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A First-Time Princess on Surviving a runDisney Weekend

Editor’s Note:  Please join the WDW Radio Blog Team in welcoming back our guest writer, Alyson!  She has authored one previous post for us, and we are pleased to welcome her back as she shares about her runDisney preparation and marathon experiences.


princess 10k medal - alyI started running on May 31, 2015, after hearing a back episode of the WDW Radio Podcast. Running races through Walt Disney World? That’s a thing?  Even I can do that!  Despite the good-natured laughing from my family and friends, I was determined that I would run a half marathon before my 40th birthday in May 2016.  I signed up for the Disney Princess Glass Slipper Challenge (a 10K and a half marathon on back to back days) in July 2015 and threw in a 5K the day before just because it was there.  I found a close friend who was crazy enough to run with me, and we joined up with a few more girls from our area to train.

In preparation for the challenge, I read everything I could get my hands on. There is an incredible amount of information out there: training plans, costume ideas, social media groups, blog posts, nutrition recommendations, and ads determined to sell you the latest in essential running gear.  Much of it is very good, and I am grateful for the age we live in where information is delivered to you in volume at incredible speed.  But, this first-time Princess had a few “ah-ha!” moments during my first runDisney race weekend, and I’d like to share a few things with you in the hopes of improving your race experiences whether you’re a first timer like me, or you’ve run the parks for years.

runDisney princess marathon medals - alyEverything you read is going to stress the basics, which are really common sense: of course you want to train for the races you’re running. You must hydrate, eat properly, get enough rest and generally take care of your body.  While it’s fun to dress in tutus and tiaras and giggle with girlfriends along the course, if you’re not properly prepared you’re going to regret it –nobody wants to invest the time and effort and money into a runDisney race weekend only to have it be a miserable, painful experience!  Worse yet, in looking at the race results one can see that nearly twenty percent of the participants in the Princess Half Marathon did not finish – while this is in no way a failure (having the guts to try is a HUGE accomplishment!), it’s not the way anyone dreams of ending their race experience.  That said, when it’s time to register eight months before your event, I advise you to believe in yourself and go big!  At a time when I could barely make a mile run happen, I couldn’t imagine that a few months later I’d be at the finish line with 22.4 miles under my belt and four Princess medals around my neck – but that’s exactly what happened.  You’ll train for the race you register for, so be brave!

Once my friends and I arrived in Orlando, we perused Facebook for information on how the Expo was going.  Frankly, I was appalled at the reports I was reading!  People scooping up handfuls of shirts, snatching wine glasses out of other peoples’ hands and running away, pushing, yelling, fighting and generally being horrible to each other.  Trust me when I say NO MERCHANDISE IS WORTH sacrificing your dignity.  Be respectful of yourself and other people and understand that if you miss out on that one special item, you will live to see another day.  Our first priority should be kindness to others, not having that limited-edition pin in our collection.

Those who take times and records seriously need to remember that runDisney races are not solely marketed to that crowd.  While they are prestigious and fun, Disney seems to be trying to make distance running and endurance events accessible to everyone.  Elite runners will probably be in the minority of the 20,000+ people who are running the event.  Despite the list of race etiquette rules in the event guide, most people are not going to abide by the typical expected behaviors.  The sooner this fact is accepted, the better experience you will have.  Practically speaking, in a race where the road is four lanes wide and there are 8-10 people running across it, you are going to have at least 4-5 speeds going on at once.  It’s not possible for everyone to pass on the far left.  If I am faster than you and passing you on the left, someone else is still faster than me and on MY left.  Add in a few walkers who are moseying along on the left side and you’ve got chaos.  It may be a bit frustrating or inconvenient at times, but everyone there paid and trained to participate, and they all deserve respect and kindness.  There is no need for yelling, pushing, or other behavior suited for toddlers.  Just do your best to stay safe and be respectful of others and keep putting one foot in front of the other at your own speed.  Everyone gets the same medal at the end!  The goal should be for us all to get there safe and sound.

A few things I did not see mentioned in my research: because you’re running mostly on roads, there are hazards that you may not be prepared for such as reflectors that mark lanes for the cars, speedbumps, rough asphalt and even the occasional pothole.  The races start while it’s still dark, so make sure you’re aware of your surroundings so you can avoid tripping or hurting yourself.  Also, it can be chilly in the morning while you wait for the races to begin, so if you want to be warm and comfortable without making your run unbearably hot, there are a few things you can do.  We saw a few people who had bought a couple yards of fleece fabric that they used to wrap up.  They then tossed it on the side of the road for Disney to donate after the race.  Another idea is contractor trash bags worn upside down with a hole for your head.  Lastly, after each race, runDisney handed out Mylar sheets for keeping warm, which my friends and I folded into our bags and saved for the next morning.  They kept us cozy until it was time to race!

One last thing to remember, whether you’re interacting with other runners on social media or in person: please be kind. Yes, people are going to ask questions that are clearly answered on the runDisney site or which others have already asked a hundred times.  Yes, someone may be wearing a costume that you’d never consider in a million years.  Yes, someone may have an opinion that differs from yours.  But we are all human beings and there is no need to belittle another person. Be as helpful as you can, be respectful of our differences.

runDisney princess 5k medal - alyI hope you’ll consider joining me on a runDisney race in the future.  The sense of pride and accomplishment I felt in completing this life goal is one I will carry with me for a long time.  It was the most fun I have ever had at a race, and I felt like a Princess the entire weekend.  If that’s not your game, there are Star Wars and other Disney themed races throughout the year to appeal to just about everyone.  Whether you’re someone with a 6-minute mile or someone who only runs while being chased, there’s a Disney race for you if you just have the courage to try!

(Photos from the author’s personal collection.)



princess half marathon medal - alyAly Miller is a lifelong Disney fanatic. She recently discovered the WDW Radio Podcast  and became a member of the Nation. When she isn’t obsessing over all things Disney, she and her husband run Chad Miller Auto Care, an independent full service automotive repair shop in San Antonio, TX