Category: Race Recaps

Inaugural Star Wars Dark Side 10K

I’m excited to welcome Krissy to RAD today to give us a recap of the Inaugural Star Wars Dark Side 10K! Krissy and I are kindred spirits…we are both new moms, we are HUGE Disney fans and we both have an obsession with cupcakes.  She’s a runDisney veteran and still loves every magical mile.  Let’s take a trip to the Dark Side with her!

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When runDisney announced a new race weekend to their Walt Disney World line-up, with the Dark Side Half Marathon Weekend, I knew I had to get involved! As a longtime Star Wars fan, runDisney junkie, and Florida resident, it really was a no-brainer…however, there was just one problem – I was six-months pregnant at the time, and was not sure how my post-partum recovery would go.

Still, I knew I wanted to be involved, so I did the sensible thing and registered for the inaugural 10K – a bit more challenging than the 5K, but not as intimidating as a half marathon – and here, seven months later, I am so glad that I took that chance!

For this race weekend, we were guests at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge (DAKL). As a larger race weekend, all Walt Disney World Resort hotels were hosts, and as usual, my experience was smooth and efficient. Although I planned to wake up around 3 AM to catch a 4 AM shuttle, my dear infant daughter had other plans, so I ended up out the door, and on the first bus around 3:15 AM.  Special bonus? I ran into Connie, a friend of mine, and so we sat together on the way over to the race start.

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Like many other WDW races, this starting area was staged in the Epcot parking lot, and once we arrived, we started the walk to the action! There was the standard stage/DJ/music, concession booth, portapotties, and several long lines (would it be Disney without some lines?), which turned out to be character greeting lines of various Star Wars characters, including: a Boba Fett, Jabba the Hutt, Captain Phasma, Darth Vader, and even a backdrop of Han Solo in carbonite.

The weather was pretty much perfect – cool, although a little humid – and, true to the race’s name – still very dark (in fact, the sun didn’t rise until I boarded my bus back to the resort post-race). This darkness made the slow slog of the masses to corrals feel a bit more ominous at 4:45 AM!

For this race, I was seeded in Corral A, and I noticed that the corrals felt a bit more crowded than I had anticipated. Since I had been able to get back to training sooner than I had planned, but was certainly not as speedy as I may have been in the past, I set up camp around 2/3 of the way from the front of the corral, and waited out the start.

Before I knew it (really: I think the Star Wars clips really helped the wait!), the wheelchairs were off, and then, Corral A! We were off for 6.2 miles of intergalactic awesomeness!

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Now, going into this race, I had not yet decided if I was going to straight run, or stop for characters that morning. However, that call was quickly made right before Mile 1 approached, as R2D2 appeared as the first stop of the run, right outside of the cast entrance to Epcot! The line was about 15 runners long, but it moved quickly – probably took 3-4 minutes, tops.

From there, the race moved through the front of Epcot’s World Showcase – through the Mexico gate, past the Showcase Plaza area, Canada, the United Kingdom, then out through the International Gateway, where I definitely had to stop again to meet Chewie!

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The next part of the race took the Boardwalk Path past the resort, then onto the path leading to Hollywood Studios. The path was a bit narrow, and unfortunately, I encountered a few runners who were not heeding to the “no more than two runners abreast” bit of runners etiquette.

Once we reached the gates of Disney’s Hollywood Studios (DHS), I was excited to “run into” Darth Vader! It was somewhat of an unofficial run stop (no Photopass photographer) but it was cool, nevertheless!

Running through DHS was pretty fun! I always enjoy running past iconic landmarks, and truth be told, I had not stepped foot in that park in years, so it was especially cool…there’s just something magical about running through an (almost) empty park! Another favorite moment in DHS? I got to take a “screaming” photo in front of the Hollywood Tower of Terror, right before hitting the 5K mark!

In no time, we were back onto the streets, and we were on our way to the Wide World of Sports. Although this may have typically been a less interesting part of the course, I actually liked the winding uphill overpass, and the straightaway – it kept my mind occupied!

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Turning into the last portion of the “road” portion at Mile 5, there was a big screen that showed forest scenes, a cool transition into the “cross country” portion of the race that I had last run during the late Happy Haunted 5K and Tower of Terror 10-Mile races. The softer terrain was comfy under my feet, and I enjoyed that stretch before making my way into the concrete jungle of ESPN’s Wide World of Sports (ESPN WWoS).

Running past the soccer fields (which were brightly lit – a sight for sore eyes after the previous dark miles!) and I was happy to see my friend Rick. I picked it up a little and caught up with him, which was a great treat after 5+ solo miles!

As we rounded the last turn out toward the parking area, we could see the finish line straight away, and I felt like we were floating! I looked up at the official clock, and was delighted to see we’d be crossing the finish right around 1:20 – not too shabby for character stops, and walking through each water station!

