There was a blue-green tutu tossed onto the side of the road.
It’s not always easy being a princess—or even dressing up like one. Especially not when you have to be all decked out before 4 a.m. on a misty moisty Florida morning in order to wait around in a “corral” for an hour plus before you begin a 13.1 mile run along with 22,000 other princess wannabees.
Not until a booming male voice has belted out the national anthem and your slightly overweight and extraordinarily cheery fairy godmother has intoned “salagadula means, michakabularu“ are you released into the dark to “live your dream” any way you can manage it.
I’m a little chagrined to say that my daughter and I ran the Disney Princess Half Marathon in Orlando last weekend sans tutu, tiara, feather boa, and face sparkles. In the hours before the race began, it became obvious that as the unadorned, we were part of a painfully small and obvious minority. Even most of the thousand-plus men who ran this female-focused race got into the act with fancy shirts and an occasional tiara or feather boa.
Kristin and I don’t go in much for “fru-fru” but both of us emerged from this elaborately “staged” race with a whole new set of insights. We came to admire the fact that so many participants were doing their very first half-marathon. I’m fairly certain that more than a few of them suspected they would struggle to complete the race in the allotted time, (an average of 16-minute miles) but that wasn’t stopping anyone.
One radiant young woman approached me to explain that this was her first half marathon and she was six weeks out from a double mastectomy. Another had been dealing with diabetes since childhood. Less than a mile from the finish, I saw a runner stop to help a fellow runner who was limping—barely able to move forward. Instead of allowing this girl to struggle on alone, the runner sacrificed her very respectable pace to help. “Come on,” I heard her say. “We’ll finish this thing together. Slow and easy wins the race.”
It was kind of a fluke that I ended up running the Disney Princess Half. Five weeks before I’d run in the Disney World Half Marathon on the very same course through Epcot and the Magic Kingdom. It was the first race I’d ever chosen specifically to see if I could set an age-group world record on a certified course. I chose this one because of its reputation and because a son and his family live in Orlando.
I had the good fortune to set the record I was shooting for, and that fact resulted in a most generous offer to return with a companion, all expenses paid, to speak on a couple of panels and run the Princess Half if I’d like to. I was thrilled to be able to include my daughter.
Look askance all you wish at those running adorned in capes, crowns, feathers and glitters. The hard fact remains that 13.1 miles is 13.1 miles, and there is no easy way to get the job done.
I know for certain that at least one runner had to toss her blue-green tutu aside to complete the race. She was no less a princess because of it.