So you want to be a princess? You’ve seen pictures from prior runDisney Princess Half races, or someone you know has run the race, or maybe you just happened to be in the parks during race weekend and saw all the proud, limping runners sporting their shiny medals. Maybe you’re thinking it looks like an amazing experience (it is!) but that you couldn’t do it (you can!). Or maybe you kind of want to try it but have so many questions about the whole process that it seems too overwhelming. Read on, princess (or prince!), and I’ll try to answer all of your questions and convince you that running down Main Street and through Cinderella’s Castle is something you can and should experience.
Registration for the 7th Annual Disney Princess Half Marathon opens up to the general public at noon EST on July 15 (and probably about a week earlier for Annual Passholders & DVC members). It is an exciting, women-focused (but not women-only) race held at Disney World. This half marathon is on Sunday, February 22, 2015 and registration sells out faster and faster each year.
In 2014, runDisney upped the ante by adding the Enchanted 10k to the weekend’s events. The race schedule is:
- Friday morning, February 20 – Royal Family 5k
- Saturday morning, February 21 – Enchanted 10k
- Sunday morning, February 22 – Princess Half Marathon
If you sign up for and complete both the 10k and the Half Marathon in the same weekend, you get the glory of completing the Glass Slipper Challenge (and an extra medal!). Finishing any or all of these three races is a great accomplishment and one that you can reach with some planning, preparation and training!
As a two-year veteran (and internet research expert!) of this race, I put together some facts and tips if you’re considering registering for the Princess Weekend races:
- This is a great race to use as a motivator to get in shape. If you register (at RunDisney.com) in July, you have seven months to train. Unless you have serious medical issues, seven months is enough time to go from sedentary to finishing a half marathon. You probably won’t win, but you can finish!
- The registration fee is nonrefundable and the race will be expensive. Last year the half marathon cost $160 (plus Active.com’s processing fees), the 10k was $95, the Glass Slipper Challenge was $270 and the 5k was $60. These races seem to get more expensive each year, so you can add $10-25 to each of those prices when you’re planning for 2015. I plunked down that money on the first day registration opened both years and considered it a bet on myself that I could succeed. If the only thing you are unsure of is your ability to get fit enough to finish, I recommend registering as soon as possible. And considering runDisney races are now selling out in hours or days, it’s a good idea to mark your calendar for regular (or early if you qualify) registration and plan to get it done as soon as it opens.
- If you do get pregnant, injured, or can’t run for whatever reason, RunDisney does offer a deferral option for the 10k and half marathon (but not the 5k or kids races). There is a deadline of several months prior to the race, you have to e-mail RunDisney (or Trackshack, the company who helps with the race logistics) and get the deferral approved. Then, they keep your money until the next time your same race rolls around (you used to be able to pick any RunDisney race to defer to, but that is changing) you get an early registration into the race which you pay for again, and then you get your first registration fee refunded to you less a processing charge ($45 prior to January 8, 2015 and $70 between January 9 and February 5, 2015). You can defer to the same race in 2016.
- You cannot transfer your bib to anyone else. There is a “black market” for bib sales on various social media sites, but it is unofficial and against runDisney’s rules. The results will stay in your name and if you get caught (unlikely but possible if the person running under your name gets injured or ill or misbehaves), you can be banned from future runDisney events. In addition, runDisney is implementing a new policy that runners must pick up their own bibs with photo id, so if you can’t make it to the Expo, you won’t be able to let someone else pick up your bib for you.
- If the race sells out before you can register, you still may have the option to run under some travel agencies or charities. If you run for a charity, you will have to do fundraising well above the registration price for that charity, however you often get additional perks like a room, discounted park tickets, charity t-shirts, special events, support and community and the great feeling of knowing you are supporting a cause you care about. Training Tips:
- The first thing to do is assess your current fitness level. If that’s easy because you’re pretty much just fit enough to get from your bed to your car to your office and back then you’ll need to build a base. Thin, athletically gifted twenty year olds might be able jump right into half marathon training without any fitness base, but the rest of us mortals need to get our bodies used to the idea of physical activity gradually.
- Build a fitness base. This lets your lungs, heart, muscles, tendons and bones get strong enough to withstand the rigor of half marathon training. What I did was to do a three mile walk three times a week for three months. I’m very injury prone and I think this helped me avoid some of those pesky overuse injuries from doing too much too soon. Cross training with swimming, biking and weight training are great additions to explore as you progress.
- Pick a training plan. They all work, but picking one early will help you map out your training calendar. Jeff Galloway is the official RunDusney trainer and his training plans are excellent at getting you to the start line uninjured and to the finish line in the upright position. He also advocates the run/walk interval method. This is where you alternate set periods of running and walking for the entire run. He’s also an amazing guy!
- STICK TO YOUR PLAN. I’ve been all nice up to now, but here’s the hard truth. This is the one step that determines whether you finish or not. You will be sore. Things will hurt. You will go on vacation. You will be stressed, tired, have allergies, have sick kids, have too much work, just not feel like it… You can miss a walk or run and somehow that turns into a week or a month and suddenly it’s too close to the race to safely prepare for the distance. Or you can miss a walk or run and then recommit to the next one, start over and commit to invest in yourself and your health and your success. If you stick to your plan and do most of the scheduled workouts, you have a great chance of succeeding. If you are a mom, this means you will have to put yourself first sometimes. That’s not selfish, it’s awesome.
