Magical Miles

 “All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.”  Walt Disney

A week later, I am still celebrating. I did it! I completed the Glass Slipper Challenge, running 19.3 miles by finishing the Enchanted 10K and Princess Half Marathon, during RunDisney’s Princess Half Marathon Weekend at Walt Disney World! From start to finish, it was an amazing experience that I will never forget.

We arrived in Orlando bright and early Thursday morning, and after catching Disney’s Magical Express to the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, we made our way to ESPN’s Wide World of Sports to pick up our race bibs and check out the RunDisney Health & Fitness Expo. Each time I visit Disney World, their efficiency and attention-to-detail never cease to amaze me. Races at Disney are no exception. With thousands of eager princesses, young and old, clambering to grab bibs, tech shirts, commemorative items, and every sparkly princess running accessory available, cast members and volunteers moved us seamlessly through the process. With bibs in hand, and a few extra purchases, we high-tailed it to Hollywood Studios for a day of fun in the park.

Mickey cappuccinos at Mama Melrose's

Mickey cappuccinos at Mama Melrose’s

Our day began with a 3:45 a.m. wake-up call, so the wonderful waitress at Mama Melrose’s kept us going with her special cappuccinos. We ate there as part of the Fantasmic dinner package before seeing the show that night. We have tried to see Fantasmic the last two times we were at Disney, and finally managed to see it this time, and it was fantastic! After a long day of traveling we headed back to the resort for a good night’s sleep prior to Miles’ big race the next day.

Friday morning began with Mickey waffles before heading back to ESPN’s Wide World of Sports for the Kids’ Races. Miles ran the 200 meter dash with other kids four to six years old. I have no doubt that he will turn out to be the fastest one in our family. Out of his wave, he was fourth place and was so focused on the finish line, he missed high-fiving Minnie Mouse at the end.

Finish line at the Kids' Races

Finish line at the Kids’ Races

He loved every minute of it and can’t wait to run his next race! We spent the rest of Friday at the Magic Kingdom before going to Epcot for the Pasta Party that night.

My 3:00 a.m. wake-up call came way too early Saturday morning. After getting ready, I hopped on the bus and headed with the rest of the princesses to Epcot’s Imagine parking lot for the race. While we waited for the 5:30 a.m. start, a DJ played dance music, Disney Princesses posed for pictures with runners, and participants completed their pre-race rituals. I was in corral C for the 10K and managed to get a great spot towards the front of the pack. Before I knew it, the fireworks were going off and we were on our way. Much of the race was spent on the highways surrounding Disney, but there were several magical miles in and around Epcot. The highlight for me was running into the World Showcase with all of the countries lit up and glittering at dawn, as Disney music blared all around us and characters and cast members cheered us on.

Enchanted 10K

Enchanted 10K

A fellow princess that I met at the expo the day before, who had previously completed the Glass Slipper Challenge, advised me to take it easy on the 10K so I could handle the half the next day, but I felt better and better the further I went and ended up with a PR for the Enchanted 10K!

Following the race, I met up with my boys and we went to the Princess breakfast where we dined with the likes of Ariel, Snow White, and Cinderella.

Gingers at the Princess Breakfast

Gingers at the Princess Breakfast

After a quick shower and rest for me and pool time for the boys, we went to Epcot for the afternoon. I was a little anxious about the half marathon the next morning, not so much about whether I could run 13.1 miles, but more about whether my body would shut down after two mornings of waking up at 3:00 a.m. and walking around the parks a little more than I probably should have.

Just like “Groundhog’s Day,” my alarm went off Sunday morning at 3:00 a.m. I got ready and headed to the Monorail. I joined my fellow princesses for a half-mile walk from the Monorail to the staging area where once again music was pumping, princesses were posing for pictures, and everyone was going through their pre-race rituals. I noticed that the start line was not where it had been the day before, so I followed the signs and literally one-mile later I was sitting in Corral H with the other runners. I was very thankful that I started walking when I did because from the comfort of my corral, I watched other ladies booking it to get to theirs prior to the start. Miss America sang the National Anthem and the Fairy Godmother used her magic to let us go, corral by corral.

Fireworks to start each corral at the Princess Half Marathon

Fireworks to start each corral at the Princess Half Marathon

Disney did not disappoint as each start had its own display of amazing fireworks. Before I knew it, I was off.

