Posts Tagged With: walt disney world

Liebster Award and runDisney News!

I know I’ve been kind of quiet for a few days. To sum up…I’ve been struggling to recover after my less-than-stellar performance in the Long Branch Half (more on that soon!)

But in happier news, I also want to officially announce that…

I WILL BE RUNNING IN THE DISNEY WINE AND DINE HALF MARATHON THIS NOVEMBER!

winedine2013I wasn’t planning on doing it, but you see, it seems the planets aligned and the universe told me that I really, really should run Wine and Dine. It’s my parents’ wedding anniversary, and my mom (also a Disney dork, like me) wanted to head back to The World with the family to celebrate…and it just so happens that their anniversary falls on the week of the race! So without stealing their thunder too much, I’m going to just ahead and do a half marathon real quick — I’ll be using my runDisney and annual pass discount to help us score deals on dining, room, and theme park tickets (not to mention granting the ‘rents access to the BEST AFTER-PARTY EVER at Epcot!), so they didn’t seem to mind too much. What’s also exciting is that my sister and I will also be registering to run the Jingle Jungle 5K — and it’ll be her VERY FIRST 5K! I can’t wait to play running coach. 😀

In other news, I was recently nominated not once, not twice, but THREE TIMES for a Liebster Award — which is basically a way of recognizing your favorite up-and-coming blogs — and I’m so grateful to be part of such an incredible community of running bloggers! Thanks Lori and Stacy from Once Upon a Run, Run Stretch Go, and Tina and Colby from It’s a Marathon AND a Sprint!

LiebsterAwardHere’s how it works:

  1. Write 11 random facts about yourself.
  2. Answer the 11 questions given by the person who nominated you.
  3. Create 11 new questions.
  4. Nominate 11 bloggers and mention them in your post.
  5. Thank the person that nominated you and tell the people you’ve nominated.

First, my 11 random facts:

1.) I take pictures of anything and everything. Constantly. I’m not a particularly skilled photographer or anything, it’s just what I do. I come home from vacations with thousands upon thousands upon THOUSANDS of pictures!

2.) I love polka dots. I’d say about 75 percent of the clothing in my wardrobe features some form of polka dots. You can NEVER have too many polka dot dresses!

3.) I collect snowglobes. I’ve had run-ins with the TSA on more than one occasion for forgetting about the “no liquids” rule and packing a snowglobe in my carry-on luggage. Having to pay $10 to ship a $7 snowglobe home from Las Vegas was NOT amusing.

4.) I studied abroad in college; I spent a week in Spain as a freshman, and then an entire semester when I was a junior. Fairleigh Dickinson University (my alma mater!) owns a campus in England, so we can choose to study there for a semester and then go on tons of awesome weekend trips, including Paris, Italy, Scotland, Wales, Ireland…needless to say, it was the best experience EVER.

5.) I’m completely obsessed with penguins. I had the opportunity to “meet” one at Sea World once, and it remains one of the most exciting moments of my life.

6.) I’ve always been fascinated by dinosaurs. When I was a kid and all the girls my age were dressing up their Barbie dolls, I was playing with plastic T-Rex figures. No joke.

7.) I kind of suck at swimming. A super secret goal of mine is to compete in a triathlon, and while the idea of taking on the running and cycling portion of the race thrill me to no end, I’m pretty much terrified that I’d end up drowning.

8.) I love horror movies. I have a ridiculous collection of them amassed by countless visits to street fairs/flea markets and used/discount DVD stores.

9.) I’m not a big drinker. Don’t get me wrong, I love a margarita or a glass of wine as much as the next person, but I don’t especially enjoy going to bars/clubs. It just doesn’t thrill me, and it never has…so you can imagine how incredibly popular I was during my college years.

10.) To say that I am a Type A personality would be an understatement. I’m ridiculously high-strung, obsessive about detail, and can’t survive without a schedule! I’m a HOOT on vacations (“okay, so after lunch from 12pm to 1:30pm, next on our itinerary is…”).

11.) My boyfriend and I have been together since high school. This November will be our 12th anniversary!

Now, on to the questions from the three bloggers who nominated me. First, from Once Upon a Run:

1.  If cost, time, money, etc were not a factor, what race would you most want to run? Every single runDisney race. Oh wait, I seem to already be doing that… 😀

2.  When is your favorite time to workout: morning, afternoon, or evening? I’m 100 percent a morning person, but I often have to squeeze in my run in the early afternoon.

3.  What’s your favorite tv show? Of all time? Gilmore Girls. Currently on TV? Probably The Big Bang Theory, The Middle, and Modern Family.

4.  What’s your favorite book? I’m a huge dorky bookworm and couldn’t possibly choose just one, but I love true crime and my favorite writer is Ann Rule.

5. What’s your favorite drink? (recipes please if you have it!!!) I looooves me a martini.

6.  Which is superior: cat or dog? I’m obsessed with dogs. Love ’em. Can’t get enough of ’em. I had to leave my dog (a Shih Tzu named Riley) when I moved out of my parents’ house, and unfortunately I’m currently residing in a “no pets allowed” apartment, but the second I move into a “real” house — at the rate I’m going, when I’m in my 60s — it’s canine time.

7.  Do you prefer appetizer or dessert? DESSERT! I’m something of a chocoholic.

8.  Do you have a teacher or mentor that made a big difference in your life? I always remember how my third grade teacher helped spark my love of reading and encouraged my knack for writing. I also took a few classes with an adjunct professor in college who was a freelance magazine writer…and that’s when I decided that I pretty much wanted to steal her life.

9.  Do you have a favorite local (non-chain) store or restaurant? I pretty much avoid chain restaurants like the plague, so, yes…MANY!

10.  What’s your favorite summer destination? Uhh, Disney World? haha. If I had a bit more moolah at my disposal, I’d be summering in Europe.

11.  If we came to your town/area, what’s the one thing that we would HAVE to do? Atlantic City, baby!!!

Now, from Run Stretch Go

1) What are you most looking forward to this week? My superhero-themed half marathon this weekend! I may or may not be running this race dressed as an Incredible… ;-D

2) What is your favorite running accessory? Oh no, I have to pick just one?! No can do, sorry! On my everyday training runs, I’d have to say my assortment of Bondibands, Spi-belt, and I’m recently becoming addicted to Pro Compression socks. For racing, gotta love my Team Sparkle skirts.

3) Beach or pool? I’m a Jersey girl…there’s nothing I love more than lounging around on the beach with my face buried in a book.

4) Best restaurant meal you’ve ever had? Where and what? For someone who loves to eat (and dine out!) as much as I do, this is pretty much akin to choosing a favorite child. My favorite TYPES of meals to go out for are Mexican and Chinese or Thai.

5) Do you still have a land line at your residence? Nope. Absolutely no use for it!

6) Favorite song on your running playlist right now? No way I can choose just one! Some of the songs I listen to pretty much every time I head out for a run are: 50 Ways to Say Goodbye and Drive By (Train); Poker Face (Lady Gaga); What Doesn’t Kill You (Kelly Clarkson); Magic (B.o.B); How Far We’ve Come (Matchbox Twenty); Don’t Stop the Party and Feel this Moment (Pitbull)…and, of course, can’t forget Gangnam Style!

7) Coffee or Tea? I am completely and utterly addicted to coffee. It is no exaggeration to say that I cannot function without it!

8) If you could make up a holiday what would it be? Hmm…Disney day? ;-D

9) Movies at home or in the theater? Theater because it gives me a perfectly legitimate excuse to eat dark chocolate raisinets…

10) What time zone do you live in? Eastern.

