So many beloved athletic events have had to change in order to implement COVID restrictions — but don’t let these changes stop you from participating!
I’ll never forget the first time I learned about runDisney. We had just arrived in Orlando and were aboard the Magical Express, making our way to our hotel, when I saw the signs down the side of the highway warning about traffic and road closures for the “Princess Half Marathon Weekend”. The idea that you could run a race IN DisneyWorld filled me with more joy and excitement than you can imagine.
As soon as we got home from our trip, I began to research these magical races and figure out how I could participate.
It was a few years more (while I recovered from a brain tumour surgery and regained my physical fitness) before I took the leap and signed up for my very first event — the Tinkerbell 10K in Disneyland. While I journeyed to DisneyLand with my family, I was the only one who was going to be running. I will admit, I was a bit nervous, heading to the starting line all by myself. But as I slowly made my way from my hotel to the corrals, I was stunned by the sheer number of people running — and the COSTUMES they were wearing! There was so much to look at that I was kind of glad I was by myself so I could take my time and really look around and soak in the atmosphere.
As the race began and the course took us through backstage areas that guests wouldn’t normally get to see, and then past some amazing scenery (running through Cars Land as the sun rose is something I will never forget), all the while being able to stop and take photos with characters along the way, I was hooked!
Next up was my first Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend. This time, I ran with a friend, and we only ran the 1/2 marathon portion. Again, I was blown away by the costumes that everyone was wearing and amazing scenery and characters that we got to see was we ran. But as I crossed the finish line and made my way to the spectator stands to meet my family, I realized that some people were receiving an extra medal! That’s right — for running both the 10K and the 1/2, you also received a Fairy Tale Challenge medal.
The only obvious thing to do was to sign up for the Fairy Tale Challenge the following year. And then, the year after, the 5K as well as the Fairy Tale Challenge. I completed all 3 races in February of 2020.
And then . . . COVID.
In 2021, the Princess races went virutal. I was preparing to complete all the runs by myself, sad that I wouldn’t be running around Epcot, or through the Castle, that I wouldn’t get see so many amazing runners in their amazing costumes, and that there would be no character sightings.
But then it hit me. I was home. With my family. Who had never had a chance to experience the fun of actually running a runDisney race (although they were experts at spectating).
And so we all took on the challenge. For the kids, it meant breaking the race up into smaller, achievable distances. But for the Husband and I, it meant powering through the full distances in one go. We cheered each other on, and celebrated our big finishes with a special Disney-themed dinner, while watching our favourite Disney shows.
A few weeks later, the medals arrived in the mail — the kids were so proud to receive tangible evidence of their accomplishment. And to commemorate the achievement, I purchased a medal hanger to display all our new hardware!
From this, a new family COVID tradition was born.
We completed the Wine and Dine Challenge in the fall, the Dopey Challenge this month, and we’re looking forward to the Princess Weekend next month, and the Springtime Surprise Weekend in April.
To be clear, running these events at home is no where near as fun as being in Disney. But running these events, with my whole family, being able to cheer each other on, and share in the excitement of finishing, is certainly something wonderful! And this is why I’m loving these virtual races this year!
a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable
desire or be curious to know something;
Wonder was the word I chose for my One Little Word this year. I’ve chose a word for the year every year for the past few years, using words like Joy, and Love, and Magic as guiding lights for how I want to move through the year, and my reasons for choosing Wonder for this year were not different. I wanted to focus on wondering what the best case scenarios could be when faced with uncertainty or unpleasant situations instead of defaulting to my usual way of solving problems that involves creating lists of all the possible worst case scenarios and trying to mitigate them all. I also wanted to use my word as motivation to try new things, create new things … think new things.
Wonder bubbled along in the background of my life for the first few months of the year. I wondered about lots of things, big and small, like how on earth I was going to find a way to enjoy all the driving to and from school and activities (the answer was podcasts and audiobooks), and if I could start training in January and still be ready for the Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend (I did train, and I was ready).
And then … COVID.
All of a sudden my wondering stopped being so trivial as we all were forced to navigate through life in lock down with the kids in homeschool and the Husband all of a sudden working from home. Like everyone else I wondered if we had enough toilet paper, enough food in the pantry, enough bandwidth in our wifi to support all of us at home. I wondered if we would all stay healthy, and what things I could do to ensure that we could stay as healthy as possible. And most of all, I wondered when things would go back to “normal”.
But as these past few months have ticked by, and lockdown has lifted, and things are returning to a new kind of normal, Wonder has taken on a much different tone for me.
