Race Report: Disney Princess Half Marathon

Race Report: Disney Princess Half Marathon

My sis high-fives Mickey at the finish. (Photo: MarathonFoto)

How much fun did my sister and I have at the 2015 Disney Princess Half Marathon? Her Mickey Mouse high-five at the finish line pretty much says it all.

When my sister decided to run her first half-marathon, there was no doubt which race it would be. She’d run her first 5K with me at the Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend in 2012. As a family, we did everything there was to do at the time: Pasta in the Park Party, Kids Races, 5K, and my husband and I ran the Half Marathon.

So naturally, we decided to return for my sister’s 13.1 debut in 2015. I attended the race as a media guest of runDisney to write a story for Shape.com about our experience. You can read it here: Why I’d Rather Run With Women.

First, we tackled the Disney Princess Frozen 5K dressed as Disney’s most infamous sisters, Cinderella’s stepsisters Anastasia and Drizella Tremaine. We had too much fun, despite wearing tank tops in a 33-degree race.

Race Report: Frozen Disney Princess 5K

Anastasia and Drizella (Photo: runDisney)

Then, I ran the Disney Princess Enchanted 10K on my own, dressed as Cinderella in tatters, just so I could earn that beautiful Glass Slipper Challenge medal.

Finally, for the half-marathon, our choice was obvious. My sister and I are totally Elsa and Anna. Right down to our birth order, hair, coloring, and temperaments, she’s definitely an Elsa and I’m completely an Anna. We’re a match made in runDisney heaven.

Race Report: Disney Princess Half Marathon

Elsa & Anna! (Photo: MarathonFoto)

Yup, we learned to love team costumes from an early age.

Race Report: Disney Princess Half Marathon

Twinsies! (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)

Disney Princess Half Marathon: The Course

The Disney Princess Half Marathon takes runners from just outside Epcot to the Magic Kingdom and back.

Race Report: Disney Princess Half Marathon

The Course

The first five miles are a long, and sometimes lonely, stretch of road on the way to Magic Kingdom. Disney lines this section of the course with bands, DJs, and character stops, but at other parts you’ll simply hear the sound of 20,000 pairs of feet pattering away.

Highlights of the first five miles include the car entrance to the Magic Kingdom near Mile 3, which makes for a great photo opp.

Race Report: Disney Princess Half Marathon

Friends Tara and Lesa are runDisney photo superstars! (Photo: runDisney)

Throngs of spectators and Taiko drummers at the Ticket & Transportation Center near Mile 4 always give me a boost.

Race Report: Disney Princess Half Marathon

Drummers! (Photo: runDisney)

And a dancing DJ pumping tunes at the overpass leading to the Contemporary Resort near Mile 5 is also a fave of mine.

Race Report: Disney Princess Half Marathon

Dancing DJ at the overpass (Photo: runDisney)

Mile 5 to 6 is by far the most exciting of the course: the run through Magic Kingdom. No matter how many times I do it, it never gets old.

From the Mile 5 marker, the course is lined with Disney cast members and spectators cheering you on. You’ll hear them before you see them—the roar of the crowds waiting on Main Street USA as you run toward Cinderella Castle. I get so pumped every time.

But before the castle, you’ll turn into Tomorrowland, run through the back of Fantasyland, then through Cinderella Castle from the carousel side and out the front. There are tons of characters, photo opps, and course photographers along the way in Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, before the castle, through the castle, and in front of the castle.

Race Report: Disney Princess Half Marathon

We nailed our Cinderella Castle shot! (Photo: MarathonFoto)

Then you’ll turn into Liberty Square before exiting the park through Frontierland. You’ll find a few more characters awaiting you in this section as you pass the Mile 6 marker and again once you exit the park.

Miles 6.5 to 11 are the long road back to Epcot. You’ll find DJs, bands, cheerleaders, and characters in this stretch, along with the toughest part of the course: a series of inclines taking you over and around high-way overpasses.

Race Report: Disney Princess Half Marathon

One of the few hills (Photo: runDisney)

They’re the only hills of the course, so just make sure you leave some gas in the tank for them. Otherwise, some stretches in this section can be a bit quiet. One of my favorite parts other than the character stops? Running under the Monorail after Mile 10. The train crosses the course earlier too, but it’s harder to see in the dark. By Mile 10, the sun is up and it’s easier to notice.

