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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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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I Run, Therefore I Am A Runner

As I make my slow return to running, I’ve been thinking a lot about the term ‘runner’. You see, as I’ve been away from running since the start of April, and have to very carefully ease myself back in on my still-healing ankle, I’ve been feeling like a bit of a bad runner.

And then it hit me.

If I go out and run, that makes me a runner. It doesn’t matter if I go out every day, or once a week, or even less often than that, taking part in the activity of running makes me a runner. It doesn’t matter if I run for 1 minute and then walk for 1 minute. It doesn’t matter if I run for 1 mile or 10 miles. I have never been a fast runner, even at my peak, but d’you know what? A 15 minute mile is just as far as a 7 minute mile.

I’ve never taken running overly seriously. I’ve always written my own training plans, changed things up on the fly, and if I’m being perfectly honest, last year I didn’t really train for any of the half marathons that I ran. I guess I’ve always been lucky to be able to get away with it, but things are different now. I’m finding it hard being so set back from where I was before, and feeling the pressure of my upcoming marathon, but it is just that, a setback. Setbacks are made to be overcome.

But despite all this, I’m still a runner. I don’t have to run a 10K every day to call myself a runner, I don’t have to have a precise training and nutrition plan to call myself a runner, and I don’t have to be a fast runner to call myself a runner. Anyone who gets out and runs is a runner, and that’s what counts.

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Starting Over With Fitness

During my physio session on Monday, I finally started my ‘return to running’ programme, yay! This isn’t an instant all clear for me to hit the pavement again, but its the biggest step in the right direction I’ve made since breaking my ankle back in April.

I’m excited, and also super nervous. I have less than 6 months until my first marathon, and now instead of building up from already being able to comfortably complete a half marathon, I’m now almost back to square one in that I haven’t really don’t any running since before my accident. The exception to that is a 5K fun run I did back in June (which my physio do not know about), and that was a huge shock to my little legs, so the thought of doing that 8 and a bit times over continuously is somewhat terrifying.

On top of returning to running, my fitness game has been somewhat weak of late. I’ve been having to adapt so many of my favourite workouts to not put too much pressure on my ankle, and quite honestly its just not been the same. Throw in stress eating from moving house, and the fact that now I don’t even have a gym to go to, I’ve gained quite a bit of weight recently, so its not even just getting back to my routine, I also need to shift the extra weight and get my fitness levels back to where they were.

So its time to get my butt back into gear, and first on the agenda is just getting active again. I want to start off with low impact workouts, and avoid going straight back into the sort of weights I’m used to using in the gym, so I’m going to start off with some of my favourite home workouts from YouTube – Tone It Up, Blogilates etc – as well as using Pinterest for inspiration, just to get my body back moving. I’d also love to get some swimming and cycling in for low impact cardio. Matthew and I are planning on turning our garage into a gym eventually, but as its currently jammed full of boxes and rubbish, it’ll be a bit of time before we’re able to do that, but once they’ll be no excuses to not go to ‘the gym’ in the morning!

Once I’ve got the all clear from physio, I’ve got a marathon training plan all ready to be put into action, although I’ve had to tweak it somewhat to account for the fact that I’m not able to knock out a quick 5K or 10K without much thought as I could at the start of the year. My physiotherapist will be starting me off on the anti-gravity treadmill (not quite as cool as it sounds, but a really useful bit of equipment) so I’ll get a little bit of a head start before I actually hit the roads myself.

It feels like I need to make so much progress in the next 5 and a bit months, but I’m ready to get started and push myself!

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My RunDisney Medal Collection

So I know I have been totally AWOL for the last two weeks, but moving house is insane y’all! I honestly thought I’d only be away from blogging for a few days to maybe a week but I have had NO TIME lately with sorting the house out.

But I’m back! And as today is registration day for the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend in January, I thought I’d take the opportunity to share my existing RunDisney medal collection! I managed to get registered on Tuesday in the DVC early registration window, which I’m so happy about, and I wish everyone registering today the best of luck!

Walt Disney World races

2016 – If you’ve been following me for that long, you’ll know that I started doing RunDisney events in 2016, and every single race has been an amazing experience for me. My dad and I started off in the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend , taking part in the 5K and the half marathon, which was actually our first half marathon. Back then, 5K medals were 2016 rubber ones (you get a proper metal one now), so Pluto here was our first RunDisney medal. The half marathon was one of the hardest races I have ever done because a few days before I developed a chest infection and I honestly felt like I was going to die before we’d even hit mile 4, but we did it and it was so worth it.