Wonder has become less of a question of survival, and more of a soft invitation to try. I am finding that by “wondering” if I can do something, or try something, or experiment with something new, the pressure to succeed at whatever it is I am attempting is somehow lifted; while I can still have doubts about whatever it is I’m attempting, I can still make room to be curious and try.
And best of all, I am finding, that the more I open myself up to wondering, the more Wonder I find in my life.
And as if just to prove a point, as I embarked on a new workout regime yesterday that I had been wondering about for a while now, I was struck with Wonder at the beautiful sunrise that graced the skies above me.
It’s no secret – I LOVE runDisney races! There are a million reasons why the Disney runs are so magical – the amazing community of runners in the races, the on-course entertainment, and all the fun and excitement surrounding the races just to name a few. And there are a million other runDisney fanatics that share my view – there’s SO much you can read and SO many communities you can join online focused on Disney runs.
But that being said, before I hit the starting line for my first runDisney event, even after all the reading and researching and community-joining that I had done, I still had loads of questions running through my mind. And so, as the runDisney race season starts up again for the new year, I thought I’d make a little list of things I wish I had known before my first race to maybe help any other newbies to the runDisney community at large before their first race!
1. You DON’T have to wear a costume
When you look up runDisney events, you’re going to see photo after photo of absolutely amazing costumes people put together for their runDisney events. There are whole communities dedicated to costuming for runs (yes, I’ve joined a few of them). And it can seem like you absolutely need to have a costume if you’re going to do a run at Disney.
I’ll never forget getting to my corral for my first ever run and seeing all the amazing costumes and feeling totally and completely underdressed! (I mean one woman was fully decked out in a crocodile costume – and she still ran faster than me!)
BUT, what I’ve learned along the way, is that, while loads of people love to dress up for their run, loads of people like to just wear their favourite running clothes.
I’ve also learned that there’s a happy medium too . . . a fun tank from vendors at the the run expo, like Raw Threads, or a cute skirt from Sparkle Skirts or Sparkle Athletic make for a fantastic and comfortable running outfit. Add in a big bow or cute headband – like the ones at Sparkly Soul to complete your “costume” (I still don’t know how people run in Mickey/Minnie ears – so I’m partial to a big bow I can clip in on top of my ponytail that I know will stay put for the whole race).
2. Stop to Take Photos Along the Way – and Have YOUR Photo Taken (and don’t be alarmed if some of the photos aren’t the most flattering) – and Splurge and get PhotoPass
One of the fun parts about Disney races is that you get to see “behind the scenes” as it were of some of the parks. AND you get to see loads of characters that aren’t always out and about in the parks. So stop and take photos – these are often the photos my family (the kids) like best.
And while we’re on the topic of photos, don’t forget to stop and have photos taken of yourself too. While there are often long lines for the character photo-ops along the course, it can still be fun to stop and pose with your favourite Disney friend – the wait can be a nice way to take a break from all the running. However, there are also tons of photographers along the course who snap away at all the runners that pass them by. Don’t forget to smile or wave as you pass by them. But don’t be alarmed if these aren’t the most glamorous shots you’ll ever see of yourself.
I know it’s not exactly cheap – but if you can swing it – splurge and get the PhotoPass. It will allow you to download ALL your photos from the race(s) you do for free, not to mention any other photos you take while you’re on Disney property. Trust me, you’re going to end up wanting to buy ALL your photos anyway. – and when you see the cost of a single photo download, you’ll be SUPER happy you bought the PhotoPass.
So used to driving under this sign . . . NOT running under it!
My favourite view of all happens when you run down Main Street.
Best photo op of the entire Princess Half!
My running buddy and I HAD to stop to take photos here!
3. Don’t Worry about Personal Bests at a Disney Run
Those who know me know that I can be just a tad bit competitive. So the idea of running a race for “fun” and not to try and earn a personal best just doesn’t see right to me. BUT, Disney is NOT the place to try for personal bests. Why??? Well, there’s so much to take in while you’re running, it’s nice to actually take it all in, instead of focusing on running as fast as you can. And as I mentioned above (see 2. Stop to Take Photos Along the Way – and Have YOUR Photo Taken) – it’s hard to run your best race if you’re slowing down to take photos or to have your photo taken!
But, it’s also important to keep in mind that since the races go THROUGH the parks, at times the race course gets quite narrow. Which means everyone has to slow down to make it through the tight spots – case in point – during the Princess Half, everyone gets to run trough the castle . . .not exactly the widest thoroughfare! So, even if you have the best of intentions, you may find yourself running into some unexpected magical obstacles that prevent you from getting that personal best.
