General registration for the runDisney 2014 Tinker Bell Half Marathon became available earlier this week (and we hope you were able to register in time), and first-time half-marathoner and MousePad discussion board member punkyv posted this query in the Team MousePlanet forum on our MousePad discussion forum:
Does anyone have any tips about the [Tinker Bell Half Marathon]? This is the first time I'm entering (going with a good friend). Any tips about checking in/free time/ race tips would be greatly appreciated!
[punkyv is a walker who can maintain a 15-minute-per-mile pace and is participating in her first half-marathon. What follows is my response to her in the thread.]
As everyone has said (in the thread), a training plan is key. In addtion to Jeff Galloway and John Bingham, I would also recommend checking out the half-marathon training guide for walkers by Hal Higdon. Galloway, Higdon, and Bingham all have different styles; you'll need to find the one that best speaks to you. If you want to take it a step further and do a bit more research, each of them have written some marvelous books on half-marathon participation. I found Bingham's to be very inspirational and more personal based on his own experiences as The Penguin, Galloway's to be more structured towards how-to, and Higdon more at a runner level.
One of the most important points in following any training plan is to make sure you take rest days when recommended. It is tempting to overdo especially when new to the sport but it will do more harm than good. Cross training is also important as well. Running is a full-body exercise that benefits from strong core and upper-body strength as much as from strong legs. The taper is also important prior to the run as you will need to conserve energy, especially in the week prior to the event. And no, running around a Disney park in the days prior to the event does not count as tapering (fun but not in your best interest).
If you are a journaler, keep one during your training as well as notes from the race. They will help you determine what worked and what didn't if you decide to continue on to other half-marathons (and like potato chips, bet you can't do just one). Keeping a history of the races you have done is also great just from a memory perspective.
If you want to have the best selection of runDisney-branded race merchandise, be in line at the expo about an hour before it opens. If you have someone with you, have them scout out the merchandise while you pick up your packet (these are two separate lines and areas at the Disneyland Hotel). The merchandise checkout line usually gets very long very quickly and some items such as jackets usually sell out so the earlier the better. And although this seems logical to not try, don't buy new shoes or clothes at the expo with the idea of wearing them in the half. Until you have tested them out (see next bullet), that's a big no-no that many participants seem to forget with sometimes really bad results.
Speaking of shoes, if you are planning on taking part in more than one runDisney event during the weekend, make sure you take more than one pair of broken-in running shoes with you. Rain happens. Insoles collapse at the most inopportune moments. If everything goes well, you can wear the same shoes both days but it’s just better to have a backup with you just in case especially if this is a destination race and you can’t easily run home for a fresh pair.
Don't try anything new on race day; practice the distance in what you are planning to wear. If you are planning on wearing a costume (and yes, many, many people do even in a half-marathon), test it out before you try to complete 13.1 miles in it. Can you move in it? Will it be too warm (or not warm enough) depending on the weather reports? Will it get in your way or in the way of others? As a walker, you may have less hassles in a costume than a runner, but remember you may be out longer in it. As we've mentioned in other Team Planet threads, the roadways are littered with crowns, wings, and other costume parts that once seemed like a good idea but for one reason or another just didn't "fly."
Staying Near the Resort
Even if you are local, if you can afford it, I would recommend staying close to the park the night before the race. In addition to the Disney hotels, there are many very nice hotels in walking distance to the start (I always stay at Candy Cane Inn, just about four blocks from the start and the race runs right in front of the hotel). Not having to worry about traffic and being able to sleep in (or at least remain in bed if you can't sleep) even an extra 30 minutes can be wonderful especially with a 5:00 a.m. race start.
BYOM (bring your own munchies). I always bring my own bagel and banana for race morning and a protein bar for after. I know what I like and don't depend on either finding it in the area or on runDisney providing it.
Eat your last big meal about 18 hours prior to the half-marathon start. This tip, from both Galloway and Higdon, makes sense as you won't be spending the night stuffed and trying to digest big quantities of carbs and fat. I usually have a good lunch and then top everything off in the evening with a child's serving of pasta in the park.
It's also important to test the energy drink (usually lemon-lime Powerade) and energy gel (usually Clif Shots) that runDisney offers along the course. The last thing you need is to deal with a gastric issue because something didn't sit well with you and/or your own personal fuel. And on that note, carry extra tissue with you just in case.
Things to Pack
Make a check list of everything you need to have or do the morning of the race and post it where you will see it on the door of your house or hotel depending if you are local or traveling. Even after finishing many, many half-marathons I find the list has saved me from walking out the door and forgetting something important. Sometimes the brain just goes into autopilot and it's easy to leave something behind.
Pack extra safety pins along for your race bib and a Sharpie to write your Important Info on the back. I can't tell you the number of times pins were supposed to be in the bag and they weren't. And you will find that regular pens often don't write well on the bibs. Make sure the ink used won't run when wet.
Find a cheap fleece blanket that you can toss to keep you warm at the start of the race and/or provide something to sit on. I usually pick them up at Target for $2.00 after the holidays when they go 90% off. Cheap ugly running gloves may also come in handy depending on the morning temps. Remember, it will still be dark when the race starts which in January usually means cool temps (fingers crossed).
If this is a destination race (and you can check a bag or two), take along running gear to get you through any weather. It can be overkill but it’s something that Bingham suggested in one of his books after getting caught at a race in a freak snowstorm that wasn’t in the forecast. Things like a cheap, light rain poncho (only $2.00 at stores like Target) don’t take up much space but are super handy if the rain comes in unannounced and are much easier to run in than a trash bag (although those will work in a pinch).
If you will have spectators along for the fun, make sure you know where they will be along the course so you'll know when to watch for them in the crowd. Ask them to wear a fun, colorful hat, jacket, and or shirt if possible so they stand out. Make sure they are aware of what you are wearing so they can easily spot you as well. Also confirm a location to meet after the race. If you have supporters who will not be with you race morning, make sure to sign up for runner tracking (usually on the runDisney site a week before the event or at the expo). They will receive email or text 'pings' as you travel along the course that will tell them how you are doing. I also sign up any spectators for the service as well so they can more easily judge when they need to be at the finish line.
If possible, plan on taking time to wear your medal in the park after the race. There is no better way to celebrate completing your first (or 50th) runDisney event than to share that accomplishment with Disney guests, fellow half-marathon participants, and cast members alike.
If you are thinking about getting your picture taken with your medal and Tinker Bell after the race, get to Pixie Hollow as early as possible and be prepared to wait as this is a very popular activity. Totally worth it.
Check back on the Team MousePlanet forum at least once a week. Here, you will find updates, encouragement, and a host of other ideas and thoughts that will help you prepare for the half-marathon.
One final piece of advice: Make feeling good and enjoying the experience to be your only goal of finishing your first half-marathon. So many people get so caught up on finishing in a certain time above all else that they are disappointed if everything doesn't go according to their plan. Certainly you will have to hold the 16 minute or better pace that is required by runDisney but remember, the clock doesn't start until the last person crosses the start line. Take a camera for pictures with characters. Talk to fellow participants. Stop at the MousePlanet cheer station along the course and say hi. If you are looking for inspiration and have the time, go watch the 5K or 10K finishes on Saturday. For the fast runners, it’s a piece of cake and you can marvel at their speed. For the other 95 percent of participants who are not so fast, there is an inspiring gamut of emotions—from cheers to tears—as they complete their own goals.
Celebrate the fact you are doing something that a very small part of the population actually accomplish. Cross the finish line with a smile.