This year’s Princess Half Marathon was an incredible, amazing experience. I had never run a Disney half marathon before and it left me wanting more. Disney really knows how to put on an event and I am so thrilled that I got to be a part of it.
I woke up at about two in the morning because I was really nervous about getting to my corral on time. I knew it was about a twenty minute walk from the finish area in the Epcot parking lot. I also thought that there would be more traffic getting there because of how many more people were running the half than the 10k. Thankfully traffic wasn’t bad and we were able to park and walk to the staging area just fine.
I was really nervous before the race. I just kept thinking about my first half, OUC, and how I lost it at about mile nine. I was determined to not let that happen this time. Chris waited there with me until it was time for me to go to my corral. I saw Marathonfoto employees all around so I took the opportunity to get our picture taken together. I knew that I would be buying the photo package, so I had to get my money’s worth! When they called for us to go to the corrals I told Chris bye and followed the sea of thousands headed in the same direction. Chris left to meet my parents and sister, who had just arrived in the parking lot. They were going to head to the Magic Kingdom and wait for me to pass on Main Street.
Everyone was packed onto the road, moving at the same
speed as one solid mass. I saw another Marathonfoto person on the side, so I stopped for a “before” picture. After a while there was a fork in the road. A huge construction sign pointed corrals A through H to the left and I through P to the right. This thinned out the crowd and I was able to quickly make my way to the porta-potty, which there were tons of with no lines! I had gone before we headed over there, but I had to make sure I wouldn’t have to go during the race because I wouldn’t be stopping.
I had an energy gel before the start that my sister had bought me. She said it was good to have more than one during a half, which might have been my problem at OUC: not enough fuel. I finished the gel and then headed to corral B. Once in the corral I made my way to the front on the right. That was where Diane, my pacer, told me she would be at the expo and sure enough she was there! I re-introduced myself and talked to her a bit. She told me a little bit about her strategy and that she loved my costume. Then it was time for announcements on the stage and the National Anthem.
I remember feeling sick and texting my family that I felt like I had to puke. This felt like the biggest thing I had done in my life and I was feeling the nerves. They assured me everything would be fine, but I wasn’t so sure.
At 5:30 the wheelchair division started and then corral A followed shortly after. Next was our turn. I was right at the starting line again and as soon as those fireworks went off it seemed the nerves had left my body. I took off and it felt incredible! I was running to the Magic Kingdom!
My strategy at first was simple; stay right behind Diane. For the most part I was successful. The first couple miles I was right behind her despite other people drifting in front of me and getting in my way. It was a bit crowded at the beginning and there was a huge group that like me, were trying to stay with Diane. She made it entertaining. She started quizzing us on Disney Princess Trivia and tried to have us remember which Princess was on every mile marker that we passed. She also gave us running tips and made sure that we checked our posture. The only problem was that she started off ahead of pace. She was supposed to stay at an 8:20 pace but the first mile was an 8:12 pace and the second was 8:07. I was able to maintain an 8:22 pace for the third mile, but by the forth she was pulling away and I never saw her again.
The fourth mile ended up at 8:26 and I was starting to feel worse as the run went on. I knew that during mile five I would be running down Main Street and I was hoping that would be the boost I needed to get me going again. Right before mile four we ran through the Transportation and Ticket Center. There were people lining the course in the parking lot and on the bridge the trams usually go under. I loved the excitement of the spectators cheering on the runners. The entirety of mile four was run parallel with Bay Lake. I wasn’t even noticing my surroundings at this point. I was so nervous about what was yet to come. As we neared the Magic Kingdom gates my heart was quickly pounding in my chest which probably caused me to slow done. I wasn’t sure that I would be able to handle the excitement that was waiting for me on the other side of the gates.
I entered Magic Kingdom and as I rounded the corner onto Main Street I couldn’t believe what I heard and saw. There were people screaming and cheering everywhere! It was incredible! I kept my pace best I could as I scanned the crowd for my family. About halfway down I saw them and they were screaming my name. I waved and pointed at them as I passed. It was the greatest feeling in the world to run down Main Street and see my family there cheering for me. I am really grateful to have such an amazing support system. That was the boost I needed. I continued to Tomorrowland, then Fantasyland and through the castle! When I exited the castle there were more people cheering; it was amazing! The course then went through Adventureland and passed right by Splash Mountain before it headed back out of the park and back to Epcot.
Mile five inside the park was done at a 8:29 pace, but it started falling from there. I tried to go more by feel than looking at my watch the whole run, which made the run more enjoyable. At the halfway point there was a DJ and he notified us that the female lead runner was twenty minutes ahead of us. Mile six took me towards the Grand Floridian at an 8:33 pace.
