This was my first runDisney race experience ever, and leading up to it I was so excited to get out there and on the course. All the frenzy surrounding runDisney is exhausting to me – I just wanted to run.
After flying down to Florida Friday morning, hopping on the Magical Express to my resort at Coronado Springs, checking in, changing into warm weather clothes (I had to change out of jeans and into a short skirt! In February! Woohoo!), I hit the Expo. I love to shop when it doesn’t involve trying clothes on, so I was all about the Expo, but even that was exhausting too, not to mention hella dangerous on my bank account. I picked up my packet with my bib and was so relieved – even if everything else went not as planned, I was ready to be an official participant. I like the tech t-shirts that came with the race, but only ended up wearing the Enchanted 10K one after the race, and saved the others for later, in favor of other stuff I bought at the Expo. I bought way too many SweatyBands as I am wont to do at Expos, a Princess 1/2 Bondi Band, two commemorative Glass Slipper shirts (one short sleeve cotton, one long sleeve technical), a Sport Hooks Coast to Coast medal hanger in anticipation of Dumbo in August, and then browsed around all the sparkle skirts before deciding I was starving and headed back to the hotel to prepare for the next morning.
As always I laid out all my things meticulously, and reminded myself it was “just” a 10K, no need for fuel or even to bring my own water, that I could make it through with water stops along the course. The Enchanted 10K would mark the last time I would wear my blue Brooks Glycerines, as the pain in my feet has been making me think it’s time for a new pair of shoes, to slowly retire my pink Asics, and to say goodbye to my blue Glyssies for good. But I’d give them a good send off, as they matched my makeshift Merida ensemble.
The reason I picked Merida to run part of the Glass Slipper Challenge as is because I think “Brave,” for all the letdown of Disney’s hype that Merida would be Disney’s first feminist princess, I think she is still an awesome character. She’s rude and petty and a brat, but she’s a teenager. Her relationship with Queen Elinor is a markedly welcome change in Disney’s evil step-mother/absent altogether mother overused trope that I’m so over. They fight like teenage daughters do with their mothers, and the success of the movie is in its portrayal of their ability to find peace and understanding of each other as Merida matures. Merida may not be leading a feminist fight, but I’m not asking her to. I’m happy that she represents a more realistic and relatable teenager than so many more soft-spoken, demure, eyelash-batting Disney princesses.
I set a number of alarms on my phone all with the most thrashing hard rock music on my phone’s iTunes because I was terrified of oversleeping and missing the whole race. I barely needed the second one. As soon as I realized it was Day 1 of the Glass Slipper Challenge I was up and moving. I had grabbed a bagel, some peanut butter packets, and a couple of bananas from the resort cafe the night before, but the bagel was untoasted and I was so excited I only got half of it down before leaving for the bus. I did eat two bananas in the time before the race started though, so I felt energized.
Getting to the race site was overwhelming but I tend to feel, at least in the last couple of years, after having the scariest traveling experience of my life, more comfortable traveling and getting around on my own. No one else to keep track of or direct or entertain, that kind of thing. I figure after having a nightmare solo traveling experience, it can’t go much worse so I’m good to go. (I highly encourage any runDisney runners to travel to a runDisney race weekend experience alone- I met so many wonderful people and had so many great conversations just striking up conversations with strangers because I wasn’t busy entertaining a friend or relying on a friend to talk to in order to calm any nerves. I just talked to other runners and we all shared the same excitement and energy and interests in running and racing.)
I met up with the Team runDisney meetup outside the Race Retreat tent but it seemed to fall kind of flat, a bit of lack of leadership and a lot of strangers just kind of standing around. I know this is one of the first race weekends where runDisney has decided not to do a meetup, and that’s fine with me – one less thing to feel like I should want to do, but don’t really understand, but get caught up in the frenzy for? But I did meet a couple of really cool folks, including some I realized I was already following on Twitter.
Soon enough I got anxious to see what all was on the other side of gEAR check and check out the corral area, even though it was another hour and a half til the start. I took a couple photos, checked my bag (which I’d brought only for my camera, Tylenol, and a post-race sweatshirt in case my sweat chilled me after I stopped moving), and headed over to the starting area.
I was impressed to see so many food stands offering refreshments to runners and spectators alike, and got another water just to calm my worries I wasn’t hydrated enough to race in Florida. I downed it on my way to my corral and got a spot near the front to stretch out and ready my head. I passed the time chatting with a mother and daughter pair who had done a lot of runDisney before, and another lady who was doing her first runDisney thing too but was a multiple time Marine Corps finisher. All the different perspectives on why we run, why we came to Disney, and what our goals in general for running just in life are was so interesting.
