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.

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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 Disney…What To Expect and How To Maximize Your Race Experience!

Guest Author: Laura D.

Dreams really do come true… Never in a million years did I think I would ever run a half marathon but in 2010 I ran my first race and immediately got hooked on running races.  As I become a regular half marathoner a friend told me, there is nothing quite like a Disney race.  My immediate response was, “What?!  You mean there is such a thing?!  Combining two of my favorite things, Disney and running actually exists?” Here I am going to recap our first Disney race and give you a rundown of what the Disney Race experience is like so you can maximize your Disney race experience.Laura6

My hubby and I decided to fly down for the 2011 Disney Half Marathon. We stayed at the Pop Century the night before the race and slept in our race clothes which saved major time getting ready in the morning.  We got up at 2:15am and headed out to the lobby of Pop Century at 2:45 am. By 3am we were on the bus to Epcot. Literally no wait to get on the bus at 3am!  We arrived at Epcot around 3:30am despite some minimal traffic. It looked like traffic was pretty backed up to the exit ramp for cars, but the Disney buses got off a backstage ramp and there was no traffic into the park. I highly recommend staying on property the night before to avoid the traffic.

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We jumped off the bus in the Journey parking lot, made our way to the bag check and then off to the corrals. MY GOODNESS was that gridlock!!!  Be prepared for the volume of people making their way to the starting line.  It was a bit of a shock for us but to keep us occupied on trek to the starting line, it was fun checking out all the runners in Disney costumes. Some people dressed like Disney Princesses, others like Tink, and one even dressed as Mr. Incredible. After crawling for what seemed like a mile, we finally made our way to our corral at the starting line. As they played music people got pumped up and started dancing.  This is the perfect time to stretch, let loose and enjoy the moment.  It was exciting as they started each wave of the corrals with fireworks! Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy were the announcers at the starting line. As we passed the main stage we waved to the Disney gang and off we went.  As we approached mile 3 we could see the Epcot hot air balloon and just up the road were Pooh & the gang taking pictures with runners. The cheer squad and volunteers all called out our names from our race bibs and made everyone feel so special! Laura2 Laura1

At about mile 5, when we entered the side door of the Magic Kingdom I nearly fainted with excitement. It was so exciting to see the backstage area of the Magic Kingdom.  We jogged passed a towering Christmas tree at the foot of Main Street and as we rounded the corner by the confectionary my jaw dropped to the ground as I had my first glimpse of Cinderella Castle.  Main Street was lined with cheering fans.  There is nothing like turning that corner onto Main Street seeing those beautiful Christmas decorations and the Castle up ahead! You never forget the magical feeling of your first time running down Main Street in a Disney race. Out of courtesy of the other runners, be sure to pull to the side if you want to get a few photos here. They funneled us down through Tomorrowland and then by the Speedway.  This is a race that one should not aim for a personal record.  You want to get the full Disney race experience so be sure to stop and get photos with your favorite characters!  We stopped off to get a photo with the Mad Hatter and Alice by the tea cups.  We spotted Rupunzel and Flynn so we got in a pic with them as we approached the Castle.  I got goosebumps as we ran through the archway of the Castle and came down the ramp in the front of the Castle.  What an amazing moment!! I highly recommend moving to the side and slowing down bit as you come through the castle so that the ASI race day photographers can grab a photo of you as you approach this exciting moment in the race!  We swung to the right and head off to Liberty Square and Frontierland.  The race route had us come around the backstage area where the Electrical Parade floats were.  It was so surreal to catch glimpses of the backstage magic as we headed for mile 7 and out of the park.

