LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (Feb. 26, 2023) – At perhaps the most prominent women-focused half marathon in the nation, it was fitting that Neely Gracey flexed her “girl power’’ to win the Disney Princess Half Marathon presented by CORKCICLE on Sunday at Walt Disney World Resort.
Gracey, in fact, beat the entire field, crossing the finish line ahead of everyone, marking only the third time in runDisney history that a woman was the overall winner. She joins Giovanna Martins (2017 Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon) and Jackie Pirtlehall (2019 Disney Princess Half Marathon) who have accomplished that feat. And Gracey won despite running – and winning – the Disney Princess 10K the day before, logging nearly 20 miles in two days.
“I’ve never done back-to-back races like this before and so running the 10K yesterday and then prepping to run the half (marathon) today, I had to utilize some strategies that I’ve learned over my almost 20 years of running to really make sure that I was able to finish strong today and it paid off,’’ said Gracey of suburban Denver, Colorado.
Gracey’s win didn’t come without a fight. She passed second-place finisher Michael Fussner in the final stages, crossing the finish line just seven seconds ahead of him. Gracey covered the 13.1-mile course through EPCOT and Magic Kingdom Park in 1:15:55 followed by Fussner (1:16:02) of St. Louis, Missouri, and Connor Brock (1:17:39) of The Woodlands, Texas.
“I passed the top female at that point when we were in Magic Kingdom and then I just kind of kept rolling after that,’’ said Gracey, who was running in her first event of 2023. “I was in third for a while, then second for a while and then I really didn’t get past the top male until we were about less than half a mile out from the finish line. So, it really all just happened in the last two minutes of the race.’’
In the wheelchair division, Heather Sealover of Bossier City, Louisiana, came in first place with a time of 1:08:00 followed by Julius McManus of Port Washington, Florida at 1:15:27 and Sidney Knox of Benton, Maine at 1:29:46.
Sunday’s half marathon was the final leg of the three-race weekend that included the 5K on Friday and the 10K on Saturday, plus a yoga event at Magic Kingdom Park and the runDisney Health & Fitness expo at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Runners are now setting their sights on the runDisney Springtime Surprise Weekend (April 13-16), the fourth and final race weekend of the 2022-2023 runDisney race season.