runDisney Race Recap: Princess Marathon Weekend

Hi everyone! Thanks for stopping by to read my Princess Half Weekend recap! This was my first time running this event, but my fifth and sixth Disney races, so I feel like I'm getting the hang of this runDisney thing! Today I will focus on the Half Marathon part of the weekend.

Like nearly all the runDisney events, this weekend featured multiple events: a Family 5K, a 10k, and the Half Marathon. It was also the Inaugural Glass Slipper Challenge Year, so participants who ran both the 10k and Half, earned a special glass slipper medal! By my best estimation, about 6000 people took the challenge! In the pre-race announcements, we heard that 24,000 people were running the half marathon, so the numbers were there as in all runDisney events!

Princess Half Marathon BannerPrincess Half Marathon Banner

The course for this race is the same as the WDW Half that takes place in January. The start line is on Epcot Center Drive, where runners are sent off not with a gun, but with full fireworks before heading west onto World Drive, where runners head north to Magic Kingdom. Runners enter Magic Kingdom through a gate onto Main Street, head toward the castle, through Tomorrowland and Fantasyland, through the castle, and into Liberty Square and Frontierland before exiting the park. The rest of the race is on Floridian Way past the Grand Floridian and the Palm and Magnolia golf courses, back to Epcot. There is about a mile through Epcot, heading toward World Showcase and doubling back toward the front of the park to the finish line.

Getting to races at runDisney events always takes a little longer, since there is so much busing involved. Most runners are on a bus by 4:00 am and to Epcot by 4:45. Runners take a short walk from the staging area to the start corrals, and we started right on time at 5:30 am. This is the one aspect of Disney races that is tough, especially when doing multiple races in a weekend! Also, some runners think this course isn't as entertaining as Wine and Dine or even the Disneyland races due to limited park time, but I think Disney works to liven it up with numerous characters out on the course (not just in the parks), and other entertainment along the way, including a high school band, a group of men I called the "Wedding Singers" who had a glass slipper on a pillow for girls to "try on" in photo ops, and groups of volunteers on the quieter parts of the course to cheer on runners.

The Wedding SingersThe Wedding Singers

Mickey and Minnie In Their Royal BestMickey and Minnie In Their Royal Best

For Mary PoppinsFor Mary Poppins

One of the things runDisney does right in Florida (due to more space, I suspect), is the filling and spacing of corrals. This race went A-P, so 16 corrals. I was in A, which only had 500 runners, so I'm assuming there were anywhere from 500-1500 per corral, but I didn't hear any complaints this year about course crowding or serious slowing. Spreading the runners out by adding those corrals seems to have helped.

Starting Line CorralsStarting Line Corrals

The best moment of this race for me, the "that was worth every penny" moment, is running up Main Street toward the castle. There are thousands of people cheering for the runners, the castle is beautiful, and it is truly a Disney experience.

Special Pink Coast to Cost MedalSpecial Pink Coast to Cost Medal

Another of my favorite parts of this race is the doubling up of runners on World Drive. When the earlier corrals are heading back toward Epcot, later corrals are heading toward Magic Kingdom. This is so fun! Seeing all the costumes and the waves and waves of people having so much fun is simply motivating on both sides of the road. Another thing I loved about the Princess race is that there were so many women (and yes, a few men...and those were in some great costumes!) there to have a great time. The camaraderie was palpable. Groups of women were taking photos, greeting characters, stopping for photos, and generally soaking up the spirit of Disney in every way. This is the kind of race that not only reminds me why I run and why I love running with friends, but also why I love Disney. I chatted with multiple people along the course, including a "Perfect Princess" - someone who has run all the Princess Half races. She was so proud, and she should be! Another option available at Princess is the Coast to Coast medal. Because I ran the Tinkerbell and Princess this year, I earned a special pink version of the medal. That was the medal I proudly wore the rest of my trip. I love it!

Celebratory Princess BlingCelebratory Princess Bling

The post-race finish area was awesome for this race! There were princesses available for photo ops, pool chairs available for resting, a massage tent (for a fee), a champagne booth, food booths, and a great DJ who interacted with the crowd. This post-race is so important, as people are crossing the finish line from about 7:00am until nearly 11:00 am. Family is able to enter this area, which makes it easy to meet up (there are banners for this) after the race.

Overall, I loved this race. I had so much fun! I ran as Mary Poppins, which was amazing when I ran into Mary, Bert, and a penguin on the course!

Mary Poppins, Bert, and a PenguinMary Poppins, Bert, and a Penguin

As a runner, I always want to know the pros and cons of races I'm researching, so I will always try to provide that for you all.

  • Pros: atmosphere, multitudes of characters (even Sofia the First!), increased number of corrals, a fairly fast course (not a lot of hills, turns or overpasses), the gospel choir at the mile 13 marker, after-race photo ops with Princesses, after-race vendors (able to use Magic Bands), the medals (of course!), much better merchandise offerings at the expo, amazing volunteers at every turn.

  • Cons: the wakeup call, cost, difficult to spectate, time in Epcot is limited (really only a one-park race), traffic for non-resort guests can be crowded and tricky.

I would love to answer any questions you all have about this race or even the 5k or 10k. I ran the 5k and my roommate did all three, so I can find out anything you'd like to know from the runner's perspective! Thanks for reading. Happy running!

Thanks so much to our runDisney blogger Tara O. who will be sharing with us her adventures throughout the year. She has 5 Disney races on her schedule! If you'd like to read more from Tara, head on over to our member forums.

Pattie wrote on Thu, 03/13/2014 - 22:33:

Pattie's picture

how did you take your photos with the characters? did Disney offer photopass?

JoAnn C wrote on Thu, 03/13/2014 - 22:54:

JoAnn C's picture

I loved that they had the fireworks before each corral.

taratru wrote on Wed, 03/19/2014 - 02:40:

taratru's picture

[i]how did you take your photos with the characters? did Disney offer photopass?[/i]

Hi Pattie!
There are official race photographers on the course and you can purchase those images/packages in digital or hard copy form from them. In the last two races, marathonfoto has offered pre-race bargains for that.

However, anywhere there are characters with official photographers, there are also cast members to take photos for people with cell phones/cameras. It's really a nice feature for people. The Villains and Mary Poppins photos I have here didn't have official photographers, so other runners took those, which is also an option you see lots of people using!

Thanks for the question! Let me know if I can help with anything else!

TaraC wrote on Sat, 06/21/2014 - 23:38:

TaraC's picture

Great article! Another Tara here, I found this because I am considering signing up for the princess half in a few weeks when registration opens for 2015. I have a question about using magic bands at the after party that you mentioned. Did this include even the street vendors? It would really be helpful to limit all the extra things to take/carry and still be able to grab a glass of champagne to celebrate!

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