There has been a disturbance in the running Force lately.
No, I’m pretty sure we’ve all taken our PRPs when needed.
I’m referring to the social media world, and people knocking other runners down for talking about anything else that doesn’t involve running. Especially with the way 2017 has begun…
To those naysayers…is it really a sin to talk about our personal lives outside of our online brand? Are we not allowed to have opinions about world events or debate philosophy or have academic discussion about *insert non-running topic here*?
Please. We’re all human. Have a seat.
I often post about running, talk about running, think about running. The majority of the online running community that I interact with on a daily basis also has running as a major descriptor of themselves. At first glance, the outsider may immediately stereotype any person with ‘run’ or ‘runner’ in their social media handle as a clean-eating, 7:00-minute per mile BQ athlete with a closet full of color coordinated outfits and an alarm clock chiming at 4am for their early morning run. But once you peel back the layers, one will discover that we runners are far more diverse than what is revealed online.
I am more than a runner. Here are some fun facts you might not know about me:
1.I am a musician.
My first love in life was music, although my parents would disagree with this. (I would run out of a room screaming and crying if people sang Happy Birthday. Worst song ever.) I joined the chorus and picked up the saxophone in the fifth grade (back in 1997, mind you). I literally became Lisa Simpson, gaining proficiency to join the band within just a few months, and proceeded to earn spots in county/district/regional bands in high school, lead alto in jazz band, first chair in summer music camps and concert band, marched alto and bari saxes in marching band, fell in love with conducting as assistant drum major for two seasons, conducted my 100-piece high school choir during my final concert in high school, and auditioned to several universities for their music programs in hopes of becoming a music educator.
While my academic path detoured away from music education in both undergrad and grad schools (different post unto itself), I never stopped the pursuit of learning and performing music. I picked up percussion and joined the drumline. I taught front ensemble at a local high school for their competition marching band. I played in the pit for several high school musicals on sax and percussion. I assisted a fellow director with his marching band for a season. I went to graduate school (originally) for my M.Ed and delved into vocal and timpani performance. I chartered a chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi National Honorary Band Fraternity. I became the national anthem vocalist for our athletic department and held the role for five years, right up until my graduation in 2015.
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I’m a music nerd. Plain and simple.
2. I am a weather weenie/science nerd.
I used to play scientist when I was little: I would take all my books outside and set up a makeshift “laboratory” using lawn chairs as I stared at the night sky. I fell in love with astronomy and space science after watching The Magic School Bus Gets Lost In Space episode in the fourth grade. My dad and I did (and still do) watch the GFS models on noaa.gov to track incoming storms, then stand outside and watch them go through. Trust me, if math wasn’t such a bitch, I would have gone to Penn State for meteorology. I did end up with a minor in Earth Science in my undergrad, after briefly switching my major over to Geology. I took a Meteorology course and fell in love, and subsequently enrolled in the program. I am an advocate for the sciences, a huge fan of The Big Bang Theory show, and am always down for a natural history museum. (Not surprising, Night at the Museum is one of my favorite movies!)
3.I am an Army brat
I was born in Ft. Bragg, NC. My mom and dad met while serving in the Army. I have lived across the United States and even in Hawaii where my little brother was born! Personally, I think due to this early travel, my sense of adventure and wanderlust are extremely high; I am always down for a road trip or for daydreaming about faraway lands. Most of my family was/is in the military in some way, shape or form. The discipline that ensued yielded to success during band camp or drama rehearsal or anything that requires even the tiniest amount of discipline and focus. I am often asked if I had ever served, due to the way I carry myself, but I just smile and give my story.
4. I am a nature junkie.
In conjunction with #3, I grew up camping outdoors every summer. Not this glamping shit that you might see online, but legit tent camping with sleeping bags and bugs and swimming in lakes and fishing and campfires. It’s the good life, it really is…and all of this was before technology and cell phones. As I got older and more into meteorology and photography, I started storm chasing and capturing lightning pictures, along with other fun things: clouds, trees, leaves, bugs, landscapes, water…anything that tells a story and shows the beauty of the Earth. I also tented an entire summer up in the middle of the middle of the woods in Maine near the Canadian border a couple years ago. Trust me, some mountain air and a peaceful environment really does the soul good.
Being in the presence of nature is a powerful feeling. It forces you to really stop and be one with your surroundings. In that one silent, surreal moment, your perception on who you are in conjunction with the bigger picture of nature is altered, and forces you to think about life just a little bit more.
2AM calls and I lay in bed, thinking, “Man, I had I just gone to sleep, and now it’s time for part two!” My body felt okay after the 13.1 accomplished just mere hours prior, but I knew it was gonna be hurting at some point along the marathon course.
