Last summer, I got it into my head that I should try to run a race. Let me give you a little background before we go too much further. I have not run since freshman year in college. Okay, I went to the gym a few times, but no real running other than a 10 minute warm up on the treadmill. So, I partially blame Jillian Michaels and her whole couch to 5K thing from her show Losing It. I had major knee surgery in September of 2008 and went through months of rehab before I could even walk on my own. What now possessed me to do a race, I really don’t know.
OK, I do know. I was watching Jillian Michaels’ show and she was having this lady do a 5K. The lady weighed a whole lot more than me (by at least 100 pounds, and my Wii Fit calls me obese). I went onto the message boards for her show, and someone says they did a race at Walt Disney World. Sold! This is now more than just some crazy idea in the back of my head. It is now a full-fledged mission I must complete. A goal has now been set to commemorate the two year anniversary of my knee surgery, almost to the day, by running a race at WDW.
I proceeded to research these races at Disney, of which I was previously unaware. Lo and behold, there was one coming up the first weekend in October. Since it was July at the time, I figured I could train and make this happen in almost 3 months. And so I started. I was not aware of the Disney online community really at this point, so Twitter and Facebook were pretty much my way to communicate with family and friends I already knew in real life, and for following a few celebrities. My support came from the message boards on Jillian’s website, and they suggested I try to find some folks on Twitter that may know something about the Disney races specifically. Find them I did! Now there are many who were instrumental in motivating me, but the one that sticks out is Mary Jo Collins. She helped assuage my fears and helped me get going on those first few wobbly steps.
I was very worried about the 16 minute per mile time requirement since I really hadn’t even tried to run since my knee surgery. Finding a C25K plan online, I decided to go out for my first run one hot summer Saturday morning at 7am. For those of you who know me well, I rarely see 7am on a weekend, unless it is because I haven’t gone to bed yet. This was the monumental first step on my journey. I did an alternating jog for 30 seconds, walk for 30 seconds for what was a little over 25 minutes. When I came back to my house, I hydrated, and proceeded to get sick. My body was not used to the work or the Florida humidity.
After I got that out of my system, literally, I decided it might be best to join a gym. I found a Planet Fitness nearby for $10 a month and was sold. I followed the plan pretty religiously, except for following the speeds the C25K called for, since I have short legs and really didn’t want to risk injury. In hindsight, it probably would have been a good idea to consult my orthopedist before this undertaking, but I was again, on a mission.
The race in October was to be the inaugural Mickey’s Halloween 5K and ran through the Magic Kingdom – the only 5K to do so. Just imagining the thought of running through the MK before it was open was enough to continue to motivate me on my jogs (along with Disney music and podcasts, of course). I started making a few more Disney friends on Twitter, and they became a constant source or inspiration and support. Having people to talk to who had been through the races at Disney before was a huge security blanket for me. My friends told me that they were sure I could do it. Even though I only completed the 5K one time on the treadmill within the time requirement, they assured me that I would be fine.
One thing it is good to know about Disney 5Ks is that the time requirement is very loosely enforced. This helped tremendously in putting my mind at ease during training. Once you put that money down and register for the race, that is what makes it real, at least for me. Up to that point, you are just talking about it, but when you pay for it, then you are wasting money if you chicken out. Apparently, I hadn’t been paying attention during registration, but learned subsequently that there would be characters along the race course to cheer the runners on and to pose for pictures. Due to this, the folks at Run Disney recommend training for a 15 minute mile so you can take a few extra minutes with the characters. This made me even more excited, if you can imagine.
Fast forward to a few weeks before the race. I completed my training and was kind of in maintenance mode. I still could not run, or even jog the entire 5K, but as long as I finished, that’s what was important to me. As long as I didn’t get swept by the van who gets the stragglers holding up the end of the race, or didn’t get injured, pass out, or die, I would be very happy with my accomplishment. I now have a phrase for this – I want to finish the race upright and under my own power. As long as those two things happen, I’m good. If personal records come along with those down the road, even better.
Please know that if you are considering running one of these races, and I highly recommend that you try them, learn how to properly stretch before and after running. I kind of forgot this two weeks before the race and got plantar fasciitis. It is extremely painful and basically feels like someone has driven a spike up through the ball of your foot. It can be avoided with proper stretching and hydration. So now, I was kind of freaking that I wouldn’t be able to run this race I had poured months of training into. I consulted my doctor, who gave me some stretches and pills, and he told me if I was careful up to the day of the race, I might be okay to run. He did caution me though that if there was any pain, that I should not even try as I could make things worse.
After all the worrying about not injuring my knee, I ended up hurting my foot. But I was not about to let this derail my mission. I wanted to run by that castle and nothing was going to stop me. I followed the doctor’s orders diligently and the week of the race arrived. For those of you who weren’t there, this was during that insane weekend that was dubbed by some in the social media “Epic October.” There were races, meet and greets, live podcast recordings, foodie fests, meals, scavenger hunts, Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and so much more. It was truly epic.
Stay tuned for next week’s post of my race report.
Contributed by: Betsy Bates (NDI#152) Betsy is the DDL Recreation Blogger.