The impact we had on others during this race was an unexpected, flattering, and emotional surprise for all of us. What started as a silly joke to laugh at ourselves ended up encouraging others around us through our humor and energy.
It was never about getting a medal for our group. It was about the laughs. And I’m glad we were able to bring that to so many others.
The kind words from everyone, the many posts online of and about us, and the overwhelmingly positive response made our decision to continue this idea next year and beyond an easy one.
So I just recently returned from Orlando where I competed in the DisneyWorld Princess Half Marathon. I know a lot of people laughed when I said I would be doing a race that was such a short distance, and also a Disney race.
For those who don’t know me, I’ve never been big on the idea of “Pay to Run” (by myself). And the races I have started to compete in recently are 140 mile Ironman triathlons – I have three Iron races I’m doing later this year, actually.
The reason I’ve never been keen on paying to run is because I don’t feel like going and running a race by myself just to get a medal, and my newer hobby of triathlons is ridiculously expensive. But as an ex-cast-member the appeal of doing a Disney race with my old lifeguard buddies was still there.
Click the break to read more about our experience as #PrincessMen at runDisney’s Princess Half Marathon!
How it started:
Entering the Princess Half came about because my mother (who also does triathlons, century rides, and marathons) wanted to enter the Tinkerbell Half here in California purely for the medal (to add to her huge collection of century ride and marathon medals). I told her I would enter with her for the Tink and run it at her pace so she had company – I live in Los Angeles so it’s also a local race for me.
And then I had an idea…
I knew that Disney has a Coast to Coast medal (even though I had never actually run a Disney race I was very familiar with them). So why not plan a trip with my friends back to Orlando, one of our reunion type of trips, and do the race? I already had an idea of which friends would likely commit and which would not.
But if we were to run in the Princess Half we would do it in drag. As Princesses.
This was the rule I decided to set.
And I knew my friends were all going to be willing to do it.
..and so #PrincessMen was born
1. Getting everyone on board
Signups are about EIGHT months early. So I had to start asking immediately since I thought of this idea in May 2014 for the February 2015 race. I needed to get people on board with the idea (this was the easy part) and also be ready to drop nearly $200 on the entry (the harder part).
There were three friends of mine that I knew immediately would be on board. Beau, my best friend from working at Disney who is always down for any trip, adventure, or idea I have. Aaron, the only person in our group that runs anywhere near the amount that I do. And Joe, who always says “well anything in Florida we do as a group I have no excuse to miss..”
From there our group expanded with others from our old lifeguard crew. Chris and his wife in Maryland pushed their vacation out about six months to coincide with the race. Ryan in North Carolina decided he would train and rehab his knees (after years of wakeboarding damage) to be ready to run with us. And Naidymar, the only other seriously athletic girl in our group signed up herself and her fiance. Joe’s girlfriend also signed up early with Joe. And our group was set!
Picking Princesses ended up being hilarious as we talked through them over a group text-chat. I picked Jasmine since I figured I should be a darker princess since I’m darker than my friends. Beau called dibs on Pocahontas cuz he thought a dress would be funny. Joe called dibs on Belle. Through the group messages about this we told Aaron he had no choice but to be Ariel since he used to play Prince Eric at WDW years ago. Someone told Chris he had to be Mulan, Chris thought it’d be hilarious and said he was down.
Erin asked which Princesses were left so she could pick one and I said “Oh no, you have to be a guy… you can’t be a Princess”, so she went with Beast since her boyfriend was Belle. Ryan called dibs on Anna, and later Ric chose to join him as Elsa. Naidymar later checked in to see who was left for her and Alex to dress as. After one of our friends didn’t sign up, that released Cinderella and Charming, who Naidymar chose for the two of them.
And after that, it was just a waiting game.. it was only mid-summer at this point.
I was pretty positive I knew who would train and how much they would train.. and my early guesses turned out to be pretty accurate, although a couple of my friends surprised me.
