What It’s Like To Run The Disney Princess Half Marathon
It just takes faith, trust, and a little pixie dust. For runners, this means faith in themselves and trust in their training. But one of the coolest parts is all finishers end with a sprinkle of pixie dust to go with their sparkling smile and impressive race bling after the Disney Princess Half Marathon.
With it being an extremely popular race, many people might think they know what they can expect from an event of this scale. But the truth is runners have to live it themselves to really know. This runner was among the 20,100 finishers with the low down on what it is like to run Disney.
Expectations vs Reality
There are a few expectations all runners have before participating in the Disney Princess Half. This includes running very early in the morning, running with lots of people and stopping to take pictures with characters.
All of these are valid, but now emphasize these to the max.
1. The Early Start
Runners know they need to get to Epcot with enough time to get to their corrals at the start time of 5:30 a.m. But this means waking up between 2 to 3 a.m. to get ready, eat something and make to it the park depending on how far they are staying. “Sleeping in” beauties means getting stuck in traffic when taking a taxi/ Uber or missing the bus for those at Disney resorts. The parking lot does close by a specific time so racers also need to be aware of this if driving themselves. The plus side to this is free parking.
Make sure to get there with plenty of time, but once on Epcot property expect lots of waiting. Those in later corrals can be waiting up for an hour after the first wave of runners.
This brings us to another big point to discuss, the corrals. Corrals are extremely strict. There are employees who check the letters assigned on race bibs. Runners can move back, but not forward. This means sacrificing a much slower time thanks to walkers to go to further corrals.
2. An Event For Walkers
Runners probably have heard the Disney Princess Half and other run Disney events are not ones for a PR (personal record). Runners will not get their fastest time in this race—unless they are in an early corral or don’t plan to stop for character photos.
But even without stops, it’s extremely difficult to run this event. For starters, there are a lot of walkers. And this is great for them. People of all ages and fitness levels complete the half marathon and an entire weekend of races. More power to them. But there is a shocking amount of people who simply walk it and not run. This means having to constantly stop, slow down, go around, and speed up around others. It is exhausting.
3. Running The Highways, Not Disney
Another fact often discussed is the course of the Disney Princess Half. There is a whole lot of highway running, not park running. This is very true, but it makes running the park (not parks) that much more enjoyable. The race starts at Epcot but actually does not go through this park. The reality of this race is its running along the highway for a stretch, running through Magic Kingdom, then back on the morning highway and ending in Epcot. Again, not running through it.
The Best Part Of The Race
Besides the finish line feelings, the best part of the race is running through Magic Kingdom. It’s the emptiest Disney lovers ever see the park, but the energy is through the roof. This is thanks to Cheer Squads and character stops. It’s just cool to run past the iconic rides. And it’s impossible not to get warm and tingly when running under Cinderella’s castle.
The course takes runners down Main Street to the right through Tomorrowland before reaching Frontierland. Expect to see characters like Buzz Lightyear and Jessie from Toy Story at these sections. Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum were stationed to the side right before the teacups ride.
Things to keep in mind here is that Main Street gets crowded and so does the bend after the castle. This brings runners to a walk. While racers go through almost the entirety of Magic Kingdom, there is no journeying through Adventureland. The good thing is that Pirates of the Caribbean is one of the first characters stops.
Guide To Character Stops
There is no definitive list of characters stationed along the course. It changes each year, so runners won’t know until the race. And while there were plenty of stops, this runner did expect there to be more. At least when it came to the princesses.
The best way to get those princess photos is to attend the race expo early. This is not an in and out pick up race bib errand. There are lots of people, and it basically is like a little village of runner needs. From bib pick up to t-shirt pick up to vendors and official merchandise, it’s easy to spend quite a bit of time at the expo. There is Cinderella’s coach with glass slipper photo op as well as many other princesses for posing with. There are lines so plan accordingly.
When it comes to the race itself there was Belle and Gaston as well as the female villains and princes. The best strategy is to not stop for every picture. Lines for characters like the princes and Tinkerbell are really long. Lines for Jessie and Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum were a lot shorter.
Those in early corrals could stop for those stops earlier in the race, but those it later corrals can expect long lines. It might be best to run a few miles then stop then run a few more and stop. There aren’t many stops towards those later miles. There are none from a certain point on the highway to Magic Kingdom and none on the way back to Epcot until reaching the property.
A Race Worth Experiencing
Many runners have the Disney Princess Half on their bucket list. And it absolutely is a race worth experiencing. It might not be the best for getting the fastest time, but it is probably the most fun this runner has ever had racing—hands down.
The con is its hefty price tag for race entry (plus airfare and hotel and doesn’t include Disney park admission for after the race). But its pros overweigh these by far. It’s a great option for a runcation, so bring the entire family along for the trip.
The race has such a positive atmosphere that is hard not to smile. Many people dress up in costumes, fireworks are shot off at every starting corral and affirmations from other racers are passed along the way when things get tough.
There are more than enough water stops, and one sports beans stop although this is much later in the race. There are wet sponges passes out at one stretch of highway—much needs when that hot Florida sun starts beating down.
What is it really like to run the Disney Half Marathon? It’s one of those races that must be experienced at least once, but will probably be done again and again. It takes the competitiveness out of racing for everyday runners and fills it back up with fun and pure enjoyment for those with a passion for running.
And crossing that finish line is just a bit more magical.