I’m one of those crazy plan ahead people. For BIG goals, I like to have details worked out months (ok, it is really years) in advance. For the past month, I’ve been contemplating running a marathon.
A marathon is a huge commitment as a runner and as a parent. I completed my first marathon in 2007 and even though I puked my guts from mile 11 until the finish, I still told anyone who would listen that it was the best day of my life.Life was different in 2007. I was single, living in a trendy downtown neighbourhood, and had landed my career job. Life was good. I could be selfish in my training because nobody was relying on me for anything. Now there are a lot of factors to consider in taking on another marathon.
Are you ready for a marathon? If 42.2 kilometres sounds like fun to you, you should also consider:
Personal health and current stamina
A marathon requires an intense 3 month time commitment. More time would be required if you aren’t up to 15km long runs at the start of the 3 months. There is never a perfect time to train for a marathon, but if you make it a priority then you can do it!
If your family isn’t 100% supportive of your decision to run a marathon, then don’t do it. Aside from the 3 to 4 hour runs that you’ll need to complete, you are also going to be tired, sore, and dare I say more irritable.
I always try and complete my runs before my daughter’s Saturday morning sports. To continue this, I’ll need to find something that doesn’t start at 8am. And now with two kids, this will be more difficult. Luckily swimming lessons start as late at 11am in the morning. I also check sunrise charts and plan the earliest time possible that I can run. I’ve even calculated a start time that has me run in the dark, but aligns sunrise to the time I hit the trail portion of my run.
Potential Issue: I can’t expect my husband to handle Saturday morning breakfasts,clean up, and activities when I’m out running AND have him do it again on Sunday morning because I’m tired from the day before that I need more sleep.
Potential Solution: The compromise that would work best for us is that I’d go to bed a bit earlier on Saturday nights to catch up on sleep.
When my mother wanted to do an Ironman Triathlon she had to consider timing and it was best to wait one year until I was a freshman in university since she wanted to be present for all the activities and events that happened in my final year of high school. Know yourself and how involved you want to be or know how much FOMO you suffer from and plan accordingly.
If you tell yourself running is a cheap sport then you’re delirious! Running only requires a pair of running shoes… Oh and don’t forget moisture wicking clothing, double layer socks, Bodyglide to prevent chafing, special water bottle belt, another pair of shoes since you’ll wear out the first pair before the race, a sports bra that costs more than dinner for two at the Keg, recovery electrolyte drinks, the grocery bill from that time you’ll go shopping after a long run and accidentally buy the entire store, race entry fee, hotel for the race, the kiddie pool you splurge on out of guilt for not spending enough time with the kids, 8 bags of ice for when you realize you can hijack the kiddie pool for your long run recovery ice bath….etc.
If you are thinking of a fall marathon then you’ll be completing some of your long runs (3+ hours) over summer. If you’re planing a vacation you also need to consider how you will complete your long run. I’d say live a little and miss a weekday run, but those long runs are not to be messed with.
Potential Issue: Your family trip to Europe occurs during marathon training.
Potential Solution: Look for a half marathon to participate in at your holiday destination. Or can you find a run club that will be running similar distance? Maybe travel with your training partner and map a run where you are visiting. Adjust your dates and vacation over a recovery week when miles are shorter and could be run on a hotel treadmill.
Are you going to be able to find the time to run or are you working 12 hour days in the office? I actually find when I’m super busy at work that I need to get my runs in to keep my sanity. However, this could be a vicious cycle if work and running keep you away from your family. Long work hours can mean more fast food meals, which could impact how you feel in your workouts. This could mean more meal planning in order to eat right, work long hours, and feel good in your runs.
Personal Health and Current Stamina
I personally believe that anyone can run a marathon. However, the journey to that marathon start line will be different for everyone. I wouldn’t undertake a 3 month training plan until I was happy with my 5km and 10km race times. After all, I want to run the next marathon faster than my last. If you have been running through an injury or hoping a tinge in your knee will go away on its own – then maybe get that checked out before fooling yourself into a marathon.
