Reviews of products sold at expos and more by an average runner. Make me your guinea pig!
This may be the post where I piss off the most people. In the interest of fairness, I am and have always been a West Coast-based runner. I took up running in order to complete the inaugural Tinker Bell Half Marathon.
Until I ran the 2015 Princess Half Marathon in Walt Disney World I had never registered for an East Coast race. I also happen to be a Los Angeles native and Disneyland annual passholder. So … I’m a bit biased.
First of all, I love the size of Walt Disney World, but I grew to hate the crowded buses, ferries, and monorails very quickly. For a West Coast runner who is used to just walking to a destination in 5-10 minutes, the lines for transportation were almost as tortuous as the transportation itself. Seriously, you can’t walk anywhere. Run Disney called all of the hotel rooms with an automated message threatening disqualification if you tried. At first, I bounced on and off the buses with a smile on my face. However, as I racked up mileage both in running the various races and walking around the parks, that smile faded into grumpiness. I recall debating which form of transportation to take with my sorority sister after an evening in the Magic Kingdom. The monorail had a longer wait time but wouldn’t be as frigid as the ferry across to her hotel. She chose the ferry and arctic blasts over having to stand and wait an additional 15 minutes. If you’re planning a trip to the East Coast parks after only running on the West Coast, budget a lot of time just moving from one place to another when you’re making restaurant reservations. During a busy afternoon, I needed an hour to get from one park to the expo to meet up with my sister. East Coasties, come to California. You walk across the plaza to get from one park to another. It’ll change your life! With that said, I do realize it’s a necessary evil to accommodate the expansion and growth potential Walt Disney was denied in California.
What can I say about the Princess race expo? In a word, huge. So large that they use two buildings at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex to house the packet pick-up and expo. It’s quite confusing for a first-timer, and the cast members were of varying degrees of helpfulness. I found that I needed to ask 2-3 cast members the same question before I got a correct answer to a question or accurate directions. I loved to see all the usual vendors who make it out to the Tinker Bell. If you’ve never run one of the women’s races, give it a try. Different vendors show up for these races. It’s nice to have most of the products offered specifically for your gender for a change. Everyone has their favorite vendor. Personally, I’ve fallen in love with Sparkle Skirts, Raw Threads, and One More Mile. Leave me a comment to tell me which vendor is your favorite at races.
OK, on to other things. Restaurant reservations are a must. These are big races. I have no idea how I would’ve eaten without reservations. My feet and legs were not feeling up to long waits after running unless the Seven Dwarves Mine Train was at the end of it.
The next major item to consider while making your reservations and packing your bags is the weather. I thought California
had mercurial weather. Oh, no! Florida takes the cake. You will need to watch the weather reports like a hawk and pack a variety of clothing. The 5K runners were shivering in their corrals with temperatures in the 20s while the half marathoners enjoyed starting temperatures in the high 60s. I couldn’t really smile after the 5K because my face was numb with cold. I never dropped my hoodie in the 5K. I ran in mittens, three shirts, and capris under my running skirt. I don’t even own cold weather running gear. I was layering everything I could think of, including things I bought at the expo. I finished the half marathon in sunshine and warm breezes with a tank top and skirt. There was a roughly 50 degree temperature difference in three days. Yeah, go pack for that one.
The actual course was beautifully flat nearly the whole way. The few hills were gentle and short. The only real incline was a on ramp to go across an overpass. It was only a little steep and ended quickly. I have tendon issues in my knees that are triggered most frequently by hills. I never felt even a moment of pain from them. If you’re worried about hills, don’t be. Instead be a bit concerned by the most boring scenery I’ve ever encountered at a half marathon.
Boring at a Run Disney event? Yes, I said it. Half marathons are different than shorter races. You just can’t entertain everyone in every mile. I’m also a loud and proud city girl. I’m at least accustomed to checking out interesting-looking coffee shops or stores that I might want to track down after the race. The Princess has lots of trees and swampy puddles lining the roads.
The portions of the course through the parks were filled with smiling and cheering Disney cast members, familiar music, and the gorgeousness of the Disney properties. I never got tired of the flowers at Epcot, no matter how many times I ran past them. Oh, be prepared for that if you’re running all the races. You will repeat the Epcot sections with only minor variations each race. It’s a good thing that Epcot has friendly cast members and interesting scenery! My personal experience was marred by the fact that I became suddenly and inexplicably ill beginning a few hours before the half marathon. Through posts on several Facebook groups, I found out that a lot of people had come down with a virus. The common factor was that the first wave of folks to come down sick were 5K runners. Did I run the 5K in addition to the Glass Slipper Challenge? Yep.
Overall: I would do this set of races again in a heartbeat if I had it in my budget. These are definitely worthy of saving up to do. It would be even more fun to travel with a big group of your female running buddies for it.
Well, did I get it right? Leave me a comment below to let me know.