How the Disney Princess Half Marathon saved my life
Because I haven't blogged here in, oh, half a year, I should post something fresh.
But instead here is my sweat-soaked, bedraggled and stinky self after running a half-marathon at Disney a few weeks ago.
If you're a longtime reader, you might remember I posted that playing the blogging game since 2006 while raising two wild boys had worn me out and left me feeling many days like I didn't have a pulse. I just didn't enjoy things the way I used to. My doctor found out my thyroid was low. I probably had adrenal fatigue, too -- aka exhaustion. So in the past year, I've changed my way of eating, worked on slowing down to get more sleep, and started running.
OK, OK, well at that time I sort of started running. But there I was, still on the couch with no pulse, not having the energy to move.
So I foolishly signed up for the Disney Princess Half Marathon because I knew if my family was going to sink $600+ into race fees and travel expenses, I had better get my butt going. Also, the idea of running something called "princess" seemed fluffy and sort of doable.
So I ran, three days a week, often feeling like I was going to DIE. And I'm not gonna lie, the first time I ran 13 miles to prep for the half marathon, I rolled around on the floor in agony with sciatic pain after I got home.
Fortunately, my running form has improved since then, and I was able to finish the Princess Half Marathon in the upright position and with a smile on my face. (My time was 3:07:35 if you really want to know. My best practice time was 2:53:something, but I didn't have the fun Disney distractions then.)
If you're interested in how my race experience went, please keep reading. Otherwise, feel free to just scroll and look at the pictures.
The Princess Half Marathon started at 5:35 am in the Epcot parking lot, but travel time meant I had to wake up at 2:45 am to get ready and just wake up.
Because this was my first race, Disney put me in the very last corral. Because there were 26,000 people in the race, they use corrals to let runners go a few thousand at a time. ("Aren't you afraid you'll be trampled?" my mother sincerely asked me.) My corral had all the people who never raced before or who intended to walk instead of run.
I know this because we had two hours before the time we arrived and the time we actually got to move our legs, so I chatted with the others. A college student who'd never run a race, like me. Emma visiting from the UK, a mom of two little kids and not terribly athletic. Two old high school friends who showed up in matching running outfits so they could have a fun girlfriend getaway. One annoying walker who was trying to convince everyone else to walk too.
Side note: Waiting two hours in the middle of the night with a bunch of strangers who've also never run a race before isn't a great way to boost your confidence and calm your stage-fright-like nerves.
Finally, the Fairy Godmother sent us off with a bibbity-bobbity-boo.
I started out slowly and told myself I was in this for the endurance.
And I got passed by just about everyone.
To make me feel even worse, 20 minutes into the start, everyone started cheering, and I looked to see the eventual winner of the race, Rachel Booth, booking it on the opposite side of the road, on her way back to where we'd come.
That's right. I'd just started, and she was soon to cross the finish line.
I kept my pace, though, and was soon starting to pass others. Husband-and-wife teams. Friends in T-shirts with funny sayings written on the back with a Sharpie. And lots and lots of people in tutus.
Around mile 3 or 4 near the Speedway, I stopped to take a picture of this Ferrari for my husband, and a man standing with the car offered to take my picture.
You can see I resisted the urge to sprawl across the car, calendar-style.
After all, I was dressed as Queen Elinor, the mother of Princess Merida from the animated Disney movie Brave, and, well, Queen Elinor would never do anything like that.
Also, the Ferrari guy would have called security.
Then I ran into Lightning McQueen and thought my little guys would like a picture.
Not far away were all the Disney villains posing with sweaty runners while "Bad to the Bone" played. The line was really long, and I run slow, so I didn't stop.
We ran through the tunnel usually reserved for Magic Kingdom parking lot trams, and then Space Mountain came into view. The race route took us in a back entrance and I was SO EXCITED to get the chance to see what the secret back ways of the Magic Kingdom were like!
But it turns out it didn't look very special in the back at all.
I barely remember running down Main Street, and then Cinderella's castle came into view.
I stopped briefly to snap a pic, then again in Tomorrowland where Buzz Lightyear was attracting a long line of runners.
We passed the new Fantasyland, where Alice in Wonderland and the White Rabbit, and possibly Belle or Gaston were posing for pictures.
