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by Disney Magic Diva

For Walt, it may have all started with a mouse, but my experience as a runDisney participant started with a pair of shoes.

You may have seen them – the really cute pink Minnie shoes that were released at runDisney events in 2014. I saw them, and HAD to have a pair. But much to my chagrin, I discovered they were only sold at runDisney expos.P1050471

Since I was not going to be at a runDisney event, or even anywhere close to one, I succumbed to temptation and in January 2014 bought a pair of the Minnie shoes from someone on eBay. They are so cute! The details are astonishing, from the little black eyelashes on the eyelets to the black and white clip-on bows! And while I loved the shoes, my guilty conscious began to haunt me.

Each time I wore the shoes over the next few months I thought of the thousands of people who were at the runDisney races, and by participating actually “earned” the right to wear such awesome shoes. When someone would comment on them (and believe me, people did!), I felt even worse.

Now – I am not a runner. The most competitive race I’ve ever been in was from rope drop to Space Mountain.  I have had surgery twice on my left knee, and I have pretty bad feet.  I do, though, go to aerobics a few times a week, so while I wouldn’t consider myself athletic (or even especially fit), I also wouldn’t consider myself a complete couch potato. (Well, maybe a couch potato chip.)

So I did some research.  I discovered participants of all levels are welcome at a runDisney event, and you don’t even need to be, as my Dad used to say, “quick like a bunny.”  Happily, tortoises are allowed too! As long as you can keep a 16 minute/mile pace, you can complete a runDisney race.  I knew what I had to do.  I would “earn” my shoes by registering for and completing a runDisney race.

TIP: If you want to be able to partake in the incredible character photo ops along the course, you must keep a pace faster than 16 minutes/mile.  Lines are usually long, and you might easily spend 15-20 minutes stopping for a photo.  I’d suggest 12-13 minutes/mile if you want to take photos.

Then the pixie dust came! In May 2014 runDisney announced the inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend set for Janaury 2015 at Disneyland.  My son is a complete Star Wars geek, so all I had to do was ask, and he agreed to register for the race with me. We decided to go all in, and registered for the Rebel Challenge – a 10k on Saturday followed by the half marathon on Sunday. We began training immediately.774704_1256_0016

My only goal was to finish the race.  I followed a training schedule developed by runDisney’s official training consultant Jeff Galloway  (found on the runDisney website here) and never worried about my speed. “Just keep walking” became my mantra.  I researched everything I could about how to prepare and what to expect.  (Click here for many wonderful tips from other Disney Divas! )  I was amazed at the dedication of serious runners.  But I was only a turtle, only interested in finishing to relieve my guilty conscious over a pair of shoes. So I kept walking. And walking.  And walking.

Then in June my sister reminded me how I had once said it would be fun to go to the Princess Half Marathon Weekend  in Walt Disney World. She wanted to try a 10k. My son heard about our plan, and wanted to join us. After more research and more raiding of the savings account, in July we registered for the Glass Slipper Challenge.  Another 10k on Saturday and half marathon on Sunday.

So now I was training for four races – two in Disneyland in January 2015, and two in Walt Disney World just five weeks later. The good news was if I completed all those races, I was going to be earning some awesome bling! I’d receive a medal for each race, plus an additional medal at both events for completing the challenge. And since I was participating in a half marathon at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World in the same calendar year, I could also earn the coveted Coast to Coast medal.

So my training went on and on. I faithfully followed Jeff Galloway’s plan. I learned a little about nutrition. I bought (and wore out!) a good pair of running shoes. I kept a log of my training miles. I remember when I finished my first five mile training “run.”  I was so proud of myself!  Then I finished a training 10k!  I felt like I might collapse, but I just kept walking.  I remember thinking I had no idea how I would finish 10 miles, or 13.1, let alone 19.3 in two days.  But I tried to just focus on the next step and keep going.  One day at a time.  One step at a time.

The weeks went by.  The weather got cold.  I joined a gym to walk on a treadmill, because turtles don’t like cold, icy sidewalks, and I had to keep training.  Finally the race day came.  And I did it! I finished my first race ever!  I was completely exhausted, but forced myself to get up the next day.  Once we started, we didn’t stop.  No character photos, no bathroom breaks, we just kept going.  And 3 hours and 17 minutes after we started, I completed the inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon.  The bling felt even better than those Minnie shoes!

TIP: The official time for completing the race begins when the last runner crosses the start line. So in reality you are able to have more than 16 minutes/mile provided you aren’t the last person to start.  If the time limit concerns you, try to be toward the front of your corral to give yourself more time.

770932_1205_0043It was hard to stay motivated for the next five weeks, but I just kept walking.  I imagined receiving those pretty medals, because while the Star Wars medals were awesome, I’m really more of a princess at heart, and I wanted that bling!  Race day for the Enchanted 10k finally came, and it was a beautiful day at Epcot.  Crossing the finish line with my sister and son was a magical memory –the most fun I had at any of the four races. The half marathon was wonderful, too, but for different reasons.  It was so exciting to be on the last leg of this journey.  I cried when I entered Epcot and knew I was really going to reach my goal.  After more than 250 training miles, I did it!  I earned that Coast to Coast medal! Wearing those medals around Magic Kingdom was one of the best days ever.

So if you have ever considered participating in a runDisney event, DO it! You don’t need to be a runner. You don’t need to be in great physical shape. You just need to keep walking.  And now when I wear those Minnie shoes, and someone asks about them I can proudly say, “Oh – I did a runDisney race!”

Forever planning our next Disney trip, I've enjoyed magical moments at the Disney Parks with my husband, kids and now grandkids. I hope you will create magical memories with your family too!