Well, I did it! It's been almost a full year since I competed in my very first 5K race ever, and I've been hooked ever since! I set a goal to just run for exercise, then ended up realizing it was more than just exercise to me. It was "me" time, time to be alone, time to listen to the music that gives me (as a wife and Mommy) the motivation to keep on keeping on with all the things in this life that God has blessed me with, and challenged me with. Hitting the pavement is actually something that I started to look forward to, and as months went by, my dream of running in a half marathon was underway. Over the past year I've participated in four 5K races. My first 5K race was in St. Pete Beach in March...
The second 5K was the Watermelon 5K on the 4th of July...
I ironed on a princess tiara to my usual pink running hat, and my outfit was complete!
And the fourth 5K was the Lady Track Shack 5K in February...
Training for a half marathon was not an easy task. I have a husband, 2 precious, but high energy boys, a stay at home Mommy lifestyle, but responsibilities of a part time job with our church that I do from home, volunteer roles, a Moms group that I lead, laundry and dishes to do, breakfast, lunches, and dinners to make, cleaning to keep up with, and then most recently, add coach and team mom to your son's 4 year old T-ball team to this list too! Needless to say, having all of these wonderful things to keep up with doesn't leave much room for running! But, I made some sacrifices (and so did my biggest fan, my husband) and was determined to train as hard as I could to complete this goal of mine. The boys were a huge part of running with me or being a big help fanning me with pillows or handing me water as I walked through the door after a run...
The goal was to run in the OUC Half Marathon in Orlando in December, but God had a different plan. I was hit hard with vertigo in October and it was not going away anytime soon. A big HALT in the running department when you can't even see straight, drive your children around, make dinner, or do much of anything! I was a bit discouraged, but getting better was most important so running would have to be pushed aside, and the OUC would have to go. Thankfully, with the help of great doctors, my medication leveled out my vertigo and in 8 weeks, I was back at it! The Disney Princess Half Marathon was the next half marathon coming up in our area, and it worked well with the weeks I had left to train. So, I signed up! Each Saturday morning were my "long run" days, and I felt super confident going into half marathon weekend when the Saturday before I hit 11 miles at a 10:45 minute per mile pace...YES! I felt ready! I wasn't sure what to expect other than I'd be running 13.1 miles, but it was truly an unbelievable feeling of accomplishment at the finish line! I had some gearing up to do before the weekend hit, like making the boys their shirts to wear...
And their treat bags to keep them busy during the race...
I had some major support the week before my race. The texts, calls, facebook messages, and more made me even more excited! Our good friends gave me this encouraging card and verse with money in it to spend at the running expo...
Another good friend made me this amazing Princess Marathon Survival Kit...
She's one of the most creative people I know! Each item in this basket was advice from each Disney princess. My top favorites were a mirror "to reflect on your journey that got you to this point - Belle" a frying pan "in case a watching boy tries to get fresh - Rapunzel" a dinglehopper (fork) "to brush and tame those fly-aways - Ariel" an apple from Snow White, trail mix from Pocahontas, and more, it was truly so special!
I had this awesome picture posted to my facebook wall the day before my race...
And a sweet video of my adorable nieces cheering for me in Princess attire the night before my race! I also had support all through the year by people buying me running gear, running magazines, and just being my biggest fans congratulating me on each mile I ran! We decided to make a fun weekend out of it and stay at the new Art of Animation hotel at Disney. We checked in on Friday so that I could visit the running expo for awhile.
The schedule of events for the Princess Half Marathon weekend...
Limited edition pin and of course a half marathon magnet for my van!
I got my race bib at the Expo. "Princess Jill"...
And my Princess half marathon shirt...
I ironed on a princess tiara to my usual pink running hat, and my outfit was complete!
Here's a look at my fairy tale princess race...
My alarm went off at 2:30am, buses from our resort would start taking runners to the start line at Epcot at 3am (note: my wave time did not start until 6:15am!) I was all prepared the night before, and my alarm or getting ready never woke the boys! I ate my banana and protein bar on the bus and got off to see a dance party going on! (Of course, we're talking Disney here!!) Nothing like a little Cha Cha slide to get you pumped!
The DJ called the different lettered corrals every so many minutes, and when he called G, I was ready! Everything was so organized and I never questioned where I was supposed to be or how to get there. (Again, we're talking Disney here!)
My adrenaline was in high gear! Before the 20 minute walk to the start line, I sat in the middle of the crowd, where others were stretching as well, and stretched for a good 10 minutes. All I remember thinking was "I can't believe I'm about to run my first half marathon, and how is Matt doing getting the boys up and going this early!"
I have learned over my year of training what these special little energy gels do! I felt like I went from a "wanna-be" athlete to a full out athlete when I learned how to use these in the right way and what they can do to help replenish you during long runs. They aren't for everyone, but I learned what brands worked for me, and how often to use them. I "shot" my first one, drank a bunch of water, and started walking to my corral! I had 3 more in my runner's pouch to use throughout the race.
I took the 20 minute walk to my corral to pray for no injuries and for the energy to actually run the entire 13.1 miles like I'd be training for. I just couldn't believe it was here! I found my corral and waited for the fun to begin!
