runDisney Race Recap: Princess Enchanted 10K 2022

I'll admit I'm not too into princesses, and Disney's Princess Half Marathon Weekend is my least favorite of all the runDisney themes. But. It's always at the end of February, and so is my birthday. I last ran Princess in 2017, when it was close to my 45th birthday. 5 years later, trying to get my fitness back after injuries and pandemic weight gain, I thought I'd run Princess again for my 50th. 

This time around, I signed up for the Fairy Tale Challenge, which means running a 10K on Saturday morning, and a Half Marathon the next day. I registered ridiculously late, signing on with a charity who had leftover bibs with no fundraising requirements. Team Muscle Makers for UCMD hooked me up less than a month before race weekend. 

In solidarity with others mourning and protesting the loss of the Dark Side Star Wars race weekend, I dressed as mashup characters for both races. For the 10K I was Darth Tiana.

The 10K course was mostly familiar, starting as usual in the Epcot parking lot. After early road miles, runners briefly hit Hollywood Studios and headed back to an Epcot finish via the Yacht Club and Beach Club Resorts.

Training & Goals
In July 2021, persistent but manageable knee pain became acute. Following a stint in PT, continued stretching and strength training is helping to mitigate the pain, along with cortisone shots.

Since the start of 2022 I've been actively trying to get back into running shape while also working to lose a bunch of COVID weight. My intervals still have me walking more than running, but I've seen slow improvements.  For this race weekend I knew I was going in under-trained for the half. It's easy to take it slow and steady during runDisney events, but being slower means less time for character visits, photos, and other shenanigans.

My plan for the weekend was, as always, to have fun! I had serious anxiety about finishing the Half, but I felt good about completing the 10K. I planned to follow my run:walk intervals on the road, stop for selfies at the mile markers, and mostly walk in the parks to enjoy the entertainment, characters, and atmosphere.

Race Day: February 26, 2022
Arthur and I decided to make a weekend of the races. We packed up the car and headed out for the 10K at 2:30AM Saturday morning, getting the car parked at about 3:25.

Since the races have come back in our pandemic world, there haven't been characters at the start of runDisney events. This is disappointing, but understandable. There were a couple of character themed photo ops and 50th Anniversary backdrops out for runners to take photos. I elected to skip these, but I did stop for a quick pic with a Mickey Mouse statue out for the 50th anniversary of Disney World, on the way to the corrals.

Arthur and I parted pretty early, as I wanted to get a good spot at the front of my corral, s4 (out of 5). I found somewhere to stand and managed to be in the first wave sent off.

It was clear and about 63°F with 94% humidity when I crossed the mats at 5:33AM.

Mile 1: 14:04 (mile splits from Garmin)
I intended to start my run:walk intervals after a 5 minute warm-up walk, but it was congested through the first half mile or so, so I started with slow running from the beginning.

Mile 2: 14:36
Shortly after we passed the Mile 1 marker, Tiana was out for photos. Next we passed a marching band, and an empty photo op staging area for Joy and Sadness (Inside Out), who were on a break when I went by. 

Mile 3: 15:11
The only photo op I noticed during this highway mile was Merryweather with Prince Phillip (Sleeping Beauty). 

Mile 4: 16:46
During this mile we ran over an overpass. For a slower runner, it's great to see all the participants behind, out on the road you've already run.

We headed into Hollywood Studios for some park mileage. A pair of Tower of Terror bellhops were out taking photos with runners -- with no barriers, or visible handler. I wondered if the two cast members decided to be a photo op on their own?

Inside the park, we also had our first PhotoPass photographers for running shots.

When I ran through, dawn was starting to break.

Mile 5: 16:43
We left Epcot, on our way to Yacht & Beach Club. Prince Mickey was out for photos near the exit.

Next up was a long, narrow bit where running was very difficult in areas, due to the number of walkers, and general congestion on the course. A princess DJ was playing "Highway to Hell" when I went past.

The next characters out on the course were 50th Celebration Chip and Dale in their dapper earidescent vests. 

Mile 6+: 17:45, 6:04
During the final mile we had vacation Donald out for photos as we approached Epcot's International Gateway.

Once inside the park, runners were stopping everywhere to take selfies with the Flower and Garden Festival topiaries, already up for the festival that would star the following week.

The Harmonious screens on World Showcase Lagoon had Princess Race Weekend graphics on display.

Inside Epcot I actually stopped for a photo with Clarabelle Cow.

Just a little bit more through Epcot and then it was over the finish line for another completed runDisney event!

After the Race
Through the long finisher chute, I picked up my medal, snack box, water, PowerAde, and banana. I met up with Arthur so we could head to the Art of Animation resort to change clothes and get a little something to eat.

Next it was back to Epcot, where we had lunch reservations at Rose & Crown. After walking around Epcot for a bit, taking some photos and riding a couple of rides, we checked into our Flamingo Crossings hotel. Finally, we headed out for our dinner reservation at Trattoria al Forno in the Boardwalk resort.

An early wake-up for the Half Marathon meant an early bedtime Saturday night! 

Recommendation
runDisney is back, and I'm so happy! A Disney race is always a great time, even if you're not the biggest fan of the theming. 

Chip time: 1:41:04
Placement details: 628/980 in Age Group; 7354/10885 overall
Race Amenities: Really nice medal and improved tech race shirt
Cost: $355 for the challenge

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