2018 Princess Half Recap

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!

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I checked in and meandered around. Not too long later, I met up with Christine, who I met during Marine Corps Marathon weekend!

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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.

Three…two…one…GOOOOO!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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And this sunrise…. I could NOT get enough! You could tell by looking at my splits where I stepped aside for optimal photo ops!

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Now the second half of the race…

*brain goes dead*

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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!).

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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!

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Five years. Ten Races. Fifteen Medals. What. A. Journey.

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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.

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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?

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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!

Fairy Tale Challenge

Next up: Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Miler

runDisney Tips and Tidbits

So, you want to run Disney. Congrats!

Many runners often start their journeys at one of the races that are offered at Walt Disney World, Disneyland Paris, or Disneyland in California. No matter the location, there are some written and unwritten rules about navigating the landscape that should be established and researched prior to toeing the line. Some may seem obvious, others may be total news to you. Whether you’re running your first 5K or 25th marathon, these rules of the road from myself and other runDisney veterans will hopefully make your experience more enjoyable.

The 25th anniversary of Marathon weekend is coming up fast, and I posed the question to runDisney Twitter of what advice would you provide before racing. I have compiled my advice and that of others here in this post. This list is not all inclusive, as it would take months to compile an exhaustive document.

Take some of this with a grain of salt, as it may come off with a sarcastic tone. You’ve been informed.

Grab a snack and take notes…

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Christina’s List of runDisney Tidbits and Advice:

-The Expo can be nuts. Be prepared by printing out your waiver, signing it, and having proper ID before coming to your booth. It expedites the process. Printers are available on site if you need them.

-If you’re planning on heading to the parks at any point during the race weekend, be aware that it is still peak season. Holiday décor will be abundant and many schools may  still be on break. Get your Fastpasses and ADRs early, and be prepared for long wait times at favorite attractions. Bring a book, magazine, and a spare phone charger.

-Bear in mind that runners of all nationalities will be descending into FL. Some of them do not understand the concept of runner’s etiquette and personal space, and can come off as brash and rude. (It’s part of their culture.) Deal with them however you need to; just don’t go to jail. That’s a lot of registration money down the drain if you do so.

-If you get hurt in training, or and think pixie dust will get you through the race, you’re sadly mistaken. If you are injured, you are taking a huge risk by furthering said injury on the course. Listen to your body.

-Don’t gorge yourself on too much sugar-laden park food or alcohol before you race. A drink or a treat is fine. Save the bottle of wine and Kitchen Sinks for after.

-Be prepared for ANY kind of weather. 2017 saw a cold front move through during race weekend, causing various weather patterns (10K was rain, half was cancelled due to storms), leading into wind and freezy ice cold for the full. Florida, surprisingly, is more than sand and sun! At least there won’t be any hurricanes during this time.

-Wear sunscreen, no matter what the weather is. I underestimated the amount of sun on 2017 marathon day, despite the 35 degree temps and 15 mph winds, and ended up with a nice burn.

-Sleep is good for the soul, ESPECIALLY if you’re doing Goofy or Dopey. Don’t let FOMO keep you from achieving your rest. Trust me, you’re not missing much.

-For the love of crap, don’t wear your “I Did It” shirt WHILE ON THE RACE COURSE RACING THE DISTANCE ADVERTISED ON YOUR SHIRT. You will get so many side eyes, you’ll be running through a sea of eyeballs.

-Leave earlier than anticipated if you’re driving. I panic if I know I’m running late, and much prefer driving in early so I can avoid traffic chaos.

-Nothing new on race day. The ONLY exception is for those things which you have been training with. For example: socks. I prefer a fresh pair of Thorlos Experia socks on race morning; I have been using them for five years and they  fit the best right out of the package.

-To prevent foot chafing, slather them up with Vaseline before putting on your socks.

-You’ll be hanging out in the corrals a LOT longer than you may realize, especially if you’re in the back. Bring throwaway clothes and hand warmers because you will start to get cold.

-If you are a female and take gels before racing, stick one in your sports bra. It’ll be toasty warm and delicious by consumption time.

-Balloon ladies are not to be feared. They’re very encouraging and are on your side—they want you to finish!! They start after the LAST runner crosses the start line. Then the game is on.

-First couple miles are just mass hoards of runners jockeying for position. Bring your patience. Watch for those runners who are not educated in runner’s etiquette and suddenly stop in the middle of the road while doing intervals without signaling.

-More miles than not are on long, lonely stretches of highway.