11) Best tip for becoming a faster runner? Ah, if only I had the secret to this. In my experience thus far — and this is coming from someone who pretty much hates doing speedwork! — I’ve improved my speed through consistency. As soon as I started training for my first half marathon and running on a more consistent schedule, I couldn’t believe how much faster I could run!

Lastly, from It’s a Marathon AND a Sprint

1. If you could have one super power what would it be? The ability to run real, real fast? 😀

2. Would you rather have free Starbucks for life or free iTunes? STARBUCKS. Hands down.

3. What is your earliest memory? I have vague memories from my first Disney World trip at age 4, but unfortunately, even earlier memories from being bitten in the face by a German Shepherd when I was 3 and needing stitches…on Christmas Eve! I love dogs, but to this day, I’m scared of German Shepherds.

4. What has made you laugh the hardest? Anytime someone mocks my laugh (which, to be fair, is rather…distinctive). For some reason, I find someone imitating my laugh to be endlessly hysterical.

5. If you could have lunch with one person, living or dead who would it be? Walt Disney, of course.

6. What is your biggest disappointment? You know, if I was just a few (okay, several) inches taller, I may never have had a weight problem… 😉

7. Top 3 Favorite Cereals. Go! If you’re talking about the cereals I actually eat on a regular basis, I’m a Kashi girl. If you’re talking about what I would eat if I didn’t necessarily care about consuming a nutritional breakfast, then CAPTAIN CRUNCH!

8. What song would play during the opening credits of Your Life, The Movie? Something from Hanson! My fave!

9. If you were a dog, what breed would you be? Haha, this is a good one. A boxer? You know…since I love kickboxing? Or a greyhound? Since, you know, I like to race?

10. What is your favorite movie line of all time? Movie line? Not sure. But my favorite movie is The Little Mermaid. And Star Wars. (I’m not a geek AT ALL.)

11. What is your favorite blog post you’ve written? The recap of my first half marathon!

Okay, my turn! Here are my 11 questions.

1.) What are some of your hobbies (other than running, I mean)?

2.) What’s your favorite song of all time?

3.) What do you do for a living?

4.) When and why did you start blogging?

5.) What’s your favorite animal?

6.) What’s your biggest pet peeve?

7.) If you won the lottery tomorrow…what would you spend the money on?

8.) What’s your favorite color?

9.) What’s your favorite season/time of year?

10.) If you could eat one food every day and still never, ever get sick of it…what would it be?

11.) What are some of your favorite ways to stay fit (again, other than running)?

And now, for my nominees. Here are just 11 of the many, many, many AWESOME blogs written by incredibly inspiring runners I follow on a regular basis.

1.) Stephanie at Now I Run

2.) Amy at Writing While Running

3.) Rachel at Runner’s Tales

4.) Kim at Barking Mad About Running

5.) Erin at A Storybook Life

6.) Jodi at 13.1 Miles to Disney

7.) Katy at Running and Singing in the Park

8.) Lena at The Beginner’s Runner

9.) Lauren at Lauren’s Glass Slipper

10.) Emily at Keep Running Keep Writing

11.) Andrea at I Run for Donuts

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My Incredibly DOPEY Decision

So yesterday I did something crazy. Like, real crazy. WAY crazier than my decision to register for the Dumbo Double Dare, which I thought was just pure MADNESS at the time (and now just doesn’t seem so scary after all).

disneyprincesshalfmarathon1Yesterday, I got completely swept up in the excitement of Walt Disney World’s Marathon Weekend. If you follow runDisney fanatics on Twitter or Facebook — especially as many as I do — you just can’t help it. I had been casually entertaining the idea of attempting a full marathon ever since I crossed the finish line of the Princess Half in February and proved to myself that I could make it through 13.1 miles without dropping dead.

Running a marathon, a FULL marathon, has always been one of those pie-in-the-sky, maybe someday, “you never know” type dreams for me. Let’s face it, in the grand scheme of things, I’m still a running newbie, and I figured that someday, SOMEDAY, I’d probably go ahead attempt a full marathon.

But there was one thing I did know for sure. I knew that if I WAS going to take on 26.2 miles, it was going to be at Walt Disney World. It just had to be. So I figured maybe I’d consider registering for the 2015 marathon…or 2016. Or, hell, 2017 — what was the rush?

Truth be told, when I read accounts of runners training for their first marathons on their blogs, I’d physically cringe. 20 mile training runs? Who has the time? Or the energy?

When I read countless recaps of this year’s “Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge” — running the half marathon followed by the full marathon in the same weekend — I shook my head. What the hell were these people thinking? Were they TRYING to get themselves injured? Or killed?

But yet I couldn’t help but admit to myself that I was so incredibly, amazingly in awe of these runners. I wanted to do it, too. I wanted to be a marathoner.

I knew there would be one minor road block standing in my way. I was absolutely, unequivocally terrified of the idea of running 26.2 miles. Who did I think I was even CONSIDERING the idea? A year ago I was struggling to finish 5ks, and I really only have a handful of distance races (10 miles+) under my belt…and now I’m sitting here fantasizing about running a marathon?

When I was in Disney World in February for the Princess Half Marathon, cast members were constantly asking me if they’d “see me next January” for the marathon. I would then proceed to laugh hysterically. “I’m not quite there yet,” I told them. In fact, I believe one of my first tweets upon hearing the news of the Dopey Challenge was something along the lines of, “good luck to everyone doing the Dopey Challenge, it ain’t gonna be me!”

But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about it. Even just a little bit.

Yesterday, my mindset shifted. Big time. I wrestled with a giant knot in my stomach all morning, watching the clock for the 12pm registration time for the Walt Disney World Marathon. Should I register for 2014? Is it too soon for me? Will I be able to do it? Am I ready? Will I EVER be ready?

The answer? Who knows. Is there EVER a good time to train for a marathon? Will I EVER be “ready?”

There will always be work and family and responsibilities, and I couldn’t help but think that if I WAS going to do this, now is probably as good a time as any. I have a fairly steady client base of both editors and piano students, so while I will never get rich doing what I do, I manage to live quite frugally (I still drive the beat-up old car I bought in college; it has 170,000 miles on it for crying out loud) and also have some money saved up from spending the majority of my 20’s working and living at home with my parents. I don’t have children or pets or a mortgage, and I make my own work hours.

Are YOU Dopey? Photo credit: www.talkdisney.com

Are YOU Dopey? Photo credit: http://www.talkdisney.com

Most importantly? I’m 27 years old, and in the best shape of my life…no physical ailments or health issues of any kind (knock on wood), other than the occasional minor running-related injury, of course.

So yesterday I had to ask myself the question: Why not ME? Why not NOW?

I’m sure you can probably guess what comes next.

I whipped out my Disney Visa (my poor, sad, TIRED Disney Visa), and registered for the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon.

But, wait, there’s MORE.

In this moment of insanity, I couldn’t help but be seduced by the Dopey Challenge. In its inaugural year, it’s a challenge to run not only the marathon, but also the weekend’s 5K, brand-new 10K, AND half marathon.

That’s a total of 48.6 miles. In 4 days. The thought still sends chills down my spine. And not the good kind!

Was it it a good idea for my health? My sanity? Maybe, maybe not. But…runners who complete all four races receive not only a medal for each race, but also the coveted Goofy Challenge medal AND the brand spankin’ new Dopey Challenge medal. SIX MEDALS. Can we say BLING?!

So I thought for a moment. If I was going to put my body through months and months of marathon training…why not go ahead and celebrate my hard work with the ULTIMATE weekend of running?

Why not aim high? Why not take this chance? Why not believe in myself for once?

Anyone who knows me knows that I am nothing if not ambitious (and, also, just a little bit off my rocker). So…

DOPEY CHALLENGE HERE I COME!