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Making our way through the finisher’s chute, it began to sprinkle – talk about great timing! I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face from the fun race – and I was thoroughly impressed with the finisher’s medal.

After bidding Rick goodbye (and “see you later!” since we were going to meet at the Magic Kingdom later) I was able to board my bus back to my resort without any fuss, and due to the vicinity of ESPN WWoS to DAKL being quite close!

I was very satisfied with my overall race experience with the Inaugural Star Wars Dark Side 10K, and have to say – I was extremely grateful that it was the only race I was registered for that weekend – there is something to be said about taking each race for what its worth and not going overboard with a race challenge once in a while 😉

So, will I be back for another Star Wars race? I have to say – I’ll likely give in to the Dark Side once again – after all – they have bling!

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Krissy is a 14-time marathoner, RRCA-certified Running Coach, Disney Vacation Club Member, and mommy to one sweet girl and two rambunctious pups. She has been participating in runDisney events since 2008.
Visit Krissy at Shiawase Life and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest!

A Prince’s Perspective on Princess Half Marathon Weekend

I was so excited when Brian reached out to do a review of his experience during Princess Half Marathon Weekend.  With only 11% of the participants male, this race weekend definitely caters to the ladies and it is interesting to get the male perspective…the good, bad and the ugly.  I hope you enjoy his journey from the Expo and through all the races as much as I did!

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Glitter, tiaras fit for royalty, light blues, pinks in every shade and every kind of tutu imaginable, including my devilishly proper yellow tutu, I knew this was going to be a fun weekend.  I wasn’t off the plane an hour before some of my clothing had glitter on it, Princess Weekend at Walt Disney World was about to begin with style. My wife Jenny and I were running our first runDisney Princess Weekend. My wife had wanted to run these races for the longest time, and I was along for the ride.  But what I was in for, I had no idea. Through all the estrogen and pixie dust, this guy had a grand time.

We have learned to arrive at the runDisney expos extra early to avoid the massive crowds that tend to develop around 11am. Our mission was get to the ESPN Wide World of Sports (WWoS) about two hours early.  Officially the expo was scheduled to open Thursday at 10am, however,  recent expos have unofficially opened the doors to the Jostens Center around 9:30am.  At 8:30am we were greeted by a royal red carpet and were about 100 or so back from the main doors. We have done this strategy three times now and haven’t been disappointed yet.  In fact, we saw some of the same people in line at this expo that we had at previous expos.  The one topic that kept coming up: ‘how busy this expo is compared to the others’.

By 9:20am the line was around zig zagged through the red carpet and around the corner.

The doors opened early at 9:30am letting the swarm of princesses into the Jostens Center where most of the official runDisney Race merchandise is showcased and sold. For the most part, people were calm walking at a brisk pace past most of the expo dealers on the way to the main merchandise area, although some actually ran past us.

We arrived in the madness of the merchandise area, full of people swarming around, grabbing, pulling things off of racks, and even taking entire shelves, I had never seen this kind of sheer madness outside of black Friday.  I met another prince running that weekend, and he was on a mission for his wife to find a certain wine glass.  We both noticed the same thing, we were in a sea of women who were on missions that dumbfounded us men. I saw Jeff Galloway standing all alone at his booth watching the madness, and I quickly escaped, to head over and meet him. Mr. Galloway has been an exceptional motivator for me on my quest to start longer runs. He is one of the nicest people I have ever met, and he truly cares about your successes in running and health.

Entering back into the madness of the merchandise area, it was even more chaotic and frantic, with a couple people just grabbing things to trade amongst the other princesses. I actually felt bad for Steven and Ray, both cast members at WWoS complex who were pinned in the corner getting yelled at for certain sizes of the pink ‘Princess Up’ jacket.

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It was something you would witness at the stock exchange. For the most part it was pretty civil except for a few shoving sessions. I was so fascinated with this chaos, I had to become apart of it, so I went straight into the hoard of people yelling for these jackets.  Ladies were yelling sizes out as the two cast members pulled them out of boxes as quickly as they could. “SMALL”, “TWO MEDIUMS” sizes were being yelled out, so I thought I’d insert a joke, I yelled “Xtra Xtra Large for ME”, which received quite a few laughs. Cast member Steven received a new box, it was a medium, a very popular size request, he knew I needed one for my wife, and I had been pushed to the side by some ladies, he quickly handed me one, and said “only dude crazy enough to battle this.” Thanks I think. 

