My First Disney Marathon Weekend Experience

Sitting here in December, at the end of a year that I couldn’t make up if I tried, I was reflecting on how amazing my 2020 had started.  My Dad had his first Disney trip to see us, my good friend Kim was coming soon, and in between I had my first Disney Half Marathon to run.  Disney has several races over the course of a calendar year, so I wanted to be able to try them all. The advantage of living here is that I CAN try them and not have to get a hotel and all the extra costs that running can bring when you run far from home.  

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A race week always kicks off with the Expo. Held at ESPN Wide World of Sports, it’s a maze of merchandise, bib pick-ups, and vendors in several buildings. It’s full of excitement, but a word of warning to be the first in line for day 1 of the Merch area- it is like a Black Friday sale! I only did it once for my Star Wars Half and I vowed to NEVER do it again! Elbows flying, merch grabbing, people yelling- seriously, it’s a bit insane!  You wind up overbuying for stuff you may not have wanted had you been able to shop it at a peaceful pace. But, to each his own.

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This weekend I had gone in to pick up my packet, my shirts, take advantage of the photo opps, say hi to Jeff Galloway, and peruse the merch that is Disney. I will say the Expo has EVERYTHING for race day and training beyond- and even if you aren’t running the race, you can come and shop for your next one or just find some great stuff to train with until you do.

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Race day came at the ripe hour of 3 am wake up wall, drive in to Epcot early enough to beat the race traffic, sit around for an hour and stretch, find your friends and take pics at the photo opps, and then find your Corral that is usually about 2 miles from where the morning party is. No, seriously. The corrals have gotten so big that this year I had to wait for the first one to take off so I could fit into mine.

Here’s the other thing that first timers don’t realize, the gun goes off at the starting line for each corral. So you hear the gun, see the fireworks, over and over again while you stand there and just wait. And being of the slower variety, I am usually in the back, so that process goes even longer.  By the time I am crossing the starting line, I see the first elite runners coming back on World Drive. How’s that for a kick to the old ego?

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I run about a 13 minute pace, 11-12 on a good day. You must run at least a 16 minute pace to not be “swept” or “picked up by the dreaded Disney bus.” This race I had no problem staying far ahead, in fact it was my second-best run. I don’t stop for characters because I didn’t want to chance fate with my time- also being in the Parks all the time, I figured I could see them again at something else. Some ARE exclusive to the Race, but not worth the hiccup in my running when my pace is solid.

There is nothing like running down Main Street U.S.A. and seeing the Castle, or finishing in the shadow of Spaceship Earth. It was even my first time running through Future World and World Showcase, now completing all sections and Parks of my running career at Disney World thus far. It will be nice when they return to see what they have next for us.

I finished with a smile on my face, happy to be done and with a medal around my neck I went and found my family there to get a group hug. I was happy I did it, proud that I went for it, and went home to enjoy a well-deserved congratulatory meal.

Thanks for your support!

Going from “What If? to “Why Not” is my life motto and I work hard at living that every day. I share everything from moving to Florida to live near Disney World to road trips across the States. I love the cool, quirky, and crazy stuff that I can find on my Adventures, and every dollar you donate helps support my efforts and hard work. Thank you to ALL who support me!

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Running My First Virtual Race…Learning How They Work

In 2013, I remember seeing a bunch of friends training online, running the Disney races, and wondered “Who in their right mind would run for fun, PAY someone else to run, and get up at the crack of dawn when the weekends were for sleeping in?” And then I bought my first pair of running shoes. I was absolutely CLUELESS on the journey I was about to go on, and it was going to be an expensive one! When you start something like running, there really isn’t a guidebook per say. I am sure Amazon carries something, but it’s all In the simplicity of tying up that first pair of shoes, feeling that pavement under your feet, and jamming out to the “Greatest Showman” soundtrack as you glide into that first mile. There is independence in it, there is freedom in it, and even though it’s exhausting, the thrill that follows is exquisite.

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I sit here writing this after another Half-Marathon is in my holster- and after the dry heaving, cold shower, and almost passing out- the high is actually amazing. Space Coast is one of my absolute FAVORITES to run here in Florida because I am a Space Nerd at heart. It is a connection I have with my Dad, he loves Space and I loved to have that to bond over with him.  After moving here in 2011, I was super excited to go to Kennedy Space Center, and then when I started my running adventure, I set sights on my FIRST Marathon ever being Space Coast. Your first Marathon should always be memorable and special, and mine sure was. Running amongst other liked minded runners, the thrill of the countdown, the nervous pit in my stomach, and then crossing over the finish line as they announce your name. Perfection. Why bring this up? Because doing it VIRTUAL was the opposite experience to today’s run.

