This past weekend, I ran the Disney Princess Half Marathon at Disney World. This was my first RunDisney event and the longest run I have done since November. After an entire month and a half of fighting off an endless cold, I was definitely under-trained.
I had a blast at Disney World and the parks, but the half marathon left me wanting more. I know this is probably the opposite of what everyone else who ran the race thought, but it just didn’t live up to my expectations.
We flew in Thursday afternoon in time to hit up the expo and get race stuff. My dad ran the 5k on Friday morning, so we wanted to make sure we were all there in time to cheer him on!
The expo was crazy. Even on the first evening, there were SO many people. They had a lot of gear and a bunch of stuff, but it was really spread out, almost unnecessarily so.
For example, you had to pick up your race bib and your race shirt in two different buildings. I didn’t quite see the need for that. Both buildings seemed to have adequate space. I guess they wanted to force you to go into the main expo, but I would have rather gotten all my gear at once so I had a bag to put it in instead of having to carry a handful of stuff.
After checking out all the fun race themed gear (hats, jackets, tanks, and more!) at the ESPN center, we headed back to the hotel to grab dinner and relax. We stayed at the Port Orleans – Riverside resort and had access to a great dining hall. Funnily enough, this resort is the same one we stayed at when we came here when I was much younger. It has been re-branded, but what are the chances?
After a delicious bayou burger complete with bacon, pimento cheese, and fried tomatoes, we called it a night to get ready for a 3:30am wake up call.
We got up bright and early to catch a bus to the 5k start at Epcot. The signs all said to get on a bus by 4am to make it to the start on time. So we got on a bus at 3:55 and got to the start at 4am. We killed time for almost two hours until my dad started at 6am (official start was 5:30am for the first corral).
There were princesses for pictures so while he was running, I got a picture with Jasmine, Mulan, and Minnie. I was nervous like a little kid again! By the time I got to Minnie, I was more comfortable standing next to an adult in a costume.
Dad finished his race and we met him at the finish and then jumped on a bus back to the hotel. We decided to hit Universal Studios since we figured it would be less hectic on a Friday. We got a double park pass so that we could go between Universal and Islands of Adventure. Our goal was to see all the Harry Potter things!
We started at Hogsmeade and after jumping on the two Harry Potter rides (so fun!) we took the Hogwarts Express over to Diagon Alley. I loved this part; it was so fun and they had a scene playing inside while you rode to the other park.
Diagon Alley was incredible. I had no idea what to expect, but it was awesome! The buildings were huge and ornate. There was a fire breathing dragon and all the wands you could ever want. Mom and Dad decided to wait in the long line for the Escape from Gringotts ride, while John and I hopped on the Simpsons ride and then saw the Animal Actors show.
If you even need to ask if I loved this show, you don’t know me at all! I had a blast watching all the animal actors. There were cats, dogs, birds, and even a pig! After that, we all grabbed lunch at the Leaky Cauldron. It was SO good. I even had a frozen butterbeer, which was much better than I thought it would be.
After walking around the park and catching the Animal Actors show (again!) we called it a night and found a restaurant on CityWalk to grab a drink and some food. Since we had gotten up so early, we were all ready for bed.
We slept in a little on Saturday since it was our only day to get decent sleep. After breakfast in the dining hall, we caught a bus to Animal Kingdom to go on a safari. Animal Kingdom is pretty awesome. I really enjoyed the Tree of Life; it’s huge!
We had a FastPass and used it to bypass the long safari line. We hopped on a big jeep and set out on the coolest safari. Our guide was awesome and we were able to see so many animals: elephants, crocodiles, hippos, giraffes, and even a lion.
After an awesome time at Animal Kingdom, we hopped back on the bus and went to Hollywood Studios. We checked out the Star Tours ride (not as good as I remembered it), grabbed lunch at the ABC Commissary, and went to Muppets 3D.
We wanted to get to Magic Kingdom as well, so after a short stop at Hollywood Studios, it was back on the bus. Magic Kingdom was definitely the most packed park of all. We got two more FastPasses (thanks Sara!) and headed to Space Mountain, the ride we really wanted to hit here. We got to bypass ALL the crazy lines and went right up to the front. I didn’t really remember this ride, but it was awesome. It’s an in the dark roller coaster that has so many crazy twists and turns. It’s also MUCH longer than you think it will be.
With Space Mountain complete, we hit the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride and then the Little Mermaid. Note to self: if the ride has issues, abort immediately! We stayed in line and ended up getting stuck for 15 minutes. Right in front of Ursula.
We made it out right in time to catch the end of the fireworks show. After fighting through the intense crowds, we took a bus back to the resort to grab some dinner and get to bed.
Another day with a crazy early wake up time. The signs all said to get on the bus by 3:30am, but we were certain that we didn’t need to get on that early and caught a bus at 4am. Well, it took about 50 minutes to get to the race area. From there, I had to walk about a mile to the start line and then had the hardest time finding my corral. I was supposed to be in D, but ended up starting with F. It wasn’t worth trying to fight through.
I started at 6:02am and had to run past a lot of walkers and runners to get to my pace. I followed a pack of girls who were running on the grass because it was literally the only way to get around people. The first few miles were fine. It was dark, I was listening to the music around me and just trying to enjoy the race despite the heat and humidity.
We spent about 5 miles on the highway before we got to Magic Kingdom. There were a few characters along the way, but their lines were so long. I wasn’t willing to add that much time to my finish so I skipped right past them. In Magic Kingdom, I got to see my family and John on Main Street and that was nice. At this point I was covered in sweat and slightly miserable.
We ran through the park and that was the best part. The sun was rising so I got a few good pictures of the castle. We ran through the castle and then it was back on the highway. We ran past a few Disney resorts and then back onto the main highway. Around mile 9 I started to get really overheated.
I took a walking break and flashed back to Marine Corps. Not again! I was really struggling, but John kept me going, sending me constant encouraging texts that helped me dig deep to pull through. I ended up tagging along with the 2:45 group that was doing run-walk-run and I was able to keep up that pace for two miles.
Around mile 12.1, I decided to start slowly jogging. I just wanted to be done. I was hot, sweaty, and exhausted. The finish was through Epcot, so I weaved through the last mile and finally heard the finish line. I was almost there! I saw my parents right at the finish line and was able to push across the end, without passing out.
I was so overheated afterwards. It took me awhile to get back to a normal body temp and recover mentally. I finally got back to normal and we headed to Epcot before our afternoon flight. We did one ride, grabbed lunch, and then headed out.
My time was 2:37. It was the worst half marathon I’ve done. The heat killed me. But even if the heat wasn’t there, I didn’t love the race. I expected so much more based on all the positive feedback I heard from people. But only two miles in the park was kind of disappointing. I thought the race was pretty unorganized and have honestly run much better races right in my neighborhood.
Will I ever do another RunDisney event? Maybe. I’ve heard there are ones that go through more of the parks, so those might be more fun. I did have a great time at the parks with my family and John, so the trip was definitely worth it overall!
Have you had a similar experience? Comment below with a time you were expecting something to be much better than it was.