Disney races are extremely popular and take only hours, if not minutes to fill to their large registration quotas. RunDisney races average around 15 thousand+ runners per Half Marathon and 10K race – topping out at around 27 thousand runners for the Full Marathon in January.
Disney is famous for attracting all levels of fitness buffs. Lean, sinewy runners with numbers “1” to “100” on their race bibs are welcome alongside “run/walker” types like myself who average 13 to 15 minute miles. This mix makes for a potent fan base: you will meet many 1st-timers as well as runners who have completed 5, 6 or even 10+ races at the dual Disney resorts.
RunDisney racers are a devoted lot.
The races and their subsequent perks (a Mickey vacation, cool, heavy gold-colored medals, one-on-one photos with characters on the course, backstage access to employee-only areas and generous swag bags) have turned the average runner into a voracious consumer: many runDisney athletes run in multiple races during the year, affording themselves the chance to see all the sights and collect the Disney running-related booty.
Disney has tapped into this fact. Many devoted runners who were already running yearly events, were also signing up and running all of the “Race Weekend” course offerings; informally labeling themselves things like, “Dopey” for completing the 5K, 1/2 and Full Marathon distances in three sequential days.
Several years ago, RunDisney formalized this with the “Goofy Challenge”: if you ran the Half then Full Marathon, you would then be the recipient of a shiny, elite Goofy character medal. Athletes from all walks of life took on this challenge. Then came 2013 race series like the “Dumbo” in Disneyland (a 10K & 1/2) and the 2014 official “Dopey” at the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend (5k, 10K, 1/2 & Full). Run a 1/2 marathon on each coast during one calendar year, (one in Disneyland and one in Walt Disney World) you get the coveted “Coast-to-Coast” challenge medal.
Most recently, Disney added the 2014 “Glass Slipper Challenge” to its Princess Half Marathon race series (a 10K & Half).
I had completed two races at Disney in 2013 (and received my Coast-to-Coast medal) when I decided to up-the-ante with the 2014 Inaugural Glass Slipper Challenge. The endurance series are both fun and intense, and like all endeavors, should be taken with a measure of excitement and careful planning.
Tips if you want to run a runDisney endurance series:
1.) Consult your healthcare practitioner.
Yep, it is the oldest advice in the book and it really matters. I actually went to both my doctor AND to a physical therapist. I wanted to be able to enjoy my races AND my family vacation. I had both a physical and mental evaluation.
My physician asked me plainly, “Why are you doing this?” I explained that I wanted to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and that I wanted to test myself – to see if I could complete it AND push myself. He wryly smiled and gave me the green light.
My physical therapist helped with exercises for recovery and stretching so that after the race, I was not a sore pile of junk. We created a plan of action for fuel, hydration and relaxation. I stuck to it.
2.) Rest and schedule your vacation days accordingly.
When you hear, “Its not the race that is hard, its the getting up so early, day after day!” Well, it is true.
We had gotten up early to catch our flight to Florida (3am), the next day up again (4am) for the 5k, the day after again for the 10K (3am) and again after that for the Half Marathon (3am). Early to rise, day after day can make a grown woman weep.
EXHAUSTION can set in easily. I had to look at it like this: “I am running a total of 22.4 miles over three days.” I slowed my pace down accordingly to both make sure I was on pace (Disney requires no longer than a 16 minute per mile pace) and so that physically, I felt good. I am a hard-core Jeff Galloway follower and made sure I kept to my 30 second run/30 second walk pace to minimize fatigue.
I also limited myself to 2-3 rides per day and curbed my walking around at the parks. I went to bed by 8pm each night before the races. My family also scheduled accordingly and we planned for my husband to keep our girls out-and-about so that I could rest. I also brought simple things like ear plugs and a night mask to minimize the in-room disturbances.
The cumulative effect of shorter sleep hours did catch up with me. It was harder than I had imagined to get up on the Half Marathon morning. I was tempted to lay down in my start corral to catch a quick nap.
Most runners I talked to also adopted this “take-it-easy” philosophy: Disney is for fun – but pace yourself so that the races are part of that enjoyment too.
You will hear people at the race weekend saying thing like, “I am JUST doing the Half.” or, “I wish I was doing them all but I am ONLY doing the 10K.” (I could write a whole piece on our over-achieving ultra-human-super-mom/dad myth culture pushing-ourselves-too-far problems, but that is not the focus of this article.)
Guess what? That is COMPLETELY fine. JUST a 1/2 or 10K or 5K is a MAJOR accomplishment. It is a wonderful thing if you are getting out and exercising at all.
Please remember, the race for which the Marathon was invented -the one where the HIGHLY trained soldier Phidippides ran 26 miles from the plains of Marathon to Athens to warn the Athenians of the impending Persian attack – well, he died afterwards.
Plan according to your health, fitness and goals.
by Kristin Fuhrmann-Simmons, 2014
www.runningatdisney.com – This site is a 3rd party WEALTH of information on all-things runDisney. It contains all the facts you need to know as well as heartwarming, 1st person perspectives on running with the magic.
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