Additionally, it was going to cold. Legit Florida freezy ice cold. With the cold front that was sweeping the nation that weekend, Orlando was spared from the wintry mixes of precipitation, but not from the biting winds. The air temperature was roughly 35-ish degrees…with NNW winds at 15mph. Real feel = -2983726 degrees (to me, anyway). The temp would get up into the 40s later on in the day, but the wind wasn’t going to cease. As I brewed my pre-race coffee and dressed in layers, I thought about the WDW Marathon in 2016, where the air temps were comfortable with lots of cloud cover, but the humidity was outrageous. I hoped for the same cloud cover for the 2017 race.
I departed around 3AM and headed to EPCOT. Rooming over in Old Town, I had about a 10, 15 minute drive over. There were a couple more cars out than last year, but I still arrived with a ton of time to spare. I kept my car idling with the heat on, organizing my new neoprene Fitletic pouch, listening to Hamilton, and sipping on warm Nuun water. (It’s not as gross as you may think. In fact, warm Nuun water is really tasty!)
I departed my toasty car (and the Hamiltunes) around 3:50 AM and made my way through the “no bag check” security line (although I did pause for a moment to open up my belt, which I was told that I was good to go). This was the first runDisney race I’ve ever taken part in where I didn’t check a gEAR bag. All I really needed was my ID, keys, phone, money, and race fuel.
I had a strategy with my race fuel. Having used Honey Stinger gels on course for the Everglades Half, I developed a preference to them over the Clif/GU gels (which are thicker and slosh around in my stomach). I had three with me, plus a new item: Run Gum! I was going to take a gel every 10K, and the Run Gum at halfway. I prepped my first gel in my sports bra to warm up (to be taken just before the corral was launched), and lined up everything else in order of consumption.
I made a beeline for the TS reunion signs, the meetup spot for Team Shenanigans—and of course, sold my kidney for some more coffee (which was warm-ish…stupid cold weather).
We all started gathering and huddling to stay warm. Silly me totally didn’t bring a blanket or extra sweats or anything, but Kristen saved the day by offering me one of her Mylar space blankies. Thanks, Kristen!!! ❤
Once the time to depart came, we started the 20 minute corral walk. Jess, myself. and her runner buddy, James, walked together to the starting area. We bid each other farewell, and I jumped into corral J, eager to get warm. I meandered into the middle of the corral, and ducked down behind some taller runners. I made a couple of new friends and we talked about running, the weather, congratulating those that bumped from the half to the full, cheering on the firsties, and how much we wanted to be in Mickey/Donald/Goofy’s costumes at the moment.
Before long, the anthem was sung and the fireworks began to launch. It was go time!
I had about half an hour until J was launched, so I continued hunkering down and wrapping the Mylar around me. I did let people know that if they were going to run with their blankets, to open them up when they passed a timing mat, or the frequency waves would not register their time. The runDisney announcers were encouraging us to actually get rid of the blankets, and I ditched mine as our corral was pulling up to the line. I also downed my first gel (which was deliciously warm!) and got ready to go.
The second we started, the wind kicked up. I was SO glad that I was wearing gloves (although I KNEW I should have worn a hat, too). The first few miles were honestly fantastic. I ran into Doug, Brittany, Caryn, and Susanna of Team Shenanigans and we entered Magic Kingdom together.
During Mile 4, I ran past the same portapotties that squashed my sub-3 dreams during Princess Half 2016. I laughed internally, as I was feeling awesome on the insides, and kept on going towards Contemporary and Space Mountain.
My first five miles were absolutely incredible. I was holding a 12:24-ish pace and was estimated to finish in…wait for it…5:24:00.
A 5:24 marathon? That’s an hour and a half PR! Whaaaaaat.
Soon we were running down Main Street in Magic Kingdom and stopped over to some of the team members who offered us caramels and M&Ms and treats of all sorts. I could feel the bathroom calling, so I took off again through Tomorrowland and up through New Fantasyland.
I approached the bathrooms and saw that the line for the women’s room was, as always, out the door. I overheard a woman asking her friend behind me, “Is it okay to use the men’s restroom?”
“Yep, it sure is!” I replied instantly, reflecting on Princess Half 2015 when I did just that. (When ya gotta go, you gotta go!) I beelined for the entrance and called in, “Lady coming through! Gotta pee!” I rushed over to the first available stall and did my business, and got out of there.
The rest of MK was decent: through the castle, into Liberty Square and Adventureland, and finally backstage.
