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27 Things I Learned From Running the Disney Princess Half-Marathon

Yes, this is a real race, and it is MAGICAL.

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Hi guys! I'm Arielle, and earlier this year I ran the Disney Princess Half-Marathon! Here are some things I learned from the experience:

1. The race sells out in 24-48 hours.

Run Disney, Arielle Calderon

I bought my tickets the day they went on sale (July 2016) for a February 2017 race, and they sold out within 1-2 days. If this is something you're really interested in, be prepared to plan for the race (and a whole trip!) far in advance. It's actually kind of nice committing to this so far out because I had something to look forward to for months!

Note that the Princess race is particularly popular and sells out quick, but the other Run Disney races are usually easier to get tickets for.

2. Make sure you follow a training plan or use an app so you're super prepared to run the race and finish strong!

RunDisney / Via rundisney.com

If you're new to running, I recommend the 13.1 app — it trains you to run four minutes and walk one minute, until you can complete the full half. I started on their 5K version in 2015, and I could not even run for 30 seconds straight at the time. The program really helped me slowly build my muscles and endurance, and I was able to run a half within six months. The more time you give yourself to prep, the better you'll be come race day!

Worth noting that Disney requires you to keep a 16-minute-per-mile pace. Runners unable to maintain that may be picked up at any point along the course and transported to the finish line.

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3. If you are traveling from out of state, this will likely cost a pretty penny (but it's worth it).

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I traveled from New York, and was in Orlando for about four full days, so the estimated costs included:

The race itself: $200

Hotel: $150/night

Roundtrip flight: $200

Cabs/Uber: $50

Food: $350

Souvenirs: $100

Park admission: $100 - $180 per day

Even though this cost a lot of money, I didn't feel too bad about it because I had paid for things over the course of several months (first the race entry, then the flight a month later, then the hotel three months later, etc.).

Note: I did not pay for park admission as they were provided free of cost courtesy of Disney.

4. And no, park admission does NOT come with race entry — they are separate.

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I know, that's hard to swallow. Park admission could range from $100 - $500, depending on what time of year, what type of ticket you purchase (one-day ticket, two-day ticket, park hopper), how many days, how many parks, etc. Of course, you can choose not to go to the parks and just run the race — it isn't required! You can find more about pricing here.

5. Overall, just remember that in addition to running a race, you might also be planning a full-on vacation months in advance — for a VERY BUSY WEEKEND.

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If you do intend to make a trip out of this, that means you should make dinner reservations in advance, you should use the My Disney Experience app to schedule fast passes for rides, and you should book all accommodations early. I booked my hotel in November and there were only three rooms left.

I know Disney is always packed, but I severely underestimated just how packed it would be for this eventful weekend. My friend and I wanted to eat at the Be Our Guest restaurant in Magic Kingdom, but everything was booked at least a week before the race. 😭

6. While you obviously do not need to stay at a Walt Disney World Resort, it is recommended in terms of parking and transportation.

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There are buses available to take you to and from hotels to the parks, the Health & Fitness Expo, and the race itself. If you're staying off-site, parking is limited and it could be stressful trying to get to the events.

Also, when you stay at an on-site hotel, you get this cool MagicBand that works as your room key, your fast pass, your park admission, and more. You can read more about that here.

7. Within the few days before the race, you will need to pick up your packet/bib number at the RunDisney Health and Fitness Expo.

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It's located at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Disney. You can also buy a bunch of stuff here, including swag, costumes, running shoes, running gear, k-tape, energy bars, shoe charms, etc. They have basically anything you would need before the race.

I spent $40 on a shirt that says, "Look like a beauty, train like a beast." It's comfortable and cute, but also I can't believe I spent $40 on a tank top. 🙃

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8. If your friends and family want to come along as spectators, they are welcome to do so — free of cost!

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There are several viewing points along the course, including Cinderella's Castle in Magic Kingdom and the finish line. There were also some people who sat in lawn chairs along the highways and in between parks around miles 3-5 and 7-9. They are super encouraging and it's great to have some extra motivation from strangers.

9. Every year the race medals change, and this year's theme was Beauty and the Beast.

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Which totally makes sense because of the live-action movie release.

Also, if you run the other Disney races, they have fun medals that coordinate with those, too — like the Star Wars-themed races.

10. Because the parks still open to the public at normal hours, the race starts at 5:30 a.m.

RunDisney / Via Facebook: RunDisney

Yes, that is correct. I recommend having an early dinner so you can get those carbs and whatever else you know works for you before a long run! You want to make sure you get the proper amount of sleep or it will be a rough morning.

I personally used this race opportunity to eat lots of yummy bread, pasta, and maybe even a full-on breakfast buffet with Mickey-shaped waffles. 😋

11. Which means the buses start pick-up from on-site Disney hotels around 3 a.m.

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To get the most amount of sleep possible, I laid out my outfit and any necessary running gear (I am all about a running belt and wireless headphones) the night before so I could just get up and go. I also fueled with a banana and a RX bar.

The energy on the bus is low and you can tell everyone wishes they were sleeping, but once you get to the starting area, there are DJs and dancing and you are suddenly super pumped to run like hell. Also, worth noting that you can bag check (only in the clear plastic bags they provide at the Expo), but if you can bring only what you plan to run with, I would recommend that.

12. There were over 24,000 runners on the course this year, making it the largest women-focused race weekend in the U.S.

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I ran a half in Central Park last year, and while the energy was awesome, it didn't compare to this. Not only was it so inspiring and motivating to run with fellow ladies (camaraderie FTW!), but it was also just so FUN — which isn't necessarily the first word you think of when talking about running 13.1 miles. (Just to clarify though, men can TOTALLY run, and are encouraged to do so!)

