Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Race Report: Disney Princess Half Marathon, February 27, 2011

Disney Princess Half Marathon, February 27, 2011
Time: 2:46:54
Pace: 12:44 per mile
Previous PR (personal record): 1:59:37
+ 47:17

The Background

Ever since signing up for this race, I have been saying that my goal was "to have a good time, not to get a good time."  Last year, I ran the Brooklyn Half Marathon in just a hair under two hours (race report here).  For me, that time was amazing; I ran a 9:07 minute mile!  Compare that to my first race in 2008 (pre-weight loss)---the D.C. Cherry Blossom 10 miler---that I ran at an 11:41 minute mile.

All this to say, I wasn't shooting to beat my PR at this race.  Not only because I am still really proud of my half marathon PR and don't feel a strong drive to beat it yet, and not only because I completely slacked on my training, took a two and a half month break from exercise, and didn't start running again until February.  Most of the reason I wasn't trying to beat my PR is because this is a DISNEY race.  When you run a Disney race, you're paying to experience the Disney extras, and if you fly through the course without stopping to take a few pictures, I think you're doing it wrong.

In any case, fearing injury resulting from my lack of proper training for this race, I decided I would train to walk/run the race instead of running the whole way.  (I'll post my crammed training plan another day).  My plan was to run for five minutes and walk for one minute for the duration of the course.  It worked out pretty well, except for the times I stopped to take pictures.  I also took two bathroom breaks (I won't go into detail, but I did---unsuccessfully---try to avoid having to take a bathroom break).  I imagine that, had I just walked-run the race without stopping for pictures/portapotties, I would have finished closer to a more respectable 2:30.

The Arrival/Starting Line

Disney, for some inexplicable reason, wanted everyone to be at the arrival area by 4am and at the starting line by 5am.  The guns didn't go off until 5:45 for the elite runners (6am for Corral B, where I was), so it's unclear to me why it was so important we all get there so early.  Crowd control, perhaps.  By mistake, I didn't make a reservation at an official race resort (which would have provided a shuttle to the start), so we had to drive ourselves to the starting area.  Navigating there was a bit confusing since some of the Epcot roads were closed down, but we found our way.  The parking lot theoretically closed at 4am, but we arrived a few minutes late and there was still a long line of cars entering the area.

A red carpet bordered by ten foot tall pink and blue flags led into the arrival area.  This area was located behind the eventual finish line and contained a concessions booth, a merchandise booth, bag check, and family meet-up tents with letter ranges for your last name.  In the runners-only area, there were tables set up with volunteers handing out water and there was a long row of portapotties.  Sidenote: If you want to see something hilarious, look at the facial expression of a woman emerging from a portapotty in a tutu.  Priceless.

There was a wide array of costumes for this race.  Some women wore full-length Disney princess costumes, some just wore tutus and tiaras, some only tiaras, and some wore regular running gear.  I missed the race expo, but I spotted several cute princess-themed running accessories, including a fabric headband with a crown/tiara graphic printed on it. The Disney stores also sold a small crown hairclip that fit perfectly around a ponytail (or fancy updo. Whichever).  I ran in a tutu, green tights (here) and a tiara.

At some point (didn't check my watch, probably between 4:30 and 5am) the arrival area opened and we were allowed to walk to the starting line, which took about twenty minutes.  Once we arrived, we were greeted by another long line of portapotties and the Fairy Godmother from Cinderella on the big screen TV, talking to Jeff Galloway (?) about something (perhaps how pretty we all are).  The starting line was organized into corrals, with each corral starting about five minutes after the previous one.  For each corral, Disney set off fireworks.

The Course

(Click on the image to view a larger version)

The course took us up several long stretches of highway, then through Magic Kingdom at the halfway point.  I wasn't crazy about the up-and-back nature of the thing, but only about three miles doubled back over the same roads so it wasn't too tedious.  Most of the race was flat, with some "uphills" corresponding to the changes in highway elevation (i.e., exit ramps, overpasses).

Along the way, the course was spotted with fun distractions including high school marching bands, Disney characters, and signs containing interesting princess-related information (i.e., the health benefits of eating apples a la Snow White, the health benefits of getting a full night's sleep a la Sleeping Beauty, the calories burned performing household chores a la Cinderella).  The line for photos with the characters moved relatively quickly.  The longest wait I had was for a shot with the Disney princes, and that took two or three minutes.  Honestly, I almost passed over this shot, but it was just too cute not to get (and, again, why would I run a Disney race and not stop for fun photos?)

"My" prince, Eric, is in the upper corner.  I was trying to look at him adorably, a la Ariel.  I tried not to take it personally when he switched positions with Prince Charming as I walked up to have my picture taken. :-)  Incidentally, I have no clue what Tarzan was doing in this picture.  I think maybe he's trying to be Belle's Beast?

Unfortunately, a Disney volunteer dropped my precious digital camera halfway through Magic Kingdom, totally breaking the lens, so my self-photos end at that point.  Let's all take a moment of silence for my Canon PowerShot SD780IS :-(

Since I'm leaving for Israel in a few days, I had to replace the camera in a rush.  This photo was taken with a Canon PowerShot SD1300IS.  I like my old camera better (the 780 did a better job with lighting), but this one was cheaper.  I dunno.  I wish I had more time to deliberate but I didn't want to leave for Israel without a camera.

I didn't bring my own water with me, although I did carry a banana.  There were plenty of water stations along the course (the map says 9, which is one for every 1.5 miles or so).  The "Food" station consisted of gels, although I can't remember the brand.  I had a chocolate flavored gel and it was delightful; just like chocolate pudding!

My ankles hurt a bit during the run, but not too much.  Overall, I was happy with my finish time given my lack of training and the fact that I run-walked (and took lots of pictures)!

(Forgive the watermarks on this.  I haven't decided what photo package I'm buying yet, so for now you just get screenshots of the professional pictures)

After the Finish Line

We were released to a food station of water, powerade, oranges, bananas, and delicious Luna protein bars.   Apparently, there was also an area you could go to get sprinkled with "Fairy Dust," but I missed this part.  The Disney marketing folks had a tent set up so you could have your picture taken for promo materials.  One of the girls in line for this ran as Cinderella, and after 13.1 miles she was still sporting a perfectly elegant updo, full makeup, and was barely glistening despite wearing a full costume gown.  Impressive, madam.

After a shower, I got to walk around the parks all day wearing my adorable finisher's medal.  The compliments flowed!

In sum, I would recommend this race to anyone looking to have a fun girly activity.  This would be great to run with your girlfriends and is a good excuse to go to Disney world.  It's also a cute way to experiment with running a costumed race.  I don't think it's particularly good for anyone looking to beat a PR...not because it's not possible, but because you're not getting value out of your entry fee by running past all the cute extras.

---More race photos behind the jump.---


(Again, please forgive the watermarks.  Once I buy the pictures, I'll replace these screengrabs.)

All of the mile markers looked like story books.  I had to take a shot with the Ariel story, of course.  My chip time is about ten minutes faster than the official clock.


A Polynesian percussion group playing as we ran past the Magic Kingdom Transportation Center

Trampolinists at the approach to Magic Kingdom.

Alice wisely keeps her skirt away from the sweaty runners.  Notice they're all holding little noisemakers to cheer on the runners!

Royal trumpeters as we passed through Cinderella's Castle

Me in front of Cinderella's Castle

Gospel singers a quarter mile from the finish line!

A high-five from Minnie Mouse as I approach the finish line.

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