Running the Princess Half Marathon was a bit of a surreal experience for me. I was coming off of running the Goofy which left me with lots of endurance but also some nagging injuries. My training was short on speed work but I managed a 12 mile run at a decent pace. I felt pretty good going into the Princess and thought I might have a chance to PR. But I also knew that spending several days touring Disney World with 3 kids – not to mention the 4:20am wake up the day before for the 5k – would likely take a toll. And in the days leading up to the race it became clear that the cold front that had plagued Florida at the beginning of the week had turned into a heat wave by the time of our arrival. I thoroughly enjoyed vacationing with my family in 80+ degree weather in mid-January but I did a poor job of hydrating and a terrible job of resting my legs. By race morning I had come to the realization that while a PR was possible, it wasn’t probable.
Race Morning came early. By the time my kids were asleep and my race gear was ready, it was after 9pm. And I woke up before my alarm (which was set for 2:30am). I was more nervous about the logistics of getting to the race than the actual race. A week before the race I had arranged for a car service to take me to the start. Since we were not staying on Disney property, I didn’t want to strand my husband and kids with no car. The day before the race I called the company to confirm and they started giving me a song and dance routine about road closure. Since they were planning to charge me an arm and a leg to get me to the start, I guess I should be grateful that they bailed on me! After much research we realized that my family could take a hotel shuttle to Epcot in the morning for $7 per person. I was likely to finish before they arrived which would give me time to re-hydrate, change clothes, and prepare myself for a day of park touring. After running 13.1. I don’t often drive around Orlando (we either use Disney transportation or my husband does most of the driving) although I had been the designated driver two nights in a row leading up to race day. I left the hotel before 3am and was parked at Epcot by 3:10am. What really annoyed me is that there was a clearly labelled spot for “runner drop-off.” The car service could have easily brought me to the race. Good money saved! I debated checking a bag or just leaving my stuff in the car and wisely chose the latter (Not that I’ve ever had trouble with bag check but I was parked super close to the race area – which did not make my husband happy when we had to walk from the front gate of Epcot back to the car after dinner that night. It was a LONG walk with 3 tired children!!!).
I know you aren’t supposed to do anything new on race day but I actually drank a 20 oz bottle of Gatorade in the car while driving to Epcot. I felt that I was poorly hydrated and race day weather reports were worrisome. I met up with some friends while waiting for the corrals to open and took advantage of the port-a-potties before long lines formed. The minute they started calling for runners to head to the corrals, I wished my friends luck and headed off. Many of my friends were starting in Corral C and I heavily debated starting with them. I ultimately decided to run my own race and went to Corral B. It was over an hour wait from the time I got there until the start of the race. As the race start was approaching, I realized that I needed to use the potty again. I followed several other women who hopped the fence and headed to the woods. When I returned to the Corral, I realized that my clothes were now covered in teeny, tiny little burrs. Some nice woman helped me find the burrs and remove them (I found several on my shoe laces last week!). She also offered to take a picture of me:

I was starting in the front half of Corral B and it wasn’t too much longer before we were off!
I had planned a run 40 sec/walk 20 sec strategy as it had worked well in my October race where I PR’ed. Unfortunately my body just didn’t agree with that. My right shin that had been injured at the end of the Goofy was bothering me. Not terrible pain but discomfort. It was fairly warm and very humid. My first 2-3 miles were just bleh. I wasn’t in a groove at all. I tried to take a picture of the mile markers but I missed Mile 1 because I hit the on/off button instead of taking the picture. Oops!

I had heard that the Princess was the same course as the January Half but with more entertainment. I guess there were additional character stops but I didn’t think it was that much different. Some things – like the pirate ship – were almost exactly the same. After mile 2 I decided to change my run/walk interval to a run 30 sec/walk 30 sec ratio. This is actually Jeff Galloway’s preferred ratio and the one I use most often in training.

I know I take this picture each and every race!

As I crossed the 5k mat, I waited for the text message from Disney’s runner tracking to let me know my split. I didn’t watch my Garmin super carefully to know my time as I crossed the mat. The text never came. This was worrying me a little bit but I decided to let it go. (My official 5k split is now 35:57.) After the first 5k I started to feel much better. My shin pain went away and never came back. I think the 30/30 ratio was perfect for the day.
We entered the Ticket and Transportation Center and, while there were lots of spectators, I didn’t see anyone I knew.

