On Sunday I completed leg 2 and the final 2/3 of the mileage for the Inaugural runDisney Glass Slipper Challenge as part of Princess Half Marathon weekend. It was my third half marathon, and easily the most fun I’ve ever had running a half. The only pressure I had on myself was to finish with enough time to get back to my resort to check out of my room on time, and I had gotten checkout moved to noon instead of 11am, giving myself some room to breathe for having fun on the course and not worrying about my speed.
While I love races of any distance and I love low-key courses with a small pool of runners, I also really loved the whole energy of the Princess Half Marathon. It was such a vacation. PRing and breaking my speed and ability expectations is thrilling, but there is time in life to just have fun too. And that’s exactly what I did for the whole 2 hours and 40 minutes I was on the Princess Half course before crossing that beautiful finish line.
I had decided to go as Rapunzel from Tangled almost as soon as I signed up for Princess through Noah’s Light Foundation. I was running for children with cancer and I felt the moment Rapunzel confronts the way she looks without the hair that so many have identified her as being synonymous with is a powerful moment for little girls who might struggle with losing their hair. I didn’t hit the fundraising mark I had set as a pledge to shave my head for the race in solidarity with cancer patients, but I still felt Rapunzel was apt. (Plus, I love that Tangled turns the traditional story of Rapunzel as a damsel in distress, agreeing to marry a prince who’s just showed up in her chambers, followed by the enchantress cutting off Rapunzel’s hair, and instead has Rapunzel taking control of her own destiny by knocking Flynn the fuck out with a frying pan for being a strange intruder, then using him as a tool to find adventure.)
I wore a Headsweats 13.1 pink visor, Victoria’s Secret purple tank top, purple running tights, and pink sports bra, a RaceJunkie Rapunzel tutu, and my pink Asics.
On the bus to the Expo the Friday before, I met a girl named Lisa who had also come to Disneyworld solo to run the race. We had stuck together throughout the Expo and on Saturday she texted me to see if I wanted to head down to the race with her Sunday morning. (She was doing Princess but hadn’t done Enchanted 10K, so it was nice for both of us to navigate the starting area with a buddy.)
I was worried I was going to get hungry in the time waiting for the race to start so we hit up some of the food trucks and finally they began calling corrals. I was in Corral I, and Lisa in M, so we parted ways with “get it, girl!”‘s and promises to see each other back at the resort after the race.
It was a long walk to the corrals, and I was glad I’d remembered to take my Xanax that morning because the sheer amount of people would have otherwise made me claustrophobic. I peed like three times before getting in my corral, and at the last stop of porta-potties I marveled at the amount of complaining I was hearing that there was no hand sanitizer in the porta-potties. As far as porta-johns go, those were some clean ass johns and weren’t we all about to run 13.1 miles? Wouldn’t we all just kind of sweat it off? I don’t know. I’m far from a germophobe so I was just glad they didn’t smell like utter shit.
It was an anxious wait for the race to get underway but once it did I was off and gone. I knew the first character stop was at mile 2, for Pirates of the Caribbean, and I’d made it one of my priority stops. I wasn’t sure whether to stop for it the first time on the course or take my chances for it when it came back around at mile 11, but I’m glad I went with the first stop.
I didn’t take a walk break until that character stop and clocked 19 minutes for my first two miles. My third mile alone was 17 minutes! Worth the wait. Getting to meet Captain Jack was too cool. Such a cool plus that Captain Barbossa was there too. I chatted with another runner in line about how we’d specifically not taken our walk breaks yet in order to get to PotC faster to beat a line, and marveled that so many people were passing them! It’s Jack Sparrow y’all! I don’t know, my philosophy is if Disney is gonna charge for its races, take advantage of all the fun it rolls out for the runners.
After that I started up with my normal 9:1 run:walk intervals, sometimes a 10:2 to give my legs a bit of a longer break since I’d run the 10K the day before. Past the 5K mark we headed into the Magic Kingdom, the entrance of which was flashing its lights like crazy for is in the early morning darkness. Such an exciting moment to run in under the big “Magic Kingdom” sign.
