Disney Princess Half Marathon – A Magical Weekend

I'm usually not the kind of girl to really show off bling, but on Disney Princess weekend, it's okay. Please don't tell! Photo: Used with permission, Patricia Vollmer

In case you hadn’t heard it from me before, when Disney puts on a show, they really know how to do it! In the case of the Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend, they skillfully blend athletics, beauty, whimsy and inspiration for nearly 20,000 participants (95% of whom are women) to have a magical weekend.

You’ve already heard from me about how Disney uses social networking to track runners, and how I found my inspiration and ideas for my runner-friendly costume. Now I just want to talk about the race weekend and share some tips on how to make this magical weekend a reality if you want to sign up next year!

Tip: Try to stay in an “Event Host Hotel”.  I traveled with a friend from my neighborhood who was also running. Just the two of us. We made a point to stay in one of the race “host hotels”.  Disney offers several host hotels which include hotel choices from several of Walt Disney World’s resort price levels. Stay at a host hotel and transportation is provided to/from the race locations. It’s worth it to travel this way! My friend and I stayed at the Port Orleans French Quarter hotel and it was a reasonable-sized, clean and adequate room. The bars there are known to make some of the most potent drinks at Disneyworld, and their hot tub is allegedly one of the hottest (which came in handy after the race)!

The "Fit for a Princess" Expo was a very good time. Bring your credit cards, ladies! Photo: Patricia Vollmer

We attempted to arrive at the “Fit for a Princess” Expo as soon as possible on Friday, I was hoping to at least see the Dooney and Bourke commemorative handbags, but unfortunately those were sold out in two hours. Did I really really want one? Not really. I’m not a super-princess-ey type of girl, and there are other D&B Disney patterns I’d prefer.

Nonetheless, I was considering it, so I guess the decision had been made for me.

Or had it? You can find them on eBay pretty easily right now.

Otherwise, the Expo was a good time, with plenty of clothing and equipment demonstrations, food and beverage samples and guest speakers.

After visiting the expo and checking into the hotel, we joined a fellow Air Force wife who now lives in Tampa and the three of us enjoyed a fun night out.  We met up with Rosalind from Girls are Geeks at the Jellyrolls dueling pianos club at the Boardwalk Resort, who was with a group celebrating her birthday.  Rosalind had found me through GeekMom and I was thrilled that a fan was interested in meeting me!  This was my first-ever “meetup” with a fellow blogger.  We had fun at Jellyrolls!

I had the honor of meeting Rosalind of Girls Are Geeks! She was celebrating a birthday by running a half marathon! You go girl! Photo: Used with permission, Patricia Vollmer
Racers who wore their race t-shirts to the parks the day prior received numerous "Good Luck!" statements from the cast members and fellow runners. We also congratulated all the folks who wore their Tangled 5K medals to the park. Photo: Used with permission, Patricia Vollmer

Tip: There’s plenty of runDisney fun for the whole family!  The day before the half marathon, many families start their day with the Tangled Family 5K, and I wish I had thought to run it.  Their medal was worth the race!  Next year!

It’s also worth knowing about the all-ages races held on the Saturday of the Disney Princess race weekend.  From a diaper dash to a 1-mile fun run for kids 13 and under.  Check out all your options here!

My girlfriends and I elected to visit Magic Kingdom instead.  We resisted the temptation to visit a park that served alcohol (EPCOT and Animal Kingdom), and we ladies took it easy.  It was especially fun getting to spend as much time as we wanted in the stores!  We three ladies only have sons and we ALWAYS get the short end of the stick when it came to the shopping!

Tip: Be prepared to try to go to bed nice and early.  Race day starts VERY early!  The half marathon starts at 5:45am…and runners are to maintain a 16-minute mile pace to remain on the route.  Strict?  Well, yes it is.  Because the course needs to be clear in time for the parks to open!

We tried to take it easy Saturday night, since we were planning an early bedtime.  We ended up having a later-than planned dinner, then worked on our costumes — but we were simply TOO EXCITED to go to sleep early! Many ladies told me they didn’t sleep at all — but we were able to get about 3 hours before our alarm went off at 2am!

Yes, you read right.  Two ‘o clock in the morning.

Tip: Suck it up!  Attempt to get on the earliest bus you can from your hotel to the race start area.  We wanted to get on a nice early bus so our day didn’t have to be stressful.  Typically, I’m the type who tries to get ready for her day in as little time as possible…but I’m glad we allotted extra time that morning.  Besides, I was so excited about this — in a child-on-Christmas kind of way — I had no problem waking up!

During the one-mile walk from the bus drop-off to the bag-drop area. Disney, I'm so disappointed. Photo: Patricia Vollmer

At 3am we boarded the buses that transported us to the drop off area.  Which was nowhere near where we had to report in to drop off our check-through-bags (bags we could stash our jackets and other belongings before the race — they were available for us after the race).

Upon drop-off, we had about a one-mile walk to the bag-drop area.  There was water, porta-johns and even a DJ there providing entertainment and music and warm up exercises.

