The Casual Runner

Princess Half Marathon (2015) Review

Event: 2015 runDisney Princess Weekend Princess Half Marathon (Glass Slipper Challenge Part 2)

Event Date: Walt Disney World Resort, Florida

Event Location: February 22, 2015

Why I decided to run this race

The marquee event of the WDW Princess Weekend and the second part of the Glass Slipper Challenge (GSC, if you want to sound like a pro) is the Princess Half Marathon.  The first leg of the GSC is the Enchanted 10k.

Although it’s the same course as January’s Donald Half Marathon, there are several distinguishing features that make this a unique experience including character stops that are specifically designed to make a runner feel like a princess and getting pixie dust sprinkled over you after you cross the finish line.

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Vanellope von Schweets.

Also, there are a lot more female runners… like, 90% female.  One myth I’ve heard over and over is that men aren’t allowed to run this race.  That’s simply not true.  Men can run it, it’s just themed to what are traditionally thought of as female preferences.  Also, the overall winner of this race will always be a female…and it’s rigged by not allowing men in the first two corrals.

Getting there/the lead-up to the race

After Saturday’s Enchanted 10k, we took a very easy day so we would be rested for the half.  We had eaten an early dinner at Le Cellier in EPCOT and were back at our hotel by 7 PM.  Even after our long nap, it was pretty easy to prepare our gear and get to bed early.

The race Expo & Swag review

See my review of the 10k for my thoughts on the expo and swag!

The gear

I had been waiting for this race for over a year since I knew exactly what costume I wanted to do: Vanellope von Schweets from Wreck-it Ralph!  She’s my favorite Disney character!  My husband ended up doing a companion character from the movie—Ralph himself.  We don’t always plan to theme our costumes together, but we both really like this movie.

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Wreck-it Ralph.

The costume: I already had most of the elements I needed for Vanellope in my running wardrobe, even before I ever saw the movie, so this a pretty easy one to put together.  I started with a teal Under Amour hoodie that I modified with hot pink parachute cord, and a brown Sparkle Skirt.  I tried a few things for the tights and ultimately settled on teal Under Amour running capris to go under my skirt.  Vanellope’s stripes were a bit of a head-scratcher but I finally decided to use white Rock Tape and a purple Sharpie marker.  Although I had to be careful not to accidently pull the tape off when I sat down or went to the bathroom, the tape actually worked really well for the run since it didn’t restrict the movement of the fabric or cause potential chafing areas like paint would have.

Finally, a defining feature of the character is Vanellope’s candy-covered hair.  I got fun candy-shaped buttons from the craft store and threaded them onto bobby pins and small ponytail holders.  I was a bit worried about them pulling my hair during the run and getting so stuck in that they would have to be cut out at the end, but as it turned out my hair was actually less tangled than it usually is…probably because I had so many things holding it in place.  The final pieces were a pink pipe cleaner through some pink tubing to create her red licorice hair tie, and my black and pink Brooks Adrenaline ASR 10 GTX shoes.

The rest of the gear: The temperature and humidity really increased by Sunday morning, so I definitely didn’t need more layers.  In fact, if I didn’t have my heart set on this costume I would have only worn a tank top and capris.  I did decide to layer a thin teal Nike tank top under my hoodie just in case I got overheated and needed to strip down on course.  Everything else was: brown Bondi Band headband, yellow Nike sports bra, Injinji socks, Garmin Forerunner 620 and Gymboss interval timer, and Camelbak Marathoner hydration vest.

The pre-race

On race morning we had another early wake-up so we could eat some breakfast and get into our costumes.  We headed out to the bus around the same time as the day before and there was a longer line, but we were still able to get on the second bus we saw and get on our way.

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You have to love this sign.

Traffic trying to get to the race was pretty bad.  We knew we had plenty of time (they say to get on the first busses for a reason) but I could see it being stressful for those on the later buses or driving themselves.  A lot of people will say, “oh, this is the reason I drive; I get right into the parking lot and it’s easy”.  Yeah…you guys are part of the problem.  Yes, there are a lot of busses, but there were at least 10 times the number of cars from what I could see.  If more people just took the busses, it actually would be a lot smoother for everyone.

The traffic meant that we arrived a little later than we did the day before, but we had plenty of time for two potty trips and still took a slow walk to our corral.  The announcers are always a bit more on their game on half marathon day.  Or maybe it just feels that way since you can actually see the screens from the corrals.  The biggest thing that happened pre-race was that they finally announced the long-awaited Disneyland Paris race weekend in 2016!  I don’t think it had even been a minute before the social media speculation started about whether Disney would give special medals for people who do races on two continents or all three parks or…. Can’t we just enjoy the news for a day before we get into debating every possible angle?

