I’ve seen plenty of blogs and posts about the half marathons at Disney, but I’ve yet to come across any good advice/information on what a challenge entails and what the expo and 10k are like in general, so I wanted to put my thoughts and advice out there for surviving a runDisney race weekend, particularly a challenge weekend.
To date, I would have to say the Glass Slipper Challenge is one of my most physically and mentally challenging things I have ever done and it was 100% worth it. (So worth it that I’m doing it all over again in February 2017…because I am self-admittedly crazy.)
For those of you who don’t know what runDisney is, it’s an organization that hosts races in Disney World, Disneyland, and for the first time this year, Disneyland Paris. All of the profits for the races goes straight to charity and the event weekends are amazing—definitely up to Disney standard. Here’s a separate post (coming soon) to explain a little more about runDisney and why I do it.
The year 2016 brought about my third Princess Half Marathon, so I decided to kick it up a notch. To be honest, I am not the best when it comes to training for a half marathon, which is 13.1 miles. That number still intimidates me, and I’ve got a few of these bad boys under my belt. The Glass Slipper Challenge consists of two different races: the Enchanted 10k (6.2 miles) and the Princess Half. It’s a challenge, because these races happen back-to-back, meaning on Saturday you run the 10k and on Sunday you run the half. If you’re doing the math, that totals 19.3 miles in just two days. It sounds crazy, right?
BUT as aforementioned, totally worth it. Don’t let the big, scary numbers distract you from the wonderful feeling of pride when you get three pretty medals by the end of the weekend. Full disclosure, I basically took off the months of November and December because I was lazy. (To be fair, I was also graduating college, moving out of my apartment, turning 22, celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, and moving to Florida all within a few weeks of each other, so running was kind of an afterthought in all that.) I didn’t actually start running until I moved to Florida and started my college program, but I ran and ate well for almost the entire months of January and February. However, I never ran two days consecutively and that is 100% because I am a lazy person.
Living in Florida for the Glass Slipper Challenge was a blessing though, because I was able to get used to running in the climate and hitting the parks all day, every day. For those of you who know Disney, you easily get your miles in while wandering the parks, so I was used to being on my feet and the crazy hours by the end of February when the Princess weekend finally rolled around.
Here’s a look at what to expect during the expo and the Enchanted 10k:
FRIDAY FEBRUARY 19: EXPO DAY
Expo day! There’s nothing like a runDisney expo. It’s basically where you spend all the money you’ve ever had, but leave feeling totally happy about it. You have to go to the expo to pick up your race packet, which includes your t-shirt(s), race bib, and weekend guide (which has the race route, times of events/speakers, suggestions…all that good stuff). But once you’re at the expo, how can you resist all of the pretty merchandise? runDisney has all their official merchandise, but then there’s kiosks set up all over the expo which have all of the sponsors and their own merchandise plus outside vendors who partner with Disney and make amazing race gear.
ADVICE FOR A runDISNEY EXPO
- Block out a good portion of time. Even if you plan on getting in and getting out so you don’t spend all your money, there are still thousands of people to weave in and out of and the parking lot at ESPN is usually full, no matter when you go. If you do plan on spending time (and therefore money) at the expo, take your time. Look around, get samples, and talk to the vendors! They’re at a race expo because they know their product. If you don’t know what kind of socks to use, you can try them on, ask the experts, and weigh pros and cons. If you don’t know how to use KT tape (it’s a godsend, TRUST ME ON THAT), you can have them show you how to put it on. The expo is not only a money-sucking place, but it’s a wonderful resource—use it! Brands usually at the expo: RawThreads (LOVE them), KT, Feetures, Champion, Sweatybands, Team Sparkle and SO MUCH MORE! Here are a few products I’ve acquired from expo vendors over the years that I continue to use and love.
- Plan and research what you want. If you want to avoid spending all your money, then research what you want. runDisney is constantly tweeting about their events and the vendors they have coming to them, so a few weeks before your race weekend, start browsing who will be there and what they have. Plus, runDisney will post pictures of their official merchandise, so you can already scope what you want. That way when you’re actually at the expo, you won’t feel so overwhelmed by all the choices and you can stick to what you want and you don’t have to overspend.