Race Report: Disney Princess Half Marathon

The Monorail (Photo: runDisney)

Here’s another photo opp hint: Between mile markers 1-3 and 9-11, the course mostly runs along the same roads. Disney’s entertainment team often places a few characters stops on the grassy inner median and they stay there the entire race. Most people will stop and form a long line to take pictures the first time they see the characters between Mile 1-3. But if you wait until you return in the later miles, the characters are still there and the lines are much shorter.

That’s what my sis and I did to nab a photo with the Disney leading men. We passed them around Mile 2, then stopped for a picture with them in a really short line around Mile 9.5.

Race Report: Disney Princess Half Marathon

This was a must-stop for us! (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)

But remember that only works for the characters that are on your left on the inner median. If a character stop is on your right on the way to Magic Kingdom, you’ll only see it once.

Once you reach Mile 11, you are olly olly oxen free. Once again, the spectators tick up and you’ll enter Epcot at Mile 12. You run an out-and-back around either side of Spaceship Earth with spectators, cast members and other runners cheering you on. Plus, you’ll get a few last character photo opps and chance at a shot with Spaceship Earth in the background.

Race Report: Disney Princess Half Marathon

The classic Epcot running shot (Photo: MarathonFoto)

Just as you exit the park, Disney entertainment often places a gospel choir to sing you in. When you see them, the finish is just a few hundred meters around the corner. Disney characters like Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, or Goofy are on hand to cheer you across the finish line.

Race Report: Disney Princess Half Marathon

Donald Duck high-fives a finisher (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)

Disney Princess Half Marathon: The Race

If you’ve never run a Disney race you might be wondering a few things.

Is the Disney Princess Half Marathon crowded? Yes. It’s more packed out there than your usual race. We were among 20,238 finishers.

Race Report: Disney Princess Half Marathon

Staying in character (Photo: MarathonFoto)

But it’s not the most crowded race I’ve ever done. That honor belongs to the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run.

My sis and I didn’t have any problems running the pace we wanted. We started in Corral E and trotted at a 9:45-10:00 pace while running, 10:40 pace when accounting for walk breaks through water stations, and 11:55 pace when you add in the flat-out stops.

Can you PR at this race? Yes. I did it in 2012 and even started in Corral C (when I had a Corral A bib) because I was running with my husband. (Men aren’t allowed in the first corrals.) That meant I spent at least half of the race weaving around slower runners in front of me and still ran the time I wanted, running between an 8:45-9:45 pace and finishing in 2:05. Crowded but manageable, even if you want to PR.

I’ve never run it from the back of the pack, so I can’t speak to that experience. I’ve only been in the last corral at Disney 5Ks, which are a much different race experience and not timed.

If you want to take pictures, are lines for characters long? Yes and no. It depends on the character and where you are in the pack. We waited about 10 minutes to take a picture with the villains this year. But we waited just 2 minutes to take a picture with the Disney leading men.

Race Report: Disney Princess Half Marathon

Crossing the finish (Photo: MarathonFoto)

In Disney races where I’ve started in Corrals A-D, I’ve found the lines to be 1-5 minutes in general, with some longer and some even shorter. That was my experience at the Walt Disney World Half Marathon, Walt Disney World Marathon, Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon, and Tinker Bell Half Marathon. From Corral E on, I’ve found the lines to be a bit longer, with a few shorter ones here and there.

Finally, is the Disney Princess Half Marathon really that much fun? Yes. Princess isn’t my favorite runDisney race—Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon has that honor—but it’s still a blast.

Whether you take your time, stopping for photos, or plow through at racing speed, it’s a really unique experience. I’ve run it both ways and genuinely enjoyed each time.

No matter your strategy, the sights and sounds keep you entertained for much—not all—of the race. You’ll find a major entertainment piece every mile, with smaller distractions thrown in between. The miles through the parks are packed, step for step. My sister and I had ridiculous amounts of fun.

Race Report: Disney Princess Half Marathon

Ready to run on race morning! (Photo: MarathonFoto)

My Sister’s First Half-Marathon

My sis had a sleepover in my room at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge so we could head out on race morning together. Her husband took kid duty at their hotel and we had a girls night! It was really fun. We put the finishing touches on our costumes, had dinner at The Mara, and hit the hay.

In the morning, the runDisney bus whisked us away to the start. We didn’t waste time in the start village—dropped our bags right away, hit the port-o-lets, and walked to our corral. It’s a hike to the corrals—at least 15 minutes. So be sure to leave yourself enough time.

