How I went from not being able to run a mile to running a FULL Marathon- DISNEY style

This is one of the blog posts that I have had on my mind practically since I started this blog! In fact, this is one of those that makes me regret not starting my blog sooner! I wish I had written about this three years ago when it was fresh in my mind. We’re here now though!

I did not write this one immediately after starting my blog because I wanted to share it on the anniversary of when I crossed that finish line. On January 13, 2019 I became one of the few to be able to call myself a ‘marathoner’. It also works out that it happens to be on a Thursday so it’s also a bit of a ‘throwback Thursday’ post!

In case you can’t tell, this was a BIG deal for me. I’ve learned that many people do not realize how much training and how many miles running a marathon takes. I can admit to being guilty of this before I got my feet wet in the world of running. A 5K and a Marathon are worlds away from each other. To give some perspective, a 5K is 3.1 miles. A marathon is 26.2.That is a 23.1 mile difference! I am not trying to take away from anyone who has hit a goal of running a 5K, especially if you’ve never run one! It was a big deal for me when I ran my first one too! There is no denying though that they are two different monsters.

I can’t say that running a marathon was crossing anything off my bucket list because it’s simply not something I EVER thought I would do. This is why it’s such a big accomplishment for me. I think I always knew I’d graduate college and graduate school. While there were some bumps in the road to passing my CPA exam and I had moments of doubt, I think deep, deep down I knew I’d always have those three letters behind my name. Running a marathon though? That was not even on my radar most of my life!

I am sure you are wondering how I got here then! I had two back to back pregnancies. By the time Peter was born I was done feeling huge. He did was a natural birth and managed not to give me any tears or scarring so the doctor cleared me to workout as soon as I felt ready. While I was pregnant with Peter, an Orange Theory Fitness had opened in my area so at 3 weeks postpartum I decided to give it a try. On a side note, I absolutely love Orange Theory and plan to eventually write about it. Since many start their fitness journey at the beginning of the year I had an idea for January to share weekly different fitness platforms I do or have done. It was not love at first workout though! I walked out of my first class thinking it was not going to work out because it involved too much running.

Back in 2012 I had done CrossFit (actually what I am currently doing!) before our wedding. I will never forget one day the WOD (workout of the day) was to run 2 miles. Just 2 miles. I almost DIED given that I could not even run 1 mile at the time! Everyone clapped for me when I finally finished. I had been told at CrossFit that I did not know how to run and they would even encourage me to row instead at times to get through workouts more quickly since the running would slow me down. The thing is, you do not run so much at CrossFit. At Orange Theory on the other hand, you are running AT LEAST 12 minutes every time you walk into that studio. I learned that running is an acquired taste. You do not immediately LOVE it. I believe it also takes some consistency to fall in love. My original plan was to stick to it through maternity leave and we’d part ways after 3 months when I had to go back to the office.

Over those 3 months I fell in LOVE with the workout! Furthermore, I started to realize that I was not hating running, in fact I was enjoying it! I eventually was able to hold my runs even while in ‘base pace’ (i’ll explain more on that when I get around to my post on Orange Theory). In January we started working on PRs (Personal Records) and one of the challenges was the mile run. I was the fastest female in my 6AM class! Remember- I’m the girl who took so long to run 2 miles that my whole class clapped when I finished!

By spring I decided to run my first 5K. I did the color run in Ft. Lauderdale. This is a super fun race because they throw different colors at you while you are running! I did not train for it per se but attending Orange Theory 5-6 times a week was more than enough to be ready for this and I found the race to be easy peasy! This was when I realized I could probably train for and run a half marathon. This in itself was HUGE for me! I’ll never forget going out to dinner with friends years before and one of the couples that joined us was training for the Miami Half Marathon. They mentioned how they’d run 10 miles that morning. I thought to myself- well there is something I will NEVER do.