I picked up the pace over the excitement of heading into the Magic Kingdom, and took a GU at the 4 mile marker, and was keeping close track on my water supply. I filled up at the 4.5 mile water station. Unfortunately, while not taking the GU might have resulted in worse, the day before’s 10K was catching up to me and my legs were feeling deadish. I wasn’t panicking – I knew I had a lot in the tank energy wise, I just also knew I’d need to slow my pace if I didn’t want my legs to totally go on strike.
Finally though we made it through the long parking lot, alongside the lake, and into the actual Magic Kingdom park. Entering onto Main Street USA was absolutely surreal. As the castle came into view, Disney’s top-notch customer service was at its best. Everywhere I looked a Disney cast member was on the sidelines ready to take runners’ pictures with the castle in the background.
Heading into Tomorrowland at about 5.5 miles was one of my favorite moments.
My splits were all around 13 minutes throughout the Magic Kingdom Park – I was too busy enjoying taking in the whole experience to care about my mile times. Space Mountain! Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor! Cosmic Ray’s! It was only really this moment I wished I had bought tickets to the park so I could ride all the rides and eat all the food after the race. I hadn’t, due to lack of money and knowing I’d be too tired to walk around too much before catching my plane home, but boy, while we were in Tomorrowland did I wish.
Just past Tomorrowland was another one of my favorite moments of the race: Woody! I named my adopted shelter cat Jessie after the character from Toy Story because when I was first fostering her she acted way too cool for school, but I soon came to find out she was the most affectionate little creature I’d ever come across and became very attached to me, much like Jessie in Toy Story was looking to do with her own little girl again. I had really been hoping for Jessie to be a character stop on the course but I settled for telling Woody to tell her I said hi. (I will cry every single time I watch Toy Story 3 and I’m not sorry about it.)
As I headed away from Woody I sent the picture off to my mom, who I knew would just be waking up for the day, to tell her I was almost at six miles for the half marathon and to tell Jessie I’d seen her BFF. Then it was off to the Castle.
As soon as the Castle came into view again it was just unreal. I’d seen it previously from Main Street but before I knew it my legs were carrying me in through the castle itself. It was all I could do not to just stop and stare around at the walls and touch them and take in the moment that picking up running just a year ago brought me running a half marathon THROUGH the iconic Cinderella’s Castle. Outside the castle they had the opportunity to actually pose in front of the castle with official race photographers. Again, I was gonna get my money’s worth!
And then I was off again. Leaving the castle through a crowd of cheering spectators crying “6 miles! You’re halfway there!” I laughed and thought “I’m no math wiz but I’m pretty sure 6.55 will be ‘halfway’ there.”
I crossed the 10K split just ten seconds faster than the Enchanted 10K,
probably because I hadn’t wasted all that damn time waiting for Jiminy damn Cricket, and sadly left the Magic Kingdom park area to head back out on the road. Even though I was sad to leave the excitement of the park I was happy to find a rhythm again. After a rocky 7th mile trying to find a rhythm after all the stopping and starting in the Magic Kingdom, I settled into a groove with my heart rate after the 7 mile marker heading into the 8th. Miles 8 and 9 were okay, though I was definitely losing steam in my feet and legs, and collapsing my upper body a bit. It wasn’t joint pain, just plain old tired muscles and tired feet.
So I was happy to happen upon a character stop I’d skipped the first time around, which were the “heroes.” (Gross.) I was totally complicit in it though, skipping up to the Princes and taking Flynn’s arm with a saucy “hello boys.”
The guys gave me a good opportunity stretch out my hamstrings and calves. It really was my calves that felt the tightest throughout the weekend, and more than a photo opportunity, standing in line for the picture was an excuse to just stop and stretch them out.
The stop gave me a 15K mark of just under 2 hours. I reflected on having passed the 10 mile marker in Charleston a month ago in under 1:45 and decided both ways of doing it were equally fine with me. Triumphantly speedy and personal record-setting or stopping to smell the roses? I’m grateful I’ve been able to do both this year and it’s only February!
