Failure, But Make It runDisney: My 2024 Princess Half Marathon

Princess Half Marathon - finish line

It’s trip report time yet again! Come along on my long weekend trip to Walt Disney World for the Princess Half Marathon. You can see all the post in this report here. Onward!

The best part of any runDisney experience is the 2:15am wakeup call, am I right? I mean, that’s why I do it. And then at that point you’re awake, so why not top it off with a half marathon or whatever?

I very secretly had a goal for my Princess Half Marathon time, which was reflected in my relatively no nonsense Tangled race “costume.” I say “costume” because it was really more like an homage, but the thought was there. Dressing was consequently a fairly speedy affair, and Becky and I were out the door and waiting for the bus in short order.

As much as I have loved all my Deluxe Resort experiences so far, I’m not 100% into the race bus situation there. I’m used to Pop Century and similar, where you walk up to a line of service elevators race buses waiting for you. At Wilderness Lodge, we had to, like, wait for a bus to show up?! Which is a little disconcerting. Then again, after the ten minutes or so we waited until it arrived, the bus left maybe half full. So I guess it all works out.

Our time in the staging area was similarly brief – we took our obligatory witching hour Spaceship Earth selfie, then headed straight for the corrals. Well, I wandered around outside the porta potties until 4am in the hopes that delaying my final pee break would prevent the need to do so on course first, but then it was a whole bunch of corral time.

Princess Half Marathon - prerace at Spaceship Earth

Remember when I said I had a time goal? Please (seriously, PLEASE; you’ll only end up disappointed) don’t get too excited when you read that I made a beeline for the two-hour Galloway pacer. I had a pipe dream that if I stuck with him, I could finally break sub-2. Do I train using the Galloway method? No! No I do not! Still, I figured I could try outsourcing the intervals to another brain. Plus the comparatively brisk low 50s weather was on my side. Also Disney magic. Combined, it could work?

And it was with that quixotic hope in my heart that I toed the start line. Eventually corral B was up, and wave 2 was off!

Princess Half Marathon - start line

Wait, why were was my pace group in wave 2? Isn’t 2 hours the fastest proof of time that still lands in corral B in the first place? Why yes, it is! Which lead me to the first challenge of my pacing group experience: sticking with the pacer in light of the slower runners ahead of us. In addition to the fast clip the pace group required during the run portions, I had to run around a lot of people who weren’t on the same page.

Not that this is anyone’s fault exactly! But I would once again gently suggest that runDisney could still stand to reevaluate its corral system. I don’t think the current system is properly sorting runners by speed. For the wave system to work, people need to self-seed accurately, and they… don’t.

I’m sure some people are trying to get out as far as possible ahead of the balloon ladies, but I would also posit that the wave delineation is unclear. Marine Corps Marathon puts up signs that indicate the start point for estimated finish times of their self-seeded corrals; perhaps runDisney could institute this as well? I genuinely think it would help!

Right. So sticking to the group could be a challenge, especially at the outset when the crowd is thickest. That was one issue. The other was that I underestimated the speeds we’d be hitting during the run portion. I am, put simply, not a sprinter. I have slow-twitch muscles for days, and fast-twitch muscles for… for… has anyone seen my fast-twitch muscles? I haven’t.

Anyway, the pacer said we’d need to keep a fast clip in order to accommodate going around people, taking turns wide, etc., and as much of a bummer as it is to admit, it proved too much for me. I can keep a nine-minute mile going for quite some time, but the 2-minutes-around-8:00 + 30 sec walking just didn’t do it for me.

Not that I didn’t try! I tried for the first five miles. I barely remember what those first five miles were like,* but by God, I stuck with my pace group. Perhaps, I thought, the key is to suffer for one’s art. I started losing the group in the Magic Kingdom but kept pushing, kept trying, kept looking for them. I skipped all the photo stops and barely registered running through the castle.

