2019 Disney Princess Half Marathon Recap!

All of the hard work paid off – I finished the race!!

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I’m still in disbelief that I’m writing this post. I thought I would be blogging about how awful, hard and grueling the race was, and that I got caught by the pacers and had to ride the “slow bus” to the finish line and miss out on my medal.

BUT – I experienced the exact opposite!! I had an absolute blast (until about mile 9 when the sun came out) and although I was the last one in our group of 15 runners to cross the finish line, I crossed it! I need to sincerely thank my entire group of friends and family who ran the race with me, and those who came all the way to Orlando just to cheer us on. Together, we raised over $7k for brain cancer research at MGH!

Now, let’s get to the details. I was terrified beforehand and didn’t know what to expect, so maybe this will help convince some of you to join us next year. 🙂

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One of our groups walking towards the starting area around 4am! From L to R: Maisie, Steven, Becca (me!), Cam, Claire, Margie, Jerry, Saeger, Ryan and Erin.

If you are looking to do your first Half Marathon, this is a GREAT one to do!

I’m not the best runner. I do it a couple of times a week at the gym, but never for more than 3 miles. And I jog VERY slowly. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this race had lots of different types of runners! Some people ran, some people did run-walk intervals and some people walked most of it (myself included!). I never felt out of place, and everyone around me was so incredibly supportive. It’s a very friendly environment and there were plenty of men running the race too! (Although it is definitely female-dominated).

 

The Princess Half Race Expo is Awesome! Save up so you can Shop!

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Expo at Disney’s ESPN World Wide of Sports

I am a shopper. It can be a problem. I know good shopping when I see it- and the commemorative items they have at the Run Disney expo are awesome!

I had SO much fun browsing all of the sponsors products, as well as the official Run Disney merch. I got a pullover, tank top, wine glass, Dooney & Bourke bag, magnet and pin. I can’t buy anything else for the rest of the year after that shopping spree…but the Expo was a blast! Also, they have amazing frose for sale (white chocolate Mickey Mouse champagne toppers included). Make sure you give yourself at least 4 hours to get to the Expo, get your race bib (this part takes less than 20 minutes), browse all of the shopping, and get the bus back to your hotel. This isn’t something you want to skip!

The worst part was having to wake up at 2:30am to get to the starting area.

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My mom and I in front of the pre-race dance party! (It’s 4am…)

I was hoping this was a myth, but nope. You really do have to wake up between 2:30am-3am if you are staying on Disney Property to make it to the bus in time (the last buses depart hotels at 3:30am). That part was HARD, but after taking a quick shower to wake up the adrenaline set in and I was ready to go! There is plenty of coffee available at the starting area if you don’t have time to grab it in your hotel on the way out. They also have a killer DJ playing loud dance music by the starting area…if the coffee doesn’t do it’s job, the music will!

Choose Your Running Costume Wisely!

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Someone had given me this advice beforehand, but it is true! We all get excited with the crazy Disney costumes we can come up with, but make sure you are comfortable running 13.1 miles in whatever you choose to wear. I ended up changing costumes last minute because I had tried running in my Brave costume the week before the race, and the tank top was way too heavy. I also wore my tutu around the house (and the Disney’s Boardwalk!) and didn’t think I’d be able to keep it on for 3+ hours, so I ditched it. You want to be comfortable, you’re in it for the long haul! I also would stay minimal on accessories…I saw someone dressed as Rapunzel running with a Frying Pan….her arms must have been so sore! Don’t get me wrong, costumes are one of the best parts of this race…just make sure you can run in whatever you pick!

The “Balloon Ladies” are REAL.

If I had been carrying my phone on me, I would have snapped a picture because the existence of the infamous “balloon ladies” was unclear during my pre-race research. I confirmed it with my own eyes – THEY DO EXIST! There is part of the race where you run up an off-ramp (by the Green Army Men!) and loop over the highway overpass. When I was at that part of the course (somewhere around mile 9), I saw the balloon ladies walking briskly with Mickey Mouse balloons tied around their waists. The balloon ladies are the last ones to cross the starting line, and they maintain a 16-minute-mile pace (the required pace for RunDisney events). While there was no one directly scooping people up behind them, there were four buses parked just before the overpass with their destination sign reading “PARADE BUS”. If the Balloon Ladies pass you, you are subject to being invited on the Parade Bus, which will bring you to the finish line area.

Corral Placement is Key.

