Disney's Princess Half Marathon. 13.1 miles through "The Place Where Dreams Come True". Walt Disney World.
PHM would not be my first race or even my first half marathon. But a RunDisney event was my goal. It was on of the motivators to get me started running again. I found out about RunDisney races and I knew I needed to do one.
Let me back up. As a kid and young adult I was not active. I was always overweight and didn't know a thing about sports. In 2006 at 24 I decided to join the U.S. Air Force to get some direction and earn the education benefits That meant crash dieting for a few months to make the weight requirements and getting in good enough shape to pass the physical fitness test. I started running. And I hated it. I hated it the entire time I was enlisted. It was hard. My feet and legs were always causing me problems and I could not have been happier when I got put on a waver to excuse me from running the last year or so I was in. When I got out in 2011 I figured I would never exercise again, much less run.
Then, one day, I decided I wanted to run. I saw friends posting on Facebook about the 5Ks they were running. It looked they were actually having fun. So I talked my husband into doing a 5K with me and I started Couch to 5K a few days later.
Our first 5K was in June 2012. By this time I knew about Run Disney and wanted to run one. I signed up for an 8K, joined a gym and had plans to keep eventually train for a half marathon. Then I had a spasm in my shoulder. Looking back I really used it as an excuse to quit. What should have been a week or so of rest was about two months of me doing nothing. Thankfully, one day I snapped out of it. My husband had to go out of town one weekend in September so I decided to run a 5K. I signed up for a local half marathon talking place January 2013 and haven't stopped since. We are Disney Vacation Club members and we were out of points until after the Princess so I was planing on a trip to run the Wine and Dine half this year or next. A few weeks later I realized I had just enough extra money and airline miles to make it to Disney's Princess Half marathon. It would have to be a very short trip for me, only four nights and alone, but I could make it happen.
And I did. On February 24, 2013 I completed 13.1 miles, running from Epcot to Magic Kingdom Park and back. I woke up at 2am to get ready and be on the first bus to the race. I had purchased entry to the "Race Retreat" and would have breakfast there. The Race Retreat tent was a special area runners could purchase entry to for an additional $99. It included food and drinks, a stretching area, tables and chairs, photos with characters, private bag check area and a changing area. I had a bagel, banana, peanut butter, water and Powerade before the race. They also had soda and coffee, I don't remember if they had other food before the race. After the race they offered scrambled eggs, bacon, hash-browns, muffins and the same drinks. The also had a bar with mimosas and sangria and one drink was included with entry. Around 5 am they started to make announcements for the early corals to line up. The corals are about a 20 minute walk from the pre-race area. There were 8 corals total, A-G, and I was in D. I headed over to the start area with a few of the women I had met through a Facebook group but we were all in different corrals. I quickly found a few ladies from our group in my coral though. At 5:35 the race started. They start each coral with the Fairy Godmother and fireworks. All were beautiful but none were are good as the ones for my coral. Just before 6 it was my turn to run.
I ran down the highway in the dark with 25,000 of my new best friends all the way to Magic Kingdom and through the toll booths welcoming guests to the park. I ran down Main Street U.S.A.. Through Tomorrowland, Fantasyland and through Cinderella's castle. Then out of the park through Liberty Square and Frontierland. Back down the highway towards Epcot. With the Walt Disney World Monorail passing us by blaring its horn. Passing cars were honking, too, their occupants rolling down their windows to cheer us on. As we got closer to Epcot runners who had all ready finished who were driving away from the finish line slowed down to cheer and show us their medals. The same medals we would be earning in just a few more long miles. Then I saw Spaceship Earth in the distance and I knew I was going to finish. I knew I could do it, I had trained for this and I had completed a half marathon just over a month before. However, I did feel hadn't trained quite enough the few weeks leading up to the race and it was hotter and much more humid than it had been at home in Texas. Plus the two and a half days spent walking the parks was no way to treat my legs just before a long run.
But at that point I was in the Epcot parking lot and I only had 1.1 miles to go. I completed the race using the run/walk/run method and at that point I just wanted to run and get to it over with but a mile is a long way when you just completed 12. I keep my pace and made my way through the massive crowd. I couldn't resist stopping for a photo with the Fairy Godmother though! I love Epcot so I really tried to soak it all in while running through Future World. The course had us run in to the park from a backstage entrance near the Seas Pavilion. We ran up the right side of Spaceship Earth, past the Fountain of Nations and to the edge of World Showcase where we turned around and headed back to the front of the park to exit out anther backstage area.
There the gospel choir was singing and then just out side the gates I saw the mile 13 marker. Just .1 left and then it was over. Months of planing and training had paid off. This race was a true dream come true. Just after you pass the finish line they hand you your medal, then water and Poweraid. There are medical tents and ice stations for those who need it. Later that day I was regretting not icing my knee but I wasn't thinking about it at the time. As you leave the finish area you are handed a box of post race food and there are bananas to take. I headed straight to the Race Retreat for my hot breakfast and mimosa! As I entered I was handed a pair of commemorative flip flops and a small towel with the PHM logo on it. I had packed my own flip flops in my checked bag but this meant I didn't have to dig mine out. At that point I collected my things and headed back to my resort. Time for a well deserved shower and get read to enjoy my last day in the parks. Wearing my new medal to show off of course.