Being a prince surrounded by princesses I was personally looking for something to commemorate my race weekend too.  I found a cast member, and asked him if they had anything for the gents. He quickly said “No, we tried that in years past, but it failed miserably.” (RAD Note: This is VERY disappointing on the part of runDisney. Even just one shirt for the guys would be nice.) I was a little disappointed since the race tech shirts were teal and fuchsia, not exactly manly colors.  It was then I decided to escape to the checkouts.

The line looked bad, but it progressed along nicely. Just an FYI, we were down in November for the runDisney Wine and Dine Half (half ;-)) and I had my sweatshirt given mistakenly to someone else in all the commotion.  Make sure you watch your items go inside your bag at the cash wrap area, things can get very hectic and items can be easily missed.  I was lucky the cast members at my resort were nice enough to rectify the situation for me.

One word for the fellas – Don’t look at the receipts, please.

So we decided that since we had to come back to the Jostens Center to pick up our race tech shirts anyway, we would just head over to main registration across the way (HP Field House). We walked out into a situation we have never seen at any runDisney expo.

The line for the HP Field House was way back in the parking lot, which we had to walk from the exit of the Jostens to the parking lot in order to enter the line back to HP. We were not happy about this, but oh well.

Usually at expos there are ample cast members there to guide you, I personally found there to be a lack of them at this one.  Within twenty minutes time we made our way back to the main courtyard ofWWoS where Jostens and HP are centrally located.

Finally we snaked around (Mine Train style) to the entrance of HP Field House were you pick up your race bibs.

We entered and found a nice treat, my wife Jenny and I both loved being greeted by the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique ladies already to glitterize you for the upcoming weekend. These ladies were the same that made me a princess with glitter on Sunday, but more on that later. 

We noticed how quite and civil race bib pickup was, this past January at the Marathon Weekend had been much busier and chaotic compared to this one. We actually forgot our freshly printed out waivers at the resort, no problem, it took less than 90 seconds to print out all of ours.

Glass Slipper Challenge pick up was a breeze for Jenny, they even gave the tech shirts at this location.

The rest of us (5k, 10k, Half Bibs) had to go to the Jostens Center to pick up. It took 25 mins to grab (different lines) the 5k, 10k, and the Half bibs. We stopped to take a few personal photos, Jenny was disappointed the Glass Slipper Gentlemen from years past were not at the expo for pictures (they were found at mile marker 12 in Epcot during the half).

We started to make our way back outside to head over to Jostens. We entered into complete chaos in the central courtyard of WWoS. You had people trying to enter HP Field House, you had people trying to get to Jostens from 3 separate lines, those three lines were combined by one cast member, utter chaos. Once combined the line lead down stairs and out to the track and field area, a far distance away were thousands of people were lined up to enter Jostens.

My wife and I kept a positive outlook, since it was 73 degrees and gorgeous, while back in Boston it was 21 degrees.

The line actually moved quickly despite its its length.

Most people thought this would take 4 hours, it took all of 40 mins.

Heading back up to the main court yard.

Back in the Courtyard – Cast members wait to lead you to the red carpet line in front of the Jostens.

Zig Zagging the line. Very Civil.

The Expo was swarming with race goers.  My wife had to pick up shirts she ordered online at the Raw Threads booth, great idea and it was painless.

The New Balance area was insane as always, and felt even busier than it has for previous expos.

No flippers needed with these.

Finally exiting the expo. Jenny did exceptionally well with merchandise, while I did not.

Disney Princess 5k – Day One of Three 

We have found that Disney’s Pop Century Resort is an optimal location for the races.  It is located next to ESPN Wide World of Sports and very close to Epcot (where most races start and end). We woke up at 3:15am and made our way to the buses at 4:00am for the 5k start time of 6:00am. We got to the bus area in front of the resort to find a large line, 2 hours before the first corral would go off, pretty early for a runDisney race. The bus situation at Pop Century was exceptional, and even though the line was long, it moved amazingly fast.

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At the Start line, everyone was in high spirits, and before I knew it Rudy announced “30 seconds” and then we were off in typical runDisney style, with magical fireworks.

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My wife hand made three epic tutus that were amazing compared to the store bought ones, like the amazon special I got. I decided to wear it so I would match my wife, since it was her weekend, and I was just a sidekick along for the ride. I received tons of complements, followed by “I wish my husband or boyfriend would of done that for me!” Most of the ladies out there on the course would of loved their fellow prince to have joined them it seemed.

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Something other races that go through Epcot do not have is pink lighting to all the pavilions. Pretty cool.

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The Princess 5k was a fun run for us, so we decided to run from character to character. 

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Sunrise was just coming up as we made our way towards the finish line. It was a special race as I got to run next to my loving princess.

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We received our medals, and headed over to get our pictures taken with Ariel and Sebastian.  What a great way to wrap up the race.

