It’s February 24th, 2019 and the time is 5:45 a.m. Thousands of runners are cleverly dressed as their favorite princesses and Disney characters on World Center Drive just outside of the Epcot parking lot. Pixie dust floats through the hot and humid Central Florida air, fireworks explode in the sky as each corral embarks on their
It’s the morning of the Disney Princess Half Marathon and everything is magical.
Except it’s not.
I’m standing on the outskirts of the wrong corral, 15 minutes late to the starting line because the virus that’s plagued me for the past week decided to appear for its encore at 5 a.m.
I feel my fever coming back, as though it isn’t already hot enough out here, and my skin starts to feel clammy. I’m swallowing my own vomit as it rises to my throat and I’m in full-blown panic mode trying to be rational on one hour of sleep.
This isn’t my first rodeo. In fact, if this were any other half marathon I’d be totally cool with throwing in the towel and going home to puke my guts out and sleep for the next 24 hours.
But this isn’t just any other half marathon for me, it’s the Disney Princess Half Marathon.
It’s special to me and I waited so long for this moment. I trained my butt off and ran faster than I ever have so I could break a PR in one of my favorite places in the world. I also might have talked a lot of smack about hitting that time goal over the last five months and didn’t want to tell my friends and family I didn’t do it.
There obviously was no trotting my feverish butt back to the car and making the two-hour drive home.
As the new
In an attempt to make it to the finish line without passing out or throwing up, I kissed the time goal goodbye and decided to run at a slow and comfortable pace. And that turned out to be a bigger testament of my will power and emotional and physical endurance than if I ran at the pace I had trained for.
Despite the fact that everything that could possibly go wrong was actually going wrong, I really didn’t want to miss out on the joy of being able to participate in the Disney Princess Half Marathon. I have so many amazing memories that are really important to who I am from my time as a cast member. Is wanting to add a half marathon to that list so much to ask for?!
So, I forced myself to be present. I reminded myself of how lucky I am to have a body that can run (even more so when I’m sick!). I’m even luckier to do it in a place that people travel from all over the world to visit.
Thankfully, Disney made it pretty easy to distract myself from how terrible I was feeling!
Fireworks lining the sky for the first few miles helped me keep my chin up (in both a literal and figurative sense) and the volunteers and spectators brought the energy I desperately needed to keep myself from lying on the side of the road and giving up.
I mean, there were a bunch of old ladies dancing to Ke$ha in the middle of the highway for goodness sake! I want to meet the tragically sad person who wouldn’t cheer up at the sight of that and give them a hug.
Character meet and greet opportunities were also placed all along the course and they were a great excuse to stop when I felt like I was overdoing it and gave my stomach a chance to settle for a bit.
In those moments when I stood in a line,
or a camera flashed or when Goofy stepped on my foot while trying to hug me, I realized if I hadn’t been so sick leading up to the half marathon that I would miss out on every single part of the event that makes a Disney race so unforgettable.
The affirmations from the volunteers giving me water would have been lost on me and I wouldn’t have stopped to take pictures with any of the characters. I wouldn’t have picked up on the support all of the runners were giving to each other or smiled at any of the details of their costumes.
I probably wouldn’t have even noticed Mikey waving to all of us running into Magic Kingdom from the top of the train station, let alone wave back to him.
And I sure as hell would have run through the castle like a madman chasing down my time goal not even realizing I’m running through a freakin’ castle. So, thank God I was sick! In hindsight, it was the best thing that could have happened to me.
And it turns out, I was going to make it to the finish line!
That race was easily the hardest that I’ve ever run. I felt so sick and I’m so glad it’s over. In fact, my doctor put me on antibiotics and steroids the next day and ordered a chest x-ray to find out if I had pneumonia! I get bragging rights for that, right?
But more importantly…it was the MOST fun I’ve ever had running a half marathon before. I mean I’ve never crossed a finish line swallowing my own vomit while simultaneously thinking about how excited I am to run this again next year before! That’s a good sign, right?
And guess what? None of my friends or family care how fast or slow I ran. They’re impressed and think I’m cool just for running a half marathon at all.
I’m still smiling and riding out the high sitting here a week later. I guess after six years of running I can consider myself one of those crazy runners after that!
If I learned anything from this race, it’s that sometimes you can do everything right and be as prepared as possible to have the perfect run and conquer your goal, but you can’t control everything. When push comes to shove you just have to go the distance no matter what’s working against you.
Needless to say, I’ll be running next year’s Disney Princess Half Marathon and I’ve already talked my best friend into running it with me.
If you ever have the chance to run a race in Disney (5k, 10k, half marathon or full!) do it! If you pass it up, you’ll miss out on the magic of the most supportive crowd of runners and spectators out there.