I think what really sealed the decision for me is that I have truly gone through my whole life putting things off and doubting my ability to do what I wanted. “Someday” I’d “try” to be a freelance writer. “Someday” I’d “try” to lose weight. Of course, there was even a time when I told myself that “someday” I’d “try” to run a 5K…how long ago that seems!

I am TIRED of doubting myself. I am TIRED of putting things off. I want to be the kind of person who has the confidence and the courage to set a goal and then make it happen. I don’t want to “try”…I just want to DO. And I’d say this is a step in the right direction!

Okay, so who else is doing “Dopey?” Is it anyone else’s first marathon?

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Fear of the Unknown

It’s hard for me to believe that it was just a few short weeks ago that I was terrified of not being able to finish a half marathon.

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A little preview of my St. Patrick’s Day race attire!

And yet last weekend I ran a 20K (which, come on, is pretty much a half marathon!), and yesterday I registered not for a St. Patrick’s Day 5K, but instead decided to go for a freakin’ 10-MILER: the Freehold Area Running Club’s 24th Annual St. Paddy’s Day 10-Miler. Because, you know as someone who is actually Irish, I feel it’s a holiday that’s worth celebrating with more than just green beer (blech).

And then I also just registered for another half marathon in May — the Superhero Half Marathon in Morristown — which, admittedly, I’m very much looking forward to because runners are actually encouraged to wear costumes. SCORE!

I’m toying with the idea of doing the Long Branch Half Marathon because it sounds like a great race — and who doesn’t love running along the shore? — but it’s also in May. We’ll see!

Meanwhile, I’m sitting here staring at my favorite race sites and actually having a hard time narrowing down the other races I want to tackle this year…I’ve got everything from 5Ks to halfs on my list, but I know I can’t do them all!

Well, unless I want to risk my legs falling off or — far more likely — going completely broke.

And then there’s a teensy weensy little part of me that is ever-so-slightly entertaining the idea of registering for the Walt Disney World Marathon in January of next year. Yes, that’s right. A year ago I was afraid of 5Ks, and now I’m Googling marathon training tips. I figure I’ve got plenty of time to train, right?! The only thing I don’t have is plenty of time to think about it…registration for runDisney races open up super early, and sell out super fast!

DSCF2799

Think I should run my Superhero Half Marathon dressed as this fetching woman?

Oh yeah, and then there’s the small matter of taking on Disneyland’s Dumbo Double Dare challenge (a 10k followed by a half marathon) in less than six months!

Even though I was less-than-impressed by my overall performance at the Disney Princess Half Marathon (recap here!), crossing that finish line in an upright position turned out to be all I needed to let go of my fear of the unknown. I was so afraid that my training wasn’t going to be enough, or that I’d somehow discover that I really, really just wasn’t cut out to be a runner.

I’ve spent a lifetime doubting myself and my abilities in just about everything — and running just so happens to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done, both physically and mentally — so I really struggled with self-doubt throughout all of those months of hard training for my first half marathon.

DSCF3043But as it turns out, all I needed was to prove to myself that I could finish that first 13.1, and now I’m chomping at the bit to put myself and my training to the test in longer distance races.

It just amazes me how I can waste so much time letting fear keep me from doing the things I want to do. NO MORE!

So…tell me about the races you have coming up! 😀

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Race Recap: Disney Princess Half Marathon (part two)

Just in case you missed my previous recaps from the Disney Princess Half Marathon weekend: check out my expo recap here, and race recap part one here.

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When I left off, I had spotted my ChEAR Squad in front of Cinderella’s Castle. Now I know what they mean by the power of the spectator in a race, because it really did provide an instant boost that I needed to face the second part of my first half marathon. I stopped for some castle pictures and then waved good-bye to continue my journey.727412-1008-0014s

I will say that the second half of the race wasn’t quite magical as the first for me! Once we made our way out of the Magic Kingdom, I no longer had that BIG MOMENT of running through the castle to look forward to…and now that the sun was out (although there were plenty of clouds, thank goodness), the heat was starting to affect me more and more.

I continued my race day plan of running until I spotted a character I wanted to pose with, and vowed not to let myself stop to walk at all. I mentally gave myself permission to slow my pace down as much as I had to in light of the weather conditions, but I had worked so hard and trained for months and months to RUN a half marathon — and that’s exactly what I intended to do.

I’m proud to say that even though I was definitely tired, and did slow down through one or two water stops and took an unexpected potty break in mile 9 (let’s just say I was suddenly hit with some stomach issues that simply would not wait until I finished), I kept that promise!

DSCF2788However, all of my silliness and photo taking in the first half of the race had really started to catch up with me. The second half of the course is marked by some very narrow paths, and as I looked around at the runners around me, I saw that there were a handful of women who started in B and C…but a whole lot more with E, F, G, and yes, even some H’s, printed on their bibs.

I seemed to be the only A left, and for a brief moment panicked about spotting those dreaded buses that would whisk me to the finish line.

Truth be told, I hadn’t been paying a whole lot of attention to time, and was pretty much only using my Garmin to gauge my pace at that point (I kept starting and stopping it for character/water/bathroom breaks)…so I was getting worried about just how far back in the pack I had fallen. My proof was right there in front of me, when I spent the majority of miles 7, 8, and 9 just trying to weave around the walkers and slower runners.

I can’t complain — it was my own fault that I was now amongst the slower princesses — but it was frustrating and pretty much impossible to “make up for lost time,” as I had hoped. I couldn’t quite find my pace as I tried over and over again to politely DSCF2787break through walls of walkers who, unfortunately, were taking up the entire path. Some of my more dangerous maneuvers included running on the grass, which was very uneven and muddy and I feared slipping or twisting my ankle…and, I’m not proud of this, but I definitely took on a few stretches of road in the oncoming traffic lane with several other runners who seemed desperate to get ahead of the pack — despite the warnings of the cast members telling us to stay on the other side of the traffic cones.

By the time I reached some of my the character photos I definitely planned to stop for, including Genie and Stitch, I knew that I could pretty much count on tacking on a solid hour to my anticipated finish time. The lines for characters were getting a little shorter — I think everyone was just ready to finish the race! — but it DSCF2795was still eating up some significant chunks of time. Worst of all, though, I found myself really struggling by miles 10 and 11, especially as we had to make our way over some hilly overpasses on the way back to Epcot…and I really, really just wanted to finish. I scarfed down the remainder of my Clif Shot Bloks in those last few miles, and that helped, and I felt fortunate that my body wasn’t aching or in pain. I was just tired.

I kept wishing I had gotten just a few more hours of sleep, or didn’t eat whatever it was that hit my stomach with a vengeance in mile 9. I cursed the weather over and over again for being so hot and humid, and I cursed myself for not incorporating more speedwork into my weekly training runs…I now felt as though I was crawling, and my Garmin showed me averaging about a 12-13 minute/mile.

By mile 11, I was mentally and physically DONE — so much so that I decided I wouldn’t stop for any more characters or photos. I kept texting my ChEAR Squad to let them know I was on my way, but that the heat was really getting to me. I argued with myself about stopping to walk a bit over the hills (in defiance to the the green army man from Toy Story shouting at us to “move, move, move!”)…but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Mind you, I was moving at a ridiculously slow pace (for me) at that point…but I just kept running.DSCF2799

When I finally saw the mile 12 marker, I knew I was going to be able to do this. The last two miles had taken a lot out of me, but with just over one mile left to go, I decided to push myself and pick up the pace as much as I could. Running into Epcot infused me with some refreshed Disney excitement, and even though I was struggling, I knew that I would be finishing my first half marathon in just a few minutes…and that it would all be worth it in the end.

