The Walt Disney World Half Marathon on Saturday, January 11 was the third of four races at the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend: the Disney Family Fun Run 5K, Walt Disney World 10K, Walt Disney World Half Marathon and Walt Disney World Marathon.
runDisney invited me to be their guest at the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. I was running the first three of the four races, so the Walt Disney World Half Marathon was the finale to my running weekend.
I’ve never run this race before; I was really looking forward to it. I ran the Disney Princess Half Marathon in 2012, which had a nearly identical course but with a slightly different start and finish, and I had a blast at that race.
I had one goal and one goal alone for the Walt Disney World Half Marathon: get a picture with Cinderella while dressed as Cinderella.
It was my sixth Disney race and I had yet to achieve that feat.
At the 2012 Disney Princess Half Marathon, when my husband and I ran as Cinderella and Prince Charming, I was racing for a personal best, so we didn’t wait in any character lines.
When we ran as Cinderella in Rags and Jacques the Mouse at the 2013 Walt Disney World Marathon, we stopped for tons of photos, but never found Cinderella or any character from the movie on the course. I found out later that she was taking turns with Sleeping Beauty at a Magic Kingdom photo stop. When we ran by, Sleeping Beauty was out.
So this, my third time dressing as Cinderella, I really wanted that photo.
Running in Costume
Wearing a Disney running costume is one of my favorite parts of Disney races.
For the Walt Disney World Half Marathon, I pulled out all the stops. It might be my favorite Disney running costume ever, and the one I crafted with the most care: Cinderella’s pink dress the mice made for her.
I fine-tuned every detail right down to the blue bead necklace and 1950s bangs.
Having used running base pieces like a New Balance top and Sparkle Athletic skirt with Oakley running shorts underneath, I was perfectly comfortable the entire race. (I bought the New Balance top, Sparkle Athletic sent me the skirt, and the Oakley shorts were from a review in 2013.)
I loved running in this costume. It was a huge hit. I got so many compliments on it along the course from both spectators and other runners.
Not everyone knew I was Cinderella as I ran by. I got many mistaken cheers for Princess Aurora of Sleeping Beauty fame, which was understandable. Disney fans are used to associating a pink and white dress with the Sleeping Beauty.
As running costumes, they really do look alike. And they have the same bangs.
Other people gave me more general cheers of “Go Princess!” and “Love your sparkles, Princess!”
But plenty of people knew I was truly a pre-ball Cinderella. The most common reaction was, “Awwwww! It’s the dress the mice made!”
I had a ball wearing it.
The Walt Disney World Half Marathon Course
The course started just outside Epcot on Epcot Center Drive for the first mile. Before the second mile marker, runners headed north on World Drive toward Magic Kingdom. Just after the third mile, runners journeyed toward the Walt Disney World Speedway, which they passed before reaching the Transportation and Ticket Center, where many spectators awaited at Mile 4. The fifth mile took runners past the Contemporary Resort and Bay Lake Tower before the final turn into Magic Kingdom.
Runners entered Magic Kingdom through a side entrance right onto Main Street U.S.A., where spectators lined the course. Runners turned right before Cinderella Castle into Tomorrowland and continued onto Fantasyland. There runners charged through Cinderella Castle from the back and turned right into Liberty Square and out a side exit in Frontierland near the Mile 6 marker.
With nearly half of the course behind them, runners headed back to Epcot on Floridian Way toward the finish. At Mile 9, runners reentered World Drive before climbing a highway overpass near Mile 10 to get back onto Epcot Center Drive.
After Mile 11, runners entered Epcot running around Spaceship Earth then out to the finish.
There were nine water stations along the course passing out Dasani water and PowerAde. Four flavors of Clif Shot gels waited at mile 8.4.
I had three distinct corral experiences at the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. Based on that, I think any one runner’s experience will largely be dictated by where they are in the pack.
At the Disney Family Fun Run 5K, my mom and I were in the last corral since it was her first race. It was the right place for us to be. It was as crowded as I would expect it to be, but not unmanageable. Generally, there was a good flow of movement. We were able to move the speed we wanted.
