Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend 2013 takes place in January and this week saw three of the RunDisney events hit their limits; meaning that places for the marathon, the half marathon and the Goofy have sold out.
Meanwhile I’m reading lots of messages from friends who are upping their training in preparation for the forthcoming Tower of Terror event, happening on September 29.
With all this running going on I thought it would be nice to post another interview in the Dream Along With Emma series.
Today I want to introduce you to my good friend Kerry and I’m so excited to share with you how her passion for running affects her Disney daydreaming and planning that next special vacation….
So before we talk Disney tell us a little about Kerry (background, age, family, job etc) – Well, I come from a military background as my dad served in the Army for 22 years. So, I spent the majority of my first 18 years living over in Germany which I loved. Whilst living in Germany, at the age of 3 I was diagnosed with myotonia congenita – a little known neuromuscular condition, which isn’t obvious to most people, but it does have quite an impact on my running. I don’t let that deter me though! I’ve been living in Colchester since I returned from Germany in 1991, and have been with my long-term partner (John) for over 13 years, with whom I share a love of Walt Disney World and running.
When was your first visit to Walt Disney World? November 1999, with a friend from work. I was 26 and it was my first long haul trip anywhere! I had a fantastic time but looking back I realise how much more we could have done had we done a bit more planning – back then I didn’t know about planning!!! Since then I have been hooked, and as soon I got home I started planning and saving for my next trip with my partner John, to celebrate my 30th birthday in December 2002.
Describe your first memory from the parks – Taking the boat to Magic Kingdom and watching the castle slowly getting bigger as we approached for the first time was so exciting! It’s a great way to arrive as it really builds the anticipation. However, I will never forget my first experience of watching the evening fireworks at Magic Kingdom. We staked our claim on a spot right in front of the castle far too early (we were newbies!), and I was just blown away by the spectacle of it all. Tinkerbell flying across the park, the castle all lit up, the awesome fireworks, all set to my favourite Disney music. I have to admit it brought happy tears to my eyes!
How long have you been running and when was your first marathon? I started running in 2006, with the Race for Life 5km as my goal. My first marathon followed in January 2008 at Walt Disney World. I’ve now done 6 marathons – 3 in London, 1 in Berlin and 2 in Walt Disney World.
When did you first become aware of the RunDisney events at Walt Disney World? Although by 2006 I had been to Walt Disney World 4 times, I had not heard of Run Disney events until I spotted an advert in Runners World magazine proudly showing off the most fabulous shiny gold Mickey Mouse finishers medal. As a Mickey fan who loves to collect all things mouse, I decided I had to have one of those medals. I would never have contemplated running a marathon, if not for that awesome medal, so as Walt said, it all started with a mouse….
When was your first RunDisney event and how many / which ones have you taken part in since? After seeing an advert in Runners World in 2006, I committed myself to running the 2008 Walt Disney World marathon. We made our holiday reservations and registered for the marathon as early as we could and started training. However, the marathon wasn’t actually my first Run Disney event. My first race was the Family Fun 5km on the Friday before the marathon itself. It was set around Animal Kingdom and is the first of several events during the annual WDW Marathon Weekend. I used that as a warm up run before the marathon on the Sunday, the last event of the weekend. As I finished the marathon and finally received my prized Mickey medal, I could see some other runners were being awarded an extra medal which was Goofy shaped. Needless to say I decided I had to have one too, so the first thing I did when we arrived back home in England was to register for the 2009 Goofy Challenge and start planning our next trip! The Goofy Challenge entails running the half marathon on Saturday, followed by the full marathon on Sunday. It didn’t cross my mind to consider how I was going to achieve this feat, I just knew I wanted that medal! And to add to that challenge I also signed up for the 5km again. So on our return in 2009 I completed all 3 races over the weekend – unofficially known as the ‘Dopey’ Challenge! I have to say the whole weekend, from registering at the expo, to receiving my Goofy medal, was the most exciting and rewarding experience of my life, and it will always be the best weekend I’ve ever had at WDW (if not anywhere!).
My next Run Disney challenge is the Wine and Dine Half Marathon in November 2012, which I’m really looking forward to as its run at night-time which will be a new experience for me. And of course, another Disney medal to add to my collection!
For those of us who haven’t yet attended a RunDisney event, tell us how it feels to complete a running event in WDW compared to a marathon in the ‘real’ world? As you would expect, Run Disney events are meticulously organised with every detail thought of. The only other event that I’ve participated in which compares is the London marathon. Both events are amazing, each with different things going for it – London cannot be compared for atmosphere and crowd support every step of the way. Run Disney events however, are special for Disney nuts, allowing us to see areas of WDW that we would not normally have access to – back stage areas, utility roads etc. And where else can you get your photo taken with the characters whilst running a marathon? Of course, that all adds to your finish time, but who cares!! The downside to a Run Disney event is only a minor one (depending on your point of view), in that there are quite long stretches of the marathon route where there is no crowd support as there is simply no way for spectators to access these areas. Osceola Parkway for example can be quite soul destroying, with no respite from the baking sun and nobody to spur you on. In the park and resort areas though, the crowds are fantastic. Disney add a nice touch to their running bibs by including your first name, so crowds can call your name – it is quite a boost to have someone yell out “Good Job Kerry!” in that way that only Americans can!
And of course, the best part about completing a Run Disney event, which beats all others hands down, is the hardware that you received at the end. Disney bling is the biggest, shiniest and bestest ever!
Do you have a favourite RunDisney race? So far, it has to be the Goofy Challenge, because of the sense of accomplishment I felt afterwards. And also because the Goofy medal is the hardest to earn, and it really does feel good to show that off a bit in the parks for a few days afterward!
