On Sunday, the 23rd of February in the Year 2014 of the Common Era, I “ran” the 2014 Disney Princess Half Marathon in a black-and-purple sparkly tutu and a bright pinkish feathered boa for charity and raised a buttload of money as a result. THE END.
No but seriously guys, I struggled with that opening sentence for what seems like days now… and nothing worked. I went for poetic, I went for prosaic, hell I even tried a funky butterscotch disco haiku and NOTHING worked. So I just went with the abbreviated elevator pitch and there you have it. How’d I do… mezzo-mezzo? Right. Let’s elucidate, shall we?
(By the way if you’re fully satiated with that splendiferous opening, feel free to bolt now. The rest is just elaboration and effusive self-aggrandizing with more than a few exclamation points… plus you won’t be mentally and/or emotionally traumatized by the mere visage of your shameless narrator in drag. Whether that’s a warning or an enticement is far from me to decide.)
OK still with me? Good. 🙂
The 2014 Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend was my seventh Disney race event, and before last summer it was never really much on my radar. From the very name it’s readily evident that the race is entirely geared towards women, a means towards inspiring women’s health, camaraderie, fitness, and self-empowerment. “Oh, but men are welcome too!” is of course an oft-repeated catchphrase for events like these, and of course they are; Disney might be a lot of things but discriminatory ain’t even on the same continent as their “Free To Be You And Me” ethos. And besides, is there any race organization out there that could possibly be MORE supportive, inclusive, and non-intimidating than Run Disney? Doubtful.
But it wasn’t for me. I decided to leave the Princess Half to the ladies and let that be that.
Until I got sick last summer.
My travails with, diagnosis, and ongoing (and lifelong) treatment of Ulcerative Colitis have been well documented here and elsewhere, so I won’t bother with a rehash. After engaging in countless hours of research and fact-finding, as well as discovering a very strong support community online, I was struck by epiphanies of the most cliched sort, which I’ll sum up in two short numeric points: 1) My symptoms, while lifestyle-impacting, were on the milder edge of the spectrum, and 2) Even on the Mild Side, nobody should have to live with this (or any kind) of affliction. So I wanted to do my part to raise awareness of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) disorders, as well as much needed funds for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America.
But I also remembered my marketing class from Business School, specifically two big questions: What’s perceived, and what’s pertinent? The latter is simple enough. There are estimated upwards of 2 million IBD sufferers in the USA alone, many of whom can barely leave the house for months or even years on end, and research into a cure as well as quality-of-life treatments is absolutely essential.
But what’s perceived? The perception is of yet another schmuck trying to raise money for charity by glomming off friends, families, acquaintances, coworkers, and anonymous strangers. So I shifted perception by making active use of The Weenie (that’s a Walt Disney term for the eye-catching “gotcha!” monument in each of his parks). My Weenie was simple: please donate to my cause, and I’ll run the Princess Half Marathon in a tutu. A big, broad 6’2 guy gallavanting about the Happiest Place On Earth in a flared, fluffy skirt with pink and purple aplenty. People may or may not necessarily want to SEE that, per se, but man oh man it could probably be worth a few bucks for a laugh.
I started the fundraiser in November 2013 and when the books were closed on February 23rd, 2014, I ended up raising $3,140 from 71 donations. Apparently my wonderful Weenie worked wondrously! I can’t even begin to thank everyone who donated enough. It won’t stop me from trying though… more on that below. In the meantime let’s get to the event proper.
Boots and I reached the Lake Buena Vista area on Friday the 22nd. I wasn’t participating in the Enchanted 10K or the Glass Slipper Challenge, so we elected to drive up Friday night and hit the Expo the following day. We elected to stay off-property this time around, after having spent a good chunk of change staying at a Deluxe Resort for 4 nights a month prior. We ended up at a Holiday Inn near 535 and Vineland, which was fine and dandy, very clean, acceptable amenities, and even a fridge/microwave in the room. But it just didn’t have that magic, ya know… albeit with much better satellite TV options. Still, we unpacked our belongings, and hung up the entire running ensemble with care.
