Almost one week ago, I was getting ready to start up my 5th Princess Half Marathon. I knew that I was slightly under trained and now sporting a (probably) sprained ankle, the though had crossed my head to take a “DNS” (Did Not Start) – but I decided to give it a try anyway!
The morning started at 3AM again, my ankle was still slightly swollen despite my “RICE” routine last afternoon/night. I headed to the bus around 3:30am and arrived at the staging area about 15 minutes later. The walk to the half marathon start is not in the Epcot parking lot, like the 5K and 10K were, it’s about a 1 mile trek to the actual highway where the corrals are setup. The corrals span from A-P, each with one small entrance guarded by volunteers to ensure that you are in your assigned corral. I was about the 7th person to enter my corral “L”, so I parked myself at the front, sat down and waited. It’s normal to get to the corrals early enough to have about 1-1.5 hours of downtime before the even starts. This year a lot of the roadways throughout Disney World were under construction, so they delayed the race start by about 10 minutes to allow more time for people who were stuck in traffic. Around 16-17k people participate in this Half Marathon and by the time they shot the fireworks for the first corral, people were still piling into the chute!
PRO TIP #1: Use the Disney transportation! You may have to wait for the line to get on the bus after the race, but you will not be late!
The race was scheduled to start at 5:30AM, it actually started around 5:40-5:45AM, with my corral starting at 6:20AM. I started out of the chute at a small jog and while my ankle was a little cold (as were my legs), which did not seem to effect me. The first 0.75 mile is on a three lane highway, plenty of room to spread out. Just before the first mile marker we took a highway exit, a one lane exit. Looking back on my experience, I should have bailed off into the grass, this one lane exit was really congested with runners which basically forced everyone to a walking pace. The exit was also banked, so as soon as I hit that uneven pavement my ankles were screaming. After taking the exit, we hit mile 1 and I was already walking. The upside is that we were on a 4 lane highway now, with plenty of room to spread out or run/walk. Jack Sparrow is normally the first character before mile 2 followed by all the Disney Princes.
The course took us right under the Magic Kingdom gates, of course I had to snap my annual picture! This highway also runs in line with the Monorail track, so you’ll see it driving past you with spectators on their way to and from Magic Kingdom – the monorail conductors will often honk at the runners! The course hits the 5K mark right in front of the old Disney Speedway – I remember running around the entire speedway during the full marathon back in 2013, that was no joke those speedways are long! My pace was slow, there was congestion and my ankle was throbbing through most of the first leg of this race.
After passing the 5K mark, the course runs through the ticket and transportation center for Magic Kingdom. Out of all the times I’ve participated in this race, this part of the course is where someone always steps on my shoe/accidentally trips you and whatever other shenanigans related to the course narrowing to a “large sidewalk” width. One of my pet peeves about the later corrals of RunDisney races is that “runner etiquette is completely ignored”, you’ll have people weaving back and forth from one side of the course to the other, often bumping into people they cut off. People will be running on the right side and getting frustrated with the walkers when proper etiquette is for runners to keep left and walkers keep right. Now not all walkers are innocent, it’s pretty even across the board. After passing through the ticket and transportation center the course remained a strict one lane roadway until we got into the park, so for the next 1.5 miles. The drummers from the Polynesian resort were at the exit side of the TTC which is always enjoyable! The course took us under the Disney waterway where the DJ on the top told us we were “running underwater and kept completely dry”, on the other side of the waterway was the Contemporary resort. The course took us past the Magic Kingdom bus stop area and into a side gate in front of Space Mountain. From here the course took us right to a side entrance to Main Street USA. We entered in and took a right turn onto Main Street and we were running directly at Cinderella’s Castle. FYI: if you are in a later corral during this race with a slower expected pace – do NOT expect to run down Main Street USA, it’s not going to happen. People will stop right in front of you with no warning to take pictures, or dart across the runners to get to the sidewalk to take pictures – if anything be on guard while going down this stretch of road. You have half of Main Street USA to run down, the other half is roped off for spectators. The course takes a right into Tomorrowland, runs around the backside of the park toward the Storybook Circus area and into Fantasyland.
PRO TIP #2: If you have to use the restroom and can wait until Mile 6, do it in Magic Kingdom – you can use the restrooms in the parks. MOST people will dart off in Tomorrowland to use the restroom resulting in long lines – if you wait and use the restrooms in Fantasyland to the right and behind “Pinocchio Village Haus” I hardly EVER encounter lines in that restroom!
The course runs (actually walks at this point) straight through the backside of the castle and as of this year, you can exit down either side to help with congestion. There are photo pass photographers on each side of the exit as well as stationed in front for a standing picture. We headed through Frontierland and into a backstage area where the Princess parade float was as well as Princesses like Aurora/Philip and Snow White/Prince Charming (warning – this line is LONG.) After passing the float, we hit the 10K mark.
After the 10K mark, the course exits Magic Kingdom and runs down the road in front of the Grand Floridian. My pace was complete
garbage at this point, I didn’t stop to look at my ankle but I felt like it was probably twice the size of when I started. I was really starting to consider not finishing, but I just needed to get to mile 11 and pass the last hard sweep point, so I continued. The course outside of Magic Kingdom and in front of the Grand Floridian was also a one lane roadway until mile 8. This congestion was not helping as I was forced to walk most of this stretch, and people would run and stop for their walk interval in front of me, while slowing to a pace slower than my walking pace. My ankle was really starting to feel the constant pace changes. I made it back to the highway and the pain really started to increase after mile 7.5ish. By mile 8 my ankle was the size of a baseball, and I had to make the decision to try to continue or cut my losses and DNF for the first time ever. I knew there was a medical tent at mile 9 so I told myself I would at least think about it until then. At mile 8.9 I texted my mother saying I couldn’t continue, and stopped at Mile 9 awaiting the shuttle to the finish. I was devastated and in pain, this was my first DNF EVER since I started participating in road races, and even more this would ruin my legacy at the Glass Slipper Challenge (as I have completed all thus far since the challenge started.) Part of me told myself that all I needed to do was complete two more miles and I would technically be “safe” but in those two miles is 0.75 mile of a banked roundabout which was 100% worse than the banked exited i described before mile 1, as well as three overpasses before entering Epcot to the finish. I knew how my ankle felt now – I could only imagine what it would feel like after those obstacles. I sent at the medical tent for about 10 minutes and the famous “Balloon Ladies” passed the checkpoint, not much longer the vans arrived to take us to the finish.
The shuttles or “SAG Wagon” dropped us off behind the medical tent at the finish, and I got my ankle wrapped with some ice. They gave us our “pity” Half Marathon medals and I headed back to the bus, I wanted nothing more than to shower and lay down. With the RunDisney races, even if you get “swept” you still get your finisher medal (but no challenge medals) – it’s nice, but not earned.
If anything, this year has set the stage for next year. While I will not be getting any legacy perks next year, I set myself some goals today. I will NOT be in a later corral, the congestion of people was too much for me this year. I have already begun looking for running events later this Fall that I can use as proof of time to join an earlier corral.
I will be trained and ready!
Stats this year:
Distance: 9.0 Miles
Goals for next year:
Pace: 10-12min mile
Finish: Approx. 2.5 to 2.75 hour finish time.
GPS: Garmin Vivoactive