At the Walt Disney World 10K, I was in the third of five corrals and I did have an issue weaving around runners who were moving more slowly or saving their legs. The issue wasn’t crowding, but poor flow. I was able to move the speed I wanted, but only with ample weaving.
At the Walt Disney World Half Marathon, I didn’t have any issue with how I was corralled as a non-Dopey runner. I submitted a 2:00 half-marathon proof of time and per runDisney’s corrals chart I was placed in Corral E with other 2:00 half-marathoners.
Granted, I ended up starting 10 minutes ahead of them at the very back of Corral A (more on that in a bit), but I genuinely think I would have had a similar race experience if I’d started in E. I crossed the finish line with a mix of runners from Corrals A-F after making many character stops.
At the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon, I started in D and my experience at the two races was very similar. I had all the room I needed to run and there was a good flow of runners. I was easily able to move at the speed I wanted.
Having started these three races from three distinct areas—the first corral for the half, the middle corral for the 10K and the last corral for the 5K—I can say this: it’s most congested in the middle of the pack.
Here’s why: the middle of the pack is where you have the widest mix of runners, run-walkers and walkers moving at completely different speeds.
At the front of the pack of the half, most everyone was running. At the back of the 5K, most everyone was walking or run-walking. But in the middle at the 10K is where I found the crazy mix of people running fast, running slow, run-walking and walking at various speeds, which disrupts the overall flow of runners.
I’ll also qualify it with this: how crowded you think a race is largely depends on what you’re used to.
If you run mostly small races, these races are going to feel very crowded. If you run mostly big races, they’ll feel normal for the most part.
I live in New York City, where even a charity 4-miler in Central Park can have 5,000 runners. So I have a particularly high threshold for running in a big pack.
Personally, I define a race as too crowded if the sheer number of people prevents me from running as fast as I want to.
So far, that’s only happened once that I can think of: the 2012 Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10-Mile Run in Washington, D.C., where I was literally stuck in foot traffic the entire race unable to run the pace I wanted.
That didn’t happen at any time for me at the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, not even at the 10K. I did have to do a lot of weaving at that race, but I was still able to run my pace. However, I have heard from runners in the middle to the back of the pack who said they were stuck in “traffic” the entire half-marathon.
For the third morning in a row, the time on my clock began with a “3” when I got up. Unlike the Disney Family Fun Run 5K and Walt Disney World 10K, I actually got a good night’s sleep beforehand. So I actually woke up feeling refreshed. Phew!
I began my transformation from mere mortal into Disney running royalty.
I jumped on a special runDisney bus from my hotel at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge at 3:45 a.m. Instead of taking me to the starting area, the bus took me to the start. Wow! It was really cool to get a shot of it up close.
As a result, I ended up getting ushered into Corral A, instead of Corral E. I was on the right side of the start and all the corrals were cordoned off except for A.
I felt bad about it and worried that my family would miss me at the finish, since I’d told them I’d be starting 10 minutes later with Corral E. Luckily they’d signed up for runner tracking, so I knew they’d sort it out.
But I also felt bad because I’d had a hard time weaving around slower folks just the day before at the Walt Disney World 10K.
Not wanting to be that slower person people had to weave around, I started as the very last person in the corral so I wouldn’t be in anyone’s way. Then I kept to the side of the course until the flow of runners around me was going the same speed.
It didn’t take too long for that to happen since the early corrals, including E where I was supposed to be, were starting just 2 minutes apart.
Later corrals were spaced 5 minutes apart or more.
There were 16 corrals of runners in all and one start for wheelers.
Donald Duck took the stage as the race’s “Con-duck-tor.” He counted down the start, the fireworks blared and we were off!
Miles 1-5: The Road to Magic Kingdom
It was another soupy day in Lake Buena Vista, Florida: 69 degrees with humidity hovering between 97 and 100 percent.
Once again, it didn’t take long until I was completely covered in sweat.
The first character I saw on the side of the course was Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean. But I had just gotten a picture with him at the 2013 Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon, so I kept on running.
