Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Forget the Glass Slipper, This Princess Wears Running Shoes (and a tiara)- Week 8 (February 18 - February 24, 2013)

Princess Half Marathon (Orlando, FL) - February 24, 2013

At a race expo about 2 years ago, I came across the most amazing race...EVER! A race hosted by DISNEY and it had a PRINCESS theme!!!  For the past two years I have dreamed about the opportunity to run the Princess Half Marathon at Walt Disney World.  In July, registration opened up for the 5th anniversary running of the race.  I knew for months leading up to registration that I was going to cross this race off of my running bucket list in 2013.  I quickly registered for the race in mid-July (about a week or two after registration opened).  For the next few months I was thinking of costume ideas (you cannot run at Disney without a fabulous costume) and saving up money to make this an amazing trip for my family.  

Thanks to some inspiration on Pinterest, I decided that my costume would be a running version of my favorite Disney Princess - Aurora (Sleeping Beauty).  For my costume, I purchased a pink Team Sparkle skirt, added some princess flair to a pink running top with some help from my mom (back of top is shown below), and what princess doesn't have a fabulous tiara?!? 

As the race day got closer and closer, the weather forecast started looking scary.  At first it just looked like it would be hot (and probably humid).  Even though it has been a while since I ran in heat, I could handle it.  However, come Friday it started showing a forecast including thunderstorms during the race.  I have never been in a race during a storm (yes, rain but not thunder and lightening).  I know it is Disney and they plan things well, but what would they do with 25,000+ runners plus all the volunteers in the event of dangerous conditions such as lightning?  I just had to have faith that everything would work out...

The race had a 5:30 start time with resort buses offering transportation to the race from 3:00-4:00.  One would think that a 2:30 wake up would mean one cranky Princess Brandi...WRONG!  I sprung out of bed so fast because I could not wait to get into my pretty pink costume.  My number #1 cheerleader (my mom) and I caught a bus to the race around 3:10.  

After we got off the bus and took some pre-race pictures, we made our way towards a gathering area near the bag check and port-o-pots.  Only runners could go past the bag check so I stayed here with mom for a while before I headed on my journey to the corrals.   

I had my pre-race meal: Crunchy Peanut Butter Cliff Bar with a Diet Coke.  Please do not lecture me on how Diet Coke is bad for me in general and the caffeine is horrible before a race - I am well aware of all of this, but it is my one vice in life ;)  Around 4:15 I left mom and made my way towards the corrals.

The walk to the corrals took about 15 minutes to get there, but there were so many energetic people to talk to along the walk.  Despite it being 4:30 in the morning, everyone there was ready to go - come on, we are at DISNEY and we are dressed up as princesses!  

For those wondering, of the 25,000+ runners there were over 1,000 men in the race.  YES, even the men dressed up for the race!  Some dressed up as Princes, wore shirts referring to their princess, and some even "dressed the part" wearing tutus, wings, and tiaras.  This is a women focused event, but I must say the guys were absolutely amazing.  My goals for the race were to (1) HAVE FUN (2) take lots of pictures (3) make memories and (4) feel great at the finish.

I made it to my corral, now I just had to wait for corral C to be sent off...

There was about 7 minutes between each corral being sent off, so even though we just had to wait 14:00 or so for our turn it could not come soon enough.  Fairy Godmother sent off each corral and fireworks were our "go" signal.  

The two miles were just some side roads of the Disney property.  However, just before the mile 2 marker I was greeted by some of my favorite Disney characters....PIRATES!  

I started in corral C which had a 35:00 jump on the last corral which is when the 16:00/mile pace clock started.  I knew I had about an hour or so that I can play with and stay head of the "balloon lady" (she marks the 16:00/mile pace and if you fall behind her you are in danger of being swept).  I saw the line for pictures with the pirates and contemplated if I wanted to stop....uh, YES! After about 15-20 minutes of waiting, it was my turn.  I must say that I LOVE LOVE LOVE this picture and do not regret waiting for it.  This is probably the closest I will ever get to "Johnny Depp" so I needed to make this picture epic.

I made some friends in line and we were talking about how it is not possible for us to stop for every picture along the way.  Well, shortly after the pirates there was another photo opportunity....EEP!  I had to stop!  I turned around in line only to find my friends from the pirate line right behind me!  Another 20 minutes late and I had my turn with......PRINCES!

When you are running along side 25,000 women, the sight of handsome men is very exciting!  My "photo friends" and I made a pact that we had to stop the insanity of stopping for pictures.   I setup myself to receive text notifications of my pace at the 5K, 10K, and 15K splits.  Well, when I passed the 5K marker I received a text that I was on pace for a 5:00 half marathon - UH OH!  I knew I needed to stop standing in line for 15-20 minutes at a time for pictures.  Even though my goals consisted of taking pictures and having the time of my life, I knew that if I kept this up I would risk being swept.  

I did pass up the villains, but I managed to snap a picture of them while passing.

