Welcome our new guest blogger, Cristina’s sister, Cara! You can read about Cristina’s inaugural WDW Star Wars 10K race here.
For a long time, I had a dream of doing a half marathon in Disney World. When they announced the first Star Wars half marathon in Disneyland, I really wanted to do it. But then I got pregnant and only wanted to lay on the couch eating McDonald’s.
I had my beautiful baby girl in June 2015. I did not have an easy pregnancy and was barely active. I was even on bed rest the last month of pregnancy. I also ate A LOT of McDonald’s because it strangely was the only thing that didn’t make me nauseous. I had a lot of work to do afterwards to get back on to a healthy lifestyle. When the Star Wars half marathon was announced in September, it was just the motivation I needed. My husband said he would do it too, and on September 29th we officially registered.
That was the easy part. The hard part was finding the time to train. I was a new mom with a baby quickly moving past the easy newborn phase. I also had a full-time job. Oh, and I was a total newbie. I have never been into sports or done any extensive running. But I made this goal of doing a half marathon because I am crazy and wanted a real challenge for myself. I started using a Couch to 10k app and taking Layla in my jogging stroller whenever I had a day off. It was a slow progression those first few months.
Then my family came to visit for Christmas, and thankfully my sisters were also training for racing. We went on several long walks together to help build endurance. Before Christmas, my longest run/walk was only 2 miles. I did my first 3+ miles in February. By March, I was only a month and half away from the half marathon and still pretty behind on my training schedule. My younger sister came to visit in early March, and she made a custom workout on my RunKeeper app similar to one she was using to train for the 10k. The intervals were Walk 5 minutes, Run 5 minutes, Walk 3 minutes, Run 3 minutes. This really helped me finally be able to successfully run further distances and within the Disney pacing. Thanks to the intervals, nice weather, and purchasing an Apple Watch, I was able to do several 6+ runs through the rest of March and early April. The week before the half marathon, I did a 9 mile run/walk and that was my longest pre race day run.
On race day, I was extremely nervous. My foot was still hurting a bit from the 9 mile run, all of my previous runs were just barely at the Disney pacing requirements, and I just didn’t train as much as I was hoping. But I believed in myself. I had told everyone that I was doing this race. My family would be getting alerts of my time. I had already bought the I Did It shirt… And my husband told me I would have to burn it if I didn’t finish. My wonderful husband agreed to stay with me the entire race even though he could have run the whole thing. I would not have been able to conquer the course without him by my side.
We were in the second to last corral so we knew it was extremely important to maintain pace and take very few breaks. I did have to take quick 10-20 second stretches every mile, and we each took one bathroom break. Other than that, we did pretty well at maintaining our pace and completing our run/walk intervals.
Some parts of the race were a bit of a blur. I remember running through Morocco in Epcot and then running through the Boardwalk. We went past a group of Star Wars characters. Even though I didn’t get pictures, it was fun seeing them. The Boardwalk was one of the extremely bottlenecked areas, but it was fun running past the hotel workers and guests. After that, we ran through Hollywood Studios. They had Star Wars characters at the stage in front of the Chinese theater. The music and characters definitely help pump you up.
Once we got to the road, we had more room to move around. We had to go up a ramp to get to the 5 mile mark. I told my husband that I needed a quick stretch, and we moved close to the edge of the road. Unfortunately, the road was a little uneven and we were going uphill. I tripped and fell on the concrete. I scraped up my hands and leg. My hands burned and were bleeding. A lot of the runners offered me help, but I stood back up and kept going. At the next water station, I rinsed off my hands and tried to think positive: I was almost to the half way point.
Reaching Animal Kingdom was a huge accomplishment. Miles 7-9 were my best splits. I felt an adrenaline rush went I finally ran through Animal Kingdom. I loved running past the Tree of Life and Expedition Everest. After Animal Kingdom, it was miles of highway to reach the finish line at the Wide World of Sports. This was the most difficult part of the race. After 10 miles, my body was aching. It was getting extremely hard to run the full duration of my intervals. I had to mostly speed walk those last couple miles. I teared up a few times, and I started wondering if I would be able to finish. The balloon ladies were getting closer… 5 minutes behind us and then 2.5 minutes behind us.
Seeing the 13 mile mark was a bittersweet moment. I was so happy to be on the last mile, but I was feeling so exhausted. My husband took my hand and held it the entire last mile. I probably would have collapsed if he didn’t. I cried when we finally crossed the finish line, and I wrapped my arms around my husband. I Did It! And luckily, RunDisney took pictures of that moment because it was one I will never forget.
The half marathon was hard, but I did it. I felt exhausted and overheated, but I was given cool rags, Powerade, water, and a snack box to hydrate and refuel my body. Crossing that finish line was one of the proudest moments of my life, and I am so happy that I was able to overcome my obstacles and accomplish my goal. I was even able to impress my interviewer for a job I applied for by saying, “I set a goal of finishing my first half marathon. I fell on the course, and then I got up and kept going until I crossed the finish line.” I think that shows my determination to accomplish my goals. They asked what my next goal will be, and I said that I want to do another half marathon. Next time, I want to do more than barely making it to the finish line. I want to improve my time and endurance. And maaaaaaaybe one day, I will consider the full marathon.
Thank you Nola Nerd Couple for letting me share my story. If I can do a half marathon, anyone can. I would definitely recommend having accountability (like telling everyone you meet and buying the I Did It shirt lol) and having support. I really don’t know if I could have finished without my husband doing it with me. Most importantly, muster up ever bit of strength and motivation within yourself. I may have some scrapes and bruises, but I also have an awesome Star Wars half marathon medal. Definitely worth it.
PS – Check out my Facebook page Good Morning Fabulous to keep up with my journey of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. 🙂