Disney Princess Half Marathon 2012
This past weekend I ran my third official half marathon, my second in Disney. This race went much better than the Tybee Half 3 weeks ago, even though I wasn’t much more prepared for this one in such a short time, there’s just something about running in Disney that psychs you up and gets you motivated to run 13.1miles.
I’d registered for this race at the Rock and Roll Savannah expo back in November in hopes of putting in a hard effort over the winter ad knock some serious time off my Wine and Dine half from October 2011, unfortunately my recovery from the full marathon and my tremendous hatred of cold weather didn’t play well with my motivation in December and January so I came in to these February races a little less than prepared. After the performance at Tybee I did manage to get a few runs in though and hoped that a little pixie dust would help propel me to a better finish.
The Princess Half Marathon is run on the same course that the big January half is run on starting from outside EPCOT, up and through Magic Kingdom, then back through the front of EPCOT and finishing in the parking lot, this is different than the course I’d run at the Wine and Dine Half so I studied the course map a little more than I figured I’d need to since I’m pretty familiar with Disney but there are some backlot parts I wanted to make sure I was prepared for since I’d be getting to Magic Kingdom while it was still dark or twilight. I’d also assumed that the race started in the EPCOT parking lot but it actually starts out on EPCOT Center Drive, the main road you would come onto property on if you got off I-4 at Exit 67. The start line is approximately where Disney Vacation Club Way dead ends into EPCOT Center Drive, where you would turn to go to Old Key West or Port Orleans, and stages back towards the east toward I-4. They even closed both directions and staged the first few corrals on the westbound lane, the latter corrals staged in the eastbound lane but facing west, when the last corral passed they crossed over and filled in behind.
The race starts at 5:45 AM, pretty early I think for a half marathon but I know Disney wants to get the roads open so people can get to the parks and open up Magic Kingdom and EPCOT. The problem is that they start closing roads early so the only way to get to EPCOT is to drive around to World Dr, so I basically drove a complete circle around EPCOT, then practically walked back to Old Key West to the start, 360 degrees. The races from EPCOT all stage in the Wonder parking lot, the one allll the way out on the east side that you hopefully have never parked in, the EPCOT parking lot IS the second largest parking lot in the US. You walk to the corner of it and onto Woodpecker Ln and end up behind Test Track, then turn onto Overpass Rd and out to EPCOT Center Dr. The race instructions also said that you needed to be in the corral by 5AM.
The race started a little late, I was a tad surprised by it but they announced they were waiting for clearance of the roads, that had been closed for hours. All of the normal Disney fanfare was happening too, dance music for the ladies interspersed with some semi famous people, then the countdown to the fireworks that send you off. One of my fears happened as well, I had to pee. I always try to be aware of that fine line between hydrating and over doing it. I went in the room, I went in the porta potties at EPCOT, and I went at the porta potties at the bottom of the ramp exiting onto EPCOT Center Drive, but yet within 20 minutes of getting in my corral I had to go again. I only saw one entrance at the back of the corral so I was afraid of getting out and going back and trying to get back in time so I decided to wait until one of the backs of porta potties on the course and I hit the ones at mile one. I didn’t have to wait and was in and out pretty quick, shew.
Around mile 2.5 I noticed something in the middle of World Drive, not moving, it was still pretty dark. I scooted to the left side of the road and picked out people waving, there was a runner down. I would have stopped but there were easily 6-7 people there already so I cleared far around and kept going. I had my earphones in streaming Pandora but as I got to the Transportation and Ticket Center and there were some obstacles, I took em out to pay attention. I also tweeted my location a few times so my friends would know where I was, both runners and some that were in Magic Kingdom ChEaring on the runners. They tweeted back where they were on Main Street but even knowing that I couldn’t find them. I thought I heard them call out but they weren’t front row and I was in a bad position to move to that side since the course was a little tight there and there was a turn. I hesitated for a split second after straightening out thinking I should go back, the had even made a poster. Its great having someone you know there to see or hear from on the course, it really adds to the motivation, so Nicole and Zanna, thanks so much for being there.
Through Tomorrowland, around the Tea Cups into Fantasyland, then you feel that rush of whats about to happen, you’re about to run through the castle, the iconic picture of the race is coming out the front side of that castle. There was some light out so I hope the pics came out good, we’ll see soon. Turn right across the bridge into Frontierlandand and follow the end of the parade route out by Splash Mountain where you end up on a service road that empties onto Floridian Way where you head back to the resorts, and you’re just now half way there.
