About five months ago, I wrote a blog post, lamenting the runDisney race I didn’t get to run in. I had put a summer’s worth of training (and channeled all my anxieties about moving home and leaving LA behind into thoughts of the race), so I was devastated to let all that hard work go to waste. But in April, I had my chance at redemption, the opportunity to accomplish the goal I set over a year ago.
On the morning of April 20th, I ran the Dark Side 5k as part of the Star Wars Half-Marathon Weekend at Walt Disney World, successfully completing my first ever race.
The decision to run the Star Wars race actually came from my mom and dad. Seeing how upset I was about missing the Marvel 10k inspired them to offer an alternative: going to Disney World for the Star Wars race in April. However, instead of another 10k, they suggested I sign up for the 5k… because if I did, they were willing to run it with me.
I was SHOCKED. When you look at the Brown family, “runners” is probably not a descriptor that comes to mind. Up to this point, our highest gear was power-walking to get to Rock ‘n Roller Coaster as soon as the park open. But both my parents were excited to introduce a new dimension to our Disney vacations, and they were willing to take on the challenge.
For me, the training portion this time around wasn’t as intensive. When I first started training to run, I was building up from level zero. Over those first couple months of training, I got up to a 5-mile run, so I knew 3.1 miles was more than manageable. Instead, I set the goal of finishing under 30 minutes and used my run days to establish a solid run-walk pattern (5.5 min running, 1 minute walking) in order to maximize my endurance for the run.
By month three, it became very monotonous, running the same 3.1 miles three days a week. Also, may I mention that running on a treadmill is boring as hell? Even the hard-hitting, pump-up jams of “X Gon’ Give It to Ya” and the 3LAU’s remix of Rihanna’s “Desperado” can’t distract from the view of a blank concrete wall or a window looking out on a parking lot. I came to learn I much preferred running outdoors, something I wasn’t able to do until the week before the race. (Side note: Who knew I’d become a girl with running preferences?) Needless to say, there were some times where my training morale was low.
But what got me through it was watching my parents’ progress. Both my parents have their own fitness daily fitness routines, and they shared my eagerness to set a new fitness goal. We sat around the island in the kitchen, discussing our running patterns and current pacing. One day, I came home from work, and my mom excitedly shared her newly-curated playlist for the big day; it was unbelievably sweet. We all faced some setbacks—slow progress, injuries, a mutual dislike of treadmills—but we are maintained an unbridled excitement for the upcoming race.
Then, almost in the blink of an eye, we were finally in Orlando, and it was time to run the race.
For those who have never attended a runDisney race, here’s how it goes down. We awoke promptly at THREE O’CLOCK AM in order to catch the bus from our resort to the starting line in the Epcot parking lot. Little did we know that we have a good two hours of standing in the race around, nervously shuffling and lightly stretching in anticipation for the big race. I ended up being in a different corral than my parents, so when it came time to line up, I gave my parents big hugs and headed to corral B, while they went into corral F.
As we snaked up towards the starting line, my stomach was a knot of nerves. It was time, the big moment. I was about to run my first race. I tried to remind myself how silly I was being—I had done the same run three days a week for months now—but there’s an added pressure when it’s the real thing. But as soon as the fireworks popped to release my corral, there was no time for nerves. It was time to run. I turned my music up and took off.
In the adrenaline rush of starting the race, my run pattern went straight out the window. I ran the first 12 minutes straight, and for the rest of the race, only stopped when I needed a quick breather. A couple days before I ran the race, I hit my goal: 3.1 miles in 29 minutes and 50 seconds. So, for the actual race, the pressure was off; it was all about fun! I spent the whole race smiling—at the incredible scenery of Epcot in the early morning, at the World Showcase employees who were out to cheer us on, at the Star Wars characters that lined the course. I didn’t stop moving until I crossed that finish line. According to my Fitbit tracker, I finished 3.31 miles in 32 minutes.
Because of my parents’ position in the last corral, I finished my run before they even began. So, I used their race time to make up for the photos I didn’t stop for on the course. I got my picture with Captain Phasma and Darth Vader. I enjoyed my Dasani water and GoGo squeeZ applesauce while I sat on the ground of the Epcot parking lot, waiting for Mom and Dad. They finished in about 46 minutes, hitting their own goal for the race. We rejoiced in a race well run, then returned to our hotel for Mickey waffles, a soak in the Jacuzzi and a well-deserved nap, all before 10AM.
The weekend as a whole was a blast, as our excursions to Disney always are, but the Disney experience was just the topping on the sweet victory of the race. The thrill of the parks and the sunshine and the tasty fluffy drinks were all rewards for setting my goal, putting my all into training and making it past the finish line. Once you’re out of school, lacking papers and projects and organizations and grades, you lack opportunities and incentives to set and meet goals. So, when you do motivate yourself to strive for something and you actually achieve it, the sense of satisfaction is unparalleled. And my feeling of satisfaction is in part because of my incredible parents.
Without their generosity, I would have never had my first race experience in my favorite place in the world. I know there could have been other races that I could have run in, but the runDisney race had a vibrant, energetic (and dare I say magical?) atmosphere that I don’t know if another race could replicate. While meeting my goal of finishing a race was a sweet victory, sharing the experience with two of my biggest supporters—and watching them accomplish their goals as well—made it that much more meaningful to me. I couldn’t give them enough thanks to fully express my gratitude to them.
A week out from the race, I can safely say I will never be avid runner, but running will remain a part of my fitness routine, especially in these warmer months. I loved watching my improvements as a runner, knowing that only a few years ago, I would have laughed if you said I would one day train to run in a race. This whole experience has been an important step in my fitness journey, and once it was over, a little voiced nagged, “Well, what now?”
I’m still trying to figure out what my next goal will be, whether it be fitness-related or not, but I think after all this, one thing is for certain: There will definitely be another runDisney race in the Brown family’s future.
Until Next Time,
Casey Brown // Gal about Town