Me… I wasn’t going to train at all. I did an IRONMAN in November and run 5-7 miles several times a week as my normal workout along with swimming and cycling. Beau/Pocahontas is a Master Trainer at 24hr Fitness and gym manager here in Southern California, I knew he wouldn’t train for this. Aaron/Ariel knocks out 5-8 mile runs once/twice a week, he wouldn’t be doing additional training either. Joe/Belle & Erin/Beast I knew would train as things got closer, probably in Jan/Feb since Erin has run Disney races before and knows the drill. And I knew Joe would make sure to get some distance runs in to be ready endurance-wise. Ryan/Anna I knew would be very diligent about his training because he had to properly rehab his legs and make sure he could physically handle the distance without hurting himself. I was still surprised to hear how well Ryan’s training went leading up to the race. Chris/Mulan surprised me with his dedication and the amount of distance training he did both in and out of the gym as the race approached. I also never doubted Naidymar as she’s always been the most fit female in our group.
I knew exactly what I was going to do for a costume. I was going to buy a women’s Jasmine costume and wear it. I was going to look legit. And I knew Beau would buy a women’s Pocahontas costume and do it with me.
I also new that the rest of the guys would commit at the same level once they saw how serious we were taking it – because we’re pretty much a group of brothers separated at birth and by several thousand miles.
Wigs. We decided we were going to wig-out and go Full-Princess on this run. “let’s do it. fully legit” we said in our group texts.
4. Race Weekend
This was when things got much more fun – we were all once again in the same city.
That’s the hardest part about living so far from friends that I consider family. We see each other once a year if we’re lucky.
We hit the Expo on both Friday and Saturday since our friends had different plans and we wanted to try and go with everyone. This trip was a small vacation for some of the group, so some people had plans to hit the parks in addition to the run.
First check in day
At check in the next day with Joe, Erin, Naidymar, Ric… since our group all checked in at different times not everyone was there at the same time for a group shot with our bibs. Oh well!
5. Race Day
What a terribly early morning.
Seriously. I got up earlier for this half marathon than I got up for the Ironman triathlon four months ago. Ha! The time change was pretty brutal for me and Beau, too, since we both live in Los Angeles. I think we got about 2.5 to 3 hours of sleep.
After we were ready and dressed we headed out the door to drive out to Epcot. We arrived a little early and waited in the car to stay warm – it was somewhat chilly out, and I for one was wearing pretty much all mesh clothing. hahaha!
As soon as we got out of the car – seriously within like 30 seconds – a woman walking by stopped and took a picture with us. We agreed of course, and then laughed that it took no time at all to end up in a photo with someone. I mentioned again that it was pretty likely we were going to be doing that all day.
The impact we had on others…
This whole concept and idea was something that I thought of as a way to have fun with the race day. To do something humorous as a group since we don’t take ourselves that seriously, and also something to entertain others around us. Most of us are quite athletic and this race was never going to be about running for our group – it was about having fun.
What we never planned for was the impact we would have on those around us.
It was not surprising to me that we were asked frequently to take photos with other runners. Honestly we hoped we would get a warm reception by the women running. We’re aware this is a very women-centric event and promotes female strength/girl-power/etc. Out of 24,000 runners that weekend only 8% (or ~2,000) were men.
We seriously under-estimated the amount of ladies that would want pictures, though.
Anytime we stopped for any reason, like if one of our group had to use the bathroom, there was an instant line of people taking pictures with our group!
It was incredibly flattering and also shocking at the popularity of men-as-princesses.
But it wasn’t until after mile 8 that things got interesting.
By the last half of the race we found ourselves getting closer and closer to the back of the overall group. We had stopped for so many photos with people that we fell further and further behind. To be honest some of my friends in our group were getting annoyed that we were going slower than they thought we would – I always figured we would fall far behind if people kept wanting shots whereas a couple friends were having a hard time with their pace being thrown off.
I didn’t care.
It was hugely entertaining
But, that impact on others I mentioned…
I never would have imagined the kind words, positive comments, and impact we would unintentionally have on other runners and the women around us.
Throughout the entire race we were complimented by the women around us. When someone, anyone, would say “You guys look awesome!” we would all turn and yell/cheer back “No! YOU look awesome! You’re doing great, ladies!” and cheer and clap for them.
We stayed upbeat and positive. We sang songs, made jokes, and (again) cheered for anyone that was near us.
One woman around mile 9 or 10 cheered and complimented us, and we cheered back louder for her saying “No, YOU’RE awesome!”.
She broke down into tears.
It was around this point that I believe it really hit everyone in our group that this “fun and silly group event” for us was no longer about us, but rather had morphed into something bigger.
