runDisney Q&A with Gina (Will Run for Disney)

In the spirit of resolutions and new goals for 2019, we asked for some pointers from one of the pros: Gina the creator of Will Run for Disney blog. Find out everything you ever wanted to know to gear up for your next (or first) runDisney experience:

Hi Stephen! Thanks for having me as a special guest on your blog. I’m so honored! My name is Gina and I’m “Will Run for Disney”. I started this blog just about two years ago after I fell hard for runDisney events. I’ve been an avid Disney goer since ’99 and have been an Annual Passholder for 5+ years. My first race was the 2016 Princess Half Marathon and I’ve been hooked on long distance running ever since. Check out some of my Q+A below and be sure to follow me on IG, Twitter, Facebook, and of course!

1. Where should I stay?

First of all, stay on property. Disney is not inexpensive, but your time is also valuable. Complimentary transportation via shuttle buses not only get you to the parks, they’ll bring to you and from the race expo at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, and also to and from the start and finish lines of the races themselves. Closest resort to the start/finish line at Epcot is Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter. They’re in the “moderate resort” category so they are cost effective, and the grounds themselves are beautiful! Otherwise, once you become hooked on Disney you can stay just about anywhere and be comfortable!

2. How early do you have to sign up?

Follow runDisney on social media and be sure to do some research on the runDisney website. If you can, be prepared to register the moment registration opens. Note that Disney operates on ET, Eastern Standard Time. These dates and times are listed on the runDisney website. Annual Passholders and DVC members receive the benefit of early registration. Check the individual membership pages for more information.

3. How strictly do you have to follow the training guide?

For my first half marathon, I was very by the book. Do yourself a favor and have a solid base of training before you commit to a half marathon. Make sure you can run at least 5-6 miles comfortably before signing up for a half. I’m just being honest here. Endurance training is hard work. If it wasn’t, everyone would be running half marathons. It takes discipline, patience, and the willingness to push yourself often to uncomfortable limits. But it is so rewarding! I found Jeff Galloway’s training guide user-friendly and effective for a beginner. Two 30 minute runs during the week and one long run on the weekend, the most essential endurance training day of the week. Don’t be hard on yourself though if you have a week where you just can’t fit it all in and simultaneously don’t give up altogether. Do your best, get that long run in, and you will be okay.

4. Why Disney over the more affordable races?

runDisney is organized and Disney is just well, magical! You won’t find on-course race entertainment, participant medals and t-shirts, and running through theme parks anywhere else! You’ll have to see it to believe it. You will cry tears of joy at some point along the route, but most likely at the finish line.

5. What is your pre-race race regimen?

Race outfit, bib pinned, shoes, and fuel out the night before. I like to either have pasta or tacos the night before a big race. Try Trattoria al Forno (BoardWalk), Via Napoli & Tutto Italia (Epcot), or San Angel Inn (Epcot). Honestly, I don’t go to bed early. Go to bed at your normal time. The reality is, you won’t be sleeping all that well the night before. I set my alarm for 2:30 a.m (you heard that right – these races are EARLY), force down a clif bar and some water, and head to the corrals to get immediately in line for the porta potties. Even if you don’t think you should, do it. By the time you get up to a potty, you’ll be glad you did. Ah, the unpleasant reality of road races!

6. What is your post-race regimen? Recovery?

Grab that medal, water, PowerAde, snack box (you’ll see what I mean), and head on home. Shower, stretch, throw your legs up against a wall for 12 minutes, take a nap, and eat something salty. Then you’re good to go for the afternoon and evening! Be sure to get yourself a treat because you’ve earned it! Beer, wine, & a steak dinner is heavenly.

7. Carbo-loading? When, where, and what?

It really depends on the person, but since I love food, see [#5] above. :) #runDisneytoeatDisney

8. Should I stop at every hydration station?

Training runs teach you how and when you like to take fuel and water/’ade. Don’t do anything differently on race day. If you’re used to running with a water bottle, bring it and fill it up at the stations. If you don’t, don’t. I recommend walking through the hydration stations even if you’re not taking any water. But depending on the heat/humidity factor, even tossing some water on your head and neck will provide instant relief.

9. Which race should I sign up for as a beginner?

Try some local races first to see how you like the distances. I had several 5Ks under my belt and was running up to 6.5 miles before I considered a half. It also depends on your schedule and interest in the event theme. There’s something for everyone! And hopefully the Disneyland races will come back… I knew I wanted to go with Princess Half first. But all the race weekends I have participated in are all equally special in their own way. And there’s nothing like the WDW Marathon.