And here’s a helpful tip: there are port-o-lets right by the corrals that often have no lines. So you don’t have to wait in the longer lines in the start village. We made it into our corral just in time to see Corral A start the race. Exciting!

Race Report: Disney Princess Half Marathon

The start (Photo: Disney)

The day started at a comfortable 55 degrees, but warmed up to 80 before the day was over. And it was incredibly humid. How humid? Try 100 percent humidity at times without it actually raining. Like running through warm soup.You can actually see fog—aka 100 percent humidity—in this pic:

Race Report: Disney Princess Half Marathon

So humid as runners pass Contemporary Resort. (Photo: runDisney)

My sis had already decided that she didn’t want to worry about time for her first half-marathon. She just wanted to have fun, stop for pictures if we felt like it, and roll with it. She’d hurt her knee a few weeks earlier and missed some training. Considering that and the humidity, I was really glad she didn’t have a time goal.

So what did we do? What talked, we admired other runners’ costumes, we walked through water stations, we stopped for some photos, we stopped to use the bathroom, we laughed so hard at times that we couldn’t breathe—we actually had to slow to a walk to stop laughing and catch out breath. We even got verklempt at one point doing this crazy race together.

We passed the first few photo opps, but decided to wait in the loooong line for the villains. It was over a 10-minute wait, but totally worth it!

Race Report: Disney Princess Half Marathon

We ain’t scrrrrrd! (Photo: MarathonFoto)

Guess who was right behind us in line? None other than our new BFF Dave Mari, who we’d met in the Disney Princess 5K corall just two days before! Perfect opportunity for a throne pic:

Then, just as we were running off, my runDisney buddy Leigh Marsh spotted me! We first met at a race back in 2012. She’s a Perfect Princess, having run the race every single year!

@runkarlarun so glad i ran into you. Its been a long time since ive seen you. What a fun day!! #princesshalf #princesspeeps   A photo posted by Leigh Marsh (@msprincessleigh) on

Finally, my sis and I were off to the Magic Kingdom, and running down Main Street USA.

Race Report: Disney Princess Half Marathon

Running down Main Street USA in Magic Kingdom (Photo: MarathonFoto)

Yep, we were really sweaty. The humidity had us soaked by Mile 1. We paused behind Cinderella Castle to get a pic with Anna and Elsa on the balcony. My sister nailed her Elsa pose.

Race Report: Disney Princess Half Marathon

It’s a Frozen fest! (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)

Elsa Pose

Elsa pose!

And then we nabbed a dream Cinderella Castle pic!

Race Report: Disney Princess Half Marathon

We nailed our Cinderella Castle shot! (Photo: MarathonFoto)

Then we kept on pushing. We didn’t stop for another pic until we reached the heroes toward Mile 10.

Race Report: Disney Princess Half Marathon

Heroes! (Photo: MarathonFoto)

But we did stop for the bathroom twice, and generally took our time, having fun. I let my sis make the call each time whether or not she wanted to stop.

Race Report: Disney Princess Half Marathon

Running through the back half of the course. (Photo: MarathonFoto)

Finally, Epcot was upon us.

Race Report: Disney Princess Half Marathon

Through Epcot! (Photo: MarathonFoto)

And soon after that, we spotted a certain Mouse at the finish line.

Race Report: Disney Princess Half Marathon

My sis high-fives Mickey at the finish. (Photo: MarathonFoto)

Growing up, my sister was a Mickey Mouse girl. She had Mickey Mouse sheets, Mickey Mouse rugs, a Mickey Mouse guitar, multiple Mickey Mouse dolls, Mickey Mouse everything.

Race Report: Disney Princess Half Marathon

My sis meets Mickey (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)

Getting a high-five from the big cheese at the end of her first half-marathon? Priceless. These photos pretty much sum up our entire race.

Race Report: Disney Princess Half Marathon

Kids at heart (Photo: MarathonFoto)

I especially love this one, because my sis looks exactly like she did when she was 5 years old.

Race Report: Disney Princess Half Marathon

Some things never change. (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)

Finally, these two kids at heart crossed the finish line triumphant.