You don't even realize where you are (other than on Disney property) because it's pitch dark and there were 26,000 other runners, but apparently we were starting on the major road that runs throughout the Disney property.
The Fairy Godmother announced each corral to start with her "Bibbidy Boppity Boo", there was music blaring, fireworks shooting off at the start of each corral, it was truly magical and exciting!
The official start line of my Disney Princess Half Marathon. And now it's my turn to "bibbidy boppity boo" off on my race!
Meanwhile, while I was gearing up and starting my race, Matt had the boys up and headed to the spectator spot at the Magic Kingdom castle. They were such good sports, never gave Matt a fuss, and were excited to see Mommy run in her race!
On my bus ride to the start line, I received a text from my mom "We wish you the best on your race. We're proud of you and love you!" It NEVER dawned on me that they were headed to Disney to surprise me. They met Matt at the hotel and walked with him and the boys to the spectator spot.
There were several spectator spots throughout the 13.1 miles, but the boys really wanted to see Mommy run out of the castle, so that's where they headed first. RunDisney has a really cool feature where spectators at the race, or even from home, can receive a text or email at each major mark your runner crosses (5K, 10K, 15K, and finish line). Matt was able to keep track of me through texts (so did friends and family from home too!)
It was hard to get a good start at the beginning of the race. Even though they had 7 different wave zones, when you are running with 26,000 people, there isn't much room to get by sometimes. It really opened up at the entrance to the Magic Kingdom park and I was able to gain some speed.
Until we got to the ticket center at the Magic Kingdom and then it was like lock down! At that point, mentally, I just had to let go of my goal to try to keep up with the pace I was used to and just have fun! I was running my first half marathon for goodness sake, let the competitor in me just chill Jill! :)
A sweaty girl on a mission...
There were all kinds of photo-op spots throughout the 13.1 miles. I took this one for Carson since he loves Beauty and the Beast! I didn't wait in any of the lines to take pictures, but I took some as I ran past.
Running through Main Street in the Magic Kingdom was AWESOME! There were SO many people yelling and cheering. It was such great encouragement since we were almost half way through the 13.1 miles at this point. I was super pumped because I knew the castle would be coming up soon and I couldn't wait to look for my boys!
Once we ran through Tomorrow Land and around towards the castle, everyone pretty much stopped and walked since it was a tight space entering the castle.
There's princess Minnie Mouse!
Coming out of the castle and seeing all of the people waiting and watching to cheer on their runner was an amazing sight to see!
I spotted Matt right away, and he snapped this picture as I ran past. He started yelling loudly "Jill, look to your left!!!" And pointing toward the back leftside where I was turning.
And that's when I burst into tears when I saw my parents with my sweet little boys yelling, and cheering, and holding up signs!!! I was so surprised to see my parents, and it just meant the world to me. My parents have ALWAYS been my biggest fans in life, even when they weren't so sure what I was doing, haha, and I just love them to pieces! "Go Mommy Go!!!!"
Thumbs up, we saw her!
I ran through Frontier Land and passed Splash Mountain, then came out of the Magic Kingdom to head back to Epcot. This sign marked the half way mark! Woohoo!
While I continued on, Matt, the boys and my parents hopped on the monorail to head to the finish line at Epcot. The cheering bags came in handy as the boys reached for lollipops!
Matt took some cool pictures from the monorail of all the runners running back towards Epcot...
This is mile 11 where we were running down the main road back to Epcot, but then had to go up a ramp and onto a different road. I would say mile 11 was probably the hardest for me with the hills, but I managed to keep a good pace. Disney had so many awesome volunteers along the way, handing out water and gatorade, medical tents, and even port-o-potty's! :)
We looped around Spaceship Earth before heading towards the finish line. Time to pick up some speed!! Every runner on each side of this yellow line were cheering each other on, there was definitely runner encouragement going on!!
Seeing my sweet family cheering me on gave me some pep in my step! Just a tenth of a mile left til' the finish line!
The amount of spectators was just amazing. There was a gospel choir singing, crowd going crazy, and they even announced your name as you ran through the finish line! Overwhelming moment for sure!
After you run through the finish line, there were volunteers congratulating us and even dusted us with sparkly glitter while putting our medals around our necks. I was SO overwhelmed thinking about what an awesome year it had been training for this moment, and the moment was here! I DID IT! I ran a half marathon!
I couldn't wait to find and hug my sweet family!
My amazing parents who definitely gave me that extra drive to run even harder knowing they were at the finish line!
My little angels and my biggest and loudest cheering fans!
And my amazing husband who I could have NEVER trained for this without. He truly is the most selfless person I know, and cheered me on this entire time. He pushed me in my moments of doubt, and never gave it a second thought when my run times needed to be at not the most convenient times! I am one blessed woman!
So, now my goal has been accomplished. Now what? Well...I've now turned into a race junkie! I'm signed up for a 15K (9.3 miles) in less than 2 weeks with my sister-n-law in Jacksonville, and am already looking forward to my next half or FULL marathon very soon!
Thank you to all of you who supported me through my goal! I feel so blessed!