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Disney Enchanted 10k – Day Two of Three

Saturday Morning we woke up at 2:45am to ensure we had ample time to arrive at the race with time to position our selves in our corrals with better placement. Again Pop Century Resort provide exceptional bus service with buses arriving ever couple mins, we were ushered off to the race with ease   A very cold morning, but at least there was no rain like we had during the Walt Disney World 10K in January.

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The Enchanted 10k was started by the Fairy Godmother magically counting down and of course, fireworks.

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Anna and Elsa said hello from their overpass. Typical race pullover.

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One thing that I was pretty negative about – was the amount of people in this race that dumped their race heat wraps or old warm clothing on the ground and didn’t toss it off the course as a courtesy for fellow runners. Also, people just stopped for Anna and Elsa and mile marker photo ops, which caused several collisions.

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I love the 10k course and always have found it to be rewarding without being too challenging. The guys stuck together in little packs, mostly to pass clumps of people walking 5 across. With being less than 10% of the course, guys would pound fists and high five each other in support, and we were all part of a special fraternity of prince’s.  I did find this 10k to be a little light on the support side from crowds in both Boardwalk and Yacht and Beach Club Resorts compared to the other races I have participated in.

After completing the 10K, we did some park touring.  What better way to celebrate your race, than to go to your park of choice.

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Disney Princess Half Marathon – Day Three of Three

Sunday Morning we woke up at 2:40am and we headed out of the room at 3:30am to meet a larger line for the buses then we did the previous morning. Once again, Pop Century was prepared and executed perfectly, we were very impressed.

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We arrived at the race around 4:00am which was good, since my nerves were on edge. This was my first attempt at a half marathon since January 2014 Marathon Weekend were I was so sick, I disqualified myself at mile 8. So I was NERVOUS and had to force myself to eat, and I drank water like a fish.

We started to make our way to the corrals, that 3/4 mile walk down the same path the 5k goes, seemed cold to me.  Jenny was on cloud 9, she looked like nothing could hinder her path to completing her 5th Half Marathon in the last two years. Her first Half was in 2014, the same one I was too sick to finish.  She had her cousin Jamie there who is a seasoned runner, and she calmed her pre race nerves. That morning, Jenny was my soothing blanket, she was great. Every step down to the corral split, my heart raced faster and my grip on her hand got tighter. I knew eventually I would have to let go. The split came, and I started to tear up, my nerves on complete edge. I desperately held on for additional seconds, Jenny told me “you got this, you trained for it, enjoy it” She smiled and we hugged and gave a good bye kiss, and she and I headed to our separate corrals.

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I made it to my corral with about an 45 minutes before the start. I counted 5 men in my corral. In previous races, both Marathon Weekend and Wine and Dine, inside the corrals people usually start to chit chat, and make small talk. This corral was all business, no talking, no nothing, felt very cold compared to the others. Luckily I was texting my wife for last minute advice.

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Before the blink of an eye, Rudy and the Fairy Godmother were letting Corral A off. In true Disney fashion the fireworks were magical. Odd thing, the new digital start line was absent at these races. Wine and Dine along with Marathon Weekend both utilized it, hopefully it comes back.

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We were ushered up the start line, and let loose to 13.1 miles. I didn’t get too excited at the start, I stuck to my training pace and pressed on like a trooper.

This hot air balloon was fantastic and photo doesn’t do it justice.

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A very cliché picture, but a one I love.

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Captain Hook is my favorite and it was a refreshing sight.

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Entering the Magic Kingdom was so motivating and it can’t really be described. The support from the cheer squad and cast members was amazing, Thanks to all who supported us.

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Fast forward to mile 7, I started to choke up, my sunglasses started to fog, and tears started to form, I knew mile 8 was coming up, this mile had haunted my thoughts for two years. There it is, Mile 8 maker, along with three “parade buses” (these are the buses that sweep people up if they fall behind pace). I stopped for a picture, and away I went – Strong.

Just like in the 10K, the guys would fist bump each other in support for the 9% of us on the course. One thing I didn’t like on the course, that really made me mad, was a fellow guy ran far off the course to relieve himself in the woods.  Women passing started to boo, which surprised me as this is typical in other races and usually not an issue, guess that’s not the case for this race. I made it to a port-o-pottie for  quick stop, however, I was cut off twice, which made me feel like a second class citizen to fellow princess racers. Other than that, the race was extremely pleasant and up lifting.

Between water volunteers, volunteers in general, random cheerers and my texts from my wife, I was able to make it to Epcot with ease.

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Epcot was kind of a joke since you barely skip through it. Finish Line time, I thought I’d tear up, but I powered through like a pro.

Finally got a Half Marathon medal, and the funny thing is I want more of them. Addicted!

