Hello, runners! We have about three weeks ’til Princess Half weekend! *listens to the cheers* As event guides and waivers are being released over the coming days, the excitement is going to increase tenfold. I know some of you are freaking out…please don’t be. This is why I take hours out of my week to write these guides for you. If I can assuage your fears even just a little bit, then I’m doing my job.
Time for Episode IV, Part II! I consider this the heart of the race weekend, and the meat and potatoes of this Survival Guide. (aka, you better get cozy; this is gonna take awhile!) I have mentioned before: Proper preparation prevents poor performance. Before every race, I sit down with the course map and analyze where all the points of interest are. If you have an idea of what is ahead of you (especially with water and aid stops), you will go into the race a little less stressed. And we all need a little less stress! I will be providing visuals along the way with pictures I have taken and additonal resources from other bloggers and photographers.
Princess Half Marathon Survival Guide, Episode IV, Part II: A New Race…Pees and Sees Along the Course
You’ve crossed the start line and you’re on your way to many magical miles in Disney World! Woohoo!
So, what will you encounter along the routes? Places to pee and things to see, of course! Let’s return to the course maps from the last episode, shall we?…
You have an idea of the elevation changes on this course. (Not many. Yay!) You’ll traverse through EPCOT and the Boardwalk. There are characters along the course for picture stops. (These change every year, and there’s no list available before the race to know this, so it’s all a big surprise!) Your water/aid stops/general road map is as follows:
Mile 1: Flaaaaaaaaaat.
Mile 1.25: Up the overpass. (Biggest elevation change on the course.)
Mile 1.75: Water….just over the downward part of the overpass ramp. I do believe there is a character stop over here.
Miles 2-3: This gets a little dull, but Disney has music and videos playing on the jumbotrons.
Mile 3.3-ish: First Aid tent (this is the ONLY med tent for the 10K)
Mile 3.6-ish: Water stop as you’re coming into EPCOT by China.
Mile 4: WOOOOOO EPCOT!! You’ll burst through and be greeted with all of the torches lit up and music playing in the background. It is my absolutely favorite part of the weekend. So many feels.
Mile 4.75: Water again
Mile 5-Boardwalk and Yacht Club.
Mile 5.4-ish: More water.
Mile 6.2 = finish line!
Race Etiquette Pointer:
**When you’re going through water stops, grab what you need and keep going. Don’t always stop at the first volunteer. There are about a dozen volunteers with cups in their hands, and make sure to thank them! POWERADE IS FIRST, WATER IS SECOND. And try your best to get your empty cups into the trash cans.**
Princess Half Marathon
Before I start, one of our teamRunDisney members, Chris Mel, took photos along every mile of the PHM last year. His photos are on Facebook:, and are a fabulous visual representation of what you’ll find on the course: https://www.facebook.com/Triangleoutdoors/media_set?set=a.1306562266027933.1073741883.100000225167545&type=3
Mile .8 = water. Yep, you’re getting water pretty quickly.
Mile 1.5 = elevation change. It is one of two changes that are significant in the entire course. Don’t go out too fast and burn yourself out before you hit this point. There’s a downhill part to the uphill, so it’s be a nice relief!
Mile 2.9-ish = water and first aid.
Mile 3.1 = 5K split timer
Mile 4 = there is a DJ over the tunnel by Bay Lake with the big Mickey hands at this part (you may have seen him in others’ pictures before). This is also Cone Alley #1. It is a downhill section (largest negative elevation change of the race), so be mindful of where you’re running and who is around you.
Mile 4.6-ish = water and first aid.
Mile 4.9-5. Passing by Contemporary Resort and Space Mountain. You’re almost on Main Street USA! **Note: watch the trolley tracks while going down Main Street USA. You might roll your limbs on these if you’re not paying attention.**
**Storm the Castle**
When you’re going through the castle, you may encounter a bottleneck and it may feel like a dawdle through the castle. Typically, you will exit to the right once you’re out of the castle, BUT…during the WDW Marathon, they opened up the left side of the castle exit, allowing for the flow of runners to be far more smooth. If you plan on going down the left side, watch the terrain. I heard that some runners ate it here during the marathon. Plus, don’t stop without checking to see if someone’s behind you if you want a picture. It’s great way to get hurt.
You might need to go to the bathroom in MK. Just gonna warn you now…the lines may be atrocious. Don’t always stop at the first one you see. Your three options are Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, and Adventureland/Frontierland. I have included a supplementary blog post by Julie of runwalkrepeat.com at the bottom of this page.
Mile 6.2 = water and first aid. This is right outside of the MK backstage area. Your 10K split will also be recorded here.
Mile 6.5-8 = Cone Alley #2. This is a very literal term: coming out of the backstage area, runners will be funneled into an obnoxiously tight section of the course. I absolutely abhor this area. It is a two-way street, and you’re running on one side of it. There is a barrier of cones on the center line. Do not cross the cones, because you’ll get yelled at. The road is flanked by these cones to the right and a grassy hill to the left. I do not recommend running through the grass. Wet shoes + wet socks + potential for rolled ankles = no thanks.
