As I’ve mentioned in other blogs, I started running years ago to lose some weight that I had put on during my first couple of years in college. Some college students are into going to class and getting straight A’s. I was into sleeping in and eating Papa John’s. So the weight had to come off. Once I started running and got really into it (and maybe even addicted to it) I started to really, really enjoy it. Sometimes I listened to music. Other times I wanted to just be alone with my thoughts. Running was always an activity I used to de-stress and calm myself a little bit. That is, until I discovered distance running. Running is one thing: It’s challenging but not incredibly difficult and almost anyone can do it. Distance running is another thing entirely. I ran my first half marathon in January of 2012 during the WDW Marathon Weekend. I planned to train for my first marathon which would be the 2013 WDW Marathon, but my wife became pregnant with our twins that year (and they were due in December!) so I scrapped that plan. Then I decided, like a crazy person, that my first 26.2 miler would happen as a part of runDisney’s Goofy’s Race & A Half Challenge, where participants run a half marathon on Saturday followed by the full marathon on Sunday. These are the Lessons I Learned While Training For The Goofy Challenge.
Lesson #1 – Forget About Free Time – The first thing you’ll have to give up when training for a marathon or a challenge like the Goofy is your free, me-time. That’s gone. I trained for my first marathon while my ever-so-patient wife took care of our three little kids (all under 3 at the time!) at home by herself. This meant that most of my runs would start either really early in the morning (think like 4:30 or 5 AM) or late at night. If I ran early on I’d usually feel great all day, but by the time all three kids were asleep and it was time for my wife and I to catch up on our DVR’d shows, I was usually snoring on the couch. If I ran at night, forget about it! I’d run, shower, eat something, and then crash. Training for something like this is a crazy time commitment and if you don’t put in the time and the miles you’ll run the risk of being injured or not being able to finish the race.
Lesson #2 – Training Hurts. A LOT. – I never hurt too badly after I ran distances of between 3 and 5 miles (which was my normal, pre-training distance). Sure, sometimes I’d be a little bit sore, but that’s nothing compared to what you’ll feel like after putting in a 20-mile training run! Sometimes during training I’d have to walk up and down the stairs backwards just so I wouldn’t use the same muscles that I had used on my run (this looks a little suspicious when you do it at the mall or something; I know from experience!) If you are thinking of going into training for a half marathon, marathon, or crazy test like the Goofy Challenge, just remember that you’re going to have days where walking after a long run is a REAL challenge!
Lesson #3 – I Don’t Mind GU – Some of you guys reading this right now are saying to yourself, “GU, what the heck is GU?” Others are nodding their heads and smiling because they like GU, too! GU is almost exactly what it sounds like. They are little packets of liquid (or maybe almost liquid?) energy gels that contain carbs, electrolytes, and some other magic to help get your body through a run. They are easy to carry in a running belt or a pocket and they come in lots of fun flavors like Peanut Butter, Tri Berry, Salted Caramel (my favorite!), and Salted Watermelon. I’m not going to sugarcoat it, that first time I had one was a little bit rough, but these days I look forward to planning my GU flavors on a long run!
Lesson #4 – You’ll Question Your Sanity – Although I really love running, there were days when I simply didn’t want to do it. My alarm went off, I looked at my comfortable bed (usually covered in children), and I just wanted to crawl back under the covers. Most days, though, I didn’t let myself. Sometimes I would set my phone alarm in my bathroom so that I would HAVE TO get up to turn it off (and I’d have to do it quickly too so it wouldn’t wake anyone up!) Sure there were times when my legs were so sore that I did allow myself to get back under the covers, but those days were few and far between. Other days, I’d be out in the middle of a run or in the middle of hour three on the treadmill and I’d ask myself, “What are you doing? Are you crazy? You don’t need to keep doing this.” When those thoughts would creep in I’d repeat something to myself over and over until I got them out of my head. Some runners call it a mantra; I just liked to give myself a hard time. I would say: “Are you going to be strong, or are you going to be a wimp today?” That usually kept me going.
Lesson # 5 – It’s All Worth it When You Cross The Finish Line – If you trained the right way and prepared yourself mentally, race day is supposed to be the icing on the cake. In my opinion, no one runs a race quite like Walt Disney World. When I lined up at the start with thousands of other runners for the first part of the Goofy Challenge, the WDW Half Marathon, I had already decided to take it slow and easy and save my legs a bit for the marathon the next day. It was really difficult to go slowly while so many runners around me were really moving, but honestly I think I got to take everything in a little bit more. I think the 2014 WDW Half Marathon was the most fun race I’ve run to this point. I went headphone-less and talked to runners around me, enjoyed the music and ambiance of the race, and had an absolute blast. Running the marathon the next day (my first ever!), though, was a different experience completely! I was so nervous at the start that I couldn’t stand still (even though you kind of have to because those corrals are packed!) Once I got going though, I was okay, until I hit that wall at around mile 21. During the WDW Marathon you get to run through all four WDW theme parks, which is amazing! Mile 21 was more than a mile from the third park of the run, Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I kept telling myself that if I could get there, I’d be fine (also I knew they were giving out candy at the Studios, so that was a HUGE motivator at that point!) When I hit that wall, I honestly never thought of quitting; it was more like “Well, now I have to figure out how to keep moving, because my body is saying lie on the ground!” I figured it out (the Hershey bar helped) and when I got to Epcot I knew I was home free. One of my favorite things about running at the WDW Marathon Weekend is that there is a Gospel choir that you run past very close to the finish line. I have to admit, when I ran past them and heard them singing, it got really, really dusty outside! Crossing the finish line and completing Goofy’s Race & A Half Challenge was one of the most incredible feelings of my life. I didn’t think I could ever top it but…
I am now officially a crazy person. I have been training for the Dopey Challenge for the last several months. Goofy is crazy, but Dopey is insane! The Dopey Challenge is made up of four races over four days during WDW Marathon Weekend. A 5K on Thursday, a 10K on Friday, a half marathon on Saturday, and a full marathon on Sunday. It’s getting pretty medieval now! I’m going to do my best to write recaps of each race next month here on my blog (if I get through them all!) so please remember to check back here during Marathon Weekend (January 6-10, 2016) and follow me along my very painful but very much worth it journey!
Thanks, as always, for taking the time to read this and any other blog post you’ve read of mine. What lessons have YOU learned from training for a race or challenge? I’d love to hear from you so please feel free to comment here on this site, post something on my Facebook wall HERE, tweet me HERE or you can always email me at email@example.com. Thanks again for reading, and please enjoy the rest of your stay here at Ear To There Travel!
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