There were A LOT of people, so I did often run on the grass in the beginning to pass the crowd and speed up. But overall, running a race of this capacity makes you feel like you're all connected and bonded.

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13. The corrals are set up in letters A-P, and you are assigned based on your projected pace.

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When you sign up for the race, you can enter your pace and proof of time to get proper corral placement. If you don't enter a time, you might be placed in the backend of the corrals.

If you are in corrals K-P, you probably won't start for a long time. I was in corral "I" and didn't begin until about 25-30 minutes after the start. I have never seen anything so massive, yet so well-organized.

14. This is a weekend-long event, and people have the option to do a 5K, a 10K, the Half, OR the 19.3-mile challenge.

RunDisney / Via Facebook: RunDisney

Which would be completing a 10K on Saturday AND the half on Sunday. The 10K also starts at 5:30 a.m., so you will REALLY need sleep and rest.

If you successfully complete the challenge, you get three medals! Note that the costs will go up if you decide to compete in more events.

15. People run in costume, which makes everything more fun and entertaining.

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I saw a group of guys dressed as Disney princesses. Pocahontas was FIERCE. It's amazing to see how creative people are, and it's also cute to see the couple and group costumes. This is definitely the kind of race where you compete with someone — whether it be friends or family — so seeing people stick together for the sake of showing off a complete costume is so cool.

16. There are even Disney characters along the race available for photo ops!

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However, if you want to take a picture, you would have to stop running and veer off to the side to wait in long lines. But I think the reason the Princess race is so popular is because the characters along the course are iconic to the Disney brand. Not every RunDisney race features all the characters — it depends on which one you sign up for.

Some notable characters this year were Belle and Beast, Princess Jasmine, Pocahontas, Merida, Jack Sparrow, Mickey and Minnie, Maleficent, Gaston, Buzz Lightyear and Woody, Queen of Hearts, Genie, Cinderella and Prince Charming, Flynn Rider, Princess Tiana, and Snow White.

17. You get to run through Magic Kingdom and Epcot, but you do spend the majority of time running on the highway and in between parks.

RunDisney / Via Facebook: RunDisney

Good news is, the course is pretty flat with the exception of two major hills towards the end of the race. Also, the view consists of the sunrise, thousands of runners, costumes, and characters — so the run is anything but boring.

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18. This is not the type of race to worry about timing (setting your personal record) — there are plenty of beginner runners that are just there for the fun experience.

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So don't stress about that too much. You are in DISNEY, running with people in costume. Enjoy it!

However, I will say that I had such a good pace that I didn't want to stop for character pictures or anything. I find that as soon as I start walking slow, or stop altogether, I lose momentum. The only walking I did was to quickly drink my water — but it is completely different for everyone and you should listen to your body above all else!

19. Also, because it's Florida, the weather is actually pretty perfect.

Run Disney / Via Facebook: RunDisney

It was definitely chilly in the morning before we began (about 55-60 degrees), but once we started running and the sun came out, it was ideal running conditions (about 60-70 degrees, and hardly any humidity).

The historically average weather in Orlando, FL in February is about a low of 55 degrees and a high of 75 degrees with low precipitation.

20. You'll hit Magic Kingdom around mile 5-6, and you should definitely look out for the camera guys for a prime photo op.

Arielle Calderon

I was determined to get at least one photo where I didn't look like a sweaty monster yearning for water.

21. You should also feel free to stop and take a selfie. It's such a cool moment and you'll be glad you documented it.

Arielle Calderon / Via instagram.com

I mean, you can't run in Magic Kingdom, at sunrise, and NOT take a selfie.

22. Overall, running through Magic Kingdom is the best part of the course — the energy and encouragement from spectators is beyond motivating!

RunDisney / Via Facebook: RunDisney

There's hundreds of strangers cheering you on and making you feel like a rockstar! Running through the crowd and through the castle was a truly unforgettable moment that I will always cherish.

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23. There are water/Gatorade stations available about every 1.5 miles and an "energy gel station" around mile 8.

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It's basically a little packet of sugary goo that's supposed to give you an energy boost. I didn't know how much I needed that vanilla gel shot, but I swear it kept me going.

24. The last mile of the race is running through Epcot, and it feels so amazing to cross that finish line!

Arielle Calderon

It was one of the proudest moments of my life. There are crowds cheering you on (not as robust as Magic Kingdom, though), and I started to run even faster because I knew I was so close. Once you approach the finish line, then there's a massive amount of spectators with signs and noise-makers. Disney even had a choir singing near the homestretch! It was truly magical and it felt like these people were throwing me a personal parade.

25. The post-race food is not great, so have breakfast plans ready.

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We got a little lunch box with a banana, Oreos, applesauce, nachos and cheese, a candy bar, a fruit bar, and water. I was expecting bagels at least. You will likely be starving afterwards from burning so many calories, and you also will want to celebrate your victory! So have breakfast reservations ready and toast your awesome run!

26. Plan to go to the parks BEFORE the race.

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I mistakenly went to Epcot after running and ended up walking on a bad ankle all day. I needed to take a break from heavy exercise for a few days because of it. Listen to your body, go lay by the pool, and do all the heavier activities beforehand.

27. This was honestly the best race I have ever run and I am absolutely planning on doing more Disney races!

Arielle Calderon

It was so well-organized, super fun, and running through Magic Kingdom was a dream.

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