4. Get to the Race Early – and Be Prepared to Walk a LONG Way to Get to Your Corral
I know – the runDinsey events start an an ungodly hour of the morning. And when you factor in travel time, and the time it takes to get to your corral, chances are, you’re going to be waking up somewhere close to 3:30 or 4 in the morning on race day.
I’ll be honest, I was prepared to wake up early, to leave my hotel early, and to get to the race early. And I did.
But what I hadn’t factored into my plan was the (seemingly) never-ending walk to get to the corrals and the sheer amount of time it took to get there.
On reflection, the walk to the corral was a nice warm-up, and since the walk there took so long, I didn’t end up waiting for ages in my corral. But, it also meant that I wasn’t at the front of the corral either (which is super important for some runners). So take that into consideration when you’re setting up your wake-up and departure times for race morning!
5. The Washroom Situation (See Also #4 – Get to the Race Early)
runDisney events are REALLY popular. Which means there are a LOT of runners in each race. Which means that there are REALLY long lines for the portable washrooms at the start of the race. Which means, factor in an extra 15-20 minutes to get in that last minute before-race bathroom break!
While there are ample portable washrooms around the courses, the BEST advice my friend and veteran runDisney runner gave me was . . . . use the restrooms in the park! During last year’s Princess Half, we ran into the bathrooms at the entrance to the Magic Kingdom. Let’s just say it was a MUCH more pleasant experience than having to use the portable washrooms . . .
6. The VIP Race Retreat is Worth Every Penny
I signed up for the Race Retreat before last year’s Princess Half. I had previously signed up for it at the Disneyland Tinkerbell Half Marathon weekend – and the ability to access the merchandise area there early was a godsend. For the Princess Half, though, I was motivated to sign up for it because I had signed the Husband and my kids up for the Platinum ChEAR Squad package (so they could be entertained and comfortable while waiting for me to finish the race) and I wanted to be able to join them in the tent after.
BUT . . . the SINGLE BEST PART about the Race Retreat is . . . the “Private Restrooms”. As a Race Retreat ticket holder you have access to the hospitality tent before the race (a great place to pick up a quick snack before the run) and just outside the hospitality tent . . . a series of portable restrooms reserved only for Race Retreat-ers. Meaning the wait to use a washroom was negligible, versus significant lines at the portable washrooms everywhere else before the start line.
I will say though, it was very nice after the race to be able to grab a drink and a snack, and have a place to sit down and re-group before getting on with the rest of the day.
And . . . the characters onsite were pretty neat too!
7. Take Your Own Music
I know, I know. RunDisney says not to use earphones while running in their races so you can hear course announcements as you’re running. Which totally makes sense. Except for the fact that large parts of the longer runs take place on the highway – yup – long stretches of pretty boring scenery – with little to keep you entertained other than then character sightings and checking out other runners’ costumes.
So, my runDisney buddy and I decided to run with just one earbud in – that way we could listen to the music we wanted to hear / needed to hear to keep us motivated – but we were also able to hear any course announcements – and of course to chat with each other!
8. Track Your Distance on Your Phone / Watch
While there are mile markers along the way for most of the races, during the Disneyland Tinkerbell 10k, there was only one 5k marker along the way. I had neglected to set any sort of distance tracker on my phone/watch for that race, so I had NO idea, once I was past the half way mark, how much further I had to run.
That being said, even with all the mile markers along the runs, it is nice, between miles, to know just how far you need have let to go to get to the next one – especially in the later part of the race!
9. Be Prepared for the Weather
Running in Florida can mean running through all different kids of weather – and it’s best to be prepared for any eventuality!
Obviously that means planning for high temperatures as well as the cooler temperatures that can hit, especially for the races in January and February. (Layers are your friend – and all the layers you discard along the way get donated to local charities.)
But it also means planning for the temperature changes WHILE you’re running the race. Even though the races start off in the dark, by the time you’re done running, hopefully the sun will be shining, and you may wish you had a hat or sunglasses to shade your eyes from the sun!
And of course, it means planning for chafing and blistering. I honestly never thought chafing would be a concern of mine . . . but heed the warnings you’ll see from veteran racers – use the anti-chafing product that you like best. You’ll be glad you did. And as for blisters – I found that double layer socks worked wonders in my shoes! I can run for miles without a single foot issue!
