7 Things You Need to Know Before You Run the Disney Princess Half Marathon

Last year I signed up the Disney Princess Half Marathon for two reasons: it is Disney, and it is Children's Miracle Network Hospitals. For 10 years now the Disney Princess Half Marathon has been one of the most magical races there is. And it supports CMNH kids all over the country.

Being that I was Miss Vermont when I signed up, and when I ran, that was a big deal to me.

But this year? This year was going to be my redemption run.

See, last year, I ran into some issues.

So being now that I am this seasoned half-marathoner, I thought I'd give you a quick run-down (lol) about how this runDisney business works.

If you're thinking about running in a Disney event, particularly the Disney Princess Half, this is for you.


1. Set an alarm

Registration happens quickly.

In fact for my first year, I was in D.C. at Miss America orientation, literally eating lunch across from Miss America herself, and registering at the same time. I was frantically texting my mom, and on the website.

This past year was no exception, given that it was the 10th anniversary, it went even faster. With 25,000 people running this race, it gets pretty crazy.


2. Book your trip soon

Unless you're a central Florida resident, you'll be traveling to the race.

Naturally, for me that includes a flight, a hotel, and well, a few days a Disney.

For seasoned Disney-goers, you'll know that peak times like race weekends are no joke in the parks and at the hotels. While we typically stay at Disney's Wilderness Lodge, we opted (twice) to stay at lower cost hotels.


Well, when they host an event like this, they know they can sell out, and yep, the prices sky-rocket.

So for year one we stayed at Art of Animation, and for year two we chose Caribbean Beach.

(If you care, AoA was just not for us. It was a lot of waiting because it is one of the lowest tier hotels. And once we get out of the parks, we would just much rather relax at the hotel. Initially we chose Caribbean Beach knowing that it was under renovation and thus would cost a lot less. I have no complaints, honestly. They made plenty of accommodations considering the amount of construction that was happening, and it really worked just fine for us.)


3.  Train

Look, I'll say this 'til I'm blue in the face, but if you are going to run a half marathon, you need to train for it.

While runDisney events are the best for new runners, and first time half-marathoners, it's still 13.1 miles. In Florida heat, no less.

You've got to start somewhere, and you don't want the first time you run long distance to be at 5:30 AM on the day of the Princess Half.


4. Plan for exhaustion

If you'll be spending days in the parks, you're going to be tired anyways.

But because the race goes through the parks, it starts very early.

We got to the bus stop at 2:50 AM (on Disney property,) and that got us the first bus to the corrals. By the time we got there shortly after 3:00 AM thousands of people were already walking to the holding area.

Now, the first start time isn't until 5:30 AM.

That's right, we killed time for 2 hours before we even started walking to our corrals.

From there, the corrals go off in waves. I didn't even cross the starting line this year until 6:10 AM.

Literally four hours after I woke up.

Then I ran for two hours.

Exhaustion is just part of the package here. When it comes to race days, you should always plan to recover, in some form, for the rest of the day. But with this, oy vey.


5. Plan for crowds

I've been to Disney many times, in many different months. But I have never seen it as busy as it is during race weekend. There are crowds at the parks, crowds for the buses, crowds at the Expo, crowds every where.

This is by no means unmanageable, but it's definitely something you need to know going into it.


6. Plan ahead

I'm happy to say as the resident Field Family Planner, I was totally prepared going into my first Disney Princess Half.

I read a lot of articles. I knew all about arriving for the first bus before 3:00 AM. I knew all about getting into and out of the Expo. I knew what to expect that morning.

(I was still totally dumbfounded by what it looks and feels like to run with twenty five thousand other people.)

Do your research! Do your training runs! Make your dining reservations!

It makes what could be a stressful trip so. much. easier.


7. Make it magical

Listen, Disney does alllll the heavy lifting on this one.

They aren't kidding when they say it's the most magical half marathon, it's really something else.

There are DJs, bands, choirs, characters, fun signage, cast members, and movies playing all through your 13.1 miles.

But it's up to you to embrace the crowds, the heat, the craziness, and have a magical run.


All and all, I totally recommend runDisney events. They are well-executed, well-planned, and well-staffed. They are easy (well, they are flat.) And oh heck, they are fun. 

Would I do another one?

Well, not next year.

