A Princess Finds Her Wings
Hope you enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed running and writing it!
As runDisney fans, we all have our favorite races. For me, it has been the Princess Half Marathon. The PHM is “my race” – the one I cannot miss every year. It was my first half marathon and where I found my happy place in running. I really dig the tiara medal and the way everyone in the parks treats you royally. Also how at close to 40 years old, I am allowed to sport my own shiny bling around my neck as well as on my head- and no one finds this odd! I am a huge fan of wearing tiaras, so I am a huge fan of the Princess Half!
Wait… isn’t this post supposed to be about Tinker Bell Half Marathon? Why yes, yes it is!
Tinker Bell 2013 came about as I was pre-planning my annual PHM trip. While anticipating the July 10 registration date for Princess I passed time reading trip reports about the inaugural Tink. Registration opened on June 12 for the Tinker Bell.
And just like that, she drew me in. The course sounded lovely. A female centered race in the flat streets of Anaheim- yes! The medal- oh my goodness, to die for! A spinning Tink? I’m so in! I wanted to run in Walt’s footsteps.
The wheels started turning. The planner in me checked out hotels and discounted prices, hours were spent on the Disneyland boards reading about tip. I really had NO chance in hell of getting a second trip to Disney without my family this year. But I looked anyway.
Meanwhile the registration jumped to 51% in 2 days! Oh my! I knew Disneyland races sold out quickly, but this was amazing to me. Looked like my problem would be solved soon enough- the race would sell out and I wouldn’t have to worry about making that extra trip.
Then I was sprinkled with Pixie Dust in the form of the good fairy husband who saw what I was looking at on the computer. When I explained about the race in Disneyland and that I was just playing around with ways to make it work, he simply asked one question.
“Do you get an extra medal or something for doing races in both Disney parks?”
Why yes, yes I do!
“Oh, then you should go. Sign up for Tinker Bell before it sells out.”
And folks, that is why I married him. How incredibly awesome was that?!
With a few clicks on the computer and my Mickey Visa smoking, I was all signed up for leg 1 of my Coast to Coast and my very first Tinker Bell Half Marathon.
Tip #1: Register early for Tinker Bell. The event sold out within a month of opening.
Once I was registered I started the planning in earnest. I found a roommate in my good friend, Summer, and we made hotel plans. Initially we chose to stay at a Good Neighbor hotel, but I got a little caught up in things and we quickly upgraded to the Paradise Pier Hotel. The proximity to the starting line and finish line was just too incredible to pass up! The race starts in front of the hotel. IN FRONT OF THE HOTEL, Y’ALL! I walked out the front doors and was in the corrals. Voila! Amazing difference from the PHM where getting to the corrals is an event in itself. The race finishes in a parking lot directly behind this hotel as well. Knowing I would be pretty spent after the race, the short hobble back sounded delightful and well worth the extra expense. Score one for Disneyland races.
Tip #2: stay at one of the Disneyland resorts if you can swing the expense. Incredibly convenient for a runner!
Leading up to this race I found a new group of friends on Twitter and Facebook. #TeamrunDisney became a huge source of support and encouragement. I have always run my races solo because I am the slow runner in my group of friends. It’s not something I am ashamed of or worry about. We all have to run our own races at our own paces. But it usually means some long lonely hours on the road. That all changed when I found fellow runDisney enthusiasts online. A group of us decided to run together for the start of the race and stop for pictures. The plan was to make up time on the back end if we could, and still finish around 3 hours. It was EXACTLY what I wanted to do for this race and I quickly jumped on board! This would be the first race I stopped for pictures and the first race I ran with friends.
Tip 3: run with friends, stop for pictures, soak it in and HAVE FUN!
I can’t believe I got this far in the post without discussing the most exciting part of any runDisney race. COSTUMES. In the past I toyed with Disney themed clothes- a shirt with a Mickey head on it, a red and white Minnie skirt. But never went full costume. I am not a fairy, and I am not a princess, so I just never found the right costume for me. All that changed for the Tinker Bell. While watching my favorite Disney show, I had a bolt of inspiration.
Ferb, I know what we are going to do today! Isabella as a Fireside Girl costume was born.
Tip #4: Run in costume. Really, it’s the only way.
I traveled to Anaheim on Thursday in order to participate in the runDisney Meet Up with Jeff Galloway on Friday morning. It was an incredible experience and one that needs an entire blog on its own to capture the sheer awesomeness of that event!
The Tink expo opened and I quickly made my way through the lines to get my bib and shirt. Bonus: the mesh bags were back! We had these at PHM for a couple of years, but they went away and were greatly missed. I am hoping the return of the bags at Tink were a sign of things to come at PHM! I love these bags. It’s the little things, really, that make me happy. After the expo I started 2 days of park hopping.
On Saturday I may have paid for all the running around I did in the parks though. Around noon I felt the need to go back to my room and nap. When I woke up, I had a small fever. Oh. No. This cannot be happening! In true social media addict fashion, I tweeted that I was not feeling well, putting my whine out there into the universe. And the universe answered! Within minutes I had fellow #TeamrunDisney members offer to run to the store for me to try to pick up whatever quick fix I could think might help. Many thanks and blessings go to my angel, Kristie M, for saving me! She picked up some meds, met me at the hotel, and probably saved my race. I will forever be grateful that she was paying attention to her Twitter account!
Tip #5: Don’t overdo things the day before the race. Rest a bit, relax, and prepare for the tough work ahead.
Morning of the race I got up, got dressed, and met up with my new racing friends. We took pre-race pictures and made our way to the corrals. The weather was perfect. Not too cold (45F), not too hot (66F), and the sun came up to make it a perfect SoCal day. The race started on time at 5am and off we went!