For those planning race strategy, I would bide my time and patience during this part. The road will open up soon.
You will also be passing by the Grand Floridian and Polynesian Resorts along Mile 7!
You will also reach the halfway point during this time! Woohoo!
Mile 8.7 = Clif Station. You’ll see these from down the road by their gigantic flags waving in the wind. There will be four types of gels being offered, if you wish to take them: Vanilla, Raspberry, Citrus, and Mocha. (The Mocha has 50 mg of caffeine in it. Take this with caution if you’re prone to pooping after caffeine consumption.) There is a water/First Aid station just beyond this at Mile 9. I HIGHLY suggest taking your gels and getting to the water station BEFORE consuming them. Taking gels without water will dry your throat out and not taste good. And I think it says somewhere on the package that you should consume with liquid, anyway….
Mile 9: Long. Long and flat. There is a water stop right beofre you tackle the overpass. Mile 9.3 is the 15K split timer.
Coming up the overpass you will see the Mile 10 marker. Make it up the hill, and it’ll go flat for a bit.
EPCOT! Seeing Spaceship Earth is a joyous site, and it means you’re almost to the finish line!
Mile 11: Water and your last First Aid stop. The spectator support will begin to grow exponentially for the final two miles.
Mile 12.25: Last water stop.
*insert EPCOT goodness…loop back around to Spaceship Earth….gospel choir….*
Alrighty, so that’s a basic rundown of the course. Time to talk about other things that are of serious importance…
Balloon Ladies…Love ’em or Hate ’em, They’re Still Here
In order to keep a sense of order regarding pace, runDisney incorporates a small group of ladies (they’re professionals) to maintain a 16 mpm pace throughout the course. So many runners dread seeing them, but rest assured, they want to see you finish. runDisney only has a certain amount of allotted time to keep the roads closed to the public so we runners can finish safely.
The balloon ladies’ job is to adhere to the 16 mpm pace once the last runner in Corral P crosses the timing mats. The time that you see on the clocks at each mile marker is the overall time for the race. For example…if you get to Mile 4 and the time says 1:18, that is the amount of time that has elapsed since the very first corral was launched.
Obviously, the farther up in corrals you are, the more of a time buffer you’ll have for photos and potty breaks. Heed this warning though…don’t get so caught up in taking pictures that you lose track of time and get swept. Yes…this has happened before. Many runners have to make the choice between photos with their favorite character or getting swept. Think about this before the race as a possible scenario.
I have read for the past few months that people are paranoid about being swept. You won’t get swept if you stay ahead of these ladies. There are several sweep points along the route that have big yellow charter buses next to them. I believe these points are around Miles 4 and 8, possibly 10. Officials hate to sweep, but must to maintain course safety.
If you happen to get swept, don’t try to fight about it. It is going to suck, and there will be a lot of emotion coming from your fellow runners as you board those busses. (I was swept at MCM this year, and it was one of the most painful things I’ve ever experienced.) You’ll be taken to the finish and still be given a medal. What you do with this medal is entirely up to you. Some save it as motivation to train harder, others may not accept it at all.
Mile Markers and Split Timing
Many of you are firsties, so the concept of mile markers and splits (not the delicious banana kind) may be foreign. Here’s the quick rundown of how to interpret them.
Mile Markers: The second that you cross the start line, you are beginning the first mile. At the end of the first mile, you’ll see the first mile marker. THIS DOES NOT MEAN ALL THAT DISTANCE BEFORE YOU WAS A FLUKE. Think of seeing a mile marker as a reward: ”I just finished the first mile, yay! Let’s see what character it is and take a picture.” Then you do to mile two. And so on. Each mile marker indicates how many miles you have finished. (Example below: You’ve reached the mile 11 sign. You have finished 11 miles. Woohoo!)
Splits: A split is how races are broken up for timing, or your pace per mile. For runDisney, there are several splits that your runner tracking will record: 5K, 10K, and 15K splits, plus your start and end times. Make sure you step on the timing mats so your chip transfers the data! You’ll see these areas marked by distance flags. (See 15K flag above.)
Once waivers are released, you can sign up for runner tracking that can post your progress and results across Facebook, Twitter, and text message. Before I bought my Garmin, I had my splits sent to Twitter and my phone. This was a great way for me to stay in tune with my times and gauge if I could afford to take an extra picture or spend more time in the bathroom.
First Aid/Course Safety : How to (Literally) Survive a Race
Time to get serious. Yes, I get serious sometimes, and this is a topic I will not be light on. Surprisingly, there is something far more important than getting a shiny medal, and many runners ignore this.
It’s called taking care of yourself. It’s listening to your body when it’s telling you to slow down and take in more electrolytes. It’s not fighting through an injury should it crop up during the race. It’s adhering to the weather and dressing appropriately.