Along the way were marching bands, cast members flying bird kites, a huge Mickey Mouse banner and lots of other music. Launchpad McQuack was out there too, but I ran by him. I had a twinge of regret on that one. I wanted to get a bit more mileage under me before I started stopping for photos.
But I finally saw something I wanted to stop for: Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas. I’ve never gotten a picture with him and I’m a big Tim Burton fan. Pee-wee’s Big Adventure is one of my favorite films of all time.
It was a quick stop shortly before the Mile 4 mark and I was back on the road headed to Magic Kingdom.
My legs were tired from a personal record attempt at the Walt Disney World 10K the day before, so I treated this as a slow, long run. I chugged along between a 10:00-10:30 pace, which is my easy run pace. It felt great. My splits for those first five miles, including the Jack Skellington stop, were:
- Mile 1: 10:34
- Mile 2: 10:06
- Mile 3: 10:19
- Mile 4: 10:34 (Photo stop)
- Mile 5: 10:10
I know it’s a lot of highway, but I actually love this part of the course.
You travel through the Magic Kingdom archway early in the race. Then you pass the Transportation and Ticket Center, which is packed with people cheering, and the Contemporary Hotel and Bay Lake Tower, where many spectators wait as well.
It’s a great pump-up to the best part of the race: Magic Kingdom.
Mile 5-7: Magic Kingdom
All of the Mile Markers were themed to different Disney movies and characters.
The Mile 5 marker was my favorite: Lady and the Tramp with “He’s a Tramp” playing over the speakers. That might be my favorite Disney song.
Just after the Mile 5 marker, Magic Kingdom awaited.
Running down Main Street U.S.A. is one of my favorite parts of any race, anywhere. The street is lined with cheering spectators and Cinderella Castle is straight ahead.
You can hear the rumble of the crowd before you even enter the park.
Can you tell I got a little excited on Main Street?
I paused for a photo with Cinderella Castle in the background, naturally.
Then I continued into Tomorrowland. But it didn’t take long before I stopped for another photo opp, this time with Alice in Wonderland’s Queen of Hearts. I’ve never taken a picture with her either. Don’t mind if I do.
As I turned the corner from the Mad Tea Party ride into New Fantasyland, I held my breath. In 2012, I’d seen Cinderella posing for photos at the back end of Cinderella Castle. Hoping she’d be there once more, I peaked around craning my neck. She wasn’t there. I felt deflated.
But then I perked up when I saw Knight in Shining Armor Donald Duck and Lady Daisy.
Of course! Donald Duck is the main man at the Walt Disney World Half Marathon. It makes sense he’d be at the castle in his best.
Then it was into the castle, where I got my very first photo of me actually running through the castle.
And I couldn’t help it. I had to stop for yet another, more close-up picture in front of the castle.
Finally, I was on my way to Liberty Square and Frontierland. I was planning on just pushing through, but then I saw Woody from Toy Story. I have lots of photos with Woody already from various races. But he’s just so cute. I couldn’t help myself.
I exited Magic Kingdom past the Mile 6 marker to a back lot that you visit on the Keys to the Kingdom Tour, which my husband and I did last year. It’s where they store parade floats. If you’re a Disney fan or interested in the business of the parks, the Keys to the Kingdom Tour is a great way to spend a morning. It was well worth the $79 price tag per person that we paid.
But I digress. As soon as I exited Magic Kingdom, I saw her: Cinderella! With Prince Charming! And two of her mice—Perla and Suzy! Yes, I’m using a lot of exclamation points! I was really excited! I felt like a 5-year-old! The line was a few minutes long, but worth it.
The mice were escorted off for their break just two people before me. I was disappointed as they were two of the lovely ladies who, in the movie, helped make the very dress I was wearing. But I was still really excited for Cinderella.
I ran up.
“What a lovely dress!” she said. “It was my mother’s.” A perfect nod to the movie.
Then she said with a flick of her hand: “We pose like this.”
So naturally, I mimicked her gesture and got my perfect Cinderella picture while dressed as Cinderella.
That made my race.
My pace for through Magic Kingdom reflected all the stops I made.
- Mile 6: 12:07 (Photo stops)
- Mile 7: 13:53 (Photo stops)
Totally worth it.
