Running the Princess Half Marathon has been a dream of mine for years now.
Of course nothing is perfect, but to say that this race lived up to my expectations and was everything I dreamed it would be in the moment is an understatement. So let's start from the very beginning, shall we?
I was surprised at the lack of "spin the wheel and win a free pair of sunglasses" type of things at the booths, but I did enjoy this race expo overall! I'm very happy that Disney now has their official merch in a separate building over with the character meet and greets - the rest of the expo hall is much less crowded since the demand with the runDisney stuff is on the higher side.
I actually went to the expo twice; since I live locally, I swung by Thursday night to pick up the official runDisney merch I wanted and to grab my bib, and I went back Saturday morning just to check out the rest of the expo hall and take my time with it. I was worried about runDisney merch selling out, especially with everyone posting in some of the Facebook runDisney groups I'm in about how the lines were absolutely crazy (2 hours just to get in the merch building!), but there was a ton of stuff available for everyone not only on Thursday night, but when I returned Saturday morning. From what I could tell, the only thing they ran low on were Fairy Tale Challenge jackets. So don't be fooled by the initial mad rush on the expo's first day! There's plenty for everyone.
Also, a big highlight was getting to meet Jeff Galloway on Thursday night! If you ever get the chance to swing by his booth at a runDisney expo, don't be nervous. Jeff is such a sweet guy and it was great getting to meet him and thank him for everything. especially since I'm doing his 2018 in 2018 Challenge this year.
Race Day Morning
Who doesn't love having their alarm go off at 2:30 a.m., right? I grabbed my wheat bagel, put on my Elsa running Disneybound, and head out the door to be at the corrals in a decent time. Worth noting it's about a three quarter of a mile walk from the staging area where the porta-potties and characters are to the corrals (there are more porta-potties when you get there, don't worry!), so give yourself enough time to head over. I was in Corral F (H being the last one, but F being the largest) and thankfully made the second wave; I wasn't worried about the balloon ladies but just about making sure I didn't get stuck in a swarm of slower people. Thankfully, my placement (and the amount of waves) was perfect.
The first two miles weren't the most exciting, but exciting enough thanks to all the adrenaline. You start off on one of the backstage roads by Epcot so you can make your way to the Ticket and Transportation center, and luckily the stretch seemed to fly by as you see the Magic Kingdom sign! Along the way you could stop for the Pirates of the Caribbean; they had Jack Sparrow and Barbossa.
And then the excitement begins! Running through the Magic Kingdom sign to enter Ticket and Transportation Center was a beautiful sight and thankfully, the road was wide enough to stop for selfies! A photo op with four of the Disney men - Prince Eric, Flynn Rider, John Smith, and Phoebus - were on the way, but with a ridiculously long line. My recommendation if you're worried about time: selfies!
Please excuse how sweaty I am by the third mile; it was a very humid day and while the humidity doesn't bother me too much since I'm used to it, it still takes it's toll and I was a sweaty mess from the get go!
Mile 3 took us into the actual parking lot, where you could take a photo with the Evil Queen from Snow White in her old lady form and enjoy the Polynesian Resort's drummers.
This stretch of the half marathon was by far the most magical of all! Mile 4 and we're approaching the Contemporary Resort, on our way to the Magic Kingdom! You can see Space Mountain and the train station in the distance and it fuels you through for a mile that seems to speed by.
There are not words I can use to describe the feeling you get as you run down Main Street; you simply have to do it to understand it. However, that doesn't mean I'm not going to try!
The sun was rising when I entered the Magic Kingdom and it made for the most beautiful sights. You start out entering near where the buses drop you off, with the Mile 5 marker greeting you as you get ready to enter where the turnstiles are. On top of the train station were the folks who perform in the Trolley Show and the suffragettes and all of them were waving and cheering on the runners. You then enter the Magic Kingdom and down Main Street you go, where half of it is blocked off for what I can best describe as a wall of spectators. Between the sunrise over the castle, the sounds of the Magic Kingdom, and this thick wall of spectators cheering you on, I unashamedly cried all the way down Main Street! I was able to pull myself together enough, though, for a very sweet volunteer to take my picture in front of the castle!
Once you pass the castle, you take a right and head through Tomorrowland, where Buzz Lightyear was greeting guests near his ride. You pass the Speedway and then enter New Fantasyland - Belle and Gaston were in front of Gaston's Tavern for a character stop - and from there, you head to the back of the castle. Anastasia, Drizella, and Lady Tremaine from Cinderella were taking photos with runners off to the side!
