If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you know I’ve been training for the princess half marathon I completed a little over two weeks ago now. As I dragged myself across the finish line after being awake for seven hours already, I earned my bling, but not without a learning experience along the way. Here are 6 things I learned running my first Princess Half Marathon::
To catch up on my story::
- It’s gonna be crowded. REAL crowded:: Race weekends may be the best time of year to be in the parks because everyone heads in earlier at night and is on the courses for the majority of the morning, but the course is crowded, especially the further back you are in corrals. I was in corral “N.” 13 corrals full of runners had already started by the time it was my corral’s turn to start. The start line was packed. The first few miles were packed. Running through the Magic Kingdom was packed. Miles 6-9 were almost at a stand still because they were so packed. If you’re in earlier corrals, there won’t be as many people out on the road yet. It was a mess by the time I got to some of these places though.
- Use the porta potties near the corrals early and wait for the real restrooms in Magic Kingdom:: Every single article I read ahead of time had these two tips in them. Thing is, it was my first time running so I didn’t fully understand exactly where the corrals were. Follow all the signs that point you to the corrals and start heading there early. Those porta potties stay cleaner longer and aren’t crowded until everyone starts heading that way around 5:30 AM. Use them up until the last minute. Even when the corrals start moving up getting ready to start, you can still jump in last minute if you’re coming back from the potties. Also if you can stand it, try to use one of the potties after the castle in Magic Kingdom. I waited in a short line for the ones on the Tomorrowland Terrace, but there were no lines on for the ones on the other side of the castle.
- Wear your headphones if you want– you won’t be the only one:: Short and sweet on this one. Everyone has them. I kept my volume pretty normal and could still hear the race announcements over my music.
- There’s no reason to bolt out of the corral:: Seriously, unless you’re front row center and about to be trampled, don’t try to run. It’s ridiculous. There are so many people trying to get out at the same time it gets dangerous.
- The balloon ladies are your friends, the people in bikes are not:: So many articles are out there dispelling the myths of who the balloon ladies are. There are pace runners with balloons on sticks. They’re different than the very nice ladies who are in the last corral and wait two minutes for the last person to cross the start line and then they start. Those ladies are your friends! Don’t be afraid if you see them. Now the folks on bikes… they’re a different story. They ARE the sweepers. Fear the bikers!
- There will be runners with bad running etiquette:: I was warned about this by some runDisney veterans, but was surprised at just how true it was. I’m a slow-poke when it comes to running (my pace is about a 15 minute mile) so I stay to the right. I had three ladies who were running try to pass me on my right when there was no room to pass. One princess even got in my ear and said, “ON YOUR RIGHT!” Needless to say I was quite startled. She ended up passing me on the left like she should have because I was pushed against a guard rail on my right. Rule of thumb: Runners on your left, walkers on your right. Pass on the left. It’s just like with traffic. Since people weren’t following the running guidelines, I ended up doing an additional mile of weaving in and out of people on the course. My final mileage was 14.1 when I crossed the finish line. THAT was depressing.
The biggest thing that I regret? Missing all of the fun things on the course. Even with the entertainment cuts to the runDisney courses, there were still several special things that I completely passed. I ended up having to run by myself. Even though I registered with other people, I was stuck in a different corral than they were. I was able to really focus on my running, but I missed so many of the amazing things on the course because I was too focused, if that makes any sense. Like a horse with blinders on, I missed getting pixie dusted. I missed all of the characters and photo ops. I missed most of the photographers. All because I just kept running and wasn’t paying much attention to other things going on.
I did catch up at one point to one member of my group and hung out with her for about a mile around mile 4 and 5. Then again around mile 8 and 9, two of the other members in my group caught up with me and passed me. By that point I couldn’t keep up with them! All the while, my sister had left them at mile 8 to find me and completely passed me and ended up finishing close to 30 minutes ahead of me. That’s just how crowded it was. She didn’t even see me.
My favorite part of the event? Everyone told me congratulations for the rest of the day while I was wearing my medal. THAT was better than crossing the finish line. Especially after I was well rested and showered when Corey and I returned to the parks in the evening. A close second was my entire family waiting at the finish line for me and all of them expressing how proud of me they were. It nearly brings tears to my eyes thinking about seeing all of them there pressed against the railing, scanning the finish line for me. It was so heartening after the course had worn me down so much.
Will I runDisney again? At first, I was adamant about not doing another half at Disney. 5k? Sure. 10k? Always. 13.1? NO! I was hungry, hot, exhausted, uncomfortable– if it was unsavory, I was it. Upon returning home, I met with my trainer who ask me two questions: What was your goal? My goal was to finish. Did you learn anything? Yes, I learned a lot. She said well based upon your answers, you’re a prime candidate to run another half. You can’t judge if you’re a half runner or not just on one race. With nudging from her, I have since put another half marathon on my books. Probably not the Princess Half, but I’m very interested in the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend Half and if that doesn’t pan out perhaps the 2017 Star Wars Half. If all goes according to plan, my next princess half will be 2019 when some friends of ours return from China to visit.
There are 3 things I plan on doing differently for my next runDisney or half event though.
- Submit an amazing pace time. While there are several factors that go into what corral you’re assigned, your pace time is important. Make sure you submit one. Mine wasn’t that great and I wish I had made an effort to find another 10k to submit a better time.
- Stay with a running buddy. This would have helped me keep pace and not wear myself out so much before I got to the end. I might’ve been in a better mood those last four miles if I hadn’t run so hard the first 7.
- Stay out of my own head! Easier said than done but I read so much about the race and the details that I got myself so worked up and nervous about it. I’m not sure if reading less would’ve been better or not, but actually having a half marathon under my belt should help me not over think it for my next one.
Despite my over-reading, there were some great Princess Half resources that I found beneficial::
This link discusses all the real potties along the princess half marathon course
This post has reviews with the “balloon ladies” that are not official Disney pacers
This post talks about the realities of being swept off the course
Over all, I can rest assured knowing that I accomplished my goal and that my year of training wasn’t in vain. Also that my running story isn’t over, but that it’s just started.