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  • Loretta Garcia

How I became a member of the runDisney Family

***Originally posted on Our Little Bit of Magic

Hello, My name is Loretta and I can now officially call myself a member of RunDisney Family. Joining the family was not part of my bucket list, life long dream or anything more than just a spontaneous whim I had late one night. Here is my story.

Two years ago, having lost a lot of weight and feeling like I could take on the world, I spontaneously signed up for the Disneyland Tinkerbell Half Marathon (2015). Like all Disney Marathons, there were several races available - Neverland Family Fun 5K, Tinkerbell 10K, and Half marathon.

This particular race also had the first annual Pixie Dust Challenge which consisted of the 10K and half. To this day, I still don't know how I ended up registering for the 5K and the Pixie Dust Challenge. The weight lose must have damaged some brain cells and it was the middle of the night of a long week. It might have been the pretty pictures on the RunDisney page or the fun stuff you get when you register (because I need more disney t-shirts and backpacks to add to my collection) or maybe it was the idea that if I HAVE to exercise then this might be a great way to get me off the couch? But regardless of the reason, there I was signed up to run the 5K with my oldest granddaughter on Friday, the 10K on Saturday and the half on Sunday (Mother's Day).

After signing up I went to the section on training and read up on everything I could and then I went about my life and pretty much put the registration and training on the back burner. Fast forward to March 2015 when I happened to check my calendar and saw the update for the race pop up. After a few moments of panic and wondering if I should just postpone my participation, I grabbed my running shoes (yes I have a pair or two), put my grandson in the stroller and hit the track. My one mile turned into 1.5 and then 2 and by the end of April I was walking 2 to 3 plus miles usually pushing a stroller. A break here and there for conferences and family events had me working harder the next session. I even got as far as walking/running up to 3.4 miles a few times but it was really only a fluke. Yes I am aware that 3.4 miles is nothing when you are supposed to walk/run a half marathon, but remember I was still naive enough to think I could do this.

Suddenly it was Thursday night and I was setting my alarm and suddenly I experienced a panic attack unlike any I have ever had. What had possessed me to sign up to run. I hate exercise, I hate running, I hate sweating and I hate getting up early! Yes it's at Disneyland and there are shiny medals but can't I just buy some on ebay?

In the blink of an eye it was Friday at 4:00 am and I was pulling into the Mickey and Friends parking lot. Hubby had decided to come along and see what it was all about. Arriving at the park in the early cool morning was magical as always, the ball of fear in the pit of my stomach had dulled and the excitement of the race was taking over. Walking to the starting line with my 9 yr old granddaughter, we were quickly drawn in to all the adrenaline and hype. We found one of our good friends, Caroline and joined her group.

The starting line for the 5K was to the left of the partners statue at the end of main street in Disneyland. After some announcements and alot of cheering, we were off. Alexis and I quickly set a fast pace and enjoyed the brisk walk through Disneyland including the back areas where there were Cast Members standing on the side lines cheering us on. We made a game out of being the first to spot the silhouettes of Peter Pan on the buildings and discovering all the behind the scenes spots. The weather did not help as it sprinkled most of the race and after about a mile, our pace slowed so as not to slip on the wet ground. However, we were able to finish the race a bit soggy but full of energy and excitement at participating in our first ever 5K. The plastic medal and T-shirts were a hit with my granddaughter and the memories we made that day are priceless.