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After the race we went to 1900 Park Fare for breakfast. Lady Tremaine wanted my bling for herself and I smiled and handed them off with no dismay. I didn’t need a medal to show my worth, I had proven to myself that I could do it, and for that I am so grateful for this weekend. On to the Star Wars ‘Dark Side Challenge’!

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Visit Brian Meljac’s personal blog, Dark Side Challenger, where a true star wars geek takes on 22.4 miles of Star Wars Races in April 2016.  You can also follow Brian on Periscope (@LiveatDisney).

2016 Enchanted 10K Race Recap

Now in it’s 3rd year, the Enchanted 10K is a staple of Princess Half Marathon Weekend and the first part of the Glass Slipper Challenge.  This year my friend Pam ran this race for the 3rd time as part of her Glass Slipper legacy and I’m so happy to have her here today to share her experience and how the race has changed since its start.

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2016 Enchanted10K

The Princess Half Marathon weekend included the Glass Slipper Challenge which is a 10K on Saturday and the half marathon on Sunday.  I participated in my third Glass Slipper Challenge during the race weekend.  For me this meant an early wake up call to arrive to the 10K for the 5:30 a.m. start.  The weather for this year’s race was perfect.  It was 50 degrees in the morning with no chances for rain.  The race start for the 10K began in the Epcot parking lot.  If you had participated in the Walt Disney World Marathon weekend races (5K and 10K), they began in the same location as those races.

I was in Corral C and they were releasing corrals every 8 minutes.  The plan with my friends for this race was to get as many pictures as we could during the 10K so that for the half marathon we would only stop for characters that were unique or that we hadn’t taken pictures of before at any of our previous runDisney races.  To be honest, this was one of my least favorite runDisney races.  The reason for that is because we have to run on a stretch of road for three miles with very little entertainment on the road.  Well, that changed this year.

The following characters were out on the 10K course.  Right after the start, we run under an overpass and Elsa and Ana are on the bridge with fake snow flying down onto the runners.  At the curve for the hairpin turn to head back towards Epcot is the Evil Queen as the witch from Snow White.  After we run up the hill there was a character stop with Tinkerbell, Silvermist, Rosetta, and Clarence.

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Then we had a surprise with Pocahontas and Meeko the raccoon.  As we entered Epcot there were the characters on stilts.  Then we entered Epcot where there was Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket outside of Germany.

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And the last character stop that we really wanted to get was with Lumiere and Cogsworth right in front of France!

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My friend and I stopped for all of these character stops which meant we were in line for quite some time for some of them (especially Tink and Pinocchio).  Once we got to Lumiere and Cogsworth people were yelling out that the balloon ladies were just about a minute behind them.  Then the balloon ladies passed us while we were in line.  I wasn’t concerned because I knew we could run and get past them; but the race sweepers on bikes were now showing up and warning us of being swept.  Since this was my third glass slipper and I am trying to maintain a perfect Glass Slipper legacy status, we decided that we had to abandon our spot in line and get running.  We were hoping that others were going to be afraid and do the same thing and then we could quick get our picture and run; but that wasn’t the case.

We ran over the International Gateway, through the exit of Epcot and over the bridge towards the Boardwalk.  The balloon ladies were just ahead of us at that point and the bikers were behind us.  We could not stop for any other characters though, especially if they had longer lines.  At ESPN we saw vacation Genie.  We continued to run through the Boardwalk and took pictures of the balloon ladies on the bridge heading towards the Yacht and Beach Club.

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We continued to keep a faster pace going through there and heading back towards Epcot in case we wanted to stop for any characters as we head back to the back stage of Epcot.  We saw the last character stop there and it was for Sofia the First.

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We ran through the back stage area of Epcot and came out near the Land and ran towards Finding Nemo.  There were people dressed as coral from the sea on stilts there but there was a line so we continued to run towards Spaceship Earth and then backstage again to the finish line.

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It was fun chasing the balloon ladies; but it wasn’t fun when the bikes were chasing us out of the park!  I will say that runDisney stepped up this race for us.  We finally had more characters along the course, especially during the three miles on the road leading to Epcot.  It seemed like there were a lot more runners during this race.  We spent a lot of time in lines for characters, longer than I am used to and we started from a closer corral.  According to the runDisney site, there were 11,341 finishers for the 10K this year, 11,003 runners in 2015 and 8,969 runners in 2014.

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This is still a fun race and a nice part of the Glass Slipper Challenge during the Princess Half Marathon weekend because you are finished with the race by 8:00 a.m. and then have the entire day to spend wherever you wish.

*****

Pam-Frost-Bio PicWhen Pam was about to turn 40 she set a goal to do a 5K run before the big day. Little did she know she would be bit by the running bug and have since run numerous 5Ks, half marathons, 7 full marathons and 2 runDisney Dopey challenges to date.

