One year after Lauren Passell feared she would never run again because of a broken hip, she found herself in another unlikely place Sunday – the winner’s circle at the Disney Princess Half Marathon presented by Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.
Passell, 30, from New York City, slipped on some ice last winter, breaking her right hip and plunging her running future into serious doubt. “I didn’t think I’d ever run a race again,’’ she said.
Turns out, all she really needed was a little Disney magic.
“I was afraid actually (to run again) but this race really pulled me through,’’ said Passell, who couldn’t walk for four months after the injury, took disability leave from her job and didn’t run normally again for nearly a year. “When I was stuck on my couch (during her recovery), I would dream about running here, I would fantasize about it. I mean, for me to run through Disney, it means the world to me. I feel like the luckiest person in the world.’’
Passell, a self-described Disney nerd, didn’t appear to need much luck Sunday at Walt Disney World Resort, pulling away from the field of more than 24,000 mostly-women runners just after the midway point of the 13.1-mile course through Epcot and Magic Kingdom. Her winning time of 1:22:59 was nearly 30 seconds faster than second-place finisher Heather Schulz of Orlando (1:23:28). Mariela Ortiz of Argentina was third (1:23:45).
While Passell’s winning time was far off the race record of 1:11:49, it was easily her fastest half marathon time ever and her first half marathon win. And a performance that apparently holds the kind of special meaning that can’t be measured in hours, minutes and seconds.
“I seriously think I had that little extra push because of the injury and I just felt so driven and so lucky to be healthy and able to move,’’ she said. “It’s a blessing to be able to run and I appreciate it now. I really do.’’
In all, more than 49,500 runners competed in various events during the weekend. The weekend included the Disney Frozen 5K, the Disney Princess Enchanted 10K,runDisney Kids Races and the Glass Slipper Challenge, which involved runners completing the 10K on Saturday and the half marathon on Sunday.
The weekend event also included a health and fitness expo which featured the latest running apparel and equipment, plus a speaker series involving running experts such asrunDisney’s official training consultant Jeff Galloway.
The Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend is one of eight annual runDisney events and one of two women-focused events. The other is the Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend presented by PANDORA Jewelry, which takes place in May at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, CA. Both events are designed to celebrate and promote women’s empowerment, women’s health and an active lifestyle. And both are among the nation’s largest race weekends geared towards women.