February’s challenge was one that started way before 2018 was even a thought. But it lasted right up till the very end of February. I’m talking about the Disney Princess Half Marathon.
I decided last year to sign up for this race on a whim when registration opened up to Passholders. I had never run more than a 5K before but it sounded like a good idea. Running a half marathon, specifically the Disney Princess Half, was something that had been on my bucket list for a while. So, I decided I was going to go for it.
I started training (and I use that word very loosely) sometime around September. The official Jeff Galloway training program started in October and I wanted to get a head start. I was mostly consistent in the beginning, but I did hit a few difficult patches. Sometimes I was able to stick to the program 100% and other times I would skip a whole week of running. And most of the time I know it was all mental. Physically I could have pushed through but somehow winter always takes a toll on my mental health. I really let it get the best of me some of the time which resulted in skipped runs.
Nevertheless, I persisted. I did as many of the training runs as I could push myself through. One thing I always tried to do was fit in my long runs. I felt that if I didn’t have those under my belt I would be in big trouble when race day came around.
Another setback came in January a little more than a month before the race. I had started a new medication, which made me feel faint shortly after starting my runs. Luckily, after a few weeks of this I decided to stop the medication. In doing so, I was able to get a few more long runs.
Two days before the race I boarded my plane and headed to Disney World. At this point I still honestly didn’t know if I would finish the race. I wasn’t even sure if I would make it to the starting line without psyching myself out. My sister Amy, who is a marathon runner, told me that physically I could make it through the race. She said that it was going to come down to whether I could push myself mentally or not. I knew she was right but my anxiety was still getting the best of me.
On race morning I somehow ended up waking up completely refreshed. I had managed to fall asleep the night before around 7 PM so when the alarm went off at 2 AM it wasn’t as awful as I thought it would be. At that point I felt more excited than I was nervous. There was nothing else I could really do to prepare so I figured I was just going to enjoy myself and see how far I could go.
I was in one of the last corrals so there was a lot of time to wait before getting started. Even though I was by myself at the race I didn’t feel alone because so many people around me were so friendly. Even at 5am I could feel that Disney energy coming from those around me. Eventually, I made it to the starting line. Even though they were playing that Frozen song that we are all tired of at this point (you know which one!), I got a rush of adrenaline and I was off.
I’m not going to say that the first 6 miles were a piece of cake, but I felt really good. The sun hadn’t come up fully yet and there was still a slightly cool breeze. I was even pacing under where I thought I should be, which made me feel more confident having a buffer. By around mile 2 I had found one of the Jeff Galloway pacing groups and I kept with them until around mile six. I really found running with the group motivating and would definitely recommend it to anyone else running their first half at Disney.
Mile six is when the sun got hot and I slow down. It was brutal out there and I was definitely feeling it. I kept doing my intervals as I had planned but now they were just at a much slower pace. I had to keep dumping water over my head just stay cool. It was so hot and so humid. Around the last pick up point, somewhere around maybe mile 10 or 11, I could see the balloon ladies coming up behind me. I was struggling, but I knew I wanted to finish so I really pushed myself. By some miracle I reached the last sweep point! I approached one of the volunteers and asked, “Is this it? Is this the last stop that they can pull me out of the race?” He replied with enthusiasm “You’re good! Go finish your race!”.
The last few miles might have been the biggest struggle of all. I honestly felt like I might pass out from the heat. I even had to stop and get a bag of ice from one of the medic tents to cool myself down. However, I was determined to finish the race even if it meant I would be crawling across that finish line.
By the last mile I was starting to feel a bit better and stronger again. When I saw the Figment topiary in the middle of Epcot I began to tear up. I had found a little spark of energy to begin running again (See what I did there?). I passed my friend Lisa who had made sign for me. She had the whole crowd of people around her helping to cheer me on. With the gospel choir singing to the right of me, I rounded the corner and crossed that finish line. I’m not sure I had ever been as proud of myself as I was in that moment.
My entire family-and there is a lot of them- had been tracking me throughout the race. The texts started rolling in with all of their congratulations. I’m not sure I would have finished had it not been for their encouragement and texts throughout my training and the race. My sister Amy gave me advice the entire way and kept texting me during the race telling me I could do it. And knowing that my friend Lisa was waiting for me near the finish line pushed me to keep going. Even my yoga instructor was there in spirit with me. Her voice was in my head repeating the mantras she says during meditation. “I am strong. I am capable. I am worthy.”
If there is something on your bucket list that you have been avoiding because you don’t think you can do it- trust me when I say you can. Just go for it. The worst that happens is you fail and have to try again. But best-case scenario is that you accomplish that goal and gain a sense of pride you didn’t know was possible. So hey- Dream Big Princess!