WDW Marathon Weekend Preview

It’s here! It’s finally here! Woohoo!

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I’ve developed a solid affinity for WDW Marathon weekend, even though I’ve only raced it once. I signed up for the full in 2015 after failing to finish the Marine Corps Marathon; I deemed it my “revenge race” to prove to myself that I could still finish 26.2. I entered the weekend full of doubt and grumpiness…I didn’t even want to leave my hotel room. But lo and behold, I pulled myself out of my funk and had a fantastic time. I even joined a running team: Team Shenanigans!

I see this weekend as not just the Super Bowl of the runDisney series, but as a wholesome family reunion, as well. Friends and runners come from all different parts of the country and the world to reunite and run a few miles to earn some sweet bling…and maybe have a margarita or five along the way, too.

The past couple of days have brought on a ton of excitement via social media with the unveiling of the expo merchandise and race shirts:

 

Original article by Steven Miller: https://disneyparks.disney.go.com/blog/2017/01/cross-the-finish-line-in-style-with-products-for-2017-walt-disney-world-marathon-weekend/

Side note, here are your expo hours! (Wide World of Sports)

  • Wednesday, January 4 – Noon – 8:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, January 5 – 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
  • Friday, January 6 – 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
  • Saturday, January 7 – 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m

The race shirt designs are also really cute! These are the shirts that you will get when you pick up your bib and gEAR check bag:

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Since I’m running Goofy Challege this year, I get three shirts!

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When it comes to buying merchandise at the expo, I try to stay away from it. Every so often, there’s something that really catches my eye and I budget for it. Most of the time, though, the designs are too loud for my taste (I prefer simplicity and solid colors 98% of the time). I love wearing the race shirts, and these satisfies me enough so I don’t have to buy official runDisney merch.

As always, runDisney encourages you to be social!

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…and #GoofyChallenge, and #DopeyChallenge, and #CignaRunsTogether…

 

To everyone…safe travels heading down to Florida, and I’ll see you then! Feel free to keep up with my adventures this weekend on the socials: @runDisneyBelle!

❤ Christina ❤

 

2016 In Review

And here we are, once again. The Year In Review.

2016 was quite a year. Let’s take a look back…

I kicked off the year with a new car and my #AreWeThereYet road trip to Disney World for WDW Marathon weekend. (I deemed my “revenge race” after failing to finish the 2015 Marine Corps Marathon). I entered the weekend feeling rather miserable and isolated and nervous…and left feeling fulfilled and fuzzy inside; I attended my first runner meetup with We Run Social, and I joined Team Shenanigans. I learned that runner camaraderie can really pull you out of a funk in about five seconds. All it takes is love, laughter, a margarita and a spin around Mexico.

I didn’t know it at the time, but at a Kappa Kappa Psi meetup the night before the marathon (where it was raining cats and dogs), I would meet a Life Member who would eventually adopt me as his new Little. (Long story short: when you’re a colonist for your chapter, you don’t necessarily get a Big, so you’re kinda on your own to figure everything out.) Chris is a major piece of my 2016 story, on fraternal/professional/friendship levels. He claimed, “You look like you need a Big Brother”, and history took off from there. We have traveled many places this year, had many deep talks about life, and there are more adventures in store in the coming future. I encouraged him to start running, and his first race was the Dark Side 10K. He paced me for an 8:55 mile in March (even on my bum knee from GSC weekend), we ran our first race together in October (Run For The Badge, right here in D.C.), and I paced him for the Everglades Half Marathon in November. We have several races lined up for 2017, including the WDW Half and the Rock ‘n’ Roll D.C. Marathon (his first full!).


One of the biggest highlights of my year came with the penning of the Princess Half Marathon Survival Guide. I have a knack for telling stories and writing how-to guides (it’s the internal teacher in me). 2016 was my fourth PHM and third Glass Slipper Challenge. I was reading on many groups about how many firsties were freaking out about the little things, and knew I had to do something to assuage and educate them that there was nothing to really be concerned about. The series became a huge success, and I received many thank yous from readers while attending meetups and while on the course during the races!

A major goal of 2016 was to PR in my races, especially the half marathon (which I have now deemed my distance). I went into PHM weekend aiming for a sub-3 hour half…and ended up with my second worst half to date. I dealt with GI issues the entire week leading up to the race and during, and it affected my performance for both races. (Note: fiber is your friend!) I also left that weekend was an injury to my left knee (runner’s knee), and it stalled my Run the Year 2016 efforts for a month and a half….

