the disney world princess half marathon weekend is now my official race weekend
a dream is a wish your heart makes, and apparently my heart had been wishing for rigorous physical exertion in central florida’s premier theme park for quite some time.
I’ve run so many races at this point I’ve actually lost count, but hands down the most spectacular experiences involving voluntarily induced muscular agony have been my disney princess races. so far I’ve done the half marathon and the 10k, and both have been my favorite endurance events ever.
this past year I had the opportunity to raise money for children’s miracle network with my best friend olivia. together we rallied our friends, family, and community for a collective donation of over $7500, and then ran our 6.2 miles for the kids. this made the miles more magical, and the experience more meaningful — we ran for something other than the churros and dole whip, though we definitely imbibed quite a bit on that front as well.
so what is it like to run through walt disney world? for starters, it’s florida, so as you can imagine, it’s flat and HOT. like, “I can’t tell if this is sweat or humidity condensation, because at this point it’s both” kind of hot.
the races start extremely early, like at 5am, meaning you have to be ready at the course around 4:30am, meaning you have to be up and out of bed at roughly 2:30 to adequately prepare. yep. 2:30 wakeup call. 2 if you’re overprepared.
thanks to the early start, you’re typically going to finish before the midday heat sets in, but it’s still florida, so it’s typically still thicccc air and over 70º — a far cry from typically balmy race temps in other regions. however, it does give you a bit of motivation to clock most of your miles before the sun comes up. and because the princess races are in february, you have a little more time than you would in a late spring race.
disney is a well oiled machine, so the race logistics (for me at least) have always been impeccably smooth and streamlined. bag check in and check out is a breeze, the queues for each corral are clearly marked and directed, there are ample port-o-potties and plenty of on-course support, and getting your finish-line goodies (water, banana, snacks) and medal take no time at all.
a few things to know up front: the bibs are expensive, and they don’t include any park admission. you’ll run through the park for part of the race, but not all of it (particularly if you’re doing the half — the majority of the miles will be logged through the surrounding area of lake buena vista’s highways).
you’ll also probably be so tired afterward you won’t want to walk through the parks and be on your feet afterward, and it may not be the best use of your park tickets or park hoppers. if you’ve got a multi-day pass or an annual pass, by all means — head to the parks for a post-race brunch. but if you’re trying to budget more effectively, stick to your resort pool, the ample amount of resort restaurants, and disney springs for the rest of the day. get your “medal in front of the castle” picture the next day!
and I’d be remiss to leave out the topic of utmost importance: the costume. friends, the costume is imperative. don’t just go for a themed running outfit, get into it. this is one of the only environments in which you can really let your freak flag fly and go for a full-blown, borderline-cosplay, adult-sized kids costume during an endurance event. it’s part of what makes the overall ambiance so spectacular, and trust me when I say you’ll have FOMO if you don’t go all in. I know this from experience. LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES.
you can of course get yourself a glass of moët at the finish line if you so choose (and your stomach isn’t doing backflips from the hours of agitation). the park creates exclusive runner treats (including festive beverages) for each race each year — they’re always new and different, and cater to pre-race carb loading as well as post-race celebration. check out the pearlescent pink minnie mouse “princess toppers” for the champagne from this past year:
I’m also a huge fan of the edible cookie dough they added to the runner’s treat lineup (you can get them at the wide world of sports/espn complex). they have the healthier, lighter options too, and in true disney fashion, everything is seriously delish.
don’t forget to schedule your post-race brunch (and dinner!) roughly six months in advance (no I’m not a psycho, everyone else is) as the reservation slots open up 180 days ahead of time. for real. so if you’ve got your sights set on a popular spot, be sure to book that ish early! somer personal favs: crystal palace at magic kingdom (the breakfast lasagna is TO DIE FOR), germany’s buffet at epcot, and ohana at the polynesian resort (no park ticket required! but you’ll def need to book v early).
alsoooo I’d highly, highly recommend staying at one of the wdw hotels for this journey. this isn’t a race, it’s an experience, and being at one of the disney hotels truly adds to said experience in an almost inexplicable way. you’re enveloped in magic 24/7 — and you get the added benefits of the disney logistics woven into your itinerary. that means hotel lobbies with hot coffee and pre-run snacks at 2:30 am, free shuttles to the start line and back from the finish line, etc. these seem like little things when you’re planning, yet make a massive world of difference when you’re mid race frenzy. at wdw, I’ve stayed at the polynesian, yacht club, boardwalk, and animal kingdom lodge and every single one was phenomenal. would 10/10 recommend each.
when planning your stay, consider staying for a few days after versus before. the crowds seem to taper a bit on the back end, and you also don’t want to exhaust yourself before the race by hitting the parks super hard in advance. this is a hiiiighly trafficked event and brings in tens of thousands of EXTRA guests on top of the usual heavy influx of visitors, so take that into consideration.
all in all, this race-slash-vacation is one of the most incredible events I’ve been a part of, and has given me some of my most treasured memories. the energy is palpable, the people are positive, the event itself is exceptionally well done, and you have the opportunity to do it all for a great cause. whether it’s your first race or your hundredth, I’d recommend anyone with any relative interest sign up and immerse yourself in the marvel that is runDisney asap. the half marathon sign ups are open now!