I started running back in 2012, well more like “slogging” which is what I call “slow jogging”. Back then I was living next to Central Park in the (upper upper upper) East Side, and it felt like everyone was a runner. Some of my friends suggested that I start running as way to be healthier and relieve stress. Since Central Park was very pretty, and literally there were no excuses left, I started on my venture to become a slogger…”ahem”…runner.
Let me just start by saying that in Middle and High School, I was the person who avoided running. I was never the athletic girl and still today I don’t consider myself a high level performing athlete. I’m an average girl who wanted to find an inexpensive way to be healthy and get some exercise.
A mile seemed doable, 4 miles impossible and 26.2 was just… crazy! I stepped out my door and decided for the first time, to try for 2 miles of mostly speed walking in Central Park. I ended up somewhere on the Upper West Side of Manhattan before I realized I was so lost, with no metro card, no money and my phone battery had also died. Let’s just say that at Disney World I know my way around but since I wasn’t at Disney and I didn’t know my way around Central Park, my first 2 miles run turned into 4.5 miles. Seeing as how I didn’t think I could ever manage 4 miles and I just had (albeit not on purpose), I signed up for a 5K with my new found “runners high”.
I used my Iphone and the Nike app to train for the 5K, and to my surprise I finished the 5K and I wasn’t last! I cried as I crossed the finish line and texted my friend, Brittney. She’s always been my biggest supporter and has even just earned her Abbot World Marathon Majors six star medal. She quickly asked when I was signed up for my first half marathon at which point I laughed and said let me run a 10K, first. I signed up for a few more 5Ks in NYC and after my next one decided I should look into a Disney race!
I decided I would do the Princess 10K. Once the race registration opened up, I had to wait until pay day which meant… 10K IS SOLD OUT! WHAT?! Little did I know how popular these races were, and how quickly they sell out. I called Brittney who re-assured me that I had done some 5Ks and a half marathon is only a 5K four times, easy. With that logic, who could argue with Brittney? I signed up for the 2014 Princess Half Marathon. No turning back.
Since the Half Marathon seemed like real business, I decided to go with the Disney recommended Jeff Galloway training method. I bought his book, “Half-Marathon- You can do it!”. I started reading and followed all of his advice. When I had pain I looked it up and figured out how to correct it. I followed the training plan and I read and re-read everything. I brought the book everywhere and my boss made fun of me by saying “aren’t you supposed to be running to train for a half-marathon?”. Well, yes, but when you don’t know, look it up in a book! I definitely recommend this book if you are getting started. You can probably find it at your local library as well.
Side note, I actually met Jeff Galloway at the 2015 Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend. He was so encouraging and very nice!
As the miles increased in my long runs, so did my confidence. I remember my first real 4 miles run (not my accidental one in Central Park) and how accomplished I felt. 13.1 still felt a ways away, but the thought of running through Cinderella Castle kept me motivated. As February approached and I had gotten up to 10 miles, a little behind my training schedule due to illness, holidays and work but I felt ready. I checked into my flight and made sure to pack all my running gear, no costume for me as I was nervous enough about finishing the race and I didn’t want to run in something new. Lots of people do dress up and it’s super fun and exciting to see all the amazing ideas that people come up with.
My first RunDisney expo was so fun. I remember driving myself to the expo and being amazed at how organized parking was. I was solo and I enjoyed taking my time looking around everywhere. I got my shirt and bib and headed back to my hotel. Brittney met me after work and took me to get some pasta to carb load. This was also my first time going to the Art of Animation resort as well, so many firsts this trip! I highly recommend the food court here for some great variety of food and the fun Disney animation themeing. I set my alarm for 2:30 AM the next morning and got in bed. Needless to say, I was far to excited and nervous to sleep.
Brittney and I headed out to the bus in the front of our resort, which was to take us to the start of the race at the Epcot parking lot. I remember the long time for the buses, which moved very quickly. Disney is quite efficient with managing the crowds of runners. Once we arrived at the parking lot, I believe I walked about a mile just to get in my corral. I discovered I was in the last corral and starting chatting with some lovely ladies. It was then that I learned about the balloon ladies. For anyone unfamiliar, the balloon ladies are the 16 minute pacers and they each carry a balloon for the duration of the race thus the name, “balloon ladies”.The balloon ladies are notorious because if they pass you, it’s possible you could be swept out of the race. I’ve actually been swept once, stayed tuned for my next few posts to hear more. There are various other pacers you can run with if you are trying for a new PR, (personal record) or trying to keep a certain pace. If you are interested, you can find more info at the expo about pacers.
The race start time was 5:30 am, as is almost all RunDisney races. Since my corral was last, and over 19,000 people were running, my actual start time was closer to 7am. It was chilly, foggy, lightly raining, and still mostly dark when I started running. The fireworks went off and I remember there were so many people nobody could even jog or run for a few hundred yards. Throughout the race, I constantly kept checking for the balloon ladies but I never saw them. I was so nervous I wouldn’t finish! Since I was so nervous, I didn’t stop to take a lot of photos, but I did manage to capture of few.
Some of my best memories were, seeing Brittney at the ticket and transportation center around mile 4, running up main street, seeing all the characters around the course, running through the castle and, hearing the roar and applause of thousands of princess runners as the 1st place runner passed us on the opposite side of world drive. The best memory, was crossing the finishing line and crying as the volunteer placed my medal around my neck. After you finish running, you get your medal, a little snack pack, banana, water and Powerade. I’ve never been denied extra bananas or drinks, so if you need more grab what you’d like. At the finish of the race, there are many photo opportunities, photo pass photographers, medical tents, music, merch and clearly marked spots to re-unite with your family and friends. If you need anything at all at any point in the race just ask a volunteer or cast member.
After the race, Brittney and I headed over to the Grand Floridian for breakfast at 1900 Park Fair. My friend’s parents who live in the area also met us for breakfast, and kindly drove us back to All Star Sports. I was grateful for this, because the idea of standing on buses did not sound appealing. I would recommend bringing a pair of flip flops or sandals to put on after your race. Remember, your feet swell when you run, so once you take those sneakers off, you need big comfy shoes to wear. I like to wear flip flops, personally.
After resting and going for a swim we headed out to the Magic Kingdom for extra magic hours and dinner. For some reason, I also want mini corn dog nuggets after a race, so Casey’s Corner for the win! We got our picture on main street and I hobbled my way through the Magic Kingdom showing off my first race medal.
I had a fantastic first RunDisney race experience. I highly recommend a Disney race as your first half marathon. It’s laid back but still competitive if you are going for a PR. The race course is mostly flat, there are many people of all shapes, sizes and athletic abilities and everyone I met was encouraging, it’s very organized and who doesn’t love getting to see Mickey Mouse! One drawback is the cost of registration for any Disney races can be expensive. In addition, race registrations are non-refundable. Are you thinking of signing up for a RunDisney event? Stay tuned for my next few post where I go over details on registering and how I ended up running my first marathon.
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Stay Magical, Y’all.