…but 2016 also yielded many athletic firsts: sporting Sparkle Skirts (#BeAwesome, Team Sparkle!), volunteering for races, cheering for runners during Marine Corps Marathon, and running 5Ks/virtual races. This year yielded to eleven medals (with a twelfth and thirteenth on the way), my first finisher mug, a couple of personal records, so many fun memories, and eyes to 2017.

 

The travel bug bit once again, and I found myself traveling: Pennsylvania (I surprised Chris for his birthday with tickets for Eastern State Penitentiary’s Terror Behind the Walls experience), Florida (because Food and Wine/Flower and Garden/Halloween Horror Nights/Everglades Half racecation), and a road trip to Georgia (wedding time!!).

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My travels were not quite as diverse as 2014 or 2015, but I’m still glad I escaped the rat race that is Washington D.C. Speaking of D.C., I finally ended up getting my first legit job almost a year after graduating graduate school. After my job search in the higher ed/student affairs department yielded a big goose egg, I am now currently in the hospitality/food and beverage industry (which is far more intricate and intense than one may realize). It’s still not my dream career, but I’m trying to make it work the best that I can. It definitely has its ups and downs, and but I am semi-content with where I am at the moment. How much longer I stay here working in such a large city, I really do not know. I’ve come to terms that I am not a city girl at all, and I so much prefer a rural, quiet life. I am often riddled with anxiety and stress that sometimes affects my performance, but I have a great team of managers and staff that have my back and keep me sane.

I made my way up to Edinboro this fall to watch the latest class of Kappa Kappa Psi brothers get inducted for my chapter. While there, I was officially presented with the “Miss Nu Zeta” award for “unswerving support of the organization and members since the founding of the chapter”. What can I say…I love my brothers, and am still incredibly honored to have made such an impact on the organization that it yielded to an accolade of sorts. 🙂

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I am very much looking forward to 2017. There are some big events on the horizon, such as four marathons (yes, four…with focus on the Chicago Marathon!), runDisney funtimes, Kappa Kappa Psi National Convention in Orlando, and turning the big 3-0 in June!


Thanks for following along with me this year! If you ever have a topic that you would like me to write about, don’t hesitate to suggest it. I’m always looking for fun things to write about (runDisney or otherwise). Have a fantastic New Year’s, and I will see you in 2017 from the place Where Dreams Come True!

Fireworks WMK II

❤ Christina ❤

See You In Chicago! 

Woke up to some very happy news this morning: I’M RUNNING THE CHICAGO MARATHON!!!!

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After being rejected by NYC, London, and Berlin, it’s nice to finally have some good luck coming my way with regard to race lotteries. The ChiMarathon will actually be my THIRD full for 2017, along with the Walt Disney World Marathon (January) and the RnR DC Marathon (March).

This is also a great way to begin my journey of becoming a World Marathon Major Six-Star Finisher!

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Will I be seeing you next October?!

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Everglades Half: Trifecta and Club Challenges

“Everglades terrain can be summed up like so: sawgrass, sawgrass, sawgrass, water, water, water, BERRY PLANT!, sawgrass, sawgrass, sawgrass, BIRDS!, sawgrass, sawgrass, sawgrass…

If that doesn’t make it on your blog, there’s something wrong with you. :P” -Chris

After the Everglades Half, Chris and I traversed around the surrounding areas and explored all what the Everglades had to offer. Vacation Races does a great job in providing extra incentive to those who go above and beyond just running the races; there are a variety of clubs and challenges that, when completed, can offer a great reward in the name of race discounts!

For this race weekend, there was a Trifecta Challenge that consisted of…

  1. Picture with a gator
  2. Walking the Anhinga Boardwalk Trail
  3. Swimming in Biscayne Bay

With medals and bibs visible as proof that you accomplished the challenge and had run the race, a 20% discount for next year’s race entry!

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Gator picture! (as per my last post)
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Anhinga Boardwalk! photo cred: Chris
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Biscayne Bay! photo cred: Chris

For the even more adventurous, there are Club Hikes that one could participate in, as well. Completion of these hikes results in a 50% off discount for the following year’s race!

Chris and I signed up for the Slough Slug Club (which is a guided hike through–legitimately through–the Everglades with an NPS ranger), which turned out to be a ton of fun! Our tour through the River of Grass (and mud and algae and all kinds of stuff…yay nature!) resulted in no shoes being lost, me taking a swim trying to get OUT of the ‘glades, and lots of laughs:

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We also had the privilege of going on an airboat ride (to join the Airboat Club) that was guided by a member of the Miccosukee Indian Village. Now THIS was a blast! We got up close and personal with a lot of gators, birds, and even visited a hidden village tucked away in the depths of the ‘glades…

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More pictures coming soon!

