What I Learned Training for a RunDisney Half Marathon
Updated: Apr 29
If you’re reading this and you’ve known me for a while, you know that I am NOT an athlete in the slightest. I dabbled in team sports for a bit in middle school and high school (I was that girl on the boy’s ice hockey team), but I never considered myself fit or athletic. I would run across the football field when my gym teacher wasn’t looking instead of around the track because I just couldn’t bare to run the mile. I tried so many times to enjoy running. One day when I was in college, I decided that I was going to be fit and go for a run. I took 10 steps out of my driveway and fell flat on my face. As I was cleaning up my bloody knees and hands, I vowed that running was just not for me.
In 2018, I ran my first ever Run Disney race with my husband and our friends. We signed up for the Wine and Dine 10k, and hoped for the best. Hubby and I would go to the gym and run, but really never committed to a set training program. I think the furthest I ran on a training run was 3 or 4 miles, and then just figured I would wing it the day of. The race was a great time and I surprisingly was able to finish, but still I wasn’t into running.
Wine and Dine 10k, November 2018
About a year later, my friend Morgan convinced me we should do the Run Disney Princess Half Marathon. I literally hadn’t run since my 10k in 2018 but was like YEAH SURE SOUNDS GREAT…and here we are today.
At first, I didn’t know where to start. I had been doing some basic workouts with Obé Fitness, so I wasn’t in horrible shape but I also wasn’t anywhere near ready to run 13.1 miles (let alone 1). I started my training in November, running 2 miles at a time once or twice a week. I knew that this wasn’t the best plan of action to train for the big race, but I at least wanted to get my stamina up from not running in over a year. The first days were hard. I wanted to quit every time and really questioned why I signed up for this race.
I found this beginner half marathon training plan that I followed for the 12 weeks leading up to the race. Running three times a week was the perfect amount for me, because I was able to rest and do yoga in the days between. Tuesdays and Thursdays I ran after work, and I always found it harder to keep up my energy after working all day. Since it’s the winter I usually went to the gym to run, but I tried to run outside as much as I could so that I could get used to running on a course! I always made sure I drank water during my run and found that my Hydroflask kept my water cold and kept me hydrated. Sundays were when I did my long runs. I did these early in the day, and always stretched beforehand. I would do an express full body stretch from my Obé Fitness app on the mat and then head to the treadmill. Before my runs I fueled up with some iced coffee, water, a banana and a granola bar. I found that these were the best things to keep my energy up and my hunger at bay during these long runs. I made sure to have some sport beans or sour patch kids with me on these long runs to keep me from crashing.
Finding running sneakers was hard for me, and caused a few minor injuries that made me take some time off during my training. I went through three pairs of shoes, finally settling on these Nikes. (The self proclaimed fashionista in me was horrified because they’re not the cutest but all of my ankle/foot problems went away when I started training in them so I guess it was worth it). These shoes had a lot of support and a nice amount of cushion that took a lot of pressure off of my bad ankle! I swore by my Lululemon leggings to train in, and even snagged a yellow pair to run for my Snow White inspired race day outfit. The day of the race I wore a hip pack, which I filled with Advil, chapstick, sport Gu and bandaids just in case.
Training for me was such an eye opening experience. Every long run I did I would go into it not really knowing if I could do it…and being honest, some days I couldn’t. I didn’t follow the training schedule 100% and modified when I needed to. There were days where I planned to run 5+ miles, but at mile 2 I couldn’t keep going. I am a perfectionist and a planner and this really stressed me out, so I continued to push myself until I got hurt. One Sunday in January I was planning on doing a 7 mile run. I hit mile 4 and felt a weird pain in my foot, but kept going. This was the day I learned to listen to my body, as all of a sudden I hit mile 5 and I couldn’t walk. Not only could I not put any pressure on my left foot, but my right ankle was also swollen double the size. I ended up going for X-rays a week later because of the amount of pain I was still in. Thankfully I didn’t have any significant injuries, but I realized that sometimes its okay to modify a run and that I was not training for the olympics. This shift in mindset helped me a lot in the last month before the race. The most I ran during training was 10 miles two weeks before the race, and I felt like I was ready to go!
The day of the race I was FULL of nerves and excitement. RunDisney events start EARLY. We woke up at 2:30 AM and left our hotel by 3 to head to the race starting point. We drove our own car because we were staying off property, but it was very nice because we got to stay in the warm car until around 4:30 AM. If you’re staying on Disney property, there are busses available from all of the hotels that take you to the starting point. Once we were there, we got ready to head to the corrals. Most of us started in the last corral because we either didn’t have a time or forgot to enter it. It was PACKED and energy was high. The race itself started at around 5:30, and the last corral was released at around 6:30. My plan was simple, just run until I finished.
I started off with my friends which was super exciting and my energy was high! We hit mile one and they stopped to see a character, and I kept going to not lose my momentum! I couldn’t believe that I was doing it. The first half of the race flew by. I was making great time, feeling strong and didn’t stop running! The atmosphere was incredible, people were so happy and friendly along the course. Mile 5 came and I couldn’t believe I was running through the Magic Kingdom. It was so surreal and I actually cried because I was so excited and overwhelmed. Miles 7 and 8 got tough for me, as it was a lot of highway running, so I slowed down a little and alternated with 3 minutes of running and 1 minute of walking to get me through this stretch. Thankfully at mile 8 there was a Sport Bean stop, which helped me get through the last five miles. Miles 10 and 11 have some uphill action…which isn’t anything too crazy but definitely enough to make you curse whoever created the course. Crossing into Epcot my energy was high and the crowds made it so exciting to almost be done! Morgan had already finished so she was there cheering me on and I was so excited to see her.
Crossing the finish line of the race was such an overwhelming feeling for me. I could not believe that I finished the race and did it in under three hours! I couldn’t have done it without the support from my hubby, family and friends who were there every step of the way.
Crossing the finish line!
Click here to see all of my Instagram stories from the race!
So to wrap it all up, here’s my advice for those of you who are thinking of running a RunDisney race:
Train well, but don’t get so caught up on following a plan that you hurt yourself. Listen to your body.
Do yoga on rest days and stretch before you run, every time.
Use intervals to help you keep your pace! Start off with running a minute and walking a minute and go from there.
MAKE SURE YOU WEAR THE RIGHT SNEAKERS. Especially if you’re running a long distance race it’s so important to have the right support.
Stay hydrated. I took water or Powerade at every stop because I knew my body needed it.
Get a good night’s sleep the night before. In both of my RunDisney races, I didn’t go to the parks the night before and I’m so glad I didn’t.
Believe in yourself. I’ve heard so many times that running is all mental, and I never really understood what that meant until I experienced it. When you have a positive outlook and a strong belief that you can do it, it’s so much easier to put in the effort!
YOU DON’T NEED TO BE AN ATHLETE TO RUN A HALF MARATHON. Take it from me.
Will I ever do a half marathon again? Probably not. But, I have gained a whole lot of respect for myself for sticking to my goals and finishing this race!