She is a wife and mother of two kids who are very supportive of her sport/habit/addiction. She is a proud member of Team Chocolate milk and Team Oiselle! In May of 2015, she was selected by the Walt Disney Company from a carefully vetted group of 1,300 social media moms to attend a special conference. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity that she has been working hard for the past four years to become a part of. The event was life changing and she thinks about it just about every day!

Visit Pam on her blog Wife Mother Runner and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Periscope (@pamjammer) & Snapchat (@pamjammer)!

Lessons Learned at the 2016 Princess Half Marathon

Another first timer at this year’s Princess Half Marathon! Adrienne is here today to share her experience as a first time runDisney runner at the Disney Princess Half Marathon, as well as some very valuable lessons learned while there.  Get ready to take notes!

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The crystals of sugar lingering on your lips after biting into a warm Disney churro.
The chill of a smooth scoop of Dole Whips on a hot day.
Nostalgia taking over when you board one of Disneyland’s originals like Peter Pan, ridden by Walt Disney himself.

Who doesn’t love Disney?

I will shout it from the rooftops that there is no better place to do your first race than the Happiest Place on Earth!  Training for a half-marathon was the perfect thing to get me back in shape after having a baby and gave me a boost of self-confidence.

Knowing that I have the propensity to – let’s just be real here for a moment… chicken out – I decided to register for an out of town race with a higher price tag.  This may sound counter-intuitive to some of you, but I knew that if I had invested the money in airfare, hotel, etcetera, I wouldn’t back out.  When I came across the runDisney Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend, I knew I had found my happily-ever-after.  Every year, thousands of women (and a few good men!) flock to Orlando in tutus and tiaras. There is a strong mix of newbies and experienced runners.  Princess Weekend is HUGE. In the Women’s Half Marathon open division alone, there were 18,090 finishers with clock times between 1:22 and 3:30.

After hearing the horror and chaos of what is known as day one of the Expo, I decided to arrive on Saturday when the crowds had died down (This strategy will work if you’re ONLY running the half marathon; however, if you or your family are participating in the Kid’s Race, 5K, or 10K, you’ll need to get to the expo the day prior to your race: either Thursday or Friday).

I flew into Orlando International Airport where Disney Cast Members await your arrival and direct you to your courtesy shuttle.  After dropping off my bags at my Disney resort, I hopped on the shuttle to ESPN Wide World of Sports for the Expo (again- a free shuttle! Can you tell I am a fan of staying at the resort?).  The Expo is a shopper’s paradise and a critical pre-race stop not only for your bib and free race t-shirt, but any last minute items or memorabilia you may need.  There are vendors with the expected tutus and headbands, but they had everything from photo stations to electric foam rollers.  My favorite quote of the weekend from my husband: Princess Expo: Because who doesn’t want to win a box of instant rice? It’s just crazy nonsense, but was fun nonetheless!

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Between the resort restaurants and food courts, the parks, and Disney Springs, there are plenty of places help you carb load before your big race.  I chose to eat a late lunch/early dinner to ensure I got the carbs and protein necessary without waking up feeling bloated the next morning.  Remember, this isn’t your typical 8:00 am race; the fireworks go off at 5:30 am and you want to give your body time to breakdown those carbs.  Nobody wants to have to go to the bathroom during a race. Porta-potties. Enough said.

With my costume pressed and my bib attached, I went to bed around 7:30 and finally fell asleep around 8:30.  I woke up every hour thinking I was late. Alas, my alarm went off at 2:15 and it was time to get ready. Yes- you read that correctly. 2:15 am.

Don’t princesses need their beauty sleep? 

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The busses ran from 3:30-5:00 (there’s that free shuttle again!), but with the race starting promptly at 5:30, I wouldn’t risk taking anything later than 4:00 am.  When you get to Epcot where the race begins, the lines start at security and continue for just about everything. Photo ops. Bathrooms. Medical. Corrals. Everything.  I will say that I’ve never seen that many porta-potties in my entire lifetime let alone in one place, but it still wasn’t enough.  I was doing the dance waiting for my turn in line after what felt like an hour. This is a massive race, so I expected myself to get lost in a sea of princesses.  While it felt as if we were being rounded up like a herd of cattle to enter our corrals at 5:00 and some corrals not starting until after 6:30, I quickly gained leg room once the race began.

You may see on Facebook or some blogs about the massive amount of people and let others get in your head about the balloon ladies, but don’t let that dissuade you…the Race. Was. Amazing.

