Friday, February 14, 2014

Tips for Running the Princess Half Marathon

The 2013 Princess Half Marathon was my very first long distance race and runDisney event. Being a newbie to racing, and a very type ‘A’ vacation planner, I was thirsty for as much information as I could get before this race weekend last year. I think I exhausted Google looking for race recaps, and any tips to help me plan.

My 2013 Recaps:
Expo/Downtown Disney
Magic Kingdom/Pre-Race
Race Recap/EPCOT

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If you are new to the runDisney world, or are running the Princess Half Marathon for the first time, then this post is for you! Although I cannot provide first-hand information for the 5K or 10K, I have put together a few tips to help make your experience at half marathon a little less stressful.

Before you Leave

Packing
Start creating a packing list a couple of weeks before you leave, and add things to it as you remember. This will ensure that you do not forget anything once you start packing your suitcase(s).

Confirmations
Carry a hard copy of all confirmations, including: airline, hotel, park tickets, and transportation to your resort (whether it is the Magical Express, a rental car, or shuttle service). Also make sure to put your Magical Express tag(s) on any luggage you check under the plane so it is delivered to your hotel room.

If you are using the Magical Express and have not received your booklet or luggage tags, you can call their guest services number at 866-599-0951.

Expo Paperwork
Carry a hard copy of your signed waiver, and Lasting Commemoratives art card voucher (in your iGiftBag, which will be emailed to you).

Food
Make sure to bring your own energy fuel (the race has Clif Shot Gels around mile 8-9), and consider bringing your own pre-race breakfast. Most places will not be open for food the morning of the race, and it could be risky trying to find what you normally eat around the hotel/parks.

When my husband and I went last year, we packed two carry-on suitcases. The one we carried on held everything I needed for my race as well as some clothes for him. The one we checked held all non-necessary items + food (since you cannot carry on food items). In my checked bag, I brought bagels, a few honey packets, energy chews, peanut butter packets, and a few large PowerAde Zero’s (all were packaged in large Ziploc bags). On the way back from Florida, we did not check any bags.

Costume
Make sure your costume for the race is done – if you aren’t wearing a costume, then I highly suggest putting a quick one together. When you get to the pre-race area and see all the fantastic costumes, you will be glad you decided to wear one!

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Expo

When to Arrive
Do not get there right at opening, unless you REALLY want one of the hot selling items (i.e. a Dooney & Burke purse). The crowds won’t be worth it. If you arrive late morning/early afternoon, the crowds will be much better.

FYI – At the Tinker Bell Half Expo last month, I arrived at the expo on the second day in the afternoon and was still able to get a pair of the runDisney Cinderella shoes. Chances are merchandise will not run out by the time you get there.

Packet Pick-Up
Go get your race bib first then use your voucher to go get your race shirt. Exchange the size if you need to (there is usually a table right next to the shirt pick-up for exchanges). Now you should have a big clear bag in which you can put all your purchases and free stuff!

Shop
Check out all the great vendors and merchandise. Although it will be difficult, definitely try to stick to your expo budget. Most of all have FUN! There will be a lot of fun photo opportunities here, too (the Major Domo’s are the best). Don’t miss out on them!

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Before the Race

The Night Before
Lay out ALL your race necessities. This includes your costume/accessories, bib #, Garmin, camera, music, headphones, body glide, race fuel, breakfast, hydration belt, etc. Set multiple wake-up alarms (I always schedule a wake-up call from the front desk as well just in case). Charge ALL your electronics!

Buses
The first bus will get to the host resorts at 3 AM for the half, and I HIGHLY recommend getting on the first or second bus, especially if you are in the first 2-3 corrals. You do not want to risk being late for the race – that is a recipe for high stress levels! Plus, the pre-race entertainment is fantastic, and you will have plenty of time to stretch and get your muscles warmed-up.

Pre-Race Area
Enjoy this time! There will be a DJ to get the crowd dancing, character photo ops, and so many fun costumes to admire. There is also water to help keep you hydrated, and a food truck (extra $).

Note that the porta-potty lines in the pre-race area are MUCH longer than the ones near the corrals. If you can wait, try and use the ones near your corral.

The Walk
Well before the start of the race you will be called by corral to start your 20-min trek from the pre-race area to the start corrals. Do not wait until the last minute to start walking – head out as soon as your corral is summoned. Once you leave, anyone who is there to support you can start making their way to their preferred viewing location(s).

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The Race

Slow and Steady
There will be tons of adrenaline running within you, and there will be exuberant spectators the moment you step over that start line. You will want to sprint, but don’t. Make a conscious effort to stay at a steady, easy pace. You have 13.1 miles to gradually gain speed!