But I'm not saying never again!

13.1 Fears

On Sunday, I am running my third half marathon.

And man, that is not a statement I thought I would be writing a few years ago.

Heck, maybe not even a year ago.

It isn't really a secret that I still don't think of myself as an avid runner. And maybe it has more to do with only being two-years-new to long distance running. Which, yes, it is so different. If you can run three miles, congrats, I'm proud of you, that shit is hard. But I promise, it is so so different than running 13.1 miles.


And so with most race days, I get a little anxiety, a little turn of stomach.

It happens.

They are called pre-race jitters.

But I'm going to be dead honest with you, this is the most nervous I have ever been for a race. Ever. And I once ran a half marathon two weeks after returning from Miss America, at a time in which I basically wasn't running at all.

So there are two reasons for this mega case of nerves: I've got a time goal. And, last year, y'all I fought so freakin' hard for a finish.

It took literal blood, sweat, and tears (and damn stress fractured feet) to get across the finish line.

I just keep telling myself, I've done it before. I can do it again. And if I can't, I'll be surrounded by 20,000 people that can help me keep pushing through.

Annnnd I've heard it helps to voice your fears, put a name to them, and then get them the hell out.


1. I could hurt my foot/knee/hip.

What if I freaking do? Run strong, not fast. Pace yourself, listen to your body, and run the race you need to run.

2. The weather might be too hot.

Sister, it's Florida. If anything is going to prepare me for the VCM in May, it's Florida in February. 

3. I might be really slow.

4. What if I can't finish?

5. I think I've heard too many horror stories this year. I keep thinking of all the other race disasters I've seen from fellow runners.

Okay, well mind your own business how about that? If every runner on Instagram's bad endings happen to you, damn sister, you'll have a better story than the whole lot of them.

6. I didn't submit a start time, I could be in a much later corral.

7. It might be harder than I remember.

Girl, without a doubt. But you have literally run this race before, you have already shown yourself you are capable. 

8. Running for two+ hours is so hard, and I haven't done that in a year.

9. My stomach has been crazy during my last few pre-races. What if I can't properly fuel?

10. I know I'm going to be finishing much later than Bfield, they're all going to be waiting around for me at the finish line.

Uh, so? They signed up to come to this just like you.

11. Oh gosh, what if it's not too hot, but it rains?

12. I have had a lot of trouble pacing myself properly in my last few training runs. What if I'm too fast right out of the gate? What if I'm too slow?

13. This race is far away. I could forget my socks. Or my headphones. Or my shoes. 

Or, it could go really well. It could be perfect weather. I could run my strongest race ever. I could finish faster than my goal time. I could come out of it feeling strong and uninjured and fantastic.

It's not going to help me to worry about it now.

I'm going to eat as well as I can, stretch it out, get just a few more miles in, and run the best race that I can run.

Pageant Szn is Coming

I love this time of year.

Why? Because the Miss America state pageant classes are just filling out.


It's this time of year that the final winter locals are held, girls find their state dresses, and talent selections are made.

Obviously, that ship has sailed in my life. But funnily enough I still get questions - probably once or twice a week - about what my life was like then, or more often, why I chose that life for myself. 

I know, we see these posts all the time. Why Miss America? Yes, we saw them even more so after we felt like we had to defend our why. But this time of the year just leaves me all excited and giddy for the girls that are embarking on this for the very first time.

So I thought, if there are any of you out there that are brand new to this, or maybe still toying with the idea of joining us in this wackadoo-sisterhood-of-greatness, I'd share my why one more time.


One of the things I got asked the most during my year as Miss Vermont, and my years competing was, what made you get into pageants in the first place? 

I used to say that I was looking for something to join, to bring me out of my plateau, to give me...well, something to work towards. And that was true.

But I think I really put words to it when I started to say, I saw girls in parades who looked like me, who looked like they came from, where I came from. And those were the girls that were also making a difference. And that was even more true.

I was a sophomore in college who didn't have hobbies, didn't have fitness goals, wasn't in clubs, wasn't branching out. I was just, there. And to be 100% transparent, I issued my first attempt at competition as a challenge to myself.

It was like nothing I had ever done before. I wasn't in talent shows growing up. I didn't ever seek out the spotlight. I wasn't particularly girly or glamourous. And I certainly wasn't considered outgoing.