Adorable costumes. Beautiful friendships. Determined women.  Everyone was encouraging one another! The first female finisher was coming back on the other side as my corral was around the 2 mile mark and we all cheered and whistled for the princess flying on the other side of the median.  I didn’t realize the majority of the race is outside of the park, but it still felt Disney! Every mile or so, there was a different character on the side of the course available for photos.  While I stopped for a few of my favorites, I had the mentality that as fun as this race is, it’s still a race, so I couldn’t afford to stop for longer lines (I opted for the oh-so-classy “sweaty selfie” for those I just couldn’t completely skip over).

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Every mile has a marker and you have the ability to have updates sent to friends and family via text or Facebook with your pace and estimated finish time.  There is music at each character and mile marker and there were a few different marching bands that lined the course to lend some encouragement to those of us in need.

Around Mile 3, I crossed under the Magic Kingdom archway that gains you access to Magic Kingdom parking and about 30 minutes later, I was running down Main Street USA towards the castle.  Spectators raised banners of encouragement for loved ones and strangers hooted and high-fived.  There was a truly magical energy and it was emotional running towards the castle!

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After running a loop through Tomorrowland, we ran through the castle and past several characters.

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Miles 8-10 were definitely the toughest.  They were “dead miles” without much as far as music and runners were stepping off to the side to stretch and catch their breath. Toy Story Soldiers gave a much needed cadence around Mile 10 where all the women around me gave a spirited OORAH! going into the last 3.1 miles.

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Between the crowds cheering, the hallelujah choir, and Goofy waiting to high-five me as I ran by, I was on cloud nine! After crossing the finish line, I was sprinkled with pixie dust by a cast member and guided to an area where volunteers handed out drinks, mylar blankets, snack boxes and pointed us towards medical as necessary for things like ice and Advil.  My husband met me with roses and a tiara for his Disney Princess and my training partner and I caught up for a toast at the champagne tent.

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There are several runDisney events that take place each year at both Disneyland in Anaheim, CA and at Disney World in Orlando, FL.  I know Gaston says it’s not good for a woman to read, because “she’ll start getting ideas and thinking,” but I will tell you to read up! Do your research.  Each race has a different theme and each park (Disneyland and Disney World) has different accommodations and perks.

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Here are a few things I learned for my next runDisney event and some tips I thought would be helpful for yours:

Keep the End in Mind: Remember to have comfy shoes waiting for you at the end.  I’m definitely investing in a pair of Oofos before my next half! Stay somewhere with a hot tub! This would have been amazing after my race.  I am glad Disney World has affordable on-site options for the budget-conscious (check out the All Star Hotels here), but be sure to choose somewhere with the amenities that suit your needs.  On the subject of pools, don’t stay near the pool.  I am so glad we got a room in the back of the hotel, because the pool area was loud and busy from sun up til after 10:00 at night! Super fun, but way too loud for those trying to get to sleep by 8:00 for a pre-sunrise race.

Stay on Site:  Disney World provides a free shuttle to and from the airport and each park in addition to a luxury liner bus to get you to and from the race.  Several roads are closed and traffic is horrible on race day, so eliminating the stress of travel is priceless.  Disneyland has a few good neighbor hotels within walking distance, but let’s be real, who wants to walk further than they have to before a race?

Save Some, Spend Some: ChEAR Squad isn’t a necessity.  My husband was able to see me at 1.78 miles and was in the bleachers a couple hours later, watching me crossing the finish line.  There was also free spectator viewing around 5.3 miles inside the Magic Kingdom.  ChEAR squad is fun, but not necessary.  Save your money for the churros and Dole Whips.

Dress the Part: Have fun and dress up! Where else can you get away with dressing like Belle? With that being said, be reasonable with your costume.  I didn’t have any issues at all, but I did see several costume malfunctions that resulted in tutus and t-shirts sprinkled along the path.

Rules of the Road (Read up on Running Etiquette):  Other than long bathroom lines, the only thing that annoyed me was walkers on the left. It didn’t even frustrate me for the first 10 miles of the race, but at the end when I knew if I stopped I would have a hard time getting going again, I needed to keep going, but it was difficult if someone started walking on the left in front of me.

Mentality:  It’s easy to get frustrated with walkers on the left or anxious about the crowds, but if you’re excited and happy, it will be a great race! Furthermore, believe in yourself!
You don’t have time to be timid. You must be bold. Daring! –Lumiere, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast

You, too, can complete your first runDisney event! After all, “all you need is faith, trust, and a little pixie dust!”

*****

2016-Princess-Half-Adrienne-Ramser-2Adrienne R. lives in Indianapolis, IN with her husband, baby boy, and two dogs. She is motivated by her faith, family, and friends to be the best she can be and is already dreaming of her next runDisney race!
Follow Adrienne on Facebook and Pinterest!

