Magical Miles

I’m not sure if you recall, but way back in August, in my Bridal Bootcamp post, I confessed to you that I had signed up for my first half marathon. Well today I am here to report that I have accomplished my task of completing said half marathon, the Disney Princess Half Marathon in Orlando, FL. My goal throughout the training was to really stick with it, because in the end I was going to have to run 13.1 miles regardless, so I thought I should make it easier on myself by actually following through with my running schedule. My second goal was to run the entire distance without stopping to walk. Let me remind you that up until I started my training in December, the farthest distance I had ever run was 5 miles, and that was only twice! The good news is I accomplished both of my goals!

Our trip began on Wednesday afternoon when we packed up our bags and headed to the airport to get to the sunshine state. We got into Florida pretty late in the day and needed to rest up for our fun filled days ahead so we just grabbed a quick dinner and hit the sack. Doug had never been to Disney, so we jam packed all four parks into a two day extravaganza so he could really make the most of it. Thursday started with Animal Kingdom where we were chased on Mt. Everest by the Yeti, safaried at Kilamanjaro and celebrated the Festival of the Lion King. We then made our way over to Epcot to start our journey around the world. With this being our second park, we were short on time so it was a rushed adventure but we made it all the way through. It was equally hilarious as it was fun and we had some delicious drinks along the way! Lucky for us, Illuminations, Epcot’s firework show was that night, so we got to enjoy that before stumbling back to our resort.

Friday morning we started the day at Hollywood Studios where we rode the Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster twice and traveled back in time for a delicious lunch at the 50’s Primetime Cafe. Next we made our way to Magic Kingdom where we rode all the “must do” rides, It’s a Small World, the teacups, Dumbo, etc. we stayed for the Electrical Parade and the lights show on the castle. We then ventured back to Hollywood Studios for their magic hours that allowed us to ride the Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster one last time with virtually no wait. By the end of day two, we were pooped and ready for a day of relaxation on Saturday.

We slept in a little Saturday, had some breakfast, then headed to the runDisney Expo so I could pick up my registration and check out the merchandise. This brought back memories of my high school cheer days, because the packet pickup was in the Milk House at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports where we used to compete at UCA Nationals. The Expo has endless booths of running accessories, clothing and lots of Disney related items. It was crazy in there, and I had heard it was only more packed on the days before. While at the Expo, my parents had arrived! They picked us up, along with a nice pasta lunch, gotta carb load! We ate lunch and lounged by the pool for a few hours, my parents and Doug with their Coronas and I with my vitamin water, hydrating, hydrating, hydrating! For dinner we headed to the little town of Celebration, the real life Stepford wives community, although the not even remotely as creepy. It’s a picture perfect little town. We had a nice dinner then it was time to get back, I had a 9 pm bedtime. Luckily I was still so exhausted from the days before that I was able to fall asleep without much trouble at all, which was great considering my 245 am wake up call was coming fast!

This half marathon, from what I’d guess having never done any other, is not like most. It is quite the production, with races running Friday to Sunday, drawing in a total of 285,900 runners! Friday starts the weekend off with a 5k and kids races, Saturday continues on with the 10k, and the weekend concludes with the half on Sunday. There were 37,000 runners registered for the half marathon, talk about a crowd. The race starts early with the first group of runners taking off at 530 am. My race day began at 3 am, okay, I hit snooze a time or two. I got up and got myself princess ready in my sparkly pink tutu. Side note, I wasn’t sure about dressing up at first, but had read you’ll regret it if you don’t, and I am glad I did! We stayed at a Disney resort, because this ensured transportation to all runDisney events. The buses began running at 3 am and they had advised runners to be on the buses no later than 4 am. Lucky for me Doug was willing to get up and head to the race with me! We were on the bus by 330 am and there were already so many people at the holding area when we arrived. They had some concessions and a DJ there to get everyone awake and excited, he definitely got people feeling alive. My parents met us around 4 am, it was an early morning for everyone. We pretty much just stood around for a while listening to the music and checking out all the costumes until it was time for me to head back to the corrals around 5 am. Once I got to my corral the time flew. I got myself stretched out and warmed up and before I knew it, it was 6 am and 5 minutes until my corral was to take off. There was an MC at the start line getting everyone revved up and excited, then fireworks burst into they sky and it’s off you go.

I’m not going to lie, the race is crowded. So crowded that you lose a lot of time dodging walkers and runners moving at a slower pace. Note to self, next time make sure to submit a proof of time for better corral placement. That aside, the course is certainly magical. There are loads of volunteers, high school bands and spectators cheering you on lining a large majority of the way. You also get to run through a bit of Epcot and Magic Kingdom. The course is set up perfectly so that just about halfway through the race, you arrive at Magic Kingdom and run by and then through Cinderella’s Castle. This is by far the best and most magical part. This is also a popular spectator spot, so I got to see and wave to my parents and Doug, the perfect pick me up. Another perk is the character mile markers and the random character photo-ops spaced throughout the course. I admired the characters from afar and tried to snap some pics as I ran by to avoid stopping and not fulfilling my goal of running it through to the end. The last couple miles there are a few hills that definitely tested me, but thanks to the volunteers and the DJ stationed near by, I powered my way through and into the home stretch. Crossing the finish line with Mickey Mouse there cheering, then getting my medal hung around my neck was a one of a kind experience that I won’t soon forget.

I met up with Doug and my family and we headed to the beach for some much needed R & R. We made our way out to St. Pete beach to a cool little spot called the Undertow where we indulged in cheeseburgers, Coronas, and lots of warm sunshine. That evening we drove to Venice to see and stay with my Aunt Debbie, we missed you Uncle Gary! We spent our Monday in similar fashion at Siesta Key. It turns out beers on the beach are a good remedy for sore legs. We had dinner that night at Sharky’s on Venice Beach with the family. On Wednesday my parents had to take off a few hours earlier, so Doug and I rounded out our trip by squeezing in a few more hours at the beach before taking off for home.

My first half marathon experience was one for the books, and I am so happy that I did it. I am proud of myself for completing it and for living up to my own expectations. A big, HUGE thank you to Doug and my parents for coming to cheer me on. I’ve already decided I’m in again for next year, runcations are the best! Next time I’m going for the Glass Slipper Challenge: the 10k & the half! I’ve also already started recruiting companions, so if you’re wanting in on the runDisney magic, you’ve got a friend in me! 😉

Cheers! Here’s to keeping this wedding fitness ball rollin’!

Ashley

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