But I wanted something new. 

So I committed to the Vermont titleholder development program in November of that year, and in May I competed.

And I'll tell you what, I thought I was going to feel lost, and dwarfed, and incapable, and like how would I ever measure up to these seasoned pros? I just...didn't.

The Miss America program as a whole - and particularly the Miss Vermont Organization - are centered entirely around helping young women develop in a way that allows them to access their full potential in every part of their life. That alone fostered the ability in me to get my butt on that stage.

And place 3rd Runner Up in my first pageant ever. 

That was in 2012, and since then a lot has happened in my MAO journey. (For those that are just joining us, I was 3rd RU in 2012, 3rd RU in 2013, won Miss Auburn [NH] in 2014, 2nd RU and overall interview winner in 2014 [NH], and won Miss Vermont in 2016.)

But truly, I love the way that I came into this program, and I love that I did it at all.

Because when I started I didn't have a talent, I had very little service work under my belt, I could barely run a mile, and I was not the girl who thrived in interview.

Today? I still can't sing. Shocker. I have dedicated the last few years of my life to serving others. I have run two half marathons, two 10ks, and almost a dozen 5ks. And every single thing that I have done professionally, I owe to the hundreds of interviews I did within MAO.

Fun fact: for the job I have right now, I had two interviews. The first one happened less than 20 minutes after I completely passed out while donating blood. The second, the morning of a wake for my grandpa. 

I would not have thrived, let alone functioned, in those interviews if not for all of the interviews, all of the development, and all of the self-reflection and growth that came from being in the Miss America Organization.

And I feel like every year we get to this point, and we all have that one (or five, whatever) girl that we're dying to see compete. So we talk to them, try to convince them, and they all have two things that they say: I don't have a talent, or I don't have a platform.

Sister, let me be the proof in the pudding, the program will lead you, you only have to be willing to get in.


One of the things I always say when it comes to why + talent, is if you want it, you'll stop saying you don't have a talent.

Listen, I can't dance. Anyone who has ever been forced to do group choreography with me will tell you I cannot dance.

In fact, originally our group at Miss America was supposed to do this complicated beautiful dance in the filmed opening number on the boardwalk. Well, they ended up sticking us in bumper cars. To. This. Day. I think my piss poor dancing skills influenced that decision.

And I certainly cannot sing. Although, anyone who has ever been forced to be in rehearsals with me will tell you that certainly doesn't stop me from trying.

But I found something I was passionate about (reading, and the written word,) and I found my talent.

Your talent is the part that shows the judges you know how to work. It shows them you have the dedication to practice something. It shows them you are committed to learning something. And it shows them that you can get joy out of those things.

It shouldn't really be something that just comes so easily to you that 90 seconds on that stage doesn't freak you out.

And yes, there are more talents than singing and dancing. (Piano, speed painting, spoken word poetry, monologues, gymnastics, science, karate, flute, violin, twirling, skating, fencing, ventriloquism, sign language, hula, and harp. And also maybe a 1000 more.)


And then, there's the second part of that: why + platform. 

Which, I get. Coming into an organization where some girls already had decades of service work on their resumes was terrifying.

But here's the thing, service and platform work is about the heart you put into it.

Time matters, yes. But the why behind your platform, the why behind the hours you put into it - that matters far more. Because when we talk about our why in the Miss America Organization, it is never us.

Did I get into this because I wanted to try something new? Totally. But that is sure as hell not why I stayed.

I stayed because of the opportunities to serve others. I stayed because of the sisterhood. I stayed because I knew that if I kept going, I was going to keep getting chances to change things for other people. I stayed because my why became, look what I can do for others through this program. 

So, yes, my platform changed since I started. Yes, I totally thought I was coming in dead last when it came to service hours.

My platform became a piece of who I am every day - and then, well, it is much harder to fit on your resume, but it is a heck of a lot easier to say what you're about.


So, circling back: why did I make this part of life, and where does it stand in my life now?

I got into it on a whim, and committed to it because I saw in one six month period how drastically different my life was because of the program.

The Miss America Organization afforded me the opportunity to get dream jobs, to meet people, to go places, to serve others, to grow in a community, and to be completely college debt-free before my 25th birthday.

