As you possibly know, I flew on down to Orlando a few weeks back to visit Universal, Disney, and to run the 2019 Disney Princess Half Marathon! Wahoo!
Before I get to recapping the race, here’s how my time in Orlando BEFORE the run went.
I flew from 19 degrees in Boston to 87 in Orlando on Wednesday, and it was amazing. I got there in the afternoon and immediately hit the pool at the Aventura at Universal, which was super nice! My friend from high school got there later and we grabbed dinner at Universal Studios Citywalk (total downer, do not recommend) and went to bed early so we could hit the early admission to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter the next day.
I LOVED Harry Potter World. We started in Diagon Alley did the Escape from Gringotts ride first thing, and it was so awesome! I loved the Ollivanders experience so much that I splurged and bought an interactive wand. We took the Hogwarts Express to Hogsmede, rode the Hogwarts ride, then wandered the rest of the park until it was time for Butterbeer. I scored a new job at the Daily Prophet and wish i could carry a wand all the time.
That night we headed off towards Disney, where we picked up our race bibs at the expo (YAY!) and checked into our budget All-Star Music “Resort”(boo!)
The next day we park hopped! We started at Epcot, where we loved Test Track, almost puked on Mission: Space, and then round-the-world-ed until lunchtime.
Then we hopped on over to Animal Kingdom, fulfilling a childhood dream of mine!
We were so flippin wiped at the end of that day. I think we were in bed by 8pm. Which was all cool because we were up super early for MAGIC KINGDOM the next day!
We decided to just do the one park because the half was the next day. We actually left around 2pm and were for sure in bed before 8… which was still not enough time to get 8 hours before our 2:30am alarm.
See, Disney races start at 5:30am and the shuttles only run from 3:00am-3:45am. So if you want to eat and get race-ready, you have to be up when most adults are still partying at Disney Springs, if ya know what I mean.
We made it work!
I decided to dress up like Belle, the only Disney Princess I’ve ever kind of related to. I got my whole outfit secondhand for under $30. I wore a Lululemon running skirt, a Nike dry-fit polo, and an Under Armor tank. I also sewed a fuel belt that looked like an apron and had a bow on the back:) When it was 73 at 5:15am with 97% humidity, I decided to ditch the polo shirt and opted instead to just wear the tank on top. I loved the look of the polo, but I would have gotten heatstroke. It was HOT out there!
Here’s a picture from the start. As you can see, it’s the middle of the night. Also, my legs are so pale.
I took off with the first wave right at 5:30am. If you’re running this race and you’re able, submit your PR time to get yourself into a first-wave corral. I was halfway done with the race by the time the sun came up and the heat really got crazy, and I was so thankful for those 1:55’s I ran last spring and fall as I watched the final waves just starting out when it was already 80+ degrees and I was almost done.
I loved the start corrals! Everyone was so friendly, and the MC was super fun. They fired off fireworks for every starting corral, too, which was pretty cool. In fact, they shot off fireworks continuously throughout the whole race, so even when it was dark and I was running along boring stretches of Florida highway, i had some pretty sparkles in the sky to enjoy.
The fireworks were pretty much the hi-light of the first few miles. There were also AMAZING volunteers cheering us on along the way.
One thing that is unique to Disney races is that many famous characters are set up in photo opportunities along the way. So runners will literally be going along, see their fave Jack Sparrow or something, stop, and line up to get a picture with him. I decided after three days waiting in lines at the parks that I wasn’t really in the mood to wait in lines for anything else, so I skipped the photo ops. I was tempted by Belle and Gaston, but I just wasn’t down to hurry up and wait any more.
Magic Kingdom is just before the halfway point, and guys… It was magical. i wish this picture wasn’t blurry. I loved how pink the castle was and all the twinkle lights on Main Street USA. There were tons of spectators, too. We looped down Mainstreet, through Tomorrowland, into Fantasy Land, through Cinderella’s Castle (!) then over into Adventure Land. Soon we popped back out onto another highway, though.
Which was kind of a theme of this race. We ran the vast majority of this race on the slanted highways within Disney World, which was incredibly strenuous on the ankles. The .75 miles inside of Magic Kingdom were sweet for sure, but it would have been so cool to be on flat surfaces with interesting scenery a little more often.
Anywho, by the halfway point the heat was kind of getting to me and I decided I didn’t care that much about going sub-2. I let the 2-hour pacers get a bit ahead of me and enjoyed all the weird entertainment the second half had to offer. There were musical numbers, including an amazing gospel choir and a drum corps. There were DJ’s shouting out silly things (One told me “Hey Belle, it’s nice of you to get your nose out of a book for once and run 13 miles!”) There were also some truly kind volunteers at Mile 10 that were giving out sponges soaked in ice water.
Guys. SPONGES. IN. ICE. WATER.
People from super flat areas complained a lot about the highway overpasses that you have to go up and down towards the end. The overpasses do feel kind of brutal on your ankles towards the end, since all the highways are slanted and your footfalls end up really uneven. But the overpasses are not actually that big of a deal and it seemed like I was looping back into Epcot to finish up before I knew it.
I crossed the finish line in 2:01, and I swear I smiled the entire time. It was 83 degrees when I finished, and holy moly was I drenched and gross when I got off that course.
I spent the first 10 minutes after finishing sitting on the concrete with a cooling towel (which they gave out at the finish!) around my neck, consuming all the salty snacks. If I ever do another RunDisney race again, it will be because they give out all gluten free snacks at the end.
After 10 minutes I was able to hop on an air conditioned bus back to my resort. I was showered and back at the finish line within 45 minutes to see my friend come through; truly an efficient operation!
I had a blast with this race, despite being kinda sick and it being super hot and humid. My friend was in a later corral and let me know that it was much more crowded in the later start times and harder to weave around the walkers (there are lots of walkers and walk/runners in Disney races.)
I never thought I’d be a “Disney Person.” I mean, I backpack in foreign countries all summer. My favorite author is Johnathan Safron-Foer. I love dark comedy.
But Damn, Disney. I see you.