“All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” Walt Disney
A week later, I am still celebrating. I did it! I completed the Glass Slipper Challenge, running 19.3 miles by finishing the Enchanted 10K and Princess Half Marathon, during RunDisney’s Princess Half Marathon Weekend at Walt Disney World! From start to finish, it was an amazing experience that I will never forget.
We arrived in Orlando bright and early Thursday morning, and after catching Disney’s Magical Express to the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, we made our way to ESPN’s Wide World of Sports to pick up our race bibs and check out the RunDisney Health & Fitness Expo. Each time I visit Disney World, their efficiency and attention-to-detail never cease to amaze me. Races at Disney are no exception. With thousands of eager princesses, young and old, clambering to grab bibs, tech shirts, commemorative items, and every sparkly princess running accessory available, cast members and volunteers moved us seamlessly through the process. With bibs in hand, and a few extra purchases, we high-tailed it to Hollywood Studios for a day of fun in the park.
Our day began with a 3:45 a.m. wake-up call, so the wonderful waitress at Mama Melrose’s kept us going with her special cappuccinos. We ate there as part of the Fantasmic dinner package before seeing the show that night. We have tried to see Fantasmic the last two times we were at Disney, and finally managed to see it this time, and it was fantastic! After a long day of traveling we headed back to the resort for a good night’s sleep prior to Miles’ big race the next day.
Friday morning began with Mickey waffles before heading back to ESPN’s Wide World of Sports for the Kids’ Races. Miles ran the 200 meter dash with other kids four to six years old. I have no doubt that he will turn out to be the fastest one in our family. Out of his wave, he was fourth place and was so focused on the finish line, he missed high-fiving Minnie Mouse at the end.
He loved every minute of it and can’t wait to run his next race! We spent the rest of Friday at the Magic Kingdom before going to Epcot for the Pasta Party that night.
My 3:00 a.m. wake-up call came way too early Saturday morning. After getting ready, I hopped on the bus and headed with the rest of the princesses to Epcot’s Imagine parking lot for the race. While we waited for the 5:30 a.m. start, a DJ played dance music, Disney Princesses posed for pictures with runners, and participants completed their pre-race rituals. I was in corral C for the 10K and managed to get a great spot towards the front of the pack. Before I knew it, the fireworks were going off and we were on our way. Much of the race was spent on the highways surrounding Disney, but there were several magical miles in and around Epcot. The highlight for me was running into the World Showcase with all of the countries lit up and glittering at dawn, as Disney music blared all around us and characters and cast members cheered us on.
A fellow princess that I met at the expo the day before, who had previously completed the Glass Slipper Challenge, advised me to take it easy on the 10K so I could handle the half the next day, but I felt better and better the further I went and ended up with a PR for the Enchanted 10K!
Following the race, I met up with my boys and we went to the Princess breakfast where we dined with the likes of Ariel, Snow White, and Cinderella.
After a quick shower and rest for me and pool time for the boys, we went to Epcot for the afternoon. I was a little anxious about the half marathon the next morning, not so much about whether I could run 13.1 miles, but more about whether my body would shut down after two mornings of waking up at 3:00 a.m. and walking around the parks a little more than I probably should have.
Just like “Groundhog’s Day,” my alarm went off Sunday morning at 3:00 a.m. I got ready and headed to the Monorail. I joined my fellow princesses for a half-mile walk from the Monorail to the staging area where once again music was pumping, princesses were posing for pictures, and everyone was going through their pre-race rituals. I noticed that the start line was not where it had been the day before, so I followed the signs and literally one-mile later I was sitting in Corral H with the other runners. I was very thankful that I started walking when I did because from the comfort of my corral, I watched other ladies booking it to get to theirs prior to the start. Miss America sang the National Anthem and the Fairy Godmother used her magic to let us go, corral by corral.
Disney did not disappoint as each start had its own display of amazing fireworks. Before I knew it, I was off.
I was surprised how well I felt as I settled in to my pace. Disney doesn’t let you get bored, as there is constant music, characters, and entertainment along the way. Before I knew it, we were making our way onto Main Street USA towards Cinderella’s Castle. This experience was like no other experience I have ever had as a runner. Cast members and spectators lined the way and were cheering us on, as we turned the corner towards the Castle. From there we ran through Tomorrowland, into Fantasyland, and back through the Castle, before heading to Frontierland, and out of the Magic Kingdom. Those were by far the most amazing miles of the race, perhaps the most amazing miles of any race I have run to date.
Miles seven through ten were brutal. I don’t know whether it was the climbing temps, the let-down after running through the Magic Kingdom, or just exhaustion setting in, but it took all I had to get through those miles before closing in on the finish. Running up on-ramps near mile 12 is a sick joke, but it all worked out and I completed the Glass Slipper Challenge. We celebrated with dinner at Ohana that night and sleeping in the next morning.
We enjoyed our final two days in the parks. I wore my Glass Slipper Challenge medal proudly around the Magic Kingdom Sunday afternoon and was constantly congratulated on my accomplishment by Cast Members, other runners, and random kind individuals.
What set this race apart for me was the sense of comeradery between all of the women on the course and the encouragement that seemed to come from everyone along the way. Maybe it was because we were all adults dressed up like princesses for the day, or maybe it was because so many were either running their first race or first Disney race, but it definitely was that we were all in it together, in a magical place where a little pixie dust makes you think you can do anything.
I definitely plan to be a repeat princess, and I am certain that the only thing that would make this experience even more magical would be to experience it with my friends. In the words of the man himself, Walt Disney, “The way to get started is to quit talking and start doing.” Now, who’s in for 2017?
2016 Miles to go: 922