Princess memories

This weekend marks the debut of the Glass Slipper Challenge as part of Disney’s Princess Half Marathon weekend at Walt Disney World. Unfortunately I was already committed to the WDW Half Marathon and 10k by the time I found out about the new challenge and I couldn’t pull it off. It’s a weird feeling to be home wishing you were somewhere walking 21 to 31 kilometres!

Picking up where my last post left off….

At the end of October 2009, my first Half Marathon Walking Clinic with the Running Room/Walking Room started. Tanya and Maureen were my coaches again. Oddly enough, my clinic mates had a goal race on the same day as mine – the Chilly Half Marathon in Burlington. Even more oddly, they had higher temperatures than I did but more on that later.

I quickly got the nicknames “Princess” and “Tara Belle” in my clinic. By the middle of November, I was registered of three Disney halfs so pretty motivated to follow the training program as closely as I could. I honestly think my first half marathon was the one I trained the best for! The winter was pretty mild and I even did the 5k Resolution Run on January 1, 2010.

My plan for the race was to dress in an outfit that was based on what I thought Belle would wear if she was a walker! I had blue capris and a matching tank top with a white t-shirt underneath. Well Mother Nature had other plans as the forecast was for really cold weather so the night before I left home I went to Walmart and bought long pants and a black fleece zip up jacket that I planned to throwaway when it warmed up.

I flew down to Orlando the Friday night before the race. Saturday morning I went to the Expo, picked up my bib and my race kit and did some shopping. Since it was only the second year of the race, and runDisney was not the craziness it is today, the race was pretty small. There were about 11,000 women and 400 men in the race. Since we had to be on a bus no later than 4 a.m. on Sunday morning, I took Saturday afternoon easy and hung around my hotel room (after a quick trip to Walmart where I bought a new shirt to wear on race day).

There was no free wifi back then so I paid the $10 for a day of internet so I could post updates on the race for my friends and family. My Facebook status that afternoon was “Tara Styles is channeling her inner princess….she even let them sprinkle her with glitter today!! Weather is decent but not super warm so I will be wearing long pants for tomorrow’s race. I was very happy to find out that I made it into the second last corral so I have a buffer of 7 minutes if I need it! I saw the start line today and yelled “the start line..woo hoo!!” so I guess I think I’m ready!”

At 3:13 am on Sunday I posted “Tara Styles hears the buses heading to the race already…as if it’s not bad enough going at 4 a.m…..people are actually going now?!! Crazy!”

I was staying at Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside resort and there were a number of bus stops throughout the resort. It was so cold that the entire line up of people waiting for the buses huddled in an area sheltered by bushes and the first person in line popped out periodically to check for the bus! Everyone was chatting finding out where people were from, etc. When I said I was cold someone said “but you trained in Canada” and I replied “in long johns!” I was not wearing long johns for the race but I wished I was at the start.  It was 38 degrees Fahrenheit at the start of the race; so cold that we made the Weather Channel!!

The walk to the start from the bus drop off is about 20 minutes. I remember waiting a long time in the cold for the race to start and being pretty nervous. I don’t look nervous at all in the photo of me right after the start.


By the time we got to the Magic Kingdom, I needed to pee.  I remembered there were only 400 men in the race and for the first (and not last) time I used the men’s restroom at Disney!

It was warm by this point in the race but for some reason I could just not throw away my stupid Walmart jacket. So in my castle photo, I look like a tourist walking through who just happens to be wearing a race bib!


I was pretty close to the slowest pace you’re allowed in a Disney race.  At the loop towards Epcot, I remember the Green Army Man saying “run, run” and I said “I’m a walker” and he yelled “okay, you can walk”. Just as we got on the bridge, I looked back and saw that there were hundreds of walkers behind me. I ended up finishing the race in 3:33:50 with about 400 people finishing behind me!

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My finish line experience was a mix of emotions. I did the “arms raised” thing because I saw other people doing it and then I cried a bit.  I was carrying my US cell phone with me and had signed up for runner tracking by text message so as soon as I finished I turned it on and received all my split times and a text that said “Tara Styles has finished”. Ya, I know!  My friend Tracey called me almost immediately after that and because I was on the phone I sort of missed all the stuff that was happening around me. I didn’t hang out after picking up my food and my checked bag and headed back to the hotel.

I updated my Facebook status to “Tara Styles finished her first half marathon, upright and smiling (followed by tears briefly), in a time of 3:33:50…which included a potty break in the men’s washroom in Tomorrowland!!  I have my medal around my neck..guess I need to take it off before my epsom salts bath!”

I think I took a nap and soaked in the hot tub before heading out to dinner. While waiting for my reservation time at the Grand Floridian, I remember thinking “crap, I didn’t stretch”. I have a bad habit of getting caught up in the excitement of finishing a race, not stretching and regretting it later. I had my dinner with the characters from Cinderella (not my favourite movie but it was a Princess race) and then went to Magic Kingdom.  I managed to do quite a few rides and then BOOM!, while in line for Snow White’s Scary Adventures at about 10:30, I hit the wall and decided I had to go home after that. I had a rental car for that trip and kind of regretted driving that afternoon.

I wish all of this year’s Princesses the best of luck in their races and hope that they hit the wall AFTER their races are done!

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