Stacey Margaret Jones: Disney Princess Half Marathon


The Good, The Bad, but Absolutely No Ugly

Disney Princess Half Marathon main

How is it possible to have the worst road race of your life in the most magical place on earth? 

Run the Disney Princess Half Marathon in temps over 70 degrees with 88 percent humidity along Florida highways with 20-some-thousand other tutu-wearing princess runners. That’ll do it.

Add to that a full day in the Magic Kingdom the day before to give yourself sore, tired feet and a 2:30 a.m. wake-up call to thoroughly exhaust you, and a last-of-the-pack corral assignment so you cross the start line an hour behind the elite runners.

But you’ll look adorable in your princess running gear, and so will every single runner around you, especially the tutu-attired dudes who join in the fun.

The course begins near Epcot, and runners immediately hit the highways toward the Magic Kingdom. There we ran around, and through, the castle and Main Street, stopped for some photos, and then lit out again for highways, until we found ourselves heading back to Epcot and through this park before finishing almost where we started. We stayed together pretty well, until the heat and humidity hit some of us harder than others. Aurora and Rapunzel finished about six minutes ahead of the rest of us.

(We should have predicted Rapunzel’s consistent drive as she literally danced along most of the first six or seven miles of the course. She chassed, box stepped and kicked forward through the running throng.)

It probably isn’t coincidence that the two Yankees in the group, Belle and I, struggled the most with the weather. We had run marathons, and when we finished the Disney Princess Half, we both said we felt far worse than we ever did after 26.2.

In the interest of full disclosure, I admit I almost sought the care of bicycle medics who were constantly riding through the crowd on the warmer-than-anticipated day, looking for princesses who needed assistance.  But I wanted that medal so much, especially after all the heat-related struggles and the expense of the trip, I did not want to drop out. I felt better running than walking, so I jogged and ran as much as I could and chugged water and sometimes PowerAde at each aid station.

I knew my husband would be justified in his frustration with me if I ended up in the hospital from heat stroke just so I could get another piece of race bling, but the struggle to earn it made it that much more important with each painful step. And makes it extra pretty to me now. 

But heat exhaustion is no joke, and I know that. I’ve passed out before in similar conditions on Pinnacle Mountain when I woke up to see my collie looking down at me quizzically, and I knew the dizziness and chills I was feeling were not good news. We had slowed for photos and bathroom breaks, which only extended our outing through hotter and hotter weather. As the morning wore on, the sun started coming through the clouds, which just made it all the more dangerous.

And there was added stress: If for any reason we found ourselves behind the 16-minute-mile pacers—easy to do if you stand in even one characters photo line—we could have been some of the unfortunate runners picked up by the sag wagons as Disney starts sweeping the route toward the end of the race for stragglers in order to clear the way for regular park goers.  

It was like the Hunger Games reaping back there at the end of the pack. Among the racers, various myths were bandied about: If we got to that overpass, we were safe. No! If we got over the bridge, we were safe! No! If we got to the park, we were free to finish. That last one seemed to be the most likely, and fortunately, none of us found out what it would be like to be culled.

But even with these “hardships,” I had a magical time at Walt Disney World for this race with five friends, Natalie, Melissa, Tina, Abigail and Tracy. We dressed up as various Disney princesses—I as Snow White, Natalie as Aurora, Melissa as Belle, Tina as Merida, Abigail as Rapunzel and Tracy as Ariel—cavorted about the pre-race party, and took off together onto the race course with strategically planned stops for photos with various characters, like the Disney villains and Jack Sparrow (complete with pirate ship). 

Mickey Mouse cannot control the weather, but everything else in runDisney’s control was expertly executed including the fireworks shooting off for every corral that passed over the start line. The flat, dull Florida highways were spruced up with character photo ops, plenty of aid stations and plenty of course assistance. And I can’t think of anything more motivating, especially for a first-time half-marathoner, than a Disney vacation as a reward.  

If you are a princess and you love being in the clutches of The Mouse, this run is for you—and if you’re not, runDisney has a lot of other events to choose from. It’s tough if the weather doesn’t cooperate, but it’s never ugly because it’s Disney—the most magical place on earth.

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