How Two Non-Runners Ran a runDisney 5k

We are One with the Force, The Force is One with Us...

We are not runners. We just wanted to get that out in the open. We aren’t athletic people who can effortlessly run an eight-minute mile. We are more akin to Baymax trying to run away from danger: We are not fast, but we are strong. That said, this past weekend we accomplished a feat that was two years in the making. We started and finished our first runDisney 5k.

Two years seems a long time to prepare for a 5k, but for us it was more than the act of getting out there and exercising. Before we could hit the road, we had to unblock a lot of our own mental roadblocks. The idea was seeded in our brains back in 2015 at the first weekend of Star Wars Weekend. While sitting on the curb waiting for the parade, a couple offered to take our picture as they saw us trying to selfie. After the photo, we struck up a conversation with them. They were big runDisney fans who spoke so highly of the events. They encouraged us to research the races and sign up for one. They were extremely kind and not condescending (something we’ve both experienced when people give us ‘fitness advice’) in their encouragement. Walking away from that situation, we talked briefly about doing a runDisney event, but it didn’t come up again. It just wasn’t anything we thought we could do and so, we never talked about it.

Fast forward to April 2016. We live in Jacksonville, so take day trips quite often to the parks. We happened to plan a day trip to Epcot the Saturday of the Star Wars Dark Side 10k purely by accident. As we walked about the park, we admired the people proudly wearing their medals. We noticed people with similar body types as us who had medals. While we were eating at Sunshine Seasons, we talked about the fact that we could probably actually do this. If anything could get us to run, surely it would be Star Wars and Disney. It was also encouraging to see people like us who had finished the race. So, a month later, we signed up for the 5k.

In January 2017, we really got down to business. We set up a plan and hit the road three times a week. We had some great training days and ones where we could have easily quit. We knew we could sell our bibs or just take the hit financially. We were scared. Despite the advice, support, and encouragement of our families, it just started to get too overwhelming. The anxiety of failure and of being unable to complete the course weighed on us. runDisney says you need a minimum of a 16-minute mile. On our best day, we could do 17-minute mile. A little thing they don’t tell you about the 5k is that they are extremely lax on that 16-minute mile requirement. While you can’t just stroll the course like its Main Street after the fireworks and you’re in no hurry to get to the front, you got to at least maintain “Rope Drop” pace. However, we were still extremely concerned of being too slow and, subsequently, removed from the course by Disney. 

Finally, April 20th, 2017 rolled around and in the early morning hours, we headed to the Race Expo at ESPN Wide World of Sports. We had a smooth experience picking up our bibs/shirts/etc. The Expo itself was interesting and we should have given more time to it, but since we had been up since 3a, were tired. We did stand in line for the official Disney merchandise and that experience was a little bit like ‘Mad Max’. Luckily, having stood in a line for Star Wars Weekend merchandise for nearly 3 hours, the 30-minute wait in the Expo line wasn’t bad. We talked about next year (spoiler alert: there will be a next year!) starting in the Expo to get merchandise, then make our way to get our bibs. Oh, and word of advice: if you are looking for the Dooney and Bourke items, they will be around the same location as the bib pick up. 

We checked into our hotel (off-site), had a big dinner at Sweet Tomatoes, and passed out around 7p. 
2:30a came and up we got. We dressed, stretched, had a snack, and left our room around 3:45a. We got to Epcot at 4a and proceeded to meet Boba Fett, get a picture with Jabba, and a Star Wars blue background. Then we waited for the corrals to be opened at 4:45a. We had been assigned to corral F, the literal LAST corral to be released. For those of you unfamiliar with the process, with the 5k, you are randomly assigned to your corral and, while the race starts at 6a, depending on which corral and how far back you are, you may not start the course until 6:45a. We had been tipped off to get to our corral as soon as it opened and go to the front right. So, when they opened the corrals at 4:45a, we bolted to ours and got (almost) front. Something else we didn’t account for was standing. Granted, we could have sat down and waited, but with everyone else around us standing, we stood as well. So, from about 4:45 until 6:45, we stood…and stood….and stood. This wasn’t anything we accounted for, but know better for next time.

 When it’s time for the race to start, they start with the first corral (A), and walk them to the start line. Then, in waves, they release the runners approximately 1 minute apart. We watched as wave after wave walked by us. While a little frustrating (WE JUST WANTED TO GET OUT THERE AND GO ALREADY), we did get to see a lot of the very creative costumes. Once it was finally our turn, we started off very strong. Around the first half mile, we shifted down into speed walking. From there, we alternated between walking and running. Peter, stiff from the standing, had some difficulty getting his strides, but once he could wake up his muscles, he was gliding along. The course took us through the back side of Test Track and Mexico (gah geeking out!) and into World Showcase. The torches were lit as the sun was rising. We made our way through World Showcase (watch out for the hill in America and the bridge between France and England!) and back into Future World. We looped around by The Land and back toward Spaceship Earth. Finally, the finish line was in sight, we took off. Well, Holly took off, Peter just maintained his speed. 

The moment we crossed the finish line, a wave of emotion came over us. It was a mixture of pride, exhaustion, disbelief, hunger, happiness, and pure accomplishment. After so many years of self-doubt, we had done it. We had started something and completed it. We had pushed ourselves farther than ever before and had done more than survived, we thrived. As we collected our medals, snack boxes, and took an absolutely horrible post-race picture (the sun was burning Holly’s eyes), we walked to the car. It was there that it really hit us: we did it. We had finished something that we had started. It may have taken two years to finish, but better late than never.

Oh, and remember when we said we were going to do it again? Well, we are going to register for the 5k/10k Star Wars Dark Side next year and push ourselves even more because not only do we know we can, but we’ve got photographic proof we can.

Guest Blogger: Holly Bercase

Instagram: teambercasewdw

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Melissa Cassell

westminster, MD. 21158