Last April, while I was recovering from my (very minor) shin stress fracture and anticipating running in the Pixie Dust Challenge, I may have gotten a little stir crazy and started thinking that maybe the Glass Slipper Challenge we did in 2014 wasn’t so bad. Humidity? Ha! I live in the desert. I think a sneeze makes the air too humid.
I got it in my head that we should run the next Princess Half Marathon, the challenge was being renamed “The Fairy Tale Challenge” for its 5th anniversary. AND runDisney was celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Princess half marathon. For such a special occasion, of course we should go to Florida and run races. And get another Pink Coast to Coast Medal.
One week prior to the Super Heroes Half Weekend, we found out some troubling, but not surprising news: West Coast runDisney was shutting down indefinitely starting in 2018. Which meant that the Fairy Tale Challenge would be our only runDisney race in 2018. It also meant no Pink Coast to Coast Medal.
Why do I do this in the first place? For medals. So this, to me, was some serious bullshit.
Since this was definitely going to be my last runDisney challenge for a while, I told my running coach to pull out all the stops. I ran so much and so hard that I wore through the double stitching in some of my running tights #thiccthighproblems. Yet, I felt fully prepared for my challenges as we headed down to Florida to bask in the warm sun and leave the several feet of cold snow and terrible air quality behind.
Health & Fitness Expo
The last time we attended an East Coast runDisney event was 4 years ago, and back then, it was only our second ever running event. Since then we have participated in 15 half marathons. We are pretty adept at navigating the West Coast expo and getting the race merchandise we want without too much trouble. We had heard that East Coast was different, bigger obviously, but different. We therefore decided to go on the first day of the expo just to get that mess out of the way.
We got our bibs, challenge photos, and race gear fairly quickly. The expo itself was in a different building so we got a few things and marveled at the volume of people crammed into that giant building. After wandering just a bit longer looking for the race pins I collect from each race, we realized that there was YET ANOTHER BUILDING we needed to hit up.
Cool, no problem.
We got to the building and started following signs. Five minutes later, we were still walking and I started to get a little nervous. Finally I saw the entrance to the warehouse of merchandise, but it was blocked by runDisney employees and barricades. A very smiley Disney employee pointed us to the adjoining warehouse. With lines on the floor. And a giant crowd waiting to get into the runDisney merchandise store.
The very smiley Disney employee informed us there was a 90 minute wait.
I was totally 100% ready to bail and kiss my race pins goodbye. Chad, however, convinced me to wait in line because at least this was out of the hot midday sun. He further sealed the deal by wandering off to get us some cold beers while I waited in line and played on my cell phone.
We met new running friends in line, talked about costumes, shared pictures of our pets, and sweated (this was not an air conditioned warehouse). Finally… FINALLY, they let us into the warehouse and we got our pins as well as running jackets and wine glasses. I’m glad I waited in that stupid warehouse because I got some great running pins to round out my runDisney pin collage.
Trader Sam’s Florida
We took a detour on the way back to our hotel to check out the Polynesian Resort because one of our merchandise line friends had mentioned we could get a Pineapple Dole Whip with a rum shooter from their bar. We realized a big problem when we got inside we didn’t know which bar he was referring to!
Before we even had a chance to ask someone we saw a sign that made us rub our eyes … Trader Sam’s! Which is our favorite Disneyland Resort Bar and we were most definitely (and somehow) not aware that they had a counterpart in Florida.
Of course we had to go in and see if we could even get a table – and as luck would have it, there was an empty table just for us! We ordered Poke and an Uh-Oa! and delighted in all the Tiki-ness and air conditioning. I felt very much like I was home (in Disneyland).
I may have decided that I enjoy this version of Trader Sam’s more than my home turf version. It’s larger, it has more kitsch, and the poke is DELIGHTFUL. My favorite part however, was that each of the three times we strolled in, we didn’t have to wander back and forth from tight corner to tight corner and wait ages for a table. It might have been luck, but it permanently placed them in my good graces.