727332-1150-0038sAnd when I finally saw the shiny “13” mile marker and the finish line in the distance,  suddenly, all of my physical discomfort seemed to disappear. I sprinted towards the bleachers at the finish line and started waving like a loon at my sister and boyfriend (I never did spot my mom!), and of course felt compelled to run over for a quick photo with Princess Minnie Mouse before hopping back into the throngs of people crossing the finish line for my ultimate BIG MOMENT.

Another quick review of ChEAR Squad: There seemed to be plenty of room for spectators at the finish line, but if you have someone in your party who has trouble standing for long periods of time (that would be my mom) or if you want those aerial shots of you crossing the finish line that can only be taken from the bleachers, you may want to consider the additional expense. My personal ChEAR Squad also seemed to thoroughly enjoy the complimentary beverages and bathrooms while they were waiting 1,000 years for me to finish the race!

I threw my hands in the air and finally, it was over. I had finished my first half marathon.

I thought back to all the training runs I had done in the sweltering summer heat or the pounding rain or in three inches of snow. I thought about all the times I was busy with writing assignments or too tired or not feeling up to running, but still forced myself to lace up my sneakers anyway. I thought about all the 5Ks and 10Ks I had pushed my body through in preparation for this very moment.

IMG_3960And somehow, all of those hours upon hours of pounding the pavement were made so very, very worth it in those two seconds I spent crossing the finish line.

Even though, as anticipated, my participating in the Disney hooplah along the course cost me A FULL HOUR of time, I have absolutely no regrets. I Screen shot 2013-03-06 at 12.21.25 PMwouldn’t have done this race any other way, and now I will forever have all of these photos to remember the time I did the impossible. The girl who was too overweight and out of shape to run a mile had just completed a half marathon, and I don’t care what the stupid clock at the finish line said — nobody can ever take that away from me.

A large part of the reason that I’ve always loved Disney is that, to me, it represents dreams. Yes, of course I realize it is, at the end of the day, a multi-zillion dollar entertainment corporation, but I do believe at its core that the heart of the Disney message is not being afraid to chase your DSCF2803goals…not matter how unlikely or “impossible” they may seem (everyone knows the famous Walt Disney quote about doing the impossible, right?!). I have spent my entire life being put down by others, and being told that I couldn’t be a writer or that I would always be overweight. It took me a long time to wake up and realize that none of those things were true…and that I had the strength inside me to pursue my dreams all along. I never could have known that, someday, one of those dreams would include running a half marathon — or that I would not only become a writer, but also successfully learn how to live as a healthy, active person. 727388-1012-0018s

That’s why I feel there was no more appropriate place to run my first half marathon, and while I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the Disney Princess Half Marathon to the serious competitive runner looking to PR because it would probably prove just a bit too darn crowded, I couldn’t have asked for a better first half marathon experience. If anything, this race has reminded me to stop doubting myself, and taught me the importance of pushing myself out of my comfort zone — and now that I’m no longer afraid of the distance, I’m already registering for my next half marathon (which I WILL run for time, to see what I can REALLY do!)

727340-1011-0027sOh, and after I was sprinkled with pixie dust and handed my very first half marathon bling, I did manage to get my photo with my favorite princess…and went on to enjoy a few more magical days in Disney, where I reveled in my accomplishment. I cannot WAIT to take on Dumbo Double Dare, and I’m already planning my next several RunDisney races — consider me an addict.

The best part of all is that now I KNOW I can do this…so there’s no stopping me now! 😀

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Race Recap: Disney Princess Half Marathon (part one)

I’ve been waiting for a long time to be able to write this particular post: a recap of my very first half marathon in my very favorite place in the world. I’ve decided to split it into two sections because, otherwise, it would just be RIDICULOUSLY long…especially since I thought I’d share the finer details of our trip along with the race day stuff! I spent an unmentionable number of hours scouring the Internet for blogs and recaps of the Disney Princess Half Marathon while I was training for the race and planning my trip, so hopefully there’s something here that might be able to help someone preparing to become a princess in 2014 (or participate in any other RunDisney race)! Here it goes.

Our first night in Epcot!

Our first night in Epcot!

My “ChEAR squad” (mom, sister, BF) and I arrived in Orlando on Thursday morning, and after checking into our hotel room at Coronado Springs and freshening up a bit — I don’t even need to tell you just how drastic of a temperature change it was between New Jersey and the unseasonably hot, sticky, humid Florida — we headed to Epcot for the first of our pre-race festivities. I’ve found that it’s the perfect Disney park to hit when you only have half a day, because it handles crowds well and if lines are too long, you can always just hang out in the World Showcase! We had our “yay, we arrived!” dinner at Le Cellier — my first visit to the restaurant — and, of course, did a little light shopping before heading back to the room.

On Friday, I hit the expo (check out my recap here) while my mom and sister visited IMG_2495Seaworld (let’s just say my sister likes dolphins as much as I like Mickey Mouse) and my boyfriend alternated between enjoying Coronado Springs’ pool and helping me lug my expo purchases back to the room. We hooked up again in the afternoon to re-visit Epcot for missed attractions (we never made it on Soarin’ this trip because I refuse to stand in 60+ minute lines for anything and the Fastpasses were gone both days), but we did see everything else and enjoy Illuminations from one of my favorite World Showcase restaurants, La Hacienda de San Angel.

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Having a “wild time!”

Saturday was supposed to be a “relaxing” day, with a few hours at Animal Kingdom (the only Disney park you can experience in less than one full day, IMHO) and an early dinner reservation at The Wave…of American Flavors at the Contemporary.

But it still occurred to me that I was doing pretty much everything wrong in terms of preparing for a half marathon. I was eating foods that were new to me (kind of hard not to when you’re not at home and cooking for yourself), my sleep schedule was completely out of whack from the traveling and park touring, the extreme humidity was making it hard to stay fully hydrated, and worst of all, my legs and feet were starting to feel a little sore from all the walking…even though we took things at a much more relaxed pace than usual!

Do I look nervous?

Do I look nervous?

By our last dinner before the half, I was a wreck. We hit the hay at a respectable 8pm that evening, but I don’t think I ended up with more than an hour or two of sleep before my alarm started blaring at 2:30am. I tossed and turned all night long, wondering if my training had been enough and whether I’d ever see that finish line. I even started mentally kicking myself for making a RunDisney event my first half marathon — with so many unknowns, it made it hard for me to relax and stop obsessing over not being able to finish the race.

DSCF2710But as I got out of bed and made my breakfast (I brought a mini-blender with me so I could make a smoothie in the room, my go-to pre-race meal!) and started putting on my costume — a lovely runner-fied version of this store-bought Ariel costume, expertly tailored by my sister — I tried to focus less on the enormity of what I was about to do (me, a former 260+ pound woman, running 13.1 miles!) and more on the fun of it all. I knew this race would be amazing and magical and everything I could ever want from a first half marathon, so I decided to make a plan right then and there that my one and only race-day goal would be to JUST HAVE FUN. I would stop for as many character photos as I wanted, as many fuel/potty/water pit stops as I needed, and just focus on FINISHING the race.

I headed out to catch a bus to Epcot around 3am, and luckily snagged one of the last available seats on the first bus (my family was going to travel to Epcot by car a little bit later on) where I munched on a banana and a Luna bar. I had purchased the race retreat when I first registered for the race, not really knowing what it was, so I headed for the retreat tent to nibble on half a bagel (NOT a tried-and-tested food for my sensitive stomach, but at 3:30am, I knew I had at least two hours to digest and should be fine) and enjoy some much-needed coffee.