Then we got to go through the castle itself. Trumpeters above us were playing the theme song from Rocky, and I'm not even making that up.
We ran on through Liberty Square and Frontierland -- where I half expected to see someone chewing on a turkey leg, but I didn't -- and when I saw these guys from the Walt Disney World Railroad, I couldn't not stop for a picture out of respect for my train-crazy boys.
My previously meticulously flat-ironed hair was good and frizzy by then.
We passed Cinderella and her prince on a gorgeous float -- I didn't stop for the long line -- in another behind-the-scenes area before coming out near the Grand Floridian resort and the beautiful golf course across from it. The morning was still foggy, which made the whole scene even more beautiful.
I caught up with the college student from my corral and told her she was doing great. She was feeling better, but still a little nervous because she said she had already seen a few people pass out.
Glad I hadn't seen that.
Then it seemed that suddenly we passed the halfway mark.
"Remember, you LOVE RUNNING!" a race volunteer yelled.
There was a short line for Lilo & Stitch, characters featured in my friend's daughter's birthday theme, so I stopped to pose just for my friend and text her.
Then we all came to the back side of the Speedway, and the Central Florida Accordion Club was there with an upright base playing It's a Small World.
I wondered how many times they had to play that song that day.
Captain Jack Sparrow and Captain Barbossa were taking pictures. Another long line, so I didn't stop, but took a picture to text a friend.
After Jack, the race course was relatively unexciting. Around the 15k marker, I was getting really tired. There were no more characters, no music, and a lot of people were worn out and walking. I ran on the side of the road, in the grass, several times to pass people.
Then came a great evil unknown to me in all of my race training.
Actually, they were overpasses.
A couple in a row.
Friends, I live in South Florida. There are no hills. There are a couple of landscaping berms that put my backyard at 8 feet above sea level at its highest point. That's about it. I have no hills to train on.
So I trudged up the overpasses.
Some runners who were done and leaving the race by car honked and waved from the other side of the road. To encourage us or rub it in? Hmm....
It seemed forever until Epcot's Spaceship Earth, the giant golf ball, appeared. I was encouraged. I got my legs moving.
Close to a side entrance to Epcot, the Man-cub spotted me and called out to me, so I stopped to give him, my husband and the Junebug a kiss. I was touched they came to find me near the finish line.
There was a mile to go.
I don't know what came over me, but I ran hard and fast that last mile. I was soooo tired. Maybe I just wanted to be done with the race already. Maybe the Epcot spectators were just that encouraging. We ran under Spaceship Earth and knew the finish line was near. I passed people left and right. I don't even remember details while running through Epcot. I was in the finish line trance.
Through another back entrance, I was surprised to see a gospel choir joyfully, contagiously lifting up praises and clapping their hands. Had I become delusional or gone to heaven?
No, it was just another tenth of a mile, that .1 in the 13.1 that marks the distance of a half marathon. The big lavender finish line was ahead! There was a grandstand area of cheering fans that I assumed would have already left because we were so long into the race.
Goofy was standing at the finish line on the same side of the course that I was, and as I got closer, I lifted up my hand to give him a celebratory high-five!
And he turned away at the last second.
The dude messed up my hair when I was 13 and I finally forgave him, but now I have something new to be mad at him for. Hmph.
Dissed, I crossed the finish line but kept running like a fool. Finally, I realized no one else was running anymore, so I turned around.
I actually wasn't last!
I texted my mother, 54 days away from retirement, a picture of the medal and told her she had more endurance for working that long than I do running a half-marathon.
I'm pretty sure I shuffled across the entire Epcot parking lot back to where my family was waiting for me, and my boys ate my free box of post-race snacks.
I was sore. I was sore the next day, too.
But it was a good, satisfying kind of sore, the kind of sore that reminds you that you are alive and have a body that works. A body that once seemed pulseless but now itches to move. A body that needs care and can't be ignored.
Maybe running a half-marathon as my first race while not being a "serious" runner wasn't the best idea I've had. On the other hand, maybe it was one of my best ideas. Registering for the race forced me to train for it, and that has transformed me and given me back energy. Also, I can't think of a better place to celebrate that than at Disney World.
Now my challenge is to keep running even though I don't have a race to train for.
Unless, of course, I sign up for another race....