The Fit and Fluffy Momma

embracing my 'fluff' while finding my 'fit'

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Lessons for a runDisney Newbie

There really is no place like Walt Disney World. The sights, the smells, the carefree ambience, the magic… just gives me ALL the feels!

And I learned at the Princess Half Marathon weekend that running at Disney is a whole different, magical experience in itself. It was AH-MAY-ZING to say the least! At first I wasn’t crazy about the idea of the princess theme, even as a little girl I didn’t really play with dolls (I asked for things like metal detectors and whoopee cushions for Christmas… don’t ask). But the timing of this event was best for me, and being into princesses or not, I was all about being a Disney princess that weekend! Thankfully though, to be honest, it wasn’t princess-themed everything everywhere. Actually I didn’t see one princess along the race course for photo ops, which I thought was kind of strange. They were at the start and finish lines, but the race course had lots of awesome non-princess characters. So if you’ve ever thought that the Princess Half Marathon weekend would be nauseatingly overloaded with princesses, it’s definitely not.

I learned SO much from my first runDisney event, I don’t even know where to begin. It was also my first half marathon, so needless to say there was much to be learned in both areas. But for any other all-around newbies out there like me, I wanted to share what my experience was in case it could help someone else. I know I’m not the only one who picks Disney to be their first half marathon. ;)


Lesson 1 - Don’t wait until a month before your race to prepare for the distance

Now let me just say that I’m not completely crazy. I was running regularly and had some longer distances than usual mixed in over the months (like around 6 and 8 miles). However, I really wish that I had prepared more by running 10-12 miles here and there. Not just for the sake of distance, but also to practice with different types of fuels during my runs prior to 2 weeks before the half marathon (which is another lesson all on it’s own, I’ll get to that next).

Lesson 2 - Try out different fuels for before and during longer runs

I still have a lot to learn about this, so I’m not about to try and provide specific advice other than to 1) try different things, 2) make sure you have restrooms along your training routes (in case your stomach doesn’t agree with what you are trying that day), and 3) again, don’t wait until a month before your race to do this either.

Four weeks before my race, I stocked up on running gummies, gels, and jelly beans, most of which are still sitting in a bag in my spare room because I didn’t have time to try them all. My 3-mile runs don’t require them, although I tried a couple of things during some of these runs just to see how I could handle chewing and running at the same time. Sounds ridiculous, I know, and it didn’t even cross my mind that this could be a challenge until I read about others’ struggles with it. I quickly learned that it’s not as ridiculous as it sounds. For me, I can handle smaller jelly beans, but other gummy blocks are larger and more difficult to chew while running. (Just to clarify, the difficulty comes in the breathing, not the coordination of running and chewing simultaneously.)

Some have caffeine, some don’t. Some you chew. Some you squeeze. Most (if not all) require water when you take them (and I’ve never run with water before)... LOTS to learn here. A big thing is, making sure to figure out what does and does not upset your stomach. Unfortunately for me, I still haven’t figured this out. I faced terrible stomach upset during my 10-mile run a couple of weeks before the race, and also during the race. It was probably a combination of not training for the distance, as well as not fueling properly. I just don’t know yet, and it’s something I’m learning about and I still need to figure out what works for me.

Lesson 3 - Bring your own cell phone or camera for photos, EVEN IF YOU PURCHASE THE MEMORY MAKER!!

Thankfully I saw this tip from someone else, because some of my character photos are missing from my PhotoPass. If you aren’t familiar with PhotoPass, it’s Disney’s photography system. Disney has photographers in the parks for guests to use during their vacations, and for runDisney events they have photographers along the course. They take action photos of you running, as well as character photos that you can opt to stop for. You have the option to either purchase the photos individually, OR purchase the Memory Maker package to receive all of your photos from your trip. (I also have a great tip on how to get the Memory Maker on the CHEAP! If you’d like to know, just ask.)

I’m not sure what action photos I’m missing because I didn’t intentionally stop for them, but I do know that I am missing some character photos. A cast member was stationed with almost every photographer at the character stops to take the runners’ photos with their cell phones. This was really wonderful, because there are a few shots that I wouldn’t have now if I hadn’t used my cell phone and had relied solely on the PhotoPass photographers.

To be fair, the PhotoPass system goes by bib numbers during runDisney events, which I’m sure can be tricky. I know that my bib was extremely wrinkled, and I’m sure that someone with a similar bib number now has access to my missing photos by mistake. Disney has a form to complete if you believe that you are missing photos from an event. I have completed this form, but am waiting to hear back so I’ll post an update later on as to whether or not that helped.