The next morning we drove over to Coronado Springs to pick up my awesome buddy Suzannah (faithful Hokeyfolk might remember her as my classmate going back to junior high with whom I ran the 2013 Disneyland Half Marathon) and headed over the ESPN Wide World of Sports to pick up our registration materials and hit the vendor expo. Here’s a little taste of our highlights:
Since we made it to the Expo on Saturday, crowds were comparatively light and easygoing. We were able to pick up our bibs, shirts, and gear bags with little to no wait times whatsoever. Interestingly enough, the expo was a lot more, shall we say, “fairy tale”-oriented than any other Disney race expo I’ve ever attended. You could tell this immediately by not only the preponderance of pink color schemes all over the property, but even this here red carpet…
… and a foursome of Royal Guardsmen-looking types who greeted runners at the Expo Entrance:
Otherwise it was another comprehensively packed Expo, with vendors as far as the eye can see, plenty of fun informational booths and green-screen photo ops, speakers, and more. I really didn’t purchase anything; I’m kind of Disney Race Merchandised-out. I did manage to procure a pinkish/purpley/sparkly Sweaty Band for the race. It really matched my outfit well.
Man I’m not making this any easier on myself…
Regardless, we got in and out fairly quickly and got to do pretty much everything we set out to do. Afterward we were pretty peckish, so we hit The Boardwalk resort and had lunch over at ESPN Zone. I have to tell you, the food was much better than it had any right being. I ordered the legendary PB&J Burger… you read that right. It was your basic burger with served with bacon and jalapenos, and then complemented with peanut butter and jelly. I thought it was pretty damn awesome, if I say so myself, but your mileage may vary. Definitely a culinary experience to try out if you’re feeling adventurous.
All apropos of nothing, so let’s move on. The Mickey Miles Podcast was having a meetup a few doors away an hour after we finished at ESPN Zone, but we had to bypass it in order to run a few errands, including a much needed pit stop at CVS. I recently joined the Mickey Milers running team, so I’ll have to hit the next meetup when I can, which will probably be Disneyland next August/September. In the meantime, we ran our errands, rested for a few moments in the hotel room, then headed to the Contemporary Resort to have dinner at the Contempo Cafe. There, Boots, Suzannah, and I met up with our running buddies Cassandra, Julie, and Rosa, as well as their various entourages. As far as Food Courts go, this one was pretty top notch. For Disney, anyhow! We discussed our running strategy for the next day, enjoyed Rosa’s nonstop hilarity (she had Boots in stitches!), and posted for a group pic like this one here:
After that it was time to head back, prep for the next day, and hit the sack pretty early. We planned on meeting at 4:15 the next morning, which meant getting up at 2:45ish. I was in bed by 8PM and, thanks to some generous sleep meds, was out like a light around 9:30PM…
The next morning we woke, I showered and shaved (look I didn’t want to be TOO Sasquatchy in my princess regalia), changed, and we made the trek over to Epcot. We arrived at just before 4 AM, with plenty of time to make our way over to the F Flag (our designated meeting spot). After we parked and exited my trusty Nissan Altima, I swallowed the last of my pride and dignity and slid into the tutu. Boots did some great work on it. Black with purple trim, studs, sparkly stuff and bows, it definitely stood out as an exquisite work of art. I tried hard to make as badass a stare as I possibly could, but it was no good. I looked FABULOUS!
As we made our way to the Start Area, the shout-outs began. Hoots, whistles, catcalls, everything. “Looking good honey!” from lots of women. High-fives from others, especially from dudes. I overheard several people reading the text on the back of my race shirt and appreciatively laughing at the “CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!” part of my spiel. My favorite moment was when we were heading towards the security checkpoint, and a Disney employee was cleaning up garbage from the parking lot. He looked up as I was passing and suddenly came to a sharp realization as to EXACTLY WHAT he was seeing. And the look of utter disgust and revulsion on his face? One for the record books, my friends. I only wish I had a picture. Or was poetic enough to describe in full, horrifying detail.
