RunDisney Princesses Run For a Reason

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The Disney’s Princess Half Marathon is this weekend, and both runners and Disney fans alike are all aflutter. Tutus, tiaras, and running shoes are being packed as we speak for the widely anticipated event held annually at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, only one of many RunDisney highly coveted running events hosted each year by Disney Parks. With the race mere days away, we thought we’d introduce you to one of the race’s participants and find out a little bit about her (and her running partners) as she anticipates the big race.

Without further ado, we’d like to share with you an interview with Pocahontas, er, Princess Jasmine, um, we mean Cindy Levin; advocate, activist, runner, mom.

Disney Sisters: Tell us about your relationship with running and more specifically with RunDisney races.

Cindy Levin: I’m not a natural runner, that’s for sure. I ran my first marathon 16 years ago at the 1997 Walt Disney Marathon because I felt I needed to show myself I could achieve something impossible. I hated running and I thought if I could complete a marathon, I would never again say to myself “I can’t do that. That’s too hard.” I was absolutely right and that achievement is at the foundation of many successes in my life. I actually learned to like 3-5 mile runs and it has become an important part of my mental and physical health. I’ve been away from long-distance running for over a decade. I’m returning now post 40th birthday to run for a life-saving cause, Shot@Life, and to inspire my own children to set great goals.

DS: The race that you’re running this weekend is the Disney’s Princess Half Marathon. Have you run it before? Tell us about it.

CL: Actually, I’ve never run the Disney’s Princess Half Marathon! Last time I ran a Disney race, the Walt Disney World Marathon was only 4 years old and not nearly as marketed an event as it is now. At the 2013 Princess Half Marathon, 26,000 princesses (male and female!) will run up World Drive past the Walt Disney World Speedway, through the castle in the Magic Kingdom, past the Polynesian Hotel, and through EPCOT Center to the finish line. I’ve been participating in the DISboard discussion thread for the Princess Half and it’s full of remarkable women doing this race to empower themselves and support each other. I suspect the Avon Breast Cancer walks might be similar, but we’ve got way more tiaras and costume jewelry.

This race is a major physical achievement with a healthy dose of whimsy. We’ll see Disney characters throughout the course and at the finish. The picture stops that most runners anticipate the most are the rare group photos with the villains the Disney princes. Most women at some point in their lives need to confront their demons and some ex-boyfriends on their journeys, so why not symbolically do it all in one race?

I’m also a bit giddy over possibly meeting RunDisney celebrity Sean Astin, of The Goonies and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but I’ll be happiest to see my husband with my girls cheering for me along the course.

DS: This is the first race your daughters are running with you! Share how that came about and what it means to you to have them want to participate.

CL: Last year, when I was running a charity 5K, my eldest said she wanted to run with me. I didn’t want to subject her to a winter morning run in Illinois, so I set up a webpage for her to raise money for running 2 miles around our local track when it was warmer. She excelled and showed me that she could be up to the longer race. Her little sister was very jealous and jumped into run a ½ mile just to show everyone she could. When I discovered the Princess Half Weekend involved kid races, too, I thought it could hold perfect events for each of us: a 400m, a 5K, and a half marathon. This will be a return to long distance running for me, first real races for the girls, a destination with nice vacation, and a symbolic last hurrah for our Princess phase as both girls were starting to say that they were “done with Princesses” and “into Pokemon.”

Because my daughters don’t know of a time when I was not a runner, they say sweet things like “When I grow up, I want to run like you.” I see I’ve become a better, healthier person and that they perceive it as a normal way to be. I’m happy I can be that role model for them. In truth, I want to run like them. That is, to do it happily, carefree, and just for the thrill of it. We’re in a fun stage of inspiring each other. Also, it’s rekindled their inner Princesses, so I’ve had the excuse to cuddle up with them and watch all the Disney classic princess movies again one more time.