The state level pageants are what really counts for 90% of the girls that are involved in MAO. And thank goodness for that. Because it is the volunteerism, the selflessness, the community, and the downright love at the local and state level that makes the difference.

I know that I would not have had the success that I had as Miss Vermont, or in the Miss Vermont Organization, were it not for the people that donated their time, their efforts, their things, their money, and their love to the cause.

So, where does it stand now?

Well, I'm outta the game, for sure.

I don't have much involvement on the state level at all right now, truthfully. By choice, 100%. I work full time, and for some personal reasons I felt as though I needed to step pretty far back.

But both programs still hold such a wonderful place in my heart.

So I still answer the questions as they come, and I'll always still help those that reach out. Because if nothing else, I would just love if everyone got the chance to see how...how different your life is once you challenge yourself to be part of The Miss America Organization.

Being Alone: Soon with Bonus Pup

Alright. January, how'd it go? What happened?

A lot...and kind of nothing new at the same time.

Piper Kate was born. I won The Office trivia at Waterworks (with a wonderful team.) I spent New Years at home. I went to Chicago for the first time. I started running a lot more, and joined a new gym. I tried aerial yoga. I dedicated the home screen of my phone to Oprah. I started two new podcasts. Finished a super long Stephen King book.

And you know, spent most of my time alone. 

Which, I suppose, isn't too new. But I think, especially in the last five days or so, it has just felt so heavy. I think it has just been a lot more present - a lot more obvious that it is just me.

So what do you do, right?

Anything. Anything to keep you busy, anything to get you out of bed, anything to keep your brain moving past the feeling of being supremely and entirely alone.


1. Workout:

I have been going to the gym a lot. To the gym, to the yoga studio, to the treadmill in my parent's basement - the quickest way for me to empty my head is to get my body to work.

Does it always make me feel better? No. Man, it's depression, working out doesn't cure you. 

But it helps. It gets me out of the house. It gets endorphins flowin'. It gives me an accomplishment to check of my daily list of "things you should do to feel better."


2. Make plans:

One the quickest ways for me to ruin a weekend - Wait. Side note. Are weekends the hardest for anyone else? Because seriously, they have been the worst for me recently - is for me to go into it without a very specific plan.

Workouts, dinners out, day trips, errands - whatever it is, I need to plan it.

Otherwise? I'm spending 48 hours in bed, wallowing, alone, and upset that I've let myself do it all over again.

So, I schedule classes at Sangha, and map out when I go to the gym, and decide where I am going out to eat. It doesn't always involve a million mini details, but it gives me a little blueprint that says, get your ass out of bed to you have things to get done. 


3. Keep a routine:

Get up. Make coffee. Eat breakfast. Shower. Listen to podcasts. Go to the gym. Get a fun lunch. Do your laundry. Clean your room. Go grocery shopping. Don't stay up until 2 AM just because you can.

It seems like such an easy thing, to keep a routine on the weekend.

But honestly, there are so many simple ways to get derailed. And keeping a routine not only keeps you busy (and out of bed,) but it gives a map for things you already can and do regularly on your own.

Which, sure, you might not love every moment of grocery shopping by yourself. But it doesn't have to be painful - it doesn't have to be a trigger.


Being alone, sucks. It sucks when you are depressed, and when you aren't. It sucks when you have anxiety, and when you don't.

But I have long said that there is a lot of power in being able to thrive on your own too. That is still true for me. It's still how I press reset. Being alone is still something I know how to enjoy.

Remembering that lonely is not the same thing as being alone, that has been...y'all it seems so simple, but it has been so critical to moving through this.

It is moving past the notion of I am always alone to right now I am okay by myself. 

Like anything else, it is a habit to be learned. Like anything else, it takes time.

Did I necessarily think that it was going to take me this freaking long to learn how to get used to it all over again? Honestly, no.

It has though. It has taken a long time. And I still don't have the perfect solution for you.

But dang if I am not trying every single one that I can to get through this.


Wait, sorry, one thing to add before I post this: at some point soon we're going to talk about dating again (I'm not) and using apps for that (also not) and what it looks like to be nearly 26 and very very very single again (I am) and why that feels a lot like I ought to just build myself a convent in the mountains and call it what it is (I'm thinking about it.)


