#VirtualRunDisney Blog Hop: Are you still a Princess if you don’t wear a tiara?

It’s time for another runDisney race, and that means it’s time for another #VirtualRunDisney Blog Hop. Hosted by the lovely ladies over at Distherapy and Margaritas, Miles & the Mouse. Visit their blogs, and click on the link below to revel in the goodness that is the Virtual runDisney Blog Hop!

Virtual Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend Blog Hop Directory
Click the link and explore a wealth of knowledge!

Let’s get one thing out of the way, right away. I am not a “girly” girl. I live in workout clothes, I really only wear make-up for special occasions or on stage, I don’t do jewelry and I don’t “squee”.

Oh, I may have had my flashes, as a little girl. I loved my dolls and stuffed animals, but I really, really loved my remote control jeep. There was nothing better than tumbling around, tangle-haired with the dogs.

I didn’t understand why Cinderella was so keen on putting on a (admittedly pretty) dress and going to the ball to find a man when she could hang around in her bare feet with her animal friends who could MAKE CLOTHES. Dude. I’d hang out with those critters and get a clothing shop going! I don’t think they can call it a sweat shop if the workers are incapable of sweating, right?

Yes, Mr. Bird, I think this spring we'll focus on Nautical Themes. Pinafores for Everyone!
Yes, Mr. Bird, I think this spring we’ll focus on Nautical Themes. Pinafores for Everyone!
photo credit: Express Monorail via photopin cc

Honestly, “Princess” has always had a negative connotation to me – princesses were entitled, spoiled prissies. They weren’t tough. After all, who hasn’t heard the dismissive term, “Suck it up, Princess”. I didn’t want to be a Princess…


Wait. Leia! She was a Princess, and she was tough as hell. She may have been rescued on that Star Destroyer, but she also did her fair share of rescuing. She rescued people in totally bad-ass ways.

Ooh, girl! How'd you get out of wearing a corset? photo credit: Wickerfurniture via photopin cc
Ooh, girl! How’d you get out of wearing a corset?
photo credit: Wickerfurniture via photopin cc

But I digress.

The Princess Half Marathon was my very first race, back in 2012. Back then, I had no idea that people dressed up in costume to run these races, so imagine my amusement when this moderately cynical comedian saw gals (and guys) toeing the line all decked out as their favourite Disney Princess. So much pink! So much tulle! So many tiaras! (And I privately worried that some may have focussed more on the “Princess” end of the race and less on the “Half Marathon” end of it and would end their morning wearing a huge tutu and crying on a sweeper bus).

I thought the sweepers were farther back... photo credit: Falling Sky via photopin cc
I thought the sweepers were farther back…
photo credit: Falling Sky via photopin cc

But then, I saw the sparkle in their eyes and their pure joy as they ran from photo opportunity to photo opportunity.

Was I missing something by being a fuddy-duddy? Was my instinctive “women don’t need rescuing by princes” independent streak making me miss the point? Was I taking the “Princess” thing too literally? (My mom wouldn’t let us watch “All In the Family” because it was “sexist” – totally missing the point, and it wasn’t until I learned what ‘satire’ was that I understood humour could be a powerful tool…)

I admit, I personally struggle with the portrayal of women, the occasional lack of depth of character in Disney’s earlier Princesses along with a lot of our popular culture, but that’s my hang-up. I’m pretty loose with my brand of feminism, but I know (and YOU know) we’re more than shoes and glitter. That by calling a race “woman themed” and branding it with swirly font and lots of pink and soft purples does not, somehow diminish the actual physical feat of racing for 13.1 (or 6.2, or 19.3) miles.

Hey, I’m no hater. Who am I to judge a hard-working mom, a highly successful career woman, an athlete or a first time runner if they wanted to add a little escapism to their run? What’s the harm in dressing up as your daughters’ favourite princess (or fairy) if she’s watching you accomplish an amazing physical feat AS that character? It shows that you can’t judge a book by it’s delicate cover, and you just made Cinderella 100% more bad-ass by throwing away some stupid, impractical glass shoes.