Do you have to train differently for the RunDisney events compared to the UK events? So far I’ve only completed the marathon weekend events run in January, so the training is pretty similar to any other marathon, with most of the training being completed before the worst of the winter months in the UK. The main difference really, is that the races start much earlier than in the UK. As the marathon starts at 5:50am, you have to be on your Disney transport by 3am at the absolute latest (they prefer you to be boarded at 2am). This does mean you need to be a bit more careful about planning what you might want to eat before the race as you’ll probably need to take it with you to eat in the holding area. So if you’re used to having porridge in training, it’s going to be difficult to replicate that at Disney. Another difference that you can’t really account for in the UK is the weather. It can be unpredictable in Orlando in January, it has been known to be below freezing at 4am or it could be close and humid (more likely) – not something you can really prepare for during a UK autumn/winter training period, unless you want to run in a sauna suit!
My next event, the Wine & Dine Half Marathon in November 2012 will be completely different for me as the start time is at 10pm. It will be dark, and hopefully a little cooler. So, I am going to have to change my training around a little in the weeks leading up to the race. I normally prefer to do my long training runs on a Sunday morning after a light breakfast, but this time I’m going to try switching to evening runs, which means I’ll have to watch what I eat during the day. Some people are lucky and can eat what they like before a run, but I’m not one of them. Getting the whole food thing wrong before a long run can lead to all sorts of unpleasant tummy problems, if you get my meaning!!
When flying over to WDW for a running event do you make a vacation of it and stay before / after the event? For the 2008 and 2009 marathon weekends, our whole vacation was planned around those events. We arrived on Thursday afternoon, just as the Expo was getting under way over at Wide World of Sports, so after checking into our resort we headed over to complete registration, pick up our race packages and cram in some frantic merchandise shopping. Handy tip: the best Disney marathon merchandise sells fast, so get there as early as you can. We then spent the first weekend of our vacation completing all the events, and of course repeat visits to the Expo – for that must have bargain running gear. We chose to have the events at the start of our vacation, so we could then relax and enjoy the rest of our stay, being able to eat what we liked and stay in the parks for as long as we liked.
However, this year I didn’t book my vacation based on a Run Disney event – I had no intention of doing any running, I was just going to have a great time! But, Disney unexpectedly changed the date for the Wine & Dine Half, which meant it fell right at the end of my vacation. I almost didn’t register, as it really isn’t great timing, but I knew I would kick myself when I got there and saw everyone else taking part. So, this time I will have to think about not being too excessive on the Dining Plan, or staying for every single Extra Magic Hour…but I know that will go out the window when I get there, and I shall probably turn up at the start line about a stone heavier and exhausted from 10 days touring!
Are there any factors that Disney fans and runners might need to consider when signing up to take part in a RunDisney event? There’s not getting away from one thing – Run Disney events are expensive. They are by far the most expensive events I have taken part in. As current exchange rates are not as good as they were in 2008/9, the 2012 Wine & Dine Half has cost me $165 (£105) to enter. And that’s the early booking reduced price! The price does increase in stages over the months, so it pays to register early. Some events also sell out months in advance, another reason to register early.
If you become injured Disney do allow you to defer your race entry to the following year (and as is normal practice, you have to pay the entry fee again too), but when you’re travelling from the UK and have possibly spent £thousands on a vacation around the event, that’s not so easy. Just something else to bear in mind.
As I’ve mentioned in the previous question, I would definitely recommend arranging your vacation so that your race is early on, allowing to you enjoy the remainder of your time at WDW. And of course, you get to wear your medal around the parks afterwards – much better than the usual pin lanyards!
Run Disney events are also very inclusive of all abilities, and have very generous cut off times. So you don’t need to worry about whether or not you’ll be able to finish, or if you’ll be last! Basically, you must be able to maintain a 16 minute mile pace. This is easily achievable for most of us, and a lot of participants use the ‘Galloway’ method to help them complete the race – this is the run/walk approach, very popular in the US. I would recommend Jeff Galloway’s books, along with those of John Bingham (the patron saint of the back of the pack). Jeff’s books can even help seasoned runners, don’t dismiss the run/walk method until you’ve tried it!
Whether it’s another running event or just an everyday experience do you have any Disney daydreams as yet unfulfilled? I would quite like to add the Coast to Coast medal to my collection – to earn one of these coveted medals you have to complete a Run Disney event on both the east and west US coasts during the same year. But I don’t think I will achieve that as getting to the US twice in the same year would be too costly unless we stayed off property and did it really cheap (and I don’t want to do that!).
Another possibility though could be an Inter-continent medal, if Run Disney ever manage to get a Disneyland Resort Paris Half Marathon off the ground. I spoke to a Run Disney rep at the London marathon expo in 2011 who told me that they were hoping to get a half marathon set up for DLRP in the next couple of years, but so far no sign of that happening. But how fab would an inter-continent medal be??
And to finish, here’s the quickfire round…
Favourite WDW park – Magic Kingdom, always and forever the most magical place on earth.
Favourite WDW resort – Animal Kingdom Lodge, for the wonderful atmosphere, fantastic restaurants and of course being so close to the animals.
Favourite WDW souvenir / collectible – Run Disney Race Medals, because they are earned through your own hard work, sweat and motivation.
Your top tip for WDW visitors – Plan, plan, plan! But don’t over do it so your family feel like they’re on a military exercise – leave a little room for some spontaneity.
I want to give Kerry a huge THANKS for taking part in this Dream Along With Emma interview and sharing her daydreams with us all, thanks Kerry!!