With that in mind I want to share one more thought:

The Piper Kate

I don't know if you have been living under a rock...but, I'm getting a puppy! 

And y'all have been almost as excited as me, and have asked so many wonderful questions, that I thought I'd throw them all here, hit you with a bunch of pics, and basically tell you all about Piper Kate.


When did you decide to get a dog?

Well, in the middle of December, I messaged a family friend asking if a puppy from her current litter was still available - on a total whim. My thought process was super simple, if this puppy is available, she is for me, it is meant to be. If not, it's not.

She wasn't available.

But! There was another litter due in the same home, just a month later - and that is precisely when I knew I was going to get one of those puppies.

What kind of dog is she?

She's a Goldendoodle!

When will you bring her home? 

Mid-March. I know, it's been a little confusing since I've literally visited her every week since she was born. (I actually "met" her for the first time when she was less than 24 hours old, and about cried when I did.)

Where are you getting her from?

A family in Montpelier, that I have known for literally 20 years.

And here's my favorite part of Piper Kate's story: the house where she was born, is where I learned to love dogs, and really, love Goldens.

Many many many moons ago they had the sweetest, most mellow, and wonderful dog: Cassie. And Cassie is the first dog that I not only tolerated, but enjoyed, wanted to be around, and felt comfortable and at ease with.

Did I mention we've always been a cat family? Well, we have. 

Through the years there have been a lot more wonderful dogs to come out of that house, one of which I even lived with for two years. And all in all, if you're going to bring home a puppy, this is the home you want them to come from. Trust.

Okay. She has...two names?

Yes, she has two first names. Move on.

What are you going to do about work etc.? 

Well, she's getting certified as an emotional support animal for one, so she'll come with me as much as necessary.

For two, she'll go to daycare on wedding nights in the summer, and I know a certain younger brother and roommate that really cannot wait to take her and snuggle her to their hearts content.


And that's about it right now! As you can tell, I cannot wait to bring her home. And smoother her with love. And shower her with toys. And basically cuddle her at all times.

Good Days Come, Good Days Go

Talking about the ebb and flow of depression is really weird, and pretty difficult.

In part I think it is obvious why, right? Because some days are easier than others. Some days are downright hard. And on a day when the fog just is not lifting, and it isn't even like you want to cry, but you just feel like you are in pain because you exist - that's not a day that I can talk about it.

I do think though, that explaining that the flip side of that coin isn't a happy go-lucky girl with no cares in the world, is important.

we need to talk about depression gif

Because that's just not the case.

There are good days of depression.

But that really means that I get out of bed a little easier, don't cry before say 10 PM, and eat three regular meals without anxiety.

A good day of depression is going to the gym, or yoga, and not crying about my fears or my inadequacies or my constant desire to be alone in my warm bed. A good day of depression is eating breakfast, and just being okay with it. A good day of depression is putting on a little makeup, because I want to.

On those days, I still feel like there is a gaping hole in my chest.

On those days, I still feel like there is an entire second me that has to operate and get through the day.

On those days, I still get painfully lonely. I still cry. I still struggle to make sure that I do the things that I am supposed to do, the things that make me happy, the things that keep me healthy.

But on those days, there is a little less weight on my heart. There is a little more clarity.

For what it's worth - there's no real timeline to this either. I'm not sure if I've ever explained that. But I think it is mostly clear to you all this is not about a broken heart, or the end of a relationship, or even about cold weather. Have those things made me sad? Sure. But that's not depression.

Just because I'm somewhat stable as a single girl again, doesn't mean I don't have depression.

Just because the sun has been out for the last three days, doesn't mean I don't have depression.

There doesn't have to be a reason for a depressive episode. And there isn't ever a hard and fast end date. Because here's the kicker, it is going to come when it comes, and go when it goes.

So there it is, the ebb and the flow.

Some days I feel like I am going to be on my own for the rest of my life.

And some days I laugh and go for long runs, and it for a while, it is like my brain isn't attacking my body. Those days, sometimes, like right now, come in little bursts. Little 48 or 72 bursts of goodness. And sometimes it's 9 bad days in a row and you run away to Chicago to catch your breath and remember what genuine freakin joy feels like.


Totally different...

I'm including the treadmill workout I did the other night here, because let me tell you, it was so much easier and more enjoyable than I thought it would be. And y'all deserver a run like that to.

