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Life is full of a lot of incredible firsts—a first Disney Park visit... the first steps out the door and down the block on a first distance run or walk. And for tens of thousand athletes each year, there is a happy blend of both Disney and running as they participate in their first runDisney distance event. And to get some feedback and thoughts from first-time runDisney event participants, I gathered a virtual focus group consisting of runners, walkers, and one crawler's mom to learn more about their journey to earning their first runDisney medal.


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In our previous articles, we found out how they got started, what they thought about both extra activities and costumes, their feelings as they crossed the starting and finish lines, and their overall impression of runDisney weekend. In our final article of the series, we asked the focus group to look back on their experience and offer some words of wisdom with these questions: What did they wish they knew going in to the event, what tips—both in general and for other first-timersdo they have, and what's next on their race plans?

Gabrielle (Gabbie) Rimmaudo from Florida, completed her first half-marathon at age 22 at the 2013 Disney Princess Half Marathon, and has been running since May 2012. Gabrielle writes:

It really exceeded my expectations! The only word of advice I would give is to get to your corral and the race early. While it may not be ideal to get on the first bus and lose a few minutes of sleep, you’ll be happy you did. By being at the location extremely early, my roommate and I had time to take some great pictures with the runDisney backdrops.
Give yourself time with any first big race! I had started preparing with my training plan before I even had to start it and I was so thankful I did. This helped because during my training I did sustain an injury. If I had started too late, I feel that my training would have been extremely off. By starting early I gave myself a little bit of a cushion. Also do not give up! Some days you will have bad runs/walks, but just think of the end goal in sight and push yourself harder. Running with friends or in a running club is extremely helpful and helped motivate me.


Gabbie Rimmudo with her first Disney Princess Half Marathon medal. Photo by Disney Cast Member

Walt Disney once said, “If you can dream it, you can do it!” Don’t ever doubt yourself and never give up in training. It is all worth it at the end. If you’d like to read more about my running and goals, check out my blog.
I am registered for the 2013 Wine and Dine Half Marathon with my dad. While he's an avid cyclist and runner; this will be his first runDisney event and half-marathon. We're excited because it will be a great bonding opportunity for us, as we live 1,000 miles away from each other.

Fe Caldejon is from Washington state, completing her first half-marathon at age 55 at the 2013 Disney Princess Half Marathon. She moved to the U.S. from the Philippines when she was 25 and has been walking for exercise for the past five years. Fe writes:

I think I was pretty prepared given my daughters and niece have done multiple runDisney events.
I would suggest folks training to run or walk the event to just be consistent with their training.  I would walk four to five times a week and it really helped my endurance.  Also, just take it one day at a time.
I would definitely do another runDisney run! It was truly a great milestone and memory that I will cherish.  There is a lot of energy and positivity that surrounded this race.  How can you not enjoy running around the Happy Place on Earth!

Amanda Mills is from Texas. At age 21, she completed her first (3.1-mile) 5-kilometer fun run during the 2013 Disney Princess Half Marathon weekend. Amanda just recently took up running and has a half-marathon on her to-do list of in the very near future. Amanda writes:

My grandma lets me know everything I need to know, and then some!


Amanda Mills (center right) celebrates her first 5k finish with Rae Mills, Daisy Duck, and Mary Harokopus. Photo by Disney cast member.

If you’re doing a long run, I would tell you go to runDisney.com and go to the training section. I only did the 5K so I didn't train at all. I do other workouts a few times a week. Running isn't something I do all the time, but was glad to have been able to keep up. runDisney helped me forget my stress and worries. You can't pay for a good memory; they just happen. I could have brought my worries with me and have been negative and complained about things going wrong but they honestly didn't bug me. You need to just tell yourself “I can do this” and have a blast doing it. It's not hard to have a wonderful time with Disney.

Christina Verduchi is from New Jersey. At age 34, she completed her first half-marathon at the 2013 Disney Princess Half after a 50-pound weight loss. She has been running since August 2012 after last lacing up her running shoes 10 years earlier. Christina writes:

Everything I needed to know, I learned from the Princess Posse.  These women are amazing! Honestly, I really trained and prepared myself out of fear that I wouldn’t cross the finish line because I was too slow or even worse- that I’d get injured. I took my training seriously and it paid off.

I can’t recommend Jeff Galloway’s RunDisney training enough. It was exactly what I needed. It kept me injury free!