I signed up for this. And I took it all in stride. Mostly.
We got to the F flag, where Cassandra and her boyfriend Cory were waiting. We were soon joined by Suzannah, Rosa, Marianna, and Sonya. The six of us would form the core unit of our running pack of the day. After a few photo ops and plenty of good-natured ribbing thrown my way, we made our way down to our corral (D).
Anyone who’s run a Disney race at Walt Disney World knows that the walk to the corral feels like about a mile long, and it probably is, but at least you’re surrounded by like-minded, happy people the entire time. As we “Jose’d” our way into the corral, we got into position and waited for the magic to begin. And something really, really awesome happened. A woman standing by us asked me if she could take a picture of me, a request that I gladly granted. After she snapped the pic, I mentioned that I was racing in drag to benefit my charity. She asked which charity, and I mentioned the CCFA. On the spot she handed me $20 and said it was her donation. I told her I couldn’t accept, but she *INSISTED*. I told her I wanted to thank her publicly, so Cambrey F. thank you so much and now we’re awesome Facebook buds! Righteous! 🙂
Soon after the National Anthem the race started and we were off. I’m not going to do a very detailed, mile-by-mile critique of the race. The Princess Half Marathon is the exact same course as the Walt Disney World Half Marathon— out from Epcot, up World Drive, through the TTC, past the Contemporary, through the Magic Kingdom, then straight back down World Drive to turning east on Epcot Drive and back through Epcot to the Finish Line.
Here’s the main difference: other than the race being over 90% female, the characters, photo ops, and entertainment options are almost entirely based around Disney’s fairy tale properties and various “princesses”. And that’s par for the course, no pun intended. I would definitely say that the character photo opportunities are a LOT more fun on this course, especially if you are into the sort of “classic” Disney movies.
There were picture opportunities with the Evil Queen, Cruella Deville, Ursula, the Red Queen, Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Tiana, and “princes” like Flynn Rider, Hercules, Prince Eric, Prince Charming, as well as stock stalwarts like Mickey, Minnie, Lilo, Stitch, Buzz Lightyear, Elasti-Girl, Knight Donald, Jester Goofy, and others. And these were only the ones I actually saw; they often rotated these characters out, so you never knew exactly who you would come across.
The weather was mostly cooperative. It was an incredibly humid day, very foggy and dense; at one point we could barely see the castle while we were *inside* the Magic Kingdom. Imagine that. However, while it was humid, it was a cool, comfortable humidity (by Florida standards). It never felt muggy, hot, sweltering, or in any way oppressive. There was actually a very cool, pleasant wind blowing for the majority of the morning. We started in the low 60s and ended in the low 70s. Pretty, pretty good.
Meanwhile, my goal was to stop at every Mile Marker and thank a group of donors in a video shout-out. Unfortunately, this was easier said than done. Each Mile Marker featured a display of a Disney character or characters (usually but not always princess-related). Unfortunately it was still very dark during the first four miles, and there was no visibility on any of those videos. You could barely see me. Furthermore, each mile marker had a speaker blasting classic Disney music (usually related to the characters on display), which meant you could barely hear a word I was saying. After Mile 5 we called an audible and decided to cancel the Mile Marker shout-outs. Instead, I returned to the Magic Kingdom the next day and recorded video thanking all my donors throughout the park.