I was surprised how well I felt as I settled in to my pace. Disney doesn’t let you get bored, as there is constant music, characters, and entertainment along the way. Before I knew it, we were making our way onto Main Street USA towards Cinderella’s Castle. This experience was like no other experience I have ever had as a runner. Cast members and spectators lined the way and were cheering us on, as we turned the corner towards the Castle. From there we ran through Tomorrowland, into Fantasyland, and back through the Castle, before heading to Frontierland, and out of the Magic Kingdom. Those were by far the most amazing miles of the race, perhaps the most amazing miles of any race I have run to date.

Sweaty pic in front of the castle during the Princess Half Marathon

Sweaty pic in front of the castle during the Princess Half Marathon

Miles seven through ten were brutal. I don’t know whether it was the climbing temps, the let-down after running through the Magic Kingdom, or just exhaustion setting in, but it took all I had to get through those miles before closing in on the finish. Running up on-ramps near mile 12 is a sick joke, but it all worked out and I completed the Glass Slipper Challenge. We celebrated with dinner at Ohana that night and sleeping in the next morning.

We enjoyed our final two days in the parks. I wore my Glass Slipper Challenge medal proudly around the Magic Kingdom Sunday afternoon and was constantly congratulated on my accomplishment by Cast Members, other runners, and random kind individuals.

Token castle pic with my medals

Token castle pic with my medals

What set this race apart for me was the sense of comeradery between all of the women on the course and the encouragement that seemed to come from everyone along the way. Maybe it was because we were all adults dressed up like princesses for the day, or maybe it was because so many were either running their first race or first Disney race, but it definitely was that we were all in it together, in a magical place where a little pixie dust makes you think you can do anything.

I definitely plan to be a repeat princess, and I am certain that the only thing that would make this experience even more magical would be to experience it with my friends. In the words of the man himself, Walt Disney, “The way to get started is to quit talking and start doing.” Now, who’s in for 2017?

2016 Miles to go: 922

IMG_3384

We’ll be back!

It’s Race Week!

It’s race week, ya’ll! By this time next week, I will have completed the RunDisney Glass Slipper Challenge. I am so excited I can barely stand it! I’m going to put in a few more short training runs before we leave to keep my legs loose, but as John put it this morning, three more sleeps to Disney!

February has already been a month filled with all things fabulous. I spent this past week in NYC at the Receptive Services Association of America annual summit, inspiring travel to Tupelo by sharing our story with tour operators from around the globe. Usually, before I can open my mouth, they want to talk about Elvis (I mean, really who doesn’t want to talk about Elvis?!?!), but when I get to share Tupelo’s list of impressive sites, bites, events, and shops, people are truly surprised at all that our special town has to offer.

NYCSNOW

Walking in the snow with my mother in NYC

My mother joined me in the city, and In between meetings, networking events, and exploring the city, I managed to get in a couple of training runs. Since technically this is my taper week for the Princess Half Marathon, three-milers on the treadmill worked just fine. I did a ton of walking this week, too, so that cross-training counts toward all the steps I’ll take in the parks later this week, right? And, walking through the city in the snow counts double, I am certain. According to a statistic I heard today, last week was the coldest week on record in New York City, of course.

Frozen’s Princess Anna

I feel confident about my races as a result of the training I have put in and am looking forward to all that is in store. On a side note, my race outfits are all ready. Apparently, half the fun of running RunDisney ev

The Little Mermaid’s Princes Ariel

ents is dressing the part, so of course I drew my inspiration for each of my races from a couple of ginger princesses. I’ll give you a sneak peak, for now, but I promise to share the full outfits, complete with accessories, on race day! I did a practice run in my new, fabulous skirts from Sparkle Skirts, and they are amazing. Other than the fact that they have built-in shorts that don’t move at all, they have lots of pockets to hold anything you may need on race day. I will keep running in these skirts, even when I’m not dressed as a Disney Princess, and I am really looking forward to checking their booth out at the race expo.