There were more and more photo stops on the way back to Epcot and more to see once the sun started rising. I passed a bunch of men in tuxes (princes?) and a women in what looked like a wedding dress, yelling, “Pocahontas, Pocahontas, over here!” I waved as I ran by, but I was not about to stop for a picture. I had a PR to set!
I had heard that the stretch back to Epcot was boring and monotonous, but I quite enjoyed it! It was flat and straight, though I don’t think I went as fast as I could. Miles seven and eight were still climbing down at 8:45 and 8:48. Across the median were Princesses going in the opposite direction heading to Magic Kingdom. There were so many! I couldn’t believe when I saw some people from the other side further up run across the median and across my lane to use the porta-potties that were on my right. If they were to run right in front of me they were going to be plowed over. Luckily it didn’t have to come to that.
I was grateful when I came to the fuel station half way through mile eight. There were different flavored Cliff gels that I had never tried before. I grabbed a citrus flavored one with caffeine and kept on running. It was good, but I was needing water to wash it down by the time I finished it. Luckily I came to a water station not long after. I had been getting better at the water stations. I passed by the first couple, but really started using them right after the Magic Kingdom. After the sun started coming up it felt really good just to splash some on my face. Each time it gave me a second wind to keep going.
Miles nine and ten were my slowest at 8:50 and 8:53. Mile ten was the dreaded overpass that I had been hearing so much about. There were actually three and I didn’t think they were so bad. I credit that with all of the hill training that I did beforehand. It’s true, most of the hard work is completed during training. When the race starts, you are truly almost finished! One thing that helped me up those overpasses was knowing that I would get to run down them as soon as I made it to the top.
My Nike training plan that I have been following for every race (some more closely than others) always said to run at a competitive pace the first ten miles and then race the last three. I could not accomplish that during OUC on account that I felt like I was dying, so I tried to do it here. I sped up during miles eleven and twelve. At the end of one of the overpasses right outside of Epcot was a school marching band and cheerleaders. That really pumped me up; it was as though they were cheering just for me! I finished mile eleven in 8:36 and twelve at 8:35.
Now came the hardest part of the entire run: the last mile. Mile thirteen entered the park, ran to the beginning of the World Showcase, turned around, and then headed out to the parking lot, past Spaceship Earth. I gave everything I had during that mile. I was still feeling good, but I pushed my pace for a strong finish. That mile took me only 8:15, which was great considering I had already run twelve miles! As I rounded the corner out of the park I passed a gospel choir. They were signaling that I was almost finished! I pushed the pace some more and saw the finish line in the distance. I ran my heart out and crossed feeling strong and accomplished! I didn’t make my goal of 1:50, but I made a new PR by about two and a half minutes! And I accomplished that with PRing the day before in the 10k and running hard during the 5k! My final time was 1:52:39. It was the perfect ending to the race series for me and a great first Disney Half Marathon!
I made my way though the finishing chute to receive my gorgeous half marathon medal and my snacks and refreshments. Then of course more photo opportunities. I took a finisher’s photo with my half medal then I was directed to the challenge tent. It took no time at all for them to look me up and see that I earned the Glass Slipper Challenge medal. I moved forward to where a volunteer awarded me with the medal around my neck. It was such a great feeling and accomplishment. I worked so hard during my training and I was extremely proud of myself.
My family met me after I got all of my finishing things. They had made it back to Epcot in time to see me cross the finish line. They told me how great I did and that they were proud of me. I was so grateful to have them all there. We headed to the character area where I got my picture taken with Cinderella and since I missed her last time: Rapunzel! On the way to the car there was a picture stop where I held a speech bubble above my head. The photographer there was taking those photos for promotional items. My family also took my picture there. One last photo in front of the Princess Half sign and then it was time to leave to get ready to go back to Epcot for the day!
When we got back to Epcot after I was showered and relaxed I got my picture taken in front of Spaceship Earth with all of my medals on. We also went to the Visa cardholders photo spot for more photos. Here’s a tip I didn’t know before: there are exclusive photo opportunities for Disney Visa card holders with the characters where you get the digital downloads of the photos for free! It was a nice little surprise during the day. After my parents left, Chris and I ended the day with a wonderful, delicious dinner in China. I will definitely be heading back there in the future.
I never thought completing a challenge would mean that much to me. I always just saw it as just another medal. I honestly couldn’t believe that I raced back to back days so well. I am proud of that Glass Slipper medal and I wore it all day around the park to show it off. I may try another challenge in the future, but for now I have to start training for the Star Wars: The Dark Side Half, so I can get another PR. But since the race is in April in Florida, I highly doubt that.