So you just signed up for a Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend race (or races) January 7-11, 2015; or you’ve re-arranged your work schedule so you can be ready at EXACTLY Noon Eastern Daylight Time this Tuesday, June 10, 2014 to sign up for one or more of the Disneyland Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend races January 15-18, 2015. [Ed. Annual Passholder and DVC Owner early-signup activity for the Disneyland races was VERY heavy – if you want in, be sure to register as soon as possible]. Now what?
You might be like me after I signed up for my first runDisney race – someone who was so excited about the prospect of running through the Most Magical Place on Earth® and getting a neat medal, that you ignored the pesky little fact that you haven’t ever run a race before. Not being a runner isn’t something that should prevent you from running Disney. But, unfortunately, you aren’t going to get sprinkled with magical pixie dust at the start of the race and just float to the end. You can still have a magical first half marathon or marathon. But you need to start planning now. There are four things you should start planning immediately:
1. If you haven’t really run more than a half-mile or mile before, shoes are the first thing you need to consider. I realize as a dad our usual shoe for running is something that doesn’t have holes in it and that you haven’t worn too many times to mow the grass. But if you are going to run an endurance race, you will be spending a lot of time on your feet. Improper shoes can lead to all sorts of injuries. It’s extremely important to go to a real running store and get someone to check your gait and to help you pick out the right pair of shoes for you. There are essentially 3 types of shoes: Neutral shoes, support shoes and motion control shoes. Across each of these types of shoes there are 3 levels of cushioning. If you spend some time at a quality running store, they can help you figure out the right shoe for you. Be prepared to spend some time on this. I’ve had shoe fittings that take over an hour, working with a specialist who’s looking at my form in different shoes as I run on a treadmill. This is almost always the first piece of advice given to new runners on running forums, because it really is of critical importance. Getting the right shoes can be the difference between finishing happy at Disney and getting injured and not even being able to start.
2. Start looking at training plans. There are lots of training plans online, but most marathon and half marathon plans start with the assumption that you can already run a 5k (about 3.1 miles). Typical couch to 5k plans take about eight weeks to complete. Half Marathon training plans are usually an additional 12 weeks, and Marathon Training plans usually add about 18 weeks. While you could run the couch to 5k to Marathon training plan back-to-back in 26 weeks, you’ll likely want to give your body some time to adjust to running 5ks before diving into Marathon training. Depending on your fitness level, you may also want to repeat some of the couch to 5k weeks. In endurance training, one of the easiest way to injure yourself is to increase mileage too fast. If you’re struggling, it’s much better to repeat a week than it is to increase your mileage and get hurt. In general, it’s also better to come into a race undertrained than it is to come into it injured. [Ed. Note: PLEASE talk to your doctor before starting any endurance running training plan. Your doctor may have additional recommendations and advice specific to your personal medical circumstances, and no generic training program can account for every unique health circumstance].
3. Start looking for a local 10k or Half arathon being run in the Fall. Disney is a crowded race, and one of the easiest ways to make it a little more comfortable is to get placed in a start corral that’s closer to the front. Since Disney no longer changes corrals at the Expo, you’ll need to submit a qualifying time before October 10th, 2014 for either the Walt Disney World or Disneyland January races. For a Half Marathon, the proof of time needs to be from a 10k or longer race. For the Full Marathon, the proof of time needs to be from a 10 mile (not kilometer) race or longer. In general, I’ve found that you want to find the shortest distance possible to qualify for proof of time. Both RunningintheUSA.com and active.com are great sites to search for races that are near you to use for your qualifying times. This last bit of advice may seem obvious, but check where you’ll be with your training plan to make sure that you’ll be trained appropriately for the distance of the qualifying race you want to sign up for.
4. Start planning your stay at Disney. The best part of a Disney race is that it’s at Disney. Of course if you’ve been to Walt Disney World recently, one of the things that you may have realized is that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to just show up for a vacation at WDW. If you want to get a great post race celebration meal (‘OHANA! ‘OHANA!, ‘OHANA!) you’ll need to book that at 180 days out. You may also want to start thinking about rooms. A Disney Travel Agent can help you get the right room for your trip, and most will make adjustments for you as discounts come out. This is particularly important with January races, because 2015 rates for Walt Disney World and Disneyland have not been released yet. Generally speaking, you can find discount deals that are as good or better than the runDisney packages, but they cannot be booked yet. Working with a travel agent means being able to provide the agent with your preferences and letting that agent take care of waiting attentively for the minute those January rates and discounts are released to get you booked. They’ll probably even do the dirty work to make those meal reservations for you too. For Walt Disney World, as you get closer to race time you’ll also want to make sure to book your FP+ reservations. If you’ve just run a Marathon, you don’t want to spend an hour and a half in line for the new Seven Dwarves Mine Train coaster if you can help it.
Good luck with your training! I’ll be running in Walt Disney World in January – I hope I get the chance to meet you on the course.
[Ed. Note: This is the first in a series of posts that Ryan will be writing for DISDads.com about running Disney endurance races.]