My Top Tips for RunDisney Challenges

This week was the bib-only registration for this year’s RunDisney at Disneyland Paris, and after taking last year off, I’m super pleased to be back and participating in the 36K challenge!

This will be my 5th RunDisney challenge, having previous run Disneyland’s Rebel Challenge (2016) and Pixie Dust Challenge (2017), Walt Disney World’s Glass Slipper Challenge (2017) and Disneyland Paris’s 31K challenge (2017), so this is not an unusual thing for me, but having only ever done challenges that involve a 10K and half marathon, throwing in the extra 5K will be a little different!

All of these previous events have given me a lot of experience in how I face these weekend challenges, and while I must REALLY reinforce the fact that everyone is different when it comes to their training, approach, recovery etc, I just thought I’d share some wisdom that might be of use to anyone who might be facing their first challenge, or just want a little nosey at how I do things.

Training is SO key

I consider myself notoriously bad at training, and you’ll probably frequently see me tweeting about how little training I’ve done for various races, but my body is so used to doing these races and these distances that I can get away with winging it a little. If you are not a regular runner, or these will be your first events, I cannot stress enough how important it is that you do some training, including running back to back days and take training advice from professionals and experienced runners only.

Do NOT expect to do it all

Running every day is DRAINING. The Paris races aren’t too bad as they start at 7am, but if you’re participating in a WDW event, you’ll have to be awake at 3am at the latest to get to your events, and this has a huge impact on your day. The most important thing I have learned is to take it completely easy in the day before the bigger races, eg after the 10K and before the half marathon (or before the marathon if you’re literally and running Dopey). Have a super chilled day in the parks, or spend some time relaxing at the pool, let your body recover and rest up and you’ll be much happier, trust me.

Take the shorter races easier

You might think that the shorter races are your time to shine and want to run them full pelt, but in reality you probably want to take the opposite approach. Going all-out on a 5/10K could put you in a much worse shape going into your longer races, and believe me you want to be feeling fresh and ready for them!

Walking breaks are your friend

Jeff Galloway, the official RunDisney training expert, absolutely SWEARS by run-walk-run, and whenever I’m doing a challenge weekend I always have this in mind. Taking walking breaks reduces the risk of injury, give you a chance to enjoy your time in the parks and help you breakdown the long distances if you’re finding things hard.

Don’t put pressure on yourself, and remember to have fun!

The races will put enough pressure on your body, don’t go piling on anymore! RunDisney events are incredible things and I have never done a race I didn’t enjoy, so just go out there to have a good time, and whatever you do will be amazing.

Who else joined me in registration this week?

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The RunDisney Castaway Cay Challenge

Yes hi, I am still talking about all the running that I did in January – I think its because I haven’t done any running since so I’m looking back on better times!

So many people thought that I was mad enough to run a FRICKIN’ MARATHON midway through my holiday in January, and most of these people were even more baffled to find out that only a few days after running the longest distance of my life AND while still on holiday, I ran a further 5K race, but here me out on the logic behind it.

You see, I wanted another medal.. Yep, that’s basically it.

Every January, following the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, the Disney Dream cruise ship sets sail from Port Canaveral for a 4 night cruise. Its the same route and same cruise that the Dream does from Port Canaveral all the time, but this one particular sailing is jam packed full of runners recovering from their weekend races, who have mostly all booked it for the RunDisney Castaway Cay Challenge.

The challenge is this: if you participate in any race during the WDW Marathon Weekend – so this could be as little as the 5K – you can sign up for the challenge, which means that on the morning that the Dream docks at Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay, you take part in a special RunDisney organised 5K on the island, and as well as receiving the standard Castaway Cay 5K, which any guest can earn on any cruise that stops at the island, challenge participants also receive this challenge medal to round off their collection.

As with all other WDW Marathon Weekend events, bib and t-shirt pickup was done at the RunDisney expo at ESPN Wide World of Sports, but t-shirt exchange and merchandise were only available on the ship itself. Merch itself seemed a little lacking to me, there was a pin, a hanging ornament and a tech t-shirt available in two different colours, and that was all – although you could also buy a normal Castaway Cay 5K t-shirt in the gift shop on the island itself.

