Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Walt Disney World Princess Run

 I'm going to write this out of order.  I'm starting with my experience with the Disney World Princess run and then I'll move on to the other stuff...just in case someone is out there googling and trying to figure out if this is the race for them.  I did it and looked for any info I could find to define the experience, so first....my quest for the medal!  This was my 6th half marathon-my 7th 13+.  I made a wish list several years back and this was the third in my personal series,but my only Disney.  Conveniently, one of my childhood friends lives nearby, so I was able to make a good excuse to get out there!  I needed this medal because of the crown with the jewel...duh.
First, and foremost, if you want to run Disney-you really need to sign up the day the race opens (sometime in the summer-July this last year)... because it sells out FAST.  20,000 of your closest friends also want to run Disney.  It's also really...really pricey, but....did I mention the medal has a tiara?  Anyway, the thing everyone talks about are the 'balloon ladies.'  They release the runners in waves.  To be in one of the earlier corals, you have to prove how fast you can go by sending in earlier times from other races.  If you can't prove your time, they put you in a later coral based on your best guess of how long it will take you.  The balloon ladies start last and they keep at 15 minute pace.  If you can't keep up with them, at certain intervals they will 'sweep you' off the road.  Which means, they will stick you on a bus and take you to the finish line.  The corals started (this year) every 2-3 minutes, so the further ahead of them you get...the better.  BUT...having said that-I had plenty of time to go really slow.  I walked a lot of it.  I tried running the first 7 I did OK, but the one that I found over and over again was that the roads got really narrow a LOT and most people were there to walk and they walked in masses across the entire road.  Serious runners had to go off on the grass at a slope.  I am not, nor will I ever bet a serious runner.  I tried passing on larger highways....and when I'm passing, you know the pace is slow.  The point being, everyone was really relaxed.  At mile 7 I got a royal blister and I just let the crowd take me along from this point.  Looking back there were tons of people behind me, so I knew I was safe. There is also a certain point where they will let you finish (when you are off the main roads they need to open to get the parks going).
A few things to know:  The easiest way to go is to stay at one of the Disney hotels.  They provide buses to and from the start/finish line for all the runners, and the folks wanting to come watch the runners.  BUT....you start boarding buses at 3 am, and can't board any later than 4 am.  The walk to the start line is quite far (at least 20 minutes).  They drop you off in the Epcot parking lot and I thought that was it...nope-that was where you drop your gear and then all the sudden-about 5 I noticed this flow of people moving....it turns out the start was down a long road.  You go into your coral and then you wait.  They release the first runners at 5:30 (all women).  Men can participate, there were not that many, but some brave men-mostly in couples, but the first coral is all women.  Each release gets a firework send off.
Another thing...a lot of the run is actually along the highway.  You go from Epcot towards Magic Kingdom.  There are five or so miles of highway.  There are characters you can stop and take pictures with along the way (though there are lines, so....keep that in mind if you have your heart set on that).  Finally about mile 6-7 you are in the Magic Kingdom.  You run down Main Street towards the castle, off into Tomorrow Land and then back around and through the castle doors (so fun).
 At this point they had some more characters (the Frozen Cast) on top of the castle with 'snow' blowing down on us.  We exited and then were off towards Epcot.
 You run past this and finally...finish.  It was a pretty easy course.  Easy, but still 13.1 miles, so...don't take that word too seriously!   There were some hills and bridges, but it was pretty flat.  You never know what the weather will bring.  We had a beautiful morning, but the humidity was a little difficult later on as the day wore on.  There was plenty of water stops, and everything ran really smoothly.  It's not a run I'd do if I wanted to PR, but if you love Disney, and want a relaxed atmosphere with a ton of people out to have a good time-go.  On a side note, my Mom and cousin came too and they bought something called the ChEAR Squad Gold package.  It was about 50 dollars and we weren't sure if it would be worth it, but they loved it!  It came with a high quality shirt, a really nice weather proof blanket, some mouse ear clappers, a band for unlimited drinks (hot chocolate, waters, sodas), and seats on the grand stand right on the finish line.  They said they announcers were amazing (my Mom has heard a lot of them with my brother and I keeping her at race finish lines).  I agree with that-the entertainment was really top notch.  So, if you have family members-they won't be disappointed.  Watching all the characters finish-the outfits are what made the race so fun.   And now...out of order to the rest of my trip.
 I flew out Friday night.  My flight got delayed and by the time I go to the hotel and to bed it was almost 4 am.  Yikes!  I woke up on Saturday and caught a bus from the hotel to the expo.  The buses were pretty crowded (the buses the morning of the race were much better).
 The expo went smoothly.
 There were lots of opportunities to buy sparkle tutus and head bands fit for a princess.
After the expo my friend Maurine and her family drove up to see me.  She brought my godson, Carter and his brothers Donovan and Bennett.
 She also brought her husband and Mom-such a sweet surprise to have so much support.
 I try to see them every year-year and a half.  So the last time I saw Bennett I held him.  He was such a quiet, laid back, silly kid this time I loved seeing how his personality expands.
 We spend all of Saturday enjoying Disney Springs, Legoland, and then they took me to Olive Garden (the 'mint' place according to my godson) for dinner before dropping me off at ten.
I got up at 2:15 and you know the race story, but....after the race I headed to the Magic Kingdom.
 I question my sanity.  By the end of the day I had gone 24 miles, but it was worth it.  I do love Disney and it's been YEARS since I've been to the Magic Kingdom.
 My very favorite place is Main Street overlooking the castle with the balloon folks holding Disney balloons.  I remember this from 25+ years ago on my first visit
 I also get sucked into all the mickey shaped dessert.  Don't think I won't be attempting some of these on my own time soon!
 We didn't have a lot of time b/c the race took up my morning, and by the time I changed and showered and convinced my legs to move it was almost 1.  BUT we hit some highlights-The Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbeans, Peter Pan, It's a Small World.  There was a point my legs were done, so I sat on a curb and let the light parade pass (another childhood memory).
 And then...the fireworks.
 Seriously, I could never do it justice.
 But, it's Disney, so you know it was amazing.
 To say goodbye-I headed to Disney Springs one last time to grab a few souvenirs.
 I hit up Lego Land, sure we have one near Dallas, but....it's not the same.
 I'll be back.  I have a godson nearby, and his Mom knows what's up.
It sure is nice that my friends chose to plant themselves near fun locations!