Lesson 4 - Submit a Proof of Time (POT) and a REAL estimate of your finish time

Ugh. If I had ONLY known about this one. During registration you are required to enter your estimated finish time, and if your estimated time is under a certain amount than you are also required to submit a POT from another chip-timed run by a certain date. For the half marathon, you could submit a POT for either a half marathon or a 10K, and I could have done a 10K. BUT I put it off until it was too late and there weren’t any local chip-timed 10K’s left in my area.

I also made the mistake of entering my finish time as the max amount of time you have to complete the race without being “swept” (aka getting picked up by a bus and driven to the finish line). I thought it would be safer for me to enter the max time, when really all it did was put me in the VERY back of the pack to start out. There were somewhere between 20,000 - 25,000 participants for the Princess Half Marathon… NOT the crowd that you want to be in the back of if you have the option. So, lesson learned, and next time I will surely submit a POT.

Lesson 5 - Don’t overstuff your running belt

For most of my photos I look like I have a spare tire around my belly, which was caused mainly by too much stuff that I DIDN’T USE being stuffed in my running belt. I’m an overpacker and a worrier by nature, so I HAD to make sure that I had EVERYTHING I could possibly need during my run. What did I actually use? My cell phone, ½ package of jelly beans, 1 tissue, and 1 sanitizer wipe. There was no need for the overstuffed spare tire around my belly, and now it’s in my pictures. Forever. (insert eye roll)

On a more positive side to this though, I have to say that I LOVE my running belt! Even with it being overstuffed, it was still SO convenient and comfortable. It’s a Nathan Hipster Running Belt that I purchased at Dick’s Sporting Goods, and it lays flat across your body without bouncing around or sliding. I highly recommend this over an arm band, which is what I’ve always used in the past, as it’s much easier to access your cell phone for pictures or music changes. HIGHLY recommend.

Lesson 6 - Get on an EARLY BUS

Buses start running from the resorts to the starting line at 3AM, and run until 5AM. The front desk of the Caribbean Beach Resort told me that they recommend runners be on a bus by 4AM (I’ve read other places that you MUST be on a bus by 4AM). Start time is 5:30AM, so I thought I would be more than fine getting on a bus at 4AM. I really was ok being on the bus at 4AM, but I wish I had gotten on an earlier bus because I missed the pre-race festivities at the starting point. It took an HOUR to get from my resort to the starting area, which on a normal day I think would only take about 10-15 minutes. Traffic was C-R-A-Z-Y! There were a TON of cars driving into the starting area, as well as all the resort buses. I was extremely thankful to be on a bus though, I would’ve been freaking out thinking I’d be late if I was driving on my own in that craziness.

There were princesses at the starting area, as well as a pre-race dance party. The party was over by the time I got there because there was still a long walk from the pre-race stage to the actual starting point. I did get a photo with Belle (as the announcer was repeatedly urging everyone to start walking to the starting line), but I knew I was in the last corral so I wasn’t too terribly concerned. I was honestly bummed that I missed the pre-race party though, especially since I was supposed to  meet a group of ladies there and ended up missing them.

Lesson 7 - Pay attention to the PhotoPass Photographers

I didn’t do this, and that is why I’m sure that I’m missing some race photos. I made a point to try to catch some of them, and did get 1 fun photo that I like, but I should have made more of a point to make sure that all of them had a good view of my bib number in order for me to get access to my pictures. So PAY ATTENTION and get your bib in the photos! There are green tents marking the photographers’ locations, so they’re hard to miss.

Lesson 8 - Take your time and soak in every moment

One thing I did right is I took my time. arrived early, didn’t rush around, and soaked up every second I could. I went solo so I had nobody to look after or coordinate with. Part of me was a little nervous about going alone, but it worked out beautifully and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

For me personally, it gave me a chance to reflect on my journey to getting there - my childhood history with arthritis, my fitness struggles, my inability to run for years. I chose not to waste one second of my trip or rush through it, and I’m so glad that I did that. This could easily turn out to be a once in a lifetime experience (although I certainly hope not), so I was intentional about making sure that it was an amazing one.

Thanks for reading, and if you’re heading to your first runDisney event I hope you found this helpful! If you have any tips of your own, I would LOVE to hear them!

XOXO ~Kristin

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