There were a few people out at the Grand Floridian cheAring as you make your way back towards the finish, thats the longest part of the course that plays with your head because there is so much “road” and I say that in many ways, there just isn’t much going on since you aren’t in a park. Disney helps a ton though because there are characters and music everywhere, if this had been anywhere else this would be the part that gets you. Past the Polynesian, the race track, Hess Gas, then that straightaway back to what I thought was going to be the last up turn of the road making that 270 degree turn off World Drive towards the EPCOT entrance. Its actually a fairly shallow grade, the bank of the road was more irritating than the climb since its high on the left and low on the right with no flat spots anywhere. When I got to the top assuming it was all downhill from ere because we would run through the EPCOT toll plaza I was shocked to see the runners ahead of me veer off to the left towards EPCOT Center Drive again, we weren’t headed back into EPCOT just yet. The road turns back up a little to go over the road coming from I-4 where you would go to EPCOT coming from the interstate and you run up to a road you leave EPCOT on and make a very hard right, maybe 160 degree turn and go backwards up that road, and over yet another bridge that dumps you out on the very far east side of EPCOT parking lot. Wind around some more and enter EPCOT on a service road near Nemo/Living Seas then popped out into the public area near Spaceship Earth. Up the center, around the fountain all the way up to World Showcase lagoon and make a 180 degree left turn around the planter and back towards the front of the park. You veer off at Spaceship Earth to the right, there are some bathrooms there, behind Universe of Energy and back out into the parking lot to the finish line.
Like I mentioned before, it’s so nice to have someone at the race waiting for you and I do wish I had someone to see me finish, but there was definitely a someone there even if she could see me cross the line. Aurora and her husband James VoluntEar at most of the Run Disney events and somehow get to hand out medals at the finish line, she was thre at 3 of the 4 Disney races I’ve run and probably was at the first one I ran but I didn’t know her then, she’s the Mocha Princess that gives out ‘Hugs with Jugs’ with the medal. I didn’t see her at first because I was walking up to the wrong area and when I spotted her and headed towards her another VoluntEar started to talk to me “sir here’s your medal’ and tried to put it over my head but before I could say anything Rora was right there “Oh no, he’s ALL MINE” and gave me a big hug and my medal. We chatted for a sec but I knew she had other people to greet so I cleared out the area for the other runners. I do wish there were someone else there though but everyone else I knew running had started in corrals further back and I could see where they were on twitter and it would be over an hour before the next was possibly close, so I grabbed some water, Powerade, banana, and some other food that I’ve yet to open, and had a seat on the ground to recover a second. An Asian girl sat beside me and her sister brought her a space blanket a few minutes later and we talked for a few moments, she was getting ready for her first marathon so I wished her luck and headed back to the room to shower and get comfortable, slide on the compression sleeves, and get ready for the long ride home.
The other thing I did different for this race is I had a shirt made. I have a nice Nike run shirt that I never train in, I’ve only worn it for races, so every single race photo I have is in that shirt. It’s bright yellow so I’m easy to spot but I had been thinking I needed something else to be different and be remembered by. This particular race is nearly 20,000 people with 95% of them female and a very large portion of them dressing in some type of disney inspired costume. There were many Belles, Cindys, Snow Whites, Ariels, Jasmines, even a few Pocahantas and Minnie Mouse running. Even the women that didn’t do the costume thing had some cute outfit with funny run sayings, a lot of pink, or something motivational. So I decided to have a shirt made specifically for this race and with some encouragement from Amanda, who also ran, I had this shirt made. I had a lot of pictures made of me and out on the course I could hear people reading it out loud when I passed them. The one’s that passed me were smiling and saying “great shirt” or “love the shirt, too funny” and I even had a few guys tap me on the should as they passed and give a thumbs up and say something about it. Even at the very end when running up to World Showcase lagoon in EPCOT where the play fountain is on the right side there was a Sleeping Beauty on a microphone yelling encouragement to the runners. I passed close by her and she recognized the one guy anywhere remotely around and commented in the mic something about me so I slowed and turned her back to me and pointed over my shoulder and she read the shirt over the PA and then said something about “cause you’re cute sir and you wear those funny shoes that aren’t really shoes at all” because I was also in my Vibram Fivefingers again, which have about 650miles on them after this race. Women get all the cool, cute stuff for running but men look the same dumpy look at a race as in training so it probably wasn’t too hard to get noticed at a race that there were only 5% men, but, mission accomplished.