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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Something other races that go through Epcot do not have is pink lighting to all the pavilions. Pretty cool.
The Princess 5k was a fun run for us, so we decided to run from character to character.
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.
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.
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.
The Enchanted 10k was started by the Fairy Godmother magically counting down and of course, fireworks.
Anna and Elsa said hello from their overpass. Typical race pullover.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A very cliché picture, but a one I love.
Captain Hook is my favorite and it was a refreshing sight.
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.
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.
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!
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’!
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).