"There are just so many ladies," I said to myself whilst criss-crossing the expo at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Only being there one month earlier for the Dopey Challenge, the vendors' tables were now littered with tiaras, sparkly skirts and shoe jewelry as far as the eye could see.
I was completely out of my element.
How did I get here? It stems back to my wife and her best friend, Sally. On one of their many phone calls together, Sally mentioned how'd she'd love to run a half marathon. My wife, no stranger to half marathons or distances agreed to run one with her, and they both decided the 2016 Princes Half would be high noon. Not to skip out on a Disney race, I happily obliged.
While running every other runDisney event, the Princess had always been off my radar as I had heard horror stories of past events being more of a massive bachelorette party and less of a race. But, a race is a race and a trip to Disney is a trip to Disney - no matter how much pink I'd have to endure. Luckily, Sally's husband, Kirby, had made the trip, doubling the testosterone contingent.
This weekend was a quick turnaround event for me as we have just settled into our new city, Seattle and I didn't want to be away from work too long. By the way, Seattle to Orlando for a weekend trip should only be reserved for the most passionate sadist; it was brutal. Given the short time at WDW, we all decided to stay at the moderate resort, Port Orleans Riverside, a departure from our usual weeklong stays at Boardwalk and Wilderness Lodge.
We had requested adjoining rooms, but at check-in we were told we had reserved a Royal Suite. Now, a Royal Suite is a room that has been slathered with all kinds of Disney magic and is reserved for those true Disneyphiles who just need to have every inch of vacation cloaked in Disney - certainly not our thing. After explaining we didn't reserve a Royal room, we were told we were upgraded, something that happens fairly regularly with us, but we declined for a room in the same block as Sally and Kirby.
Port Orleans, in my opinion, is one of the better moderate resorts. It's tucked away from all the crazy and has a lot to offer in terms in eating and entertainment. The only downside is the transportation, as they make guests wait sometimes for 45 minutes for a bus, and then the bus will stop at every Riverside stop and its sister resort, French Quarter.
After hitting the expo, we all clowned around in the Magic Kingdom for awhile, catching one more scrumptious meal at the Skipper Canteen, which is becoming one of my favorite restaurants. We called it an early evening since the following day would be the 10k. My wife, Devin would be running the Glass Slipper Challenge, which included the 10k. Kirby was also running the 10k, so we hit the hay early in preparation for the following morning's race.
Saturday morning, we hit the race early to get Devin and Kirby ready for their 10k. Sally and I played the race supporter role, something new for me as I'm usually the one racing. I give you spectators a ton of credit, all that standing around is mind-numbing. Happily, we got to see the two of them start the race and again at the finish line. Both were in good spirits, Devin was now inching closer to finishing her 19.3 weekend journey.
The morning was especially sweet for Devin and I as we were able to catch some quality time with one of the greatest people on the planet, Jillian, who always makes my heart sing.
Later that day, we headed over to Disney Springs to catch up with some great people at the #WeRunSocial meetup. If you've read my past posts, you're probably familiar with #WRS. If not, we're just a bunch of runners who like to get together and hang out. That's it! It's always a positive vibe and it's a great opportunity to visit with friends and the folks who follow me on social media. As per usual, the whole gang was there: Gelcys, Dani, Christina, Sarah, among others. And, I finally had the pleasure of connecting with a longtime social media friend, Lauren, who is as baller in real life as she is on the socials. Great seeing you lovelies!
Sunday morning brought my race day, the half marathon. Similar to WDW Marathon Weekend, the half would start outside of Epcot, head towards and through the Magic Kingdom and then back. Now, I'm not one to ever run in a costume. It's not that I don't like them, rather as a running purist, my thoughts on racing is just that, a race and not a parade. However, playing to the theme of the event, I dolled up in as much pink as I could stand: pink Pro Compression high calf socks, pink arm sleeves, a hot pink Dirtbag Runners trucker's cap and pink(ish) New Balance 1400's. This would have to do, ladies.
While my bib number was pretty low, Corral B was the earliest corral male runners could start - while male runners could participate, this was a female race, meaning no winners for the fellas. Looking around me, I deemed Corral B the "Sausage Corral" due to the sheer amount of dudes in the paddock.
Shooting past the start line, I noticed the pace of this race was slower than Wine & Dine and January's half which pacing from the onset a challenge. I tried to run my normal race, but felt like I was going out too fast given the runners I was passing. Once on World Drive, it was easier to settle into a groove, but the damage was already done and I knew a PR would be out of the question. So, for the rest of the race I dug in, but held back and enjoyed the scenic pieces of the course and thought about the 19,000 princesses chasing me.
Also, for the first time ever in a race, I experienced what we runners call "digestive distress." From Mile 1 to about Mile 5, I experienced a hot, sharp stabbing in my intestines. During those miles all I wanted to do was finish as fast as possible. Luckily, the "running" gods and not the "runs" gods were on my side and the feeling subsided around Mile 6.
As I've stated numerous times before, running through the Magic Kingdom is such an awesome feeling, with the castle and all the spectators cheering us runners on. It's indescribable, really and one really has to experience it to understand it. Certainly, it's worth the long stretch of boring to get to it and after the mind-numbing stretch after it.
For all the wondrousness the Magic Kingdom provides, the final three miles of the race are ball busters. Starting at Mile 10, there is a mile-long curving, uphill monster that chews runners up. Miles 11 and 12 spit us out with some rather ugly hills - well, overpasses actually. Finally, 12.5 puts us back in Epcot and onto greatness. Like the races in January, a gospel choir greeted me just before the finish line, giving me a little more gas to motor through the finish in a lackluster 1:51:00.
I caught up with Kirby and then watched as the girls victoriously rolled in. Devin with her Glass Slipper 19.3 Challenge in the bag, Sally pocketing her first ever half marathon. That night we feasted like royalty at Boatwright's. The following day was reserved for celebrating the best way possible, drinking around the world at Epcot because, adulting.
Hearing horror stories prior to arriving at the weekend, my fears went unfounded. Overall, the experience was a lot of fun and something I'd do again. Truth be told, because I was in a front corral, my experience was probably pretty different than say, those in mid/late corrals. I had a ton of room, and when coming back on World Drive towards Epcot, the runners yet to hit the Magic Kingdom must have numbered in the thousands. However, I really enjoyed myself. Dev ad I had the opportunity to spend time with some of our best friends in a place we love to visit. That made me feel like a king for a weekend.
Until next time. Run fast. Run smart.