With some hesitation, I registered for the 2017 Miami Half Marathon and called footworks to start training! Footworks is a running store in South Miami that has training programs for races as well as training programs just to start running and get in shape. It gets hot in Miami so ideally you’d do your runs early in the morning to beat the heat. With such long distances sometimes it is necessary to start before the sun so I preferred to do these long runs in a group since I am not comfortable running in the dark alone. Footworks has a wonderful community of supportive people which also made it fun and gave me an opportunity to meet fellow runners (apparently I was a runner now! haha)! While it’s hard to be up so early on the weekend, we saw beautiful sunrises while running and it made it all worth it! Training started in October and by January of 2017 I was ready to go and I successfully completed my first half marathon! In the fall of that year I did a challenge in Disney where I ran a 10K and a half marathon the next day.

I do not know exactly when it was but at some point I decided that I did not want to leave things half way. After going in circles about it- I made the scary decision to register for the the 2019 Walt Disney World MARATHON! I registered once again with Footworks for training.

Training started in August. You train for these long distance races by doing a few ‘short runs’ a week and then your one long run which you will usually do on the weekend. My ‘short runs’ were about 4.5 miles. I would do these twice a week. It is important to strength train while training for a race like this. Initially my plan was to continue to attend the group fitness classes I did at the time at a gym called Sensory here in Miami. I would do 5AM class because it was the only time I could fit it in, however, I quickly realized I was going to need more sleep to tackle this goal. I instead started at home workouts with Beachbody’s LIIFT 4. This was the perfect compliment to marathon training since it is a strength training program. Saturdays I would do my long runs with footworks. Their goal is to be done by 8AM so from August through January, roughly 5 months, I had lost my Friday nights and sleeping in Saturday mornings. Needless to say, if the goal is to be done by 8AM, we were practically starting in the middle of the night at times! This was actually the hardest part for me! I am a drinker and love my wine on Fridays after work so not being able to drink Fridays was definitely a challenge! I also had two small children so napping after long runs on Saturdays was not really an option for me.

The team with Footworks was training for the Miami Marathon. That year the Miami Marathon fell the day after Peter’s birthday. I did not want to have to go to bed early on his birthday and be limited in our plans. I’d also been told that for the full marathon, Disney is a better option for various reasons. One of the big ones is in the Miami Marathon you start your race with those running the half marathon so half way through the race, you watch them finish while you are only at the half way point. I was also told that this second half of Miami is brutal. Not only is it lonely, but it lacks shaded areas. Disney is only a 3.5 hour drive away, we were annual passholders and love visiting so this decision was a no brainer! The only caveat was that Disney was a few weeks before Miami so I had to accelerate my schedule. Once we got into the long distances I would need to add on a few miles from the group run. Like I previously said, Footworks has an amazing supportive community so I remember at least one of the times, part of the group joined me in my extra miles!

For the full marathon Footworks recommended the longest run before race day be 20 miles. I checked this off before Christmas and then tapered. For those who may not be familiar with what tapering is- when you train for these big races you run your longest distance a few weeks before race day and then shorten the ‘long runs’ the few weeks before the race to allow your body to recover and be fresh for race day! January 13,, 2019 came before I knew it!

I remember the nerves and the adrenaline arriving in Disney and picking up my bib at Disney’s Wide World of Sports. I remember the energy at the expo and all the motivational quotes throughout. I had a smile in all my photos but deep down I was FREAKING OUT! They had just handed ME, the girl who could not run a mile, a bib to run a FULL 26.2 miles! To be completely honest- I even broke out in a rash the night before from nerves.

Race day was here! If you’ve ever done a Run Disney event you know that it involves waking up in the middle of the night in order to make it to the start of the race in time. At this point I was used to the early wake up call, however, the nerves did not let me get much sleep the night before. Nonetheless, there is nothing race day adrenaline won’t get you through!

There was not anyone I trained with who was running the Disney Marathon so Peter dropped me off solo. You actually have to walk about a mile from where you get dropped off to the start line of the race which is interesting given the amount of miles you are about to put in! They have a DJ and it’s easy to get totally pumped! You are put in corrals and the corrals leave separately within minutes of each other so you don’t have all the racers starting at the same time. There are fireworks each time a corral takes off and the whole experience is exhilarating and exciting!