I mentioned this in the last episode, and it needs to be repeated until the end of time: runDisney may be deemed as “fun races”…but they are still races just the same. You will be putting many miles on your legs and your body will go through a grueling test of endurance, no matter what the age or ability level. If you have not been training and eating properly, and you think you can just wing it…you are sadly mistaken.
I had friends telling me that the saw people doing the Dopey Challenge (5K, 10K, half, and full) for the first time (undertrained) during Marathon weekend, and after the 10K, they were in rough shape. How they were going to survive the next 39.3 miles (and two more 2 AM wake-up calls)?
I saw someone getting put on oxygen during the marathon; ambulances made their way down the same path that the runners were on, and we all had to shift to the side of the road. Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Savannah last November, when the heat was so bad that runners died on the course? People pass out in the heat due to overexertion and dehydration, heat cramps and heat exhaustion.
Guys, the danger of all of this is very real. You need to stay alert at all times. The temperature soared last year during the half. I gradually slowed my time and made it to the end safely, albeit sunburned and tired. I knew that a PR wasn’t worth fainting over. Slow your time by thirty seconds for every five degrees the temperature rises. Your body heats up fairly quickly once you start moving, and you will feel naturally twenty degrees warmer than the air temperature. Add humidity and even higher temps, and it’s a recipe for potential disaster.
There is also a Medical Information section in the Event Guide (pages 48 and 49). Head over to rundisney.com and click on the Princess Half Marathon section (it’s under “Runner Information”.) Take some time to go over this, and all of the other sections. This will give you some advice on what the aid stations will be like and how to take care of yourself during the race. The first aid tents on the courses are stocked with all the things. If you need to be treated for something, do NOT hesitate to stop in. If something feels achy, Biofreeze is your friend; if you need to slather it on, there’s plenty of it. Same with Vaseline. The Vaseline will be on popsicle sticks…do NOT, under any circumstances, eat this. (Some think it’s a treat. Then they eat it…and find out it isn’t…)
Again, I implore…please take care of yourself while you’re out there running. You may not be aiming for a PR (I will be…that will be a later post closer to race day), but you’re still exerting yourself with the same intensity. It doesn’t matter whether you’re at a 6 mpm or a 16 mpm…miles are still miles. We will have all covered the same distance in the end.
If there is one thing that runDisney events are known for, it’s the amazing crowd support. This is especially prevalent along Miles 1-2, Magic Kingdom (4-6), and EPCOT (11-13). They’ll be cheering for you, and the energy will give you that push to make it down Main Street U.S.A., or past Spaceship Earth. Cast members will also be out in droves. Make sure to give out high fives and take note of the runner signs! Some of them are quite hilarious.
If your squad has a ChEAR Package, or need ideas for places to go, refer to pages 52-54 of the Event Guide. A Spectator Viewpoint list can be found here, as well.
After the Race…What’s Next?
You rounded the final corner coming out of EPCOT, raced down the last straightaway, high-fived Mickey, and have crossed the finish line! Woohoo, you did it!! Now it’s time to go down the finisher’s chute. This is where celebration and recovery begin.
-Tell your guests in advance that they are NOT allowed down the runner’s chute. This is for runners only. They can meet you at the post-meetup areas in Runners Village.
-First stop is medals. Find a volunteer and get medaled! Admire it for a minute. It’s shiny, isn’t it?
-Water, Powerade, bananas…they’ll all be here.
-Get your picture taken (if you wish!)
-Head by the tents for your recovery box and probably another banana or five.
**Glass Slipper Challenge participants….there is a seperate area just for you to get your challenge medal. I will cover this, and all GSC-related things, in Episode V. That episode is reserved just for you!**
-Get your gEAR bag and smile. You’re done!! Head to the celebration area in Runners Village. Stretch out, take a few selfies with your new bling, congratulate other runners that are around you. You all worked hard to make it here.
-There are additional First Aid tents at the end if you need assistance.
The most important thing to keep in mind while traversing the finisher’s chute is to KEEP MOVING. Don’t let that lactic acid build up in your legs by stopping and plopping on the ground. You’re going to be tired, you’re going to be hurting…but you’ll hurt worse later on if you don’t fuel up during this window of opportunity.
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations. I know this post was insanely long, but there’s a lot of information to be covered. I’ve probably missed something, so if you have questions, please ask them and I’ll do my best to answer!
On a seperate note…
WHO IS RUNNING THE GLASS SLIPPER CHALLENGE?!? *sees hands going up*
Woohoo! Whether this is your first GSC or your third, I’ve been waiting eagerly to write the next portion of this guide. Episode V: The Glass Slipper Strikes Back, will be tailored to GSC-specific details of race weekend!
Until next time….
P.S. If you’re still feeling nervous, take some time to scour the internet for PHM and GSC recaps and other runDisney blog posts. Thousands of other runners have done these races before and are happy to share their experiences. Pinterest is also a great resource.
Supplementary Blog Posts for this episode: