Tag Archives: Fairy tale challenge

Disney Princess Half Marathon Race Recap

This magical running tale begins about a year ago, when I discovered the existence of the Disney Fairy Tale Challenge. I had seen the postings of the Dopey Challenge Runners for years. However running a a 5K,10K, Half and Full four days in a rows seemed a bit excessive. If I’m going to be at the happiest place on earth, I don’t want to be so exhausted from running that I can’t enjoy it. Then I learned of the Fairy Tale Challenge: a 10K and a half marathon in two days sounded like the perfect ratio of challenge to fun.

My friend and fellow Disney fan, Ashley, had been threatening to start running for a bit, so I propositioned her with the idea of signing up for the Fairy Tale Challenge. I tried to ease her into the idea by first suggesting she could just run the 10K with me; however, she would have none of that. She cocked up her eyebrow and glared at me, in the way only Ashley can. “You think I can’t run a half marathon” she replied indignantly. At that moment I saw the look of determination in her face and knew that, in fact, she most definitely could.

As with all things Disney related, getting into the race takes planning. We set our alarms so we could be online the minute the challenge went on sale 10 months in advance. Ashley got in immediately. I, on the other hand, was busy ‘doctoring,’ so I was delayed about 8 minutes signing on. In those precious 8 minutes the challenge sold out. {insert dramatic pause} For another 10 minutes I frantically tried to get into the half–my apologies to any women who may have spent an excessive amount of time naked with their butts slowly becoming one with the exam table paper, but this was an emergency–and finally got my bib. 27,000 people running a race, and it sells out in minutes.

Ashley got serious about running through the summer. She trained and ran her first 10k (The Franklin Classic) over Labor Day Weekend.  Having completed a race is uber important, because you have to provide an official time to be assigned you corral. If you don’t have a race time then you get stuck in the last corral, and you do not want that!

The Race Trip

We caught a late flight out of Nashville and got to our hotel at the lovely hour of 2 am. Our number one ride priority was Avatar Flight of Passage, but we didn’t get a coveted fastpass. Despite our exhaustion, we caught the first bus from the resort and got to Animal Kingdom when it opened, so we could be in the first wave to ride it. We managed to only wait 45 minutes to ride a Banshee (normal wait is several hours). This ride is phenomenal! Totally worth the sleep deprivation. We rode the other major rides AK and headed back to our hotel after lunch to catch a nap, before the Expo.

The Expo was huge. You could get your picture made with Cinderella’s Carriage too, but the line was crazy long.

 

The Expo was held at the ESPN Zone and encompassed 3 buildings. You got your bib in the first building, then walked to second to get your t-shirt and see all the vendor booths. Disney race swag had its own separate building. While I love a good expo, this expo was almost too much or maybe I was a wee bit tired, with working all week, flying all night and riding roller coasters all morning.  Nevertheless we got our bibs and headed off to dinner, then early to bed.

We had a fabulous dinner at Trattoria Al Forno at Disney Board Walk Resort.

The Disney races are HUGE and they have to be over before the parks open, which means you have to be on the bus at 3:30 to go to the races. Yes, you get up in the middle of the night. Saturday morning, Ashley got up at some insane hour to run the 10k and I slept in till 6:30 and ran a leisurely 5 miles at the resort. At that moment, I was quite glad that I only got into the Half and not the challenge.

Ashley’s 10K shirt

We stayed at Port Orleans French Quarter, which had a lovely running trail along its waterway.

Saturday we spent part of the day at Hollywood Studios. We tried to make this a lighter day since we were running the half the next morning, but no matter where you are at in Disney there is a lot of walking. Ashley took a nap in the afternoon and then we headed back to Hollywood studios for dinner and tried to get into bed as early as we could.

 

 

Sunday morning the alarm began to blare at 2:45 am and I began to doubt my sanity. I crawled out of bed, threw on my Tutu and headed out to the bus. I was pretty hesitant to run in a costume, but Ashley assured that this was Disney and that was part of the fun. When I got to the bus stop at the resort there were at least 30 women waiting in the wee hours of the morning ALL dressed in various costumes. If you are going to do the Disney Princess Half Marathon, you must dress up.

The bus driver dropped us at the race starting zone, and the air was electric. Thousands of women (and a handful of men) were dressed as running Princesses ready to race their way from Epcot to Magic Kingdom and back. We grabbed some coffee and bagels, made use of the abundant porta potties and hiked the mile to our corral.  Even though it seemed like we were at the race ridiculously early, the time passed quickly. The race began at 5:30 am with fireworks. They released a new wave of runners every few minutes and EACH wave got their own countdown and fireworks. We were in corral F, so we did not actually get to the starting line until 30 minutes after the race started, but there were still at least 10,000 people behind us. This is a lot of people’s first half marathon and they all end up in the last corral. 