The real Glass Slipper Challenge? WALKING. photo credit: mich&pics via photopin cc
The real Glass Slipper Challenge?
photo credit: mich&pics via photopin cc

The truth is, when I ran the Princess Half Marathon in 2012 I learned that the women around me were better than “Princesses”. They were all bad-asses. They worked their butts off through the fall and winter (or longer). Through family conflicts, through work emergencies, through injuries, illnesses and personal struggles. They were pushing their bodies to do things that some of them had never thought possible. Some were running for their families, some were running for charities but most importantly they were all running for themselves.

We we were all discovering our potential. Learning a little bit about our own true, personal power.

And that. That is a crowning achievement if I’ve ever heard one.

photo credit: Robynlou8 via photopin cc
photo credit: Robynlou8 via photopin cc

I’ll see you at the start line for the Glass Slipper Challenge this year. I may not be dressed as a princess, but I will give hearty fist-bumps and admiring hugs to those who are.

Do you think “Woman Themed” races are any less ‘legit’ than co-ed races? Do we need them?


tabethawells View All →

I am an actor/writer/director based in Chicago, IL.

41 Comments Leave a comment

  1. I can totally relate to this post. I too was not a girly girl. While I still had a few Barbies, they were over powered by the Planet of the Apes collection. I had the ugly soldier ape while my brother had the cuter, more cuddly Cornelius. I choose Raggedy Ann as my Halloween costume, while my friend Melissa opted for Cinderella. I played in the dirt, and went fishing with my dad. Princesses? What were those? I thought of them little until I saw The Little Mermaid which is today, still my favourite Disney animated movie. Even though she’s noted a Princess by Disney, I don’t see her that way. She was a mermaid looking for a different life, not willing to settle for the one she was given. She wanted to be a part of something new. Sure, she went off and married a Prince, but I don’t think that initiated the inner drive she had to reach for the impossible; to be something, her family frowned upon. As far as dressing up as a princess and running a Disney race goes. I haven’t done it. I won’t say never, but the thought hasn’t crossed my mind just yet. Even with my affinity to Ariel, I can’t see myself in a mermaid tail, and sea shells on my girly parts. For most, I think dressing up as a princess at these races, is just for fun. Perhaps they just like the costume, or have the same colour hair to pull off being Snow White or Cinderella. Perhaps dressing up, is really just a celebration of their training and their commitment to the race. Several weeks of training, let’s go to the ‘ball’, and give er’ like we haven’t before. Yes, I think all “Princesses are bad ass”. It’s all about ME on race day no matter what I wear. Dressing up in costume, is for me, a celebration. Bring on the celebratory Power ade, and ‘suck-it-up’ running gels as my symbolic champagne. Nobody really likes champagne, but we drink it to celebrate a moment as I think is what those costumes represent. 🙂 “Fist Pumps” for all!

    • LOL – you said it, Deb!

      I’ve seen some pretty cute Ariel costumes out there, but they definitely require a certain amount of confidence and faith in the fortitude of the costume pieces…

  2. I think a race is a race, regardless of who the target market is. I think the costumes just give the participants a small opportunity to really embrace costumes as there aren’t many opportunities for adults to dress up in a fun way without being mocked. That is the one thing I like about Disney (and arguably their races)–you can embrace your inner kid and it is totally ok. I have dressed up for 3/4 of my runDisney races, but my costumes were not elaborate nor did they hamper my running as I run Disney races for time rather than character photos (rare, I know). I think that, at the end of the day, you do what is comfortable for you. Oh and I already have plans to have champagne with my Run Club, post Princess in 2015! Woo!

    • Ooh – post race champagne! I’m in!

      I will say, I love seeing the costumes that people put together. I’m blown away by the creativity…

      My plan is to run the Half for time this year, but we’ll see if the course helps me out at all – gets a bit crowded, and I’m in corral I

      • I had post race champagne after running a New Year’s 5K in -40 degrees and I only did it for the champers!