Mile 7-12: The Road To Epcot
The sun finally rose at some point along this stretch. I don’t quite remember when. But around the same time a nice little breeze picked up, which felt great. The stagnant humidity started to give way to a beautiful day.
I chugged along at my easy training pace and stopped for a few more characters that I saw along the way.
Lilo and Stitch? You bet! I’d just been to Hawai’i a few months ago, so naturally I had to get a shot with them not far from Disney’s Polynesian Resort.
Reindeer in January? Why not?
Golf Goofy as we ran past Disney’s Palm and Magnolia golf courses? Yes, please. This one was for my dad. He was an avid golfer and Goofy was his favorite character. He used to bring me to Walt Disney World every year as a kid. He’d gawrsh and guffaw like Goofy the whole time. I’ll forever associate Goofy with him.
At Mile 8.4 I stopped for a Clif Shot gel, since I hadn’t brought anything with me except my camera. Thanks to my GERD (gross!), I can’t run and eat gels at the same time. I have to walk. So I sucked down my gel and then got going again.
At one point in this stretch, I got a 20+ person high-five as I passed one of the marching bands out there to cheer us on.
They’d taken a little play break and were handing out gloved high-fives. I love that kind of stuff.
And we passed the giant banner with Disney characters again.
My next stop was at the Disney Cruise Line station to take a picture of Palo on the Disney Magic. Why would I want to do that, you ask?
I’ve never blogged about it, but I actually had my bachelorette party on a two-night Disney “Cruise to Nowhere” from New York City. My girlfriends and I had a blast, especially at a private dinner we had at Palo. How much fun did we have? This much fun.
Around Mile 10 I passed a man doing 50 pushups with Toy Story’s Sarge, but decided to just press on to the finish. And yes, the man really did 50 pushups. Sarge counted them out.
My 46-day running streak was serving me well and the run actually felt easy. Sure, my legs were tired. But it was an odd sensation. They also had a lot of push left. So I just kept on pushing.
At Mile 12 we were back at Epcot and I was ready for the finish.
Once again, you can tell by my paces when I stopped and waited in photo lines, ate my gel, and when I simply ran.
- Mile 8: 14:11 (Photo stops)
- Mile 9: 10:43 (Gel stop)
- Mile 10: 11:14 (Photo stop)
- Mile 11: 10:13
- Mile 12: 10:37
- Mile 13: 10:44 (Photo stop)
Mile 12-13: Epcot and the Finish
Running through Epcot in the last mile is another one of my favorite parts of any Disney race, whether it’s the Princess Half Marathon, Wine & Dine Half Marathon or Walt Disney World Marathon. Crowd support is in full effect, the park looks beautiful and you know the finish is just around Spaceship Earth.
After I passed Spaceship Earth on my left, runners had a little out-and-back toward Showcase Plaza before returning to Spaceship Earth and the finish. I almost stopped for a photo with Rafiki and Timon from The Lion King, but pressed on to stop for a selfie in front of Spaceship Earth instead.
Then I ran past a gospel choir—another one of my favorite parts of Disney races.
And into the finish cute…
And across the finish line.
My official finish time was 2:28:28.
I averaged a 10:20 pace while I wasn’t stopping for photos and hit an 11:18 pace overall with the stops.
I came in 6,091 of 20,245 finishers; 2,374 of 11,203 women.
It was perfect for a nice, easy long run. I was amazed that running back to back 5K, 10K and half-marathons didn’t feel too challenging.
Though 13.1-miles was my longest run by 4 miles in two months, I’d also covered as much as 30 miles a week during my 46-day running streak leading into the race. I knew that would pay off somehow.
Honestly, the hardest part was waking up so early three days in a row.
Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck were passing out high-fives at the finish.
I crossed with a huge smile on my face, and even made the runDisney video recap. I’m around 2:14:
I made my way through the finisher’s chute where I got my medal, stopped for an official finisher’s picture and then picked up my food box and drinks.
Outside the baggage check was a large meet-and-greet area where Disney characters posed for photos.
Then I met up with my own family who joined me for a girls only Disney trip. My mother even ran the Disney Family Fun Run 5K with me two days before.