As I approached the start line I remember praying to God to help me get through this. Even after all those months of training, the Friday nights I missed out on, the early wake up calls Saturday- I was wondering what I had gotten myself into. Then something hit me…I should not be asking God for help. I should be THANKING him that I had the opportunity to do this! I am healthy enough to have made it through training and to make it this far. I don’t remember the exact words but I once saw a quote that said something along the lines of- training for the race is the hard part, RACE DAY IS THE REWARD! There could not be more truth to this!

The race starts in the Magic Kingdom parking lot and you run from there to Animal Kingdom, through Disney’s Wide World of sports where you even run the bases on the baseball field (Peter Jr. COULD NOT believe this!), to Hollywood Studios, to the finish line at my favorite park, EPCOT. It was an AMAZING experience! You start early so when you run through the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom the parks are not open yet so it’s only the racers. I hit Magic Kingdom right before sunrise and there is just a different feeling to seeing the castle lit up as first light starts to appear!

You see parts of Disney you may not usually see. I’ll admit there is a stretch where there is not much but they try to make it fun by putting up information about the parks. I actually remember running by the garbage compost where the put facts about it. They have snacks and water throughout the race. They even give chocolate around mile 23! I felt GREAT most of the race and spent most of it wondering what I had been so scared of. As I had been warned though, shortly after mile 20 I hit what many call ‘the twilight zone’. Any marathoner can tell you that the marathon is actually those last 6 miles. This is where you really need to push through and where that mental toughness kicks in. I certainly was not giving up at that point though! Disney does a good job here of putting up signs with funny riddles while you are running on the road to keep your mind active. I believe once you are down to a 5K you reach Hollywood Studios and Epcot. As nice as it was to have the parks to ourselves in the early morning hours, at this point the spectators cheering us on was very welcome! They put up ropes in parts of the park for racers but you will have spectators on the sidelines cheering for the runners and holding up signs! Roughly 5 hours and 30 minutes later, I crossed that finish line! To be clear- my goal was not to be fast! It was to finish. That moment was EVERYTHING!

While training I was asked quite often WHY I would choose to run a Marathon. This is not a goal you take on because you want to lose weight or because you want to get healthier. You most definitely don’t need to run a marathon to achieve either of those two goals. Your why needs to be bigger than that. For me it was because I wanted to be able to tell my kids- don’t EVER think there is something you can’t do! EVER! Remember, I was the girl who could not run a mile. I was not a ‘runner’. If I could do this, especially while being a working mom of two little ones, they can do ANYTHING they set their minds to!

I am so happy I did this even though I am not sure I will run another full marathon. Then again if there is one thing it taught me is to NEVER say NEVER! I’ll admit I do have more half marathons on my radar! I proved to myself that I could do something I never in a million years thought was possible. I also learned that the muscle that needs to be strongest to run a marathon is not your lungs or your legs but your mind. So much of it is in your head and it definitely creates mental toughness!

I could likely do a whole post with tips on running a Marathon and if I’d had my blog three years ago I likely would have. I can give a few though!

  • I already mentioned one above- you need a strong WHY. It’s a big goal and does take some sacrifice and grit!
  • I totally recommend teaming up with a group to train! If you do not have friends or family interested definitely look into local running clubs in your area. In fact, even if you do have friends and family willing to train with you, I still recommend this because you will meet seasoned runners who can provide a whole world of tips from what snacks to pack to what gear they recommend. If you are in Miami, I had a wonderful experience with Team Footworks. I know many also train and love Team FDC.
  • You need a support system, especially if you have kids! There is NO WAY this was happening if my husband had not been 200% supportive of my crazy idea.
  • Make sure you have sneakers specific to running. I definitely recommend going to a running store and having them fit you for the right sneaker. Style is not important here!

I know a marathon is a BIG goal to take on and maybe this post will inspire someone to run one. However, whatever goals and dreams you have, I hope this at least inspires you to shoot for them!

Thanks for visiting!


3 thoughts on “How I went from not being able to run a mile to running a FULL Marathon- DISNEY style

  1. Good point that running is something you may well not like until you have learnt and practiced a bit. I can also relate to running letting you learn how to do things you didn’t imagine that you could do – and that may be totally different distance/pace for different people. Well done on achieving your challenge!

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