It was about everyone else.
To be blunt, we were now toward the back group where non-runners and non-athletes that were having trouble and possibly struggling to find the strength to keep moving forward.
And this was EXACTLY where our group needed to be it turned out.
We finished the race, as planned, and held hands across the finish line. But I’ll get to that in a minute…
Where we needed to be.
As I just said, we were exactly where we needed to be in this race. At the back, or at least toward the back.
After the race ended we had many different women or groups of women come up to us and thank us for the encouragement and positivity.
We had ladies tell us that they were struggling to keep going, or that they were in pain at mile 9 or 10 and having a rough time. But that when we came slowly jogging through they paced with us and focused on our group as a distraction from their own struggle with the run.
We’ve had people post on social media (Instagram, Facebook, etc) about how they loved our group.
We’ve had people post photos they shot with us complimenting how we were great to run with or keep pace with.
There have been posts and discussions about our group that friends of mine saw and told me about after realizing these complete strangers were saying such great things about us
I never would have imagined that a group of (mostly men) would end up being such a positive force in a mostly-women event.
Whether it was because people needed that little boost of energy as we were so loud and upbeat the whole time. Or maybe because we were among the most costumed people running (not as many people were in full costumes like us, most did that for the 10K). Or perhaps because it’s simply hilarious to see men in women’s costumes, it all turned out to be a much more rewarding experience for everyone than any of us first thought.
Yes, we’ll be back next year.
The amount of positive feedback we have seen online and heard from everyone gave us the easy decision to do this again next year, in costume once more. #PrincessMen will return.
THANK YOU to all you ladies who sought us out for a photo, left kind words and compliments online, contacted me or others on Instagram, shared your pictures of/with us, and have responded so positively to our group of friends and this silly little idea.
This turned out be one of most rewarding trips to Florida that we all have been on.
The unintentional impact on so many people was pretty amazing. Even down to the comments by women who were bummed they didn’t see us and get a photo with us – there’s always next year!
So, again, thank you everyone!
And for those interested, I have uploaded a LOT of photos below from the weekend and our race.
Everyone else’s posts about us
Here’s a collection of screenshots of images people shared of us. I asked online in a runDisney Facebook group for people share images we’re in.
This was right after we went through the gate to get to the paddocks… only made it about 50 ft before we were taking photos
Stopped on the way to the paddocks for a group shot, too
Theresa stopped for a photo with us when we were waiting on one of our group who was in the restroom
Apparently Aaron showed up in this photo twice… creepy smart phones and their photo-stacking…
At another bathroom stop for part of our group. Instant group of people to shoot with any time we stopped!
Out in front of the castle waiting for our turn
Another time we stopped
Walking break for some our group. The girls were wearing heavier jackets so they heated up much quicker than we did.
I know these are out of order from the day, this is earlier in the morning
This is an earlier shot too. Still mist coming off the grass as we make our way to Magic Kingdom
Early shot from the day, approaching MK I think
When we took photos with the Princes about 15 cameras shot up in the air to get a photo of all of us
Another shot of us with the princes! Cristine was in line behind us I think?
Somewhere around mile 9 I started taking group selfies with people’s cameras since I have the longest arms
Danielle posted this shot of me and Beau, which is hilarious since he’s like a brother and this photo would surprise absolutely no one that we did this
Tami and her daughter found us after the race for a photo!
More runners from the race who found us after! Thanks Laurel!
Gail snagged us for a photo as we were walking to the car. Beau nailed that pose in every.single.photo
Here are some of the nice things people were saying about us
We weren’t even aware there were online conversations until a friend of mine in this runDisney group got ahold of me and said our group was being talked about! hahaha!
Here’s a collection of my photos from the weekend of me and the rest of our group through check-in and the race itself, etc.
At LAX, ready to fly to Orlando. Haven’t been to Florida since my IRONMAN race
The following night/morning after picking up Beau at 4a.
Out for a run with Aaron. Short 3 miles shakeout. Beau was still asleep
Aaron painting his seashells
So none of us had actually seen Aaron’s leggings. Oh my god they were hilarious
Beau, sewing a patch in his Pocahontas dress. It was too narrow for his arms/chest/shoulders to fit
Ryan was showing us his work on his Anna costume
Arriving at the Expo for checkin
Here’s the medal we’ll all get
And the new Tinkerbell Half Marathon medal for 2015 that Beau and I will be getting in May.