A rather “fascinating” event occurred at Mile 4. We were running through the Ticket & Transportation Center (TTC), and I had to make a pit stop. The TTC has actual bathrooms (instead of the on-course porto-potties) so I headed over to the Men’s Room. Now remember, this is a race geared towards women. The line to the Ladies Room was ginormously huge. No line for the Men’s Room. In fact there were barely *any* men in the Men’s Room. It was just another dude (eyeing my get-up rather cautiously), a janitor, and me. I hit a stall, where in the course of affairs I heard the Men’s Room attracting more and more people. I wasn’t really paying attention… until I left the stall.
And found myself in the Men’s Room… completely surrounded by women.
And then the cheering, hooting, whistling, and bawdy comments started heading my way in FULL force.
OK, this has never, ever, EVER happened to me in any capacity. I must have turned a whole new shade of crimson as I smiled and hit the sinks to wash my hands because some happy-sounding lass yelled out, “Aww look he’s blushing!”
Attention any single dude reading this: this is a buttkickin’ and surefire bonafide way to meet women. Try it sometime. You may or may not get goosed on your way out. No comment.
Back to the race… as we entered the Magic Kingdom, I noticed that Main Street was very narrow. They brought crowds all the way onto the street itself, leaving a smaller, roped-off area for runners. It felt much narrower than needed, as you really wanted to take in and absorb the moment as best you could while not trodding upon those ahead of you. Still, it was the Money Shot, after all. Boots and Cory were waiting for us at the turn into Tomorrowland, and we stopped for pics. Soon we entered Tomorrowland, stopped for a pic with Buzz, then a pic with Mickey and Minnie (15 minute wait), then the requisite pics in front of Cinderella’s Castle, and finally out into the backstage area where we stopped for Snow White pictures. I think we ended up in the Magic Kingdom for almost an *hour*. Unbelievable.
Leaving the Magic Kingdom is always a bit of a let-down, but Disney kept the entertainment going with tons more on-course entertainment. The midway point of the race had the requisite “Halfway Song” blasting on the sound system, which — surprising absolutely no one — was “Let It Go” from Disney’s Frozen. A big lavish musical number in the middle of a Princess run? Dammit I had to sing out loud, didn’t I? Someone out there who was running alongside me has video of my heartfelt, bombastic performance of the song’s final chorus. “That perfect girl is gone”, indeed…
Otherwise, a good portion of this part of the run is “Cone Alley”, an extremely narrow sliver of road in which, if you don’t enjoy walking during a large part of the race, you’ll have fun running in the grass. I’ll cop to the admission that, due to the various running/pace/interval capabilities of our group, we had to run at the pace of our slowest runner, which meant it was taking us a LONG time. Running much slower than your average pace is much harder on the body than you might possibly think. I didn’t mind us taking our time, but some achiness was setting in from the constant stopping and starting. To put it in perspective: we started in Corral D, and by the time we left the Magic Kingdom we were surrounded by O’s. But while we got a move on, it didn’t stop us from having buttloads of awesome fun throughout the remainder of the race!
I should point out that throughout the race I was getting supportive, appreciative, and yes humorous comments and shout-outs from tons of strangers. I certainly wasn’t the only guy out there running, and not even the only guy dressed in “Princess”-like attire. But it certainly felt that way at times. “You are the most beautiful Princess I’ve seen,” one woman ran over to tell me, while the tutu (decorated by Boots) was a smash hit with fashionistas all over the course. Even guys were complimenting me. “Sir you look just goddamn beautiful!” one guy yelled to me as we passed by each other. “Thanks!” I replied enthusiastically, “I feel like twice a man and half a dude!!” Dramatic pause, then “I– uh, I have no idea what that means…” Laughter abounded. I still got it.
