Disney’s Princess Half Marathon Weekend is full of tutus, tiaras and sparkle unlike any other race out there. With all of these runDisney fanatics in one place (myself included), it’s no surprise that the coveted runDisney meet up/ tweet up was a seriously hot ticket. So hot in fact, the Disney Parks Blog was brought to a screeching halt a week before the event! I mean it’s understandable, right? Where else can you run through an empty Disney park being led by some seriously elite runners?!
The meet up began at 6:30 am with check-in at the entrance to Epcot. I love this time of day at Walt Disney World. Everything is quiet, peaceful and just coming to life…a stark difference from the throngs of people that would be arriving in a few short hours.
We all checked in, signed
our lives away to Disney waivers and were given a runDisney t-shirt. I LOVE these shirts…the women’s cut is great!
What a gorgeous morning, despite the insane humidity. There is something different about Florida skies that we just don’t have up here in Connecticut. The clouds are breathtaking…what a treat!
Before the morning started, we had some time to chat with the runDisney folks, celebrities and fellow runners. It was great to see a lot of new faces at the meet up and also reunite with some old friends from past races.
Before I knew it, it was 7:00 am and we were ready to start our run! We were briefed by the runDisney team on the course, a 3-mile run around World Showcase and Crescent Lake finishing in the Germany pavilion.
There were two groups that went out. The first was a faster group keeping a 9 minute mile pace and led by reigning Princess Half Marathon champion Rachel Booth. I’m nowhere near fast enough to keep up with that crew, so I decided to stick with the group led by Jeff Galloway. I’m a huge fan of Jeff’s, so any chance I get to run with him I will. Plus, the 30 sec run/ 30 sec walk intervals are more my speed.
We went through Future World and clockwise around World Showcase Lagoon…and look we saw some Princesses along the way!
When we reached the International Gateway, we headed out towards the Boardwalk Resort and around Crescent Lake. This is a gorgeous area for a morning run, but running around there was bringing back some painful memories of the Walt Disney World Marathon a few weeks prior!
We entered back into Epcot and circled back towards Germany where a nice breakfast (they still need some healthier options!) and some much needed cold water were waiting for us. We were welcomed by Bob Hitchcock and Faron Kelly of runDisney who told us a bit about the history of Disney’s Princess Half Marathon and gave us ladies some serious props for making running so popular. Did you know that this race has grown from 7,000 runners in 2009 to 27,000 in 2013?!? Go ladies!
Jeff Galloway and Tara Gidus, official nutritionist for runDisney, took the stage next to give us some helpful tips for the race. A heat advisory had been issued for the weekend and they helped prepare us for dealing with that, including proper nutrition, hydration and pace. Rachel Booth, two time Disneyland Half Marathon winner and reigning Princess Half Marathon winner, also made a brief appearance. What an amazing athlete!!
Next up were the truly inspirational moments of the morning. Ali Vincent, the first female winner of The Biggest Loser, spoke about her weight loss journey and how adopting a healthy lifestyles completely changed her life. She had a few gym towels to give away and had a very unique way of choosing who received them. She asked everyone who had ever lost weight to raise their hands and then asked people to put down their hands based on how much weight they had lost, getting up to 100 pounds. It was quite amazing to see how many people had lost significant amounts of weight and be able to congratulate them for their accomplishment.
Most inspiring of all was April Holmes. Wow…just wow. After a train accident 12 years ago resulted in April losing her left leg below the knee, she set out to be the fastest Paralympic athlete in the world and accomplished that many times over. April has won numerous gold medals in the Paralympic Games in both 2008 and 2012 and continues to break World Records every year. Her story of loss and overcoming the odds almost brought me to tears and motivated me to try and be better in everything I do. She left us with this: “Your gold medal comes from being better than you were yesterday.” From now on when I’m having a tough day, I will think of April and her strength. Simply amazing.
The final presentation was from the folks over at Senses Spa, which recently opened at the Grand Floridian Resort. They talked about various recovery techniques including foam rolling and massage. Two lucky attendees were chosen for the demos!
Now it wouldn’t be a runDisney event without some giveaways. The folks at New Balance were on hand to talk about the success of the new runDisney shoes that debuted over Marathon Weekend and they gave away a few pairs! Look who chose the winners…Sean Astin!
New Balance assured everyone that there would be plenty of shoes at the Expo that weekend, but encouraged people to get over there early just in case certain sizes sold out. Good advice because the Expo was CRAZY! More on that later…
The meet up wrapped up with an appearance by none other than Princess Minnie! I mean obviously she would be there. We also found out that is was Sean Astin’s birthday, so everyone joined in to sing to him!
We all headed outside and were given some great giveaways of H2O products, a water bottle and other small tokens from the sponsors. Princess Minnie and a few other Disney princesses were waiting for us for exclusive photo ops…score! Minnie and I shared a few laughs and we’re now BFF. Would you expect anything less from me? The meaning of Sarah is Princess after all
And that concludes another magical runDisney meet up. These events are so fun and give you a great opportunity to learn more about runDisney and get inspired to become a better athlete! If you are interested in attending one of these meet ups, watch the Disney Parks Blog for an announcement about a week before any runDisney race weekend. The competition is fierce, so you’ve got to be quick! Hope to see you at the next event
Disclosure: I was invited to attend the entire weekend as media. My hotel expenses, meals and park admission were provided by Disney. As always, all opinions are 100% my own and I am 100% obsessed with runDisney events.