27 Things I Learned From Running the Disney Princess Half-Marathon


Health

Yes, this is a real race, and it is MAGICAL.

Posted on April 09, 2017, 13:01 GMT

Hi guys! I’m Arielle,
and earlier this year I ran the Disney Princess Half-Marathon! Here are
some things I learned from the experience:

1. The race sells out in 24-48
hours.

Run Disney, Arielle Calderon

I bought my tickets the day they went on sale (July
2016) for a February 2017 race, and they sold out
within 1-2 days. If this is something you’re really
interested in, be prepared to plan for the race (and a
whole trip!) far in advance. It’s actually kind of nice
committing to this so far out because I had something
to look forward to for months!

Note that the Princess race is particularly popular and
sells out quick, but the other Run Disney races are usually
easier to get tickets for.

2. Make sure you follow a training plan
or use an app so you’re super prepared to run the race and
finish strong!

RunDisney / Via rundisney.com

If you’re new to running, I recommend the 13.1 app — it trains you to run four
minutes and walk one minute, until you can complete the
full half. I started on their 5K version in 2015, and I could not
even run for 30 seconds straight at the time. The program
really helped me slowly build my muscles and endurance,
and I was able to run a half within six months. The more
time you give yourself to prep, the better you’ll be come
race day!

Worth noting that Disney requires you to keep a
16-minute-per-mile pace. Runners unable to maintain that
may be picked up at any point along the course and
transported to the finish line.

3. If you are traveling from out of
state, this will likely cost a pretty penny (but it’s worth
it).

Disney

I traveled from New York, and was in Orlando for about
four full days, so the estimated costs included:

The race itself: $200

Hotel: $150/night

Roundtrip flight: $200

Cabs/Uber: $50

Food: $350

Souvenirs: $100

Park admission: $100 – $180 per day

Even though this cost a lot of money, I didn’t feel too
bad about it because I had paid for things over the
course of several months (first the race entry, then the
flight a month later, then the hotel three months later,
etc.).

Note: I did not pay for park admission as they were
provided free of cost courtesy of Disney.

4. And no, park admission does NOT come
with race entry — they are separate.

Disney

I know, that’s hard to swallow. Park admission could
range from $100 – $500, depending on what time of year,
what type of ticket you purchase (one-day ticket, two-day
ticket, park hopper), how many days, how many parks, etc.
Of course, you can choose not to go to the parks and just
run the race — it isn’t required! You can find more about pricing here.

5. Overall, just remember that in
addition to running a race, you might also be planning a
full-on vacation months in advance — for a VERY BUSY
WEEKEND.

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If you do intend to make a trip out of this, that means
you should make dinner reservations in advance, you
should use the My Disney Experience app to schedule
fast passes for rides, and you should book all
accommodations early. I booked my hotel in November and there were only
three rooms left.

I know Disney is always packed, but I severely
underestimated just how packed it would be for this
eventful weekend. My friend and I wanted to eat at the Be
Our Guest restaurant in Magic Kingdom, but everything was
booked at least a week before the race. 😭

6. While you obviously do not need to
stay at a Walt Disney World Resort, it is recommended in
terms of parking and transportation.

Disney / Via disneyworld.disney.go.com

There are buses available to take you to and from hotels
to the parks, the Health & Fitness Expo, and the race
itself. If you’re staying off-site, parking is limited
and it could be stressful trying to get to the events.

Also, when you stay at an on-site hotel, you get this
cool MagicBand that works as your room key, your fast
pass, your park admission, and more. You can read more about that here.

7. Within the few days before the race,
you will need to pick up your packet/bib number at the
RunDisney Health and Fitness Expo.

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It’s located at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in
Disney. You can also buy a bunch of stuff here, including
swag, costumes, running shoes, running gear, k-tape,
energy bars, shoe charms, etc. They have basically
anything you would need before the race.