Finally, we were almost ready to go.  A male soloist sang the National Anthem very beautifully and then the wheelchair athletes were off!  The corrals were much smaller for the half than they were for the 10k, so there was less time between the releases which helps to keep the energy up.

Along the course

Since I had run this course in January I knew what to expect.  For me this was both a blessing and a curse.  While I find it helpful to have a vague idea of a course (where the major hills are, where the potties will be, etc), my motivation to keep going often comes from the desire to find out what’s around the corner.  And if I know what’s coming it’s a little harder to keep my curiosity and motivation up.

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I found my people!

One of the major attractions of runDisney events is the opportunity for character pictures on course.  Some of the more popular ones are the large group of heroes together near the pirate ship, the tuxedoed men holding a glass slipper, and the villains.  But I rarely stop.  Until this race.  Magical Moment: As we neared Magic Kingdom I heard one of the main songs from Wreck-it Ralph.  It took me a minute to realize it was music on the course and not on my iPod.  But as soon as I saw they had both Ralph and Vanellope, I made a bee-line for the photo stop.  It’s the only character photo I’ve taken during a race and it might be the only one I ever take.  But I just could not pass up the opportunity to take a picture with my character while in costume.

About halfway into my run as the sun came up and the humidity increased, my pace took a nosedive.  This is where not taking Jeff’s advice came back to bite me.  I was really dragging so I skipped some of my run intervals through Magic Kingdom (since there are so many bottlenecks and photo opportunities through this stretch it can be tough to run anyway), which gave me enough recovery to keep up with my original intervals for another couple of miles.  But by mile 9 I ended up cutting my running intervals in half (from 20/30 to 10/30) for the rest of the race.  Again, I’ll have some explaining to do in my weekly e-coaching check-in.

I did have one not-so-magical moment on the course which continued to haunt me after the race.  TMI Alert: If you run long enough you will have at least one experience where you just don’t get enough Body Glide in all the right places.  Somewhere around mile 7 I started to feel an uncomfortable rubbing in an ummm…unmentionable… location.  While I do carry a lot of stuff with me, extra Body Glide is not one of those things.  There was little I could do except continue my race and know that my shower (and probably my next potty trip) would be very uncomfortable.  And yup, I might have yelped loud enough to disturb the people in the room next to us when I showered after the race.

The SMOpinion

After this race I earned two SMOs: the one for the half and also the challenge medal.  I like both a lot, but I’m especially pleased with the design of the GSC medal.  I was also happy to be doused in pixie dust at the end.

The post-race experience

I had heard that Disney does a special celebration for the last finishers, and this would be my only chance this year to stick around and watch.  So after I finished and collected my husband, we headed back to the bleachers at the finish line.  As the number of racers out on the course dwindled, the spectators disappeared.  So I yelled and clapped as hard as I could for the runners crossing the finish line.  I saw runners openly weeping as they completed the last 100 yards.  Many runners stopped to hug a family member before they crossed, and one woman was so overtaken by emotion that she threw herself into the arms of the announcer who happened to be on the course at the time.

Last Finish

Disney celebrates the last finisher as much as the first.

 

Magical Moment: I was struck how, as the end neared and the spectator bleachers cleared out, the viewing area of the VIP section on the other side started to fill up.  The Galloways and other runDisney royalty (I would name names, but I don’t know them by sight) crowded into the space to cheer the last runners in.  Finally, we could see the pack of bikers rounding the bend and in front of them was a lone walker, supported by a medic, making her way toward us.  The bikers stopped several hundred yards short of the finish and let her complete her journey.  Prince Mickey and Princess Minnie met her about 50 yards from the finish and the three crossed the line together, arm in arm, under an explosion of streamers.  I don’t know the woman, but I’m glad I stayed to cheer her to the finish.

Playlist Peak

As we came out of the Magic Kingdom and made our way to cone alley, the DJ was playing “Stronger” by Kelly Clarkson.  Not only was the crowd inspired to sing along as we made our way down the course together, but my iPod was apparently inspired to play lots of Kelly Clarkson for the rest of the race!  My iPod did have one memorable diversion from Kelly and served up the Batman Song from The Lego Movie.  It gave me a much needed smile during a long, boring stretch of road and off-ramp.

Looking back now

I really enjoyed the vibe of Princess Weekend as a whole.  I thought it was more laid back that Marathon Weekend and more supportive of people doing individual races.  The crowds in my pace group seemed about the same as every other runDisney race I’ve done.  I liked this half a lot better than the half in January, even though it was the same course.  So would I do this weekend again?  Yes, I would consider it, though I probably won’t do it next year.

Compare Jennifer’s experiences at the 2015 runDisney Princess Half Marathon’s to Mike’s experiences at the 2013 Princess Half Marathon: Part 1 and Part 2.  You can also check out our video from the 2013 Princess Half Marathon.

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