We then spent some time visiting Hollywood Studios – which meant finally riding the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror Hotel (since DCA’s version is now gone the way of the fourth dimension). And we had a lovely dinner at the Prime Time Cafe.
We spent a little time in the Magic Kingdom on Friday but Chad really wanted to rest his legs for the two races. We hit up a few rides and ate at Tony’s (delightful Lady and the Tramp themed restaurant) and then got to bed early.
The morning of the 10k we were costumed and to the bus stop in 20 minutes of being awake. The last time I participated in the 10k (Chad wasn’t yet ready for the challenge craziness) we were dropped off really close to the starting line. This time we had a 15-20 minute walk. Which was fine because we were there an hour early – something we are REALLY not used to since in Disneyland we basically stumble out of Paradise Pier and we’re at the starting line.
As they were pumping up corral A (that was us) I put my wireless headphones in and pressed the power button and … nothing. I had charged my headphones before we left for Florida, but whatever happened, they were still asleep and not to be bothered. I told myself that I would be fine for 6 miles without my headphones, there was plenty of course music and all those fun thoughts in my head. Chad took off to beat more records and I set off for the finish line.
Similar to the last time I ran the 10k, it was dark and humid. However, unlike last time, my vision wasn’t blocked by curtains of humidity. I took in the sights when I could, and I ran through episodes of FRIENDS in my head when it was otherwise dark and boring. I crossed the finish line just as the sun was coming up and was reunited with Chad who made great time.
We have made the mistake, several times over, of cramming a lot of park walking and ride riding into a post 10k pre-half marathon Saturday. Having finally learned our lesson last year, we laid pretty low with the exception of a leisurely afternoon visit to Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney) for an early dinner and a little pin trading.
Dinner was at the Boathouse, which has an amazing menu and bar. Also, the view from the patio is pretty stunning. We spent a lot of the dinner just staring at all the sights.
Princess Half Marathon
The race start was not as long as a walk to the race corrals as I remember from last time, but it was still longer than stumbling out of the front door of Paradise Pier.
As we were taking off, I was happy that my headphones were working and I could see several feet in front of me. Those were the only things I had going for me as I had woken up feeling a cold coming on. Chad and I separated fairly early on because I was being very very slow.
This race course was pretty similar to the last time we ran the Princess Half Marathon, except that this time I could actually see. So I got to take in the sights of the massive expanse of freeway to and from the Magic Kingdom. But there were also a lot more spectators this time and the Magic Kingdom was pretty neat to run through when you can see it all lit up and rides running.
I will say that I KNEW we ran passed our hotel last time but I never recalled that happening. This time, I saw it coming. I forlornly walk/ran/jogged by it wishing I could stop and get back in bed. I spent the remaining counting my steps away from my bed and wondering why I sign up for these things.
It was definitely my slowest half marathon to date. But I finished the race and collected my remaining medals. Chad found me and we went directly to the massage tent. I wasn’t even interested in finding the champagne tent if that tells you anything about how miserable I was feeling.
Then we attempted to get back to our hotel which took a million years because we kept taking the wrong transport and realizing halfway into the ride. We got back to the room, took the longest shower ever. We had brunch and then, at the last minute decided that instead of going to the parks, we would go back to Trader Sams for our third time.
We had some tiki drinks, and some more food, and sat.
It was a really really really good decision.
Event Managed by: runDisney
Location: Disney World
Race Start times: 5:30 am
Race Day Weather: 65 degrees 100% Humidity
10k Water Stations: 2 | Every 2 Miles
Half Marathon Water Stations: 7 | Every 1.5 Miles
Energy Supplement Station (Half Marathon only): Yes | Cliff Shot Station at Mile 9
Race Courses: Mostly flat, a couple of hills (on and off ramps), lots and lots and lots of Disney World freeways and roads between Epcot and The Magic Kingdom, and then back again
Finisher Medal: Yes
Special Category Medals: Yes
Event Rating: 8 out of 10