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First off, let me explain my choice. I decided to run this virtual because of safety this year. No matter how staggered runners may be, or who is checked, the crowds that I have experienced in the past would make me uncomfortable with Covid right now, including the fact that the numbers are growing every day. That was my decision, and for those that made different ones, it’s ok. So this was the first year they offered a Virtual way to run the race, which alone made this a big deal.  When you do virtual, you do not get a bib or a number, you basically get what you paid for which is your medal or medals, your race shirt, and the finisher towel. I was mailed mine this past week, and then you run the race on your own time, which is why it’s a great thing for keeping you safe and also running it when you feel like it. I have run this specific race every Thanksgiving Sunday so the timing felt right to just do it again- so I did.

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Got up at 5 a.m. today, 11.29.2020, got ready with my pre-race ritual of stretching, hydrating, and a little bit of prayer. I hadn’t trained a whole lot for this one, so I was worried if I could go this distance. Craig dropped me off at my starting point, and with a funny podcast queued up, I was off! I use the “Runkeeper” app which tracks my miles, calories, pace, and more importantly, it is free. I have been using this app for 7 years, and the only thing you have to watch is that it is touchy, which makes it challenging to use when you have sweaty, Shrek fingers after miles ran. But then, any app is lol. I turned off all of my Cellular data for other apps this run, so I could use Runkeeper and run a podcast, without draining my battery. On my Marathon, I didn’t turn everything off and my phone died at Mile 15 when I had 11 still to go. It was a quiet 11 miles LOL.

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My run today went really well, felt great, and I didn’t mind it alone…for the most part. I had the sunshine, God smiling down on me, fresh air in my lungs, and the ambition to complete the task. What I missed was my family and friends on the sidelines, cheering me on. I missed the countdown in the beginning and that feeling of “taking off” with the group. I didn’t miss trying to find a porta potty, being in large crowds while I ran, or the mess after finishing. The finish line I definitely missed crossing, since I hit 13.1 on my Runkeeper and I just stopped the app and I was done- no cheering, although I am pretty sure I heard my knees screaming in delight that I was done. So would I do it again? Yes, because it was peaceful and I was safe. Would I suggest it to others? Not as a first race for anyone, but yes, because it gives you the freedom to do it when you are ready. It was a nice day, nice run, and now I sit and rest, with some writing on the side. I hope this helps you decide on a Virtual run, and whether or not it would work for you. Have a fantastic day!

Thank you for your support!!!

Going from “What If? to “Why Not” is my life motto and I work hard at living that every day. I share everything from moving to Florida to live near Disney World to road trips across the States. I love the cool, quirky, and crazy stuff that I can find on my Adventures, and every dollar you donate helps support my efforts and hard work. Thank you to ALL who support me!

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My FIRST Disney Princess Half-Marathon Experience 2014

I feel that life is about challenging yourself to see what you are truly capable of. Too many of us think “I could never do that” but what if you could? I had those same thoughts running through my mind last year about running. I’m in no way thin, but I have great lower body strength and I used to run before my child bearing days, so I knew that I could at least try.  And honestly that’s all that life is about, just trying and seeing if something works for you or not. So this is my story about a girl with a dream to accomplish her first half-marathon – enjoy!117

So backing up to the Expo- it was truly amazing! I picked up my packet on Thursday evening with the family and it was cool to show them Wide World of Sports and all of the neat running merchandise.  It was exhilarating already being in line at the half marathon booth knowing that this was the bib I would be wearing.  When you sign up, you choose your Princess and also add in your pace time. Now I hadn’t run anything of significance (Yes I ran the 5K Jingle Jungle but not for time) so I put down my average yand safe time of 15:30.  I had been training on that and sometimes it was better and sometimes I crossed into the 16 minute mark.  I knew that I had to stay above it for the half, so I had no problem putting that time in.  RunDisney then puts you in a Corral that is also with others of the same time,  so I was in “O.”  I did head back to the Expo the next day and got to meet Jeff Galloway, bumped into friends for a nice chat, and bought some new ear buds, visor, and a timer- I was set!151 149 146 142 130 125 121 120

I went to bed at 8p.m. the night before the big day determined to get enough sleep for the run.  I slept pretty well and was well rested as I woke up at 2:30 a.m. for one of the biggest days of my life.  What I didn’t count on was that my Aunt would come into town that very morning, along with the fact I was just getting over being very sick from the prior week.  Ugh, well ok, I thought nothing I can do but pray, medicate, hydrate and move. 163 165

