This was the first time in 3 years that I haven’t run the Princess Half Marathon. It was definitely tough to follow along from home, but when I read these wonderful race recaps, it’s like I was there! Robin’s story is not just a wonderful overview of the race, but it is incredibly inspiring to see how far she came in one year!
This time last year, if you had told me I would be participating in a half marathon at Disney World, I would have asked where the hidden camera was! At the time, I was a 55 year old couch potato with a little-used treadmill sitting in the basement gathering dust. But, my daughter, Taryn, wanted to get in shape and had a marathon on her bucket list, so she asked if I would do one with her. I told her that maybe we should aim for a little less mileage the first time out and we agreed to complete a half marathon together. But, which one?
Her friend had just run the 2014 Disney Princess Half Marathon and told her how much fun it was. I’m a dental hygienist and, coincidentally, I’d just had a favorite patient come in and entertain me with stories of what a great time she’d just had at the same race. So, we got really excited about doing the Disney Princess Half together! Then, my son-in-law, Geoff, decided to run in it (although he was emphatically against wearing a tutu which we thought would have been hilarious). And, my niece, Arielle (guess which Princess she was in the race?), heard about our plans and wanted to go with us, so our quest quickly became a family affair.
Fast forward to the half marathon weekend… It started out by meeting Taryn and Geoff at the race expo at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. We headed straight to the Josten’s Center building (per the runDisney website) to pick up our race packets, only, it turned out we were supposed to get them at the HP Field House instead. Minor detail! So, off we went to the Field House and, thankfully, it was pretty empty.
After grabbing the race packets, we headed back to Josten’s to get our race shirts and other goodies and to check out all the cool items designed to make a runner feel like a Princess. This is where the crowds are!
We spent some time looking at the merchandise (we had sparkle skirts, sweatbands, and tiaras on our list), and then snapped a pre-race photo before going off to enjoy the theme parks.
The night before the race, I was too excited to sleep very well even though I was tired because we’d spent all day in the Magic Kingdom. I went to bed at 10:00 p.m. but kept waking up throughout the night until my alarm finally went off at 2:15 a.m. Since I had laid out everything just four hours before, I was able to get dressed quickly, kiss my sleeping hubby good-bye, and meet the rest of my family outside the hotel in record time.
We were on the very first bus from the Shades of Green Military Resort where we were staying because we had heard about the nightmare traffic and didn’t want to be late. By 3:30 a.m. we were dropped off at Epcot and we headed to the pre-race area to wait until it was time to go to the corrals.
There was a fun DJ to entertain us and he got everyone dancing to warm us up since it was a slightly chilly morning (happily, though, there were no freeze warnings like there had been for the 5k just two days before!).
Some of the Princesses were posing for pre-race pictures with the runners who were waiting in really longgg lines to see them.
We felt very lucky to get a picture with Princess Merida from Brave.
Even though we were there so early, the time flew by and soon the DJ was directing us to go to the start corrals. I’d heard it was a very long walk to get to them, and it’s true. Plus, the corral line is huge and takes up both sides of the street. So, once you get there, you still have to actually find your corral (we were in Corral N) and then get past the cast members who are very serious about being sure you are in the correct one.
Finally, the fireworks went off and the race was under way! It took just under an hour for our corral to move up and cross the start line but it was fun to watch the other corrals go, each accompanied by their own fireworks. And, at last, it was our turn.
We were off and running! Taryn I wanted to experience the race together, but Geoff and Arielle had decided to run for time so they took off through the crowd. At that point, though, no one could run very well because there were so many walkers on the narrow road. We had to run on the grass to get around them which was difficult in the darkness.
Right around the first mile marker, cheers started going up from the runners ahead of us. Suddenly, we could see the first elite runner coming down the other side of the course on her way to the finish line. It was amazing to think that we were just starting out and she was already almost at the end of the race! I read later that she’d broken a hip just a year ago, so her win was even more impressive!
Not long after, we saw The Black Pearl alongside the road. Captain Jack Sparrow was posing for pictures, but the line was so long, we just took pictures as we ran by. (We ended up doing this throughout the whole race).
A little farther down the road, the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC) came into view. Awesome! That meant the Magic Kingdom wasn’t too far away.
And then, we were running past the Contemporary Resort and into the Magic Kingdom!
The MK streets are pretty narrow and they were lined with people cheering us on.
We looked down Main Street and saw the castle up ahead. Knowing we were going to be running through it in just a few minutes was pretty emotional for me. I kept thinking of how hard I had worked to get here, of all the soreness (and some physical therapy after problems with my IT band while training), and how it was all coming down to this moment.
When we got around to the rear of the castle, the princesses from Frozen were on the balcony talking to the runners.
At this point, it was impossible to get any farther. People were crowding in to see them and take pictures and we literally couldn’t walk through the castle walkway. We were barely shuffling along in the congestion.
After a few minutes, we finally made it through to the other side and we took off through Frontierland, pausing only to get a picture in front of the Mile 6 marker with Elsa and Anna on it (since I was dressed as Elsa).
After that, the course went through the back lot of the theme park. I’d always wondered if the back lot was as “magical” as what guests see, but it’s just warehouses and parking lots. There was some magic there for the race, though – we turned a corner and there was Snow White posing for pictures with her Prince and her castle.
We passed them, heading out of the back lot and down the road toward Epcot. Within a half mile, there was a stage set up and the DJ was telling us we had reached the half way mark! Yay!
Further along, we passed the Grand Floridian Resort and the Polynesian Resort. At this point, I was busy scanning the crowd of spectators, looking for my husband and our friends who were on the sidelines cheering for us (found them!). Our friend, Richard, got a picture of us, lost in the crowd of runners.
After that, miles 8, 9, and 10 just clicked on by. We saw the Disney Heroes (handsome!!) and had another view of Capt. Jack Sparrow and his pirate ship as we doubled back on the course.
Then, we got to the dreaded overpass that I’d heard so much about. Sure enough, there was the soldier from Toy Story, telling us to get moving up that hill (“No walking or I’ll make you do pushups!”).
I thought that was the only overpass, but then we found out there were two more to go…acckkk! Thankfully, they weren’t too bad and soon we could see Epcot in the distance.
The Fairy Godmother was in Epcot to sprinkle us with some fairy dust and help us finish the remaining mile.
Just one tenth of a mile to go!
All too quickly, the Finish Line was just in front of us and our adventure was over.
Our reward? Bling! (And some PowerAde and a snack box of goodies)…not to mention an overwhelming sense of pride and lots of great memories. We did it!
Devoted mom and non-runner Robin Schiltz took up the sport just to be able to run the Disney Princess Half Marathon with her daughter, Taryn. Since then, she’s been bitten by the running bug so much that she is now co-owner of Triumph Virtual Racing with her daughter and son-in-law. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.