The challenge 5K starts earlier than the usual race, and takes a slightly different course around the island, meaning that if anyone is mad enough to want to take place in both 5Ks that will happen that morning, there’s a bit of variety. We had to meet in the ship’s theatre at crazy o’clock in the morning, and there were some drinks and bananas available there. There was a brief introduction and then each corral was led off the ship and to the start line, which was quite a walk away from the boat and it was still pretty dark at the time, but the sun had started to rise before the race kicked off.

Mickey and Goofy led us through a pre-race warm-up, and each corral were set loose on the island. There was only A, B and C, about 700 people participating, so it felt tiny compared to the other races I had done the weekend before, but it felt a lot less pressured with fewer people about. We started and ended on the island’s disused runway, and along the way there a handful of characters including Stitch, Vacation Genie, Captain Hook and Max, which was a nice surprise as I wasn’t expecting any characters on the course.

Despite recovering from the marathon relatively well, I found the first 3k HARD work, but we took it nice and easy and many people were walking – it all felt very relaxed. By the last mile my legs had found their strength again and we ran most of the leg, nicknamed by the cast members as the Ring of Fire, probably because it felt like it went on FOREVER, and then all of a sudden we were at the finish line! The finish line was complete with the usual bottles of water, bananas and snacks – I swear I still can’t face bananas – but there was also a bar set up where guests could purchase champagne and cocktails etc.

Doing the 5K was a really great way to see the island a bit before the rest of the guests descended on it, and you can stay on the island from then onwards, but we were starving and in need of a Cabanas breakfast, so we went back to the ship to eat and shower before the day of fun ahead of us!

Another one off the RunDisney bucket list!

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My January Trip Disney Haul

I’m normally that person who leaves it FAR too long to unpack their suitcase after coming back from holiday, so I’m pretty shocked by myself that I am unpacked with the washing done within only a few days of arriving back. I mean sure, I partly did this so that I could do this haul post, but I usually just unpack the washing and my new buys and leave the rest for as long as I can get away with, so this is impressive for me.

This haul is a combination of buys from Walt Disney World, RunDisney merch and some purchases I made during our Disney Cruise on the Dream!

I felt like I didn’t go too overboard with shopping while in the parks, mainly due to the fact that the big expense of the trip was my Walt Disney World annual pass – Matthew and I are hoping to go back a couple of times this year and with our DVC discount it was much more cost effective to get APs than regular tickets! For this very reason I felt justified in buying a couple of magic bands, millennial pink and light turquoise, as well as choosing an orange AP magic band, just so I’ve got options, y’know.. It also meant that on our final day in the parks, which was the first day of Epcot’s Festival of Arts, we could pick up an annual pass holder magnet from Mouse Gear!

The other things I knew that I wanted was a DVC Alex and Ani bracelet, which Matthew bought for me, and the Its a Small World spirit jersey (because did you ever see anything so ME?!) and I also couldn’t resist buying the new Mickey celebration sipper cup!

The Small World spirit jersey was not the only spirit jersey purchase of the trip.. Well I had to round off my collection with the new RunDisney spirit jersey and the navy/rose gold Disney Cruise Line one, so I now have one of all the Disney spirit jerseys!

As well as the cruise spirit jersey, I also bought the Castaway Cay Challenge pin and this cute little cruise cupcake pin which was in a blind bag, and Matthew also bought me the DCL Alex and Ani!

I always try to be restrained at RunDisney expos, and in all fairness I do tend to be happy with the participant t-shirts that runners are given for taking part in the races, so I rarely buy any extra t-shirts at the expo, but as I’m going to shout about it for the rest of my life, I couldn’t not buy the ‘I did it’ t-shirt for the marathon, as well as the headband, and I also bought the mini medal replica pin!

The bottom two photos are the participant t-shirts for the 10K, marathon and Castaway Cay Challenge, and the ear hat was also given out at the end of the marathon which I was very happy about – I even got it embroidered! (or at least my friends did while I tried to recover from running..)

So mainly pins and spirit jerseys, but I’m pretty happy with all my buys, even if my credit card doesn’t exactly agree..

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The Walt Disney World Marathon

Sunday 13th January 2019

On the morning of the marathon I was up at 3am. Luckily, I’d actually slept pretty well that night, unlike most nights I have before races, so it didn’t feel too awful. As I was staying at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, I had to get the monorail to Epcot – there were no buses on for monorail loop resorts so it wasn’t as busy on the roads – but the building we were in, Moorea, was so close to the Ticket and Transportation Center that it was quicker for me to walk there and just get the direct monorail to Epcot than it was for me to get the monorail from Poly.

