By Karen Harris
I started running in December of 2010 and have been chasing my ever-evolving goals since! Making goals that are attainable is key for me, as I want to be able to relish in success as I continue on my journey. My first goal in my running journey was simply to show up and “run” on a regular basis. There were people willing to run with me, so I was determined to run with them. My first goal was to run a 5K…the WHOLE thing.
My next goal? A half-marathon! I wanted it to be memorable, so I picked one that sounded fun…the Disney Half! I thought about making Bass Pro my first half, but with HOA being the same weekend, I had to make a choice, and I chose HOA! Following HOA, I began my training for Disney. The biggest question I had was, “how would I train working a full time job and keeping up with my family and other obligations?” I structured my training using the CF WODs at the gym and CrossFit Endurance , incorporating a short interval day, long interval day and one long run per week.
When it came time for my race I was invited to attend a pre-race event available to a select few athletes. It involved a group run around Epcot with Jeff Galloway, Rachel Booth (3 time Disney half marathon winner) and Olympic long distance runner Suzy Favor Hamilton. Our run concluded with a motivational chat with these amazing athletes. This was just the boost I needed to propel myself into race weekend.
Running the majority of Disney races means getting up VERY early. Trying to get to bed was a challenge, it’s hard to sleep when you are thinking about all of the “what ifs” of a race. I finally got to sleep and before I knew it, it was 2:30, yes AM! I got up, got dressed and made my run tested breakfast. I was then taken by my super awesome Dad to catch the shuttle bus to the start area.
Through a Disney Facebook group I joined online, I connected with another runner who was in my corral, we had talked strategy and decided we would run together. For the Princess Half marathon, you run from Epcot to Magic Kingdom and back to Epcot. This race is for females primarily, there were men who raced but they did not receive medals. At 6:15AM myself and the other runner of Corral E were set off running to the sound of fireworks. We wanted to make sure that we didn’t go out too fast, pacing yourself is key on a long race. Thinking of a long run in 5K intervals makes it seem less intimidating…. unless of course as you are completing the first 5K of your race and you see the leader coming around mile 10 already, yes that really happen and yes, she started the race about 30 minutes ahead of us.
During a Disney race they have character stops along the race course and you can stop and take pictures with the characters if you choose. However, there is a 16 minute per mile race cap to be mindful of . I was dressed as the Queen of Hearts and Amy was dressed as Rapunzel, so we decided we would stop for those two characters. Disney has plenty of fluid stations along the course as well as a “nourishment table” which I declined since I had been training without it. We ran into Magic Kingdom, down Main Street through LOTS of cheering spectators, through Cinderella’s castle and out the other side of the park. Running in the parks is an emotional experience, as if running your very first race is not enough. At Mile 7, they were blasting Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger”. This was just the push I needed. I felt good at this point, I told myself “you have less to go than you have already gone”.
At miles 10 & 11 you run up and over an overpass and start to descend back towards Epcot, and you know you are almost there. My Mom’s cousin was at mile 12.5 cheering us to the finish where my parents and girls were. Seeing them and hearing them cheer with admiration was totally cool for me. We sprinted from the 13 mile marker all the way to the finish-line. I crossed the line in disbelief, I had just run an ENTIRE half marathon. I have now run a distance that many athletes who I think are much stronger and in much better shape say is too hard or too far. That day was a victory for me, something that began some 15 months before.
Immediately following Disney, my dad told me that there was a half marathon in Atlanta that would be occurring while I was already planning to be in Atlanta. Since I enjoyed the first race,I thought, “why not try another one?” After all, the training is the hardest part. So 3 weeks after I completed Disney, I completed the Publix Georgia Half marathon in downtown Atlanta.
I have now completed 3 half marathons. Some things I have learned so far are: 1. Each race is different; 2. Some races have lots of people to cheer you on (Disney), while some have very few (Frisco trails); 3. The conditions are not always what you expect and your equipment may not preform as predicted (my iPod quit working half way through the Frisco race.); 4. The thing that will get you to the finish line is yourself and your determination to finish.
Recently, I have joined a friend in her quest to complete 12 races (5K or longer) in 2012 and the Frisco Trails 1/2 marks my 6th race in this journey. I am looking forward to my 7th race and next half marathon in Joplin in less than 3 weeks.
I have learned that there are many people who are there to support us as runners, but the most important person is yourself. Running the Disney 1/2 and racing in general is an experience that I could go on-and-on about it. If you are thinking about it and want more details, I’ll gladly share.