Running Disney Part Three: A Practice Half

I’ll let you in on a little secret; I’m a planner. Not like a, “Oh, we should go to dinner at seven” kind of planner but more like a, “We should arrive at our dining destination at 6:57 p.m. so that we can be seated at the westernmost table in dining room B” kind of planner. I like to know what’s coming – mostly so that I don’t look like a complete moron when it happens – because here’s another secret; I’m kind of a spaz. Most days I hide it pretty well, but if I can’t plan, it’s all over. Spaz city. How does this relate to running Disney? Well, when it comes to Disney, my need to plan gets amped up like a Van Halen concert circa 1984. So when it came to Disney running, I needed to know just what was going on before I suited up for the Princess Half – specifically, whether or not I could really do it.

There were lots of fantastic videos and blog entries on Princess Half Marathons previous, and thank goodness, because things might have been more drastic if there hadn’t been. As it was, even with all the information that was out there, I decided I needed to do a “practice half” just to be safe. I’m sure that right now you possess the same, “Are you nuts?” look that my friends and family did, but it just had to happen. So I registered for the Walt Disney World Half Marathon and booked a room.

They gave me a number! I’m legit!

When I first thought about doing this post, it shaped up in my head as a “how to do a run at Disney” post with all kinds of information that would help you plan if you needed to. But the truth is, the Disney blogging community has it covered. There are amazing race breakdowns out there everywhere that likely have better information than mine would have and there isn’t a question that you might have that hasn’t been answered. Except one. The question that I had throughout the entire process, the question that I was looking to answer with my first run that no one could answer for me was, “Am I going to fail at this?

You know. Hard Fail. Like this.

In light of the pass/fail nature of my ultimate question, I set two goals for the WDW Half Marathon. 1) I wanted to finish. 2) I wanted to stay alive. I know it sounds a little dramatic, but if you think back to my first post and the picture wherein I resembled a pleasant blue beach ball with hair, it wasn’t so dramatic really; I’d eaten myself into some pretty major health problems in the past. Sure I’d been working really hard, but 13.1 miles was a big number. I went through the entire first part of the weekend not fearing being swept, but instead fearing keeling over on a volunteer at an aid station, a cup of PowerAde smashed between us as the life force left my body and bicycle medics sang Amazing Grace. I was scared when I got on the bus at 3 a.m. I was scared when I ate half a muffin for breakfast. I was scared during the entire walk to the corrals and I was REALLY scared when my corral began walking toward the start.

I wanted to throw up, but then I would have been scared AND embarrassed.

And then, well, we went. All of us together, some faster than others, some slower, but most everyone smiling and laughing as we made our way step by step down a street in central Florida toward a castle and some mice. And as we passed high school bands and cheering volunteers and mile markers, I forgot to be frightened of what might happen. I ran, I walked, I took pictures, I ran some more. I walked a lot. I made it to the Magic Kingdom and I felt freakin’ fantastic. I ran through Cindy’s castle and, well, I’m sure you know. I cried a little just past the Tree of Liberty and I kept on keeping on.

It wasn’t until the back side of the course (where everyone agrees it gets pretty boring) that my adrenaline started to wane and I got whiney in my mind. My feet and legs hurt. A lot. I was tired and sweaty and really thirsty. I was walking at a pretty brisk pace, but things were really slowing down in my head. I could quit. It was just a practice run. I didn’t really want the medal anyway. I don’t even like Donald. In the back of my mind, I heard bike medics with a pitch pipe. And then, a fireman from New York trudged past me in full fire gear and smiled. No words, just a smile and quick little nod from under a scarred helmet as he kept moving forward in honor of his fallen brothers. Black boots, brown suit, red tank, black helmet. It was in that moment that I decided not to die. If NYFD Rodgers could do it in full gear, I could sure as hell pull it together and crank it out in running clothes. And I did. One step at a time, minute by minute, I finished the WDW Half. Alive. I answered my own question because ultimately, I was the only one capable.

I didn’t get to say thanks to NYFD Rodgers after the race, but I thank him pretty much every time I run now for having the grace to snap me out of my own self-doubt with a simple smile – an acknowledgement that we were all in it together and we could finish if we kept moving forward. I thank him for one more example of the Disney magic I love so much and for helping me answer my own question with the simplest and strongest of answers. Yes. I can do this.

Next time, the final installment of my Run Disney first adventure, Part Four: The Princess Half

Morgan Crutchfield is the Disney-addicted host of Facebook’s DVCCentral. At publication, she’ll be gearing up for the Princess Half. Get all the details by following her on Twitter @DVCMorgan


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