Getting the monorail meant I did arrive at Epcot earlier than I was used to and the corrals weren’t even open yet, so after I walked from the station to the RunDisney stage area, I sat down for a little bit so that I wasn’t on my feet for too long, then once the corrals were open I made my way to G and sat back down for the wait. To give you an idea of the scale of this event, by the time I’d got to the start line I’d already done 5,000 steps.

While the race officially started at 5:30am, my corral didn’t actually start until 6:10, by which time I was bursting for the loo having drank a bottle of water while waiting to begin, so I had to stop at the first portaloo on the course, which was about three-quarters of a mile in – although on a full bladder it felt A LOT longer than that!

The course took us straight up to Magic Kingdom, which we entered just after mile 5, and those first 5 miles flew by for me, with the highlight seeing Leah at mile 4 cheering me on. The sun was just rising so the castle looked totally beautiful while we were running down Main Street, and in every RunDisney event I’ve done in WDW, this is the moment I look forward to the most. The Magic Kingdom stretch always goes far too quickly as well – it was actually just about a mile – but just before leaving the park via a backstage area we reached the 10k mark.

For some reason in basically every marathon photo I am holding a banana (and no, they’re not all the same banana)

The next stretch of the route was the part I was looking forward to the least; it was a full 10k again before we’d reach Animal Kingdom. Despite dreading it, however, this part went almost as quickly as the first quarter of the race. It was all road with very little entertainment, and it was starting to get hotter as the sun had properly risen by then, but I was still in my stride and feeling good, so it didn’t seem like too long until the course took me into Animal Kingdom. We came in at the top of the park, running over the tracks for the train that normally runs guests to Rafiki’s Planet Watch, then down through Africa, into Asia and past Expedition Everest before leaving the park through the back of Dinoland USA. The park was open by this point, and some runners were making the dash off the route to ride Expedition Everest, for which the single rider queue was open exclusively for. The half marathon mark was also inside the park, and despite thinking I would have a little cry at that point, I was focusing all my energy on pushing forward – everything from this point onward would be the furthest I’d ever run before.

In my head, the next stretch of the race wouldn’t be so bad – it was less than 10K until we got to the next significant part of the course at ESPN Wide World of Sports. In reality, this was the hardest part for me. Between mile 16 and 17 my wireless headphones ran out of battery, meaning I no longer had the Hamilton soundtrack to distract me from the blazing sun and 25C+ temperature with no shade, or the fact that being back on the roads meant there was absolutely no shade. This was also about the time that my ankle gave out, and suddenly it felt like each mile had trebled in distance. When I finally did get to ESPN, I thought the time would go by a little faster, but my feet felt like they were dying and there were actually almost 3 miles to run around the grounds, and those 3 miles felt like 30.

From ESPN the course took us up towards Hollywood Studios, where we ran in through the top of the Fantasmic theatre, to the bottom of Tower of Terror and then along Sunset Boulevard and out of the park through the main entrance, and from there we ran along the path that links Hollywood Studios to Epcot via the Boardwalk Resort area. By this point I was so ready for the race to be over, but I was still plodding along as best I could, thinking that once the route took me into Epcot at the UK pavilion, I’d only have a short bit of the World Showcase to run before leaving the park for the finish line. I was wrong. Turns out, we were running around the World Showcase the long way..

Despite having very little of the route left and still running, albeit very slowly, I found the World Showcase incredibly irritating. Epcot guests were in full swing by this point, so only half of the width of the path was coned off for the runners, but guests were still cutting into the running course, and a lot of the other runners were walking by this point, so I was having to do a lot of weaving, which was the last thing I wanted to be doing as I was nearing 26 miles. The course continued to be super crowded and blocked up by walkers almost right up to the finish line, so I was having to dart into any available space until it finally opened up at the finish line stretch.

I’m not even sure if I can put into words how I felt crossing the finish line. I expected to burst into tears but it had been so hot I don’t think I had any water left in my body to cry out. The whole thing didn’t feel real, and I’m not sure it even does now, because running a marathon is not something that I ever imagined I would be capable of doing in my lifetime, let alone with the year I had leading up to it. But I did it.