Race Report: Disney Princess Half Marathon

Her Rocky moment (Photo: MarathonFoto)

Race Report: Disney Princess Half Marathon

Yay us! (Photo: MarathonFoto)

We finished in 2:36:16, but made at least 16 minutes of stops that I counted, and there was one bathroom stop I forgot to check my watch. My guess is our running time was around 2:18 at a 10:30 pace, excellent for her first half-marathon in 100 percent humidity with climbing temps.

Race Report: Disney Princess Half Marathon

Winners! (Photo: MarathonFoto)

Yes, there’s a balloon growing out of my head. No matter. We had an amazing race.

Race Report: Disney Princess Half Marathon

Finishers! (Photo: MarathonFoto)


After the race, we hit the brunch buffet at Fresh Mediterranean Market at my sister’s hotel, the Walt Disney World Dolphin, with her kids and husband. It was excellent. When my nephew saw my sister he came running. “Mommy, you look great!” he shouted and gave her a huge hug. Then we hit the Swan & Dolphin pool. Relaxing.

For dinner, we headed back to our favorite character dining spot, Akershus at Epcot. We’d eaten there for brunch after I ran the 2014 Walt Disney World Half Marathon. This time, we wore our medals to meet the Princesses who preside over the feast there. And look who we found? Mulan! She’s one of my faves and rarely seen at character meals.

And that was a wrap on our Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

How to choose Disney hotels for Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend

More than 200 mammals and birds populate the 33-acre savannah at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. (Photo: Disney)

Having stayed both on and off property during Walt Disney World visits, I love staying on property for runDisney races because of the complimentary runner transportation to all the races and race weekend events.

This trip, I stayed at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge for the third time. It’s is a bit out of the way compared to the other hotel properties, but I’ve come to really enjoy a few aspects of the hotel.

First, seeing African animals like giraffes, zebras, gazelles, okapis, hogs, ostrich, and other species from the hotel, and even your hotel room, never gets old. It’s incredibly calming and awe-inspiring to wake up to a giraffe nibbling leaves right outside your window.

Plus, if you’re traveling with kids they will be completely blown away. My niece and nephew have visited the hotel with me each time, while between the ages of 3 and 8, and they’ve been wowed every time. The animals are a show-stopper.

Race Report: Disney Princess Half Marathon

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Pool (Photo: Disney)

Second, the pool is lovely. No, it’s not my favorite pool on the Disney property. The Disney Yacht & Beach Club Resorts have that honor. But it has something Yacht & Beach don’t: privacy. The Disney Yacht & Beach Club Resorts pool sits right alongside the public path around the BoardWalk area. So you are swimming for all of the world to see. But the Animal Kingdom Lodge pool is tucked within the hotel behind a screen of tropical foliage. It makes for a nice, relaxing day.

Race Report: Disney Princess Half Marathon

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge lobby (Photo: Disney)

Third, The Mara is my absolute favorite quick-service spot in all of Walt Disney World. In addition to standard American fare of burgers, hot dogs, hand-carved sandwiches, rotisserie chicken, soup, and the like, you’ll find African-inspired dishes not available anywhere else in the resort.

They’re among my favorite pre-race lunches and dinners: a tasty chicken salad with lentils, chickpeas, and feta; a delicious chicken or falafel pita with hummus, mint yogurt, and couscous; an African three-meat stew; and a choice of flatbread pizzas.

Plus, the chocolate Kahlua-tinged Zebra Domes are devilishly delicious. I could scarf an entire tray of those things. And on race weekends, they also have grab and go runner breakfast boxes.

Race Report: Disney Princess Half Marathon

My room type at Animal Kingdom Lodge (Photo: Disney)

Finally, many of the rooms have a double bed and two bunks beds. It’s perfect for my family. My sister and her family always have their own hotel room, but I take my niece and nephew on sleep overs in my room to babysit for a night or two so mom and dad can catch a break. Love the bunk beds for that.

The only other Disney properties that have bunk beds are Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and The Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort, according to the Disney Parks Moms Panel.

Race Report: Disney Princess Half Marathon

We did it! (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)

Running Costumes

For my sister’s Elsa costume, I used pieces from my 2012 Disney Princess Half Marathon Cinderella costume: a blue Sparkle Athletic Sparkle Running Skirt, white Sparkle Athletic Sparkle Sleeves, and blue Sparkle Athletic Power Wrist Bands. I then re-purposed the shirt I made for my 2014 Walt Disney World 10K blue Belle costume and added a cape.