We then followed the narrow road to the Contemporary before making the turn to head to the back stage area leading to Magic Kingdom.

Magic Kingdom is always the highlight of the race. It is magical each and every time. The crowds and the castle. And just running down Main Street U.S.A which is still one of my favorite places on Earth.

As we headed toward Tomorrowland I saw a dear friend and he got a very sweaty hug. It’s so motivating to see people you know!!! (Thank you Sam!) I really tried to let me sense soak in all of the sights in Magic Kingdom. I didn’t take many pictures because I just wanted to enjoy the moment. Starting in an earlier corral had one unexpected advantage – much less crowding as I went through the Castle which meant I actually got to RUN through the Castle instead of walking and trying not to crash into people!

And then we exited the Magic Kingdom to start the journey back to Epcot.
When my 10k split arrived I knew there was a problem:

The text message said my 10k split was 1:21:52 with an average pace of 13:10. I had maybe run one mile above 12 min/mile and most were well under 12 min/mile. I tried not to get distracted by this and just kept going. (My official 10k split is now 1:12:50 or about 11:45 min/mile).
And so I entered “cone alley” – so named because they divide a 2-way street in half with cones. Runners are on one side of the cones and traffic on the other. It’s narrow and crowded and not particularly interesting. It’s especially challenging for run/walkers like me because we change pace so frequently.

I thought a lot of the characters here were identical to January and I didn’t really take any pictures at all.

Although I didn’t know my official time, I knew by my Garmin that I’d have to speed things up if I wanted to PR. I also realized that during my run segments I was definitely feeling the weather and I didn’t want to push too fast yet. Especially since I wasn’t sure what would happen if the sun came out (one saving grace is that it was overcast all day).

(I think the 15k marker was backwards in January, too!) My texted 15k split was 1:58:13 or 12:41 min/mile. I was NOT happy but also knew that I couldn’t fix it until after I finished (official 15k split: 1:49:11 or 11:44 min/mile).
I figured I’d try to speed up after the 10 mile mark but also realized that I wasn’t going to be able to go fast enough to PR.

We then took the cloverleaf up to the overpass and were greeted by my favorite Green Army Men. I got a high five and a salute!

The view from the overpass is impressive. Miles of runners down below!

I was a little sad to realize that I would fall short of my goal but I kept pushing pretty hard to finish strong. I knew I had run negative splits again and I felt good about my performance.

And, really, how could anyone feel disappointed when this is the view you have?

I enjoyed our jaunt through Epcot and still felt pretty good. And I love that Disney has this right before mile marker 13

The Gospel Choir gets me each and every time!

I ran across the finish line and gave Goofy another high five (we share a special bond since my January race!). I was texted my finish time: 2:41:12 although my Garmin was closer to 2:33. I was pretty upset that my finish time was wrong. I collect my medal and grabbed my water, powerade, and snack box (I even thought to get 3 packages of fruit snacks for my 3 kids). I tried to talk to a runDisney person about getting my finish time fixed but nobody could help me. Even though 2:33 isn’t a PR for me, it made me sad that I ran a much better race than my “public” finish time would suggest (not that 2:41 is a bad time at all – it would still be a total respectable time for me – but I worked hard for my finish time and I wanted the correct one!). I also realized that my finish time reflected clock time (the time from when the first runner crossed the starting line) instead of chip time (the time from when I crossed the starting line). I was so distracted by the finish time issue that I forgot to get a picture taken until I was at my car.

By this point my family had arrived at Epcot so I managed some gymnastic feat to change clothes in the car without flashing the world. I was caked in salt and looked rather special but soon was ready to hop on the monorail to Magic Kingdom.

I emailed runDisney about my finish time issue. They got back to me much faster than I expected. Less than a week after the race a runDisney rep let me know that they were able to find me through pictures and videos and they would be able to update my finish time. Another week later and I had a new official finish time – 2:32:10. This is a little faster than my Garmin time but I didn’t stop my Garmin right away after crossing the line (I forgot to stop the time) so it is probably correct. It’s less than 3 minutes slower than my PR. More importantly I’m super proud of my performance and love my newest medal! I was very impressed with runDisney for how they handled the error.
According to my race certificate, I finished 5165 out of 22,734 runners. And in my age division I was 594/2706. I’m getting there one step at a time.
Overall I had a good race and an even better trip to Disney World. My family and I had a magical time at the parks and participating in the 5k. I really hope we can do this one again!