Up until the first 10K mark, I was doing great. My pace was en pointe and I wasn’t too winded or overheated. I downed my second gel and started into Cone Alley, which instantly zapped my mental state. I stuck to the right hand side and walked the length of it, my time significantly decreasing by five minutes per mile. (Going from 11, 12-minute miles to 17…15..16…yeeeeeah. -_____-)
At mile eight, right by the Grand Floridian, I was hit with a huge burst of sun. Lovely. And there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Also lovely.
After a few highway miles, the second park appeared around mile 13.1: Animal Kingdom!
I took my Run Gum at this point and felt some more pep in my step…and the drop in my stomach of looking at my Garmin and seeing it just about to die even though I had fully charged it the night before. Gaaaaaaaah. (I only have splits up until Mile 15 before I had it save the run as is.)
I ran into fellow Shenanigators Rebekah and Raymond (and even Ian in passing!) and we proceeded to head to Expedition Everest. We had about a 45 minute advantage over the balloon ladies, so why not ride a roller coaster in the middle of a marathon?!
That tacked on about ten minutes to my run time, but it was so worth it. We wound our way out of AK and past the sewage/water treatment/stinky place, where I had to make another pit stop. (Trying to put your running tights back on after peeing in the cold is such a drag!)
I halted my Garmin at mile 15, and continued along the “scenic” route towards Wide World of Sports (which included Cone Alley #2). The sun was out in full force, but I didn’t think too much of it because of the wind. Heh…if I only knew what I’d be waking up to the following morning in terms of sunburn…
I was mentally all over the place in the second half of the run. I kept up with a Galloway pace group (I think maybe the 5:45 group). I texted Chris on occasion, mentioning, “I am seriously questioning my life choices right now.” My knees were aching and my left hamstring felt weird, so I took it easy (i.e. dawdling). I couldn’t Biofreeze anything because I couldn’t pull up my tights past my calves to get to my knees.
However, I was more upset about the fact that I seemingly let a huge PR slip from my fingers. I mean, I was freakin’ ELATED over the fact that if I simply kept up my pace after the first 10K and not wimped out like I typically do, I could have had a hell of a performance. But nope. It’s better to finish the race alive and in once piece. Plus, I had a margarita to earn in Mexico later on!
I met back up with Jess and James around Mile 16-ish, and Mile 18 led us to Wide World of Sports…the literal hell of the WDW Marathon.
As far as I know, nobody is a huge fan of these three miles. It’s just down and around, up and about through the track and practice fields and baseball diamond. At least the 20M mark was here…10K left to go!!
I also saw Jackie of Team Shenanigans entering the diamond just as I was leaving it. I swear, we are everywhere!! It was also nice that the volunteers kept mentioning that the rest of the team was ahead of me. That was a comforting feeling, knowing they had my back like that.
I exited WWOS and headed down the highway (and up the Green Army Men overpass) towards Hollywood Studios.
I was getting so relieved that there were only a few more miles to go. I started down the path towards the Boardwalk, enjoying the sights and scenery (I am partially biased towards this area…it’s too beautiful!).
I kept updating the team on my whereabouts and how much closer I was getting to Mexico. I rounded the corner behind World Showcase/United Kingdom to throngs of supporters and heroic music blasting on the speakers overhead. Almost done!!
I met up with Team Margarita outside of the cantina and got my beverage. I proceeded to sip and savor the limey deliciousness as I crossed the finish line of my third marathon in 7:30:23, and finished my first ever Goofy Challenge!
Christina’s Post-Marathon Thoughts:
Be prepared for ANY type weather. Look at the long-range forecast for the area you’re going to run, and bring appropriate clothing. This will save you a trip to the local store and a decent chunk of money. I guess a lot of runners were stocking up on cold weather goods at the expo. While that’s great and all…that adds up rather quickly. Also, running in the cold is going to zap your energy faster. Stay warm, and hydrated! You may not feel thirsty, but you’re still exerting energy in the form of exercise.
If you want to run faster, you have to train faster. I can attribute those first five or six miles of amazingness to speed work and strength training in the gym. Now that I know what that speed feels like, I can be more prepared for future races and build up my stamina.
Sunscreen for days. I brought a ton of it with me, and barely used it. I really should have layered it on, even though it was cold and windy.
Get plenty of rest the night before. Four hours of sleep going into a marathon will suffice…sort of. Aim for seven or eight hours for optimal performance. I would have been at EPCOT sooner to do my WDW Half had it not been for the lines to get into WWOS and the traffic getting out. I ended up two hours behind schedule and got home way later than I wanted to.
