Ages ago I set a lofty goal for myself – to run the Disney Princess Half-Marathon. At the time I started telling people I was going to do this, I wasn’t a runner. We hiked a few times a year and I took the stairs at work – that was about the limit of my exercise. I’m not sure everyone believed me when I told them my plan. If they didn’t, they just didn’t know how stubborn I am!! One day last year I suddenly decided it was time. I bought some shoes, laced them up and started running. My asthma and allergies protested. My ankles and knees protested. Week by week though, I started to run further, faster (barely) and confidently. Starting out I could only manage running 30 seconds and walking 1 minute and barely managed to drag my tush 1.5 miles. About 6 weeks into my training I decided to get serious. I called my BFF (an avid runner) and went from being Heather – to Princess Heather (In training). Last Sunday – we did it – all 13.1 glorious miles! (Ok…the last .5 were a little less than glorious – but exciting nonetheless. I was a little overly excited once we got to EPCOT!) Here are some highlights from the trip:
I arrived mid-afternoon on Friday and spent some time wandering around Downtown Disney. This lovely dragon (?) sculpture sits right outside of the LEGO store there. Isn’t he cute?
On Saturday, we went on a Safari at the Animal Kingdom. (I didn’t get stung by a wasp this time!) We spent part of the day at the expo and part of the day at the Animal Kingdom. Since my running partner has had a ton of experience with races – she called the shots and imposed a 4:00 pm curfew to be back at the hotel taking things easy. No problem with me since we had to get up at the crack of dawn the next day to get to the race!
Ok…so I’m too lazy to properly edit the photos…but by this point in the day I was pretty tired and was wishing I had a nice napping spot like Mr. Tiger. My flight to Florida left at 6:00 on Friday – and I knew I had to get up early on Sunday for the race.
w00t! w00t! After getting home from the Animal Kingdom we enjoyed a lovely pasta dinner and got all of our gear ready. It was actually really exciting to pin my race bib to my shirt and lay out my socks, shoes, Minnie Mouse ears – ya know, the typical running stuff. My bib says “Merida” but we decided on Minnie Mouse running costumes. We had to be in our starting Corral by about 4:30am (2:30 am Denver time :0) – but it actually wasn’t that bad because of all of the adrenaline. Time went by sooo fast and it was great have that time to spend with my BFF. The fairy godmother also kept us entertained. Here’s a joke she told…”Why does Peter Pan always fly?” (wait for it…) Because he can never, never land”. I remember they played “Don’t stop believing” by Journey right before we started running, too. Now one of my favorite songs! I’m always so moved by large groups of people singing inspiring songs together! Pretty powerful, actually, to hear 23,000 people singing together!
Here I am almost halfway through the race! Notice how red my face is…lol. Sigh… I decided I will always run races at sea level from this point on though. (Just kidding…I’m stuck with altitude.) My lungs were soooo happy! The first 4 miles breezed by and before I knew it we were cruising through the Magic Kingdom. We didn’t stop for character’s along the way – but couldn’t pass up goofing off for pics by the castle. The trumpet players were playing the theme song from “Rocky”, btw. Of course, running through the castle was memorable – but so was the fact that one of the shops inside the “tunnel” had their doors open and cool air was rushing out. Running down Main Street was a blast! In a blink of an eye, though, we had passed the castle and were on our way back to EPCOT. I remember I saw a Disney t-shirt that had a picture of a Turkey Leg and said “Turkey Leg” somewhere in Frontier land. I.was.so.hungry. At mile 7 they played “Girl on Fire” by Alicia Keys…again, one of my new favorite songs!
Thankfully, the weather was overcast so once the sun came out we didn’t burn. It was warm – and humid. I was quite surprised when sweat started dripping down my brow (and off the end of my ponytail!) Icky. I started getting fairly tired around mile 10 and really tired right at the end. At the entrance to EPCOT I did start to cry and I think a photographer got a shot of me wiping my eyes. It was just sooo emotional – accomplishing something I never thought I could do – with one of my best friends by my side – on the 20th anniversary of when I worked at EPCOT – in a park that holds so many great childhood memories for me (from before my parents were divorced!!!). Overwhelmed…but awesome.
My BFF did a great job of keeping me motivated and on track though. I so desperately wanted to start walking right before the finish line but she encouraged me to keep going. And I did – well after a couple of walk breaks with the finish line in sight 😉 I was so tired at the end that I apparently ran right past Mickey and Minnie at the finish line and didn’t notice. Do over, please?
After the race we walked (NOT hobbled, mind you) back to the cars, took a soak in the hotel pool and then went back to the Magic Kingdom – where I ate, and ate and ate and ate! Mission accomplished!!! We also wandered new Fantasyland and watched the WISHes fireworks show!
(I can’t wait to do this again!!!)
Here I am wearing my medal in the Magic Kingdom after the race. Minnie wanted to kind of curtsey like this – I had to whisper to her that my knees kind of hurt and she straightened right up. Disney Cast Members were awesome. All day in the park people would say “Congratulations!” Tons of the Cast Members even came up out to cheer us on during the race! My favorite sign was, “I cheer for sweaty strangers” – although I don’t know if that was a CM or a friend/family member of a runner.
And wow…I worked here 20 years ago. 20! Unbelievable. My BFF had to leave way before I did so I revisited my old stomping grounds on Monday. Like a rookie…I stopped at Spaceship Earth first. D’oh! Just couldn’t resist even though the line was a bit long.
…of course I had to listen to the Voices of Liberty…where I cried, again. Look!! Two of them have their princess medals, too. (They had to stand and wear high heels all day. Tough Princesses!!!)
Slightly out of order shot here…this one is from before the Race at the Expo. I’m pointing to my name on the list of runners. Can you guess how many people there were with my last name?? The whole column, I think.
Goodbye Magic Kingdom. Goodbye Princesses! I hope I’ll see you again someday!!!
And…what would a post like this be without a few thank you’s: My BFF for inspiring me to keep running and believing in myself – and for sticking with me physically through this race and metaphorically through all of life has thrown at us, my parents and step-parents for answering crying phone calls when I didn’t think I could do it and for raising me to want to go for my dreams, my brother and sister-in-law for reminding me that life is to be lived to the fullest, my husband for being so supportive and excited that I was doing this (and for getting up at 2:30 in the morning to track me!), and all of my friends and family that encouraged and helped me along the way. You rock!!!