As I approached the entrance to Magic Kingdom, I knew I needed to snap a picture.  I slowed up to snap a picture and who was beside me - that is right, my picture pals!  We took turns taking pictures of each other then went along our way.

For the next 2 miles or so I just ran and tried to make up some time for the photo stops that I did.  I tried to take some pictures of characters along the way still.  

Nothing felt more amazing that running into Magic Kingdom along Main Street USA and seeing Cinderella Castle greeting you!

The crowd along Main Street USA was amazing and there were some great signs!  I like this sign, despite the error on it....

Lucky for me, just as we passed the castle and headed towards Tomorrowland there was a prime photo spot that no one else noted.  I quickly darted to the side along with another girl and we did photos for each other and we were on our way in under a minute.

I even found an unexpected "celebrity"coming out of the restroom along the way - of course I needed a photo!

As I approached the Tea Cups, I spotted a character photo spot that I could not pass up.  I have been hauling butt the past 3 miles and haven't been stopping for longer than a minute to do photos, so I justified this stop!

As we came by the new Fantasyland, there were lots of characters (with VERY long lines).  Since I just stopped for Alice, I did not want to stop again.

We FINALLY made it to the castle!

My run through the castle ended up being very bottle-necked, but I still loved every minute of it!

Mom purchased a chEAR Squad pass which gave her premium viewing areas at the castle and finish line along with other goodies like free drinks, t-shirt, blanket, etc.  It was great to come out of the castle and have my mom waiting for me.  She had been standing there for a LONG time waiting for me to come through so being the proud mom that she is, she snapped a picture and kindly told me that I need to step it up a little (thanks mom!).

I continued pushing forward without stopping and just did "run by photos"  

Right before the 10K split was AURORA!  Even though I did not want to stop again, I decided to wait for her.  After waiting about 10 minutes and being about 4 back from having my turn, it came!  That is right, the balloon lady!  She was yelling that we needed to come on or we were getting swept.  WHAT!?!?  This could not be happening!  Heartbroken, I left the line, took a picture of her with random runners and started hoofing it!

I run a 12:00-12:30/mile typically in half marathons - there is no way I was getting swept.  It was a lot of pressure knowing the balloon lady was hot on my tail.  There was a lot more at stake than just being swept - I am running Dumbo at Disneyland over Labor Day and if I was swept I would not be able to receive my Coast to Coast status!  

Ok, no more photo stops now.  It is time to run!  I took pictures as I ran instead.

From this point forward I ended up doing pictures of the mile makers as I had been doing (see end of page) as well as anything I could run and snap.

As I ran through miles 8 and 9 I reflected back to the pain that I was in during the last few miles of my marathon and that lonely feeling that I had for 14 miles.  As I thought about this, I saw the pain on my fellow ladies' faces.  I decided that I needed to take this opportunity to support how amazing the women are beside me:  not only for coming this far, but for having the courage to start this journey.  I would find a woman that had the look that I had around mile 21 at the marathon - the "I don't know if I can make it to the finish" look.  I would run up to them, share a smile and a few kind words of encouragement and move on towards another runner.  It was just amazing to receive a smile back and know that I hopefully gave them a boost to make the final miles a little easier for them.

Coming up to mile 12 I ran into one of my photo line friends.  She ended up standing in the 25 minute line to get a picture with Mickey and Minnie before the castle.  We both laughed at how we started 35:00 sooner than the last corral, yet we were in jeopardy of getting swept due to our love for photo opps!  Shortly after the mile 12 marker my dad and Aunt Vicki were long the route to cheer for me.  They are pretty amazing.

After around 12.25 miles we entered Epcot.  We are almost there ladies (and gentlemen)!

During the final mile I found some of the best shirts of the race....

After a short run through Epcot, it was here...THE FINISH!

After about 4:05 I finally made it to the finish!  This was my worst half marathon time, but I had the BEST time doing it!  I avoided the sweepers, made great memories, got some great pictures, and made some friends along the way.

I am so grateful that I have such an amazing family to come cheer for me and my wild adventures.

I had an amazing time at my first RunDisney race weekend.  Yes, it was crowded.  Yes, there were parts of the course that were tight and crowded (mile 7-10 particularly).  Yes, it was HOT (but rain and storm-free).  Thanks to reading other bloggers recaps of other Princess Half Marathons or other RunDisney events I knew this was expected (maybe not so much the weather part).  You just have to set reasonable goals for yourself and remember those goals along the way.  The way I saw it was that I can run for a PR back home, I am at Disney and paying a lot of money for this race so I wanted to just enjoy the morning.

I cannot wait for the Dumbo Double Dare Challenge at Disneyland on Labor Day weekend!

Dumbo - you are next!

Have you ever done a RunDisney race?  Which one did you do?  What is on your RunDisney "bucket list"

These are all of the mile marker signs from the Princess Half Marathon:

Time to Run,

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