State four. Half marathon five. Florida. DISNEY WORLD. Running for a cause. Girl Power 2 Cure.
I decided to run the Disney Princess Half Marathon in February 2014 a year before I actually ran it when I saw my aunt Vanessa and many others raise funds and run for girls all over the world. My cousin (by marriage, but still my cousin) has Rett Syndrome; this is a disease I'd never heard of until my husband and I had been dating for a few years and one I've found is still very much in the dark.
Rett Syndrome is a neurological disorder that steals many abilities away from these girls, things we take for granted. Things like talking, walking, using our hands, swallowing, breathing. My cousin is now 15 and suffers from many of the issues I listed plus many more. This race was going to be more than just a trip to Disney World. It was for her, as many of my races have since been.
I hit up the expo with Vanessa and got everything I needed for the race. I was also able to volunteer to work at the Girl Power 2 Cure booth spreading awareness, selling items and handing out stickers and tattoos.
Vanessa and I woke up early (if you have ever run Disney races, you know what I mean) to go cheer on our runners competing in the 10k Saturday morning.
We had a team dinner that evening with a few speakers and I was able to meet many more of the families and girls I was running and fighting for. It was a seriously humbling and emotional evening.
Race morning was another early morning, but it was so worth it! My coach and I had decided to use this run as a training run for my upcoming marathon. We opted for steady pace miles, especially with the heat and humidity. Disney races always have character stops, a trip through the park and some of the behind-the-scenes areas and some open road. I was lucky enough to begin in Corral A, so I had smooth sailing from the get-go.
The course is fairly flat with the only "hills" being over passes above crossing highways, but that doesn't make them any less daunting or hill-like! They are still tough! The race was going pretty smoothly until about mile 9, when the heat and humidity were starting to get to me. You have to remember it's February and I'd been running and training in Wisconsin! As the race was drawing to a close, a few girls I had just met passed me and told me to "do it for the girls... when it gets tough, think of them!" I'll never forget Carrie telling me that because it helped me finish strong. Her support, even though we had just met that morning, meant the world to me at mile 11.5 when I was really hurting!
I ended up finishing the race in 1:51:24 (8:30 avg) which is still a great time! I had so much fun running through the park and seeing the characters, even though I didn't stop for any pictures.
After the race was over, I headed back to the Girl Power 2 Cure tent to wait for other racers to come in. I met Allison, an amazing Rett mom and runner, as well as a few other families and runners who were a part of Team GP2C. This race was a huge turning point for me. It's where Vanessa gave me the idea about running a race in every state, where I decided to continue to run for Martilee and GP2C, where I had my first non-PR half marathon and knew it was okay to not always improve, and where I knew I was just beginning what would be quite an adventure.
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