 

The Great runDisney Debate…To GSC or Not to GSC?

So…here we are.

Princess Half registration is coming.

Glass Slipper registration is coming.

Usually I’d be bouncing off the walls with anticipation.

But this year? Not so much.

For the first time since 2012, I haven’t felt the same pangs of anticipation and happiness like I typically do for my signature runDisney event.

Honestly, I feel…hollow. Numb. Apathetic.

Can I even say…burned out?

InsideOut

I’ll admit, runDisney is highly addicting. The feeling when you run down Main Street U.S.A. toward the castle cannot be replicated. Accomplishing your fitness goals at the Happiest Place on Earth yields the same reaction. The energy and camaraderie (for the most part) is contagious among veterans and firsties alike, and we’re all in it together to get across the finish line. In subsequent years, you give back and become one of those cheerleaders/kinda-sorta “runDisney Experts” and offer your advice and words of wisdom through social media and IRL.

It’s exciting and thrilling…but also mentally draining, and…perhaps to an extent…

Unfulfilling?

I have been debating heavily for a few weeks now (and the thoughts have crossed my mind for months) about registering for 2017’s Glass Slipper Challenge. For those that have followed my blog and socials, you know that this is my signature weekend: PHM 2013 was my first ever race, I’m on track to be a GSC legacy (three for three so far!), and I wrote an entire PHM Survival Guide last year detailing multiple aspects that runners should be aware of when they meddle in the middle of the magical mess* that is runDisney.

(*If you got the “Cabinet Battle #2” Hamilton reference, give yourself a gold star.)

When I went down for GSC this year, I felt mentally prepared. I essentially reviewed everything I knew through my Survival Guide and couldn’t have been more prepared logistically. Physically, however, was a different story. (For those wondering, little to no fiber + long days = massive stomachaches and no PRPs.) When I finally arrived to do the race weekend, I felt like I was going through the motions: go here for packet pick up, browse the expo, spend money on some things (or not at all!), sleep/wake/leave/arrive at ass-o-clock in the morning, be herded into intensely packed corrals, run or run/walk the courses, take pictures, say hi to people, update socials along the way, cross finish line, get medal, rinse and repeat.

I’ve done the above list for four years now.

Looking at it…I don’t feel inclined to do it again. At all.

Hell, I don’t even feel like writing about anything PHM-related. (I tried doing an updated registration blog post, and I deleted it halfway through writing.)

Is it possible that this is my time with PHM/GSC is drawing nigh?

My brain says yes, and my heart is close behind.


There are far more reasons behind my decision-making than emotions, obviously. A viral blog post by Chris Smith (@DopeyRunr) of Team Shenanigans made its rounds through the runDisney world after Star Wars Dark Side weekend, which you can read here:

http://teamshenanigans.org/breaking-up-with-rundisney/

I’ve reread this several times and realized that many of my decisions to potentially give runDisney/Princess weekend a rest align with what he wrote. So, here I am to give my two cents…


1. Increase in Pricing, Decrease in Magic

We all know that runDisney is all that and a bag of marshmallows, and it ain’t cheap by ANY stretch of the imagination. I cannot begin to tell you how much I have spent to run these races in the last four years. However, for the cost that runners shell out just for registration fees, you would think that runDisney would step up their hospitality, especially since prices have increased dramatically within the last few years. In the past, there have been complimentary park registrations and goodies out the wazoo. Nothing like that is seen anymore, except for maybe the free parking fee on the morning of the races if you’re driving yourself to EPCOT. (Hey, $20 is $20. I’ll save wherever I can!)

The quality of the runDisney Experience has taken a severe nosedive in recent years, and it affects runners and non-runners alike. Tempers do run high, especially with PHM weekend. Ask yourself this: is it really worth shelling out $1000+ for a weekend just to see women fighting over wine glasses and breaking things at the expo? To watch non-runners stock up on runner-specific merchandise just to turn around and upsell it on eBay? To witness fellow runners demoralizing each other over social media through virtual catfights and name calling? To run through 13.1 miles with two character stops (when in years’ past, there would be no less than eight or nine)? To contract transportation companies with little to no knowledge about how Disney operates their bussing systems, resulting in stranded runners needing medical assistance in hot, non-shaded parking lots?