Race Report: Disney Princess Half Marathon

Elsa running costume (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)

For my Anna costume, Missy at Tutu-da-loo made me an exquisite custom Anna tutu, complimentary. I was thrilled to debut the tutu that you can now find in her Etsy shop. I paired it with pieces I had in my closet or borrowed—a turquoise sports bra, navy blue bustier, and children’s Anna cape that I borrowed from my 6-year-old niece. She was ticked that I was wearing it. The only piece I bought was the magenta headband that I found at T.J. Maxx.

  Anna is ready to run! Say hi if you see me! I’ll have Elsa by my side. @tutudaloo #princesshalf #glassslipperchallenge #runDisney   A photo posted by Karla Bruning (@runkarlarun) on

The decal on the bustier? It’s paper and marker! It was a fun craft project one night in front of the TV. I traced the design in pencil from my computer screen onto a white piece of paper. Then I colored it with markers, cut it out, and used double sided tape and a few well-paced safety pins to stick it to the bustier. Easy peasy. The finishing touch was our hair—done in proper Anna and Elsa style.

Race Report: Disney Princess Half Marathon

Princesses! (Photo: MarathonFoto)

The Takeaway

The second time around, the Disney Princess Half Marathon didn’t disappoint. I think it’s pretty obvious from our photos that my sister and I had insane amounts of fun at the races. If you give yourself over to the experience—accept the crowds, accept that you’ll wait in lines for photos, and the like—and you’ll have a great time. I certainly did. And I got a lot of nice bling in the process: the 5K medallion, 10K medal, half-marathon medal, and Glass Slipper Challenge medal. My precious…

I attended the Disney Princess Half Marathon as a media guest of runDisney, writing a story for Shape.com. But as always, all opinions are purely my own. I really do believe in being honest about my experiences. Seriously. For more information read my Disclosure Policy.

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Karla Bruning


Karla Bruning is a race announcer at the TCS New York City Marathon + other major events, TV host for the New York City Triathlon + contributor to Shape, Redbook, Runner's World + other publications. She used to report for Newsweek but spent her free time squeezing in workouts. Now it's her job. She's run 8 marathons, 30 halves, 10 triathlons + open water swims. When she's not running, talking about running or writing about running, she's snuggling her baby, spoiling her dog + compulsively traveling.

12 Comments Add Yours ↓

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  1. 1

    OMG THE HUMIDITY! But as humid as it was, it was actually better than it was in 2014, isn’t that crazy?! Reading this recap just made me so excited about doing GSC again. Why do we have to wait so long to do Disney races?!?!

    • Karla Bruning

      I kept wishing that it had been really cold for the half and not the 5K! We made the best of it. I can’t imagine 2014 being even more humid! I know, I only do 1-2 runDisney races a year, so sometimes it’s a LONG wait!

  2. 3

    You and your sister are so cute! Great recap. Everytime I read one of your runDisney recaps, it makes me really want to go. I will one day!
    Elle recently posted..Mexico 5-Mile Fiesta!My Profile

    • Karla Bruning

      Thanks! We had too much fun. One of these day I’ll get you down there!

  3. 5

    Your sister’s hand and arm poses were stellar!

  4. 7

    The humidity!!! It was brutal!! Your pictures are awesome!! I love your castle shot! My last trip to WDW I was finally able to stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge and I agree with you about Mara – I had a flatbread and it was delicious!! But it was such a hard choice – all their food looked so good.
    Emily recently posted..2015 Port DouglasMy Profile

    • Karla Bruning

      Thanks! It might be THE most humid race I have ever run! I love the flatbread at Mara. My sister and I had it as one of our pre-race dinners!

  5. 9

    I LOOOOOOOOVVVVE your costumes, and my sister and I are the same way; I’m so totally an Elsa, haha. This post makes me SO depressed that I’m not running Princess next year, BTW! :( We ran as the Frozen sisters for the Enchanted 10K last year (although, I have to admit, I like yours better, haha). Awesome recap!

  6. 11

    amazing, hoping one day my sister can join me in my running obsession hehehe!
    quick question – was the corset-like tank top comfortable to run with? no chafing?

    • Karla Bruning

      I still can’t believe I got my sister to do this! The corset was surprisingly OK. I pinned it to my skirt and shorts so that everything stayed in place, and used a TON of BodyGlide. I didn’t have any chafing, but I’m sure it would have been a different story without the glide. I think if you lube up really well, you should be OK!


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