Heading out, a couple of us all checked in and ready to go
Apparently I could have got a much faster corral placement if I submitted times. No biggie though since we were all staying together and this race wasn’t about running.
Beau and I found our Easter baskets!
For those who don’t get the reference, check this shoot with me/Beau that I did
Shakeout run the next morning. Easy 2 miler. Beau wanted to test a couple pairs of shoes to see which to use for the race.
Group shot at the expo on Saturday with the rest of our group for check-in
Had to get shots with our characters.
Joe with Belle
Me with Jasmine
Aaron with Ariel
Damn… Pocahontas is only on the top banner…
“Beau, we’ll put you on my shoulders… it’ll work”
The 10K medal for the Tinkerbell, wanted to send my family members I’m doing this race with a shot of what they’ll be earning
And my mother and I are doing the Pixie Challenge. So we get this ridiculously huge medal, too
Ric got a shot with Anna on the way out, this was the only poster she was on
It’s about 3am and we’re awake, showered, and getting ready for the day.
Ric was going to be nice and warm for the colder morning with his layers
I was in all mesh though, a little chilly…
Beau gettin zipped up, and laughing the whole time
Then of course Ric needed to get zipped up, too
Ha! They sent me me a hairnet with my wig!
Strike a pose! Gotta send our family some laughs for when they wake up later
Aaron came out to the kitchen fully dressed and ready to go. Ryan was also read in his Anna outfit, too
HAD to do a posed shot of everyone. Aaron even grabbed a fork to pose with
Arriving at the race, grouping up with everyone
After we found and met up with Naidymar and Alex
Our whole group with the friends, family, and wives that came to support!
Waiting in the corrals for the start
Joe and Erin
Our corral was starting, time to slowly start making our way through the gate!
On our way toward Magic Kingdom
Aaron is yelling at the Princes who were there for photos. We decided we’d see them on the way back for a photo
Group shot in front of the MK gates!
Me, Chris and Beau
Making our way into Magic
Turning onto Main Street.
Brandy said that while they were at the end of Main Street the crowd suddenly started cheering and making more noise when we turned the corner and they could hear the change down at their end. Hahaha! Awesome
Shot in front of the castle. This is why I miss my pro cameras and hate my camera phone most all the time.
Ric, waving at Anna and Elsa on the castle!
Group shot in the very front of the castle
Joe needed some help with his dress
So on the way back we waited in line and got photos with the Princes.
John Smith thought it was hilarious and walked up to Beau and walked Beau back in line with him laughing the whole time
BUT LOOK at how uncomfortable Eric is!!! hahahaha!! Eric wanted NOTHING to do with Aaron!
Even Aladdin thought it was funny and walked up to greet me and walk me back to the group, too! He said he thought we all were great
Mile 9ish… still moving along and doing great
Beau… being Beau
This slight incline seemed to demoralize a lot of people we noticed. Everyone around us was very quiet
So we started jogging along and joking again
Lookin great everyone!
So close to the finish but we had to get one more group shot with everyone at Epcot!
It was HOT out at this point. Around 80s at least. We were all sweating and gross – and I was in mesh and STILL hot. Poor Naidymar and Erin (our only two real ladies) were burning up in their prince outfits. But they’re awesome and powered through putting up with the heat and misery for some more photos.
Out in the paddocks we were waiting around and taking pictures with anyone who came up to us. Danielle, Aaron’s wife, came dressed and ready to support her husband from the sidelines as Flounder.
This is a shot from Joe and Erin, and probably one of the funniest images from that afternoon
Our our way out that afternoon
And our medals that we got at the finish
So while some of our friends were at Epcot we were were at Poly having just eaten lunch and laying out enjoying the warm weather.
Erin took this photo a little before I took the one above when she laid down with us.
The next day we spent hanging out with a few friends around property. Stopped by to see our friend Kate while she was at work
Later on we went to play mini golf
Awe, throwback to when I was a Blizzard guard
I have a shot just like this from another trip with Joe, actually. hahaha!
At the end of the night. Beau won, so he’s in front
Anddd finally home in California, after a great trip and awesome time doing the race with everyone…
We’ll be returning..
See you next year everyone!