This is the sort of “Disney Magic” (or lack thereof) that deters me from participating again. With every race, the quality steps down another two or three notches. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

(Side note: can someone update the runDisney website? Please? And maybe hire a PR team to answer inquiries on a timely basis? runDisney is really lost with this whole communication thing and it loses major points every time I log on and see that the website hasn’t been updated since 2012 or something.)

2. The Racing World Extends Beyond the Walls of WDW

This is one of the biggest points I’m making with this list. There ARE other race series other than runDisney, which is something I’ve had to beat into my head recently. I ran the Rock ‘n’ Roll DC 5K in March and absolutely loved it. I’ve also run the Marine Corps Series and will be experiencing the NAFHALF in September, the Vacation Races series in November with the Everglades Half. The Hot Chocolate 15K series is another one I want to experience, as well, plus the World Marathon Majors….etc.

 

 

See what I mean?

99% of the time, these other races are far cheaper than a single race or challenge run that runDisney offers. For example, I calculated that I could do at least four RnR fulls ($80-ish/race) or halfs ($70-ish/race) for the price of Glass Slipper (around $330 for two races).

Plus, these series are offered in areas where I haven’t traveled yet, and I LOVE TO TRAVEL! Win-win.

I also have other racing goals on my mind, specifically accomplishing the World Marathon Majors and earning Hall of Fame status with Rock ‘n’ Roll. GSC legacy status is wonderful and everything, and the concept early on was enticing…but it doesn’t appeal to me anymore. I want to experience something new and fresh, and by stepping away from runDisney, I can achieve that.

3. Virtual Races Are Really Not That Bad

I have always detested virtual races.

Personally, I’ve always thought that they were never “real races”, and that people would do them as a cheap cop-out for running IRL.

Well, I’m here to apologize for that assumption. Virtuals are not that bad after all.

I experienced my first ever virtual race when I went to Atlanta at the end of June. Chris and I ran the #OrlandoUnited 5K, bibs and all. It was sunny (87 degrees with humidity around 60%), very uncomfortable, and I felt like I was gonna die (we Northerners do NOT like the heat!)…but we coached each other through and took walk breaks when we needed to. We finished around 45 minutes, and we also ran for a really great cause: through this race, Final Mile Race Management raised $100k+ for the families of the Orlando tragedy. I am SO proud to be a part of that, and we earned cute medals!

I’m here to renounce my seemingly profound hatred for virtual races, and I honestly look forward to signing up for more.

4. World Marathon Majors…London-Bound?

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Let’s jump back to #2 for a second. The World Marathon Majors is a lifetime goal of mine. My name is currently in the lottery for the London Marathon, and I’ll find out in October if I’m selected. The money that I would be using for GSC would easily go to my travel expenses. This is a hypothetical factor, obviously.

But what if I don’t get selected for London? What else can I do to kickstart my WMM journey? Fundraise for Boston, perhaps? The possibilities are endless.

5. Adulting Priorities—Financials

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The biggest concern, of course, is the financial aspect. Judging by how much I’ve spent in the past for runDisney events, it is very easy to plunk down upwards of $1000 or more on a racecation here. With rent and transportation eating up a good chunk of my paycheck nowadays, I have to be very careful where I spend my fun money. Glancing back at point #1, the prices seem to rise for runDisney (and Disney in general) every time you turn around. By cutting out one race weekend, I can easily save (and allot for cheaper races, or funnel it into London, for example).

I did both the WDW Marathon and GSC this year, and had to get very creative on a limited budget for even the basic necessities. (Staying off-site at a hotel I found on groupon.com saved me SO much.) Don’t get me wrong, I did sign up for 2017 Goofy, so I am committed to that. I may make that my only runDisney excursion for 2017. During 2016 Marathon weekend, I managed to get everything that I needed park-wise done, and had a blast doing so. When I returned for GSC in February, I had zero desire to go back to the parks, since I was JUST there. ($220-ish saved on park admission.) I also discovered the Boardwalk and Disney Springs as being wonderful places to hang out at without paying an entry fee.

Maintaining legacy status for GSC is pretty cool and everything, but at what price? Why am I paying exorbitant fees for the same course year after year, and essentially the same medal with one or two things changed? I also ended up with a patellar tendonitis injury during GSC that set me back over a month in my running endeavors. (Probably due to the abrupt stopping and starting stress on the knees that one experiences by being on a runDisney course with a billion other runners.) Honestly, my desire to continue experiencing the same things is waning, and I’m ready to move on to other experiences in the running world (back to point #3).


Final thoughts…

Unless I find a huge pile of money somewhere, I’m going to sit out Glass Slipper 2017.