Finishing the 5K and driving home motivated me to think (again, naively) that I could get through the weekend. Fast forward to Saturday morning - driving back down at 3 am to Disneyland, to walk the 10K. (No, I did not get a room, again thinking it was no big deal to make the 125 mile commute each day) I found a fellow Travel Specialist, Debi, who I had met the month before at a conference and we agreed to walk / run together. Thanks to Debi, I was not only able to finish the race but did so at a decent pace. The 10K started in front of Paradise Pier and took us through the streets of Anaheim and once again through the Disneyland and California Adventure Parks. This time however, the runners were a bit more serious and concentrated on the race instead of the fun of the 5K. Listening to Debi chat about her races and her travel business, kept my mind off the fact that I was hungry and starting to feel the lack of proper training. Somehow, I made it to the finish line and had now officially completed the 10K. After grabbing a fruit and taking a few pictures of the area, I was feeling like I could do anything. Grabbing breakfast at the nearby Denny's, I headed over to another event and spent the afternoon in interviews and events before making the drive back home and staying up late catching up on work. Although I did have a bit of trouble getting out of the car, a quick hot shower did wonders. This motivated me even more to think I would be fine for the Half.

A few hours of sleep and my cell went off. I jumped out of bed and stretched a bit and thought, wow, nothin! Not sore or blistered or achy. This is easy!! Driving down to Disneyland for the 3rd time in so many days, I thought about the upcoming Half and for a brief moment wondered if I could do this? I shook off the feeling and smiled thinking...ha, I did the 5K and the 10K already, how hard can this be?

Arriving at the corrals, I found my spot and waited for the race to begin. There were what seemed like thousands and thousands of runners. Serious runners who were there to race, unlike me who was there for the .... wait why was I there exactly? Finally it was my turn and we were ushered to the starting line. Again the combination of adrenaline and a bit of fear had me ready to go! Moving forward towards the starting line, I was still in denial about what was ahead of me, but the excitement of the group was stronger than the nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Suddenly it was time and with a huge smile on my face, I had officially started my half marathon and felt amazing! A half mile into the race, I saw my husband on the sidelines walking along side the path. That gave me a boost of motivation as I "passed him". By mile 3 I was starting to feel hungry. Grabbing a quick snack I passed Miles 4 through 6 without mishap. Mile 7 was starting to get to me but I pushed on and then I got to Mile 8. This, I later found out was the determining mile where you either kept going and made it or gave up and passed out.

Mile 8 had me breathing hard, dehydrated, hungry and just plain feeling like I could not take one more step. Until finally almost at the end of the mile, I felt dizzy and nauseated and had to sit down on the curb. The emotions I felt at that point were overwhelming. With tears running down my face, I told myself I had to admit defeat. I had not trained for a half and was in no way capable of taking one more step. Ready to quit, and still in tears, two first aid workers bicycled up and asked if I wanted a ride back to the finish line. Just about to say yes, something in me snapped and to this day still do not know where I found the strength to keep going and see if I could just go one more mile. Wiping away the tears and grabbing a few pieces of donuts from volunteers, I got my stride back and kept going. The Mile 9, 10 and 11 signs were a blur as I looked down and mentally chanted one more step over and over again to the tune of various Disney songs. Reaching Mile 12 and grabbing a banana gave me a burst of energy to keep going. Finally there it was - Mile 13 - through blood, sweat and tears and ready to collapse, I realized I still had to walk just a bit more to officially reach the finish line. I still don't know how I crossed the finish line but suddenly I was done, I had finished my first half marathon!!!! I grabbed a sports drink, my medals, found a spot on a bench and then I lost it. I had a complete meltdown and sobbed uncontrollably for 15 minutes scaring my husband and 2 little kids on the bench next to me. After composing myself, I looked at my medals and realized just what I had accomplished that weekend. I had gone from an overweight 55 year old with severe back issue to a half marathon runner (okay walker) but none the less, I have done what the year before would have been the impossible and was now a check mark on my bucket list...I had just walked a total of 22.4 miles in 3 days in my first Disney Race.

As I hobbled to the parking lot, barefoot and sore, sweaty and emotionally drained with the weight of my medals around my neck, I told myself, I will NEVER participate in one of these events again, much less all three races in one weekend again. In fact this was probably my one and only race...until the registration opened up for this year.

Guess who signed up for the 5K, 10K and Half again???? Disneyland Tinkerbell Half Marathon 2016, here I come!

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