10. Should I stop and meet the characters?

If you want to have a more leisurely race experience, and are not bound to meet characters in the parks, I say GO FOR IT! I personally don’t have the patience to wait in line, but I love doing a “drive by” and seeing others get excited. Disney does pull out some really exciting and sometimes rare characters for the occasion!

11. Should I skip the parks the day prior to the race?

If you’re doing Dopey, I’d say go hang by the resort pool. Otherwise, GO TO THE PARKS! runDisney does not provide free admission. Bummer. So you will have to purchase tickets. Park Hopper recommended. Try to go easy on the walking if you can, but it’s also good to warm up the legs in preparation for the race.

12. What is the best running advice you've ever been given?

“Eat the elephant one bite at a time.” Or, “You’re just running from one water stop to the next.” Thinking about 13.1 miles or even 26.2 miles can be daunting. You have to break it up mentally. Relax, enjoy the scenery, and let the miles melt away.

13. What race gear is a must for every race?

I’ve been wearing the same runner fanny pack for every single training run and race I’ve ever done. You can imagine what kind of shape it’s in. I carry with me an ID, credit cards, phone, fuel, and even a phone charger if I have room. Also anti-chafe balm. You’re bound to scream in the shower from a part of skin you may have missed. Ouch.

14. How do you dress for the Florida heat?

Check the weather and prepare for just about everything. Bring a tossable poncho and/or clothing for rain or cold. The WDW Marathon in January was the coldest I have ever been in Disney. I was shivering for the first two miles after standing and waiting around for the race to start. Whereas the Wine & Dine Half Marathon this past November was warm and humid. Try to wait as long as possible to pack.

15. There is no way I can run for 13.1 miles without stopping. Is it okay to walk?

Everyone should stop and walk as much or as little as you like! Just please be mindful of other runners and stay to the right. Put up your hand every time to indicate you are about to slow down or speed up. Runners will pass on the left, just like cars. Let them do so. And don’t walk/run three, four, and five-deep. People don’t want to have to red rover around you.

16. Any breathing pointers?

I’m no expert, so for technical questions, do your research! Runner’s World is a fantastic resource, and if you sign up for the newsletter, they’ll deliver fresh articles to your email every day. Here’s some info on breathing.

17. How do I choose the right shoes?

Go to your local running store and get properly fitted. Support local business. I cannot emphasize this enough. They’ll tell you how often you should change out, and be sure to get the same pair broken in for race day.

18. Do you recommend an activity tracker (FitBit, Apple Watch, etc)?

I have an old Garmin simply to track my mileage, time, and pace. That’s all I really care about. Tracking progress can be helpful, more often it is distracting. Ultimately, running comes from within. You can completely go without if you like! Don’t get too dependent in case GPS fails you on race day. Been there.

19. How do you set personal goals?

I try to be reasonable with my goals. In the beginning it was “run five miles”, then five became six, and so forth. I will likely never “win” a race, nor place in an age group. I suppose there’s still time for that, but for me running is more for personal challenge, testing my limits, and staying active. Ultimately, my goal is to be able to have a long term relationship with running, well into my 60s and beyond if possible.

20. What motivates you when you feel like giving up during a long run?

Honestly you get to a point in long distance running where it feels better to keep going. When you hit that point, or you find that your mind wanders and you wonder how you got through a stretch of your run, you know you’ve successfully moved yourself into the category of an endurance runner. Because non-runners will hear that and think you are crazy. Mission accomplished! I try to make routes for my long runs that force me to run myself back home. That’s always a good motivator! Haha. That and bringing new, exciting fuel, trying a new course, or knowing I have a delicious treat or meal waiting for me as a reward.

A few personal questions:

1. What is one thing you must have for every run?

CANDY! Swedish fish, starbursts, gummi bears, mmm. I don’t like Gus very much. Hate the consistency.

2. What is your favorite song to run to?

I actually don’t run to music very often. When I was training for marathons I would do it for the 15+ mile runs just to keep myself occupied. When I do, I actually really love listening to the Moana soundtrack. It gets me pumped up!

3. How long have you been running?

I played sports in high school and started running for fitness in college. I ran my first 5K in 2012 and have slowly made my way into marathons. I love long distance even though I am slow/middle of the pack!

4. What is your favorite of all the runDisney events?

I sobbed after the WDW Marathon in January. It was my first marathon and I was overcome with emotion. I will always look back fondly on that special day.

5. Who is your favorite Disney character?

I am a Princess girl. Growing up I thought I was one, and had an outfit for virtually every princess. I grew up in the Disney Golden Age of the ‘90s so Ariel and Belle are my favorites.

Thanks again, and until next time, Will Run for Disney!