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We kept chugging away and saw different characters along the way and before we knew it we were passing Minnie & Mickey on the Shades of Green golf course and waving to Tink & Friends at mile 9. The whole race seemed to speed by so be sure to slow down a bit and take every moment in! It was the fastest half marathon I have ever done and was certainly the most memorable! As we headed up the ramp for the home stretch into Epcot we realized we were almost at mile 11 and nearing the end of the race. The crowds grew and cheered louder as we approached the entrance to Epcot.  There was nothing better than coming in that side stage door behind Spaceship Earth knowing we only had a mile to go. We intentionally slowed down here in the last mile because we wanted to take in every moment. We rounded the Christmas tree and headed back toward Spaceship Earth and the bleachers ahead with the cheering families and friends. I saw the Mile 13 sign and could not believe we were almost finished. As we approached the finish line we high fived Mickey & Minnie. That was a surprising treat! We threw our hands in the air and cheered and hugged as we finished out 1st Disney Half Marathon. We received our race medals and raced back to the hotel for a shower and then headed off to the parks wearing our medals with pride. This is one of the best parts of running a Disney race, hearing everyone congratulate you on your accomplishment as you enjoy the parks post-race!  I will say out of all of our Disney trips this experience was the most memorable. I know that no other race/half marathon will ever top this one! If you are a runner or walker, I highly recommend doing a Disney race. I can’t wait to do the next one!  If you decide to go for it and make your Disney running dreams come true, be sure to savor the moment and bring your camera! There definitely is no experience quite like a Disney Race!!

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The Relocated Tourist is sponsored by “Magical Mouse Plans Travel

Why I’ll Be Registering for Marathon Weekend… And You Should, Too.

Guest Author: Danielle Swanson

Waking up at 2:30 in the morning to go run for over 13 miles never sounded like my idea of a good time. The fact that I got to wear a tutu made it a little more bearable. Knowing I’d be running all over Walt Disney World turned it into the stuff dreams are made of.

Marathon Wkend 2013

In one month, runDisney will be opening registration for its signature event, the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. During race weekend, scheduled for January 9-12, 2014, more than 25,000 runners will descend on the parks with ESPN Wide World of Sports becoming race headquarters. Along with Olympians, celebrities, and a few thousand other characters, I’ll be registering for my fourth Marathon Weekend, signing up to run 39.3 miles over the course.

Marathon Wkend 2013 Hallalujeh Choir Marathon wkend 2011 Half Mary Poppins

I wasn’t a runner as a kid or even for a long time as an adult; to be honest, after having babies, just thinking about the treadmill about made me pee. And I’m never going to be one of those tiny people, the thin, sinewy type that everyone thinks of when they think of runners. I have chunky thighs that jiggle when I run in those cute short shorts real runners wear, and my arm fat waves with the wind in my tank tops. Even though I’ve always done some sort of physical activity, when I started running, twenty seconds seemed like an eternity. Now, here I am, crazily planning on taking on two hours one day and five the next, chunky thighs, arm fat and all.

Marathon Wkend 2013 Runners greet villians Marathon Wkend 2013 Mickey Hot Air Balloon at mile 19

However, a couple years ago, one of my friends suggested we register for a Disney half marathon, and my life hasn’t been the same since. It’s been a lot of work. Some days, my program has required me to run for four or five hours; others I’ve had to find a way just to squeeze in a short speed run. Like the postal service, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” has kept me from putting on my trainers and running. But the work has been worth it. At Disney, I’ve been able to see things that only a number of visitors ever get to see: Cinderella’s float up close, the Pirates of the Caribbean boat, Everest at night (the wee hours of the morning, actually), all the villains lined up, a car show on the Disney speedway, and my face up on the screen at the ESPN stadium. When I cross the finish line and a volunteer puts a medal around my neck, I feel like a real athlete, like I’ve accomplished a great feat.

Marathon Wkend 2013 Medal and Tutu Marathon Wkend 2012 Half Medal Marathon Wkend 2011 Half Medal

While my running started as a goal to run at Disney, it has turned into so much more. I’ve made friends at home and abroad, traveled to other locales to pound the pavement, and become a healthier, better me. I know that 39.3 miles is going to be no easy task, but I have faith that knowing I’m doing them at Disney will make the training – and the actual race – that much easier.

 

The Relocated Tourist is sponsored by “Magical Mouse Plan Travel