* Except for one bit where chance had us walking down hill and running uphill beneath the canal bridge outside the Magic Kingdom. That I remember because I was like OH COME ON. 😅

This one goes out to everybody who tells me my race photos always look so good. Do they, though? Do they really????

Finally, having just about lost sight of my pacer as I left the flagship park behind, I spied a photo stop with Mushu AND my favorite Disney princess Mulan AND Li Shang! I remembered telling Becky before the race that I’d always wanted a photo with Shang (are cartoon crushes socially acceptable? Asking for a friend). So… I gave up. I stopped for the photo and stepped back onto the course a changed runner. My sub-2 dream was officially over.

Princess Half Marathon - Mushu, Muland, and Li Shang

That kinda sucked. On the other hand – I was free! Now I was just running Disney, stopping for characters on a whim and appreciating the sights and sounds and spectators. My failed pacer attempt had tired me out, but it hadn’t drained me entirely. It wasn’t right, but it was okay.

The Princess Half is not my favorite course (not enough parks; too much of the roads) but it does tend to excel in character stops. A short time after I ran across Donald Duck dressed as a knight, which was pretty sweet, followed by Pocahontas in cold-weather attire. Oh, and I had to stop for Sadness, you know, because of my sadness.

My favorite character interaction, however, came toward the end, as we were running behind Epcot. Wait, hold on – first may I ask why the Princess Half course includes so little Epcot?? We couldn’t run through World Showcase, guys? WHY NOT?

With that out of my system, we can kick it back to my photo with Esmeralda from Hunchback. I guess everybody already got her pic at the 10K the day before, because no one was stopping for her, to the point that she was literally standing with the Cast Members on the side of the road straight cheering. Her face lit up when I trotted over. “Come over here!” she said, herding me to her cart backdrop for the photo. “Purple is our color!” Obviously I love her forever.

Princess Half Marathon - Esmeralda from The Hunchback of Notre Dame

They did eventually let us run back into Epcot, where I paused for a brief bout with Spaceship Earth before gunning for the finish.

I spotted the irrepressible Seth in his fancy CM coat – actually, no, I didn’t spot him; he shouted at me and I was all HEYYY!!!! and I turned and waved but couldn’t stop because even if I wasn’t coming anywhere close to a PR, I was about to knock out a runDisney-specific PR!

As Erika was not at this race, I threw up peace signs for the photographers on her behalf. My girl is always in my heart.

I whooshed (“whooshed”) past the gospel choir, curved around the turn toward the finish, and heard my name announced as I passed under the finish line… over three minutes faster than I ever had in a previous runDisney race. That’s not nothing.

Of course, neither is it what I was after. Back to the drawing board on Operation Sub-2. I swear I can do it; I just need to regroup. I did learn some valuable lessons in this race that I can put toward future efforts. Maybe I’ll do a post about it! I’ll also explain why I thought this plan could work, in case you’re wondering why I decided to go Galloway with no experience. I’m sure you’ll all be on tenterhooks waiting.

In conclusion: I had a dream, and it didn’t come true. On the other hand, I ran a reasonably strong race and, once I let go of said dream, I had fun. They say if you PR in runDisney, you’re doing it wrong. I know that’s not strictly true all the time, but it was true for me this time. Next time? Who knows!

I’m gonna stop it here and save my post-race shenanigans for the next trip report installment. In the interim, I’ll keep working on that dream.

Don’t forget, you can follow FRoA on Twitter @fairestrunofall and on Instagram @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions or thoughts, leave a comment or email fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!


  1. +5 points for failure! (I’m reading a book right now about the science of productivity how to succeed, and one of the points they make is that people are much likely to do better if they celebrate their failures. So let’s try that!)

    I think we need a side-by-side of our Joy/Sadness photos. For real though it’s kind of perfect haha.

    The princess half (and 10k!) USED to run through World Showcase!! I don’t understand why they stopped doing this. I know there was construction or something for a bit but surely now we could do it? That was so much better.

  2. Seth Godin: “The only thing worse than starting something and failing… is not starting something”

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