- Get there as early as possible. runDisney only prints a certain amount of sweatshirts/tanks/t-shirts/etc. because all their merchandise is dated. They can’t exactly resell “Princess Half Marathon 2014” shirts in 2016, so they don’t want to end up with too many extras. (Fun fact, all the extra merchandise goes to Cast Connections, the discounted cast store and is sold sometimes for just a dollar! I was able to get some really great runDisney merchandise as a cast member, so if you’re a CM, look for all the race merch there! It usually comes out about a month after the race weekend.) The expo opens on the Thursday before the race and if you can make it then, go then! I regret not going to the expo on Thursday even though I lived 20 minutes from it, because I was waiting to go with my cousin and grandma who were running with me. By the time we got there on Friday at 2 p.m. almost all of the Glass Slipper merchandise was sold out and they didn’t have any more. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. I’m still pretty upset I couldn’t get any challenge gear for my first challenge, but it was a lesson learned. (For the Star Wars half marathon, I went a day early and bought the tank tops my cousin and I wanted, which was a great decision because they were sold out by the time we went as a family on Friday.)
- Pre-order if possible. If there’s something you know you really want, pre-order it! That way you’ll be guaranteed to get it if you can’t make it to the expo early enough to get it. For example, my family and I have started the tradition of getting the race pin to put on our medal lanyard (along with a pin of the character that we ran as), so we just order it when we register so we don’t have to worry about them being sold out or not. I only got the Glass Slipper Challenge pin because someone had returned it and a cast member was saving it to make a magical moment for a guest, because it was the very last pin. Luckily, I was chosen as that guest and got the pin! Thanks again to that cast member, you’re fantastic!
SATURDAY FEBRUARY 20: ENCHANTED 10K
10k time! This was my first ever 10k in an official race setting, so I didn’t know quite what to expect. I knew I didn’t want to go all out on it because I obviously had the half marathon the following day. It was actually a great race! I mean, it can’t really go wrong when Anna and Elsa are cheering you on from the get go.
I loved the course—it stayed around Epcot and the Boardwalk and it was over before I even knew it had started. Running around the world is a really awesome way to start your day—all of the countries have their pavilions lit up and they were playing music over the loud speakers. It never hurts to see the sunrise over the Boardwalk, either. If only my pictures weren’t so blurry! I usually take them as I’m jogging because I never want to fully stop on the course, so here are the least blurry pictures I got while running the 10k.
I usually try and take pictures of the mile markers while I run as well, but only three of them came out clear (again, the running while picture-taking in the dark is not the best strategy), but I love looking back and seeing my time splits. As you can see in the pictures, a majority of this race was actually in a park or resort, as opposed to on the open road, like the half marathons, which is why I think I enjoyed this race as much as I did–there was always something to look at!
I definitely loved this race and I look forward to running this one again in February! Going with the Little Mermaid theme, I chose Ariel as the first princess of the weekend to represent…it was a very laid back running costume because I knew I was only going to run for about an hour and wanted to go all out for the half. The skirt is from Team Sparkle! (They’re also at the expo, but I got it online just in case they sold out at the expo.)
ADVICE FOR THE 10K
- Don’t push yourself! As no-brainer as this piece of advice sounds, it’s easy to get caught up in the idea that it’s only 6 miles and you can be done in an hour. If you’re a competitive person, you want a good time, no matter what. Don’t let it be about the time! Chances are you aren’t breaking any PRs if you’re doing a challenge because you’re most likely just trying to survive without injury.
- Stay on property and don’t be late for the bus. This is kind of two-pronged advice, but they go hand in hand. I’ve done two half marathons without staying on property and let me tell you, it makes a WORLD of difference! They have special race buses that take you to the start of the race and will take you back to your hotel after you’re done. Disney gets Greyhound buses for these, so everybody gets to sit, it’s not like their normal resort buses with all that standing nonsense. Also, if they say the last bus leaves at 4 a.m. DO NOT SHOW UP TO THE BUS STOP AT 3:55! Give yourself plenty of time to get to the start of the race—yes, it’s way too early to function, but there’s no need to give yourself a heart attack before the sun rises.
