The runDisney Princess Half Marathon was my first runDisney experience! It was truly one of the magical races ever! I had so much fun and with each Disney race I learn something new. It seems like each time it gets better, but every event is similar in details. Since it’s Princess Week, here are a few tips that I’d like to share to help make your race day experience a magical one!
Wear comfortable shoes. When you arrive at the ESPN World Wide of Sports for the expo, you will see that you will do a great deal of walking. Don’t be like me trying to be “cute” by wearing flat boots, ballerina flats, etc. It would be ideal to wear comfortable, athletic shoes with good support. You will absolutely do more walking than you say you’re going to do. It may even be a good idea to wear compression socks while you walk around. The expo does it to me every single time.
Fit For A Princess Expo. The runDisney Princess expo was the first expo where I felt like a kid in the candy store circa 1985. You will see every vendor from sparkle skirts to running sticks, but don’t let it overwhelm you. It’s always good to set a budget because you could easily go on a spending spree and try to buy everything in sight. The Speaker Series is also a really great way to get a break from walking while getting education on running and race day and nutrition tips from the runDisney panel. Don’t forget to read through your event guide and race day instructions. It will tell you everything you need to know.
Princess Prepping. Dressing the part is so much fun! You will see every princess from Tiana to Cinderella and all kinds of tutus, tiaras, feather boas, things that sparkle, and anything a pretty princess could think of! Where else would you (or even your beau…tutu and all) dress up like a Disney Princess and have a Magical experience while doing it? Nowhere else! Also, make sure if you’re wearing any special accessories, skirts, etc. that you tested them out before race day. Yes, pin that tiara down! On race day you will see any and every costume and wonder how in the heck are they going to run in that!? But they will! UPDATE: Make sure you read runDisney’s New Costume & Safety Guidelines and Park Rules.
Lay out your costume/race day attire. I suggest getting your flat runner ready the night before. You don’t want to deal with looking for last minute hair pins, socks, skirts, or safety pins the morning of because that early morning wake-up call will arrive before you know it.
Wake-up call. Get ready to be up before the chickens. I would set every alarm: the hotel alarm, phone, iPad…whatever—because you don’t want to miss the resort shuttle cut-off or the start of the race. This may not be a problem if you are like me and you’re so excited (and maybe nervous) that you can’t sleep the night before. Give yourself enough time to eat your breakfast and take care of any last minute things before heading to Epcot. If you are staying at a host resort (which I recommend), the buses will start running at 3:00 a.m. to shuttle you to Epcot to get you settled before heading to your corral. You can view the entire Princess Half Marathon weekend transportation details here.
Dress accordingly. You never know what the weather is going to be like in Florida. It could be hot and humid or cold and breezy, or even rainy. Make sure you check the forecast to see what to expect on race day. If it’s going to be cool that morning, you can turn a trash bag into a warming “shirt” while you’re waiting in your corral. Once you get running/walking, you will be good and warmed up. As far as music, you probably will not need it. There will be music along the course and you will want to be able to listen to what’s going on around you.
Run Walk Run. Jeff Galloway’s Run Walk Run method will be very popular along the course. Be mindful of runners who choose this method as their preferred race day plan. If you are using run walk run, raise your hand to signal those behind and around you that you are slowing down or about to stop. Make sure that you move to the far right, because this will help you avoid getting trampled over. As a Galloway Blogger, I get the awesome opportunity to share Training and Motivation Tips from Mr. Galloway. You can check out all of them here.
Don’t run for time. If you try to run your fastest half marathon time ever then you will miss out on the purpose of running Disney. I get that some runners may bank on this being their Boston qualifier–if this is you, this tip is not for you. For others, it’s truly a magical experience so soak it all in! Don’t get overwhelmed with getting swept by the balloon ladies. Yes, they do exist. How else would we be motivated? Don’t allow the thought of getting swept scare you. If you are ahead of the balloon ladies, then you are good!
Keep it two or less. I’ve seen it countless times—many friends will run side by side. I’ve even seen five runners/walkers run across (side by side) and it’s hard to get by. It’s great to run with friends, but it’s important that you try to run in pairs to allow other runners/walkers to get around you and to keep you from getting bumped into.
Character stops. Again…it’s Disney! If you can, try to stop for at least one character along the course. No other race will be magical at every mile and in between. runDisney has taken steps to make the photo experience a lot smoother by having a character stop assistant take a photo with your camera/phone while the official photographers take theirs. This also helps the lines move faster. Once you are done, stay to the side and ease your way onto the course. This will help with overflow. Keep in mind that other runners/walkers will be stopping along the course to take pictures with the characters too. Even if you don’t stop for the characters, I encourage you to take photos at the Disney character mile markers. Do it for the memories!
Smile for the photographers. There will be PhotoPass/photographers sprinkled throughout the course like Pixie Dust. One of my favorite stop spots for family, friends, and spectators is Main Street USA. That’s a great place for your memories to be created! Enjoy the crowd support…it’s absolutely AMAZING! I tear up every single time. They smile and cheer you on and it makes you feel so warm, fuzzy, and grateful for that moment—so take your time, it’s truly a magical experience that will go by so fast!
The Castle Experience. Make sure you stop and take pictures before you get to Cinderella’s castle. There will be photographers as you are running to, through, and as you exit so make sure you smile! You can get tips on how to get your best runDisney race/castle photo at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom here!
Enjoy the course. It’s Disney! Have fun and enjoy every single minute! There will be thousands of runners celebrating every mile with you. Just remember, when you get to the finish line, you earned ALL 13.1 miles and you are still a half marathoner no matter how many breaks you took. Run, walk, crawl, finish—but make sure you do it with a smile on your face! Olaf will be waiting for you wanting warm hugs!
If you’re running Disney for the first time, I’m wishing you the most memorable and Magical experience ever! I hope you all have an incredible race, enjoy yourself, cheer others on, thank the volunteers, and don’t forget to celebrate your accomplishment(s) at the Cool Down party at Downtown Disney! They will be offering special perks and discounts to finishers so make sure you wear your finishers’ medal.
Have a magical race!
You can read my Princess Half Marathon Weekend Recaps here:
Part One: Disney Princess Half Marathon Expo 2014
Part Two: Downtown Disney, Pasta in the Park, and Princess Prepping!
Part Three: Disney Princess Half Marathon 2014 Recap
For all of my Run Disney posts and recaps, check out the Run Disney tab on the homepage.
Jeff Galloway is the official training consultant for Run Disney. You can check out Training and Motivational Tips here.