After all of my training, it is hard to believe that the races are almost here. Miles still doesn’t know that we are leaving for Disney World this week, or that he is running in a kids’ race when we get there, so I may be more excited about telling him than anything. Thanks for your support and encouragement throughout this process. I have run three half marathons prior, but never two races back-to-back, especially waking up two mornings in a row as early as I will have to wake up, but I look forward to sharing every single fantastic detail of my experience with the Glass Slipper Challenge, when it is all said and done.

2016 Miles to go: 945

 

Gaining Confidence

“When you have confidence, you can have a lot of fun. And when you have fun, you can do amazing things.” – Joe Namath

In honor of the 2016 National Champion Alabama Crimson Tide’s celebration in Tuscaloosa today, I thought I would share a quote from former Alabama great, Joe Namath. After two really fantastic training runs this week, I am feeling confident, having fun, and looking forward to amazing things that are to come in 25 days in Disney!

I ran three miles Monday when we returned from Nashville and it was awful. I was slow, winded, and mentally just not into it. I swear 90% of running is having your mind right. The other 10% is just putting one foot in front of the other.

Tuesday, I rocked my 10K! I felt great and could have kept going had it not been after work and the fact that my boys would expect supper sooner than later. Everything about that run was amazing.

Today, I completed an eight-mile long run that was equally as fabulous as Tuesday’s 10K. It was cold, but I layered properly, and enjoyed being out in the sun. Had I had one more GU packet, I could have easily hit 10 or more. Today was a great training day!

Gaining confidence as a runner is vital to enjoying the sport. When I feel good about a run, I have fun, and I know that reaching the finish line of whatever race I am training for is attainable. Joe Namath played football at Alabama under the one and only Coach Bear Bryant, so you know that without a doubt he worked hard to hone his quarterback skills so that he would be confident on the field. He led the Tide to a National Champioship in 1964, both fun and amazing.

Our Magic Bands arrived yesterday and the excitement of returning to “the happiest place on Earth,” has us counting down the days. We aren’t telling Miles about the trip until the morning of departure, so we are just as excited about the surprise as we are the trip. I desperately needed this week of confident runs to know that I am almost fully prepared for the Glass Slipper Challenge. Training was fun this week and I cannot wait to see what amazing things are in store when the race to 19.3 begins in four short weeks.

2016 Miles to go: 965

Keep Moving Forward

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 As the bitter winter cold has finally set in and I have found myself back out on the road, I am constantly looking for inspiration to run harder and longer than ever before. The Glass Slipper Challenge is less than five weeks away and I want to be overly prepared for all that these two races will hold.

Today, we celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his ultimate sacrifice for equality in our country. I didn’t want to run today since it was so cold and we got up early this morning to drive home from a weekend visit to Nashville, TN, but the prolific words of Dr. King that kept showing up on my social media feeds motivated me to lace up my shoes, put on many layers, and hit the pavement. I waited until 3:00 p.m.to get out and run because it was going to be the warmest hour of the day, at a whopping 34 degrees. With the wind chill, it felt more like 27. Either way, it was cold. I was tired, but I did it. I kept moving forward and completed a much needed training run. It was a rather disappointing run, definitely not my best, but I completed it.

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 This week took me to two fabulous southern cities, Birmingham, AL, and Nashville, TN. I spent most of the week in Birmingham on a media blitz promoting Tupelo as a great weekend getaway destination. We recorded a television spot and pitched editorial on Tupelo to some of the amazing publications based in the Iron City. A highlight of the trip was a dinner meeting at Chez Fonfon, Frank Stitt’s delightful French bistro in the Five Points area of the city. I highly recommend a visit to this delectable locale whether you are on business, enjoying a girls’ night out, or just looking for a scrumptious meal. Our hotel was in a very high traffic area, so I succumbed to the dreaded treadmill for my training runs, but at least I remembered to pack short sleeve shirts! Birmingham is such a quick trip from home on Interstate 22 and it was fun sharing all things Tupelo in this beautiful Alabama city.

 With my Run Disney races just thirty days away, I am close to putting in the miles I want to reach to be race ready. I am going to lengthen some of my early morning runs this week so that I am getting closer to what it will be like to run a 10K one day, immediately followed by a half marathon the next. I am confident that I could get through it now, but I know that putting in the hard work and moving forward over the next few weeks, will make my bucket list races that much more fun.