60 seconds at 6.5 MPH
30 seconds at 7.2 MPH
60 seconds at 6.7 MPH
30 seconds at 7.5 MPH
60 seconds at 7.0 MPH
30 seconds at 8.0 MPH

Rest for 2 minutes (I jogged at 5.5 MPH) Repeat 4 times.

Also you should totally modify based on your own speed. I'm slow. And frankly, that's because that is where I am comfortable. And it is what makes me a happy runner. But! If you're fast, be fast!

Chicago, Just Because

29 days before I landed in Chicago for the first time, I decided I would go to Chicago for the first time. Which is obviously not exactly like me. Me, the planner of all things.

And not to give y'all the wrong idea, I'm not rolling in cash. I got my flights all with frequent flyer miles, and it cost me $21 in taxes and insurance. That's it. 

So what was the plan? Pretty much, to go into without a plan.

I needed a break from being, well, here. I needed to be with friends. I needed to try something new. And dangit, I really needed some good pizza.

Lucky for me, I had two friends I have known for ages (living together!) in Chicago, it was somewhere I had never been, and yeah, there is a lot of pizza out there.


We Ate:

Madison Tavern : About 1 hour after I landed, and after thawing out in a Starbucks (grabbing yet another "medicine ball tea," big fan,) I made my way up West Madison to grab lunch with Danielle.

And, if you have ever woken up at 3:00 AM, flown all the way to Chicago, and only had a banana and Goldfish, you might know how hungry I was. So I inhaled my Cuban sandwich, and we hit the very tip of the iceberg when it came to all the catching up we had to do.

Big Star : After grabbing the bus (!!!) home and finally also hugging Kendra, we headed out to dinner. Big Star was billed as "Tacos, Whiskey & Honky Tonk," I was in.

But you know what sealed the deal? When we found a seat at the bar, and started to order our margaritas, and the waitress simply said, "How 'bout a pitcher?" Baby, how 'bout it. 

So a pitcher of margaritas, loads of chips (and killer guac!) and plenty of tacos later, I sold my heart to Chicago, officially.

Kanela Breakfast Club : Knowing that you're getting the local's "best of the best," is hands down the best part about going to new places with people that already live there. And that's what we got when we went to breakfast Saturday morning (but also, with every stop we made.)

Y'all the menu was unreal, (two of us got the Loraine Scramble, and honestly, I have never loved eggs more.) And they were playing Disney movies behind the bar. But not just regular ol' Disney movies, they were playing them on VHS TAPES. 

Not kidding.

Mahalo : A dinner place with the most Rylee-aestetic ever? Sign me up. 

We had a drink in a pineapple, bomb fried rice, potstickers, wings, and a very shameless photoshoot on their swings that are inside the restaurant. Yeah.

It was just enough food to tide us over before our late night adventure at Bub City.

Did you think I was going to find my way to a country bar and eat atomic cheese while listening to a cover band? You did? Good freakin' call. 

By the way, they have group moscow mules at Bub City, and if you've got $55 it is all yours (and 7 of your closest friends.)

Fairgrounds: On Sunday morning we bundled up for brunch at the coolest coffee place in Wicker Park.

They had cold brew, on. tap.

We grabbed paninis, coffees, and breakfast sammies, and thawed out again while watching the line of pour-over coffees. 

Pequods: And to top it all off, we ended with Chicago deep-dish. (Well, we started with some bomb cheesy garlic bread, because you know how I roll.)

I have nothing to say other than I housed two pieces and had never been happier. 


We Went:

So, I went to the Chicago History Museum by myself on Monday before flying out. You might remember that Monday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

What a day to be at the museum. Of course, it was wildly busy. But they also had a lot of special exhibits up featuring MLK and perspectives on race and race relations in America.

We also went and got our nails done. As someone who is totally gun-shy of getting her nails done in Burlington, this was a total treat.

And! I also - obviously? - went to The Bean! And y'all saw that I nabbed a photo when no one was around. But yes, the tourists showed up too.

Overall, do I recommend a quick trip to Chicago?

Yes, duh.

But overall, this was more about me being about to do something new, being able to get away, being able to take a breather from being alone and sad in bed.

And it was perfect. It was friendship, and food, and finding my way around the city.