DS-We know it’s a *thing* to race in costume. We’re dying to hear about your costume choices for the race. Details, details!

cindy-levin-as-Pocahontas

CL: I’m always up for a good costume party! My 9-year-old and I will be running the Royal Family 5K as Pocahontas and Meeko. I have almost waist-length brown hair and a bit of Native American ancestry, so it seemed a shame to run as anyone else when I have a partner so willing to add raccoon ears and a tail to grey running gear. We’ll create whiskers and a mask with a little makeup pencil. I got an on-line pattern for a no-sew Pocahontas costume made out of two oversize men’s T-shirts and made my own turquoise necklace. I have a turquoise Bondi headband in case all that hair gets unruly in the warm Florida humidity!

The 7-year-old is doing her 400 m dash in a hot pink running skirt and matching shirt. The shirt says “I’m Fairy Fast” on the front and “Eat My Dust” on the back. She may also wear my tiara visor from Running Princess if it’s sunny.

For my 13.1 mile race, I’ll be running as Princess Jasmine. Hoop earrings and a head jewel sewed onto the teal Bondi headband were the items hardest to get used to running with. The rest is teal colored Nike running wear and a gold bracelet.  Again, hair is a key accessory to Jasmine’s look and I’ve got that covered.

DS: You’re running for a very special cause. Please share how and why you decided to run for Shot@Life?

CL: Since I volunteer for many different organizations, it was important to me that my girls pick the cause themselves. They chose Shot@Life, which raises money and awareness for vaccinating children in developing nations against polio, measles, rotavirus, and pneumococcal virus. They relate to this issue because they get their own immunizations and have seen me go to Uganda with Shot@Life where many children die from easily preventable diseases. They have heard me speak on behalf of Shot@Life, but to make sure that they understood what we were doing, I asked them to make a video about why they chose to run for global vaccines. Both girls said that they were saddened by the fact that every 20 seconds, somewhere in the world, a child dies from a disease that could be prevented by a simple vaccine. The youngest recalled her classmate was hospitalized for pneumonia, which is completely treatable in the U.S., but deadly in a country where children cannot get to a doctor. They are cheered by the knowledge that $20 can save a child from four deadly diseases. Every time someone donates, they are genuinely excited. Saving lives together is brings a sense of purpose to our goal that we’re all very proud of.

DS: For others that might be considering joining in the RunDinsey fun, is there anything you’d like to share with them?

CL: Train hard, but enjoy yourself and don’t worry about your time. RunDisney races are some of the most entertaining courses in the country. Also, never run in a costume you haven’t tested for a long run.

On the topic of costumes, I’d like to point out that it takes a special kind of dedication and bravery for northern princesses to run publicly outside in the winter to see if their tutus and wings are going to chafe. So, “hats off” to all the Frost Fairies from Maine to Portland, and “thank you” to all the kind motorists who gave me encouragement seeing Pocahontas running around Chicagoland at 28F without a coat.

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DS- Where can people find out more about you and about Shot@Life and follow your race progress?

CL: The best place to learn about how you can join the movement to protect children around the world from easily preventable diseases is at the Shot@Life website. To learn more about me and my adventures as a Shot@Life champion and anti-poverty activist, you can visit my blog, The Anti-Poverty Blog. Everyone is welcome to donate to Shot@Life through our fundraising website where they can see the video of all three of us talking about why we are running and see pictures of our costumes.

If anyone is interested in being up at 5:35AM EST on Sunday, Feb 24, they can simply type “Cynthia Levin” into the Runner Tracking tool this week and get texts about where I am on the course in real time.

DS: Good luck to you and your daughters Cindy! We’ll be cheering you on from the virtual sidelines. We cannot wait to catch up with you after the race to hear how it goes (and of course see pictures)!

We are so touched by this video from Cindy and her daughters, we just had to share it with you! Let’s support these little princesses and their desire to help kids get the Shot@Life they deserve by donating a little something to support not only their cause, but their first RunDisney race. Go girls!!


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