I spent $40 on a shirt that says, “Look like a beauty,
train like a beast.” It’s comfortable and cute, but also
I can’t believe I spent $40 on a tank top. 🙃

8. If your friends and family want to
come along as spectators, they are welcome to do so — free of
cost!

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There are several viewing points along the course, including
Cinderella’s Castle in Magic Kingdom and the finish line.
There were also some people who sat in lawn chairs along
the highways and in between parks around miles 3-5 and
7-9. They are super encouraging and it’s great to have
some extra motivation from strangers.

9. Every year the race medals change,
and this year’s theme was Beauty and the Beast.

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Which totally makes sense because of the live-action
movie release.

Also, if you run the other Disney races, they have fun
medals that coordinate with those, too — like the
Star Wars-themed races.

10. Because the parks still open to the
public at normal hours, the race starts at 5:30 a.m.

RunDisney / Via Facebook: RunDisney

Yes, that is correct. I recommend having an early dinner
so you can get those carbs and whatever else you know
works for you before a long run! You want to make sure
you get the proper amount of sleep or it will be a rough
morning.

I personally used this race opportunity to eat lots of
yummy bread, pasta, and maybe even a full-on breakfast
buffet with Mickey-shaped waffles. 😋

11. Which means the buses start pick-up
from on-site Disney hotels around 3 a.m.
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To get the most amount of sleep possible, I laid out my
outfit and any necessary running gear (I am all about a
running belt and wireless headphones) the night before
so I could just get up and go. I also fueled with a banana
and a RX bar.

The energy on the bus is low and you can tell everyone
wishes they were sleeping, but once you get to the starting
area, there are DJs and dancing and you are suddenly super
pumped to run like hell. Also, worth noting that you can
bag check (only in the clear plastic bags they provide at
the Expo), but if you can bring only what you plan to run
with, I would recommend that.

12. There were over 24,000 runners on
the course this year, making it the largest women-focused
race weekend in the U.S.

RunDisney

I ran a half in Central Park last year, and while the
energy was awesome, it didn’t compare to this. Not only
was it so inspiring and motivating to run with fellow
ladies (camaraderie FTW!), but it was also just so FUN —
which isn’t necessarily the first word you think of when
talking about running 13.1 miles. (Just to clarify
though, men can TOTALLY run, and are encouraged to do
so!)

There were A LOT of people, so I did often run on the
grass in the beginning to pass the crowd and speed up.
But overall, running a race of this capacity makes you
feel like you’re all connected and bonded.

13. The corrals are set up in letters
A-P, and you are assigned based on your projected
pace.

runwalkrepeat.com

When you sign up for the race, you can enter your pace
and proof of time to get proper corral placement. If you
don’t enter a time, you might be placed in the backend of
the corrals.

If you are in corrals K-P, you probably won’t start for a
long time. I was in corral “I” and didn’t begin until
about 25-30 minutes after the start. I have never seen
anything so massive, yet so well-organized.

14. This is a weekend-long event, and
people have the option to do a 5K, a 10K, the Half, OR the
19.3-mile challenge.

RunDisney / Via Facebook: RunDisney

Which would be completing a 10K on Saturday AND the half
on Sunday. The 10K also starts at 5:30 a.m., so you will
REALLY need sleep and rest.

If you successfully complete the challenge, you get three
medals! Note that the costs will go up if you decide to
compete in more events.

15. People run in costume, which makes
everything more fun and entertaining.

instagram.com, RunDisney / Via Facebook: RunDisney, RunDisney / Via
Facebook: RunDisney, RunDisney

I saw a group of guys dressed as Disney princesses.
Pocahontas was FIERCE. It’s amazing to see how creative
people are, and it’s also cute to see the couple and
group costumes. This is definitely the kind of race
where you compete with someone — whether it be friends
or family — so seeing people stick together for the
sake of showing off a complete costume is so cool.

16. There are even Disney characters
along the race available for photo ops!

RunDisney, RunDisney / Via Facebook: RunDisney

However, if you want to take a picture, you would have
to stop running and veer off to the side to wait in
long lines. But I think the reason the Princess race is
so popular is because the characters along the course
are iconic to the Disney brand. Not every
RunDisney race features all the characters — it
depends on which one you sign up for.

