As my friends and family can tell you, all I’ve really been talking about for the past six months is the Disney Princess Half Marathon in February. Not only will it be my first half marathon, but it’s at my second home, Walt Disney World, as well as four days before my 41st birthday.
Plus, costumes. ALL THE COSTUMES.
I began running in the fall of 2013. My goal, besides to raise awareness to various causes, mainly ovarian cancer awareness as my mother, The Champ, is an eight year survivor and just kicked cancer butt for the FIFTH time…was the Tower of Terror 10 Miler, held at Disney Hollywood Studios in October. It was not meant to be as runDisney cut the race – rumor on the interwebs was due to construction surrounding the new Star Wars Land. That threw me into a funk, as I couldn’t wrap my head around doing 13.1 miles (which makes no sense now…like ten miles is easy?)
The next year I slogged my way through three 5K’s, which is a miracle considering I never finished Couch to 5K. Each race was worst than the last. (However, the joy of finishing never went away!)
Finally, a dear friend of mine and fellow Disney enthusiast alerted me to a podcast by Lou Mongello, in which he and several friends talked about preparing for the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. And just like that, the bug was back. After researching all the races, I decided on a birthday present for myself, the Princess Half Marathon. One mention to my sister and she was googling costumes. By Christmas my costume was picked, my chEAR team was ready, and I was once again in training. To do it right, I started right over from the beginning, week one day one of the Couch to 5K program. I graduated in March with my first 7K (math is hard) and my first placement medal. That night I signed up for my first 10K, to be held June 27.
10K training, I tell you readers, was a NIGHTMARE from DAY ONE. I tried the Jeff Galloway run/walk/run method but after fighting so hard for that straight run, I couldn’t get my head to accept stopping. So I went back to my first training, the Active.com app, paying ZERO attention to the fact that it was nine weeks of training instead of 14 weeks, and I had no business tackling that task. On top of that, The Champ starting having a horrible time with her treatment for her fourth cancer recurrence, and spent a good three weeks in a hospital two hours from home. When I could get in training, I began to hate it – the mental monsters were bringing me down, and I kept comparing my 13 minute mile self to the 9 minute milers and WHY couldn’t I run a 5K in 20 minutes?
Finally The Champ came home, and I dumped the program with three weeks to spare, making amends with Mr. Galloway with the plan of doubling up on training and reaching the six miles before the 10K. And one week later…injury struck which put me out of commission until race day, with my longest run being 4.5 miles. This was crushing to my SOUL, as I had planned to use the race for Proof of Time when I signed up for the Princess Half in July – better the corral placement, the more I could goof(y).
As a famous comedian once said, I told you that story, to tell you this story.
The Ultimate 10K/5K was presented by St. Frances Hospital in Bartlett, Tennessee, and proceeds would benefit Youth Villages, an organization that helps emotionally and troubled youth and their families. I cannot say enough about the professionalism and hard work the folks put into this race, and will DEFINITELY do it again next year.
The 5K runners (and there were MANY) kicked off the race, with us 10Kers starting about 15 minutes later to a blaring Journey soundtrack. I turned on my playlist, turned on my Road ID app (which I will talk about in another segment) and trotted along with what I thought was the slower back of the pack. Except later, I looked down at my Garmin to see how far we’d gone and my pace was 10:38! WHAT?! WHAT IS THIS INSANITY???? I was able to maintain that for about two miles before the warm temps hit and drained all my superpowers.
Two things about this race: 1) water breaks every 1.5 miles. That may seem like nothing, but during my 7K, which was sponsored by a BEVERAGE COMPANY…there were NONE, so I do not ever take this for granted; and 2) the folks along the race route. We ran through some swanky neighborhoods, yall, and the people in their fancy houses CAME OUT for us. Kids brought extra water. Sprinkler systems were turned toward the road. I got to high five a tiny Spiderman. It was GREAT!
What I did wrong: Besides that crazy 10:38 pace which I cannot regret at all? I ignored my interval timer. I just pretended Jeff Galloway did not exist in my life and let that little thing buzz away. Also, hills. I live on flat land. We have one hill, a new overpass that was just built. I KNOW I should hit it more often, but I tend to ignore its existence until race time, as I have only done ONE race (and it was in my hometown!) with no hills. Dear Overpass, we shall get to know one another.
Did I finish? Yes. I was hoping for a 1:15-1:20 but at one point I just quit stressing and had fun. I played in the sprinklers. I played with the kids. I got wet socks and blisters on my sisters. I took pictures of mile markers and texted them to friends and family. I chatted with other hill sluggers like myself who pretend we were climbing Mount Everest instead of walking up an incline. I spent time with a cute fellow who at mile 5.5 snuck up behind me and patted me the back, then did it again when I deliriously told him I’d never run that far before. And FINALLY, as I saw the finish line in sight, “Breakaway” from the Princess Diaries soundtrack came through my earbuds. I found that very fitting. (My sister says they were also playing the Rocky theme over the speakers…) I crossed the finish line at 1:24…
….and wondered where the HECK I was! The quiet place I’d left six miles earlier was HOPPING with burgers, hot dogs, beer stands, an ice cream truck, Gatorade, bananas, oranges, protein bars, pop corn…IT WAS SOOOOOO AWESOME!!! As I tend to eat all the food after a race, it wasn’t pretty, but I’m here to tell you everything there was great. Because I tried it all. I found my fellow hill sluggers for hugs and Gatorade toasts, and let it sink in that the big battle I had been fighting was over. The saying goes if you can run a 5K you can run a 10K…and if you can run a 10K, you can run a half.
In closing…I’ve been hesitant to out and out say “I’m going to do the Princess” due to the ugly that life has been throwing my way. After finishing the race, my sister and I went to the mall so I could freshen up before lunch. As I was waiting for her to take my bag back out to the car, I settled on a bench near the carousel…and “It’s A Small World” began playing.
Seven months of hard work and stress came pouring out with the tears.
Come July 14, I will officially be signing up for the Disney Princess Half Marathon.
The Journey Begins Here.