After this it was just a matter of willing it through to the finish line. I thought Mulan was supposed to be on the course somewhere after the 11th mile marker but she was nowhere to be found so I had to just keep moving. I wanted to walk so bad at one point after the 10 mile marker but I told myself to just stay in running motion, even if it was slow, and I’d still be done faster than if I just walked. With no more characters to look for, what I really just wanted was a giant cheeseburger, a hot shower, and some of that gelato they were selling back at the hotel.
We headed around and up a ramp and over a bridge and more for myself than for the other runners I shouted down to where we’d just been, “You got this princesses! You can do it!” and waved. I had to trick myself into feeling energized for those last 3 miles. Any high five I could give or get I was giving or taking.
Blessedly, at about mile 11, Paramore’s “Daydreaming” came on my playlist and it was the boon I needed. I immediately felt my chest lift and open. Something about that song just helps me breathe better. It just makes me feel good and happy and light even though it’s not the poppiest or fastest tempo song. I mouthed it to myself, my old trick in last ditch efforts.
Passing the 12 mile marker was exciting, and again I was tempted to just walk the rest of the thing. Impatience was the only thing that stopped me from doing so. We finally entered Epcot again and I couldn’t believe how long it felt to reach the 13th mile marker. I averaged 11 minute miles the last three miles but this one felt like it was taking 20. Finally I could hear the cheers from the finish, the announcer calling names, and the volunteers crying “13 miles! You’ve made it! You did it! It’s right around the corner!”
I smiled with gratitude, took my earbuds out in time to hear a group of girls who seemed to have met on the course and run mostly together say their goodbyes to each other, and I took off in a sprint I didn’t know I had left. It was this moment and this moment only I suddenly had a time goal: 2:40:XX. In that last .1 mile I suddenly got a time goal. :-p
My chip time was 2:40:33, which was a lot better than I expected going into the challenge, and at times a lot better than what I felt like I’d end up with. For all the stopping and starting, and the 10K the day before, I was pretty damn proud of that time!
It’s funny how I couldn’t really appreciate the beauty of my medals until later. I was so tired, so anxious to get my bearings back, so anxious to get a banana, find the Team Noah tent, let Lisa know I’d finished and see whether I’d find her at the finish line party, and SO CRAVING A DIET COKE AND A CHEESEBURGER, that all I could do was find a place to sit as soon as I could.
Just outside bag check were a bunch of “just finished” runners like me who were just kind of sitting and staring and gumming bananas. We were all so out of it, I had to laugh. One girl and I swapped phones to take each other’s pictures, after I noticed my mom had literally texted to respond to my picture of me and Woody from over an hour ago to ask me where I was now. The last thing I did on my phone before it bit the dust battery-wise was send my mom this picture.
The relief in my smile, the ease with which my happiness in the moment came, the lack of trying to make my eyes look any less tired to any official photographer, makes this my favorite picture from either race. This = why I run.
After wrapping up things with Team Noah (and getting an extra medal to boot from them!), having my bag accidentally picked up by someone when I set it down for a picture, finding it at the Information tent, I finally dragged myself to the Coronado Springs bus (note to future runDisney runners: Pop Century resort is gonna mean waiting through like 3 buses before you get a seat on the ride back to your room, where CS had zero wait, thank God), and plopped into an open seat to flip through cameras on my “real” camera, knowing I’d have plenty of time back at the hotel to shower, finish packing, check out, check my bags with bell service, and hit the pool.
Which is of course exactly what I did.
Wandering around the pool deck in the Florida sunshine, chowing down on a cheeseburger and fries, catching up with Lisa poolside on our experiences, having all the Diet Cokes, riding the water slide 5 times in a row, getting to know complete strangers who’d all run as we all relaxed around or in the glorious hot tub, was everything a racecation should be. Knowing I’d banked my third half marathon, had all the fun I’d wanted to have, and left no regrets on the course, I felt more relaxed than I had in months.
The sunshine was better post race recovery than any foam roller or compression socks could give me.
Happy racing, fellow Glass Slippers. And congratulations: we did it!
F 25-29: 1144/3955
Average Pace: 12:15/mile