-If you plan on social media-ing during a race, your photos, statuses, and tweets will take a LOT longer to upload because of the concentration of runners in one location trying to do the same thing.

-If you plan on listening to music during the race, don’t blare your tunes so loud that you can’t hear your surroundings.

-If you plan on taking pictures, put your phone into airplane mode to conserve battery.

-Ladies-it’s okay to pee in the men’s room. Just announce that a lady is coming in and do your business. Hint: no one cares.

-Cinderella castle truly is the wretched bottleneck that race veterans talk about. Everyone stops and slogs through because there are photopass photographers taking pictures just on the other side. Here’s a hint—keep running through, and if you really want a castle pic, come back post-race and do a medal shot.

-Speaking of post-race medal shots, there are more photographic places around WDW to this at. Cinderella Castle is okay, but get creative! No one like the same boring shot at the same place clogging their media feeds.

-Cone Alley(s) are worse than Cindy Castle. There are several on the marathon route, guarded and watched by local police. Do NOT try to run on the other side of these. You will get caught, possibly pulled from the course, possibly hit by another vehicle (as it IS reserved for emergency vehicles).

-Speaking of EMS vehicles, it is entirely possible that you will hear sirens and/or see lights at some point during the race. Stay alert of your surroundings and get the hell out of the way. If someone has dropped on the course, time is of the essence. If someone is engrossed in their headphones, get them out of the way.

-Mile 8-9 is by the Grand Flo, and you’ll be hit with a blast of sun, provided that the sun wants to make an appearance.

-Upon entering AK, there may be cute fuzzy animals to pet 🙂

-If you have the time to ride Expedition Everest (around mile 14) and aren’t motion sensitive to coasters, go nuts. It’ll add a little time, but worth it for the bragging rights later.

-Miles 15-22 of the marathon are long and stupid and boring.

-WWOS (16-19) is a 5K of dumbfuckery and disappointment. Majority of runners hate this winding loop of torture.

-Running through World Showcase is incredible. Torches are lit, spectators are aplenty…and if you get there after 11am, you will have access to purchase alcoholic goodness. Just make sure to bring a form of payment. Favorites include:

-Grey Goose Slushie from France
-Beer Flight from UK (and turkey legs)
-More beer from Germany (and jumbo pretzels)
-Margaritas from Mexico
-Possibly wine from China/France

-Reminder: course officials have the jurisdiction to sweep at ANY point in the race. Don’t think that once you hit DHS that you’re safe. There’s no such thing as a “safe point” in a runDisney race. They can pull at any time.


RunDisney Twitter’s Contributions:

Emily (@iRunForDisney): “Any good suggestions for spectator spots during the marathon? Some midway location people could go and then make it to the finish line in time to see the runner cross?”

“Hogwarts running club has a sign that says, ‘No, we aren’t in the wrong park?’ around Mile 4 for the half, I think!” -Lauren (@wvumello_out)
“The Animal Kingdom parking lot is a great midway spot, giving you an hour/couple of hours to get over to the end of the race, depending upon your runner’s speed.” -Eric (@ericasco)

“My fam always does Main Street, DAK and Epcot! They work harder than I do! LOL.”
“Plan your bathroom breaks, so you don’t have to use the portas!!”
-Ian (@BazTastic77)

“Cheering at the Magic Kingdom is just amazing. I was able to get there before the first runner came through and stayed all the way for the last. Then I headed to EPCOT and cheered with Team Margarita and then scooted to the finish line! A great day indeed!” -Kristen (@DisneyKrstn)

“@MissusSmith and the kid stood in the hub and then moved over to Liberty Sq. to catch us after we exited the castle.” -Chris (@DopeyRunr)

“The boardwalk by Jellyrolls is also a good (and not at all usually crowded) spot, and gives you enough time to get to the finish line after seeing your runner(s) there.” -Heather (@MissusSmith)

“Don’t try to PR!
Wear a costume!
Stop for photos!
Get there EARLY!” -@Team Shenanigans

“Riding Everest during the marathon is a MUST!”
“If you don’t like port o potties, look at the course to see what bathrooms you can use in each park.” -Jess (@loveWDW5)

“You can use the bathrooms in the parks. Nicer than a port-o-potty!” -Erin (@mulderist)

“Bring money/credit card/Magic Band to buy some food/drink on your way to the finish (or have a cheer squad help you w/purchase).”
“Don’t be afraid to go slightly off course to use bathrooms while waiting for characters in (the) park. Strangers are usually kind enough to hold your spot if you ask.” -Sarah (@essaysareayaitch)