- Race weekend also includes two days of Kids Runs (from 100 meter dashes up to a mile) which are a lot of fun and quite affordable. My youngest is so proud of his two medals and often asks to look at pictures from “Eli’s Race”. See my Kids Races recap here.
- You have to keep a 16 minute per mile pace or you will be swept from the race. Here’s how it works. After the very last person in the very last corral crosses the start line, the
infamous balloon ladies start. These are two (sometimes three) very nice ladies with small balloons who keep a 16 minute per mile pace throughout the race, with no stops for photos or bathroom breaks. If they get in front of you (and I’ve heard they are very encouraging to those they pass and who are trying to keep up with them) then you are in danger of being swept. Being swept means being picked up by a bus or van and being transported to the post-finish line area. Rumor has it that you usually still get your medal, but that is not a guarantee. Generally you just need to keep an eye on your pace (train for a 15 minute mile pace if possible to allow for bathroom breaks) and skip the photo ops if you’re in danger of being picked up. If you’re starting in a later corral (more on this later), you’ll want to make sure to take care of any bathroom needs PRIOR to starting because a long bathroom line early in the race if your pace is close to the limit is a sure fire recipe for being at risk of getting swept. There is no shame in being swept, and the stories from the sweeper bus usually start with tears and end with hugs.
- You don’t have to be skinny to be a runner. All different shapes, sizes and ages run this race successfully. And you can see a lot of women who are very fast and are not thin at all.There are 24,000 runners for the half and this was one of the earlier (speedier) corrals.
- You don’t have to be young to be a runner. There are some amazingly speedy ladies who are over fifty (they certainly leave me in the dust!).
- This race starts EARLY. The half marathon starts at 5:30am. And if that wasn’t bad enough, you really need to get up by 2am because the buses run from 3am to 4am. My body did not like it and I’m an early riser due to a non-sleeping toddler and a job that starts at 6:30am. The more I race, the more I get used to it, but it is still hard. And when you’re doing more than one race in a weekend, each successive early wake-up gets harder!
- Staying on site at a Disney resort is a huge plus. The last thing I wanted to do at 3am was figure out how to get to the start line, especially since there were several roads closed already for the race. Disney has nice special buses that run to all the events, including the expo from all the Disney resorts for this race. It was great to just hop on a bus at 3am and zone out until we got to the staging area. Read more about transportation here.
- You get to run down Main Street and through the castle. It is awesome.
- There are lots of photo opportunities to take pictures with characters.
- There are “real” bathrooms available for the portion of the run through the Magic Kingdom. Here’s a picture of the best one!
- Your friends and family can cheer you on all along the way, including being allowed onto Main Street in the Magic Kingdom before it opens (and they don’t need a park ticket!).
- The medals are awesome!
- The race retreat is worth the high price if it is your first half marathon. It is especially worth the price if the weather is cold or rainy. That wasn’t the case in the last two years, but in February in Florida, the weather can be anywhere between freezing and sweltering. Even if the weather is wonderful, since you get to the staging area several hours before the race starts, it’s nice to have an enclosed space with “private” port-a-potties and a separate bag-check area.
- When you register, they ask for an estimated finish time which you have to support with a previous race of a 10k distance (6.2 miles) or more within the last couple of years. This time estimate is how they place you in a corral (yes, I dislike the cattle imagery too). Each corral has a separate start, staggered by a few minutes and it is important to be in the right corral. If you’re in a corral that is faster than you, you will be in other runners way and they will be zooming past you. If you’re in a corral that is slower than you, you will spend a lot of time and energy weaving around slower runners/walker. You don’t have to have a race proof of time on the day of registration, you have a few months to find one to run and to submit an updated finish time to Trackshack. You used to be able to do this at the expo a few days before the race but they have discontinued this practice. If you’re going faster than a 16 minute mile walk, you’ll want to find a 10k to run this summer or early fall (check for the cutoff date and mark it on your calendar). Read more about Corrals, what they are and why you should care here.
- You get to wear a costume if you want! If you’d rather run in just a tank and shorts, that’s fine too, and you won’t feel out of place. But there is a lot of fun in planning, preparing and running in a costume. Want some ideas? Check out this post with lots of costume photos! Here’s my favorite race costume so far from the Tink 10k. Look at that sad little castle in the background (sorry, I’m a WDW girl, Aurora got ripped off with that tiny castle in Disneyland!).
- On unexpected benefit I’ve found is that there are so many great groups of runDisney fans and they’re supportive and helpful and inspirational. I’ve discovered so many friends through this journey that I never would have met otherwise. These ladies are inspirational and a ton of fun!
- Is all of the training, planning, logistics and cost worth it? YES! And while the actual race was outstanding (see my recap here for 2013 and here for 2014), like most things in life it was the journey to get there that was really life changing. I’m not the same person I was when I started this journey, I’m stronger, more resilient and a lot more fun!
Want to know more? Check out my runDisney Basics series here. Still have questions, feel free to leave them in a comment below or to e-mail me using the contact form! Read lots of race recaps to get inspired on your journey! You CAN do this! You should do this! Make it your reality!