I was in Epcot by a little after 3 a.m. and it was beautiful being there that early in the morning.  I walked into the holding area with a big old goofy smile on my face because I KNEW that I could do it, I was just worried about the elements I couldn’t control.  Soon DeeAnn was there to hang out with me before my running pals came, and it was nice to just sit and relax my nerves before the run.  HUGE PROPS for her coming at 4 am to cheer me on and help calm my nerves- a true friend!169 172 174 177

Once Wendy came I hugged Dee goodbye and started the routine of preparing for the run. Bathroom check, which by the way there are some in the holding area and then another set right before the Corrals.  I knew it would be the last time I would go until the end, so I made it count and walked to the Corrals with Wendy.  Her and I were in different ones, so I hugged her and then hurried up to wait, and wait, and wait. The race officially started at 5:30 a.m. but I didn’t hit the start line until 6:30- so it pays to just sit and wait it out rather than stand the whole time (like I did).176

The nerves were setting in…what had I gotten myself into? Was I really going to do this? Then it happened….the countdown, the fireworks, the cheering and then we were off!  I had trained running a minute then walking a minute, so I stuck to it as each mile passed by.  The weather was misty so it felt good running in it- just a small blanket to cool you off.  I felt great, and it could have been the Midol, or the caffeine, or just pure awesomeness.

I ran past the pirate ship, then the huge princess sign. As we were going towards Magic Kingdom, the winner was running past us already heading to Epcot- WOW!!  We clapped for her and kept moving forward.  We got the MK autoplaza and I started to get weepy…that is where it hit me that I was actually doing this.  I was running a half-marathon, this cheesehead girl from WI was pulling it off in the State of her dreams…truly a miracle.  My pace was great, I wasn’t having any cramps, and no hip issues yet.  We ran under the waterway near Contemp, music blasting, and I even ran up the hill with no issues. 229211

Then there was that magical left coming…I knew the Magic Kingdom near.  We ran through the back and then I was on Main Street, a street that meant so many things to me but I was there RUNNING. I was a mess…I cried seeing the Castle, seeing the people cheer, and just felt incredible. I loved running through each land and was almost a bit sad to leave so soon. But my FAVORITE part was running through the Castle as the trumpeters “tooted” above us while we entered the tunnel.  (Yeah I know how that sounds LOL). 230 235 245

I hit the 10k mark which was behind Splash Mountain, and I remember thinking “Wow we are only half way there, barely.” But, I still felt really good.  I was hitting every water station taking some Gatorade first then some water, I knew I was ok.  And then I got out on World Drive, and the sun started to come out.  The sun wasn’t as bad as the humidity setting in…and it got hot and sticky.  My Midol was wearing off and so I grabbed some Tylenol at a medic tent to help the tummy troubles starting.  I hadn’t seen the balloon ladies yet so I was sure I was good to go.256

I remember just looking to my left and HOLY CRUD, there they are!!!! If you don’t know who they are, they are women who walk a 16 minute mile so that Disney knows where the cut off is.  Yes, they will “sweep” you right off the road if you don’t stay with them or in front of them.  I was terrified!  All that hard work training was going to go down the tubes, so I ran and caught up with them. But I could tell that my “Aunt” was zapping all of my energy and fast. I tried to stay with the women but slowly they started getting more ahead of me.  Now keep in mind I had run an easy 15:30 training, but I had only trained to 8 miles- my FIRST mistake. My second was not training with my “Aunt” so I would know how it would feel and how to deal with it.   I couldn’t for see getting it on race day, nor could I have controlled being sick the week before.

I stayed close enough to the women with balloons that I knew where they were. I kept an eye on the busses and vans to make sure they weren’t moving as I trudged forward.  By Mile 11, I had nothing left.  Walking was becoming painful for my hip but I was determined that I was going to DO THIS.  I was too awesome to let this happen to me, and I didn’t want to let my friends and family down.   They told us if you got into Epcot you would be safe.  The last ramp, bridge, incline…just brutal.  Why at the end of the race????  The only thing great about getting over that last ramp was seeing my good pal Byron at the bottom, hands out with a big smile. I squeezed his hand and thanked him for coming out to support me, he will never know what that meant to me.271

