The First 2 Miles
N and I started off strong. We ate up the first few miles with no trouble. We passed all of the various photo spots with no stops. The course doubles back so we figured we could get any character photos on our way back on the last stretch.
The Magic Kingdom – The Gates
We passed through the tollbooths into the Magic Kingdom parking lot.
The next few miles went pretty quickly. As we approached the park, and the sun rose, the crowds of spectators increased. So did the congestion on the course.
The Magic Kingdom
We approached the Magic Kingdom still going strong.
In fact, we were going so strong that when we saw Beauty and the Beast, we decided to stop for our first character photo. We thought it was almost necessary as both N and I were wearing Beauty and Beast themed costumes. The line was very long, but it seemed to be moving and we had plenty of time. Or so we thought.
After waiting for a while, and moving steadily forward in line, we hit our first snag. Disney policy, for safety reasons, is that any character can only be out in a costume for 30 minutes before getting a break. Another Disney policy, for magic reasons, is that no two of the same character be out in the park at the same time (ie if Mickey is in the parade on Main street, then he is not at a meet and greet in Tomorrowland). For us, this meant trouble. Beast needed to change, so he headed from the photo spot back to the trailer, and once he was inside, a new Beast headed out. Seconds later, Belle switched as well.
Here was our first issue with the Princess Half Marathon. We understand both policies and both make sense. However, first of all, characters in full costume move very slowly so the change out took around 15 minutes. Perhaps Disney could have placed the trailer closer so the change would have gone faster, or had a ride there to take the characters to and from the trailer instead of having them walk slowly. Second, there was no one telling runners on the line what was going on, and when they did, they gave incorrect and conflicting information. Perhaps having a line time posted or having a staff member with accurate timing information would have been a good idea.
As it was, we stood there waiting, until a pacer on a bike came by and told us that the balloon ladies were 4 minutes behind us. N and I started to panic and were debating running on without the picture. Not 30 seconds later, another biker came by and said that the balloon ladies were only 1 and a half minutes behind and that anyone online to get a picture would get the picture, and then be swept. We had no choice, although we were 4 people away from the character photo, we had to go. N and I took off, with no picture, and a lot of negative feelings about the way that the race and the character stops were being run.
Here, we hit our version of what runners call The Wall. The Wall is a mental block, when a runner feels defeated and mentally can’t continue. This can be with speed so the runner needs to slow or with completing the run, so the runner has to stop.
For N and I, it was a mental thing. We had been doing so well, and had so wanted to get at least one character photo and this one had seemed so perfect. But not only did we not get the photo, but we had to speed up a lot to make up time so we wouldn’t be swept.
The next stretch was really hard. I especially was having a lot of trouble as we passed several character spots that we would have loved to stop for, and knew that we didn’t have the time since we had waited so long for Beauty and the Beast.
Around the 10 mile point, N and I stopped for our 1 character photo with the heroes, Captain Phoebus, Flynn Rider, and Prince Eric. At this point however, my knee had stiffened up and this stop was the last straw. From mile 10 on, the fact that I kept going was due to N. I was in so much pain and N was amazing, he ran ahead to take photos of all of the character spots and mile markers, he grabbed water for me and he helped me get the biofreeze that I needed to keep going.
Biofreeze is fantastic stuff that numbs the area in pain and, at Disney races, is available at every medical tent. I applied it at every one, from mile 10 on. Even with the Biofreeze, I could not have finished without N and his constant encouragement and assistance.
Miles 11 and 12 were a blur of pain and pushing myself to keep going. I knew that I was so close, and I did not allow myself to even think about not finishing.
Here was our second issue with the Princess Half Marathon. We know that the races are sold out super fast and that there are thousand of runners. However, the Disney Marathon has the same number of runners, and somehow runs much smoother. As N said it was hard to believe that the two races were run by the same company.
The race course for the Princess was so crowded and horribly congested that by the time we were running through Epcot it was almost like being part of a herd of cattle. It was a super narrow portion of the course. Instead of making good use of the park, which has so much great space, the course doubled back. So we ran through the park, and then turned a sharp U turn and ran right back. Many runners stepped over the cones, which were the only thing separating the two sides of the course, and skipped almost half a mile of the course.
This meant that although we had the energy to speed up there was no room to pass. So we were stuck pushing along with the crowd. Sadly, as shown in the picture for the mile 13 marker, the balloon ladies had caught up with us and try as we might we could not get past them. There was just no room to get past them.
The Finish Line
Crossing that finish line was still the most amazing feeling. We crossed holding hands, and it was wonderful. On the other side, we found my parents waiting with A. After collecting our medals, finisher photos, and snack boxes, we did some quick stretches and then caught the bus back to the resort.
The After Party
After getting back to the resort, we spent a couple of hours icing, thank you Dr. Cool!!, and stretching. Soon enough my knee started feeling a little better. We headed out to grab some food and then stopped by Disney Springs to catch 5 minutes of the after party.
Our race for 2016 is complete. This was N and my first Half Marathon, and for me, it was the farthest distance I had ever run. I am so proud that I completed. But I want to do another race, hopefully the Disney Marathon and finish under my own steam.
N has so many character photos from last year and never felt that the course was too crowded to put on some speed when needed even though we started in the second to last corral, walked most of the first 5 miles and saw the balloon ladies several times. I want to experience what N did last year. Because while N wants to do the full marathon again, both N and I agree that for the Princess Half Marathon, once was enough.