That being said, if you do happen to have a chafing or blistering issue along the run, there are lots of first aid stations along the way to help!
10. Spend Some Time Post-Race in the Parks WITH Your New Medal(s)
It’s true – the best way to recover after a long run is to walk – and what better way to get in a slow, leisurely recovery walk, than to walk around the park wearing your new hardware. Don’t forget to get lots of pictures of you wearing your medals (to make the MOST of your PhotoPass+ purchase) and lots of pics of your medals in front of your favourite Disney landmarks (like the Castle).
Oh, and eat ALL the food while you’re walking the parks too . . . post-race calories don’t count, so have that churro, get that popcorn, savour that Mickey ice cream. You deserve it!
Well, that’s all the tips I have for now. I hope to see you out on a runDisney race course soon – and I hope you love all your runDisney events just as much as I do!
Goodness . . . it’s been a LONG time since my last post. And while I’ve missed jotting down my musings here, there’s been a few things going on . . . like a little kitchen renovation project . . .
and gardening season . .
which, after several days of planting, is turning into this:
and of course all the end of year, planning for next year, stuff of life that happens when you have kids.
But as crazy as the past month has been, in those quiet moments, when I’m driving to an from schools, or design stores, or I’m speed planting flowers in my garden, my thoughts keep returning to the #runDisney event I did four weeks ago.
Those that know me, know that I love to be active. I’ve joyfully participated in crossfit of some form or another for years now. I faithfully train with the Coach a few times a week. And it’s rare for a day to go by without me finding my way into the gym. But I have NEVER, EVER considered myself a runner. The fact that my running “form” has been compared to both a bunny rabbit and a kangaroo perhaps offers a clue as to why I’ve never been a natural at running. Although, quite frankly, running was always the one form of physical activity that I just could never find the mental fortitude needed to see my way through a run that lasted any longer than about 20 minutes.
But something changed this fall.
Over the summer, I had gradually, unconsciously, built up my ability to run. With just a kettle bell, a skipping rope a yoga mat, and dirt roads at the cottage, short running intervals played a large part in my daily workouts – if only to break up the monotony of burpees and skipping.
Then my son signed up for the cross country team at school, and was able to earn “bonus miles” for runs he did at home. We started doing short runs together, working up to 5k, earning some virtual Harry Potter run medals in the process, and culminating in finishing the 5k portion of the Toronto Waterfront Marathon. Those runs I did with my son taught me a lot – the gentle encouragement and support I offered him as he worked his way through our runs made me realize how I talk myself through a workout – let’s just say my self-talk sounds distinctly different, and I wanted to work on changing that.
During those first few weeks of September, while the Husband was starting to question what I would like to do for my 40th birthday, something, I wish I could remember what it was, runDisney and Tinkerbell-run related arrived in my in-box. Our annual trip to DisneyWorld often coincides with the Wine and Dine Half Marathon weekend – hearing the runners’ stories, seeing them walk around the parks withe their medals has always intrigued me . . .
And so, I found myself registering for the Tinkerbell 10K.
Before I knew it, race day arrived. My fears that had built up in the intervening months melted away as the start of the race drew closer. My fears of being alone (it’s the first time I’ve done any sort of sport without a coach or a teammate) dissipated as I met and chatted with other runners in my corral. My internal debate as to whether I should run the race to see how fast I could run, or whether I should run the race for fun dissipated with each character photo stop I passed along the way. And my worries about whether or not I could even run a 10K disappeared as I caught sight of the finish line and the Husband and the kids cheering me on.
When you run Disney, every mile really is magical. Running alone allowed me to take it all in – to marvel at the ages of some of my fellow runners (and just how fast they could run), to admire those running in costumes, to smile at the parent/child running teams, the husband/wife pairings, or the groups of women running together. It seemed as though everyone on the course, was happy to be there. Myself included.
But more than anything, running Disney reminded me that just when you think it’s getting too hard to keep going, when you really just want to stop . . . you round a bend and come across something truly magical – whether it’s another runner that inspires you, the sight of a favourite attraction, the view of the sun rising through the park, or a silly character interaction. And you’re inspired to keep going, to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
And so . . . now that I’m hooked on running Disney, I’ve already signed up for my next runDisney race . . . the Princess Half Marathon. I’m also looking to find a way to justify going back to do the Tinkerbell 10K again next year too . . . (but don’t tell the Husband that).
In the meantime, I will actually work on my running technique – hopefully by February, I’ll look like I actually ran the race . . . not bounced my way through it!