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

2016 Miles to go: 979

Running Resolutions

I love a good New Year’s resolution. I’m not talking about an overly broad “I’m going to be a better person this year” type of resolution. I mean a measurable, attainable goal that motivates me to actually be a better person in the process. I have made resolutions in the past to read a certain number of books or volunteer a certain number of hours, but this year I am resolving to be a better runner with a few running resolutions in 2016.

Resolution #1: Run 1,000 Miles in 2016

I am going to run 1,000 miles this year. If I were to do it all at once, I could get all the way from Tupelo, Mississippi, to New York City in a little over 1,000 miles. In reality, this is just under three miles a day. My current training schedule requires running four days a week, most days over three miles, so while it will be challenging, I look forward to tracking every mile on the road to 1,000.

Resolution #2: PR a Race 

To date, my fastest race was my very first half marathon. In training for the RunDisney Glass Slipper Challenge in February 2016, I have gotten faster and know that a PR is within reach. I don’t expect to PR the Princess Half Marathon from everything I have read about the race with all of the character stops, photo ops, and number of runners/walkers who participate, but with several other races planned in 2016, I am excited about this resolution.

Resolution #3: Participate in a Virtual Run for Charity

Virtual runs can be run anywhere at anytime. You simply sign up, pay the entry fee, get in your miles, and your medal arrives in the mail. Virtual runs are a great way to raise money for a non-profit or charity organization without having to actually put on a race. I haven’t participated in one of these races yet, but plan to support one of my favorite charity groups this year by participating in a virtual run.

new-years-day-1021360_1280

I just finished my first run of 2016 and while it was cold, windy, and I could definitely tell that it has been a few weeks since I hit the pavement, it felt great! I am excited about all that this new year has in store. The RunDisney Glass Slipper Challenge is a bucket list race for me, so I cannot wait for that magical weekend in February. Most of all, I love being a healthier, stronger version of myself, and that alone will make me “a better person this year.”

Happy New Year!

2016 Miles to go: 997

A Dismal December Calls for Jumpstart January

To say that December has been a less than ideal training month is an understatement. Between my travel, “the incident,” the endless rain, and a few lazy mornings thanks to the craziness that is the holidays, December has done little to help propel me to the finish line of the Princess Half Marathon that is a mere six weeks away.

Despite the fact that I despise running in the cold, I am confident that I will be ready for the Glass Slipper Challenge in February. With such a short amount of time to go until my races, I have three items in my arsenal to help me get finish line ready.

First, did I mention how much I hate running in the cold? I really cannot stand the way my body feels when I run outside in frigid temps, yet my favorite races always seem to be held in February, and I am not a fan of the treadmill. My husband, and coach, hooked me up this Christmas with an array of cold weather running gear. My favorite new accessory is the Under Armour Coldgear Infrared Reflective Beanie. It is super warm, has a hole in the back for my ponytail, and, of course, it’s pink. Being both warm and well accessorized will definitely help with those last few long runs I have to get in before February. 

Second, I always seem to eat terribly during the month of December. Once Thanksgiving hits, it’s pretty much a downhill spiral until the new year begins. Having tried all of the fad diets and miracle products out there that promise to melt away those pesky December pounds, it wasn’t until I made the decision to change my lifestyle that I became more healthy and lost weight as a result.

 I participated in the Arbonne 30 Days to Healthy Living program last January and truly experienced how clean eating can change everything. Sure, I lost 14 pounds during the 30 day cleanse, but the healthy living practices I learned through participating have helped me run faster, sleep better, and have a stronger immune system, thus staying well.

I am not participating in the full cleanse this January since I am in training mode, but I am using some of my favorite products to stay strong and feel great. I love the vegan protein for my morning smoothie and homemade protein bars, and I can’t live without the probiotic. With all of my travels, the probiotic has kept me well when traditionally I would catch a cold everytime I hopped on an airplane. They also have a PhytoSport line with a pre-workout, post-workout, and hydration product. We love them! As a bonus, John loves his Arbonne as much as I do, so it helps us both when training for races.

Finally, I may be the last person on the planet to discover podcasts, but I’m hooked, and I love that I can lose myself in listening to one while on a long run. I am currently listening to “Serial,” and “This American Life,” but have also discovered “Runner Academy,” which is a wealth of information on every facet of the sport of running. Running is such a mental sport and if I can focus on what I’m listening to instead of how much further I have to go, my long runs get easier and easier. Do you have a favorite podcast? Please share!