“Hydrate, and don’t eat at Ohana the night before a race.” -Ryan (@rteetz)

“Don’t be a rude asshole? Like walking five across, stopping suddenly without warning, etc.? I feel like we can do better spreading the word.” -Elizabeth (@TrainWithBain)
“Also, some stretches where even two across can cause problems, as the route is about 2.8 people wide.” -Eric (@ericasco)

“Don’t be a jerk to other runners just because they are different than you (slower, walking, stopping for characters). Don’t walk (or run, people always put this on just walkers) more than 3 across so people can’t pass.” -Heather (@heatherw25)
“And be cognizant of whether there’s another group that is also two abreast right next to you, so that it doesn’t look like you are a group of 4 (or more) to others.” -Sarah (@essaysareayaitch)
“Yeah that’s a big issue where you get 12 people abreast on Osceola all walking the same pace even tho they’re not together – it’s still the same thing. Move over!” -Chris (@DopeyRunr)

“They give out chocolate at DHS for the marathon.”
“If you’re doing a challenge, get your legs in the pool after your races to help reduce inflammation.”
“Get a resort room near the lobby/elevator.”
“The toll booths going into the MK area are NOT bathrooms, even if it is dark in the early morning…Wait until the TTC/Tomorrowland depending on urgency.” -Eric (@ericasco)

“Whatever time you think you need to get up, get up half an hour earlier.” -Holly, Jolly Horizons (@horizons1983)

“Bring tissues in case {they’re} needed in the portapotty.” -Heather (@heatherw25)
“Wet ones in a baggie, often referred to as a sh*t kit.” -Chris (@DopeyRunr)


If you have anything to add to the running list, list it below!

Universal Orlando Fun Run 5K Recap

It was a very early Saturday morning when I woke up  for the company fun run. Having slept about three hours the night before (on top of taking two flights back from DC), I knew the run wasn’t going to be decent. I had the goal of breaking sub :30 in the 5K, and thought this race would be the one to do it.

I hadn’t run since Marine Corps; I walked a lot at work! But mileage at work doesn’t substitute well for legitimate racing miles.

Anyway.

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The field was slightly more than 1,000, which was perfect. The announcers were asking for competitive runners to be in the front, slightly less competitors in the middle, and walkers/strollers in the back. I thought this was very fair. I lined up near the front, still with that sub :30 on my mind.

At 6AM, we counted down and raced through the gates to Islands of Adventure!

 

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All of my pictures are going to be horrendously dark until the end. 

 

The course was very windy, as we alternated from onstage and offstage/backstage areas often. We were in the presence of our most majestic attractions, such as Hulk, Skull Island: Reign of Kong, Poseidon’s Fury, and Hogwarts Castle!

I started out fantastically, with my first quarter of a mile hovering around 2:30. I slowed for a quick walk interval, then started back up again. The route ran through Marvel: Superhero Island, and the characters began. I never stop for characters in runDisney races, but seeing as there were very few people comparatively doing this race, I felt it obligatory to stops for some characters:

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Comic Book Strip and Toon Lagoon were next:

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Then Jurassic Park and Hogsmeade!

 

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Frog Choir!

 

Even with character stops, my first mile was around 13 minutes. Not bad.

To clarify, this was a non-chipped race. Nothing is officially official, and I’m going off of my watch data.

We ran out of Hogsmeade and through The Lost Continent. All of the decorations were on as we traversed through Seuss Landing.

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Hooking a left out of Seussland, we started the ever-so-boring backstage portion.

Soon, we were in Universal Studios Florida, and the second half of the race!

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I took it easy and just absorbed the emptiness of the park, along with the decorations. It was sooo relaxing to take in the scenery without guests or a ton of runners. It was a relatively quiet race (no spectators, either, since the park hadn’t opened up at that point).

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My pace had slowed down even more, but I was suprisingly okay with it. I was just on the lookout for the next character stop!

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By the time I finished the race (51:25), I had a PR for character stops with 11.

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I met up with some of my attractions team and we proceeded through the breakfast line, which is better than any recovery box I’ve ever received.

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All in all, a good day for my first and only 5K of the year!

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2017 Princess Half Marathon Recap

After traversing 17.44 miles the previous day with the Enchanted 10K, EPCOT (and carbo loading with those huge ass pretzels in Germany), and meetups over at Polynesian, it was time for my fifth running of the Princess Half!

I set my alarm slightly earlier on Sunday (around 2:15), and made sure I gave myself plenty of time to get dressed and get my stuff in order. I also made sure to pack all of my previous GSC medals into my gear bag. This would come into play later for my legacy picture.

