If Disney characters were runners, what kind of runners would they be?
In honor of registration opening today for runDisney’s Princess Half Marathon Weekend including the new Enchanted 10K and Glass Slipper Challenge, I thought I’d share another installment of my runDisney Character Profiles.
Previous installments have looked at Sleeping Beauty as the runner who needs to take a few weeks off even if she doesn’t want to, and Alice in Wonderland as the newbie runner who has fallen down the running rabbit hole.
This week, we’re working hard with my favorite runDisney Princess and one who suits Disney’s Princess Half Marathon perfectly…Cinderella
Cinderella: The Hard Working Back-of-the-Pack Runner
Disney Princesses, as a general rule, are hard-working gals. Snow White and Sleeping Beauty know how to keep a cottage tidy. Mulan and Merida are disciplined when it comes to training. And Tiana holds down two jobs to chase her dream of becoming a restaurateur.
But I’m not sure any Disney Princess works quite as hard as Cinderella. Yes, Tiana gives her a run for her money. But therein lies the difference between them. Tiana gets something from her hard work—a paycheck that promises her toil could pay off someday and make all her dreams come true. She’s like a promising young athlete who could become a champion with years of tough training. She’s investing in her future.
Not so with Cinderella. All she has is her dream that someday her hope of happiness will come true. Per the movie, she’s “abused, humiliated and finally forced to become a servant in her own house.” Heck, she doesn’t even get paid. Cinderella works hard not because she’s investing in her future. As far as she knows, her future involves more of the same. She works hard because it’s just the kind of person she is.
Cinderella wakes before the castle clock strikes 6 a.m. and spends all her hours cooking, cleaning, sewing and serving the cruel members of her stepfamily. Through it all she just keeps her head down and keeps on plugging. And, yes, sometimes she sings too. It seems to be an occupational hazard of being a Disney Princess.
She’s not unlike the runner who rises before dawn to squeeze in that workout before a jammed day of work. She’s not an Olympian. She’s not a professional runner. She’s not even a local competitor vying for small prize money or gift certificates. She’s not part of the elite in any way. She’s not even part of the bourgeoisie. Far from it. She’s one of the huddled masses.
Cinderella is your classic back-of-the-pack runner. She’s not out to win any races or even any age group awards. But she is quietly dreaming of something bigger as she looks at the castle out of her tower window.
So what’s that Cinderella runner training for? Why, the ball of course!
As runners, the ball is the big race we’re targeting. It’s the unthinkable distance we’re tackling for the first time—maybe even our first race or our first marathon. It’s the unthinkable time we’re gunning for when we have a few races under our belt. It’s the hard-to-get-into race we’ve always dreamed of—New York or London or that marathon on far away Easter Island. Maybe for faster runners it’s the Boston Marathon—an invitation to the most exclusive running ball of them all.
Whatever the ball, one day Cinderella finds herself transformed, rewarded for all her hard work. She’s no longer toiling in the back of the pack, but has worked her way up to the middle and maybe even toward the front. She stops referring to herself as “slow.” And she starts chasing her dreams.
Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother rewards her for toiling so nobly, for putting her heart into her work and for standing up to herself by insisting she should go to the ball too—even if she does have snarky sense of humor.
“Maybe I should interrupt the—a—music lesson?” she says with a knowing look to the mice as her stepsister crows “Sing Sweet Nightingale” in the background. Who can blame her for her sarcasm?
So many times Cinderella runners are made to feel they’re less important or less dedicated or less deserving that faster runners. But nothing could be further from the truth. Every Cinderella has a Princess inside, just waiting to come out.
I know. I am a Cinderella runner. Perhaps it’s why I’ve dressed in homage to her at two different runDisney races: Disney’s Princess Half Marathon in 2012 when my husband and I dressed as Cinderella and Prince Charming and Walt Disney World Marathon in 2013 when my husband and I dressed as Cinderella in Rags and Jacques the Mouse.
Once upon a time, I was a back-of-the-packer who constantly referred to myself as “slow.” I was hesitant to call myself a runner, even after I finished my first marathon. I was embarrassed to tell people my finish times. I kept my head down and I just kept running—certainly not because I was good at it. But because it’s just what I needed to do. And like Cinderella, I wanted to go to the ball. I wanted it more than anything.
I can also say this with complete honesty: I worked harder as a back-of-the-pack runner than I do now that I’m in the middle. Maybe it was because I felt I had more to prove or maybe it was because I was so desperate to improve. Whatever the reason, my hard work paid off. I moved up to the middle of the pack and onto a ball or two of my own.
It like Cinderella sings: “No matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, the dream that you wish will come true.”
And like Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother made her transformation possible, our Fairy Godmother is whoever or whatever helps us make those running dreams come true. Whether it’s a spouse who watches the kids an hour every day while we squeeze in our workouts, or a coach who teaches us to believe in ourselves, or our devotion to a power beyond ourselves.
Our friends and family are like Jacques and Gus and Bruno and the birds who help us along the way. And Cinderella’s stepmother Lady Tremaine, stepsisters Anastasia and Drizella Tremaine, and Lucifer the evil cat are the roadblocks that stand in our way.
But one day, Cinderella finds herself transformed and on the way to the ball. She can hardly believe it. From rags to riches, she approaches the ball with excitement and trepidation.
Every runner knows that feeling well. The butterflies in the pit of our stomach as we walk toward the starting line. The excitement of knowing that we’ve finally made it to race day. The fears of wondering just how we’ll do.
And Prince Charming? If the ball is a big race, Prince Charming is like that unattainable personal record. He’s the big “get”—the time we’re gunning for or the goal we want to achieve. Cinderella’s PC is the runner’s PR.
But, of course, Cinderella couldn’t go to the ball without her glass slippers. After all, they are her calling card. For runners, they’re the shoes that carry us through the training season and across the finish line. They’re magical shoes that fit just right, that help us make it through the ball, and ultimately nab our PR prince. Our running shoes are our pumpkin carriage and glass slippers all in one.
But sadly, like Cinderella’s ball, all races come to an end—thanks to a clock, no less. Not unlike all of us runners out there, Cinderella makes a mad dash to beat the clock.
At the stroke of midnight when the magic fades away, Cinderella is satisfied just to have had the experience. Her one remaining glass slipper is like her finisher’s medal.
“Thank you,” she says sweetly to the sky. “Thank you so much, for everything.”
It reminds her of the magical moments at the ball. They are moments she never expects to recapture. The next day, she goes back to her life and the ball is just another memory in the past.
But when she discovers that the young man she nearly kissed is really the Prince, she harbors a new hope. Maybe she can rise above the ashes and become something more. Maybe her new PR bodes well for her future as a runner. Maybe she can work her way from the back of the pack, into the middle, and toward the front.
With the help of her friends—a special shout-out to Bruno the dog—she escapes her imprisonment and steps forward to reveal who she really is: she’s a runner, a first-class runner.
She’s no longer Cinderella in rags. No longer in the back-of-the-pack. She’s a running Princess. She nabbed her Prince Charming at the ball. She nabbed her PR at the big race. She worked hard and, amazingly, it paid off.
And she runs happily ever after…