With just six weeks to go, I am getting really excited about my races. I have my Enchanted 10K running attire all ready to go (more on that soon!) and am working on the Princess Half outfit. Our reservations are made, FastPasses booked, and all that’s left are a few long runs before I’m Princess-ready. Thanks to my secrets weapons, I should be good to go!

Running Role Models

Sunday morning I sat on my front porch with a hot cup of coffee and watched the runners in the Tupelo Marathon and Half Marathon run past our house. The course was a 13.1 mile loop, so those running the full marathon came past twice. We were at mile 8 and 16, providing a cool shower from the sprinkler John set up for the participants to run through and a little comic relief from Miles running around in his pajama top and underwear cheering on the runners.

One of the amazing runners in the Tupelo Marathon

One of the amazing runners in the Tupelo Marathon

I am in awe of marathoners, both mentally and physically. Watching the runners yesterday, some struggling and others looking like it was the easiest thing they had ever done, it made me think about the runners that I admire most. In training for the 19.3 miles that will make up the Run Disney Glass Slipper Challenge, I thought, what better time to gain inspiration for those long runs, than from those whose running prowess I hold in the highest esteem. Each of them has an important attribute that I hope to imitate on my road to running like a princess.

Hard Work

My dad is a marathoner. He finished the New York Marathon and many other 26.2 mile races. He is my model for work ethic, even though I will never be as hard a worker as I have seen him be over all of my years on this planet. He works harder than anyone else I know, and that’s why he is a wonderful example as a husband, father, pharmacist, runner, and so much more. You have to work hard to run distance races, even on the days where all you want to do is hide under the covers and not come out. When I ran my very first half marathon, I remember the amazing feeling of crossing that finish line, knowing that I had accomplished something great. The only thing that felt better than receiving that medal was hearing my dad tell me how proud he was of me for working hard to train and finish the race. When I don’t want to lace up my running shoes and hit the pavement, I will think about my dad to make sure that I put in the hard work necessary to run the 19.3 miles that lie ahead.

Dedication

My Aunt Jennie is the definitive runner. She has been a runner as long as I can remember. She looks like a runner and is fast, as in, wins races fast. I can’t count the number of races she has run. She is a running role model because her dedication to being a runner is something I desperately want to imitate. I can remember being on vacation with her, or it being a holiday, and no matter what, she completed her run for the day. Her pace per mile is something I will only attain if I end up in an actual zombie apocalypse, but until then, I will strive to be as dedicated to the sport as my incredibly fabulous aunt.

Determination

Lisa Martin wasn’t always a runner, but one day she chose to become one. Not only did she decide to run, she decided to write about it. She was determined to run the Disney Princess Half Marathon and shared every detail of her journey to the magical finish line through her blog “Born to Run…in a Princess Marathon.” I started reading the blog early into her training for the race and she was the very first person who made me think, “I can do that!” Her hysterical, brutally honest words helped me muster the courage to sign up for the Rock ‘N’ Roll New Orleans Half Marathon in 2012, and the rest is history. I will definitely continue to channel my inner-Lisa on this road to 19.3 that I am determined to conquer.

Commitment

To run a distance race you have to be completely committed or you will not be prepared for the task at hand. I have never met anyone more committed to running than my husband, John. When he decides to do something he doesn’t just jump in with both feet, he cannonballs in making the biggest splash possible. He gets up most mornings before 5:00 a.m. to get the miles in he needs. I watched him train wholeheartedly for the St. Jude Memphis Marathon, committed to running 26.2, all while fundraising for the kids of St. Jude. Unfortunately, his race was cancelled the day before due to an ice storm that hit Memphis, but had he been able to run, he was completely prepared because of his commitment to crossing the finish line.

Rock 'N Roll New Orleans Half Marathon...our very first!

Rock ‘N Roll New Orleans Half Marathon…our very first!

I am both nervous and extremely excited about the Glass Slipper Challenge in February. My training is going well and I am so close to meeting my fundraising goal as a St. Jude Hero, and thanks to my running role models who have taught me hard work, dedication, determination, and commitment, I can already feel that medal around my neck, and it feels great!