I decided to go with a “Beasty Belle” theme with the blue and yellow. You can’t really see it, but the tank top has the Ravenclaw crest on it. Chris got that for me awhile back, and I truly think that Belle would have been a Ravenclaw!

I decided to take the familiar route to EPCOT this time around, and completely ignore my GPS. This paid off as I got to the parking lot with no problems. I was reluctant to leave my car, though: the temps had dipped from the previous day, the humidity was down, and the wind was up. It felt like marathon weekend all over again. The forecast had originally been projected to actually be in the 30’s with wind…just like marathon weekend. Luckily for us, the temps were in the mid 50’s. Still, though…for someone that’s constantly cold no matter what the weather is, it still felt like an ice box.

I made my way over to the TS bag check and waited for the team to arrive for our usual picture. There were reports coming in from social media that traffic was at a standstill and/or crawling. By 4:30am, the majority of us had arrived!

I also ran into Caroline, my favorite Sparkly Soul sister!

We took off for the potties and then to the corrals. En route, I saw some of the elites literally running along the sides of the road to get up to the front corrals. This traffic jam was such a determent that the race directors decided to postpone the start by about five to seven minutes. Fantastic, I thought to myself, as I sat in corral K with a hooded zip-up sweater I found hanging on the barrier of the corral. It alleviated some of the coldness, but not enough for my taste.

Finally, we started moving around. One thing I did notice right away was that the Fairy Godmother wasn’t around to count us down, nor were there any characters up at the front. Were they all on vacay or something? This was such an iconic part of previous Princess races, and really made the race what it was. I really missed her motivational speeches.

Finally, we got the fireworks and Corral K was off on their magical 13.1 miles! As much as I wanted a PR on this half, I know from my performance the previous day that it wasn’t going to happen. I took this race easy and made sure those side stitches didn’t come back.

Time to PR in photography once again!

This is the infamous chokehold point coming out of Cinderella Castle that we runDisney veterans always talk about. Don’t stop for pictures! You’ll create a logjam of runners behind you. Keep going, and if you want a picture that badly, head to the left as soon as you’re off the ramp and Disney’s Photopass staff can take care of that for you

Around the halfway point of this course, things started to get reeeeeal boring. You hit the second Cone Alley and all paces come to crawl. I found one of the 3:00 pace groups to run with for a little bit, thinking, “Oh hey, maybe if I stick with these guys, I’ll get that sub-3!” Upon further inspection, they started in Corral M, not Corral K. Womp womp.

And on we go…

Up the Mile 10 ramp!

Ran into my lovely Team Shenanigans ladies and we took it home from the coffee shop at EPCOT!

I finished this PHM in 3:34 on the nose, which is my second worst half marathon to date. I’m just glad to have made it in one piece with minimal oblique/rib pain and a lot of pretty pictures. Oh, and meeting new friends!! I finally got to meet Ian and Keith on my way out of the staging area!

And, of course, I couldn’t leave without getting the GSC legacy shot (which garnered many comments of, “Shut the front door!” as I was layering up the medals!) One more year to go to become a Perfect!

Christina’s Post-GSC Thoughts:
There’s really not a lot I can say now that I haven’t already covered in previous years, but I’ll repeat some of them…. The lack of characters and on-course perks are still diminishing with every year, and is making it hard to justify the cost of the races… As mentioned above, if you need to pee somewhere, just go pee… Don’t bottleneck the castle… Don’t walk 239847 abreast in Cone Alley… Be careful in that first cone alley as you go down the hill, because you’ll eat it if you’re not paying attention…. Don’t underestimate the power of the SUN; stay hydrated and properly sunscreened…don’t be too upset if you don’t PR this race; it’s designed to be fun (I have to tell myself that every time I come down here)…don’t traverse 17 miles the day before or your feet are gonna be sore…always bring throwaway clothes or a Mylar blanket so you don’t freeze, especially for those of us who are prone to the cold…etc. etc.

Since next year is the 10 year anniversary of the Princess Half, and the five-year anniversary of the Glass Slipper Challenge (now going by the name of “Fairytale Challenge”…-_____-), I’m curious to see what the theme is! Typically the runDisney Easter Egg is whoever the character is at the Mile 13 marker will the theme for the following year’s race. This year, though…it was Belle. Way to keep us in suspense, runDisney! I guess we’ll have to the wait and see!
Next race: Rock ‘n’ Roll DC Marathon!
See y’all real soon!
❤ Christina ❤