Things started to get a little wonky here.  We had instructions that it would be a 10 minute walk to the “corrals” at the starting line.  And that we were to all be in place by 5am.   But no one was allowed to start walking towards the corrals until about 4:45am.  So picture 20,000 people all walking at once.

It was crowded and slow…and you can guess that most of us didn’t get there by 5am.  This wasn’t a big problem since we were still 45 minutes from the Corral A start.

Tip: If you run races routinely, attempt to get a 10K-or-greater race under your belt in the calendar year prior to the half marathon.  This will put you in the earlier corrals, you will start and end sooner.  By some miracle, I was in Corral A.  Corrals A-C are reserved for those who had prior 10K-or-longer race times in the previous 12 months.  I had submitted a half-marathon time from last April.  It doesn’t matter what corral you are in in terms of your net race time, your clock doesn’t start until you cross the starting point, but it was nice to start and end the race up to an hour earlier than some of the others.

While waiting I had the chance to meet some wonderful fellow racers and they let me photograph their creative costumes.

This was a VERY popular costume design! Want to make your own? Visit Carrie's post at This Mama Makes Stuff: http://thismamamakesstuff.com/2011/10/snow-white-disneyrunning-costume-tutorial/. Photo: Patricia Vollmer
This young lady was "Princess Nala". We'll ignore the mane on her head. Photo: Patricia Vollmer
This picture was taken after the race. I saw 3 separate Princess Leias, but this was the only one in a full-fledged long white dress. And the buns in her hair! The weather was in the 50s, so she wasn't terribly uncomfortable. It's actually athletic jersey fabric, such as what football jerseys are made of. Photo: Patricia Vollmer

Each corral received its very own grand start, complete with Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother proclaiming “Salagagoola mechicka boola bibbidi-bobbidi-boo” and fireworks! It was absolutely amazing!

We were all holding up our cameras/camera phones for the start! I'm so impressed with this picture! Photo: Patricia Vollmer

Tip: Want to visit the characters?  Now’s your chance!  The race starts well before sunrise, and since I was in a corral full of “serious” runners who weren’t stopping for anything, many of the photo opportunities had no wait. I skipped the first several opportunities, but the girl I was pacing with said she couldn’t help herself and asked if I’d like to stop with her for photos by the time we got to Cinderella’s castle right after sunrise.  It was really easy — so I probably spent about 3-4 minutes of running time getting photographs.  It’s okay, you don’t run this race for the records.

Tip: You will get asked to pre-order the package of photos.  You don’t have to.  Wait and see how many pictures are worth buying before committing.  I wasn’t set on buying the professional photos, but for the first time, I made the investment!  I didn’t look half bad — typically I look like I’m ready to die by the end of a race, but I had tried hard to look good for the cameras this time around!

I had to meet Shang. But forget Shang -- this was my first time getting to meet Flynn Rider and SWOON!!! Photo: Patricia Vollmer

The race starts in the EPCOT parking lot and you immediately head north towards Magic Kingdom. You enter the Magic Kingdom near the main entrance, run up Main Street USA, turn right and run through Tomorrowland, Fantasyland — THROUGH Cinderella’s Castle — and out a side exit. Then you run back to EPCOT, through the Future World part of EPCOT, and the finish is back at the EPCOT parking lot just outside of the main gate.

Tip: Train with some hills!  Just because the race is in Central Florida doesn’t mean it’s completely flat!  The route takes you over several over- and underpasses, but not until beyond mile 10! So make sure you include some hills in your training! I enjoyed the Army Men from Toy Story stationed along one of the hills “motivating” us.

The finish line is pretty amazing — I “ran” into an Air Force Reserve colleague around mile 10 and the two of us pushed each other to the finish — it was so wonderful! I watched several hundred others cross the finish line and the reactions ranges from collapsing to vomiting to outright tears of joy/pain/amazement at such an accomplishment.

How did I do? I’ll let the numbers speak for themselves. And if anyone better understands what the “Age Grade” percentage is, do tell. I found this tool, but I’m still not 100% understanding of it. I’ve never run a race that provided this information.

And the medal! Whoo hoo! It’s very substantial! It’s a tradition — wear your medal ALL DAY! Wear it for the rest of your Disney vacation! Girl, you’ve earned it!

Wear your medal proudly! You've earned it!!! Photo: Used with permission, Patricia Vollmer

Registration for the 2013 Disney Princess Half Marathon opens this July.  Visit this website to sign up for an e-mail reminder when registration opens.  Register early and save up to $20!

I look forward to running it next year! Who’s with me?  Who should I dress as next year? I’m trying to convince my husband to join me so we’re looking for a geeky Disney pair — Han and Leia? Mr. and Mrs. Incredible? Woody and Jessie? Giselle and Prince Edward?

Get the GeekDad Books!

   

Patricia Vollmer is the proud mother of two emerging geek sons, ages 12 & 14. She serves part time as a meteorologist with the Air Force Reserve and is currently assigned to the U.S. Air Force Academy. Patricia blogs about her family's nomadic military life at Ground Control to Major Mom. Home is always where the Air Force sends her family, which for now is in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Hobbies include running, despite no one chasing her, sharing her love for Disney and Star Wars, and exploring the world with her boys. Ask her why the sky is blue at your own risk.