We soon found ourselves back at Epcot, finishing up the last few miles of the race. I saw Lou Mongello from WDW Radio again at the entrance into Epcot and ran over for a fist bump. He saw my attire and looked rather… what’s the opposite of nonplussed? Plussed? A good descriptor as any. Anyway, after a pic with Sophia the First and receiving a Twizzler from the “I’m proud of you, Complete Stranger!” lady, we hit the last water stop. It was there that Rosa started cheering on “her boyfriend from last night”, a man we met at the Contemporary the night before who told us he’d be manning the final water stop. Only that, it wasn’t him she ended up cheering. This was a completely different guy. The look on his wife’s face was priceless. Someone’s got a lot of splainin’ to do…
The rest of the race was as it always is through Epcot: up through Future World, turning around at the gateway to World Showcase, looping back past the fountains, backstage past the gospel choir at Mile 13, and finishing up in grand style.
And as usual, neither Rudy nor Carissa announced my name as I crossed the Finish Line… Seriously, this is turning into a Susan Lucci gag. This was my seventh Run Disney race event (and 15th Half Marathon) and I’ve yet to hear them call my name out. Every time I pass that mat 50 yards from the Finish Line, I bend my ear to listen and they’re always having an excited conversation about something or someone else. It would be disheartening except that I’m usually in a Happy Space right around then. But you know, once would be nice…
We got our medals and posed for a few pics for Boots, who was waiting on the sidelines for us:
Overall we had a great time and it was a fun race, and most of all I ran it in costume for a great cause. $3,140 is nothing to sneeze at and I felt a great deal of pride over my accomplishments to benefit the CCFA. But it wouldn’t have amounted to a thing if it weren’t for the amazing donors who graciously gave to my fundraiser. You guys are freakin’ awesome, yo. THANK YOU!
As previously mentioned, I returned to the Magic Kingdom the next day to record video thanks to all donors, but I also wanted to recognize them here on what I’d like to call the Wall of Awesomesauce:
|WALL OF AWESOMESAUCE|
|Anonymous – $150||Rebecca K – $50||Daniel H – $25||Suzannah G – $30|
|Sandra D – $100||Jonathan C – $50||Ashley R – $100||Ann B – $120|
|Lisa H – $20||Cassandra S – $50||Shara G – $50||William R – $25|
|Ellyn B – $30||Jeff F – $25||Leah J – $120||Gay F – $30|
|Noemi F – $30||Scott P – $50||Sarah M – $30||Jessica B – $15|
|Jordan K – $20||Jose S – $10||Aaron S – $10||Shishir S – $100|
|Jorge N – $25||Anonymous – $25||Mark L – $50||Jenny S – $25|
|Javier P – $5||Ilene S – $25||Anonymous – $50||Eve O – $25|
|Sarah & Puneet – $25||Trishah S – $25||Michelle C – $25||Ervina C – $140|
|Bruce B – $50||Trishah S – $10||Esther G – $50||Trishah S – $20|
|Alex L – $10||Rosa M – $25||Lynn S – $50||Zoe M – $10|
|Alysia C – $25||Chris O – $20||Tena C – $50||Philip M – $25|
|Trishah S – $20||Sandra S – $50||Alex L – $20||Michelle D – $25|
|Ashley R – $25||Modesto D – $20||Jake R – $25||Vanessa M – $10|
|Jaimie L – $25||Lisa L – $10||Ann B – $245||Indira D – $25|
|Marcela T & FIT – $100||Trishah S – $15||Dawn B – $25||Neil T – $25|
|Anonymous – $200||Richard C – $25||Chris M – $25||Jeff F – $60|
|Carmen E – $20||Cambrey F – $20||David R – $100|
The Love & Thanks video still needs to be edited, so it will be posted very shortly. Thank you all.
As it stands, the 2014 Disney Princess Half Marathon was a fine race, and well worth running, but if you’ve already done the Walt Disney World Half Marathon you’re basically getting more of the same with a fresh coat of some pink and sparkly paint. And yes, while aimed at women, it’s equally accepting of and available for male runners as well… in and out of drag. You’re definitely getting the full-on “classic” Disney experience while you’re putting your miles in. And if you can manage to raise a few shekels for your favorite charity in the process, even better. Thanks everyone. Here’s the Dio-era Black Sabbath video: