Three years ago when I started training and participating in 5K races, I had one ultimate goal in mind. I mean yes, I wanted to take better care of myself, and do something no one thought I could, and blah, blah, blah. But seriously… what I REALLY wanted to do was participate in a runDisney race. You sign up for the race almost a year in advance, travel to Disney World for the weekend, rock a character costume, run through the Disney parks, and get a flippin’ sweet medal. Heck yes… sign me up!
Last school year I had the opportunity to become friends with my amazing Disney-loving friend, Amanda. When she suggested that we sign up to do the Disney Princess 5K together, along with our friend Joey, I was completely stoked! During Princess Race Weekend, Disney offers a 5K, 10K, and a Half Marathon. Right now, the three of us were only prepared to complete a 5K. Though this is an untimed race, we figured it would teach us the ropes of the Disney Parks running experience. We made plans and trained for nine months. Many of the aspects of trip planning were very familiar to us, since we are frequent Disney travelers. However, the race needs were new to all of us. We weren’t totally sure what to expect, other than that we knew it would be top notch because Disney was in charge. Well, February is almost over and runDisney Princess Weekend was last week. Here’s how it all played out…
runDisney Race Expo: Right away we realized that nothing about the race weekend happens quickly! Upon arrival, we headed to the race expo and wanted to shop the official race merchandise first. We were shuffled into a large waiting room (along with a few hundred other people) to form a line for the merch area. The line moved relatively quickly (and they served beer), but it still took a hot minute to get into the area to make purchases. When I finally could shop, I excitedly filled my arms with an awesome assortment of runDisney souvenirs and proceeded to another long line to check out.
The actual bib pickup moved pretty quickly… probably because of the time of day we were there. We presented our race waivers and identification and were sent to a third building which housed the vendor hall and shirt pickup. There was a lot to see… great vendors with all sorts of running gear and cool photo opportunities. After the expo, we grabbed dinner and cocktails at Trader Sam’s Grotto and headed back to our hotel for an early bed time.
Race Morning: Our wake up call on race day was a bit brutal since we had to meet the shuttle to the race location at 3:45 AM. Also, it was about 45 degrees and misting with a wicked wind… NOT typical for Orlando in late February. When we arrived in the Epcot parking lot, people were in good spirits though. The Disney tunes were pumping, the hot chocolate was flowing, and we huddled for warmth with thousands of other Disney nerds dressed in some of the best race costumes I have ever seen. (The cold didn’t bother us anyway.)
Around 4:30 AM, we were directed to get into our race corrals and get ready. They had a DJ playing music and Cast Members hyping up the crowd. There were high-definition screens showing scenes from Princess movies and a new trailer for the live-action Mulan to keep the runners distracted too. Though we were freezing and ready to get moving, it was a whole lot of fun.
The Race Experience: Gun time for the race was at 5:30 AM, with many waves of starts afterward. Our group didn’t get released until about 6:15. What I loved about the race is that every single starting group got their own set of fireworks to start their run… it didn’t matter that we were way in the back and running at a turtle’s pace. The course was fast and flat, which is perfect for runners like me. Though it was wet and slick in spots, there were Cast Members and recorded warnings to alert the runners of dangerous situations. People ran at all different paces and were courteous of passing each other.
Along the race course, there were opportunities to meet characters, photographers to catch great race shots, cheer squads, and a marching band. We waited in line to meet Moana, especially since the 5K race was themed to her movie. (Poor girl had to wear a coat!) Our group tried to meet Rapunzel and Flynn Rider too, but the line was way too long and we were told to move on, which was a big bummer. It was so much fun to run around World Showcase at Epcot early in the morning. Cast Members from each country were standing in their pavilions, waving flags and cheering for us. It felt amazing!
Again, this race was untimed and took longer than a typical race since we stopped several times for pictures. However, it was SO MUCH FUN. Honestly, it didn’t feel a bit like work, and I didn’t mind that I had to get up so early in the morning. My friends and I felt energized, happy, and so incredibly loved.
I have to say, crossing the finish line at this race was one of the greatest feelings in the entire world. I FELT like a Princess who could accomplish amazing things. The group that participates in runDisney is as diverse as they come. All ages, races, ability levels, and body types are out together in the early morning to get in some miles and share an experience together at the most magical place on earth. It is a true community of supporters and I feel so encouraged by the people I met through this race.
Post Race Party: After the race, we were handed a beautiful medal that features Moana and The Heart of Te Fiti. It is my favorite race medal I have ever earned. They gave us cute runDisney mylar heat blankets and led us to the snack area. Our snack boxes contained delicious post-race treats including chips and queso! Finally, we snapped cute pictures in the finisher area and then boarded a bus back to the hotel for showers.
The rest of the weekend was awesome too… I mean, how can you NOT have a good time riding rides, eating Mickey-shaped snacks, and hanging out at Disney World with two of your best friends?! We decided not to go to the park on race day, since we weren’t sure how wiped out we would be. However, WHEN we go again, we know that we can totally handle a day at the park. We were energized by the race! We spent the day after the race at Magic Kingdom and enjoyed taking cute pictures of our medals and being congratulated by Cast Members.
The first thing my mom asked me when I returned was, would I do it again. The answer is a resounding 100% yes!!! It was seriously the most fun, joyful, and encouraging race I have ever participated in. Race weekend was truly beyond our expectations and we had an incredible time. In fact, Amanda enjoyed it so much, she booked herself a trip for the Wine and Dine Race weekend while we were in the airport to come home. My hope is to return in the next couple of years and do a 10K. With enough training and Disney Magic, there’s just no telling how far I’ll go.