DSCF2716I jumped in line for my first photo op of the day with the mouse from Cinderella, not knowing that there were character ops with princesses right outside, including the one photo I really wanted: Ariel. By the time I finished enjoying a visit to the retreat’s “private” port-a-potties and went outside to enjoy the DJ and character ops, it was almost time to head to the corrals and Ariel’s line was LOOOONG…so I only hoped I’d be able to get my picture with my favorite princess dressed in my costume (and, hopefully, with a medal around my neck) after the race.DSCF2745

Quick review of RACE RETREAT: Unless you’re going to attend the breakfast after the race (I did not) and celebrate with your fellow runners and/or ChEAR Squad members (Platinum level only), in my opinion, it might not be worth the price tag.

After making my way to the corrals and hitting yet another port-a-potty (at least I knew my desperate attempts to stay hydrated in the days before the race seemed to have worked!), I stood in my corral and tried to calm myself down. I knew I wasn’t the only one running by myself, but I seemed to be surrounded by groups of friends and sisters and mother-daughter duos and I suddenly felt completely alone in this — as I knew I would be. This was something I had to do for myself and by myself, but I was having a hard time enjoying the pre-race interviews and excitement because it was all hitting me: I was about the run the longest distance I had ever run, on very little sleep, in high humidity and heat that I hadn’t trained in for months. By the time the Fairy Godmother said the magic words and the fireworks went off for Corral A to begin, I was little more than a bundle of nerves.

727342-1003-0001sBut then I started running. This was really happening — all of my months and months of training were paying off. My body knew what to do. I forced myself to focus on the moment and what I was doing, and relaxed into a comfortable pace of 9:30, even though the sweat was soaking right through my tiara-themed BondiBand by the end of the first mile. I was jamming out to my RunDisney playlist and found myself grinning like a dork by the time we reached out first character stop: the pirate ship. I was under the impression that starting in Corral A might guarantee me short lines for characters, and that might have been true for the first photo or two, but as I kept stopping for pictures…with the princes, with villains, with Lightning McQueen, I already saw Corrals B and C catching up, and the less-than 5-minute character lines were already turning into 10 or more minutes each.

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As a side note: at the expo, I submitted my most recent 10K time of 56:17, which placed me in Corral A. I know there has been lots of talk about the overcrowded course and walkers/slower runners blocking the paths and people being placed into the DSCF2757incorrect corrals, etc. so let me just say that despite my ridiculously slow finish time (more on that later), I legitimately earned my place in the first corral…and, yes, I did use that extra time cushion to soak up a little bit more of the race day magic and stop for almost EVERY character photo and tons of other photo ops in front of the castle, mile marker signs, and other points along the course. I knew going into this race that there was no way I’d be able to maintain my usual 9-10/minute mile pace with so many Disney-fied distractions along the way, and I didn’t want to go home with my shiny new medal and an amazing finish time but know that I didn’t stop to enjoy any of the fun along the course. I wanted to do my best but still take advantage of everything a RunDisney race has to offer — mission accomplished!
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I was running from character to character, feeling physically great and mentally pumped, and having the time of my life. I couldn’t wait for the moment when I’d be running down Main Street, and I was getting closer and closer. I stopped for a potty brDSCF2761eak at the TTC where I began taking a few of my cherry chocolate Clif Shot Bloks — my absolute lifesaver during long runs, and quite possibly the only reason I had the energy to finish this race!

After passing the fifth mile marker, I knew my BIG MOMENT was almost here, and I saw several volunteers and fellow runners looking at me strangely when I started getting emotional when I saw the castle in the background from where we were about to enter Main Street USA from “backstage.” I was getting close to the halfway point, and even though the clocks on the mile markers were showing times that were SO MUCH SLOWER than I knew I was capable of running, seeing Cinderella’s Castle for the first time during the race reminded me of why I was doing this and just how big of an accomplishment it was for me to even be running this race…so I decided right then and there to continue enjoying the course and not to waste my precious mental energy obsessing over my finish time.

DSCF2766When I finally reached Main Street, elated really isn’t even the word to describe how I felt. I was struggling a bit to maintain my usual pace, so I had slowed down to about a 10-11/minute mile pace in between characters and water stops (I decided it was very important to keep stopping for water and Powerade, because this princess was NOT used to long runs in the heat/humidity!), but no matter what, DSCF2779_2I was DOING IT…and I was going to make sure I finished this race.

Before I knew it, I was running down Main Street, through some of my favorite “lands,” and then out through the castle. Of course, I stopped for a few photos with friends along the way, and I saw my “ChEAR Squad” waiting for me in the hub right in front of the castle. I put on a little show for them and then continued on to the second part of the race.

DSCF2777Quick review of CHEAR SQUAD: If you care at all about having those extra few photos in front of the castle, or seeing your family and friends in front of the castle, or really having anything to do with the castle, then ChEAR Squad is the only way to do so…all other spectators were relegated to Main Street.

Check out parIMG_3788t two of my race recap here!

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Recap: Disney’s Fit for a Princess Expo

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Ready to get my shopping on!

I thought I’d start my Princess Half Marathon weekend recaps with a look at the race expo (if you didn’t see my first post-Princess recap, click here). Appropriately dubbed “Fit for a Princess,” the expo was pretty much the female runner’s heaven, with endless booths of must-have running gear and essentials along with girly apparel, sparkly jewelry, and plenty of other fun and festive accessories.

This was my very first race expo, so I feel I should mention that I really didn’t have anything to compare it to and pretty much had no idea what to expect during my entire race weekend experience.

That being said, I had read enough blogs and message board posts ahead of time to know that if I wanted a pair of those coveted RunDisney New Balance sneakers, that I had better get there early. I had already pre-ordered my Disney Princess Dooney & Bourke bag, so it was all about the sneakers that morning.

These lovely gentlemen were on hand to greet us at the expo.

These lovely gentlemen were on hand to greet us at the expo.

I had already changed my hotel to the Coronado Springs resort, which was hosting the expo this year, because I found a better deal through my annual pass discount than my original reservation at the Port Orleans French Quarter.  I was lucky enough to be able to wake up around 7am and take a stroll over the expo, where I was amongst the first 20-something princesses in line for the sneakers.

After the New Balance folks helped organize us into an orderly line and directed us to their booth, I spent about 30 minutes waiting for my turn to try on a pair of the sneakers…and let’s just say that I may or may not have purchased both models, with the justification that my size 10W feet were probably better suited for the wider men’s pair…but I really wanted the women’s, too!

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Yeah…this happened.

My next plan of attack was, of course, the RunDisney booth, where I was greeted with quite a surprise. It was 9:30 in the morning and the booth was absolutely and completely PACKED. I mean it, you could not move. I had to squeeze my way through what seemed a mile-long line of princesses just to LOOK at the merchandise.

Since I’m a crazy person and this was my first half marathon and I was oh-so-excited by all of the RunDisney goodies, my genius shopping strategy was to grab one of everything I MIGHT want, including the coveted “I Did It!” shirt, and then sort through what I was actually going to purchase while waiting in line (needless to say, I had some SORE arms the next day!). It wasn’t until well after 10am that I noticed that there was now a ridiculously long line formed by expo staff just let people into the booth, and I was almost denied re-admission when all I wanted to do was pick up my purse from the Dooney & Bourke table. CRAZY.

Found one of my favorite princesses at the expo!

Found one of my favorite princesses at the expo!

Then it was time to head to runner relations to get my corral changed, pick up my bib, my family’s ChEAR Squad gear, my race retreat wristband, my commemorative items — all of which required standing in separate lines, I might add — before jumping into the line that wrapped ALL THE WAY AROUND THE EXPO for packet pick-up.

