Well, 13.1 magical miles are officially crossed off my bucket list — insert squeals. This Disney loving, mickey ice cream sandwich eating runner ran through Cinderella’s castle (and loved every second of it).
About a month ago I ran the Walt Disney World Half Marathon and wow, was it an experience. As a huge Disney fan (no, seriously, my family used to go twice a year and we call The Boardwalk our Disney vacation home), this race was right up my alley. I mean, I had to run this race at least once in my life (and now probably at least one more time).
After a month of ‘reflection’ or just a busy schedule and expert procrastination, here’s the skinny on everything from the race expo (and how my boyfriend doesn’t actually know my birthday) to the post-race regrets (yes, I have a few) to some things I wish I knew before running the race (like there’s a sh*t load of people).
Race Expo at Disney’s Wide World of Sports
In general, expos tend not to impress me. I always feel like it’s a giant room to just sell a captivated audience things that are definitely over priced and they probably don’t need. However, the Disney Expo was definitely different.
First off, it was more like an epic event than a expo (well, I guess the entire weekend is epic to be fair). I’d never been to the Disney Wide World of Sports, so it was a new experience and navigating around was easy thanks to the cast members directing us like cattle. I was having difficulty printing out a race waiver prior to getting to Disney, so we went straight to race customer service for help. Turns out my boyfriend, who registered us for the race, didn’t put in my correct birthday. In case you’re wondering, April 15th (Tax Day) is my birthday, not April 17th. Yes, I gave him a lot of sh*t for that.
Once that was sorted out, we were free to explore the expo. I actually really, really enjoyed the expo though that could just be the Disney high I was experiencing due to being in New Jersey only a couple hours earlier.
It was crowded, but not crazy crowded and we were free to browse through everything. Of course I couldn’t come out empty handed, so we got a marathon weekend glass and to-go coffee mug. Personally, I don’t go for the clothing, but there was tons of fun shirts to buy. Though, I think I’d get a zip up for my first marathon.
Overall Review: Fun! The kids race is going on, there’s PLENTY to walk around to look at and great pre-race photo ops.
If you love waking up at the ass crack of dawn, this race will even challenge your internal clock. My alarm was set for 3:00 a.m. and we just made the 4 a.m. bus. Yes, I obviously hit snooze a couple dozen times.
We stayed at the Boardwalk and runDisney had coach buses ready to go for racer’s convenience — and it really was super convenient. However, we were soon thankful we were staying at The Boardwalk since realizing after the race we’d have to board the same buses with 13.1 miles of worn humans. No thanks, we’ll cut through Epcot and endure the extra walking.
After getting off the bus (and realizing the race was still a couple hours away) it started to dawn on me exactly how cold it was outside. I didn’t pack any clothes to throw off as we started (hello last minute packing), so I just stood and shivered for almost two hours. The race starts at 5:30, but my corral (second to last) didn’t cross the starting line until 6:30. If you’re in a corral near the end, be prepared to wait. In fact, your legs almost get tired just waiting there for two hours. Overall Review: Bring throw away clothes. Yes, Florida is warm, but 5 a.m. anywhere is cold. And make sure you don’t miss the time submission to get into a closer corral. I totally missed the date and consequently ended up almost in the last corral.
At 6:30 we crossed the starting line and we were off! Yep, that’s a full hour from when the first corral started. That particular morning was uber foggy in Florida (I know, it’s shocking because Florida is never foggy). It was different running in such high humidity, but I felt fine. For a while at least.
Characters were a little bit fewer and farther between than I would have hoped, but I was expecting that based on previous recaps I’ve read. Unfortunately, I was too paranoid about finishing the race (which is dumb since I have finished multiple halves before) to stop for photos with any characters. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
This is where we come to my first regret: stop for pictures. If I had trained a bit better and been in a closer corral, I would have felt more comfortable to stop and take some pictures with Stitch or Oogie Boogie (I don’t actually know who that is, but my boyfriend was jazzed to see him). I let the time stamps freak me out too much and wanted to focus on finishing and getting that medal. Around the time we hit the castle, it was starting to get lighter out, but still foggy. In fact, you can barely see the castle in my pictures as we ran down Main Street. Despite the fog, running down Main Street was a huge rush. People lined the sidewalk to cheer your on and you could tell everyone was trying to soak up the moment. We ran into Tomorrowland and around back to the Castle to see Elsa waving at the runners below. At this point there was a bit of a bottleneck from people stopping to take pictures, which was understandable. I didn’t realize this would be a theme through out the rest of the race though. After leaving Magic Kingdom, we were in the dead space of the race, which means there wasn’t much to see except for people. Everywhere. The course became more narrow as we progressed pushing people together (including those walking). This happened so much so that we had to stop and walk at points from having a wall of walks in front of you.
I’ll say this once. This is NOT a PR type race. If you’re looking to bash records, do not run this race. It’s 100% for fun race.
The walking/running at other people’s pace due to small space threw off my rhythm a bit. We decided to run on the grass at some points to get around some bodies, but the crowd never ended.
After we came to the end of the dead space and the Epcot ball was in sight it was all worth it. Especially when we crossed the finish line and got that Donald Duck medal [insert heart eyed emoji].
Overall Review: Be warned about the masses of people and slow pace. Do everything in your power to get a closer corral. I heard reviews from the front mid-pack were better than where I was. AND DON’T BE LIKE ME. TAKE PICTURES.
Post Race Activities
Disney will take a professional picture of you after the race, but only with their equipment. Basically if you don’t want to pay for your pictures, nicely ask the person in line behind you to snap a pic with your phone.
There was plenty of food and snacks for us to grab post race (including some for my g-free boyfriend).
Overall Review: We were fed, happy to finish and ready to nap. I really don’t know how people go to the park right after the race. All in all, running the Disney half marathon was an incredible experience. It isn’t something I would do every year, but I do want to do it again. Actually, I just told my boyfriend last night that after we tackle our first marathon or two, I want to run the Goofy Challenge in Disney one day (add it to the bucket list I suppose).
Did anyone else run a Disney 2016 race? Is anyone running the Princess races coming up?! Any first time runDisney-ers with questions? I’m an open book.