Check your shoes. This is a big one, especially for those of us that accomplish this lifestyle on a budget. I have never been properly fitted for running shoes (gait analysis, the whole nine yards), and I’ve been operating out of the same pair of shoes for the last year (which, by now, are weeeeelllllll worn in). I feel incredibly guilty shelling out for new shoes, especially since I made my very first pair last about three years with no issues whatsoever. I now have a peroneal tendon strain in my left foot that I’m currently nursing, and I honestly blame my ill-fitting shoes. With that said, make sure your equipment is in good repair before utilizing it for any race.
If you are considering the Goofy or Dopey multi-day challenges, start preparing as early as you can. 39.3 and 48.6 miles on your legs are no joke, and the multiple days of waking up early can wreak havoc on you mentally and physically. Take it easy in the parks, refuel as needed, and make sure you’re resting and stretching! Don’t underestimate the mileage.
Thanks for following along! There will be more pictures of cool Disney and Universal things to come. Next adventure: Glass Slipper Challenge 2017!
By now, the majority of you know the basics of what went down at the WDW Half: storms ripped through, race got cancelled. When I awoke Saturday morning, the first thing I checked was the radar. All I could think of was, “runDisney made the right call.”
I hopped onto my other social medias, and was immediately inspired. Many runners were laced up and running around their resorts! And some had even done their mileage the previous night before the storms moved in! Treadmills were occupied, fans and supporters were along the routes cheering, and the Disney cast members brought their A game, setting up tables and cups for hydration stops while other runners brought out candy and other goodies.
My eyes were glued to my Twitter feed, constantly updating for the latest news. This was the running community at its finest: we’re there to work (in the form of miles and medals), so we worked. So many stories and accounts of runners trekking through the resorts and parks sparked a new life in the runDisney community. You could give us oranges and we’d still make lemonade out of them!
In my opinion, runDisney did a decent job with regard to communications. From the first instant that they knew something could go wrong with race day, they were on top of their game, letting runners and spectators know what was going on and directing that information across every channel they had: social media, the digital event guide, the race website, and even signs on the sandwich boards in the resorts. (I’ve heard some complaints about the timing of the information being released, but give them some credit: they have X amount of cast members trying to update and format X amount of communication platforms. Not everything is going to be “going live” right when they say it’s going to. Cut them some slack; they did the best they could with what they had.) Cast members kept their cool as they were peppered with hundreds of questions which they had just received the answers for. Once the ultimate decision was reached, obviously there was disappointments, and even outbursts of anger among some. True, we all spent a lot of money and time getting TO Disney, and a hell of a lot of time training on top of all of that. I can understand disappointment…but think of it like such: lightning is deadly. If a bolt struck a runner within a corral (and with 98% of us geared up with electronics and costumes and other random things, the probability was high), it would wipe out all 2,000 runners in that corral. runDisney was looking out for us. They also broke out their secret “Race Gets Cancelled, Open This” compensation plan and offered several alternatives for challenge and half runners. Since I was doing Goofy, my half marathon fees would be refunded in the form of a gift card (soon to be mailed), and I’d be getting my half medal at the conclusion of the marathon on Sunday.
With all that said, here’s how my day actually went…
*Woke up and watched Beauty and the Beast with Chris. (Perfect precursor to the Be Our Guest reservation for Sunday night!)
*Headed to the expo so Chris could pick up his medal (since he was doing just the half).
*Waited out in the rain and snaked the line all the way around WWOS for half an hour. We even got a character stop!
*Jumped back in the car and headed over to EPCOT (albeit very slowly. It took forever and a day to get out of the parking lot). That’s where our DIY WDW Half would begin…
We arrived around 2PM, and from the moment our feet hit the pavement, we were off. The only thing on our mind at the moment was bratwurst (and our team meetup in Mexico). After cruising through security, we were on our way to Germany!
Along the way, we were keeping a steady pace, and getting compliments from fellow runners along the way! We hit World Showcase and said a quick hi to our fellow teammates at Mexico before we bolted for Germany. The weather was chilly and gloomy…but it didn’t stop us from our first fun stop of the “race”.
We piggybacked to Mexico and met up with Team Shenanigans for good times and our traditional boat ride.
From Mexico, we made a day out of traversing World Showcase and Future World, stopping plenty of times for rides and shenanigans…
As Chris and I were heading up the bridge by France, I heard a voice ask…”runDisneyBelle?” Turns out it was Ted (@BigGoofyRunner!)! It’s always great to meet the online running community in real life. You can read about his WDWHalf adventures here!