I was planning on catching at least one of the speeches by the likes of Jeff Galloway or Ali Vincent from The Biggest Loser — a show that I watched all throughout my weight loss journey, and that continues to inspire me today — but by the time I had all of my must-do tasks taken care of, it was too late! Now that I’ve been through the half marathon experience, I’m hoping to be able to chill out a little bit and participate in more meet-and-greet activities during my Dumbo Double Dare weekend this summer (hint, hint, RunDisney, I’m going to need a spot at the meet-up!)

By this point, I was absolutely exhausted. I never did stop for a cup of coffee as originally planned on my way to the expo, and my stomach was growling, so I grabbed a bite to eat at the resort with my boyfriend (who was kind enough to help me lug my purchases back to the hotel room) and then hit the expo again to browse some new-to-me vendors, like SportHooks for my awesome “Once Upon a Run” medal hanger and Milestone Sports Jewelry for my beautiful runner heart necklace and earrings, as well as some of my tried-and-true favorites: Team Sparkle, BondiBand, and my newest obsession, Raw Threads, who released the adorable Mermaid shirt just in time for me to pre-order for the expo (so that was one line I got to skip!) and whose shirts are the absolute SOFTEST and COZIEST material ever and now I want to buy one for every day of the week. I was also particularly excited to buy the special Princess Half Marathon BondiBands and the Team Sparkle limited edition princess-inspired tees!

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Some of my swag…

All in all, I spent a ridiculous amount of money — this running thing is still very new and exciting to me, and I couldn’t help myself — and while I will say that I wish the expo wasn’t so INSANELY crowded or that the lines just for essentials like packet pick-up didn’t go on forever (and ever…and ever…) it was still a great start to the weekend!

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I DID IT! My First Half Marathon: Disney Princess!

I’m back from my first half marathon and RunDisney event — the Disney Princess Half Marathon — and I’ll be posting a whole lot of recaps and photos over the next few days…but first and foremost, I would like to announce that I DID finish, and I DID have the time of my life! I cannot WAIT for my next RunDisney race: the Dumbo Double Dare in Disneyland!

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One of many, many castle photo ops!

Before I start posting lots and lots of recaps, reviews (Race Retreat, ChEAR Squad, etc.) and photos from my trip, I wanted to take a moment to share a few post-race thoughts. My finish time was an entire hour — yes, a whole freakin’ HOUR! — later than what I had planned (2:30), but I’m going to go ahead and chalk that up to the fact that I stopped for almost EVERY photo opportunity along the course, a few pit stops, and, of course, the ridiculous humidity that I was SO not prepared to run in.

As a Northern princess, I had spent the last few months tackling my final long runs in the bone-chilling 30 degree weather…and the temperatures on race day soared to almost 80 degrees, with 90 percent humidity! I tried my best to maintain my usual 9-10/minute mile pace in between character stops, but ultimately couldn’t muster anything faster than 11-12/minute miles, especially in the second part of the race when I was really feeling the effects of the 2:30am wake-up call and was literally dripping with sweat (gross!).

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Yes, I was one of those runners taking pictures of all the mile markers!

Probably to the dismay of my devoted “ChEAR Squad” — my mom, sister, and BF — I would also be lying if I didn’t admit that I was sort of taking my sweet old time along the course. I am an absolute Disney freak, and I definitely got a little carried away with the excitement of combining my absolute two favorite things — running and Disney — on the day of the race. I was lucky enough to move up to Corral A based upon my most recent 10K time — because, yes, I am usually just a tad faster than my 3:30 half marathon finish might suggest! — and since I had that extra time cushion (there was a 16-minute/mile maximum pace starting with the last wave of runners), I decided to take full advantage of all the fun and excitement along the course.

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Yet another photo op!

I saw lots of other women arguing with their running buddies about stopping for a particular character or photo opportunity, and I didn’t want to do that to myself — I wanted to take tons of pictures and have fun and enjoy this moment that I had worked so hard for, and if that meant a less-than-desirable finish time, so what? I’ll just run another half marathon that doesn’t include all of the hooplah on the sidelines and focus on my time for that race.

The course was also pretty crowded (more on that later), so my time also included lots of weaving around slower runners and walkers, because my only other race day plan was that when I wasn’t stopping for photo ops or potty breaks that I would just keep running…and that’s exactly what did!

For me, this race wasn’t about setting a PR (although, as a first time half marathoner, I suppose it was an automatic PR), it was about having a blast in my favorite place in the world…and, most importantly, proving to myself that I can do this. I had spent the last six months training and planning and thinking about this race, and all while wrestling with self-doubt that I’d ever be able to cross that finish line. I am not some natural-born athlete; I may be physically fit now, but I am, at my core, a woman who battles a lifelong weight problem every single day, and all of the residual issues that go along with that — and I probably always will be.

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By far the LONGEST character line of the race!

And that’s why, my Disney obsession aside, I would recommend the Disney Princess Half Marathon to any first-time half marathon runner — or anyone looking to infuse a little bit of fun into their racing schedule. I was surrounded by nothing but supportive women in all shapes, sizes, ages, and ability levels, and it wasn’t some pressure-packed race experience amongst elite runners…even in Corral A. By the time I was standing at the start line and waiting for the Fairy Godmother to send us off, I had all the confidence I needed to know that I would be able to call myself a half marathoner in just a few short hours.

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Nothing better than celebrating a successful race at the Magic Kingdom!

It was a race that was all about having some silly, girly fun, with runners wearing elaborate princess costumes and tiaras and being sprinkled with pixie dust upon crossing the finish line. I honestly didn’t even have time to play the self-deprecating “you’re never going to finish” game along the course because I was so preoccupied with my next big moment — running through Cinderella’s castle, seeing the Epcot ball in the distance — or wondering which character I might get to visit with next.

Overall, I had an AMAZING first half marathon experience, and I can’t wait to share the finer details here with all of you! Stay tuned! 🙂

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Why I Love Running

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d proclaim the reasons I’ve fallen head over heels for running.

(I better love it, seeing as how ONE WEEK FROM TODAY, I will be headed down to Walt Disney World to take on my very first half marathon!)

1.) The way I feel when I’m done. Sure, sure, the running part is great and all, but whether I’ve gone out for a 2-mile run or a 12-mile run, there are no words to express the way I feel when it’s over. Call it runner’s high, call it endorphins, call it whatever you want, but I am addicted! I never feel more confident than when I can spend some time in my running duds and come home all sweaty and tired and sore and…proud.

2013-02-06 13.59.372.) The new relationship with food. It’s no secret that I used to have a serious weight problem; I spent most of my life struggling with obesity, and trying every trick in the book to gain control over my unhealthy eating habits, from fad diets to good old-fashioned starvation. Now that I’m a runner, I am forced to see food for what it truly is: fuel. Gone are the days when I obsess over every carbohydrate or scour the supermarket for the latest and greatest in fat-free snacks; I understand now that my body needs carbs and fats and all of these other nutrients — in moderation — to perform at its best.

3.) The sense of accomplishment. There is little in life that makes me as proud as the moment when I cross the finish line of a race, or when I head out for a 10- or 12-mile run and actually finish. It doesn’t matter whether I PRed or struggled through every mile — I get to constantly experience the joy that comes from setting a goal and seeing it through every time I sign up for a race or take on a new distance. There’s nothing like proving to myself over and over again that I CAN do this.

4.) The community. It has been so rewarding to communicate with, and learn from, fellow runners, who are always so willing to share their tips and encouragement. Coming in from a bad run to see that I have a new supportive comment on my blog or an encouraging tweet from another runner helps more than I could have ever imagined. It’s so much fun getting to share my new obsession!