I just said that. Holy shit.

I will not be poised and ready to go at 11:50 AM on July 12th on active.com as I await the link to go active for this race.

I will calmly sit back and watch the chaos and craziness unfold before me from a distance.

I have done my time with this race weekend. Now, it’s time to pass the torch along to someone else looking to continue their legacy status, or run their first GSC.

I’ll still cheer you all on, and answer any questions you may have. After all, I’m a nice person like that.

But for me, it’s time to seek new adventures and different roads to run.

If you’re in WDW during Marathon weekend, I’ll see you there.

If you’ll be participating in 2017 Princess weekend in whatever capacity, I wish you all the best. Adjust those tutus and lace up your shoes. You have slippers and tiaras to earn.

Trust me, I will be watching. See you at the finish line.

❤ @runDisneyBelle

Rock ‘n’ Roll D.C. Expo Volunteer Experience

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To kick off this D.C. racecation, I was presented with the opportunity to volunteer for the RnR DC weekend by my fellow Team Shenanigans member, Jenn (@Jenneral1 on Twitter!). I arrived at the D.C. Armory around 8:45 on Friday morning ready to work and give my fellow runners a fantastic experience.

The majority of the volunteers would be downstairs in the basement doing corral check-ins and changes. After receiving instructions from the Race Crew supervisors, Jenn and I called dibs on the Corral Change booth.

Yep, Team Shenanigans was in charge of making decisions.

For those that have never run a Rock ‘n’ Roll race, the corral changes for this series is a LOT easier than, say, runDisney. RnR corral changes are based purely off of an honour system. If you know that you’ve been training at a faster pace than the corral you are placed in, you can request to be bumped up. We make a little tally mark on the spreadsheet for statistical purposes and to make sure the corrals are filled evenly. That’s all! (There were many comments of, “That was so easy!” It is. You don’t have to sacrifice your firstborn or sell your soul to transfer corrals.)

One of the most humbling things I experienced during my time at the corral change booth was being asked questions and confidently giving advice to other runners about pacing and to provide corral options. Jenn said that it is better that experienced runners are at this booth to act as a mentor and source of information. It was awesome seeing many runners walk over with a harried, worried facial expression about their corral placement and leave with a smile and newfound energy to rock their race day.

Plus, it was great seeing runner friends, Ken (#kenthumbsup) and Malinda of @TwinsRun!!

Around 3:00, I jumped over to Corral Check-Ins. Around this time, until 7:15 or so, the traffic picked up a bunch, and volunteers were leaving their morning shifts. At one point, I was manning two corral sections due to the area being temporarily understaffed. I was put in this chaotic situation many times last summer—I worked for a whitewater rafting company, and the pre-rafting paperwork/logistics craziness that would occur in the hour before everything was to start (which I called “Power Hour”) truly prepped me for these Corral Check-In tables. (Thank you, Three Rivers crew!)

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(…after the storm at 7:15 PM. It was quiet. Too quiet….)

Our Race Crew leaders were incredibly hospitable. They made their rounds roughly every hour or so, making sure we were fed and watered appropriately. (I ate so many fruit snacks and Cheetos it was unreal.) We also got lunch and time to explore the expo. They made it known that our service and time were greatly appreciated. (If it isn’t for the volunteers dedicating themselves for however long they will be there, these races will not have the same fluidity. So make sure you thank your volunteers when you see them!)

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I will be more than happy to volunteer for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Series again. I had a fantastic experience, and I encourage anyone that is even thinking about volunteering to do so. I noted that the majority of the crowds at this expo were very friendly towards us volunteers, even during peak periods. There was no drama, nothing getting broken, no craziness… just smiles and thank yous. It’s very different being on the other side, but volunteering gives you a better perspective on everything a race weekend needs to run right.

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Next up, the Rock ‘n’ Roll D.C. 5K!

Princess Half Marathon Survival Guide, Ep. IV, Part II

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

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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?…

Enchanted 10K

10k PHM Map

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.

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Mile 5.4-ish: More water.

Mile 6.2 = finish line!

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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

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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.

PHM 2013 people

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!

PHM 2013 halfway

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.

PHM 15K

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….*

FINISH LINE

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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!)

PHM 2013 Mulan

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.


 

Spectators

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…

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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:

http://www.runwalkrepeat.com/2014/01/princess-half-marathon-potty-time-where-are-the-real-bathrooms-avoid-using-the-port-o-potty/

http://www.runwalkrepeat.com/2014/01/princess-half-marathon-dont-fear-the-sweepers-or-balloon-ladies/