It’s a little (insert sarcasm) known fact that I love Disney. And since I love Disney, why wouldn’t I love to run at Disney. It’s the perfect opportunity to get some exercise, dress up like your favorite character, and commune with other Disney freaks like yourself. So in 2010, my running buddy and I signed up for our first Disney race, the Royal Family 5k held during the Disney Princess Marathon weekend.
At that time, I could barely wrap my head around walking a mile let alone running three point one of them. And we walked and jogged the course stopping for pictures and generally having a great time. But that finishing time of 58 minutes was not okay. So we trained, built up our endurance and by 2014 we had run 10 Disney races, two of them being half marathons, my friend at much faster pace, and me at a little bit faster pace.
After getting two half marathons under the belt, I was ready for a more difficult challenge, but was most definitely not ready to commit to a full marathon. Who runs 26.2 miles for fun? So when Run Disney opened up the Glass Slipper Challenge it was the perfect combination of challenge, fun, and bling.
I spent three months seriously training and finally the weekend had arrived. We started off by going to the Expo to pick up our race packets, t-shirts, and pins. We walked around the vendors, and I had to purchase a track jacket commemorating the weekend for the bargain basement price of $70. Disney is no fool about marketing. Our race shirts actually fit us thanks to the accurate sizing and the switch to Champion Tech Shirts. Since I was running the challenge, there were three shirts, white for the 10k, gray for the half, and blue for the challenge. At the Expo, there were characters to snap a few photos with as well.
Fast forward to Saturday at 2:00 A.M. when my alarm was blaring at me telling me it was time to run! So I got into my running costume, Snow White for today, ate a quick breakfast of oatmeal and a banana and left to pick up my running buddy.
We pulled into the EPCOT parking lot about 3:30 and proceeded to relax in the car for about 45 minutes. During that time our conversation went something like this:
“Oh, I love her fairy wings.”
“Those are no fun to run in, they whack you in the head.”
“I love her pink Nike’s.”
“I really need to get some compression socks. I hear they really work.”
And on and on as we watched the parade of runners pass our car. Pinning our bibs on our shirts, we too left the car and joined that parade on the way to the corrals. Since this wasn’t our first
rodeo race, we followed our normal routine. Hang out by the DJ for awhile, comment on other people’s costumes, takes some obligatory pre-race photos and post them to Facebook, hit the porta-potties, and get in the corrals.
For the 10k, there were 5 or 6 corrals and we were in D. Meaning I would have a nice cushion of runners ahead and behind me. At this point is when my stomach started rumbling. This is the worst feeling on race day especially since our corral was the next to go. I began a little mental pep talk to myself about starting slow, and the rumbles would stop once I got into the race.
The fireworks exploded and our corral surged forward. I stayed to the outside knowing I would be going slower than normal. The 10k course is fantastic. It starts with a lap around the EPCOT parking lot before entering into Mexico. Then the course proceeds to follow around all of the countries in the World Showcase, many of which have character stops. At Great Britian, the race is diverted out of EPCOT and around the Boardwalk area before returning to EPCOT and finishing back outside of the park.
Unfortunately the only park entrance that you get this day is the part when you are running through it. If you want to return to the park later you must shell out more money for admission to reenter. Having been to Disney hundreds of times, we decided not to enter the park and return home to rest up for the half the next morning.
So at 2:00 A.M. Sunday morning, the whole process repeats again. Today I began in corral K, so it was quite a bit of time before the fireworks sent me on my way. I was feeling much better today and was really excited to run through the Magic Kingdom despite the fact that it was very foggy.
Mile one progressed nicely with me staying strictly to my preplanned running and walking paces. I was so excited to see that in the first mile and a half our entertainment was Elsa from Frozen. She was standing on the bridge we were all passing under offering words of encouragement and of course making it snow.
From there it’s a long stretch of road running with a few water/Powerade stops and character interactions along the way. At mile five and a half or so is when I entered the Magic Kingdom. Nothing is more exciting to me than making the right turn down Main Street and seeing the castle in distance. Even though the course is very narrow here, there are so many spectators cheering you own, you can’t help but feel proud.
The path winds into Tomorrowland, back through Fantasyland, and down through the castle. There, you can continue to the right onto the race or left for a quick picture in front of the castle. I took the few minutes to stop for the picture. This is the one line for pictures that actually goes quickly. Lines for characters can sometimes take up to 10 minutes or more. Being a slower runner, I did not stop on this race very often for pictures since I was trying to improve my time.
Leaving Cinderella’s Castle, the route takes a twist through Frontierland and then backstage before leading onto the road that passes in front of the Grand Floridian hotel.
Passing in front of the Grand Floridian is about the halfway point of the race. I checked my watch and it told me that I was on pace to finish about 30 minutes faster than my previous halfs. This is because I hadn’t been stopping, and I had been sticking to my pacing. Feeling proud, I continued on to “Let It Go” blaring from the DJ.
The fog still hadn’t subsided, and I ran the long road back toward EPCOT. At mile 8 there is a Gu Energy Gel station. I like Powerade Performance Energy Blasts, so I didn’t eat the Gu. In fact, I was eating about three gummies every 40 minutes and alternating Powerade and water at every station. This seemed to work really well for me because at mile 10, I didn’t hit my usual wall. Instead I felt really good. From there the route goes up an onramp to an overpass. Besides the castle, this is also my favorite part of the race because I was able to see all the runners that were still behind me, no being swept on this race.
Miles 11 and 12 passed without incident, and soon I was back inside of EPCOT running behind the giant sphere. From there it a short quarter mile to the finish line. I checked my watch one more time seeing that I was going to finish about 3:12. I picked up the pace and and sprinted when I saw that 13 mile sign. Before I knew it, I was crossing the finish line, arms in the air. My third half marathon under my belt. Not only that, but I had shaved nearly 30 minutes off my time, and I had just run 19.3 miles in two days. It was quite the accomplishment.
I swung through the finish line chute, grabbed my medal, Powerade, water, Glass Slipper Challenge medal, and food box before collapsing on the ground in exhaustion. I found my running buddy and told her I just might be up for that full marathon she keeps talking about. Perhaps that was just the “runner’s high” talking or perhaps it wasn’t.
My costume inspiration, Rapunzel, was found at the after race party.
Despite the high race fee and sometimes crowded course, I love running Disney. I would recommend that anyone that loves to run try out one of their races at least once. And with the new Star Wars and Avengers themed races, these races aren’t just for Disney fanatics anymore.