5.) The stress relief. I’m definitely not known to be a relaxed, carefree person — I’m pretty much the exact definition of someone with a Type A personality, and have always tended to be just a tad high-strung. But not when I’m running. Lacing up my sneakers and going out for a run is a time for me to unwind, decompress, and maybe even work through the problems of the day in a calm, rational way as I’m traversing my usual running routes. Don’t get me wrong, running can certainly be physically exhausting, but it really can help soothe the mind. Even my mind.

6.) The body acceptance. Thanks to my lifelong weight struggles, I’ve always been pretty hard on myself about my body (read: I’ve loathed it with a passion). Even after my weight loss, I focused on imperfections like residual stretch marks or loose skin instead of seeing what was right there in front of me: a strong, healthy body. Running makes you appreciate everything your body is capable of achieving, and it has helped me develop an acceptance for what I have — and for that, I am eternally grateful. I’m not saying I have the perfect body, or that I ever will, but I’ve finally been able to break the cycle of striving to be “skinny” — instead, I focus on being the strongest, fittest (and, yes, even fastest!) runner I can be.

7.) The empowerment. I don’t think I need to say that running is HARD. WORK. But proving to myself that, yes, I could run a 10K, or yes, I could make it to double-digits in my long runs, makes me feel as though I could accomplish ANYTHING. Because running can be so physically grueling, and because it is a physical activity that was never, ever possible for me — someone who has always been obese — conquering my fear of taking on new distances and proving to myself every single day exactly what I am capable of achieving when I set my mind to it is incredibly, unbelievably empowering. I was the girl who couldn’t run the mile in gym class in high school, who was pointed at and laughed at for huffing and puffing my way around the outdoor track four times and still finishing last. And today…I am training for a half marathon.

8.) The travel. Of course, I had to mention this one! I can see now that running just pairs so nicely with my desire to travel and go places and experience new things. I am beyond thrilled to be able to combine my love of running with my love of, oh, I don’t know, say Disney World, and am excited to participate in races and meet other runners from other other parts of the country (and, no, I don’t just mean my upcoming trip to Disneyland for the Dumbo Double Dare).  My running journey has been nothing but exciting and fulfilling, and I look forward to where it might take me next!

Your turn. What do YOU love about running?

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13.1 Lessons I’ve Learned While Training for My First 13.1

Yesterday, I braved the snow and ice (thanks a lot, Nemo!) and went out for my last long run before the Disney Princess Half Marathon. I planned to take on 12 miles — my longest run to date. Though the packed down snow and icy patches along my usual route slowed me down a bit, I am happy to announce that I finished all 12 miles…and, most importantly, that I felt pretty damn good!

A segment of yesterday's running route!

A segment of yesterday’s running route!

I know that many half marathon training plans only go up to 10 miles, but I wanted to see if I could push myself just a bit further. I needed to prove to myself that I CAN take on this distance…and I’m figuring the adrenaline and the excitement of seeing that finish line will carry me through the final 1.1 miles on race day!

As I was making my way through yesterday’s wintry wonderland, I did a lot of thinking. Knowing that it was my last long run after months and months of training (I’ve been working on building up my base since LAST AUGUST!), I couldn’t help but feel a little bit nostalgic about my running journey thus far. I have a feeling that there will be many more half marathons in my future, but because this is my first — and, let’s face it, because it’s taking place at Walt Disney World — I know it will always hold a special place in my heart.

Last summer, my idea of “running” was heading out for slow 2-3 mile jog a few times a week at the park near my apartment. It was just something I did to exercise when I had the time. At that point, I had also completed a few 5Ks and 4-milers “just for fun.” Yet despite my inexperience, for some reason, I felt compelled to go ahead and sign up for a half marathon.

The thought of running a half marathon — especially a RunDisney event — had crossed my mind several times in the past, but it was never something I thought I could actually accomplish. Those events, after all, were for “real” runners.

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Longest run ever: 12 miles!

I had no idea then just how much clicking that “register” button was going to change my life, and as I tackled yesterday’s scheduled 12 miles, I found myself thinking about all of the things I’ve learned along my journey to my first half marathon. And, what a coincidence, there are 13.1 of ’em!

1.) Running is hard. I figured I’d start with the obvious. Six months ago, I saw running as little more than a cardio activity…you know, something you did to burn some calories and maybe even drop a few pounds. I had no idea how much jargon there was to learn (fartleks, anyone?) or the experimentation necessary to find the right sneakers or pre-race fuel or what it would take to complete a structured training plan of runs over the course of a few months. The act of running is pretty straightforward, I suppose — one foot in front of the other — but there is NOTHING easy about it.

2.) Runners are among the most supportive people — ever! As I’ve become more active on social media sites like Twitter, and even running-specific sites like Daily Mile, I have found nothing but support from fellow runners. Whether I’m chatting with people at races or sharing tips on-line, there’s definitely a “we’re all in this together” kind of mentality that comes from the shared experience of running. I’m so grateful for all the runners who have offered guidance, support, and that much-needed bit of encouragement along the way!

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Feeling good!

3.) Running is as much mental as it is physical. When I started getting serious about improving, I found that runners and running magazines and running websites and running books and all of the various sources of information I started studying seemed to allude to this fact. To be honest, I never believed it…until now. I’ve experienced firsthand what it’s like to have your body quit on you, whether it’s during a 10-mile training run or a local 5K. Even when my legs feel like lead and I want nothing more than to take a nap on the side of the road, somehow, your mind takes over…and you just get through it. It’s that same mental toughness that has gotten me out the door to squeeze in an early morning run, run a race on a 85-degree day, or perhaps even tackle a 12-miler in the aftermath of a blizzard!

4.) Running is completely, utterly addicting. I used to see runners on the side of the road at 6am on a frigid winter morning or a blistering hot summer afternoon and wonder what the hell they were thinking. Now I know. The runner’s high is oh-so-very real, and I need it. All the time. If I’m sick or injured or am unable to run for any length of time — even just a few days — I can’t even describe the torture! I feel as though my life revolves around running now…when I’m not actually pounding the pavement, I’m registering for my next race or researching new workouts or reading magazines like Runner’s World. I know running can be tough on the body, but as someone who used to be addicted to food, I’d say this is a much healthier alternative!

5.) There are countless ways to get injured.  I’m not stupid or anything…I knew running wasn’t exactly akin to yoga or taking a spin on a stationary bike, but I had no idea just how hard day after day of running 4 or 6 or 8 or 10+ miles was going to be on my body. I’ve become accustomed to being sore pretty much all the time, and I’m lucky in that I’ve suffered only minor injuries throughout my half marathon training. But the fear of knowing that I can injure myself enough to take me out of the game, so to speak, at any given moment is pretty damn terrifying. It’s just so easy to suffer a stress fracture or develop tendinitis or pull a hamstring, and that sort of leads me to my next lesson learned…

6.) You learn to appreciate your body and everything it can do. It’s no secret that I’ve always pretty much hated my body. A lifetime of being 30 or 50 or 100 pounds overweight at any given time and being called oh-so-flattering nicknames like “thunder thighs” throughout your elementary, middle, and high school years can do that to you. I may be a comfortable size 8/10 now, but my body is far from perfect — the years of yo-yo dieting have certainly taken their toll. But since I’ve started running, I can honestly say that I have completely stopped obsessing over my body’s imperfections. When you start proving to yourself on a daily basis just how strong you are, or how fast you can be, suddenly a little loose skin just doesn’t seem so important anymore. My legs are definitely larger than the average person’s, but you know what? Those legs have carried me through 10K races and 10-mile runs. I am truly ashamed of myself for poisoning my body with food and inactivity for so many years, and taking my health for granted…now that I’m a runner, I do everything in my power to take care of what I have and I fully appreciate just how far these “thunder thighs” have taken me.