The plan and motivation for this race was wanting to run a marathon before turning 25, which I will be in October. I’ve always said that it would be my only marathon and that I would definitely never put myself through it again, but now its over, I wonder if I’ve caught the bug..

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Walt Disney World Days 5 and 6

I’m combining two days into one post purely because I didn’t do too much myself!

After a lie in as a reward for the 10K the previous day, we headed to Animal Kingdom and went straight to our first fastpass at Dinosaur, and from there we went to meet Chip and Dale in their Dinobash outfits which were super cute!! It was pretty much lunchtime at this point so we went over to Satuli Canteen to eat (because I can’t live without cheeseburger pods).

After lunch, Chelsea and Sammy had a Flights of Passage fastpass so Sarah and I just wandered around Africa taking photos while they were in Pandora, and then we went back to Satuli Canteen to meet up with David, Megan and Leah quickly. I was planning on leaving after that to go back to the hotel, but our little meet took us up until our Expedition Everest fastpass so I figured it would be rude not to ride!

I spent the rest of the afternoon resting at the resort in preparation for the marathon, with the exception of going to Disney Springs for dinner at Blaze, and then got myself an early night for the next morning..

I won’t go into all the hairy details of the marathon just yet, but I DID IT!!!

It was hot, it was hard work, but it is over now and I’m so happy. I went straight back to the resort afterwards for a good soak in the bath and some feet up time, and then we drove over to Wilderness Lodge for dinner at Artist Point. It was the new Storybook Dining experience which is Snow White themed, and although the setting and characters were very cute, the meal itself was a little disappointing – although I hardly had the energy to eat anyway.

Matthew and I went back to Polynesian while the girls spent the rest of the evening in Magic Kingdom, but we did watch Happily Ever After from the beach at the resort, and I think I was asleep before 9.30pm..

My next post will be a more detailed look into the marathon, but we’re about to set sail on the Disney Dream so I don’t know if that will be posted tomorrow or a few days time!

Walt Disney World Day 4

Friday kicked off with the first RunDisney event of our trip: the Walt Disney World 10K. For me this technically counted as a warmup for the marathon, but it was Chelsea and Sammy’s first RunDisney event and it was really great. We stopped to meet Ralph and Vanellope, Chip and Dale as the Rescue Rangers and Jiminy Cricket, and I’m so proud of how they did and happy with how they paced me.

After we’d showered, changed etc, we went back to Epcot in time for our lunch reservation at Teppan Edo. It was my fourth time eating there and it never fails to disappoint! After eating, we went round to Norway to meet Anna and Elsa and then used our fastpass for Frozen Ever After. When we came out from there, we saw that Soarin had a 25 minute wait time so we bombed over there, but actually I don’t think we waited more than 15 minutes to ride. We then hit some Epcot walls, then went to Starbucks and Club Cool for drinks, then went to meet Baymax and Joy and Sadness, and then went back to Mexico to meet Donald.

With our little legs all feeling the long day, we finished up the day in Epcot at Mouse Gear before catching the monorail back to the resort for an early night and the best nights sleep of the trip so far!

Walt Disney World Day 3

So I’m now running a day behind, but hey ho!

Thursday morning we headed into Magic Kingdom around about opening time, and as we walked into the park Chip and Dale were just heading out to meet, so as they had no queue yet, we were basically the first people to meet them, then we walked towards Frontierland and rode Big Thunder Mountain, then picked up some breakfast and hit up Its A Small World.

From there, we went back to Main Street so Chelsea could get a Starbucks and Sarah could get a balloon, and then visited the purple wall for some quick pics for the ‘gram. Chelsea and Sammy had fastpasses for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, so they went off to do that and Sarah and I just hung out at the castle which is where they met us and we went over to Space Mountain for another fastpass.

A quick snack and some shops later, Sarah left to nip back to the hotel for a jacket and the rest of us had a quick wander through Fantasyland and then rode Big Thunder one more time, this time with a fastpass, and then left the park, meeting Sarah on the way out, and got the bus to Art of Animation.

The bus to AoA broke down, so we ended up having to be transferred onto a new bus, but it didn’t take too long for that to be sorted! We had some food at the resort and an explore, and then we got an Uber to ESPN Wide World of Sports for the RunDisney expo where we picked up our race bibs and shopped the merch for the race weekend, then grabbed another Uber to Hollywood Studios, which is where we finished up the night watching Fantasmic before going back to get a good nights sleep in before the 10k!