Running through the castle was the most amazing feeling and I'm very grateful that where I was running wasn't so congested and backed up that I had to slow down or walk through; I had really been looking forward to running through it and have heard that it tends to slow down here and was nervous, but it wasn't an issue and it was really cool getting to do this. From the castle, you run down and head to Liberty Square - where Tiana, Naveen, and Louis were set up - and then to Frontierland (characters spotted were Woody and Goofy in a cowboy outfit) where the Mile 6 marker was. You pass Big Thunder Mountain and Splash Mountain and then exit back where Festival of Fantasy starts. There was another photo op here, this time with the train!
When you leave the Magic Kingdom, there is a very long line and it leads to a meet and greet with some of the princesses and their princes in front of the float they stand on during the Christmas parade. They also had the steampunk dragon Maleficent float from Festival of Fantasy out. Mile 7 was nice; the runner's high you get from Magic Kingdom gives you the extra boost you need as you run out by the Grand Floridian and the golf courses, where men in tuxedos with a glass slipper, Tinkerbell and friends, and Genie were set up if you were stopping for character photos.
And this was the stretch that got kind of boring. Bring headphones for this stretch alone because it's a long stretch of highway that didn't feel like it was going to end. My dad caught up with me at this point in the race and we ran together for a while, so I was grateful for that since it helped some of the miles go by a bit faster. Mile 10 was an overpass and one of the green army men from Toy Story was there to help cheer you on (and also distract you from the incline).
For those of you interested in characters, we ran into the pirates again on the way back!
Epcot! Finally! You hit Mile 11 on the overpass on your way into Epcot and Mile 12 just as you're entering. Shoutout to all of the spectators cheering us on (especially the lady with a Jack Pearson from This Is Us sign) as we entered Epcot from the front of the park!
Along the way to Epcot was Mrs. Incredible (who had a very, very short line so I stopped for her; I would have anyway since I knew I was safe from any hard sweeping points) and a gospel choir - just the pick-me-up I needed!
You head past Spaceship Earth, down to the start of the World Showcase, and then we looped right back around before actually entering the Showcase.
And then, finally, the finish line! Donald and Goofy were in their royal attire (while King and Queen Mickey and Minnie took a break) to give high fives and take pictures as you reached the finish and once you crossed the line, you could get some pixie dust from some cast members from Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.
Would I run this race again? Maybe not next year just to mix things up, but probably. There was a boring stretch towards the end, but getting to run down Main Street and through the castle totally makes up for it, and it's nothing a few character stops to look at and a good playlist can't take care of! However, I did prefer the Star Wars Half course and am more likely to do that one again more frequently than I am Princess given I live next door.
Overall, I really enjoyed Princess Half and felt great during this race. I wasn't expecting to break a personal record, but I shaved a little more than two minutes off of my time from Space Coast Half Marathon... and that was with me stopping to meet Mrs. Incredible, slowing down to take a ton of pictures along the way, and with my Garmin saying the course ran about .32 miles long!
I also feel like because I enjoyed the course so much, the 13.1 (or 13.43) didn't feel like it took me as long as it did (my time was 3:06:50) and the way the course was split up made it easy to mentally tackle it, even during the stretch of highway since I knew it was the back end of the race.
I would totally recommend this race, however I wouldn't recommend it as your first half. The main reason is that there were a ton of people here - over 20,000 - and there are some areas where it bottlenecked and the crowds got a little crazy. Even waiting in the corrals was an experience in itself; you could tell a lot of people were worried about beating the balloon ladies and were therefore literally crawling over one another. This was not my first Disney race so I expected that, but not to the level that I saw at Princess Half! There was a lot of not very princess-like behavior going on, and while it did not bother me personally because I just chose to avoid and ignore it, but this may be kind of stressful if you're a first-timer or even if large crowds stress you out or if you're not used to it. It's easy enough to avoid, especially once you find your little pocket of space on course while you run, so I wouldn't worry about it too much, but it was definitely still worth noting. Just remember what Cinderella told us in 2015: have courage and be kind!
Bonus tip: if you run Princess Half or any of the races during this weekend, get the princess that the race is themed after to sign the back of your medal! It makes for a nice touch! I also got my name, time, and place engraved on the back at Disney Springs for $2 per word.
Jessica is a huge Disney and Star Wars nerd who channeled that love into motivation to lose 75 lbs.