It’s been just over a week since Disney Princess Half Marathon weekend ended, and to use the word “incredible” would be an understatement. It was emotional, it was exciting, the weather was perfect, and the people + community made all the difference. So what did it all look like?
Each day the tears of remembering my Pop, and running for children that can’t were greater, but not out of sadness quite contrary it was joy. Joy that God would allow me to run, have the community to help get me to this point through prayers, support, and generosity. Through having a legendary grandfather who showed me what generosity and service should look like, these weekends are just special, and partnering with an incredible organization like Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals just made it even more so.
However, heading into the trip I was feeling so-so, it had been a long hard week (little did I know what was in store after my return), and wishing I had spent just a little bit more time Jon prior to leaving but Disney and the sunny Florida weather were calling and it didn’t take long for my attitude to do a 180.
This weekend marked my first time running with Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Through several charity runs, one that clicked had been hard to come by, but by golly I believe I’ve found it through CMNH. After all the hype via Facebook and emails as soon as we landed Friday morning we headed for the Expo and the Miracle Maker booth. While the expo was underwhelming – maybe in part from not feeling great and ready to get to the parks, everything kept getting better and better from there.
Our first stop post-expo was Animal Kingdom and a lunch at the newly opened, Pandora themed, Saulti Canteen. While we were just hoping for something quick service and new, we were so pleasantly surprised by this meal. The food was so rich and tasted so fresh, put it on your must-do for quick service meals at AK. After a quick pic with Timon and a ride on Everest (single-rider because HELLO who wants to wait in that line) we took advantage of our Park Hopper with a hop, skip, and a jump over to Epcot.
At this point I really wasn’t feeling good and after we rode Soarin’ with our Fastpass I considered heading back to the room for a nap. However, my people are great and helped me sit down, get water and something to eat and wait for me to feel a little revived! And it was time for a trip around the world, with a stop in France for a chocolate crepe. YES!
At this point we were ready for the big time after our crepe fueling: Magic Kingdom. It was as magical as ever as we walked onto Main Street as they did the salute to the flag, and then sun was starting to creep down glistening on the castle. We stood in line for some of the smaller rides before dinner. After looking through all our options for a new quick service experience we landed on Columbia Harbour House since it always gets solid reviews. I had the fried fish dish and although I enjoyed it, it did not live up to my expectations. The corn was cold and there was a lot more of the fried then there was the fish. Oh well! Despite that, it was almost time for Happily Ever After fireworks. This was all three of our first time seeing the new fireworks display from last year and it was INCREDIBLE. If that word could even do it justice. What a way to end our park day!
Heading back the room first to get ready for the 10K tomorrow I made sure all our luggage had made it to the room and laid out everything for our 2:45am wake up call.
Saturday morning came quickly, and even the best laid plans tend to go awry. The original plan was to take the 10K a little easier to have energy for the half. However, my competitive nature is just that and seeing the leaders of the field in front of me was too tempting and I went for it. A PR by a few seconds and an age group 3rd place was a definite highlight although I worried what that would mean for the half, but the best of this day was still to come.
One of my favorite parts before we left the race area was watching the sunrise above the finish line as runners celebrated their finish. How could it not put a smile on your face? Post 10K we walked over to Epcot for the Miracle Maker Breakfast. Waffles, Fruit, Pastries, Yogurt parfaits were laid out for the hundreds of us, and while that was fantastic, the character experiences we got to have, the stories we got to hear, and the people we got to meet made this morning top-notch. People are inspiring and community is so beautiful but it means stopping and taking the time to listen and engage. CMNH makes that possible.
Since back to back races tend to leave you exhausted we took our time getting ready for our afternoon and leisurely explored Disney Springs until our early dinner reservation at Fontera Cocina – because Mexican. Always. Sephora was doing free facials, Anthropologie had all the cute things, Ghirardelli had Easter themed chocolate caramels, and the ballet was in full force on the stage, we enjoyed it all!
My review of Frontera Cocina is so-so. Katie had tortilla soup, Becca had enchiladas, and I had taco salad. All were fresh and great quality, but the overarching word of this meal was SPICY! Maybe just a little too much, but it’s worth trying.
We headed to bed early since all 3 of us had early wake up calls.
Sunday Morning. Half Marathon time. Becca and I decided to check out the Miracle Maker tent before we headed to the corrals and inside we found all the swag as we tattooed ourselves with CMNH inspired crowns, and there was breakfast. While I had carried my squeezable oatmeal (thanks Munk Pack), they had bagels, peanut butter, apples, and yogurt to fuel us before the long haul. Thankful is an appropriate word as we accrued 2.5 miles before even warming up and crossing the start line. My body was feeling the decision to race the 10K the morning before and after the fireworks alerted us of the start it was anything but pretty. Between miles one and four my pace dropped rapidly, but somewhere around mile four I found my legs and my energy and it was off to the races. One of my absolute favorite moments is during the climb of the overpass heading back into Epcot between miles 11 and 12 as the sun begins to rise. It’s always picture perfect, and the adrenaline is at an all-time high.
The people are cheering, the characters are dancing along the way, and you know you are that close! Another PR, and while not placing quite as high as my competitive self would have liked, I could not complain considering where I started. I quickly made off to grab a picture with Snow White and got her just in time, and then towards the resort for an egg omelette please and thank you. And just like that the weekend was over, but the experiences have stuck with me.
I began processing since there were a few hours before heading to the airport, grabbing a bus over to Disney Springs for lunch at Earl’s, and another quick walk by for a free chocolate. Wow this experience really did impact me, and the tears flowed again. Being able to run is an incredible gift, and God desires for us to use whatever gift it is to the best of our ability so that He can use it. It led us to the opportunity to partner with Children’s Miracle Network Hospital and meet cancer survivors, it led me to meet and cheer on those who were racing in hand cycles, and for those who are like me who just desire for our miles not to be in vain!
It was a turning point and eye opener and it’s a weekend I won’t ever forget.
Thank you RunDisney and thank you Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals for changing lives in every season and stage.
Until next time.