I include current stamina as well because you should be able to run at least 15km comfortably prior to starting your training plan. I would also suggest having run a half marathon in the last year before taking on a marathon. This will prepare you for a build up in training mileage. I like to eliminate “surprises” during training and you start to learn about your body when you increase mileage for a race above 10km. To read more on half marathon training and how I balance it with work and family check out my previous post Balancing Half Marathon Training.
What is the Verdict?
Will you sign up for a marathon or run away screaming less than 42.2km in the opposite direction? I’ve considered these factors and I’m leaning towards YES! I’ve got my spreadsheets out and I’m starting to visualize how I can make this work. Tell me in the comments if you have a marathon or multiple marathons on your bucket list.
My hobby, sport, and way of keeping in shape is running. I’m a fan of the half marathon distance. I ran my first half marathon just over 10 years ago and have enjoyed many others since. My husband’s first half marathon race pic just popped up in my Facebook feed as a memory from 10 years ago, which was funny since he was 100% in the friend zone at that time and I kicked his butt in that race!
Half Marathon: The Perfect Distance
I find half marathons the perfect distance since it is far enough that you can’t skip your long runs, but not too far that your training runs take over your life. With a 10 kilometre (km) race, I could rest on my laurels and while it might be painful, I could jump into a 10km race and survive it without adequate training. However, in a half marathon, the level of discomfort and risk of injury is much higher if you don’t complete your training runs.
My longest training run for a half marathon would be under 2.5 hours long. If I started my run at 6 AM, I could be home in time to eat breakfast with my family.
My 3 Tips for Successful Half Marathon Training
Find a plan and routine that works for you.
Be realistic when making your plan. For me, I can’t commit to more than 3 days a week.
Also plan out your runs; determine what time of day works for you and make a routine out of it.
Find a race and register for it to keep you motivated.
Having a goal to work towards will keep you motivated. I tell lots of people about my upcoming race far in advance so I feel accountable.
Find a training partner or run club.
While I enjoy running on my own, I couldn’t imagine all of my long runs by myself. Having someone with you can make your long runs fly by. Running is a form of therapy for me since I talk through problems, vent, share memories with my running partner.
Running After Baby
After having a baby, running was a major challenge for me. The motivation to loose weight was certainly there, but my body wasn’t ready for that kind of intensity. My body had changed; I was nursing and had major nursing boobs that could not be tamed. Running wasn’t comfortable so my plan to run 6 months after giving birth and to start half marathon training went out the window.
I tried once more to run when my baby was 13 months and I had been back at work for a few weeks. While my body cooperated with running this time, I found it difficult to stay committed. Part of the problem was that I ran alone at 7:45 PM, after the baby was nursed and in bed. I was exhausted, it was dark out, and Netflix was calling me.
Third time was the charm! I survived a busy August at work and I knew the fall was going to be busy at work so if I didn’t get running soon I’d never maintain my fitness during the winter. Baby was now 18 months old and I was daydreaming about Disney vacations and it struck me: why not run a Disney race!?! My timing could not have been better as the Tinker Bell Half Marathon’s registration was coming up in mid-September. I laced up my runners and tried to run and this time, with the right motivation and a better fitness level than the other two attempts I kept up my training and ran the Tinker Bell Half Marathon last month.
Baby Steps: Initial Running Plan
Starting my half marathon training in September for a May half marathon gave me ample time to build a foundation before I had to start logging long miles. September, October, and November focused on a run/walk program. This meant each week I’d run 1 minute, walk 1 minute until I’d reached 12 to 15 minutes of total run time. Then the next week I’d bump up my run time. After a few weeks I was running 10 minutes and walking 1 minute. From this, I switched to distance based training with 3 to 4 km runs during the week and a 5 km on the weekend. Each long run (weekend run), I’d increase by 1 km. I also listened to my body and decreased every few weeks to let my body have a break.
While I was focused on this training and really happy with my progress, I should note that I was nowhere close to the times I once ran. I don’t blame pregnancy on this as I had a health scare in the years leading up to pregnancy that I think took its tole on me. I’m a highly competitive person, but I took this slower pace in stride (pun intended). Now that I’m a mom, I’ve chilled out a lot more and having time to run and pursue my own fitness makes me happy. I’m not longer focused on my splits, although slow or not, I always aim for a negative split.