Then it was coming… the end.  I was so scared and beside myself that I didn’t know what to feel anymore.  Was I safe, could I still be swept?  Everyone said after Mile 11 we were good, but you never knew.  The balloon ladies were now well ahead of me and I was doing everything I good to not stop moving at all.  My hip hurt, I was cramping bad at this point, but I was determined to get my butt across that finish line.   Princess Sophia was in the back corner upon entering Epcot and I just waved to her, “Aint nobody got time for that.”  I could barely get up the Spaceship Earth hill and then it was run to World Showcase and back to SE before leaving the Park itself. As I ran down the small hill, I see two very familiar faces that started the tears. There was Dee and Shelley cheering me on and I just started to cry- real friends in a real situation, no other proof necessary.  I ran past the gospel choir (perfect if you know me) and then around the corner I knew what was coming. 274 275 279

I looked around to see if I could see my family but it was hard to find them in the crowd, so I decided this was my moment and I gave 100% focus on finishing strong. I picked up my pace and with each step on the ground I could feel my heart beat saying “You’re doing it, you’re doing it!”  There was Mickey, Goofy, and Minnie cheering me on and I gave it everything I had to cross that finish line.  With my arms open wide in thanks to my Lord and Savior to getting me across that line, I wept openly and happily as my medal was placed around my neck.280 284

Laurie found me first and then helped me find my family who I fell into their arms for one of the best group hugs of my life.  I had done it, I PROVED I could talk the talk AND walk the walk (as I have before) and it was an amazing feeling.  I accomplished something huge and I could not be prouder.  Thanks to everyone who supported me during my training and the Half. All of your messages of love on the TRT Page. Text messages and my FB page meant the world to me that you took the time to comment.  The next accomplishment will be my book coming out at the end of this month, then I can say I am a Half-Marathon finisher AND a published Author…. pretty cool for this chick from WI living out her FL dreams!

Donations for Content

Going from “What If? to “Why Not” is my life motto and I work hard at living that every day. I share everything from moving to Florida to live near Disney World to road trips across the States. I love the cool, quirky, and crazy stuff that I can find on my Adventures, and every dollar you donate helps support my efforts and hard work. Thank you to ALL who support me!

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My First Disney 5K Experience

We are not guaranteed tomorrow….so why do we wait to do things that we can do now?  It was that thought process I had going into signing up for my first 5K.  I had friends who ran, even family, and I always wondered why they liked it so much.  What if? What if I just went for it and tried? What was I so scared of?  This is my running story.

I don’t care if you can run a mile or 26.2, a mile is a mile and it is HARD WORK.  I had ran over 20 years ago and I thought I would never really get into it again.  Time, kids, weight gain, and age played on my mind that I just wasn’t good enough to try.  Not even do it, but try.  In my head a runner was slim person who lived and breathed it, that just wasn’t me.  Not now anyways.   But then things changed in my life and I began to look at things as opportunities instead of mental road blocks..and that’s when I signed up online for “Mickey’s Jingle Jungle” 5K.

You sign up for it months in advance, and I’m not sure if this one sold out or not, but it seems the bigger the race, the faster they sell out (for runDisney anyways).   I made an account on Active.com who then sends you helpful emails along with information for the race day and event.   You see, I am a runDisney virgin.  Yes, I said it.  And when you don’t have a CLUE on how it all works, it can be VERY intimidating on how to handle it all.  So my best resource for my first race was my friends.  They had run several of them already, so it was so nice to ask them questions and have them literally walk me through the motions.run1

Race weekend was here for the Wine and Dine, and you can pick up your race packet at the ESPN Club.  Ok, I know you are all going to laugh, but I had never been inside there before. It is VERY cool!!  Wendy, Shelley, Eric, and I with Shelley’s Mom along for the ride, picked up our bib in one building and then picked up our bag of goodies in the other.  I was STOKED!! Holding that number in my hand for the first time, I won’t lie, I got a bit teary eyed.  It represented something I was about to do that I never thought I would even attempt again.  It. Was. Magical.run3

And the Expo? Were you all aware of the running merchandise out there? My God there was everything and anything for running- who knew?  Headbands (which I fell in LOVE with), shoes, shirts, medal  holders, stickers, tape, and some kind of stick to roll all over your body to work out the kinks I guess.  For this first timer, it was not only super cool, but also very inspiring to see everyone else so excited for what was to come. I bought a couple of stickers and a Minnie Mouse headband – the reason I bought that one was because it is like the Minnie shirt I have that is also shown on our logo, so I thought it fit well.run2

I headed to bed, and no sooner than my head hit the pillow, the alarm was going off at 4:30 and it was time to start my groundbreaking day.   Don’t take life’s moments for granted, you never know how many you are going to get.   I was full of pep and my awesome hubby had me in the car and on our way to Animal Kingdom.   We were in the parking lot after 5 a.m. and got a parking spot with no problem.  They had photo opps with Mickey and Minnie, along with other backdrops with the race signs.  There isn’t much to do before the race starts, so we got in line for Mickey and Minnie while waiting for Wendy and Eric to arrive.