        The creativity with the costumes is amazing and the fearlessness (because of the chafe potential).

        I find the courses give me great energy and my excitement carries me pretty far. I have also been fortunate to be in the early corrals, so I haven’t had as many issues with crowds as others have, which is huge. I think you can still run for time and be in corral I, you just need to really be aware of your surroundings and look for your opportunities to get around big groups. Good luck!!! 🙂

  3. You just wrote about me. I cannot believe I am not the only one who felt that way. I feel so differently now. I am actually going to be purchasing my very first Sparkle Athletic skirt for PHM soon….ME…A SKIRT? and running?…..I love this post with all my heart ❤

    • You just made my morning.

      I have 3 Sparkle Skirts now, which I love wearing for races (and playing golf, and walking around parks…)
      I never thought I’d be a skirt wearer, but they are so comfortable!

      I’ve got my eye on Sparkle Athletic, too. They’d be great over my favourite capris.

  4. Yep — I know what you mean! I definitely never considered myself a “girly girl” growing up, and the idea of the Princess Half (my first half!) sounded fun, but I have to admit I wasn’t SO into the theme at first. But I decided to go with it — I put together a costume and got to that starting line, and like you said, saw that in the midst of all the tutus and tiaras what I was really seeing were a bunch of awesome, bad-ass women who were about to celebrate this incredible achievement! I love PHM and everything it represents now. 🙂

    • The closest I’ve come to a tiara is looking at the cute tiara BondiBands at the expo, but then I found black band with a glitzy skull and crossbones wearing a pink bow.

      So much more my style…

      I do like the levity that costumes bring!

  5. I’m not super girly, though I have my moments. That said, you are not going to see me getting up early to do my hair or makeup before a race. But you’re right, there’s something fun about the combo of girly and bad-ass that makes these sort of races a lot of fun. (But I agree – some focus too much on being girly and cute and not enough on the training.)

    • I think that’s it – there’s the expression of the complexity of being a woman that happens. Girls can be “Girly”, but tough as nails, too.

      That’s what I took away from my first race, and it is pretty encouraging.

  6. I won’t be dressed as a princess… or dressed up at all. I like little girl things, like painting my nails and wearing pink and yes, I do like tiaras… but I’m much more of a sporty girl and when I’m racing, I want to feel like an athlete! So I will be there in my shorts, and my race singlet and ready to run 🙂

    Power to all the ladies out there

    • I hear you – I love to have a game-face when I’m running!

      I’m going to try out Jamberry instead of a manicure this year since regular manicures seem to shred my nails for some reason.

  7. I am a girly-girl, but I also love dressing up as villains a lot. Plus I think I’m pretty bad-ass. I hope to pound it with you at PHM 🙂

  8. Wow! Amazing post. My mom is a huge feminist who raised me with princesses surprisingly. She always deemed me a warrior princess. I was the kid in a tinkerbell out fit with a pirate sword. Its great to show all these your girls that pretty princess and kick ass women are one in the same and I think we all get a chance to do that! Tiara or not every lady out there pounding pavement is a super hero warrior princess to every little girl watching!

  9. Love love love this!

    I guess I would consider myself a girly-girl, and being that’s what the Princess Half was marketed as actually deterred me from wanting to run it! Too much estrogen in one place can be a bad idea. . . but I decided to run it anyway last year and honestly, it’s now one of my favorite runDisney events.

    • LOL – there is definitely no shortage of estrogen at the Princess Half. I’ve run two other “women focussed” races since the Princess in 2012, and the Princess was clearly the “frilliest” of the races, but I had a great time at all of them.

  10. Although I am definitely a girly-girl, I am also a feminist (in the true, humanist sense of the word). I never wanted to be rescued, I have always felt frustrated when I feel men condescend to women instead of valuing their opinions according to their expertise, and I am against any person being objectified. That being said, I love pink, sparkles, and Disney.

    I totally agree with you that we all have our own reasons for running this race for ourselves. This race has really made me push myself, and there is nothing like seeing measurable, consistent progress (I did not start running until September of this year)–progress that I know I have achieved entirely through my own efforts. I am so excited to meet other women who have been transformed by their own running experiences!