My mantra for running post pregnancy is: No expectations, no limitations.
Find a Training Plan that Works for You
A quick Google search can turn up dozens of half marathon training plans. In some you have to run 5 days a week, in others only 3 days. Some have steep build ups in long run mileage, while others are more gradual. I suggest you open a spreadsheet, take what you like from multiple plans that you’ve reviewed and plug that into your own plan.
For me I have a simple long run build up that I don’t mess with in the 7 weeks leading to the race, which is as follows:
16, 16, 12, 18, 18, 20, 8 km.
While this builds my last several weeks, most training plans should cover a minimum of 18 weeks with a minimum distance of 10 km to begin. Keep this in mind as you set your sights on your goal race and plan accordingly.
Plan Your Runs
Plan out when you are going to run, then make it happen. I nurse my daughter to sleep at 7 PM daily and I only have an hour with her before bedtime so I know during the week I need to run later that I’d prefer. Running at 7:30 PM means most of the year it is dark so I have a reflective vest and my husband knows my route.
For my weekend long runs, I aim to be home by 8 AM. This means I may need to be up before 6 AM or for a shorter run, closer to 6:45 AM. Yes, it is early, but I’m committed to my training and I find running enjoyable.
Importance of a Training Partner
I’ve got an amazing training partner that happily runs at my odd ball times. She supports me, loves me, and let’s me talk on and on about whatever is bothering me. You won’t find a training partner better than mine, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try and find one. I forgot to mention, my training partner is my mom – my IRONMAN, marathoner, more energy than I’ll ever have, MOTHER!
Let Me Know…
Let me know if you have questions – I’m passionate about running and happy to help you figure out how to juggle it into your busy life.
If you are looking for a magical experience and an opportunity to get your family excited about your half marathon training then stop reading this and go sign up for a RunDisney race. I ran my first RunDisney race at the 2017 Tinker Bell Half Marathon on Mother’s Day and it was amazing.
This post is going to focus on the Tinker Bell Half Marathon Race itself – future posts will include planning a RunDisney vacation (i.e., how to enjoy the parks without wearing yourself out), the registration process, having your kiddo in a Kids Race, and the race expo. For now, I’ll focus my attention to the actual race day.
Three Key Points for the Tinker Bell Half Marathon
If you only take away three things from this post about the Tinker Bell Half Marathon, make sure they are:
Smile every step of the way and buy the Disney PhotoPass for your vacation.
Throw away your time goals.
Have someone at the finish or along the route to cheer you on so that you’ve got another reason to smile.
Getting to the Starting Corrals of the Tinker Bell Half Marathon
On Sunday, May 14, 2017, at 4:10 AM, my alarm clock woke me from the sofa bed in my hotel suite. My toddler was fast asleep in her crib in the bedroom, as was my husband. To not wake them, I slept on the sofa bed in the living room. By the light of my cell phone, I got dressed, opened my mother’s day gift (a Mickey Mouse backpack!), and exited the room. As I walked the dark streets, other runners were exiting hotels and joining in on the pilgrimage to the start line.
The Tinker Bell Half Marathon final instructions brochure indicated that I should plan to be in my corral one hour before race start, which meant 4:30 AM, but I felt that was too early. The corrals and starting areas were very clearly marked, but getting to my corral involved a lot more walking than I had anticipated in order to get to the security check points. Even without line-ups at security, it still took 35 to 40 minutes to get from hotel to corral, which would have been a 12-minute walk most days.
I wasn’t cold waiting in my corral, but I’d have been more comfortable had I worn a long sleeve top. I typically wear a top on race day that I throw off at the start and a charity group picks them up, but I didn’t see any of that at this race.
Tinker Bell Half Marathon Pre-Show and Race Start
The Tinker Bell Half Marathon pre-show was energetic and achieved its purpose of getting thousands of runners pumped up about the miles ahead. I was actually feeling nervous and dreadful standing in my corral. All of my training was complete, but in the days leading up to the race my knee had started to ache and I hadn’t been eating as healthy as I normally do. I tried to stay positive by repeating the mantra, “no expectation, no limitations.”
