Howdy folks, its your resident non-athletic runDisney fan, Kaitie. Today I am bringing you a brief history of my first runDisney experience, and hopefully to inspire those who may be a bit nervous of jumping into a runDisney event for the first time.
First things first - I am not sporty, graceful or in any way the type of person to whom athletic things come easy. I enjoy being out and about - my couch potato to trail hiking ratio is about 50/50. However, I grew up with an extremely athletic sister, and running-dad, and a mom who was as competitive as the day is long. My dad ran the Disney World Half marathon, sometime around 1999 or 2000, and I thought it was just the coolest thing to have a medal with Donald Duck on it. Fast forward to my sophomore year of college. Fresh off of being dumped and full of rather aggressive emotions, I decided to sign up for my first half marathon, to take place of January 2013.
This was probably a few years before the HUGE boom in runDisney popularity, judging by the fact that I signed up for the race a good 3 months after registration opened. If you aren't in the know, starting around 2014, races typically sold out within a week, most on the same day (there has been a shift in this recently, and some races are staying open for a couple of months).
I began training right away, starting basically from scratch - using my sister's treadmill in her basement in the mountains of Georgia, where I was living for a summer. Once I got back to the gloriously flat land of Florida, I moved my runs outside (yup, even in the heat of August.) I had done some 5ks (mostly walking) before this, and I had always had fairly active summer jobs (summer camps, childcare, canoe rentals) that kept me in decent shape without consciously "trying". This definitely gave me a small leg up, but not much over someone who may have a more sedentary life style. I utilized the runDisney provided Jeff Galloway training plan, which I still use for each race. These are built on the concept of Run-Walking, which is just fine for me. I suggest picking up one of Jeff Galloway's books as well, as he does a great job explaining why this method works so well and can actually help you finish faster than you might otherwise. In addition, it goes over important running topics such as fueling, prepping for race day, hydration, etc.
For this first race, I was excited and in college, with a flexible schedule and lots of motivation. This meant I really stuck to the training plan and pushed myself hard. This paid off with my fastest time, even to this day (in the future, I would love to work on my time and improve, but more on that later). For first time runners, athletic or non, this is the best advice I could give. STICK TO THE PLAN. If you miss a day (I did!) make it up if possible. If not, do not miss the next one. I was blessed to have my dad, who was still able to run at the time, to accompany me on those long 8-13 milers, for both entertainment and motivation. I had a stopwatch and an iPod (this predated my smart phone days) for the solo-run days to get me through the miles. These practice runs are important - both to train your body and your mind, and to discover what your body needs for fuel and hydration.
Oh, and get good shoes. Go to a running store, have an employee watch you walk and listen to what they say. Stress-fractures and sore feet stink.
Race weekend was exciting and unbelievably nerve-wracking. I read so many blogs, watched you-tube videos, stumbled into several runDisney chat rooms and consumed all the stories, tips, and checklists I could in the months leading up to the big day, and discovered something GROUNDBREAKING. There is no way to 100% prepare for your actual first race - I ran the 13 miles twice during training (once on purpose, and once due to a mis-calculated Map-My-Run incident) so I knew I could handle the mileage, but my head always swims with "Here's what could go wrong..." scenarios. I'm sure this varies from person to person, but I am usually a worse-case scenario person. I am happy to say that the weekend was perfect, I finished the race better than I expected, and I caught the runDisney bug. I have since run 8 more runDisney half-marathons, and 2 non-RD half-marathons, 5 or 6 runDisney 10ks (my favorite Disney distance and courses, by the way!), and hope to run many more in the future!
The runDisney events are so fun and 100% worth-it in my opinion. I am happy to be so experienced in them now, and look forward to writing more about my experiences, tips and suggestions in blog posts to come!
Have you done any races? Let us know below! Any runDisney related questions? We would love to hear them!!