If you are worried about the required 16-minute mile, try to move as far up as possible to the front of your corral. Because there are so many runners in this race, there are several waves of runners in each corral. It takes over an hour for everyone to get across the starting line. We were in corral F, but we were wave 5 out of 9 waves in corral F (and there were corrals A-H). The required 16-minute pace starts from when the Balloon Ladies cross the starting line, and they are the LAST ONES TO CROSS. So, if you are slow and you are in wave 5 in the F corral, you will have more time than being in the last wave of corral H.

If you have a medical condition, Disney is FANTASTIC.

Part of my brain cancer diagnosis includes living with a seizure disorder. We know that my risk of having a seizure is increased by exercise. (In fact, that’s what triggered this whole thing in the first place!) I was EXTREMELY comfortable running the Disney race. They had medics EVERYWHERE. I was trotting by one guy who had stopped to stretch his calf, and a security officer was checking in on him within probably 20 seconds. If you have any type of condition (and your doctor has cleared you to participate), choose this race. In case of an emergency, Run Disney will have you covered!

It’s True, You Do NOT Get A Medal Without Completing the Race.

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When I registered for the race, I just assumed all runners got a medal, whether they finished or not. NOPE! It’s an absolutely beautiful medal, but you’ve gotta work for it! I had heard this was  myth, so I was unsure going into the race. But man, I am glad I finished because it turns out they were NOT giving medals to those who got picked up by the Parade Bus! (Totally fine, but if you’re someone that’s only in it for the medal and you don’t think you can complete it, you may want to skip this one).We overheard a friend on the cell talking to her friend who got caught by the Parade Bus, who said they wouldn’t be getting medals. 😦  If you do earn your medal, it’s gorgeous, sparkly and heavy – totally worth the sweat!!

 

Don’t make any park reservations for the day of the race.

I made the mistake of booking a late lunch and making FASTPASS reservations for Sunday afternoon (post-race). If you want to make FASTPASS reservations, go ahead – but booking (and no-showing to) Disney restaurants comes with a $25 fine so I would steer clear of that. I thought that after the Half, we’d go back to the hotel, shower, and head on over to Hollywood Studios wearing our medals proudly and taking pictures all over the park. Maybe we’d have some celebratory champagne…

NOPE. I limped to the bus back to the hotel, took off my shoes, put bandaids on my blisters, and promptly passed out for a 5 hour nap. We missed our lunch reservations, wasted our FASTPASS plans and when we did wake up, we hung out by the Yacht & Beach Club pool, which does not require a park pass. The point is – you will probably be more tired than you think! If you are strong enough to peruse the parks post-race, good for you! But if you want to be conservative, plan to spend the day by the hotel pool. 🙂

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Completing the Half Marathon was the BEST Feeling.

My feet had given out around mile 10. In fact, I’m still waiting for the blood blisters on my feet to heel (another tip: don’t wear new sneakers for a race…yes, I am a newbie). I was in SO MUCH PAIN for the last 2-3 miles, but the adrenaline kept me going. My personal cheer squad (and running buddies, Steven and Erin!) kept me going. There were a few moments when I wanted to give up, but I’m so glad I didn’t because crossing that finish line was the BEST FEELING! It made the hours at the gym worth it. It made me feel like I could still accomplish big things, despite my diagnosis. It made me realize how awesome of a support system I have. It felt AMAZING. I totally ugly/happy-cried as I crossed the finish line.

In short, if you are on the edge – DO IT! This is such a fun race, and if I can do it, YOU CAN TOO!!! We would love to have you be a part of our group in 2020. 🙂

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My first “official” 5k! (Prepping for Disney.)

As I sit here with my feet up on the couch, sipping a glass of post-race wine and trying to stretch out my calves…I can’t help but think – WOW! That was actually fun!

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I just finished my first official 5k race (race bib and all!) and woof, I am tired. But, I’m training to do a half-marathon in February, and my trainer told me I need to start running legitimate races in order to prepare myself for the Disney half. (Before today, my only 5k’s were done on treadmills at my own pace.)

Steven, my younger brother Cam, his girlfriend Maisie, and a few of their friends all signed up and we ran the race together. It was the Cambridge, MA Freedom 5K, so it had

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Me and Cam post-race

a patriotic theme and we were decked out in #Merica gear. I thought because people get dressed up for it, it was going to be more of a “fun run” – but people took it pretty freakin’ seriously! The winner ran a 15:28 5k, which was an average 4:59 mile…whaaat?! I think I was hitting the 1 mile mark at 16 minutes…

I ended up finishing with a time of 46:57. Not a great 5k time for me, but again – this was my first 5k outside and running outside is SO much harder than on a treadmill! My butthead brother ran a 21:40 minute 5k and Maisie ran 24:55. Overachievers!

