I recently ran the Disney Princess Half Marathon in Disney World. In fact, I actually completed the Glass Slipper Challenge… meaning, I also ran the Disney Princess Enchanted 10k. Flashback to a year ago, and I would have told you that I would never ever ever in the history of evers consider running a half marathon. Go back two years ago, and I would have told you you that I’d be thrilled to be able to walk a half mile. In fact, I would have been thrilled to walk downstairs in my house without starting to blackout. So, how did I get here? Well, that was my exact thought as I ran across the finish line, hand in hand with my Husband.
When Luna was born, two years ago, I was very physically and mentally ill. My crazy blood pressure had kept me in the hospital for 10 days and the doctor had me taking 19 pills a day. Being so sick and weak after giving birth not only caught me completely off-guard (I had a textbook perfect pregnancy), but it left me feeling shocked, depressed and very anxious. I had bad PTSD that I am still battling, but I was also physically unable to do almost everything. The medications were keeping my heart rate and blood pressure so low that walking upstairs or even holding Luna while standing for too long, caused me to blackout. It was really hard. Gradually, I began to heal. My medications were lowered (a lot), my strength and energy started to return and I was beginning to come back to life. Focusing on the small victories helped a lot. At this point, I was thrilled to start going on walks and do yoga again. In fact, a full day of grocery shopping, cleaning cooking and caring for Luna felt like crossing a finish line…a finish line that ended by crashing into my bed, and a race that began again each morning. It was a finish line that I was thrilled and grateful to continue crossing.
By the time Luna turned one, I couldn’t even recognize the sick version of me from her birth. Yes, I was still taking blood pressure meds, but nothing could slow me down anymore. I had teamed up with my very good friend, Bella, and started exercising hardcore 6 days a week. We started with Shaun T’s Focus T25 and with each other’s continual support and encouragement (plus some friendly competition), we had completed T25, Insanity Max 30 and P90X3. To give ourselves an even bigger challenge, we signed up for a few Mud Runs. Neither of us ever ran, or even liked running, but we needed a little challenge and a few muddy obstacle course riddled 5K’s seemed fun and even doable. Well, these Mud Runs led to regular 5K’s because we needed the practice, right? We wore matching costumes for every 5K to make them more fun and we actually began winning all the costume contests. Before Luna turned one, we not only won several costume contests, but we were placing in our age groups too!
Our most exciting 5K happened in May of 2015. We did the Expedition Everest Challenge at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. A night run through the park that turned into a 3 mile scavenger hunt as soon as you crossed the finish line and ended in a private party inside of Animal Kingdom and lasted until 2am. This race was so much fun, so organized, unique and full of Disney magic that we decided right then and there that we’d be coming back for another, bigger, better Disney run. We must have been REALLY excited because we somehow convinced ourselves to sign up for the Glass Slipper Challenge.
Over the next 9 months, we trained. We trained hard, and then…we didn’t. We were interrupted with vacations, work and illness. We’d drop off and then start again. We were riddled with shin splints, stress fractures, runner’s knee and plantar fasciitis. We saw doctors and physical therapists, learned new exercises, cross-trained like a beast and fueled on gallons of water and coffee. We learned the importance of good running gear and sold our souls to Fleet Feet in order to purchase the best shoes, socks, leg rollers, compression sleeves and leggings. Before we knew it, it was four weeks until the race. We spent the last four weeks pushing hard, much harder than we should have. We were running further and faster than we ever had and we paid for it. Two weeks before the half-marathon, I got put in a boot. One week before, Bella seriously injured her knee. We flew to Florida crossing our fingers that some Disney magic and pixie dust would carry us over the finish line.
The weekend of the race we went to the parks all day every day. We went to bed late and got up at 4am every morning. We decided to take the 10k super easy and save up our energy and and slightly healed bodies for the half. We jogged the 6.2 miles, stopped to take a few photos and really enjoy the early morning run through EPCOT and the Boardwalk. We watched the sunrise, saw several characters, fireworks and it all felt very Disney-esque. We crossed the finish line feeling great. In fact, we all felt more confident than ever about completing the half-marathon, which brings me to the next morning.
RunDisney’s slogan is “every mile is magic”. When I first saw this phrase plastered around the memorabilia shop, I laughed because, seriously? No. “Every mile is torture” was how I felt during our training. However, when we crossed the start line with 25,000 other runners decked out in their Disney running costumes, fireworks went off and I have to admit, it felt a little magical. Then, we passed a full marching band playing and cheering us on…then a DJ who was jamming so hard she had the entire crowd raising the roof as we ran up an overpass. I was actually enjoying this. The magic continued every single mile…dozens of characters, choirs, cheerleaders, music, snacks, drinks, medication, photographers and not to mention Cinderella’s castle kept us entertained and motivated for the entire race. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t horrible either. I smiled so much during the half-marathon that my cheeks hurt. Husband and I stayed together the entire time and kept a slower pace so as not to cause any injuries to flare up.
Before we knew it, we were a mile from the finish line. At this point, we were both feeling shocked. We were actually going to do this, nothing could stop us now and each step just brought us closer to the finish. I could feel the excitement coursing through my veins as we ran passed the crowds cheering us on (which BTW makes a HUGE difference!). Husband and I kept looking at each other and saying, “We are doing this, we are actually doing this!” Then, about 100 yards from the finish we grabbed one another’s hand. We crossed the line hand-in-hand. Not only could I not stop smiling, but I couldn’t help but cry.
We crossed the finish line and slowed to a walk…our first time to walk in over 13 miles. I was flooded by emotions. Every single “finish line” prior to this one crossed my mind. From Luna’s birth to being able to walk downstairs, completing T25, to my first 5k, to my first medal, to a 10k and then this. I did it and I could not have felt more proud. I wore my medals all weekend.
We cross many “finish lines” throughout our lives. These victories are more than just an accomplishment, they are stepping stones to our next challenge. They are there to remind us that we can do hard things, that we have done hard things and each one prepares us for the next. And, those “magic miles”, well, every mile might not actually be magical, but every once in a while you’ll pass a cheerleader that will encourage to keep moving…keep your eyes on them, they are the magic. So whether the next “finish line” is at the end of a race, a number on a scale, a promotion at work, the end of the laundry pile or finally having the courage to try something new, remember the finish line’s you’ve already crossed. You’ve got this.