Saturday, March 2, 2013

A Fairytale Comes True - RunDisney Princess Half Marathon Meet-Up

RunDisney Princess Half Marathon Meet-Up - February 22, 2013

Over the past year and a half or so, I have been reading about the RunDisney meet-ups from other bloggers.  Meet-ups are events hosted by RunDisney to kickoff race weekends.  The purpose of the meet-ups is to not only give attendees an opportunity to make connections with one another, but also celebrate health, fitness, and training.  

Getting into the RunDisney Meet-ups is a very highly sought after event that is limited to a small group of individuals (in our case it was 50 attendees).  About a week before a RunDisney event, Disney Parks Blog ( posts the invite on their blog.  The first XX number of qualified applicants are granted invitations.  The invite post can come up at anytime - this time was no different as the invite was posted in the wee-hours of the morning.  Luckily, I woke up at 5:30am on Monday for work and saw that it was posted!  I sent in my invitation request email and "crossed my laces" that I would soon get a confirmation email.  Well, around 10:00 that morning I received an email from RunDisney confirming that I was selected as one of the 50 participants.  

The meet-up would include the opportunity to run through Epcot before the park even opens with other bloggers as well as Olympian Jeff Galloway, first female winner of The Biggest Loser Ali Vincent, two time Disneyland Half Marathon and 2012 Princess Half Marathon winner Rachel Booth, and actor Sean Astin (yes, Rudy!).  The meet-up was scheduled for Friday at 6:30am.  Originally we were leaving for Disney on Friday morning, so we had to quickly alter our plans and leave Thursday afternoon.

Upon arriving to Epcot, we all signed our waivers and received bags to check-in any items that we did not wish to run with and of course our official RunDisney shirts!  

Photo Courtesy of RunDisney

Photo Courtesy of RunDisney
Before we took off for our 3 mile run, we divided into two groups: one group would do a straight run at a 9:00/mile pace and would be lead by Rachel Booth and the other group would be lead by Jeff Galloway using his run-walk method at a 12:00/mile.  I opted to run with Jeff!

Photo Courtesy of RunDisney

Photo Courtesy of RunDisney
Photo Courtesy of RunDisney
I must say that running with Jeff was such an amazing experience.  During our 3 mile run through Epcot and the Boardwalk area he shared his experiences and his run-walk methods with us.  

After our run we headed to Germany in Epcot for breakfast.  Our selections for breakfast included pastries and fresh fruit along with water, coffee, and juice.  As we ate, our special guests each took time to speak to us on different topics.

First, Faron Kelley spoke to us about the RunDisney brand and how the population in running is being driven by women!
Photo Courtesy of RunDisney
Photo Courtesy of RunDisney
Jeff had to get to the expo to prepare for his speaking engagement, but he did take a few minutes to give us some last minute tips for the weekend (most importantly hydrating properly for the heat advisory).  Following Jeff, Disney dietitian Tara Gidus spoke to us about fueling our bodies with proper foods for race day.

Photo Courtesy of RunDisney

The speaker that I was probably most looking forward to was Ali Vincent!  Ali was the first female winner of The Biggest Loser and now has her own show "Live Big with Ali Vincent."  Ali's journey has been amazing to follow over the past several years, and listening to her speak solidified that she goes through the same struggles as we all do.  Ali's goal is to run 13 13.1's in '13 (13 half marathons in 2013).  She will be taking part in Sunday's Princess Half Marathon (which is also her birthday!).  Next, she asked everyone in the room to raise their hand if they ever lost weight (every hand went up), then she asked to keep them up if you lost more than 10 pounds, 20 pounds, and so forth.  One lady in the group lost over 100 pounds!  It was great to see everyone's accomplishments!  For the 5 people that have lost the most amount of weight, Ali gave them a pink towel for her show.  

Up next was two-time Disneyland Half Marathon champion and 2012 Princess Half Marathon champion Rachel Booth!  Rachel is such an amazing and humble woman.  She spoke to us about how she started running in elementary school after she won her school's jog-a-thon in 5th grade.  She then spoke to us about how she has altered her training schedule to be more "relaxed" and how she has started working with the next generation of runners.  

Photo Courtesy of RunDisney
The most inspiring speaker to join us was April Holmes.  April is now a Paralympic runner after she lost her leg in a tragic train accident.  She has smashed world records left and right and is a very decorated Paralympian!  She has overcame the odds and never lost sight of her goals.  I will never forget one thing that April told us: there will always be people that will tell you that you "can't" do something, it is up to you to do it and prove them wrong.  When I was training for my first full marathon I had many people tell me that I "couldn't do it."  April brought us all autographed cards as a surprise.  

We had some other special guests from the Grand Floridian spa that demonstrated some stretches and home therapy for our muscles.  They gave away two fabulous spa robes as well as a post-race massage for after the half marathon.  Sadly, I did not win, but their demonstration was very informative.  

Photo Courtesy of RunDisney
Our final speaker was a representative from New Balance.  We got to learn about the partnership between New Balance and RunDisney.  Obviously a HUGE topic was how quickly the coveted RunDisney shoes sold out at Marathon weekend in January as well as Tinkerbell Half Marathon in January.  The ensured us that they brought LOTS of shoes to the Princess Expo.  They even gave out free RunDisney shoes to a few lucky participants - once again not me, but it was fun to see the excitement of the winners.  

We thought our guests were over - WRONG.  What would a RunDisney Princess Half Marathon meet-up be without Princess Minnie!

Photo Courtesy of RunDisney
We did not get to have Sean Astin speak to us, but I highly recommend everyone follow him on Twitter (@seanastin) as well as Run3rd (@run3rdSean or  Sean will also be running in Sunday's Princess Half Marathon as one of the less than 1,500 men taking part.  He will actually be receiving his Coast to Coast medal since he ran the Tinkerbell Half Marathon last month.

We were told that Princess Minnie as well as a few other guests would be outside waiting for us.  Before we left, we were told that they had special gifts for us!  Princesses love gifts!  We each received goodie bags with fun products including some H2O Spa Products, but they BEST thing was a free one day Disney parkhopper pass!  Thank you RunDisney!

As we exited the meet-up we had the opportunity to take photos:

Photo Courtesy of RunDisney

I had such a wonderfuly amazing time at my first RunDisney meet-up!  I cannot believe that I had this opportunity!  This morning was full of time to get to hear the stories and advice of so many inspiring athletes. 

If you are planning on doing a RunDisney event, I highly recommend keeping an eye on the Disney Parks Blog a week or two before the race for the meet-up info!  You can also follow RunDisney on Facebook or Twitter (@runDisney) for meet-up information.  I will warn everyone in advance that these events are VERY popular and tend to fill up within minutes.

For additional information on RunDisney or any of the guests:
RunDisney - @runDisney or
Disney Park Blogs -
Jeff Galloway - @JeffGalloway
Tara Gidus - @DietDivaTara
Ali Vincent - @alivincent 
Rachel Booth -  @Rach_Booth
April Holmes - @aprilholmes
Sean Astin - @Run3rdSean

Thank you again RunDisney for hosting such a great event! This was a truly amazing way to kick off the Princess Half Marathon weekend!

Have you ever ran a RunDisney race?  If so, which one?  Have you done a RunDisney meet-up?  What athletes would you like to see at future meet-ups?

Time to Run,


  1. We love runDisney! We had the best time ever at the Walt Disney World Marathon Meet-up! :-)

  2. It was a wonderful experience that I will never forget that is for sure. I ran 40 races in 2012 and my goal is 52 races in 2013 - after my first runDisney race, every other race has new higher standards to meet :)