Soon it was time for the race to start! Everyone cheered when we watched the speedy Corral A be the first to march to the start line.
It was 10 minutes between corrals, but since I was in Corral C, it didn’t feel like it took too terribly long. I was ready to run and tired of refreshing my Garmin in anticipation, but soon my corral inched to the start line. After the MC’s gave me a shoutout for yelling “FREE BIRD!” after they complained to the DJ about the music selection, they counted us down and we were off!
I was toward the front of my corral and the expanse of open Florida highway in the dark stretching out in front of me reminded me of my favorite runs I’ve had – at home, at night, being foolhardy for being a night runner, but loving the solitude and the peace. I jetted down the first mile without even realizing how fast I was going – the pace felt comfortable! I always go out too fast, though, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when my watch beeped around 9:30 for my first mile. This one runner was doing seemingly 30 second run 30 second walk intervals, and for her run interval she’d sprint, so for the first few hundred meters we were playing cat and mouse as I kept a steady pace, and it was distracting. I finally pushed past her.
Just past the first mile marker was my first encounter with having to decide whether to stop for a character in a Disney race. It was the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland! I happen to have a special place in my heart for the Alice in Wonderland story, and one of my best friends and I directed it as summer camp counselors about 6 years ago and we had both been totally fantastically happy with who we’d cast as the White Rabbit. So I had to get a picture, and his line was only about six deep at this point.
The next few miles just felt like a race in the dark, albeit with interestingly dressed other runners, including myself. I saw Meeko from Pocahontas up ahead but didn’t want to stop for him – I was already gone when I realized Pocahontas herself had been with him. But the line had been hella long (which should have been my tip-off Pocahontas was there too) so I didn’t lose sleep over it.
I took water at every stop, being precautionary about Florida humidity even though I was feeling good. By mile 3ish my feet were already starting to hurt and I rolled my eyes at myself for thinking it’d be a good idea to run a half marathon the next day on already tired feet. Walking around a lot for traveling and the Expo the day before had done nothing helpful.
When we entered Epcot was when I realized why people really fall in love with running Disney. The fees are astronomical, of course, but you get to run in the Disneyworld parks. It’s not some trail at home, which don’t get me wrong, I love low-key low maintenance runs and low-key races. But I think the fact that you get to run through one of the most beautiful and magically decorated places I’ve ever been is what gives you your money’s worth. It was, to use a totally repetitive word but one that simply fits best, magical.
The only time I really had a “bummer” moment during the whole weekend was when I decided to stop for a picture with Jiminy Cricket, waited 9 or 10 minutes deciding if I was gonna pay all the money to run in Disneyworld, I was going to get my money’s worth. (I signed up through a charity but I paid more than equal to what it would have cost me to pay the registration fees and hotel fees to Disney out of my own pocket toward my own fundraiser, I wasn’t trying to just get people to pay for my race.) But when I got my camera back after my picture, the picture was blurry. (Now, writing this, I even have my MarathonFotos back and the official race photographer apparently didn’t get my bib in the picture either so there is nothing to show for the 9 or 10 minutes I waisted waiting on that stupid cricket.)
The sky was lightening at this point and we began to make our way onto the Boardwalk. I’d never been to the Boardwalk before, at least that I can remember, and found it absolutely beautiful. I even, since I wasn’t aiming for a time goal, debated stopping in at an open bakery for a treat since I had my Magic Band on me and who was to stop me? I didn’t of course, and headed on toward the finish, deciding at that point I should probably at least bother to try and finish a 10K in under 1:20:00.
I did, and crossing the finish line was an exhilarating relief. Part I of the Glass Slipper Challenge was complete, even if it was only a third of the total mileage for the weekend. If nothing else, I’d made it through the first part toward completing the challenge, and had my finisher wristband and my Enchanted 10K medal for proof for the next day.
After rehydrating and scarfing a banana, I didn’t take too much more time at the finish line festival before hopping on the bus back to Coronado Springs. I had finished in 1:18:32, far from a PR but shooting for a PR at runDisney is opposite my personal reasons for running Disney. My picture with the White Rabbit and taking it easy for shots of the course was worth it.
But damn it Jiminy Cricket!
Stay tuned for the Princess Half Marathon recap to complete the 2014 Inaugural Glass Slipper Challenge weekend!