerade, water, and soda. There may have been some sort of breakfast meat on the buffet, but since I am a vegetarian, I cannot remember what it was. There was also a cash bar for those who want something a little more “adult” to celebrate their accomplishment. Runners also have access to TV screens that show runners crossing the finish line, massage and first aid area, and phone charging stations.
After my third plate of eggs and two cups of coffee, I was finally able to sit back, relax, and just bask in the moment and truly think about what I had just accomplished. I couldn’t I believe did it. I was able to finish three races in three days, something I was uncertain I could do in those days leading up to the race and a feat that, five years ago, I would’ve thought to be impossible. I never would’ve had the courage to start nor the strength to finish if it hadn’t been for the support of my family; my husband for believing in me, my kids who encouraged and ran along side me, and my parents for having faith in my ability. Most of all I am so truly blessed to have shared this “ride” with my sister. She has pushed me when I felt lazy, cheered me on after a good run, and never thought for a second that any of this was impossible. I now close on another chapter in my runDisney adventures. I am not sure what the future will hold for me with regards to running, but what I do know is that this year’s Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend has shown me that I can do things that I deem to be impossible, all it takes is the courage to start.