- Stop for characters/take pictures. There are not many opportunities in which you’ll be in a Disney park when it’s closed unless you’re a cast member or have a super special event that you’re staying for. Take pictures of the empty Boardwalk. Stop and snap a selfie with the Epcot ball at 6:30 a.m. You paid a lot of money for this weekend, enjoy it. Have something to show your friends when you go home. There were a lot of characters out for the 10k that I wish I had stopped for—Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket were in Germany and I didn’t stop! I regret that because do you know where you can meet Pinocchio and Jiminy? Nowhere. And the Genie was at the Boardwalk in his Hawaiian shirt and Goofy hat that he wears at the end of Aladdin. Do I have photograph evidence of that? Nope. Not cool. Yeah, I finished the 10k in an hour, but looking back, how awesome would those pictures have been? I was running alone, why not get some good memories out of it?
- Wear a great running costume! The costume is what makes part of runDisney so special—if you’re not in a great costume, you’ll actually feel left out, I promise. This is one of those times when peer pressure is a good thing. Plus, if you’re not sure you want to run a half or full marathon in a tutu, this is your chance to go a little crazy or overboard with the costume, because it’s a shorter race. Obviously you should make it comfortable, but if you’re not sure about it, the 5 or 10ks are the time to rock it.
- Go to a REAL bathroom. For those of you who have to pee the instant you start running, I wouldn’t recommend using a porta-potty. Those things are just gross and I literally can’t stand them. You’ll be running through Epcot for a solid seven countries or so and each country has a real bathroom you can use that are open and working. Trust me, it’s worth it, so if you really have to go, just wait until you’re in Epcot. Your nose will thank you later.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Any athlete anywhere will tell you that this is the best thing you can do for your body. Hydrate before and then drink water the rest of the day! You need to replenish any water that your body released through sweat during the race and then stock up for the half marathon that you’ll be running the next day. Plus, if you hydrate, you won’t be as sore the next day and you won’t cramp during the race. If you’re going to Disney the rest of the day, any place they have a coke machine, the cast members can give you free water! Just ask for a cup of water and they have to give it to you—it’s a safety thing. Just make sure you say cup and not a bottle of water, because you’ll have to pay for that.
- Check the weather/always have a backup. Florida is unpredictable, especially at 4 in the morning. I had been debating on a long sleeve or short sleeve for the 10k up until the night before just because I wasn’t sure what the weather would be like, so I’m glad I had both options with me. If you know you’re going to sweat, then wear a tank top. But if you’re like me and know you’re capable of running at 10k before the sun comes out, then it might still be pretty chilly when you’re on the course, so you might want sleeves. Just run in what you’re comfortable with, but options are always good to have.
- Wear your medals/race gear around the park! You trained for this, you spent money for this, you’re PROUD of this…it’s the probably the whole reason for your trip to Disney on a random weekend, so show it off! If you go to the park and you don’t have your shirt or your medal on, you’ll actually probably feel left out, because it seems like EVERYONE has it on (because they do). Plus, everyone encourages you and tells you congratulations in true Disney spirit, so it’s nice to get that all day.
The rest of my Saturday was a VERY long day. We went to Magic Kingdom and walked around all day and stayed wayyyy too long. Like I said, I ran the challenge alone while my cousin and grandma were only doing the half. They were fresh for the day while I was lagging a little bit. I took a nap and got to the Magic Kingdom around 3, but then I didn’t end up leaving until after Wishes, which was a pretty late night, considering our alarms were set to go off at 3 a.m. again. However, it was worth it because Ariel loved my seashell medal.
Basically if you’re reading this and wondering if you can do the challenge and still have a full Disney vacation for the weekend, you can, just know you’re probably not going to sleep much! If you’re okay with that because you can sleep when you get home, then by all means, get your Disney fix and do as much as possible. Almost every post I’ve read about challenge weekends advise you to relax and rest all day Saturday, so I want to be the one to tell you it’s totally possible if you really want to go out and have fun all weekend.
Read on about the Princess Half Marathon here!