Character Stops
Last year the first couple of photo stops I saw were Jack Sparrow & Captain Barbosa with their pirate ship, followed by the handsome Princes – I also saw both on the last part of the race. Note that the lines were MUCH shorter towards the end of the race, plus it was lighter out as the sun had risen. I stopped for the Princes when I first saw them (REALLY long line), but if I had known last year that I would see them again, I would have waited to get a picture towards the end.

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Also, definitely stop for the villainesses. There will be a long line, but it is 100% worth it. They all play their parts marvelously, plus you rarely get to see them in the parks, so don’t pass up the opportunity!

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Hills at WHAT Mile?!
Around mile 10-11, you will encounter three ‘hills’ aka highway overpasses. Don’t let this intimidate you – you can get past them! It can be tough this late in the race, but keep on going! You’ll know they are coming because you will pass a green Army Man from Toy Story yelling at you to “keep moving soldiers!” It is perfect timing as it makes you smile right before you start climbing the first hill.

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The Finish
You will know that you are about to complete the half marathon when you pass the choir. It is a joyous occasion! You will then make your final turn to give the characters at the finish line a high-five!

After the Race

After the Finish Line
After the race, revel in your accomplishment as you get your medal, snacks, banana, PowerAde, ice, and anything else they are handing out! Find your family/friends at your pre-designated location. The crowds will be thick and slow-moving so definitely have a meet-up plan before you head to your start corral.

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Remainder of the Day
Allow yourself a little bit of time to walk around, stretch, eat, and recover. Afterwards, board the bus back to your resort to get ready for the day. Don’t forget to wear your medal around the parks!

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Spectators – click HERE for my husband’s tips on a stress-free spectator experience.

QOTD: Are you running the 2014 Princess Half Marathon? Is it your first half marathon or runDisney event?

16 comments

  1. What a great post! Do you know if the aid stations have saline solution? This is normally something I wouldn't ever worry about but only one time during a run I had a problem with one of my contacts and wondered what I would do if this happened during a race. I would ask my sister whose run PHM several times but she doesn't pay attention to the course much as she zones out and listens to her music! Also, we have carried on food before ( just not gels or liquids). Have a great weekend!

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    1. You know, I'm actually not too sure if they have saline solution. You can get tiny bottles of it at Walmart, though. It would be super easy to carry in a hydration belt! Definitely a good idea, I've never thought about that. I race in my contacts as well.

      TSA let you get through with food on your carry-on? I didn't think they let you do that?

      You have a great weekend as well! Happy Valentine's Day!

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    2. O yes! I've carried on tons of candy, oatmeal, English muffins. Granola bars. I know I even carried on some type of yogurt/ jello/pudding concoction one time ( I forget exactly what it was but I was leary as to whether or not it would be allowed, and it went through). I would not suggested trying to get anything like a jar of peanut butter or jelly or anything through..haha

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    3. Well dang, that is awesome! I had no idea. I figured stuff like that wouldn't get through TSA.

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  2. I'm saving this for my ONE DAY when I make it to a RunDisney race :)

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    1. You'll get there!! The Princess Half should definitely be at the top of your runDisney bucket list! It has been my favorite race so far! :)

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  3. Fantastic post! I'm not even registered for the upcoming PHM but yet I still got excited while reading all these great tips! Plus, I'm going to print out your hubby's tips for my own hubby to use when I run (hopefully) next year! :)

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    1. Thanks, Jewell! I hope you get to run it next year, too! :)

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  4. Lauren, these are all wonderful tips!! Great list! Yes, I'm running the 5K & Glass Slipper Challenge!

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    1. The Glass Slipper Challenge looks like it's going to be SO fun. I can't wait to do it in the future! The 5K medal is adorable, too!

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  5. You're bringing back so many good memories! I think the PHM will forever be my favorite race!

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    1. Yes, mine too!! As I was writing this, I couldn't help but think how much I wish I was running it this year. But I know that Wine & Dine is going to be SO much fun later this year!

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  6. This is such a fantastic post, with great tips. I know I was freaking out before Princess last year, so I would have LOVED to have found a post like this. I'm a "Type A" planner, too, so I like to be completely prepared...and there's certainly lots to think about when it comes to a runDisney weekend! :)

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    1. Thanks, Jennifer! And absolutely - planning a Disney race for the first time can be so overwhelming. I really hope this post helps a lot of first-timers, or even runners who have been before but didn't get a chance to make the most out of the experience!

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  7. I'm leaving tomorrow! Can't wait! Reading through this again helped me to be sure I'm not forgetting anything. Whew. Less than 24 hours until I'm in the air!

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    1. I am so excited for you!!! Make sure to post pics on FB! :0)

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