For the Tinker Bell Half Marathon, I was in corral B and we started about 1 or 2 minutes after corral A. When Tinker Bell fluttered across the big screen above the start line and we broke into a run, I realized that it was going to be hard to pace myself as I was instantly overwhelmed with excitement and adrenaline.
Entering Disneyland at Start of Tinker Bell Half Marathon Race
Entering the back lot of Disneyland at about 1 mile was very emotional. I’d dreamed of running through the park and it was finally going to happen. When we turned left in the back lot, I could see that our entrance into Toontown was only a few strides away. It was finally happening – I was running through Disneyland! I’d been in Disneyland twice in the days before but we hadn’t visited ToonTown so it had been almost 20 years since I’d seen it.
First Encounter with a Disney PhotoPass Photographer
Exiting Toontown I saw my first Disney PhotoPass Photographer of the Tinker Bell Half Marathon Race and I was sure to smile my widest smile to them. Just outside of Toontown was the first character stop. I’m not up to date on all of my fairies even though the Tinker Bell Half Marathon is all about Tinker Bell and her squad. Since I did not actually know who these fairies were I decided to keep going.
In the first miles, I was still wrestling with how I was going to run the race. Only two weeks prior, I had run a half marathon and had been just over two hours so I knew I could break that today. I ultimately decided to embrace the magic of the Tinker Bell Half Marathon race and not worry about my time. I was going so smile, wave, and get lots of pictures. To anyone thinking about running a fast race you ought to reconsider.
Fantasyland in the Tinker Bell Half Marathon
The Tinker Bell Half Marathon course hugged right at Storybook Canal entrance and continued into Fantasyland. The attractions were running and I could see Dumbo in flight. Time for a selfie! Then I ran between King Arthur’s Carousel and Pinocchio and followed the path to Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. I was warned that while there were photographers capturing us running through the Castle, you could not actually stop running for them to take your picture. To try to guarantee myself an awesome Tinker Bell Half Marathon race souvenir, I slowed down and ran through the Castle with the biggest smile. I felt like a kid again, and as for the souvenir pic, I have 13 from that moment to choose from (two different angles included below)!
I went to the right of the roundabout and I saw a Cast Member holding a picture frame cut-out. Nobody was stopping so I jumped over and got a picture of myself in this memorable spot.
First Stop for my Character Photo in the Tinker Bell Half Marathon
Next I was on Main Street and I almost ran right past Chip and Dale! My first characters of the race! The line was short, maybe one minute. Each character spot had multiple Cast Members that paired with people at the front of the line so they could take your phone and snap pictures while the Photopass photographers also snapped your pics.
The Disney firetrucks were even on display and as we passed by City Hall, we could see Peter Pan and Wendy waving at us. I had a mental checklist of who I should be on the lookout for during the Tinker Bell Half Marathon since it was themed for Tinker Bell. I was too scatter-brained to notice during the Tinker Bell Half Marathon race that all of the non-Tinker Bell related characters were actually dressed with pirate accessories.
Running through Disney California Adventure
As the Tinker Bell Half Marathon exited Disneyland and dashed across to Disney California Adventure, I was actually able to connect to wifi so I sent my husband a text letting him know that my knee pain had vanished! As a Canadian, without wifi my phone is as good as a paperweight in the USA. Knowing my body wasn’t breaking down was a positive sign for the rest of the Tinker Bell Half Marathon Race.
Running between park entrances resembled a finish line area, as there were dozens of people lining the way, screaming and cheering with every step I took. I entered Disney California Adventure through an unofficial entrance, which was beside Soarin’ Around the World. There were pirates lining the way up towards Grizzly River Run shouting their best “Yarrr!” at us. I enjoy running on trails around Vancouver, BC, so it was nice to run through all the trees in Grizzly Peak – it felt like we were really in nature.