    • I love your input! There is a part of me that fights against the pink/sparkly internally. I’m not going to lie, I enjoy pink, but I also resent the fact that most sporting equipment for women comes in pink – like, “look ladies, this is for YOU because it’s PINK”.

      It drove me nuts when I was buying golf clubs. I ended up with pink because that was my only option, not because I wanted pink and now I look like a girly-girl who doesn’t need to be taken seriously.
      I’ll thank you to not take me seriously because I’m just learning golf, not because my clubs are pink if you don’t mind!

  11. I’m a total girly girl – I did whatever I had to do to get out of gym class in high school (it interfered with my reading time LOL!). For me, the Princess branding does have value. It makes these races a little more approachable for women like me who wouldn’t otherwise go anywhere near a sporting event. I may never run a marathon, but if I were, it would be a runDisney event, just because the Princess theming makes it less intimidating. I don’t feel like I’d be totally out of place…if I were to walk into a regular marathon event, I’m pretty sure they’d take one look at me and say “Are you *lost,* Princess?” 🙂

    • That is definitely where I see the value of the women’s/Princess theming. If it gets women out there and valuing themselves, then it’s all good.

      And I think you’ll find that most (MOST) races welcome athletes of all shapes and sizes. After I ran the Princess, I found a women’s 10K in Toronto to see if I really liked running “for real” or if it was just because of Disney. I went alone and had a wonderful time, and I was a true back-of-the-pack runner.
      Every race I’ve done since then, even though I’m slow, I’ve felt supported and welcome. I give love and support and get it back…
      I have also been known to check the previous year’s results to see how I compare and if I think I’ll feel comfortable based on how many other runners came in around my speed.
      (I got out of gym all the time in high school, too – I ended up doing a very detailed report on volleyball in order to not have to play).

  12. GREAT post….funny entertaining and from the heart. You crack me up, but so true, room for all at the races, want to dress up great…don’t want to who cares! I like dressing for the disney races because well I am super slow and just get out there for fun.

  13. So glad to hear that I am not going to be the only one running for time. After reading all of the blogs about PHM I felt like not stopping would be sacrilegious to this race. I am going to enjoy my girls weekend, a little partying, and putting on a yellow Belle skirt, but the race is still a race to me and I am out to rock this race! Have fun!

  14. Tabetha- what a thoughtful, funny and poignant post- I’m so glad this is the Virtual Disney Princess Half Marathon Blog Hop grand finale, because it IS! I, too, have never squeed, and ran my first runDisney 5K wearing my best black Under Armour garb with a freshly scrubbed face. More the “Queen Mother” than a princess, I do now own several tutus, but I know that jarring image is juxtaposed against my 13.1; my peers can’t come close to either! Thank you so much for making us think, making us laugh and for your virtual fist bump!!!

  15. Great post! I will be running PHM with my daughter. It will be her first half, and she has proved to me what badass she is by getting through her training as the Polar Vortex took hold of Michigan. (Last week, she did 11 miles on the treadmill!) We will be running as Rapunzel, who can kick butt with a frying pan! I can’t wait for her to experience her first half marathon and I know that it will change how she feels about herself. Being a 14 year old girl can be difficult, but when that 14 year old girl is also a half marathon finisher, look out, world!

    • I’ve got so much respect for my treadmill sisters. Since I work on a ship for much of the year, I’ve spent countless miles treadmill running, watching people come into the gym, complete their workouts and be replaced by whole new groups of gym-goers. It feels like you’re stuck in a time-lapse movie, sometimes.

      I’m in Toronto, so I’ve bought a two week “trial” at a local gym to save myself from the very slippery cold sidewalks of our neighbourhood as well… $15 well spent.

      And congratulations on sharing such an amazing experience with your daughter. I wish I had that example growing up, I can only imagine the level of confidence this accomplishment will give your daughter.

      Big fist-bumps for both of you! Have an awesome race!

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