What kind of person gets a PR at Disney?
If you have not experienced a runDisney race, they are arguably the best race events anywhere. Not only do you run through the parks (different races go through different parks and sometimes even at night, through Animal Kingdom, all lit up). They do a great job adding entertainment along the routes (bands, DJs, and character stops are common). Little touches like that make the events a lot of fun and help drive you along when the mental race gets tough. All of those things are great and make for a magical experience, but they are absolutely not conducive to getting a PR. So many distractions, so many people cramming through congested areas of the park at the same time, so it’s not the kind of environment for setting a personal record…unless you’re me, I guess?
I’ve run 6 half marathons, three of which were runDisney events, and I got a PR on ALL THREE Disney races!!!
2013 Wine & Dine Half Marathon
First up, the Wine & Dine Half Marathon (Walt Disney World, November 2013), it was only my second half marathon and I only beat my previous time by a minute, but a minute faster is a minute faster. I’d like to think it was the excitement of a Disney race that pushed me, but it was probably a combination of a few things.
HELP: I was honestly excited about the race. It was my first Disney race and we got to run through Animal Kingdom all lit up at night. If you’re not a regular at Walt Disney World, you might not know they close Animal Kingdom before dark every day to give the animals a chance to relax and unwind before they turn in for the night. They don’t do fireworks and most people never get to see the park lit up at night. It was kind of awesome.
HURDLE: I had to make a bathroom stop. That might not be a big deal for most Casual Runners, but it’s not typical for me (TMI Alert: I usually make several trips to the bathroom before a race and don’t have anything left to give during a race).
HELP: I had lost about 10 pounds between my first half marathon and this one, so I was leaner and meaner.
HURDLE: I had to interrupt my regular walk/run, long distance training with short distance, speed training for a couple of months before the race. Two completely different types of training.
HELP: While Walt Disney World courses are not completely flat (If you read Mike’s account of Wine & Dine 2014, you know about the on ramps), they are relatively flat compared to other races a Casual Runner might encounter.
HURDLE: I’m sure taking in the sights slowed me down some, too.
It would not be until 2015 before I ran my next runDisney race. In the meantime, I ran two other half marathons, along with several other races of varying length, and did not put up the numbers I needed to PR. A combination of hibernating over the winter and dealing with muscle cramps and shin splints took a serious toll on my training in the Spring of 2014. Fortunately, I was able to get healthy and fit by the end of Summer.
2015 Walt Disney World Half Marathon
That leads me to the WDW Marathon Weekend Donald Duck Half Marathon (Walt Disney World, January 2015), where I sliced six minutes off my best time. I came much better prepared for this race, but still encountered some hurdles along the way:
HELP: A healthy diet and regular exercise has helped me get my weight down and keep it down, so this was my lightest half marathon to date.
HURDLE: I pushed myself a little harder than I expected during the Pluto 5K two days prior. It was so cold that morning that the brisk walk I planned for became a mostly sustained jog in an attempt to fend off hypothermia.
HELP: I didn’t have any breaks in my training over the Winter (lesson learned from last year: NO HIBERNATING!), so I was well-prepared.
HURDLE: I usually leave enough in the tank to push it hard the last half mile or more, but at the 12.5 mile mark a nagging muscle cramp kicked in and kept me from sprinting to the finish line.
HELP: While I enjoyed the sights and entertainment along the route, I avoided making any stops along the way.
HURDLE: I’m sure I lost a few seconds when I slowed down to let Mike know he was getting passed (sorry, Mike… I couldn’t resist).
2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon
Right on the heels of the WDW Half (the very next weekend, in fact) came the inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon (Disneyland, January 2015). Despite some hurdles, I took another four minutes off my time:
HURDLE: As previously mentioned, I ran a half marathon the weekend before. Add to that the Castaway Cay Challenge during the week between the two races (along with a couple extra “cruise pounds”), and my legs were anything but fresh.
HELP: While I enjoyed the sights and entertainment along the route, I avoided making any stops along the way. Though the stop for a picture with Darth Vader at Star Tours was tempting, it was not worth the 20 minute wait.
HURDLE: Disneyland is not nearly as big as Disney World, so they have to cram a lot more in. I completely understand and don’t fault them for their course design choice, but it means the avenues are narrower, causing more bottlenecks than you come across at a WDW race. Getting through the parks without slowing down at certain choke points (specifically, water stations) was impossible. Once we left the parks and got out on the streets there was plenty of room, but the parks cost me a few minutes.
HELP: I had just set a PR, so I knew I had it in me, but I felt like the inaugural Star Wars Half deserved giving it a little extra to set a new PR…apparently that was enough to help get me there. Well… that and the flatness.
HURDLE: Stupid leg cramp again! This time with about 1.5 miles to go. I switched up my intervals to about 00:30/00:30, which helped, but I still had to hold back. Though, I was able to sprint the last 100 yards… the call of the finish line got my adrenaline pumping and I was feeling no pain.
There is so much to enjoy about a RunDisney event. And if it’s your first or even your hundredth runDisney race, you’ll probably want to take in the sights, stop for a picture with a favorite character, enjoy venturing through backstage sections of the park most people don’t get to see, or any number of other amazing things about running Disney. But, don’t count it out for a possible PR…the magic might just push you to give it a little more than any other race you’ve done.
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