Some notable characters this year were Belle and Beast,
Princess Jasmine, Pocahontas, Merida, Jack Sparrow,
Mickey and Minnie, Maleficent, Gaston, Buzz Lightyear
and Woody, Queen of Hearts, Genie, Cinderella and
Prince Charming, Flynn Rider, Princess Tiana, and Snow
White.

17. You get to run through Magic Kingdom
and Epcot, but you do spend the majority of time running on
the highway and in between parks.

RunDisney / Via Facebook: RunDisney

Good news is, the course is pretty flat with the
exception of two major hills towards the end of the race.
Also, the view consists of the sunrise, thousands of
runners, costumes, and characters — so the run is
anything but boring.

18. This is not the type of race to
worry about timing — there are plenty of beginner runners
that are just there for the fun experience.

Disney

So don’t stress about that too much. You are in DISNEY,
running with people in costume. Enjoy it!

However, I will say that I had such a good pace that I
didn’t want to stop for character pictures or anything. I
find that as soon as I start walking slow, or stop
altogether, I lose momentum. The only walking I did was
to quickly drink my water — but it is completely
different for everyone and you should listen to your body
above all else!

19. Also, because it’s Florida, the
weather is actually pretty perfect.

Run Disney / Via Facebook: RunDisney

It was definitely chilly in the morning before we began
(about 55-60 degrees), but once we started running and
the sun came out, it was ideal running conditions (about
60-70 degrees, and hardly any humidity).

The historically average weather in Orlando, FL in
February is about a low of 55 degrees and a high of 75
degrees with low precipitation.

20. You’ll hit Magic Kingdom around mile
5-6, and you should definitely look out for the camera guys
for a prime photo op.

Arielle Calderon

I was determined to get at least one photo where I didn’t
look like a sweaty monster yearning for water.

21. You should also feel free to stop
and take a selfie. It’s such a cool moment and you’ll be glad
you documented it.

Arielle Calderon / Via instagram.com

I mean, you can’t run in Magic Kingdom, at sunrise, and
NOT take a selfie.

22. Overall, running through Magic
Kingdom is the best part of the course — the energy and
encouragement from spectators is beyond motivating!

RunDisney / Via Facebook: RunDisney

There’s hundreds of strangers cheering you on and making
you feel like a rockstar! Running through the crowd and
through the castle was a truly unforgettable moment that
I will always cherish.

23. There are water/Gatorade stations
available about every 1.5 miles and an “energy gel station” around mile 8.

Disney

It’s basically a little packet of sugary goo that’s
supposed to give you an energy boost. I didn’t know how
much I needed that vanilla gel shot, but I swear it kept
me going.

24. The last mile of the race is running
through Epcot, and it feels so amazing to cross that finish
line!

Arielle Calderon

It was one of the proudest moments of my life. There are
crowds cheering you on (not as robust as Magic Kingdom,
though), and I started to run even faster because I knew
I was so close. Once you approach the finish line, then
there’s a massive amount of spectators with signs and
noise-makers. Disney even had a choir singing near the
homestretch! It was truly magical and it felt like these
people were throwing me a personal parade.

25. The post-race food is not great, so
have breakfast plans ready.

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We got a little lunch box with a banana, Oreos,
applesauce, nachos and cheese, a candy bar, a fruit bar,
and water. I was expecting bagels at least. You will
likely be starving afterwards from burning so many
calories, and you also will want to celebrate your
victory! So have breakfast reservations ready and toast
your awesome run!

26. Plan to go to the parks BEFORE the
race.

Disney

I mistakenly went to Epcot after running and ended up
walking on a bad ankle all day. I needed to take a break
from heavy exercise for a few days because of it. Listen
to your body, go lay by the pool, and do all the heavier
activities beforehand.

27. This was honestly the best race I
have ever run and I am absolutely planning on doing more
Disney races!

Arielle Calderon

It was so well-organized, super fun, and running through
Magic Kingdom was a dream.

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