Want to stand out in a sea of 13,000 green fairies and tutus? Wear a bright orange beret with a shiny red bow!
I felt I had a good chance at a PR since the course is flat and the weather ideal for running at this time of year. (And frankly, my PR isn’t really all that much to brag about!) In 2012 the course started through Disneyland, went out into the streets of Anaheim, and finished through Disney’s California Adventure. But 2013’s course had us run DCA first, then DL, then out through Anaheim and finish without reentering the parks.
Initially I was very disappointed. I felt I needed to have that carrot of a park to run through at the end of the race to keep me motivated through the run. I really have to learn to trust runDisney. They DO know what they are doing!
Tip #6: 3Fs: This course is Fast, Flat, and Fun! It does not disappoint on the entertainment scale.
Around mile 1.5, we made our way into the parks. The next 4 miles developed into the character sprint. We raced to one group of characters, waited in line, then tried to make up time by bolting down to the next. The whole concept of pacing and trying to stay within a certain minute per mile went out the door since there was just no way to control the character lines. This also ended up causing me personal woes after we left the parks. I had sprinted so much, my legs didn’t have it in them to make up the extra time spent in lines and I had to go back to my normal pace. I made up some time on the back end, but it was not nearly enough to get in under that 3 hour mark I was aiming for. I was disappointed in this, but lesson learned for me. Race like you train, or acknowledge that having fun does have some time constraints to it!
Disney had the World of Color fountains running, the Silly Symphony Swings flying, Carsland all lit up, and my favorite surprise- It’s a Small World was still dressed for the Holidays!
Tip #7: take a camera or phone. You will not regret stopping for a few shots of the parks lit up and shining in all its magical awesomeness!
As we left the parks and ran through Downtown Disney I was sad to think that all the magic would be left behind us. That was not the case. DTD was lined with spectators, yelling, screaming, and waving some of the best signs I’ve seen on a race course.
The race was packed with entertainment, even after we left the parks, and getting to the end strong was not a problem. In comparison to the halves at WDW, community crowd support was just simply awesome. Bands, cheerleaders, the HUGE contingency of Red Hat Society ladies, random Michael Jackson sighting, even a Walt look-alike was on hand! Family spectators were also along the route cheering on the runners with the great signs and tons of enthusiasm. I loved every minute of this course.
We left Disney property and ran along some neighborhood streets.
There they were: the Red Hat Society! I hoped they would be here for this race since they made such a splash at the 2012 event. There had to be hundreds of them. They were adorable in their signature colors (please read that in your best Steele Magnolias voice) of red and purple. Such a boost to see them come out and support us in the very early hours of the morning.
At this point my sprinting finally caught up to me. I bid my fellow running friends adieu and wished them a great race, but I had to slow back down to a pace that worked for me. I knew I had many miles ahead and trying to make up the time we spent in the parks was not going to be possible. I honestly could have pushed a bit harder but I am a big worrier when it comes to injury and I have history of ITBS. I had another half in a few weeks and wasn’t willing to push through something and end up hurt. Again.
I changed my intervals to 1:1 and slipped into a comfortable rhythm. Checking the Garmin I was making up time, but not in the amount needed to complete the course in less than 3 hours. I found this slightly disappointing, but quickly focused on another way to measure success in this race. I knew that my lovely Garmin would also show me what the “moving time” vs. overall time would be, and this would should me what pace I was actually running. This gave me hope and a boost mentally. Even if the official results showed a 3:30 finish, my watch would show me how much time I spent running, and that still had promise of a PR in my book. I know, I know, not a “real” PR, but it was something I could grab onto and used it to pull me across the finish line.
Tip #8: Be flexible in expectations. When you run Disney, many distractions can keep you from a pre-set goal. Accept this as a possibility and plan to work through any mental challenges you may find.
The final miles were centered on one thought. WHERE’S THE BATHROOM?! That’s my only complaint about this course- lack of port-o-potties. Apparently they weren’t lacking, just hiding behind med tents along the course. I never looked at those med tents- no, thank you! I did not need to even think about stopping there! So I went a few painful miles searching for relief. Lesson learned- it’s ok to stop and ask directions.
Around the bend and there was the finish line. To greet us were Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Daisy! Excellent! At the Princess Half, I stop and take a character picture right before finishing and wanted to do that here as well. Unfortunately this was not allowed- I was told by runDisney officials I couldn’t stop.
But… but… but… okay… FINE.
Hrrrmmpphh. Score one for racing at WDW.
As we finished we were herded through the lines for water, Powerade, food, space blankets, handed a nice bag to put all our stuff in, and I got the medal placed around my neck. I was one happy Fireside Girl.
I walked back to the hotel and began the post-race ritual for recovery. I missed my breakfast reservation since my race took about 30 min longer than I expected, but I was really ok with that. Ice bath, room service, compression, and I was ready to enjoy the park with my fellow runners. A magical morning flowed into an even more magical afternoon as I had been gifted with a celebration lunch at Club 33.
Remember when I was gushing about the Princess Half Marathon?
Yeah, that WAS my favorite race. The Tinker Bell surpassed that event by leaps and bounds. I am firmly in the pro-Tink camp and will be back year after year! I loved just about every moment of this experience and highly recommend this race.
Don’t get me wrong, I still like the PHM. But I simply LOVE the Tinker Bell Half.
I can fly, I can fly, I can fly!
Picture stops: 19
Chip time: 3:28:01
Garmin moving time: 3:01:16 (YES! Unofficial PR by 20 min) It counts. Sorta.
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Patty Holliday is a Marvel loving, Disney obsessed wife, and mother of four. She’s a travel agent specializing in Disney & Universal vacations- and loves a candid confession. Find her in Virginia (or anywhere frequent flyer miles or her trusty minivan takes her.)