When I first contemplated the idea of running the Disney Princess Half Marathon I googled every blog entry I could find to try and learn ever single thing I could about it. There are some really great blog posts out there but I also wanted to include my own detailed post on everything you might want to know about it. I think this would be especially great for the first timers out there that are thinking about attempting their very first Half Marathon...my advice is to do it!
This is all my experience with the 2013 race. Since Disney tends to repeat themselves....if it ain't broke don't fix it motto...then you can count on a lot of the information to be relevant for future years.
Register early. Like months and months and months early. This magical race sells out months in advance. If you sign up super early you can get a very small discount but every dollar counts.
During the registration process they will ask you what your favorite Disney Princess is with multiple choices. This will denote the color race bib you get. Belle is yellow, Aurora is Pink and so on.
It will also ask what size shirt you want. They are tech shirts (great for working out in). They offer both women and men's sizing. I felt the men's ran true to size to slightly large and the women's sizing to be true to size to maybe a little small...plan accodingly. You will want to wear your shirt to show off your awesomeness.
It will also ask you what your expected finish time will be. THIS IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT. This will help to place you in your corral for race day. This year there were, A,B,C,D,E,F,G,H. Each one starting 7 minutes apart so that all 25,000 do not start at the same time. Corral A would be the people expected to finish first and then moving on down the line to the slowest.
The reason this is so important is that you must keep a 16 minute mile average pace or you will be swept from the race. This means the minute the last person crosses the start line the sweepers (that are riding bikes from what I have read) follow along. At each mile marker if you are behind them you are swept up and put on a bus to be taken to the finish line. If you plan on doing a lot of walking you do not want to be in that last corral because they only start sweeping when the last person starts the race. Being in an earlier corral will give you additional time to finish.
So when you put in your expected race time do not say you will take the full 3hrs and 30 minutes. You will need proof in the form of another timed race's results if you you want to be in a corral that is expected to finish in 2:45 or less. I hope all that makes sense.
You will get an email about a month before the race so you can print off the waiver. It will also have your bib number that corresponds to your corral placement on it as well.
Packet Pick Up:
There is a two day expo to pick up your packet. Friday and Saturday. If you are interested in special race day merchandise then you need to go on Friday. I was literally one of the first ones in on Saturday morning by getting there 30 minutes before it opened and lots of the merchandise was already sold out. Get there early to avoid the lines. About 2 hours after it opens the lines to pick up your race day bib and packet are really long. So my advice would be to go first thing in the day or later in the day after most people have left.
After you pick up your packet with shirt if you want to exchange it for another size you can. I went up and all they had left was Men's Large and whatever each person changed it for. I have no idea if there were more sizes available the day before.
If you want the special New Balance shoes that are RunDisney with Disney adorableness all over it then go early. Saturday morning they were sold out of most sizes. I saw both the men's and women's pair up close and they were adorable.
If you run a timed run and you have proof of time make sure to bring a printed copy with you. You can take it to runner's relations and use it to get you placed in your proper corral. Up until sometime in December you can email your proof of time so this is if you did not do that before hand.
Give yourself at least an hour at the expo. There are so many great booths to check out and people to mingle with. I enjoyed being at the expo.
Getting to Epcot Race Day:
I live 20-30 minutes from Disney. I left my house at 3am and got there at the perfect time. No traffic yet and me and the person I was with got a great parking spot. Disney warns you of significant delays but most people did not seem to have to wait in more than 30 minutes of traffic to get in. Of course if you stay on Disney property you can use their shuttles and probably get a few extra winks in the process.
Once you get there make sure to check your bag if you are going to and go ahead and use one of the many port-o-potties to empty out the bladder. There are several port-o-potties along the race course but they all had lines and some were long.
They set off fireworks for each corral start. Waiting for my corral, F, to start actually felt like it went fairly quick. I was anxious to get started.
Wear compression socks or sleeves. Feel free to google around to learn about them. I love that I felt zero pain in my feet and calves other than some tiredness and I attribute that to my compression socks. I have done some 7 mile runs without them and when I did my first 8 mile run with compression socks it made all of difference.
Wear moisture wicking clothes under your costume (if you choose to wear one which more than half did). This is especially important because in the Florida humidity you will sweat a lot. This race was especially humid and I have spent my whole life in Central Florida. If you are coming from up north check our weather. If it says it will be hot wear shorts and a tank top.
I also wore a moisture wicking visor and by the end of the race it was soaked through. It worked great. So a moisture wicking hat or headband is a must. I also wore sunscreen on my face since even through the clouds you can get a sunburn.
This race is all about fun. Throughout the course there was so much to look at and see. There were so many places to stop and get a picture with characters but be prepared....the lines to get photos were very long. My favorite would have to be the one of all the Princess Villians. I did not get a picture because the line was incredibly long.
Every place you see on the map with a W was a water station. There were plenty of them. Most also had Powerade Lemon-lime flavor which totally did not agree with me. It fact the first time I took some I burped it right up if you know what I mean. I stuck to water after that. The F was for a Fuel station and I tried 2 different flavors of the goey stuff. I did not like the taste of it one bit. I much prefer carrying my own small fuel snack.
Disney discourages the use of headphones during the HM but I disagree and most people were wearing them. I used Runkeeper to track my run and I had an awesome Disney playlist going to help inspire me along the way. I really want a GPS watch for my next run so that I can just glance at my wrist to check my pace.
When it is all over you get sprinkled with fairy dust on top of your head and then you get the most most amazing medal placed around your neck. Then you get a full sized powerade (yay for flavor offerings at the end), water and a small box with a pretty good selection of foods to help give you some fuel after all that running. You can then stop and get a photo with your medal. They use your bib number throughout the half marathon to tie it to you so you can look them up later for purchase.
They also have a tent with the remainder of official Disney Princess HM merchandise. There was not much left but I thought it was nice.
If you want family to meet you at the end they will have to pay to park at Epcot but then they can hang around to congratulate you. If you want family to chear you on along the way in special areas then you have to pay to be in the ChearSquad which is nice if you have traveled all that way so your family can try and see you as you run by!
Final Race Results:
My final place was 14,673 out of 21,222 finishers and a net time of 3:12:55. Not bad for my first time. Next year I hope to do it in 3 hours or better.