From the Expo to Post Race Fun it's time to give a recap of Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend. I read SO MANY recap posts before running my first half marathon I thought I would contribute.
To me, the expo was the most overwhelming part of the weekend. It's possible it felt that way because it was my first time at a runDisney event or the fact that I was having some race day anxiety but it was overwhelming to me to say the least.
The expo takes place at the Wide World of Sports complex. You can choose to take a bus from your Disney resort or drive yourself. This was our first stop on arrival day so we drove ourselves. There was plenty of parking and the complex is really nice!
- Bring your signed waiver. These are available online before the race after bib numbers are released. Have it printed out and signed. It saves you a step at the expo.
- Go get your bib first! There is so much merchandise to be distracted by so I suggest going and taking care of what you NEED to do first.
- NEXT go get your race tee. Now you are done with the things you HAVE TO do. At any moment if you are too overwhelmed you can just leave.
- Shopping: There is a lot of cute stuff. Especially the runDisney stuff made special for the event. Don't let the fear of it selling out make your weekend MORE crazy. Take your time getting to the expo and be content to shop what they have left when you get there. It will save you a lot of disappointment!
- As always with Disney you must pack your patience. There are 20,000 runners trying to get there items as well over the course of the expo. There will be lines. Stuff we be sold out. People are just as overwhelmed as you are.
- There were a few character meet and greets as well as picture spots but like I said I was so overwhelmed I didn't take many photos! Maybe next time when I have an idea of what's going on I will be more prepared for that! I ended up purchasing a shirt, headband and a Tervis from the expo. Because I looked at the available merchandise ahead of time, I had an idea of what I wanted and only one thing I had my eye on had sold out by the time we got there.
- The Expo is a beast that cannot be avoided. If you don't care about the merch or get overwhelmed easily I suggest getting your bib and your tee and getting out of there.
We went to the Expo on Thursday, the first day, which meant we still had 2 full days before the race. We stopped by Epcot for a while on Friday and then lunch and walking around Disney Springs on Saturday but we tried to keep it as easy going as possible. I didn't want to be totally exhausted for race day.
We stayed at my in-laws condo that week, Wyndham Bonnet Creek Resort. Because we were staying at a Non-Disney hotel there was no transportation provided. What that meant was we had to leave a little earlier than normal to beat the traffic and account for any road closures. That 2:30am wake up call was EARLY GUYS. We were out the door by 3:00am and parked at Epcot by 3:15am. I would do this again even if we are staying on property. It was so nice to get there, park close and take a little rest in the car before having to head to the corrals.
We even had time to wait in a line and take these pre race pics. We look super good for it not even being 4am yet!
Next was time to wait in my first bathroom line of the day, and then take the 1+ mile walk to the corals. You start out in the staging area, what eventually becomes the finish line, it's quite a walk to the actual corals.
- Find your coral, then potty. It would have saved us some waiting in line, and the ones down by the corals were MUCH less used than the ones here.
We dropped off friends who were in different corals and made our way to M. (note: Cameron was actually in coral L but they allow you to move back a coral, just not forward). From there we still had a good wait, we listened to music, had sing-a-longs and we watched the fireworks go off for corals A-L. Here is where I made my first mistake. By this point I already needed to pee again, but I was so nervous about missing my coral, I decided to try and hold it until we got started. There were people running down a hill to use the potties there RIGHT before it was our turn to start and in hindsight I should have joined them. Even if it meant missing my coral start, I would have lost less time overall.
You can see it's still dark. We have now been up for 3+ hours and it's finally time to start this thing!
I love that each coral gets their own set of fireworks and a big send off. It made it so special!
Another BATHROOM TIP
- You can enter/exit your coral at anytime, pay attention to what coral they are calling to start, and if you think you might have to go before mile 4 GO NOW. Even if it means starting later than planned.
I think running through this was my favorite part of the entire race. Maybe because I always try to get a pic of it when we are driving in and it's never quite right. The sun was just coming up too, so it was perfect.
I had it in my mind, if we could just get to Magic Kingdom TTC we could use a real bathroom and wouldn't have to wait in a crazy long line. The bathrooms which I was told are almost always open for races, were closed. It would be another mile to get inside Magic Kingdom. Cameron, our friend Mackenzie and I couldn't wait any longer for a bathroom and decided to go to the next set we saw. Us and everyone else it felt like.
We lost a good 15 min waiting for a bathroom here. This really threw me for a loop. I began to stress and worry about my time more and more. But we took some time in Magic Kingdom and enjoyed running around a mostly empty park.
There were lots of people there with cute and funny signs giving out high fives and cheering everyone on. It really added to the fun!
- Everyone waits in front of the castle to get a pic, but this shot was so perfect! After you run through the castle and you are going over the Frontier Land bridge is the perfect photo spot!
The first 8 miles we super fun (minus the bathroom). You are running from Epcot to Magic Kingdom, around Tomorrowland, through the Castle, through Frontierland, and some backstage areas. +8 is when it started to get harder and harder to stay motivated. It's mostly roads, with a few entertainment spots and character stops along the way. But the roads NARROW A LOT. This causes bottle necks and a lot of spots where it becomes nearly impossible to run. We made up a lot of time by running in the grass around people, it also added to our actual mileage with all of the weaving in and out of groups.
Miles 10-11 there are 2 overpasses that you have to go up a ramp and over. I was already tired and worried about my time, and having to slow down for these didn't help. BUT WE MADE IT! By the time you get over the hardest part of the race, you can see Spaceship Earth and you know the end is near.
The crowds cheering and entertainment gets going again too as you run through the Epcot parking lot and backstage areas.
- My parents and brother decided at the last min to join us for the weekend and come cheer us on. They did not buy the ChEAR Squad package. Because they had a ticket to Epcot for the day, they were able to get in when the park opened and wait for us right between the fountain and Spaceship Earth. It was a great viewing area with lots of space!
Photo credit to my Dad who asked me to make sure to credit him.
Can you tell we are glad it's almost over? Overall, still looking pretty great for being up for 7+ hours and running almost 13.1 miles.
You are so close to being finished as you run around Spaceship Earth and back out another backstage area.
You can hear the finish line, as you run toward it and past the ChEAR squad stands. There is an announcer as you cross the finish line shouting out everyone's names it was so awesome!
So all done! Everyone was given their medal after they cross, and then a heat blanket again (it was chilly at the start so they also had them then as well). This is where you either go pick up anything youGEAR checked or go right to getting your snack box, water and heading to the meet up area.
Cameron and I are gluten free, and I was happy to find almost everything in the snack box were things we could eat.
From there, we waited for Jenn and Nate to finish and headed back to the condo for a shower! Again I was glad we were able to just jump in our car, which was parked super close, and get home. We didn't have to wait for buses to take us anywhere.
This was a surprise because everyone had scared me about how horrible it would be to drive. But like I mentioned before I think that's the way I would do it again!
I was so proud of myself and all the friends who trained with me! A year of hard work paid off and it was time to go celebrate at Epcot! AND EAT ALL THE FOOD.
Overall, I had a blast! I think Disney is the best place to run your first big race. There were a few ladies who were taking themselves a little too seriously considering the fact they were in the back of the pack like me, but I think you will find that anywhere. Overall, for the most part it was all pixie dust and encouragement!
We are already planning our next RunDisney race for 2017!