After a few loops and some laps around The Land with Jess, Kristin, and Jackie, we headed over to the Boardwalk to mix things up a little! By then, the sun had gone down and it was getting windy and cold. My tolerance for cold is next to none (I seriously turn into Elsa!), and I ducked into a gift shop to buy gloves.
We were nearing the 13.1 mark and we had to head back to the car anyway, so we returned to EPCOT and continued walking circles until we finally hit the half marathon mark! Woohoo!
After a victory ride on Spaceship Earth (and a five minute escape from the cold), we headed to the ferry boat and back to the car. I got back to my hotel around 9:30 PM, and immediately laid out my flat runner for Sunday morning. Those 13.1 miles were going to catch up to me in about seven hours, and 2AM was going to come way too soon…
Shoutout to ALL of the athletes who completed their improvised WDW Half Marathons last weekend. Y’all are such an inspiration! Check out the hashtag #wdwhalf on the socials and see what went down those days. You are now a part of history, and will have stories for years to come. Your dedication and resilience during a time of frustration and disappointment truly shows the heart and soul of what the running community is all about: we don’t back down from our goals, and consistently persevere–even when the situation isn’t perfect–to get shit done. And that is what we did.
After many a delay on I-95 on Thursday on my journey down to Florida, I finally arrived that evening around 8:00 PM. I had originally planned to go to the expo that evening, but had to settle for the following day. Friday rolled around and it was sunny and beautiful outside…far cry from the coldness I left up in Maryland the day before. I arrived early to Wide World of Sports around 10:00 AM, and joined the throngs of runners eagerly awaiting to pick up their bibs and race goodies.
The lines to get into the HP Field house wrapped around several times outside, but the lines moved fairly quickly (even though we were all asking where we could get our Fastpasses!)
Once inside, I made a beeline for the Goofy Challenge bib pickup, got in and out in two minutes, then proceeded to explore the expo with Jess, Kristin, and Jackie!
The New Balance shoes were so en pointe this year. In stead of being character themed, they were ride themed!
The official weekend clothes were really cute, but soooo expensive. The marathon jacket was so sleek in its red and black!
The Dooney and Bourke bags were also on sale. The pattern is too cute! (I wish the bag was in black, though.)
There was also a plethora of race banners with the courses on them. I found these to be a perfect combination!
I often don’t purchase official race merch, due to pricing; the race shirts that we get with registration suit me just fine. I was a big fan of the colors this year, especially the royal blue for the marathon!
The runDisney booth had their medals on display, and I caught a glimpse of the Princess Half Marathon weekend medals!
As the sun began to set on Friday, all eyes began to turn towards the radar. There had been talks about calling the WDW Half due to impending storms. If runDisney made the decision to cancel, it would be the first time in 24 years that runDisney had cancelled a race. Additional communication was sent out to runners in the afternoon and early evening hours with regard to monitoring the weather, and around 10pm, the race was called.
What happened on Saturday would forever make its mark on the running community, and in runDisney history. Stay tuned…
I’ve developed a solid affinity for WDW Marathon weekend, even though I’ve only raced it once. I signed up for the full in 2015 after failing to finish the Marine Corps Marathon; I deemed it my “revenge race” to prove to myself that I could still finish 26.2. I entered the weekend full of doubt and grumpiness…I didn’t even want to leave my hotel room. But lo and behold, I pulled myself out of my funk and had a fantastic time. I even joined a running team: Team Shenanigans!
I see this weekend as not just the Super Bowl of the runDisney series, but as a wholesome family reunion, as well. Friends and runners come from all different parts of the country and the world to reunite and run a few miles to earn some sweet bling…and maybe have a margarita or five along the way, too.
The past couple of days have brought on a ton of excitement via social media with the unveiling of the expo merchandise and race shirts:
Side note, here are your expo hours! (Wide World of Sports)
Wednesday, January 4 – Noon – 8:00 p.m.
Thursday, January 5 – 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Friday, January 6 – 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, January 7 – 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m
The race shirt designs are also really cute! These are the shirts that you will get when you pick up your bib and gEAR check bag:
Since I’m running Goofy Challege this year, I get three shirts!
When it comes to buying merchandise at the expo, I try to stay away from it. Every so often, there’s something that really catches my eye and I budget for it. Most of the time, though, the designs are too loud for my taste (I prefer simplicity and solid colors 98% of the time). I love wearing the race shirts, and these satisfies me enough so I don’t have to buy official runDisney merch.
As always, runDisney encourages you to be social!
To everyone…safe travels heading down to Florida, and I’ll see you then! Feel free to keep up with my adventures this weekend on the socials: @runDisneyBelle!