They’d tried to make it to the finish to cheer me on. I’d told them I’d be finishing around 8:15.
They got to the hotel bus stop at 7:15 a.m., planning to take the official race transportation to the finish. They hoped an hour was enough time to get there since it was usually a 20-minute bus ride. It wasn’t.
A man from Mears Transportation, which was running the buses, told them the next bus wouldn’t come for 50 minutes because traffic was so backed up from race-day road closures.
So they hopped in a cab. The cab driver did his best, and even stopped to ask about alternate routes. It was then that someone told them they could have taken a bus to Magic Kingdom, where they could have taken the Monorail to the finish. Oh well. I crossed the finish just before 8 a.m.
Future spectators, it’s a lesson to be learned: have a plan A and plan B ready to get around on race day and allot much more time than you think you need in case the official race buses are delayed. I’ve never had spectators at a Disney race before, so this was all new to me.
They didn’t see me finish as planned, but we had even more fun plans ahead: Princess Storybook Breakfast at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Norway at Epcot.
Breakfast with Princesses
My family had managed to reach the International Gateway entrance to Epcot with their cab.
I made my way through the front entrance of Epcot, which is just a short walk from the race finish area.
I cheered on runners as I crossed the course on the way to Norway.
But the real highlight came when my 5-year-old niece ran to me as she saw me in the distance. It was like a scene from a corny movie: two people running toward each other with arms outstretched. Being an aunt is the best.
She gave me a big hug and wanted to see my medal right away. Between the race and the prospect of seeing princesses, she was very excited.
We feasted on potato casserole, eggs, sausage and a continental buffet as Snow White, Aurora, Ariel, Belle and Cinderella visited our table, one-by-one.
So I got a few more princess pics in my costume. Ariel? Didn’t see her on the course.
And another picture with Cinderella. Don’t mind if I do.
What a perfect way to cap off the morning. All the ladies in my family had an absolute blast.
If you can stand to not shower right after the race, I highly recommend Akershus Royal Banquet Hall as a post-race feast since you’re already at Epcot when you finish. I left there stuffed and satisfied. We played at Epcot and Magic Kingdom for the rest of the day, where I took one last Cinderella picture: the dress that was my inspiration:
It’s at Castle Couture inside Magic Kingdom.
I loved absolutely everything about this race. I loved all the entertainment on the course, including DJs, marching bands and Disney characters.
The characters I saw on the course included: Captain Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean, who was actually available for photos in the early and late miles of the race; Launchpad McQuack from Duck Tales and Darkwing Duck; Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas; the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland; Donald Duck and Daisy Duck; Woody from Toy Story; Cinderella, Prince Charming, Perla and Suzy from Cinderella; Lilo and Stitch from the movie of the same name; Golf Goofy; Santa’s Reindeer; Sarge from Toy Story; Phineas and Ferb from the show of the same name; and Rafiki and Timon from The Lion King.
Others characters at the race that weren’t out when I ran by included Princess Aurora and Prince Phillip from Sleeping Beauty, Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story, Winne the Pooh and Tigger, Louis from Princess and the Frog, and Golf Mickey.
I know not everyone had the same experience with the corrals that I did. I hope Disney is able to sort it out for next year. Because the race as I experienced it was terrific.
For the first time, the race had women’s cut shirts by Champion instead of “unisex,” which I greatly appreciated. And as always, the crowd support and volunteer support were excellent.
And the medal is really good looking too.
Plus, I achieved my one goal of the race twice over: to get a picture with Cinderella while dressed as Cinderella.
It was a perfect way to cap off my three-peat of the Disney Family Fun Run 5K, Walt Disney World 10K and Walt Disney World Half Marathon at the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend.
Having run the Walt Disney World Marathon last year and these three races this year, this has become one of my favorite weekends to be at Walt Disney World.
As a member of the media, runDisney gave me complimentary race entries, hotel, some park tickets and some meals for the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. I bought my own airfare, most meals, additional park tickets, etc. As always, all opinions are purely my own. I firmly believe in being honest about my experiences and Disney is no exception. For more, read my Disclosure Policy.