When I got up to Mickey I told him I was nervous that it was my first and he hugged me over and over again, it was a nice boost to my nerves.  With the picture checked off, Craig and I watched the DJ for awhile until our friends arrived.  I was super happy to see Wendy and Eric because they were also running it and it’s always nice to know someone else doing it.   We danced to “Call Me Maybe”, I kissed Craig for good luck, and we were soon in our Coral.  Because I am a newbie, I was in the last one. run7

Because I have AWESOME friends who love me, they started in my Coral with me, even though they were meant to be in the first one.  It was nice to start it off with them, especially since it was my first one.   I stood there with our Coral ready to leave, and I a wave of emotions came over me.  I was so psyched to start, so nervous to fail, and scared to let myself and Craig down.    Wendy grabbed my hand when  the start went off, and we were moving!  Well, we were walking….slow.  See when there are SOOOO many people in one area, and you are walking on an “itty bitty walking space” it is nearly impossible to run. Maybe if you had a jet pack could you possibly FLY faster over the crowd, but that would have been the only way to get anywhere at the starting stages.  It would take awhile before the running began, but it did, and I was ALIVE.run8 run9 run10

I ran into Disney’s Animal Kingdom, a place I had casually walked into so many times, and held my head up proudly as I pounded the pavement.  I ran up the hill, then down towards the Tree of Life.  Into Africa, and I would walk on occasion to catch my breath and not push it.  For most the 5K is just a casual thing, but people forget that MANY work TOWARDS doing a 5K as THE pinnacle of their racing career.  With that said, it felt that many who took it casually didn’t want to move over for those who really did want to run it.  I was told to stay on the right if I was going to walk, which I did. But MANY walked in groups that extended across, so it was near impossible to pass.  Possibly a running lane may be needed for such races, because I did want to run and others made it harder to do so.run12 run13 run14

Mile 1, Mile 2, I was doing it.  I was not only running, but I wasn’t killing myself doing so. My knees felt great, my red running shoes looked and felt fabulous, and my spirit was intact.  There were Character Meet and Greets along the way, but no one I couldn’t meet any other Park day. I feared stopping may stop my momentum, and even though time wasn’t an issue for me, I wanted to go for all I could.  I did make one stop, the gator with the santa hat was too good to pass up.  I had no clue how to sit on the darn thing, so I apologize of how silly it looks.  As I was running around one corner, Eric and Wendy caught up to me at one point and started screaming “GO AMY!!” – it was so sweet!!run15 run16 run17

We hit mile 3 and the Cast Members were cheering that we were almost at the finish line…OH MY GOD it was going to be my first Finish Line.  There was NOTHING on this Earth that was going to stop me from  finishing strong and hard…and I went for it.  I ran, and I wore the biggest smile on my face ever.  The tears were welling up, I was doing it. I was actually doing it… and there was the line.  All I had to do was cross it and I had done it.  I crossed it and nearly ran over a small child…to me it was humorous because it was just the kind of finish I would have.run18 run19 run20 run22

I had done it… and even though it was just a 5K, it was something that I had done and succeeded at it.  I got my first medal, and then I saw Craig, and I ran up to him, crying my eyes out.  Sometimes you can get in your head that you aren’t good enough, that those around you make you feel small and unimportant..and then the only one that matters is there with open arms and there is NOTHING like it on this planet.  To the love of my life, thank you for always being my biggest supporter…you will never know what you mean to me.

So that’s my story…I did it. Wendy and Eric found me after and I was so proud to be with other runners who have done this way more than I ever had. I felt like I was part of the club now, and it felt awesome.  Next is the Half-Marathon in February, the Princess where I signed up under Rapunzel. Only fitting for a blonde girl who had a dream to live in Florida, and now run, and has made them both come true.  Yep….I finally saw the light…and it’s been beautiful.

Donations for Content

Going from “What If? to “Why Not” is my life motto and I work hard at living that every day. I share everything from moving to Florida to live near Disney World to road trips across the States. I love the cool, quirky, and crazy stuff that I can find on my Adventures, and every dollar you donate helps support my efforts and hard work. Thank you to ALL who support me!

$5.00