Take Me to Paradise… Pier
Soon I was running past the entrance to The Little Mermaid, which happens to be one of my favourite attractions because I can sing all of the songs. Combining memories and nostalgia makes running the Tinker Bell Half Marathon race seem not as daunting. I was constantly smiling and trying to soak in the whole experience.
With my two year old along on this trip I didn’t have the opportunity to stay for World of Color (bedtime was much earlier than start time), but fear not, as we entered Paradise Pier, the fountains of World of Color were dancing for all to see. There was not an official photographer here so I stopped for a selfie instead.
As I ran down towards California Screamin’ I was starting to realize that in-between selfie stops, I was running at a pace that would be difficult to maintain. It was also difficult to talk myself into slowing down when I was overflowing with excitement [see picture below as evidence].
The Lost Boys Need a Mom
King Triton’s Carousel was nearby and I wanted to get a picture of it for my daughter. The closer I got I realized that it was the Lost Boys from Neverland riding it round and round. One of the Lost Boys asked me if I’d be his mother and since it was Mother’s Day I told him yes.
This got loud cheers from all of the Lost Boys and as I ran away [bad new mom] they were shouting for me to read them a story. What a hoot! Having the attractions all operating and characters peppered around kept me looking forward to each mile. Pluto was posing for pictures before I exited Paradise Pier and entered a back lot.
The Remaining Lands of Disney California Adventure
The Tinker Bell Half Marathon course ran through another back lot and then it popped us to the start of Cars Land by Radiator Springs. More smiles for photo ops!
I was pleased to stop in for a photo with Mater and McQueen – probably the only characters in the Tinker Bell Half Marathon not offended by my sweaty odour.
After a quick run through “a bug’s land”, we were into Hollywood. Running down the main drag here I almost missed a photo with Captain Hook. My Munchkin ran into Captain Hook a few days earlier and he scared the beejeezes out of her – later I learned any character would have that same effect. If my Munchkin saw me posing cordially with her arch nemesis it could upset her even more, which is why I struck a “mean momma” pose.
The Last Park Hop of the Tinker Bell Half Marathon
I crossed between the parks again and entered Disneyland for the last time – it is a blur to me where we were in Disneyland at this point, but I know I hit the 5km marker in a back lot near Tomorrowland. We ran from the depths of Tomorrowland towards the Castle and then veered away from the Castle and towards the Matterhorn. I assumed this is where Tinker Bell would be since it was right by Pixie Hollow and after all, it was the Tinker Bell Half Marathon! The line to meet Tinker Bell was the longest, but still only about four minutes for me (corral B).
The Tinker Bell Half Marathon and the Streets of Anaheim (9k to 18.5k)
After meeting Tinker Bell the course curved into more of the back lot and it never returns to the accessible areas of Disneyland after that point. In a sense, you are off to never, neverland… on the streets of Anaheim. While you are in the restricted areas, you catch a glimpse of Cast Members moving about as they start their day.
For me, I knew nothing about Anaheim and at this point of the Tinker Bell Half Marathon, I realized I had 14 more kilometres to run and for the first time my body was starting to not match my all-smiles appearance. This was my dilemma part of the Tinker Bell Half Marathon – I wanted to walk because I felt out of steam, but that meant it would take me longer to get to the finish line and get to brunch! I did not find Anaheim to be the most exciting place to run, but there were porta-potties, bands, and spectators along the way to keep me going.
The Finish of the Tinker Bell Half Marathon (2.5km)
The last kilometres of the Tinker Bell Half Marathon dragged, but it was nice to be in a restricted area of Disneyland – it felt like I was an insider. This was the only part of the course that I had been on before and as I looped around the Disneyland Hotel I finally felt like I’d really accomplished something huge: running a half marathon after three days of walking and eating my way through Disneyland! As the Tinker Bell Half Marathon course entered the home stretch, I could see my husband and my Munchkin. With 100 metres to go, I kissed my loves and finished strong to the finish!
Thank you for reading my Tinker Bell Half Marathon race report. I started strong, smiled a lot, and then reflected on the joy of the first part of the race to get me to the finish line. I would most certainly run the Tinker Bell Half Marathon again. I’ll gladly answer your questions in the comments below.