The one where I ran and ran and ran…
Y’all, this was so. me. The gif, that is. Just running, and running, and running, and running. Not across the country, but rather across the “WORLD”!! Walt Disney World, the most magical place on Earth. The only place I said I would ever agree to do this long of a race, and I stand by that. And thus I signed up for the runDisney WDW Princess Half Marathon 2023.
I want to clarify right off the bat, by “running” I mean very slow-like jogging, at best. Something slightly faster than a walk. Faster than I am physically able to walk, if only by a couple of minutes per mile. Regardless, I finished a half marathon! At a very consistent, semi-respectable (maybe), constant jog. Let’s hit the high points, shall we?
For this race, my first EVER longer than 5 miles (which I have done exactly one of, plus a few 5k’s), I had two very unambitious goals:
- Run (jog) the whole race
- Finish in less than 3 hours
Like I said, nothing crazy here… but you do have to keep a pace above walking to finish in that amount of time, so the second goal definitely supported the first! When I first signed up (in the SUMMER) I had hoped to have a little bit more respectable goal, but after some annoying injury setbacks and also the even more annoying realization that not everyone is made to run… I felt good about these goals, and went for it!
There was one more goal that was not directly happening on race day but had a BIG impact on it nonetheless, which was to tone down my normal park touring (let’s MOVE MOVE MOVE MOVE!!!) and go to bed early because the race started at 5am, with busses starting at 2:30am. Yes, really. We accomplished these goals very well. I’m not much of a relaxer and I do not go to bed early, but this weekend I was, and I did!
So how did it go? Actually, pretty good! I started attempting to train wayyyy back when I signed up for the race, but then also started a 10 week half marathon training program at the 10 week out mark (makes sense…) and had a lot of success with that. Not that it was easy. Running ten, eleven, and twelve mile training runs on the weekends, NOT at Disney World, is literally no walk in the park. And yet, I did it! That in itself was something I was proud of.
When it came time for the actual race itself, I felt ready. Not fast, but ready. Plus I got to spend two days at Disney World, my favorite place, with one of my very best friends (who is really fast) and that alone was worth the price of admission which was not flippin’ cheap… but, good friends are worth a lot. In the end, I:
- Ran (jogged) the whole race
- Finish in 2 hours 46 minutes
Goals met!! The second one was well exceeded! But again, not a terribly ambitious goal. And yet, it felt really good! I felt really good, the whole race, which is a small miracle really. Maybe especially for me. Perhaps I could have even finished a little faster (“next time”…) but honestly, learning to pace myself consistently and control my own heart rate were HUGE lessons for me.
In 7 years of working as a fitness instructor plus an entire childhood of playing team sports, those were things I have not ever mastered or even come close. Looking at my Apple Watch splits and seeing VERY consistent mile pace AND heart rate felt like a win all by itself.
Why I will think carefully before doing it again
I prefer “bad news” first – that way the glass is half full by the end 😉 I certainly will think carefully before signing up for this or any 13.1 mile race in the future, because it was a learning experience for sure! Here are a few things I will consider before “next time” at the WDW Princess Half Marathon
- Training takes a lot of time. If you’re not somebody who regularly spends multiple hours per day on workouts, you’ll feel this one too. There are seasons of life where this may not feel like a huge burden, and seasons when it just really will. Worth considering if you’re really willing to spend several Saturdays or Sundays in a row running for multiple hours.
- Things are going to hurt. Perhaps this is because I have reached the third floor, but there literally were a few days when I felt like I could have achieved the same results from letting someone beat me with a baseball bat. I’m not a stranger to fitness or to soreness, but wearing down the same muscles over and over for weeks is pretty rough!
- You are, like, really committed. Y’all, this was not a cheap three hour workout. Running, itself, is a very inexpensive exercise to pick up. $100 shoes and you’re good to go (do not cheap out on the shoes guys, just don’t). However, signing up for a race at Walt Disney World, simultaneously the happiest and most expensive place on earth, means you are NEXT level committed to this race. There’s no turning back now…
- RunDisney requires some SERIOUS planning. Everything at Walt Disney World requires prep work and I truly love that about it (did you know I’m a Disney specialized travel agent?? Hit me up!!) but this was next. level. You do all the regular things like booking your resort, making dining and park reservations, that’s all the fun stuff! But then, you also gotta figure out what to do at the expo, how to GET to the expo, what time you have to leave for the race (basically the night before), and optional things like when and where you can find a real bathroom on the course, and then also race related things like when to drink water or powerade and if or when to use fuel. It’s a lot. And I’m a big planner.
Keep reading to see the “good news” section, up next!
Why I would absolutely recommend doing it!
Certainly there are things I will consider before “next time” (which is perpetually in quotes, because there may or may not ever be one) but there are also a number of reasons I would totally and wholeheartedly recommend this race! Considering your own WDW Princess Half Marathon? Let’s fill this glass at LEAST half full!
- Every mile is magic. Ok, that’s a stretch… It’s also the official runDisney tagline, and it’s not UNtrue! I did training runs very nearly the length of the race, and felt that not a single of those miles were anything resembling “magical”. But on this day, having gotten out of bed at 2:30am, stood in the cold for an hour and a half, used two porta potties pre-race, and eaten Wetzel’s Pretzels for breakfast – somehow, everything just was magical. That’s definitely Disney for ya! Plus getting to run through Cinderella castle (and most of Magic Kingdom) and finish your race at Epcot is just really cool and special for a Disney fan!
- You get to go to Disney World. Duh!!! But really, if you’re looking for an excuse to go for a weekend, go with a friend, or just go by yourself for a couple days, sign up for a race! I don’t mean to make signups sound trivial – they are NOT – but if you’ve got the time to plan it and jump on that race registration, it’s a really great way to squeeze in an extra visit to the World!
- There ARE real bathrooms! Plus a LOT else. I mentioned before I have never run a race this length before, but I have witnessed a couple and heard a lot of race tales, and it does not sound to me like other half marathons have what this one has on the course. That includes dozens of characters, live entertainment, high school marching bands, REAL bathrooms, plus a gospel choir and Mickey Mouse himself singing and cheering you over the finish line. Hey New York Marathon, maybe consider plussing up your character game a little bit. I was not someone who wanted to stop for pictures (although you can do that) but I absolutely appreciated the amount of entertainment and distractions on the race course!
- You really can do it. Even AFTER I signed up and started training, I didn’t think I could. But I did! And you could too! Let the Disney trip motivate you, and go with it. If you’re willing and able to commit to putting in the training hours and prep work, then lace up your shoes and sign up for a runDisney race. I do not think you’ll regret it!! As long as you stick with your training and really put in the sweaty work, in all likelyhood – all your wishes, will. come. true.
Bottom line takeaway, it was really, really fun! And although the last few long weeks of long training runs definitely did get to me, even that part really was worth it in the end. Feeling good during the race, being able to pace myself and my heart rate, and getting to enjoy it made me glad I did the training. Being able to take in this special run at my favorite place made me glad I signed up to begin with!
This was a major goal for me this year!! Want to see more 2023 goals? Check them out here!!
Are you considering a runDisney race? Let me know!! I would love to chat more, and maybe even help book your trip!
Can you find them…
In this post are one Magic Kingdom attraction reference, one Disney/Pixar movie reference, and one Walt Disney World fireworks show reference – do you see them? Catch me being a Disney nerd, go right ahead. Find the quotes and put them in the comments!!