About a year ago, an online running group I'm a member of decided to get together at Disney World and run their Princess Half Marathon in March 2010. This seemed a fantastic idea: meet some amazing women who are all my running (and life) role models, have fun, run my 2nd half marathon, and take my daughter to Disney.
At first, I was going to take Claire for just a few days to Disney...but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that my almost 4 yr old daughter would have the time of her life schmoozing with her beloved Disney Princesses...and I hadn't had a real vacation in a long time...so I booked us a week in Walt Disney World. It didn't matter that I didn't have a job - that's what credit cards are for and I'm helping our sluggish economy...And for added fun, I decided to take my mom along for the trip.
Here are the lessons I've learned about my first Destination Race and that I've discovered about racing at Disney World.
1. Bring a camera. Everyone says so, and everyone is right! Not only are some of your fellow runners decked out as princesses or wicked witches (and a few prince charmings!) but Disney has cast members out all over the place. I got more face time with the characters than my 4 yr old did...including ALL the fairies from Pixie Hollow, something I'm not sure you can find other wise at Disney.
2. Leave behind any hopes for a PR. Or even being close to your slowest race time. Heck, leave your watch at the hotel room. My girlfriends and I started out at the way back of the pack and there we stayed. Though we were running this race, we actually kept pace with the walkers because, well, we were camera-happy. There wasn't a character meeting that we didn't stop to shoot. We got some fantastically fun pictures...and that takes time...like an hour!our first mile...notice the time! (ok, we started 30 minutes after everyone else...but still, shows you how the race went for us!)
3. There are woods to pee in. Pee there. Even though Disney had more port-a-potties than any other race I've seen, often the lines were long (and who wants to wait in a line when there are photo-ops with Princess Aurora and Maleficent the witch?) and by the time we at the back got to the potties, they were indescribably gross. Peeing behind a palm bush at 7:42 am was a serene moment of beauty.
4. The Disney property is HUGE with lots of vast undeveloped space in between the parks. And this is where most of the race happens. While this might disappoint some who hoped for more inside views of the parks during the quiet early morning hours, I loved seeing a bit of the central Florida countryside - there were some very beautiful moments of mists rising off the wet, swampy places, Spanish Moss slightly swaying in the breeze, the sunrise tinting the sky colors any princess would die to wear to a ball.
5. Here is my MOST IMPORTANT LESSON: do not, I repeat, do not, try to tour the parks for days in advance of the race! My poor feet! My poor quads! My poor back, hamstrings, inner thigh muscles and other places I didn't even know could ache all ached! After 11 hours of touring the Magic Kingdom on Thursday, 9 hours at Animal Kingdom, and then another 9 hours at Magic Kingdom the day before the race, by the time my body reach the 9 mile mark of the race I was done. And I still had Hollywood Studios to do later on that day!
6. Do this race with your girlfriends! This isn't a race to run by yourself...this is a race to get your glam on with your gal-pals and hoot & holler your way to the finish line. Wear a tutu and a tiara - you'd be surprised how comfortable running in these are! And being at Disney really does make you feel like a princess...at home my girls just roll their eyes at me for strutting around in an orange tutu doing laundry or cleaning the bathroom while wearing my little jeweled tiara.me and my little princess at the end of the race