Train and prepare, and you will do just fine.  Take it easy—especially in high humidity.  Hydrate for at least a few days before your race.  Remember to have fun! It may be a race, but it’s a Disney one. Don’t try to PR (set a personal record)—just try to have fun! Don’t sweat the small stuff—everything will turn out just how it is supposed to. Oh and the supposed “huge hills” are hills to people from flat places. Being from New Jersey, they weren’t that bad because I trained for them.

A good friend of mine wants to do her first half in 2014 now and she wants me to do it with her. And of course she wants it to be a Disney one. We're undecided between doing Princess or taking it to the West Coast and doing Tink. I would eventually love to go Coast to Coast but I have my heart set on the 2015 New York City Marathon and to qualify, I'll be running nine NYC races in 2014. But 2015 could be my dream running year of C2C halfs and NYC full!

Katie Uppman from California, ran the 2013 Tinker Bell Half Marathon, while her son, Henry, completed his first runDisney Kids Race (the Diaper Dash Division) at the age of 6 months. Katie writes:

I think Henry wishes he had known how to crawl. We’ll be ready next year.
Henry’s ‘daycare mamas’ worked every day with him, trying to get him to crawl. This was awesome, as we didn’t have a lot of time or energy for training at night. If you can get your child a personal trainer in the form of a daycare worker, I highly recommend it.
Disney races are absolutely, hands down, the best experiences in the world. I can’t even compare them to other races. I literally sit at my work desk and dream about my next Run Disney event. I would do the Goofy Challenge four times a year just to have the high of crossing that finish line and escaping to the parks for a week. And while I like the Disneyland course better, I like the overall experience at Disney World better. They truly are addicting. I can only imagine how much worse this will get when Henry realizes what’s going on and starts adding his enthusiasm to the spectrum. I’ve been promised a trip to the Tinker Bell Half Marathon each year since I’m now legacy, but I’m always trying to figure out how to sneak another race or two into the itinerary! I wish my husband was as into them as I am.

Kristin Roberts from Florida, and is 35. She completed her first 5K at the 2009 Disney Princess Half Marathon weekend and finished her 6th 5k at the 2013 Princess Half Marathon weekend. Kristin writes:

Relax and have fun.  Don’t stress over it.

Do your homework.  Talk to your friends, read the info on the runDisney site.  Check out Jeff Galloway’s programs and allow for enough time.  Lastly, don’t pressure yourself!  Do what you can do and don’t try to compare yourself to any other runner.  You don’t know how long they’ve been training or what they’ve done to get there.  Just do your best.

These races are a great and fun way to introduce everyone in the family to running.  Enjoy them and be proud of your accomplishment when you cross your finish line!

I don't know. I've got a wedding during the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival which would impact running during Wine & Dine Half Marathon weekend so I've got to rethink my schedule. It may not be anything until the 2014 Disney Princess Half Marathon weekend next year (insert very sad face here...).

It's your turn—keep the discussion flowing!

No matter your age or experience level, completing a runDisney race promises to be both magical and memorable. My first Disney running event (pre-runDisney) was in 2006 at the Walt Disney World Half Marathon, and to this day, the memory of my CSO (Chief Support Officer) Thomas waiting for me on Main Street with a hug and a kiss still brings tears to my eyes. Now if I could only remember the finish…

I would like to personally thank all the participants in this virtual focus group for the time and thought they put into their responses to the questions, and hope you have been entertained and inspired by their stories. That is part of the joy of runDisney events; once you complete one, you now belong to a very big, friendly club who welcomes everyone no matter their pace or their goals, and loves to share their excitement for the events.

How about it – any first runDisney events in your future?

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(Send an email to Lorree Tachell)

Lorree is known to her friends as the RunningFool. Of the 60+ half marathons she's run since 2006, a third have been Disney/runDisney events. She is a Disneyland Half Marathon Legacy Runner (meaning she has run it every year since its inauguration) and a Disney Princess Half Marathon Perfect Princess. Lorree also hopes to continue her legacy / perfect streaks with the Tower of Terror 10 Miler, as well as the Wine & Dine and Tinker Bell Half Marathons. In January 2013, she completed her first full marathon at the 20th Anniversary Walt Disney World Marathon and despite her declaration of ‘one and done’, in January 2014 she completed the Inaugural Dopey Challenge in Walt Disney World. "Yes, I do love running the Disney parks; there is something very special about a runDisney event.