RunDisney Princess Challenge Recap 2020

In February of 2019 I declared that I was going to run the Fairytale Challenge in Disney World in 2020. That means running a 10K (6.2 miles) on Saturday and a Half Marathon (13.1 miles) on Sunday. This was going to be my first half marathon. Long story short if you take a look at the race recap section you’ll see once I started running I didn’t stop and this was ultimately by second half marathon.

In the week leading up to going to Orlando my level of stress was high. It’s flu season after all. At both of my son’s schools it seemed like everyone was sick. I knew that if they got sick I couldn’t possibly leave them. As luck would have it everyone stayed healthy and on Thursday, February 20th I made my way to Orlando. After checking into my hotel I made my way to the Expo.

What is the Expo?

The Expo is where your running shopping dreams come true. Imagine three buildings at ESPN World Wide of Sports- one with exclusively RunDisney merchandise, one where you pick up your bib and can take pictures with the giant mile signs for each race. Finally, another building where you pick up your race shirt(s) and vendors with anything from running shoes, to graphic tanks, headbands, race specific Pandora and so much more.

The Expo opens Thursday morning at 10:00 AM. I arrived at approximately 3:00 PM. Other than waiting in line to enter the exclusively RunDisney merchandise building there were no lines. You could easily spend hours pursuing the various booths. I limited my purchases to:

Sarah Marie Design Studio

Saturday, February 22, 2020-10K

The weather was unseasonably cold in Orlando. I’m talking in the 40s kind of cold. The 10K started at 5:30 AM. Since I was staying at the Contemporary I was able to take advantage of the RunDisney transportation to the starting line near Epcot. But that also meant being outside waiting for the bus at 3:00 AM. The weather prediction vs. the reality were two different things. Originally, it was supposed to be in the 50s at the start of the race. Clearly, this wasn’t the case. Fortunately, I brought shorts and pocket light n tights as options for bottoms but had planned on running in a tank and bringing long sleeves to “throw away.” (Actually RunDisney collects the discarded items, washes and donates them.) Change of plans. I wore my tank, put my “throw away” long sleeves on and then added my Bomber Jacket for waiting in the corral.

While waiting in the corral can be tedious, it’s also an amazing chance to chat with other runners from all over the country or world. As we approached go time, I removed my “throw away” shirt and put my Bomber Jacket back on. After the first two miles or so I warmed up and I was good to go. Along the route there were characters, music and photographers to capture the perfect running photo. This was the first time I was racing back to back days. But truth be told, I don’t know how to “take it easy.” While I didn’t want to run hard as I knew I was running a half marathon on Sunday the weather was perfect for setting a good pace.

The route was mostly surrounding and within Epcot. It was a fun course. I didn’t stop for character photos until I spotted Mickey Mouse on the Boardwalk. There were only two people in line so I figured it would be quick. I jumped in and out of the photo and it was well worth it. My boys thought it was the best thing ever.

Since the race started at 5:30 AM, it was dark for nearly my entire run. I finished well before the sun was up. I felt good the entire run and finished in 53:48.

While running is a very personal sport. It’s about doing better than the race before, right?? This happened to be a PR (personal record) but then I was curious and started looking at how it measured up against the other runners. Let’s take a look:

  • There were 12,572 runners in the 10K. I finished 308th.
  • There were 10,728 female runners. I finished 168th.
  • There were 1681 women in my age group. I finished 38th.

Holy smokes. Not only was I personally pleased with my overall time and race, but look at those number.

What did I learn?

  • The Bomber Jacket is literally amazing. I might have mildly panicked when I didn’t have along sleeve performance shirt with me since the weather shouldn’t have required it. The Bomber fit the bill. No chafing and provided me with the extra layer that I needed.
  • When traveling for a race….alway pack a long sleeve performance shirt regardless of what the weather is saying.
  • You can stop for a picture with Mickey and still PR.

February 23, 2020- Half Marathon

Day two waking up at 2:30. Somehow it was easier the second day around. Transportation to the Half Marathon was via Monorail vs. bus. This was so much easier!! The weather was also 10 degrees warmer. So that meant it would be in the low to mid 50s for waiting in the corral and running. Ideal for running, a tad bit chilly for waiting. However, following the 10K they gave out mylar blankets. You better believer I brought that with me Sunday morning. Especially, since my plan was to run in just a tank I knew I would need the mylar to stay warm without the benefit of a jacket.

Based upon the proof of time that I had submitted I was in the second corral to start the race. I felt good, despite the 10K on Saturday and couldn’t have asked for better running weather. But…there’s always a but. You know how you have that nervous energy before a race and you think you have to go to the bathroom, but you really don’t?? Guess what sometimes it’s not just nervous energy and you really do have to go to the bathroom. So despite using the glorious johnny on the spot with a half hour of starting the race, I had the urge to pee just as we started that I was sure would go away…alas it did not. Translation, I spent the first 4 plus miles trying to reason with my brain that I was going to have to stop and waste precious time. At last I made the call to stop in Magic Kingdom and guess what, it did cost me approximately 2 minutes. Killer!

But I digressed. The start of the run is leaving Epcot and heading toward Magic Kingdom. Again there is music and characters along the route. Keep in mind it’s also well before sunrise so it’s dark as well. The start of the run was along the roadways leading up to Magic Kingdom. One of the amazing parts of the Princess Half Marathon is that you run Main Street and through Cinderella’s Castle!!

Taken on Friday in anticipation of running Main Street on Sunday

In anticipation of the much needed pit stop I ran hard the first half to try add some cushion to time. I was on pace for a PR and wanted to keep it that way.

Such a fun experience to coming running through the castle

After exiting the Magic Kingdom we were back on the roadway leading back to Epcot. The temperature remained perfect and it was beautiful to watch the sky change color in anticipation of sunrise. That said I was hitting miles nine and ten my calves began to cramp a bit. Up until that point I had just had some water during the run. To give myself some extra energy I went to my tried and true Honey Stingers. They gave me the boost I needed.

.10 of a mile to go. Let’s do this!

The last three miles I was watching the clock. I knew that short of something crazy happening I was going to beat my half marathon time from October by approximately four minutes. Despite the calf cramping, I dug deep. I knew I didn’t go all that way to leave anything on the table, I had to go all in. And that’s what I did pushing to a 1:54:34 time! A PR by nearly four minutes..

Pure joy crossing the finish line

Truth be told, I didn’t feel fabulous right after I finished. I thought that I was going to get sick. I made my way over to a trash can right past the finish to catch my breath and if I got sick at least get sick in the trash. I could hear my high school cross country coach in my head “if you get sick you know you ran a good race.” I was most impressed with the medical staff on site as someone immediately came over, to me; looked at my bib; asked me by name if I was OK. When I indicated I just needed a minute, he gave me the time to compose myself and then I was fine.

Let’s take a look at how my time compared to the other runners:

  • There were 20,492 runners. I finished 562nd.
  • There were 17,518 female runners. I finished 325th.
  • There were 2847 runners in my age category. I finished 67th.

What I learned:

  • I need to pack a bag for waiting in the corral. For example, I need to bring a blanket, mylar is a must, snacks and water.
  • Always go to the bathroom one last time before the race starts.
  • Running through the castle is AMAZING!
  • I can run races on back to back days.
  • Time to sign up for more races!
Challenge accepted and complete!

My RunDisney weekend was amazing. I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity and support of my husband and children. If you have the chance to participate in a RunDisney race…do it!! Enjoy it. Take all the pictures to remember the experience!