ORLANDO, FL. Feb. 27, 2012—We came. We ran. We conquered. The Bruning family stormed Disney’s Princess Half Marathon Weekend from Feb. 24-26 at Walt Disney World with the aim of turning our annual family Disney vacation into a fitness fiesta. My sister, brother-in-law, nephew, niece, fiancé and I participated in every event Disney had to offer, from the Pasta in the Park party to the Tangled Royal Family 5K, the Royal Family Kids’ Races and Disney’s Princess Half Marathon. We did it all and then some—enjoying lunch at Cinderella’s Castle with a bevy of princesses and taking in a luau at the Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show. But the highlight had to be watching the Royal Family Kids’ Races. Seeing a whole new generation of runners embrace the sport was a heartening sight.
It was a weekend of firsts: my sister finished her first race at the 5K, my 3-year-old niece finished her first race in the 100-meter dash, and my 5-year-old nephew won his first race speeding down the track in the 200-meter dash. That’s the beauty of Disney race weekends—they get people running who might not otherwise seek out local racing events.
Pasta in the Park
We kicked off the weekend with the Pasta in the Park party at Epcot, where the kids were excited to get autographs from Cinderella and Snow White, learned (or tried) how to hula hoop to a DJ’s beats, and ate dinner followed by a few too many brownies. Then we hit the park for a few rides and finished the evening with IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth, a water, laser and fireworks show with Epcot’s World Showcase as a backdrop.
Tangled Royal Family 5K
The next morning, my sister and I teamed up to tackle the Tangled Royal Family 5K. I couldn’t think of a better place for us to run her first race together. We grew up as Disney kids, visiting Walt Disney World every year with our family.
So she bought a Tinker Bell tank for the occasion, and we hit the park as a team, just like when we were kids. As we jogged through Epcot, we stopped for photos with Pocahontas and Captain John Smith, Aladdin and Jasmine, and Minnie Mouse and Daisy Duck, who gave us big hugs. The course took us through the World Showcase pavilion and past Spaceship Earth, Epcot’s iconic sphere. It was a perfect way to spend the morning. My sis had so much fun, she even hinted at running the half-marathon next year.
After the race, we bumped into race director Jon Hughes, whom I’d interviewed at Disney’s Wine & Dine Half Marathon. We were looking for bag check and I heard a voice from behind me offer directions. When I saw him, I laughed. No one knows better where everything is than the race director. He ran the 5K too. It must be fun to get to run a race that you planned.
Disney Royal Family Kids’ Races
After the 5K, we went back to our hotels at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and the Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort for a quick shower before heading to the Royal Family Kids’ Races at ESPN Wide World of Sports Track & Field Complex. We’d already popped by the Fit for a Princess Expo to pick up our race bibs, so we headed to the track for the tots’ main events.
The Disney Royal Family Kids’ Races may have been the highlight of the entire trip. My niece, G, and nephew, M, had long been excited to run, as I wrote about before the event. They talked about it daily, and practiced running up and down the hotel corridors. They even handpicked their outfits for the occasion. G wore her new pink Princess Aurora shirt and M wore the race shirt he got with his bib.
G’s race—the 100-meter dash—was first. She started in the back of the first heat and looked nervous as she ran with my sister to the finish. But when I saw her with a newly earned medal around her neck, she smiled and yelled.
“I won!” she screamed. “I won!”
“Did G really win?” M asked with excitement.
“Yes!” my sister said, stretching the truth. No, she didn’t beat all the other kids, but she sure felt like a winner.
“G won!” M yelled. “G, you won!” He was so excited. He’d wanted—more than anything the entire Disney trip—to win his race and for G to win her race. I’d tried explaining to him that it’s not about winning, but about doing your best and having fun. But he wasn’t having it. He wanted to win.
His race was next. His father took him to the start, and the rest of us fanned out along the 200-meter course. G and I waited at the finish as heat after heat of 4 to 6-year-olds went by. My brother-in-law texted to say M was in the next heat, and I sent the signal to my fiancé and sister so they’d be ready to snap pictures.
When I saw the kids coming down the straightaway barreling into the finish, I couldn’t believe it. M was actually in the lead. His face was deadly serious as he pumped his arms and strode as fast as his legs would carry him. My brother-in-law sprinted to keep up.
“Oh my gosh!” I yelled, holding G. “Look! M is winning!” I really couldn’t believe it. It showed me that sometimes when you want something badly enough, you can actually make it happen.
G and I started yelling his name. The people around me started cheering for him too. A taller girl was slowly gaining on him, but he managed to edge her out.
He actually won. I watched as M received his medal—the same medal all the kids got—as his chest heaved in and out, up and down.
“You did it!” I yelled to him.
“You won! You won!” G screamed in her high-pitched voice. “I won too!”
“Where’s Uncle Phil?” M asked. “I want to show him my medal!”
“He’s on his way. He was taking pictures of you!”
M was smiling from ear to ear. He and my brother-in-law were still catching their breath.
“Holy cow,” said my brother-in-law, who counted the 200-meters as his event in high school track. “He’s fast. That was a workout for me too!”
Phil and my sister found us at the finish. We all laughed at the fact that M had actually won. He wanted it so badly that he willed it into happening. We watched some of the other kids races, took some photos, and then headed off to Animal Kingdom for lunch and a few rides. The kids wore their medals around their necks and told anyone who would listen that they were winners.
It’s true. They are. As are all the other kids whose families showed them that exercising can be fun.
We finished the day at the Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show at the Polynesian Resort. G got on stage and did a rather impressive rendition of the hula and M squealed when the fire-knife dancer took the stage. It was the prefect ending to the perfect day. It felt like a celebration of so many firsts for our family—first races and first wins. They may have been the first, but hopefully they won’t be the last.
Disney’s Princess Half Marathon
Not to be outdone by the kids, Uncle and Auntie ran the half-marathon on Sunday—in costume as Cinderella and Prince Charming. Stay tuned for a full race report of the weekend’s main event.
Karla Bruning is a veteran journalist and running nerd. She has completed four marathons, trains with the New York Harriers and is a member of New York Road Runners. Follow Karla’s “Notes From a Running Nerd” at RunKarlaRun.com, Facebook and Twitter@KBruning.
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