Sunday. 2 AM.
Happy five-year runnerversary to me! Happy tenth half marathon! Happy I’m Getting My Perfect Challenger Status Today Day!
No matter what my finish time was going to be, I knew the day was going to be celebrated. I packed up all my Princess medals the night before, knowing that I would add three more to the collection for a grand total of fifteen.
I woke up with my strategy of sticking with the 60/30 pace group in Corral E and aiming for a 2:30. I arrived at EPCOT in plenty of time, like always, to hang around and slowly warm up. While en route to the security checkpoints, I ran into Ashley, who is one of the best wheelchair athletes runDisney has! We had been social media friends for quite awhile and it was awesome to finally meet in person!
I checked in and meandered around. Not too long later, I met up with Christine, who I met during Marine Corps Marathon weekend!
We journeyed over to the corrals way earlier than usual and we were there around 5. I found my way to Corral E (highest corral ever, yay!), and stretched out, talked to some people, listened to the pre race stuff. You know, the usual. The same scenario on repeat from the last five years…
At some point I stood there, absorbing my surroundings. The cheers, the crack of the fireworks, the buzz of nerves and excitement…and I felt utterly surreal.
If this was my last Princess Half, I would be completely okay with it. I know I had been talking about it on the downlow, but honestly….I’m so over this.
We inched closer to the starting line, and I took a look around to figure out where the pacing group was. Oh, they’re behind me. I’ll get started and drift back towards the once we get going.
The journey of 13.1+ Princess miles began once again.
Pairing up with that pace group for the first two miles felt great. My times were steady, around 12:30 and 11:30 respectively.
Then it all fell to shit. I lost my group.
Too narrow of a course coupled with WAY too many people running, walking, and intervalling became an absolute nightmare.
On the bright side, I was on par for incredible sunrise pictures, and talking with other runners! Around Mile 4 in the TTC parking lot, I started taking in my surroundings and enjoying the scenery. I could still hear the fireworks being launched around 6:30am from all the way over there. The weather was calling to be extremely hot later on and I felt quite grateful for my 5:50-ish start time.
The Princess Half course itself has remained unchanged for the last nine years (as far as I know). However, this year featured a small yet unique difference: instead of making Mile 5 right by the down and back by Space Mountain after the Contemporary Cone Alley, it curved to the left just prior to that, and took us right in front of the Magic Kingdom entrance!
Now THIS was a special treat. The Main Street citizens were up on top cheering down at us, and being able to enter from the very front of Main Street U.S.A felt SO magical.
And this sunrise…. I could NOT get enough! You could tell by looking at my splits where I stepped aside for optimal photo ops!
Now the second half of the race…
*brain goes dead*
Once you hit the curve after Mile 6.8, and you’re not in the front corrals with open road, everything just falls apart. It’s hot. You hit Cone Alley after Cone Alley. So many cones.
And so many people.
I try my best to stay to the farthest left that I can in this area. There’s no point in running, because you just can’t.
I started cramping up around Mile 8. I knew had a ton of time on the sweepers (over 45 minutes), and I decided just to walk the rest of the race from this point. My pace fell into the 16-17 minute range…but that’s so typical of a runDisney event, especially given the logistics and conditions of the course.
The rest of the race had me mentally counting down the miles. The EPCOT geosphere kept getting closer and closer, and I felt relieved and content about the thoughts going through my head…
-I want my runDisney career to be over.
-I want to be off this course with all these people.
-I want to be in my bed after taking a shower.
-I am so tired of this repetition, year after year.
-Couple more miles? Sure, I can do that. Get me out of this sun.
-All this money in registration fees and all we challengers get is a bib designation and a lanyard? Not cool, runDisney. Y’all can do better…
Descending into EPCOT, the crowds grew and their cheering moreso. I hustled my butt over and around to the final down and back loop and straight on towards the finish line.
My time? Ha. 3:35. Two minutes faster than my all time slowest half and definitely my slowest Princess Half. But I didn’t really care. I finished. I was a 5-year Challenge legacy runner. I had completed my sixth Princess Half, and tenth half marathon. All reasons to celebrate.
I collected my medals and legacy lanyard and made a beeline for some shade. After downing some electrolytes and water and that super tasty banana, I layered up for my legacy shot (and found Ian in the process!).
I also ran into the Princess Men, whom I had met at the Enchanted 10K the previous year! Props to them for running in those costumes in the heat!
Five years. Ten Races. Fifteen Medals. What. A. Journey.
Christina’s Post-Race Thoughts:
At the time of this writing, it’s been almost two months since this race day. Yes, I’m happy to have celebrated all of the personal milestones that came with the weekend. I’m excited for those that completed their first races or earned PRs on this course. All finish lines should and will be celebrated.
However, after much contemplation, I have reached an impass with runDisney. No longer has the registration fees yielded the results that I wish to receive from a race company. I have calculated paying over $1700 in the last five years just for registration fees for the Glass Slipper/Fairy Tale Challenge. I understand permit fees and other administration/logistical things on their end obviously cost money….but what we get in return in terms of a race experience isn’t worth it.
I’ve received questions and inquiries from other runners on my socials about what all the perfect Challengers received, like sashes or different medals or whatnot. Unfortunately, what I mentioned earlier about the bib designation and lanyard is 100% accurate. I’m super proud of the Perfect Princesses getting their sashes….but c’mon runDisney…couldn’t you have splurged on something cool for us?
I also have running goals that simply cannot be met on a runDisney course. As someone that is striving to run faster, trying to dodge 25,000 other people on a tight course where many do not adhere to the runner’s etiquette of going two-wide or less when walking is just a buzzkill that I wish to not battle with anymore. Until the day comes where I can earn an A corral status, my time with runDisney career is on a permanent hiatus.
While I won’t run the races, I will be here to support all of you who do! I’m here for all of your questions and 100% honestly blunt answers about Marathon and Princess weekends. Who knows, you may spot me at an expo or I may be on course acting as a cheerleader!
See ya at the finish line!
Next up: Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Miler