February 25, 2020

Race Recap: The 2020 Disney Princess Half Marathon

Until this weekend, I had never gone into a race just hoping I would finish. Training for this race was going smoothly until about 3 weeks ago when I headed out for an 8-mile run and stopped just before my 5th mile because of knee pain, caused by what I knew was my IT Band flaring up.

Fast forward a few weeks and I still wasn't having any luck running beyond 3 miles without knee pain. I did my last long 'run' before the race on the elliptical.

To be honest, I was really disappointed in myself. This was supposed to by my come-back race, my first big race in 3 years. Funny enough, I hadn't realized until after the race that the last half I ran was, in fact, the 2017 Disney Princess Half. I hadn't trained for or run a half-marathon since that race, one month before I got pregnant the first time. The reason I blamed myself? I never once warmed up before a run or stretched afterward. I didn't foam roll and, aside from daily yoga, I wasn't doing anything to build strength. Of course, this injury that plagued me 5 years ago would come back. What did I expect?

And so, we headed to Disney World - me, not fully confident in my ability to finish 13.1 miles. At the expo on Friday, I tried to drop down to Saturday's 10k, which was sold out. At the Kids Race on Saturday, I had so much fun that I thought I would be OK with just calling it and spending the rest of the weekend enjoying my family and Disney, instead of suffering through a half-marathon. But somehow, I woke myself up at 2:15 on Sunday morning and I made my way to the starting line.

The one thing I don't like about Disney is how early the race starts (5:30) and how early you have to be to get there. If you're staying on Disney property, you have to be on a shuttle no later than 3:30am and then you just stand around and wait for the race to start. There are entertainment and characters to meet but I hung out in the merchandise tent chatting with friends to stay warm. I made it to my corral by 5:15.

I had submitted proof of time from the Marine Corps 10k this past fall and that made a world of difference from my last Disney race. When the gun went off, I was across the starting line in 7 minute and everyone around me took off running. The last time I ran this, I was seeded with people who walked the entire race and spent nearly 45 minutes trying to weave through the very crowded first 3 miles. Whereas the last time I ran this race, I felt it was overly crowded, this time, I thought it was just fine.

I went into this race not knowing whether I would finish so I started slowly. The course wasn't crowded and I felt pretty good. Just before the second mile, my knee started twinging. I stopped to use the bathroom and then walked through a water station. As I was walking, I thought about whether to run/walk the course or drop out. There was a sharp downhill just before the 2nd mile that was really tough on my knee. I was run/walking for the 2nd and 3rd mile and started walking just before the 4th mile when the spectator started to really pick up as we got closer to the Magic Kingdom. The crowd energy was amazing and I started running again and was on a total adrenaline rush as we entered the park. When we turned onto Main Street and Cinderella's Castle came into view, it was even more magical than I remembered! I was high fiving spectators and asked someone to take a picture of me in front of the castle. At this point, I wasn't running for any kind of time and wanted to just have fun. I ran the entire way through the park into the 6th mile when I stopped at the Medical Tent to grab some Tylenol. I kept running through Mile 7 and was feeling really good and knew, at that point, that I would finish.

I stopped for another bathroom break at Mile 8 (so much water that morning!) and knew I was going to finish. I was determined from that point forward to run the entire rest of the race. The Tylenol had helped my knee and I was feeling really strong. There are a couple of hills in the last few miles of Disney Princess but they didn't bother me as much as the first one. As we neared Epcot, I started getting really excited. I was actually going to finish! The last three miles went by faster than the last three miles of any race I think I've ever run. In a way, I felt like I had already finished - I just needed to get there to prove it.

They had definitely changed the course from the last time I ran it so I was a little bit lost in that 12th mile but as soon as I saw the Finish Line, I gave an all-out sprint and crossed with the biggest smile on my face.

I had actually done it and I had had fun doing it. And it felt so good. The last time I ran this race, I wasn't sure whether I would do it again. This time? I definitely want to do it again! But before any of that, I need to spend some time rehabbing my knee and getting back in shape. I've got the Marine Corps Marathon planned for October and I definitely want to get to that starting line feeling strong!

Have you run a Disney race? What did you think?

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