Miles 1-5 

We started the race in the dark and headed out on the highway. The first 5 miles were flat, actually most of the race was a nice pancake. There was not much crowd support, but just checking out all the outfits and enjoying the atmosphere made those miles fly by.  The sun began to come up as we ran under the Magic Kingdom sign. We were giddy with excitement! Around mile 5 we thought we were entering Tomorrowland, but we actually just ran through the edge of the park as we passed a full band of drummers from Epcot. This was one of my favorite moments, the sun was rising and the rhythm of the drums was gorgeous and invigorating.

Ashley (“Cruella”) running under the classic sign.

Miles 6-7

Miles 6-7 were inside Magic Kingdom. We started down Main Street and then took a right at the castle to run through Tomorrow Land. We snuck up to Fantasy Land and then ran THROUGH the castle to make our way to Frontier Land and out of the park. Running through Magic Kingdom was absolutely magical and everything I had hoped it would be. The streets were lined with crowds and there were several character stops (the lines moved super quick). Magic Kingdom was, by far, my favorite part. Seeing the castle for the first time each trip always fills me with a sense of wonder, but seeing it as I ran down Main Street with crowds cheering on both sides was absolutely thrilling. As we exited Frontier Land and ran through the back lots, they had the giant dragon from the parade with all the princesses there for a photo op.

I had to stop and get a pic with my favorite sign (I’m a HUGE Princess Bride fan).

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Main Street, USA

A different character was on each mile marker sign.

Miles 8-13

As soon as we exited Magic Kingdom, the road narrowed and we had to walk because the crowds were so thick. This had happened a couple times earlier, but this area was the worst. At one point there was a DJ playing music who told us we were all 30 minutes ahead of ” the balloon lady”. In Disney races, the last person has to finish in a set amount of time because the parks have to open. The balloon ladies are the final pacers, so if you get passed by a “balloon lady,” you get swept off the course, get no NO MEDAL and get a big DNF by your name on the internet forever. Luckily, we were in good shape for time, despite a few character stops and bathroom breaks.

Around Mile 9, the race became a little less magical. The temperature had soared to 75 degrees, and there was not a tree in sight. We were running on a boring freeway back to Epcot, the humidity was miserable, and the high from running through Magic Kingdom was wearing thin. While there was an occasional character stop and lots of water stations, there was not much else to look at. Mickey wasn’t there to cheer us on anymore, we had to find our strength within. Ashley needed to walk a lot the last few miles. She was getting dehydrated, and I could tell there were moments she wanted to give up, but I knew she was determined. She’d worked too hard for this to get “swept”. I did my best to encouraged her on to the finish line.

Mile 13

The last mile was inside Epcot. As we ran around the giant golf ball, the crowds and characters were out in full force. Music was pumping and Ashley found the strength to run the last mile. Minnie Mouse greeted us at the finish line. I was proud of my friend for finishing (7,000 people didn’t finish this race). We both got our medal (Ashley got 3 for doing the entire challenge) and scrambled back to our bus as soon as possible. It felt amazing to be done. We took the world’s longest showers and napped.

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finishers!

We hydrated and walked all the way around the world at EPCOT. We rode Soarin’ and Space Ship Earth, then headed over to Canada where we ate one the best meals I’ve ever had (definitely the best Disney meal ever) at Le Cellier Steakhouse. We laughed and ate until we could not hold another morsel in our body. Back at the room we went to sleep without setting an alarm.

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We ate “poutine” in “Canada.” It’s french fries with cheese curds and gravy. Otherwise know as the most amazing recovery food ever.

The last day we went to Magic Kingdom and had a fabulous day. We rode all our favorites (Space mountain, Seven Dwarves Mine train, The Little Mermaid, etc.) . We caught lunch at Belle’s Castle and snuck over to the Polynesian for a cocktail at Trader Sam’s Grogg Grotto Tiki bar. Once you walk inside, you feel like you are in actually in Tahiti. It’s Disney, so there are special effects associated with different drinks when they are ordered. I don’t want to give any other spoilers, but if you are lucky enough to find yourself at Disney sans children, it’s worth the effort to go there. Dinner was at the Kona Cafe. Halfway through dinner, the guy next to us starts choking, turning blue and needs a Heimlich, stat. I rush over and the realize that this guy is absolutely huge, and there is no way I can get my arms around him. We start to move him and luckily the movement dislodged the giant chunk of hamburger blocking his epiglottis. Phew, now on to fireworks.

The next morning we caught the magical express back to Orlando and boarded our flight back to our slightly less magical, but equally wonderful real lives. We missed our kids, but a Disney race made a great girl’s weekend. I came back refreshed and ready for the next set of challenges that lay ahead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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