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13.1 Mostly ‘Magical’ Miles: Disney Half Marathon Recap!

What a weekend. I didn’t run down Cruella Deville or get chased by the Seven Dwarfs, but I hung out with Minnie and Mickey at the 2013 Disney Half Marathon and managed to PR with a 1:46:17 finish. Out of more than 25,000 runners, 177th place and 29th in my age group.

The finish felt great, as they usually do after grinding it out on the pavement for that many miles. It always rocks to be DONE, right?! But this was a very different experience from the Zooma Florida half marathon last month, which also promotes itself as a women’s weekend active getaway. The differences reminded me that bigger and grander isn’t necessarily better than a smaller race event, depending on a runner’s personal preference and interests.

As with everything in fitness, you have to find what works for you. Full disclosure: I am not a Disney devotee. I prefer beaches, mountains or big cities to theme parks. Toddlers having meltdowns at the Teacups make my ovaries shrivel into raisins. And I don’t like waiting in long lines. Yet I know others love Disney enough to go a few times a year, and for them this event is their ideal blend of fitness and fun.

While I am glad that I ran the Disney Princess, and thrilled that I got to meet fellow Fitfluential and SweatPink Ambassadors and spend time with friends, I likely won’t repeat. Here’s why, starting with what made the event great:

 

 

 

  1. Organization: Disney isn’t known as the “most magical place on Earth” by accident and happenstance. Disney is a well-oiled machine of operations and organization, as they must be given their size and scope. That was on full display the entire race weekend and even before. There were helpful e-mail updates in the week or two before the race, and on-site they provided precise instructions and execution for everything from packet pickup to race-day bag check and resort transportation. Even with inevitable waiting and delays because of the volume of runners (26,000), Disney managed to herd us (quite literally; at one point I uttered, ‘So this is what cattle feel like.’) into those multiple starting line corrals on time.
    1. Starting line: Fireworks and bass-pumping music at 5:30 am don’t happen very often, but Disney set them off for each corral’s start – after a pep talk from the Fairy Godmother and fellow runner Sean Austin of Goonies, Rudy and Lord of the Rings fame. It was an awesome way to get fired up, even at that super-early hour’
    2. Post-Race Offerings:There were ample supplies of Chiquita bananas, Dasani water, and cute food boxes packed with nuts, hummus and whole grain crackers, Luna protein bars, even a square of dark chocolate.
    3. The Medal:It is fully tricked out and heavy on the bling, a sweet finisher medal!
    4. Massage Tent: I don’t love that they charged $1 a minute (Zooma massages were complimentary), but my 10 minutes with the massage team was worth every penny. My guy realigned and stretched my tight hips, diagnosed my post-run kinks immediately, and was clearly an expert. Plus Biofreeze was flowing! Awesome.

Here’s what was disappointing….

  1. The Course: The race tagline proclaims “Every Mile is Magic,” but as my friend Laura said on the car ride home, “I don’t think every mile was magical.” There was too much time spent running across parking lots, down back alleys and along service roads that stank of freshly laid manure. The route did not spend as much time in the Magic Kingdom and Epcot as the marketing materials suggested. And really, isn’t the idea of running through Disney why many of us registered for this race?
  2. The Start Time: I am an early riser. I teach a 6 a.m. class every weekday. But even I found the 5:30 am start – and hurry up and wait around even earlier than that – to be rough. We had to be at the shuttle by 4 a.m., which meant a 3 am wakeup, and then once we got to the race area had to walk 20 minutes to get to our start. I am definitely a bigger fan of the 7:30 or 8 a.m. start time, and one that doesn’t require so many transportation logistics.
  3. The Expo: The vendors were awesome (check out this awesome T I snagged! ‘Does this shirt make my butt look fast?’), and the expo of any race is my personal fave time to discover and peruse new #fitgear. But this one was too crowded in its setup, with the vendors squished into a too-small area of the huge hotel hall while the race packet pickup area was a wide-open expanse of mostly wasted space. The crowded nature of the expo was sort of overwhelming, and probably not helpful to vendors’ bottom line. I passed on buying a couple of items because it was just too chaotic.
  4. Post-race transportation: Here, the Disney machine sputtered. Later finishers had to wait 40+ minutes to get the bus back to their hotels, in some cases arriving so late they didn’t have time to take showers before checkout. The last thing a runner wants to do is stand around for 40 minutes after running 13.1. Disney needed more buses and a faster process for moving people after the race. My friend Laura was one of these runners, and frankly the hotel should have honored our request for a later checkout when we called at 10:50 a.m. to let them know her bus had yet to bring her back.
  5. The Price: The registration fee for this single event could have covered two half marathons elsewhere. So if I am paying that much, I expect more – starting with a great scenic course and ending with seamless post-race transport.
So that was my experience, and no doubt every other runner had different things they liked and didn’t like so much about this race. No matter what, we all got to the finish line. And there is no better feeling! I recommend, as fellow ambassador GingerMantra’s wise hubby suggested, that Disney would be wise to completely close a park one weekend and hold a series of race events – half and full marathons; 5, 10 and 15ks; mud runs; obstacle course races, and let us really enjoy the parks and fitness.
Now, moving forward, can I beat my Princess PR….?!?! And which race will be the race where I go for it? Maybe Zooma Annapolis!  If you have a favorite half-marathon, I’d love to know about it!
Coming up: GNC ‘ice cream’ that puts Chunky Monkey to shame!

 

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18 Responses

  1. CONGRATS ON THE PR!!!! AMAZING TIME! I have always wanted to do a disney race

    I have heard that a lot of people don’t like the route that the race actually takes – since you don’t spend as much time in Disney as one would think. And a 5:30 start… EEP!!! Not sure if I could hack that, Coffee would be required haha

    • Badass Fitness says:

      Krysten, I defin downed some coffee beforehand! I guess the upside was being done before most half marathons even start?! LOL!

  2. Kat says:

    Had a great weekend which ill recap soon too but it was awesome meeting you ladies too! Xo

  3. Ali says:

    Congrats on the PR! I ran the half and full in January (I think it’s same route) and wasn’t too impressed with it. The half we only ran through 2 parks, and most of the other time was spent in backlots. I absolutely love the Disneyland Half though – but that could also be because it was my first half marathon ever!

  4. Congrat’s on the PR – For such a packed course, you can definitely outdo that Princess PR. I’m thinking a SoCal race. Lot’s of pretty outdoor scenery here! 😉

  5. Thank you for the honest recap! CONGRATS on your speedy pr!!
    I feel the same about the cons regarding Disney races. I have yet to do one and I am not sure if I will because of those reasons stated. 🙂

  6. Marcia says:

    A PR at a crowded, humid Disney race is a serious accomplishment! Congrats! I’m not a huge Disney fan either and will probably never do a Disney race. Just not my thang!

    • Badass Fitness says:

      Thank you Marcia! I am thinking I will LOVE the Space Coast half at NASA in December 🙂 And Savannah rock n roll will be very picturesque I bet:)

  7. The faster 1/2 of Twins Run is now a “Perfect Princess” (she ran all 5 Princess Half Marathons), the slower 1/2 ran her fastest runDisney half marathon (her 4th Princess) and together they finished 1st in the sister/sister team division! 🙂

    • Badass Fitness says:

      Love it! At one point in the race I saw one of you with your Twins Run in Your Family shirt right next to me. Way to go 🙂

  8. I totally agree on the magical miles! I enjoyed running the Princess Half, but I also felt that most of the race was spent on the highway to the Disney parks instead of the actual parks. Guess it is hard to squeeze 13.1 miles into a theme park.

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