So you want to runDisney?
Have you always wanted to participate in a runDisney race and wear the fun costumes, and get a high five from “Track Suit Mickey,” and get that shiny medal at the end? Think your lack of running experience is holding you back? Think again! YES YOU CAN participate in a runDisney event, I know because *I* used to be YOU. And I’m going to help you. This post will be full of advice and tips on how to start training for a runDisney race, even if you have never run a day in your life! I’ve also included a couple tips on what to do during and after your first race. If you have any additional questions, please post them in the comments! I’m thinking about putting together a FAQ about runDisney races for my next post!
BEFORE THE RACE
Training – Yes, you have to train. I’m sorry to be the one to have to tell you that. And yes, Disney has a generous 16 minute/mile pace, and yes a 5k (3.1 miles) is not that long, but yes you have to prepare for it. You should follow some kind of loose training plan, and really you should start as soon as possible. If you have never run, ever, I would start with a couch-to-5k program, like this popular one from Cool Running. This program is nine weeks, which is about two months. I would say two months is the minimum amount of effort you should put into your training. If you’re doing a longer race, runDisney has some Jeff Galloway training programs on their website. For a runDisney race, you basically want to train below a 15 minute mile, which is doable with maybe 80% fast walking and 20% jogging. If you’re not used to doing any kind of physical activity, or you have a medical condition, please consult with your doctor and discuss your plans with him or her, to make sure you won’t be harming your body more than helping it. Since I have a rapid heart beat and my heart goes into a-fib very easily, my doctor reminded me to pay attention to my pulse and not push my heart beyond its limits. It means I can’t go as fast or as far as I want but you know what? It’s okay, because you don’t mess around with your ticker, yo.
But here’s the bottom line, friends. You just have to commit to move. Get up and walk around your house or apartment for 10 minutes. Go out for a walk around the neighborhood. Drive to your local park and walk around on a walking path. Do whatever you can, when you can. I don’t believe for a second there’s anyone out there who can’t fit in 30 minutes of exercise three times a week. And walking at a brisk pace for 30 minutes counts as exercise. It’s simply a matter of priority. If you want the bling, you have to put in the time. Period.
Tip – If you have a smart phone, download the RunKeeper app. It’s free and it will track your distance & time for you via GPS. You can also set goals, and a nice lady voice will tell you when you’ve reached a pre-set interval and what your current pace is. Sometimes it will make you happy and sometimes you will want to punch the imaginary lady. Whatever emotions you feel, put that into your run.
Nutrition – Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you to give up your breads and your pastas and your cheeseburgers. BUT I suggest starting to be more aware and conscious of your daily food intake. Not that you need to count calories or lose weight, you don’t. But your workouts will be more efficient if you are fueling your body with healthy things, like fruits and veggies. So, read labels, reduce your sugar intake, up your fruits and veggies intake, and you’ll start to feel more energized for your workouts.
Support – Don’t try to go through a big lifestyle change alone! If you have a spouse or partner, hopefully they will provide you with the emotional and physical support you need, whether you need a walking buddy, someone to tell you not to have that soda refill, or someone to watch the kids so you can workout. Also see if any friends in your neighborhood want to walk/run with you, or look up walking clubs in your area. Personally I’ve always been fine with runwalking alone, I just pop on a podcast and go! But I know some people need that extra outside push to stay focused on their goals. Know yourself and learn what works for you, then make it happen!
Patience – Disneyland wasn’t built in a day and you can’t expect this lifestyle change to happen overnight, either. You are a constant work in progress, and some days you will feel like nothing is happening and it’s not worth it and it’s too much work for NOTHING. (Ahem, can you tell this is a constant struggle for me?) Patience is especially difficult if you’re following along with a training plan and can’t seem to keep up. DON’T SWEAT IT! (Get it? haha!) You must have faith, trust, and pixie dust that the work you are doing is making small changes and it will pay off in the long run. My running motto is do what you can, when you can.
Injuries – Okay, let’s talk about this and please don’t give up on me now. When doing physical activity that your body is not used to, you will get injuries. Don’t be scared of the injuries. It’s okay. If you get a running-related injury, be proud because it means YOU WERE RUNNING!! Common injuries are shin splints (another word for painful or cramping shin muscles), knee pain, and sore ankles. Pay attention to your body and don’t ignore the warning signs of injuries if you develop them. I’m not going to go into treatment options, but you can easily search for treatments on Google or, again, consult with your doctor. (Spoiler alert, most running injury treatments involve ice and rest.) The easiest way to prevent an injury is to not run. But seriously, just pay attention to your body, especially sore muscles. You will know the difference between that “good” kind of sore, and the “I can’t get up out of bed” sore.
DURING THE RACE
Stretch – The morning of the race, don’t forget to stretch. Get to your corral (your starting area, designated by an assigned number) early and stretch. Allow time for traffic (both car and people) because it gets insanely crowded and chaotic. Find your zen, do your stretches, eat a minimal but substantial breakfast. Hydrate, but do not over hydrate or you’ll waste precious pace time in the porta-potty.
Pacing Yourself – Participating in a runDisney race is very exciting! The lights, the sounds, the fireworks! 15,000 of your closest friends! When you’re waiting in your corral, the adrenaline will start pumping and your mind will be like AHHHHHHHH GO GO GO, EVERYONE’S RUNNING, DO WHAT THEY ARE DOING. I wish I could tell you to simply not do this, because it will wear you out way too early on. But I do it. I get swept up in the excitement. Every. Single. Time. So get that early 10 seconds of excitement out of the way, then move over to the right (general rule of thumb: walkers on the right, runners on the left) and slooooow doooooown. Remember your pacing. Remember your training. Ignore what everyone else is doing and stick to the plan.
Equipment – I found I like to carry a few things during a race, but everyone’s preferences are different. Some people are minimalists and don’t want to carry anything that will weigh them down, others will run with full backpacks. There’s no right or wrong. Here’s what I like to carry: my phone, ear buds, energy gel, hotel/car key, ID card, and sunglasses. I bought a slim running belt called the Go Pack and everything fits perfectly. A lot of people like to carry water bottles but I’ve found the water provided along the course is sufficient for me.
Have fun – Oh yeah, remember you’re running through the Happiest Place on Earth and it’s supposed to be fun! If you’re slow like me, you may not be able to wait in line to get pictures with any characters without getting swept (falling behind pace and getting escorted by the “sweepers” in a van to the finish line, boo). So take your pictures from afar, take some selfies as you’re running past the castle, and don’t forget to stop and look around and remember how TOTALLY COOL this experience is.
AFTER THE RACE
Stretch Some More – Take a couple minutes post race to stretch your legs and back, so they don’t go into shock about wtf just happened.
Hydrate Hydrate Hydrate – Now that the race is over, drink all the water (but pace yourself so you don’t puke). Take a peek in the complimentary snack box, too, and see if anything sounds yummy. My traditional post-race snack is chocolate milk and a banana.
Celebrate!!! – Wear your medal with pride! Take a bunch of pictures! If you’re alone, ask a stranger to take a photo with you wearing your medal. You will want that picture later, trust me. Change clothes, clean up a little, and go to breakfast. Get a mimosa, you earned it!
As you’re training for your first runDisney race, remember Walt’s famous quote: “If you can dream it, you can do it.” Just kidding, he never said that. But if Walt were here right now, I know he would be super proud of you for going after your goals. I sure am.
What runDisney weekend is your next race? Which race is on your ultimate goal list?