 

Anyway, I have some takeaways from the race…

  • Everyone is friendly and supports each other
  • I definitely have a competitive streak in me
  • I need to train harder for Disney
  • Downhill stretches are AWESOME
  • Running outside is way harder than running on a treadmill
  • These races are FUN and so are the after-parties!

Overall, it was a lot of fun and even though the actual race was hard, I enjoyed it. I had toIMG_3092 walk some (OK, a lot) of it – but running the final stretch and crossing the finish line was such an adrenaline rush! And it felt great – I’ve always wanted to do something like that. I was very nervous at the beginning when we were lined up in the starting corrals, but once people started moving I felt totally fine (even though I was in the back for the most of it!).

I was a runner before all of this cancer “stuff” started, and back in high school I would go for 3-4 mile runs every morning. It sounds silly but running this race is bringing me back to that state of mind, which was a very healthy place for me. I’m going to keep on training, run outside more, and keep prepping for Disney! I’m excited to do more races!

Positive learnings from my incurable cancer diagnosis

Happy Easter!! In honor of the holiday, I thought I’d share a post that I’ve been working on for a few days. The blog title says it all – here are some positives that have come out of this sh*tty diagnosis and have made me a happier person. 🙂

I’ve learned that family is everything.

21462987_10101570616498986_3741919700921090535_nI’ve always been close with my family, but I’ve needed them more in the past 12 months than ever before. After a seizure, your driver’s license is revoked for 6 months. During that time, I was going through radiation, chemotherapy, and support group. My family spent hours driving me to appointments, attending support group with me and keeping me company. Aunts, uncles and cousins dropped off meals, my brothers and their significant others let me vent whenever I wanted, and the whole family came together to participate in events like the MGH Everyday Amazing Race to raise money for MGH’s cancer center. My husband has supported me more than I thought was possible, and I’m finally confident that I made the right choice in marrying him. (Joking, Steven – I’ve always known!).

 

I’ve started taking much better care of myself.

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Prior to my seizure last April, I don’t think I had been to the gym in 6+ months. My husband and I had temporarily relocated to Denver for his job, and then when we got back, I moved to a new company. We bought our first home which was a very stressful process, and with everything we had going on, I had stopped exercising and eating well. I definitely put on some weight. In November, when I was finally cleared to exercise again, I decided to set a goal for myself – to run the Disney Princess 1/2 Marathon in February of 2019. It’s a race I’ve always wanted to do, but have never been fit enough to participate in. I’ve been working with a personal trainer (shout out to Semaj!) and am doing great – in fact, I’ve shaved 8 minutes off of my 5k time in just 4 months. I’m feeling healthier than ever, and am excited to continue this journey which also includes eating healthier and getting plenty of sleep.

 

I’ve started living in the moment.

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Disney trips, hibachi dinners, taking Mickey to the dog park, paint nights, plant nights, Oscar movie marathons, exploring Nashville, summer concerts…I’ve started really living in the moment. I used to spend all of my time and energy chasing things. Trying to close the next business deal, buy a nicer car, move to a bigger house… and because of that, I wasn’t really enjoying life in the moment. While those things are still on my radar, I spend much more time enjoying the people I’m with while I’m doing fun things.

 

I’m finally taking real time for myself.

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Getting to the gym 4-5 times a week, finally reading books that have been on my reading list for years, getting into a good skincare routine, spending time painting and crafting…it’s such a nice change. I’ve been spending more time doing meaningful activities and picking up new hobbies (like blogging!) and it’s made me a happier person overall.

 

I’ve learned who my true friends are, and I’ve ended toxic relationships.

This entire year has certainly shown me who my true friends are. They’ve been there the entire time, offering advice, support, and a listening ear. Some people have seemed to disappear from my life, while others have stepped up & told me to stop throwing a self-pity party and come out with the group for the night. I’ve also noticed some people in my life were very negative and toxic, and I’ve stopped surrounding myself with them. Although the number of people I hang out with has grown smaller, the friendships I do have have grown stronger. I also have to mention, I’ve made a lot of new friends in the brain cancer community and I value those new friendships very much.

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Happy Easter everyone, hope the Easter Bunny is good to you!!

Becca