2017 – Running solo for the first time, I started off the year with the Princess Half Marathon Weekend in February. By this point I had the bug for challenges, so I did the Glass Slipper Challenge (10K and half marathon). The races were all Beauty and the Beast themed that year, which I was so happy about as I had already planned to run as Chip before the medal designs had been released, although the challenge medal was still glass slipper themed.

Disneyland races

2016 – The week after doing the marathon weekend in 2016, we left Florida and flew across to California to take part in the Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend, and this was where we completed our first race challenge, Rebel Challenge, which was completing the 10K on the Saturday and the half marathon the next morning on the Sunday. By this point my chest infection had cleared up, and I actually set my half marathon PB on this course.

2017 – In May I did the Pixie Dust Challenge at the Tinkerbell Half Marathon weekend. I saw a lot of hate on social media over these races but I had a total blast. The Disneyland 10K course is my all time favourite RunDisney course (RIP California races) and I think my favourite medal was from the 10K, although they are all so stinkin’ cute!

Coast to Coast

Both in 2016 and 2017 I earned a Coast to Coast medal for completing a half marathon* in both Walt Disney World and Disneyland in the same calendar year, but in 2017 I got a bonus of the ‘pink’ Coast to Coast, which was for doing the Princess and Tinkerbell weekend in the same year. The medal was essentially the same as the normal Coast to Coast, just in a pinky colour palette instead! 2017 was also the 10 year anniversary of the Coast to Coast challenge, so the blue medal was extra special!

*to earn a Coast to Coast medal, a minimum distance of half marathon must be done in each park!

Disneyland Paris races

In 2016 I took part in both the inaugural 5K and half marathon in Disneyland Paris (there was no 10K in the first year), and then in 2017 I did the 10K and half marathon, earning the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo Challenge medal! Both years I also got an additional challenge medal, the Castle to Chateau Challenge, for completing races in the US as well as Paris – the medal was the same for both years, just with a different ribbon.

Virtual Running Shorts

I only did the virtual shorts in 2016, which was the first year RunDisney did virtual races, mainly because its quite expensive to do considering you don’t get an actual event, but I loved the medals I got because they were huge!

This year has been totally RunDisney-less for me, which has been really sad, but I’m also quite happy as I’ve had so many injuries to deal with! I’m also still a little heartbroken that the California races have been cancelled until further notice, but I’m just praying they’ll return soon and I’m so excited to get back into training for the marathon next year!

Have you ever done a RunDisney event?

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Things You Need To Know About Tough Mudder

Its crazy to think that its been over two years since I took part in my first (and only, to date!) Tough Mudder event, and to say it was an experience is an absolute understatement!

I took part in a small team made up of a few people I knew from work and their friends, plus my dad, and had the craziest 12.5 miles of my entire life as I ran, waded, climbed and threw myself up, down and over the infamous obstacles that put the tough in Tough Mudder.

Its no easy feat, but its absolutely doable by anyone with determination and a bit of preparation, and if whether you’re already training, or thinking about taking on the course one day, here are a few words of wisdom for you..

Your team is much bigger than you think it is

Most people participate in the events in small groups and teams, but in reality, everyone on the course is on your side too. Total strangers will come to your aid if you need a leg up, hand over or just some moral support for anything that comes your way.

Label everything

If you want to run with a Go Pro, or a fitness tracker (only do this if its waterproof), or anything that could potentially fall off, label it. A friend of mine who regularly volunteers at the events says that after each race they scoop at least 10 Go Pros and more watches and sunglasses than you know what to do with out of the obstacles, and they do try and return them all, but that’s not easy if you can’t tell who’s from who’s.

You won’t be able to do it all alone, and that’s ok

I’m not being funny, but unless you can jump vertically 12ft in the air to get over some of the enormous obstacles in your path, you’re gonna need help every now and then, and people will be more than happy, as I’ve just said! Plus, its totally ok to fall/jump off everything!

You cannot prepare for Arctic Enema

Plunging into a container of ice water is like nothing I can describe. Its not like skinny-dipping in the English Channel on New Years Day, it will literally knock the breath from your lungs! Whenever I go out for a run in the rain, or complain about the cold I just think that I will never ever be as cold as I was in those moments.. But don’t worry, you warm up again pretty quick!

