Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend 2011: Where it all began!

Our love for running started with the Disney Princess weekend of races at the Walt Disney World resort in Florida.  We say Disney’s Princess Half Marathon Weekend is where it all began!
This is probably our favorite group of races. 1) because we love Disney of course and 2)because it was the first race we ran as a family.  Here is how our love of Disney races began.

Princess half marathon weekend

I am always searching the web for new things to do and one day I just happened to learn about this run at Disney.  It was called the Royal Family 5K.  I consider myself to be in pretty good shape, but I had never run a 5K before.   I thought it would be fun and a great reason to go to Disney.  I asked my sister and mom if we wanted to do it as a girls trip and they agreed. My sister was already a runner but this would be a first for my mom and I.  We signed up for the race and we found out that the race had a pacing requirement of a 16 minute mile. At the time, I didn’t really know what that meant, but my sister assured me that I could certainly do one mile in 16 minutes even if I was just walking my normal pace ( I generally am a fast walker anyway).  According to the official Disney rules of the race, if you do not keep up with the pace requirements, you can be taken off the course.  I certainly didn’t want that happening to me.   My mom walks everyday so she slowly started to incorporate a jog, and then a run into her routine.  I on the other hand used the treadmill.  I was pretty consistent with my treadmill running. I did it all fall and through the holidays.
 The day before the 5K, we had to go to  the race expo at Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports. You can read some of our expo posts HERE, HERE and HERE.

Race Morning
We were up and out of our room by 3:30 am!  Disney races are VERY EARLY.  One thing you should know is that the food court at your resort will not be open this early, so plan ahead.  Buy something the night before, or pack something from home. There is a microwave at most resort food courts and all of them have toasters, so bringing something as simple as a packet of oatmeal and a bagel or English muffin is a good idea.

After we ate our simple breakfast, we went to the bus stop and waited for the event bus to come. Yes, it was still dark out!  Even though we were boarding the bus this ungodly hour in the morning, we couldn’t help but smile as we walked on.  Runners were dressed in costume!  We hadn’t even thought of this.  We saw lots of princesses, Woody and Jessie from Toy story, and many of tutu!   Even though we didn’t dress in costume, we didn’t feel out of place because we saw others that were wearing their Beauty and the Beast race t-shirts as well.  Some people were even wearing t-shirts from previous non-Disney races.

The bus dropped us off in the Epcot parking lot and we had a pretty long walk to get to the staging area.  There is also a bag check area if you have a bag to check ( you have to put it in the clear plastic bag you get at the expo). We did not.  Once we got there, there was a sea of people, a DJ playing uplifting music, and character photo opportunities with Belle and Beast of course, and Gustan was there too. 

Princess 5k
I have no idea why we pinned our bibs up so high!

Belle and Beast had left while we were standing in line and were replaced by Gustan, so that is who we ended up getting a picture with.   We hung out in the parking lot for quite a while before we got into the coral, but the Dj’s did a good job of keeping us entertained and psyching everyone up for the race so there was never a dull moment.  Buy the time we were in the coral and ready to start, the sun just started to come up.  As is the protocol for any Disney race, it began with a fireworks start!   
Before arriving at WDW, we knew that there would be on course entertainment and opportunities to stop along the way and take pictures with characters. However, I knew I wanted to do my best at this race and I didn’t want to lose time stopping to take picture so the three of us agreed that we would run straight through.   Shortly before the race started, my sister was engaged in conversation with a group of girls who had run the race last year and they gave her a bit of advice.  They said that they ran straight through last year because they didn’t want to stop, but looking back they wish they would had just had fun with it and taken lots of pictures.  That was their plan for this year.   After hearing this, we changed our minds and I am so glad we did.  This race wouldn’t have been the same if we didn’t stop and get the pictures that we got.  We still ran our best, we didn’t lollygag or anything.  We were able to meet Snow White and Dopey,  Sleeping Beauty, Jasmine and  Aladdin, Pocahontas, and Alice and the Mad Hatter.  I believe Mulan and some others were near the China pavilion, but since that is near the beginning of world showcase and the first character stop, that line was too long.

princess 5k
This 5k course starts in the parking lot of Epcot and the first mile is literally through the parking lot and on a back road.   Once you finish the first mile, there is a digital sign that will tell you how many minutes it took you to get there from the start line.  This first mile marker is located a little ways before the employee entrance to World Showcase.  Once you get to world showcase, you will enter from behind Mexico.  This is the first time during the race you will be running through the park.  I have to admit the first mile is really boring, but this is where is really starts to get exciting.  The music is playing  throughout the countries, and characters are now lined up in the countries as well.  The first water stop is on the right hand side right after Mexico.  Being the type A persona I am, I read the race guide cover to cover the night before and  it kept stressing how important it was to keep hydrated and you should take advantage of every water stop.  I did stop at both water stops along the way, and I probably didn’t need to.  I was just being cautious! 

Princess 5k
Just as we are running past France, there is a slight incline as you have to run up over the bridge. You would think that you are now heading to the United Kingdom  right?  But not so fast.  We take a left and run around the international gateway.  This is now Mile 2.  A little over one more mile to go.   As you get around the international gateway, there is a second water stop, and of course I grab one!  At this point we are behind the scenes again and then re- enter world show case somewhere around Canada.  We continue towards Future world.  We run on the left side of the Epcot ball, and then around it on the right side.   A little ways after the Epcot ball there is the 3 mile marker. We have .1 to go.  I think this .1 is a lot shorter than it actually is.  There is a girl beside me looking at her Garmin and he said she had already gone 3.3 already. Someone must be off.  So my sister, mom, and I all cross the finish line with pride.
We did it. My mom and I finished our first 5K race.  Even though this isn’t considered a timed race, there is a race clock there.  Even with all the stops we made, we were still quite happy with our time.  We make our way down the chute and our presented with our 5K medallions.  The line continues as we are supplied with bottled water, Gatorade, bananas, and a goodie box of snacks.   We had so much fun doing this race, but it isn’t nearly as serious as I thought it was.  But who knew, I’d never done it before!  Even though there is a pacing requirement, I hardly doubt anybody gets picked up off the course.   There is a small grand stand area there were spectators can watch the runners. We watched for a while and even after one hour there were people still crossing the finish line.    
disney 5k medal
Royal Family 5k medal for 2011

This race was a good first race to do to build my confidence. I loved the feeling of accomplishment!  We decided right then and there that we would be doing the race again next year.  My sister decided that she would try the Princess half Marathon as well now that she knew about that too! -M

You Can read all about our other Disney races HERE.

What was your first race and how did it make you feel?



  1. Hey I'm DHSsenior2007 from the DIS- I loved reading this and getting a good play-by-play of the race. I imagine the course for this year's 5K will be very similar and will definitely think about just being relaxed and stopping for pics.

  2. Thanks for stopping by Jessica! The Disney 5k's are great fun!


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