2016 Disney Princess 5K – A Family Affair!

A 5K is a great way to experience runDisney if you are just starting out running or if you want to just have a new, fun Disney experience.  Krista Wenzel is here today to share her experience at this year’s Princess 5K with her mom and sister…it was a family affair to remember!

***

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The shortness of breath I was experiencing from the Disney Princess 5K on February 19th was not from running. The running had not even started. I was standing at the start line, very front in line, with my mom and sister waiting for the countdown. For so many months we had planned outfits, timing, and dreamed, and here was the moment. We were about to begin.

Rewinding a little, in July 2015, I decided to tackle my second Glass Slipper Challenge. Working with a travel agent, after having a near stress attack of not getting a slot online, I was asked which races I wanted. The Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend coincided with my mom’s 60th birthday week and my sister had been running for a couple years. Therefore, I made an executive and spontaneous decision to sign all three of us up for the 5K, as well as the Glass Slipper Challenge for just myself. It would be a first race for both my mom and sister, and what a fun birthday party I thought!

So after breaking the fun news, which both were a little shocked and hesitant, the Disney magic began to take shape. Because what would a runDisney event be without dressing up? It actually was pretty quick decision on who we wanted to dress up as: Minnie Mouse! For many years, we have all shared a love for Mickey and Minnie Mouse! So for a triplet idea, we all wanted to match as Minnie Mouse! A little homemade and a little bibbidity-bobbitidy-boo from the internet, we had our ensembles ready!

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Race morning wake-up alarms came early, but our excitement got us up even before our alarms, SO excited were we!  So we all got into our ensembles and realized the magic that was going to be headed our way for the next few hours! Since we stayed at a Disney resort, we were very blessed that we didn’t have to worry about traffic or anything beyond just getting to our bus stop at a timely manner.

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Once we took our short bus drive over, we realized being with other people who were as excited and nervous as us only got us more into the moment of it all! Once we finally arrived we took the short walk over, stopped for a photo, and were soon in the excitement of thousands of people getting ready for the 5K! There was music and so many fun costumes to admire all around! But we were ready to get over to our corral.

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Apparently so ready we were first in line in our corral C! This year’s theme for the Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend was Little Mermaid, so it was so fun to watch the corrals all around us fill with Sebastians, Flounders, Ariels, and yes, even, the evil sea witch herself, Ursala. So many fun interpretations made the 45-minute wait fly by! We even had some random racers tell us they had “liked” our photo we had posted on social media with the #Princess5k!

Suddenly, we were told to start walking to line up! This was it! The moment we had been training for! We lined up next to the start line and waited those painful moments of anticipation! And then, just like that! It was go time!

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Running along side my mom and sister I couldn’t ask for a more fun experience. We do everything together, but this was a whole new level!

The first mile or so was pretty low key, not many characters or photo stops, mostly runners finding their stride. So we talked a lot, mostly pointed out different outfits and how creative people are in their interpretations of Disney characters like Donald and Daisy Duck or favorite Princesses.

At mile marker 1, it was time for the real fun to begin as we came into Epcot casting area and then World Showcase! Our favorite place to explore at Disney as a family has always been Epcot. We travel internationally, so a big pull of the Disney Princess 5K was running through our favorite area.  As we curved our way around World Showcase, we enjoyed favorites like Germany lit in a purple hue or Italy with its skyline in a romantic lighting. Of course, this picturesque run was set to the tunes of the Little Mermaid echoing across the park.

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Mile marker 2 brought more fun as we came into the back-lot area of Epcot and into the Future World of Epcot. As we ran past “Turtle Talk with Crush,” we hit a milestone for my mom: she had now ran further than she had ever ran in her life at one time! It was pretty amazing to share that moment! The final half-mile was pretty much just a blur of excitement and fun running under Spaceship Earth and to the final push to the finish line!

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Once we saw the finish line, I’ll never forget my mom saying, “I actually did it.” She was never a runner, and never one to join me for a run, but she just pushed herself and did an amazing job! My sister finished her first race and 5K, as well!! We decided to finish together at the same time, all with huge smiles! We did it!

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My older sister was waiting for us three for a photo finish, and we gathered our medals, had some fun time at the after-math, and then headed to Magic Kingdom for coffee and rides! It was truly a magically fun time!

This was my second runDisney experience after my first Glass Slipper Challenge from last year, and it was truly more fun and exciting to share it with my family. Even as I did the 10k and the Half Marathon the following days, it was a bit of a downer to now have memories not to share. What an amazing birthday party for my mom and memories we will share for the rest of our lives!

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 ***** 

Krista is a Disney enthusiast, loves to run, and has a passion for travel. Her multi-faceted career includes a professional tour guide in Washington DC and New York City, has worked in Congress, and works in agriculture business for her dad. In her free time, Krista loves to read, do anything active, and has been to over 30 countries and counting.

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