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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, and what they thought about both extra activities and costumes. In this article, we get to see what our focus group thought of their event itself and asked: What were your thoughts as the fireworks went off and your corral approached the start line and what were you feeling as you crossed that finish line? Finally, some of them also told us what they did with their finisher's medal.

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:

Being [that] it was my first half-marathon, I was extremely nervous. A lot of thoughts were running through my head. My roommate and I were there very early and in the front of Corral C so we were right up front. I was excited, anxious, and nervous. However when it was time to go after the Fairy Godmother sent us off, I was at ease because Disney made it so fun.


Gabbie Rimmaudo (right) and Christina Jaeger at the start of the 2013 Disney Princess Half Marathon. Photo by Disney cast member.

As I approached the finish line I became extremely emotional and I actually cried. I was so happy and proud of myself. My whole life I was never considered athletic or a runner or anything, so this was huge for me. Back in May 2012, I could not even run down the street without wanting to quit and give up, so crossing the finish line and seeing where I am today was huge for me. It made me realize that anyone can do this and I am so thankful to have had this experience. I hope to be an inspiration for others someday.

For my birthday in a few weeks I asked my mom for a bib and medal hanger so I am hoping to hang it there! For now it is laying on my dresser for all to see!

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 was actually excited. It was full of energy and I really enjoyed the fireworks and seeing the Fairy Godmother as we walked over the start line.


Fe Caldejon celebrates with her first Disney Princess Half Marathon medal. Photo by Disney cast member.

It felt like a great accomplishment. This being my first half marathon I didn't know what to expect. I kept telling my daughter's that I'm just going to have fun if end up getting picked up by the bus then it's fine. They told me that I wouldn't have to worry about that—I was telling my oldest daughter as we were on mile 12 that wow I can really do this! So when I crossed it was a great feeling to know that all my training really prepared me to even just walk this first half-marathon.

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:

I just hoped that I didn't fall over someone because at the beginning we can't start of running. It's really more of a walk then jog and you have to get some space to start running. When I run alone I can start off quicker but with this being my first official 5K I just went along and hoped someone wouldn't jump in front trying to get ahead and cause me to trip.

I was so excited to have finished my first 5k!!!! I have always wanted to do one and I have known I was going to do this for a whole year. This was the day I had been waiting for. I'm sad that it's over but the memories will stay. I was also glad when we finished because it was an early morning and I was ready to go sit and have breakfast!

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:

Though I was a little nervous, I could not wait to start! I was in Corral D, so I had the benefit of seeing a few corrals start before me. I knew that I was going to take it slow or walk a lot of the first few miles because I had heard it bottlenecks for the first couple of miles. When the Fairy Godmother waves her wand, and those fireworks go off—it's magic. I didn't notice passing mile markers 1 and 2. The first time I noticed one was mile 3. I was with a few of my Princess Posse girls who stuck together for those first few miles and I think with the excitement and having each other there, we just didn't notice mile markers!

When I saw the finish line in the distance, I was sad. I didn't want it to be over. I was proud, I thought of all I had gone through this past year to get to that moment. I thought of how my niece has something healthy to be proud of me for. I thought of little Katy and her new heart. I thought of all my friends and family who were cheering me on via Facebook comments at every split, and with every picture I posted on my walk breaks. I thought of my husband and how he's lost over 45 pounds along the way and how different we've become—but together. And then… the ugly cry came. I'm not sharing it with you as it makes me look so broken down, but I wasn't. I have never felt more empowered in my life. Training for this race, literally saved my life. I am no longer insulin-resistant and do not need medication to control my sugars.

I wore my finishers medal the day after the race in Downtown Disney. Then I wore it the next night to a party that my mother and father-in-laws neighbor was having. I wore it on my first day back to work. I promise I'm not still wearing it, although I may try it on every once in awhile. I need to order a medal rack for it and for my future medals. Right now it's in my bedside table drawer.

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 was blissfully unaware that he was approaching a task that he physically could not do.


Henry Uppman enjoys his first runDisney finisher's medal. Photo by Katie Uppman.

Seeing as I had to "frog hop" Henry to the finish line because he couldn't get himself there, my emotion was relief. I was mostly concerned with the fact that my pants were falling down and everyone was probably seeing my backside as I tried to help him down the mat.

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:

"Oh God, Oh God, Oh God. Don't trip. Don't forget to breathe. Don't trip. Please let me not get scooped up by Goofy in the golf cart." I had this terror that I wouldn't be fast enough to keep pace and Goofy would come along in the race official's cart and have to pick me up. That fear was alleviated when I saw the first character meet and greet.

I thought about my mother who had passed away from cancer about 10 years earlier and how I hoped she would have been proud to see me compete and complete something like this. I was never an athlete (still am not) and wanted to accomplish something from my bucket list and I did! [Yes, Kristin, you are an athlete!]

[My medal] is sitting in a shoebox with all my other medals and bibs.  I framed the first bib that I got and that's hanging up in my home office.  One day I want to do something creative with all of my bibs and medals and pins from the races but I haven't figured out what just yet.

It's your turn—keep the discussion flowing!

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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.