26,000 voices of aspiring princesses (and an occasional prince) sang in unison to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” prior to the blast of fireworks that lit up the 5:30 am Disney World sky at the start of the runDisney Princess Half Marathon a few weeks ago. There is something magical when that many voices, young and old, come together to sing lyrics that, transcend time and space.
A half marathon is, for so many runners an ultimate goal in endurance running. Many train for months to complete their first 13.1 miles, reading tips and advice from running experts and magazines. The runDisney Princess Half Marathon happened to be my sixth half marathon over the last 12 years. You would think that I know a thing or two after all those races, but really, every single race teaches me new lessons. This race, in particular, taught me a lot about myself, why I run, and the importance of running in my life.
Three Things I learned while running the Princess Half Marathon
1. Running can be fun.
This sounds obvious…but I know many people who run without knowing that it can be fun. Whether it is focusing too much on the outcomes or results, the training (or lack thereof), and whatever else, I know that I have fallen prey to forgetting the fun in running. I registered for the Princess Half marathon as a team, with my long-time mentor and friend who also used to be my boss. It was her first race and her goal was to finish. When we first registered for the race last year my goal, admittedly, was to do more than just finish. I had a time in mind, but as the race drew nearer and the realization of my training kicked in, I knew this would be a different type of race. Running the Princess Half marathon was a bit of a reality check for me as a runner. Truth be told, my friend came into the race much stronger and better trained than I did. I expected her to tire of my run/walk intervals early on, but instead the three hours it took us to finish the 13.1 miles seemed like a walk in the park as we chatted, people watched as we passed elaborate costume after costume (or they passed us), and told each other stories about who knows what. The time on the clock was not important. Dressed in my Team Sparkle gear, snapping pictures along the course, there was no inner voice trying to tell me that I was not enough as a runner. No demons cropped up in my head to make me doubt my abilities or my body. And running without those nagging voices is like a whole new type of running. Fun running.
2. Runners are inspiring.
Celebrate what brought you here. Celebrate the journey. -April Holmes, paralympic Gold Medalist
Being around runners, from novice to elite, at an event is inspiring. Every single runner has a story. There are those who overcame exceptional physical challenges to lace up their shoes, there are others who run in memory of a loved one, and there are those who run because they are built like runners and, well, they are meant to run. Other runners lace up their shoes to lose weight, to fight sickness, or to fundraise. Listening to runners like Rachel Booth, Ali Vincent, or April Holmes at the Princess Half Meetup, or listening in to the stories runners shared as they ran the course — story after story — reminded me that, in the end, the only thing that mattered is that we had laced up our shoes and put one foot in front of the other. I dare anyone to attend an endurance event and walk away without being inspired at least once. And…you never know when you yourself will be an inspiration to someone else just by putting on those shoes and lining up at the start.
3. Running makes me feel good.
My journey as a runner has come a LONG way from when I trained for my first marathon in 2001. My running used to be tarnished by feelings of inadequacies – I was too heavy, too slow, not consistent enough. If I am being completely honest, I probably still felt this way until just recently. And, yes, I still berate myself for not running or training enough…but only because I know how much better I feel when I run. From healthy to strong, I almost always feel better after a run.
So no, I may not have run a personal best during the Princes Half marathon. I may not have been in the best shape of my life. But I did relinquish myself to the power of pixie dust and, for once in my life, immersed myself in the experience. And that…that is more than enough for this newly crowned princess.