Cry Baby is not as bad as you think it will be

Crawling through an enclosure filled with what’s marketed as ‘tear gas’ is enough to fill anyone with a bit of dread – hell, I was so worried about doing this – but truth is, its actually laughing gas, and its not that far to crawl either!

But Electroshock Therapy really is

Probably the most infamous of all the torturous obstacles, and they love to save the best for last, running to the finish line through a structure with dangling electrical cables that are hooked up to car batteries is certainly an experience. Not all the cables will shock you, but when they do, oh my word.

You don’t have to do everything

All of the obstables can be bypassed, and there’s absolutely no pressure to participate, and no shame in saying no. I was prepared to skip quite a few, but I actually only missed one (which actually appeared in the course twice, so technically I did it once anyway!) which I was pretty impressed by.

It takes time

I did my event during the peak of my half marathon training, and I figured that 12.5 miles of obstacles wouldn’t take me much longer than just running the distance. Well it took us over 4 hours..

Bring a tonne of wet wipes and a big towel

After you’ve mudded up, you can wash off in a makeshift shower area, but this is outside (so unless you’re a bit of an exhibitionist, no stripping off), and the water is freezing (but warmer than Arctic Enema) and has no pressure. I showered fully dressed to get the mud off of as much as possible, then ducked into the women’s changing tent to put on as many warm clothes as I could, despite still being fairly muddy and wet, but all the veterans in there had wet wipes which seemed like a much easier way of doing things.

Enjoy the photos

I know that in many of the photos I look ridiculous, but seeing them makes me so damn proud of what I achieved. Never in a million years did I think I’d make it through that course, yet here I am, a Mud Legionnaire.

If you’re unsure about taking part, all I can say is just do it. You’ll amaze yourself.

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5 Reasons I’m Excited to Start Marathon Training

A few weeks ago I announced that in January 2019 I will be running my first ever full marathon. This announcement should have been the start of my training, but the universe had other ideas for me and I was struck with a knee injury that’s had me out ever since.

Fortunately, I gave myself over a year to train, so this little set back doesn’t bother me too much, and instead of starting now I’m just gonna rest, recover and prepare myself for taking the bull by the horns come January, and I’m actually starting to look forward to it more than I am dreading it! Here’s a few of the reasons why:

Carb loading

For the most part, I will be concentrating on eating as well as I can come the new year, but while I’m a firm believer in eating what you want and not having to justify food choices to anyone, I’m pretty excited for big bowls of pasta with the excuse of needing to carb-load.

Getting to be ‘that’ person

Marathon runners are kinda like vegans, pilots and people who do Crossfit* in that they tell as many people as they possibly can that they’re training for a marathon as if you’re the first person in the world to ever do one. I don’t care, its a huge deal for me so you’re damn right I’m gonna spread it like Love Island gossip. (this is already the second post I’ve talked about running a marathon in the space of a month, so there’s the proof)

*Dear vegans, pilots and people who Crossfit, please know that I’m making a joke and I have the utmost respect for all of you!

Running regularly again

Sometimes I feel like the most pathetic excuse for a runner because in the past year I have been the furthest thing from consistent. Sure, I’ve completed 3 half marathons and 3 10K races, but I’ll be the first to admit that I did those with practically no training and only a few intermittent 5K ParkRuns and the odd short distance run, and part of the reason for this is because I knew I could get away with not training. Well that’s not gonna be the case for this.. I’m gonna spend the next few weeks putting together a proper training schedule (which I thoroughly enjoy making) and sticking to it like an octopus on your face.

All the fun runs

I currently have no actual races planned for 2018, so I’m on the hunt for as many shorter distance races and fun runs that I can do to keep myself motivated through the coming year. A few on my list are Race for Life, Run or Dye and the Great South Run, and if you’ve got any recommendations please drop me a comment!

The satisfaction of a good run

When Dad and I started training for our first ever half marathon, there was nothing like the feeling of completing the next milestone both figuratively and literally. Back then it was 8 miles, or 10 miles or 12 miles, but now I’m looking forward to the feeling of doing my first ever 15, 20 and 25 milers.

I’m sure there’ll be a million and one reasons that I start dreading training too, but for now I’m concentrating on the positives! Wish me luck!

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