7.) The right fuel makes all the difference. As a formerly obese person, my life pretty much used to revolve around eating…and even after my weight loss, I continued to battle with my unhealthy relationship with food. But then you start training for an endurance event like a half marathon, and suddenly, every morsel that passes my lips is evaluated for the way in which it will affect my running. I know exactly which healthy foods will help power me through my next run, and I’ve had to impose all sorts of rules on myself when it comes to racing or preparing for longer runs. Not to mention I had no idea just how difficult it was going to be to find the long run fuel that worked for my apparently sensitive stomach, and would help keep me going for miles and miles (the winner: Clif Shot Bloks!) Running has finally helped me learn to look at food for what it really is — fuel — and for that reason alone, I will continue to lace up my sneakers.

8.) You need more than sneakers. Don’t get me wrong, finding the right pair of footwear is CRITICAL, but I used to think that running was among the more inexpensive activities to get hooked on — especially if you compare it to something like my martial arts classes (not cheap!). If only I had known then the endless amounts of gear that would become essential to my running life, from fuel belts to GPS watches to BondiBands! And then, of course, there’s the wardrobe — my running attire now far outnumbers my “regular” clothing, and I have a full array of sweat-wicking clothing and accessories for every single weather contingency…and, I’ll admit it, in every color and pattern. Nothing wrong with looking cute while you run!

9.) Bad runs happen, and there’s nothing you can do about it. When I was getting started, I’d constantly battle the urge to throw in the towel after struggling to complete what was supposed to be an “easy” 3-mile training run. I still marvel at the fact that there are days when I take on 7 miles with seemingly little effort, and others when 4 miles feels more like 400 miles. There are so many factors that will affect your performance, from the weather to your level of hydration to what you ate for dinner the night before to what color nail polish you’re wearing (okay, I’m exaggerating), but the bottom line is that no matter how well-trained you are, sometimes you’re just going to have a bad run. And there’s no use in beating yourself up over it.

10.) Runners come in all shapes and sizes. I used to be completely convinced that I could never be a “runner” because I don’t have the typical “runner’s body.” I’m embarrassed to admit how many times I told myself I was too “fat” to run. But when I started participating in races, I looked around and saw people of all shapes and sizes lining up at the starting line…and now I kind of like to think of myself as proof that you definitely do not have to be “skinny” to run! I’ve learned that with proper training, anyone can learn how to improve, regardless of your size…if I can do it, anyone can!

11.) Discipline is EVERYTHING. When it comes to running, I’ve found that there is nothing more important than discipline. Runners succeed because they force themselves out of bed to squeeze in a 4am training run before work, or consistently choose the right foods and get ample sleep because they know it boosts their performance. Once I started disciplining myself to follow a consistent training plan and educate myself on proper nutrition to fuel my new activity, everything changed…suddenly, I could run faster, and felt so much better while doing so. You cannot train for a half marathon or a marathon or a triathlon or any kind of endurance event without having discipline, period.

12.) You can only compete against yourself. I know there are elite athletes, but of course, most of us will never be one of those runners. I spent so much time being intimidated by other runners and the fear of being “too slow” to participate in a race with those who can run a 6 or 7 minute-per-mile pace that it took me this long to figure out that running is a sport where you really only have to worry about yourself. Every race is an opportunity to set your own PR or put your own training to the test or challenge yourself in a new way, and you don’t have to be concerned with what everyone else is doing. You worry about running your own race, and that’s it.

And finally, lesson number 13.1 (sorry, just trying to be cute) I’ve learned while training for my first half marathon:

impossible13.1.) There is nothing — NOTHING — like crossing a finish line. It doesn’t matter how many 5Ks I have under my belt, or the fact that the 10K distance no longer terrifies me…crossing the finish line of a race is an indescribable feeling. When I’ve found myself struggling during a training run, all I have to do is imagine the moment when I cross the finish line of my first half marathon to keep me going. Running is fun and all, but for me, every time I finish a race — regardless of the distance involved — it is proof positive that I am doing something that I never thought I could do. It is the ultimate metaphor for setting a goal and the pride that comes to seeing it through to the very end.

For me, running is kind of like achieving the impossible every single day. And maybe that’s why running my first half marathon at Walt Disney World is just so meaningful to me.

What were some of the things you learned while training for your first half (or full!) marathon?

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Taking a Leap of Faith

This week, I did something absolutely insane. I still can’t believe I did this.

On Tuesday morning, I started hearing rumblings of something called “Dumbo Double Dare” on Twitter and the DIS Boards threads I’ve been frequenting ever since I registered for the Disney Princess Half Marathon. Not gonna lie — I had no clue what it was.

Dumbo-Double-Dare-FB-Cover

So, of course, I Googled it…and found out it was related to the Disneyland Half Marathon coming up in August. I’d been entertaining the idea of registering for the half marathon for weeks, mainly because it would give me the opportunity to earn the coveted Coast to Coast medal awarded to runners who complete a race at both the Walt Disney World resort and the Disneyland resort in the same calendar year. And, plus…I’ve never been to Disneyland, and I figure it’s about time I change that!

However, I sort of planned to wait until after I ran the Princess Half next month to make any crazy decisions (read: I wanted to see if I would survive one half marathon before committing myself to another one).

As it turns out, this year, Run Disney decided to add a 10K option to the Disneyland Half Marathon weekend…and they were offering a special “Dumbo Double Dare” medal to finishers of both the 10K on Saturday followed by the half marathon on Sunday.

coasttocoastmedalAll of the runners I follow on Twitter were posting all morning about how quickly the Disneyland events were going to sell out…and what a hot ticket the Dumbo Double Dare was going to be — it was only open to 5,000 runners. Apparently, the majority of the spots had been filled with early registration during the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend earlier this month.

Suddenly, I had minutes to decide whether I would be taking a leap of faith and registering for a second half marathon before I had even finished my first.

AND…I couldn’t help but ignore the fact that I suddenly and desperately wanted to challenge myself to the Dumbo Double Dare. I’ve raced in a handful of 10Ks and I regularly complete 6-mile training runs, so I figured I should probably be able to handle following up a 6.1 mile race with a half marathon, right?

disneylandhalfWho the hell knows? All I know is that at 12pm on the dot — the moment those registration spots opened to the general public — I sat there staring at the Active.com registration page, arguing with myself about whether or not I could do this. Aside from the fact that I had promised myself I’d pay down my Disney Visa before next month’s trip (YEAH, RIGHT), I am still wrestling with self-doubt on a daily basis that I’ll be able to finish one half marathon…let alone a 10K AND a half marathon over the course of just 48 hours.

I still sometimes have a hard time calling myself a “runner,” and yet there I was contemplating flying across the country to take on a total of 19.3 miles IN ONE WEEKEND.

I saw the minutes ticking by and was compulsively scrolling through Twitter updates about how the challenge was almost full, and decided it was time to stop doubting myself. I wanted to do this, and there was absolutely no reason that I shouldn’t.

Soooo…I DID IT!

I got in just minutes before the Dumbo Double Dare was officially declared sold out. The 10K sold out in a matter of hours, and the option to register for just the half marathon was gone by the next day.mk

It looks like I’m going to Disneyland! And, yes, that’s enormously exciting for a Disney freak like myself. Not to mention, it’s pretty awesome to think that I am among a very limited amount of runners who will be taking on this challenge.

However, the most exciting part of all is that if registering for this insane weekend of running doesn’t prove that I’m finally starting to believe in myself, then I don’t know what will.

And that might be even more thrilling than the FOUR (!) medals I’m going to receive that weekend.

Anyone else as insane as I am? Who else is doing Dumbo?

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