I stood in the Epcot parking lot before sunrise, trying to relax while my back and leg muscles began to stiffen. Fellow early risers gathered in groups around me, their conversations melding into one large buzz. The nerves were getting more pronounced now, as I waited to do something I’d never even thought to do before: run my first 10K race.
My Disney Parks Moms Panel friends and I signed up for the runDisney Wine & Dine 10K months prior to this moment, and despite my best efforts to bail, they were all there with me waiting for the fireworks that signaled the start of the race.
Who Me? Run a 10k?
Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: I am not a runner. Nope. No way. I’ve always joked that if I needed to go 10 kilometers (6.2 miles, for those of you playing along at home), I’d go looking for my car keys. But a funny thing happened that early November morning standing on the blacktop of the Epcot parking lot. I started that race, and about an hour and a half later, I crossed the finish line. It was hard and sweaty and painful and wonderful. Halfway through, I hated myself. By the end I felt like an Olympian.
As a committed non-runner, I learned a few things about participating in my first 10K that I can share with others like me, who could never imagine themselves doing such a thing.
What I Learned Running My First 10K
1. You don’t have to run the whole thing. Yes, technically it’s a 10K “run.” But you know what? There’s no law that says you have to run the entire 6.2 miles. In fact, other than the elite runners who are actually trying to win the thing, most people will walk at some point. You may hear watches beeping all along the course as hundreds of runners do timed run/walk intervals. I jogged some, I walked a lot, and I still finished within the allowed time.
2. An experienced running buddy can see you through. When the race began, my group of friends took off at a pace that was too fast for me. Thankfully, my friend Kate stuck with me. Kate has competed in tons of races, so she helped me know exactly what to expect at every turn. She kept track of our pace, cheered me on, kept me going, had me take breaks when I needed them, reminded me to hydrate, and guided me to the finish. I’m not sure I’d have done it without her.
3. You should train, but don’t panic if you didn’t. The 10K was in November. We signed up for it in March. The spring went by, then summer. Before I knew it, fall arrived and I had yet to do any real training. To be fair, I had been working out and walking some, and I’m generally in good health. I just wasn’t fully prepared to run 6.2 miles. I decided I was going to start the race and get as far as I physically could. If I fell behind and got “swept” from my first 10K, I’d learn some valuable lessons for next time.
4. Get some rest. Many races, especially runDisney races, are events in themselves, with expos and parties and lots of other things to do. The night before the 10K, my family went to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and I went to bed. When my phone alarm went off at 2:30 a.m., I knew I’d made the right decision.
5. Eat something before the race. Take water during it. On a normal day, my “breakfast” is a meal replacement shake. I knew that wouldn’t cut it on race day, so I brought a banana and a granola bar to eat before the start. Enough to keep me from hitting a wall, not so much that my stomach felt weighed down. I also stopped at every water station on the course to take a few sips.
6. You can find inspiration in your fellow competitors. As we neared the end of the course, my friends and I came upon a beautiful older lady in a Snow White dress, walking arm-in-arm with her two granddaughters. We paused for a moment to cheer her on and learned that she was 80 years old – and she’d completed almost the entire course! She was so amazing, and her accomplishment made me push that much harder to finish.
7. The first mile goes by fast. Maybe it was adrenaline. Maybe it’s because I was chatting with my friend. Maybe I just didn’t know what to expect. Whatever the reason, that first mile marker came as a surprise. One down, only five more to go!
8. The last mile takes forever. And then reality hit. Each mile marker after the first one seemed to take longer and longer and longer to appear. As we finally passed that sixth mile, the finish line was nearly in sight. I knew I was going to do it.
9. You get a medal! Let’s face it – the bling is the thing. I got such pride from wearing that shiny medal around Walt Disney World the rest of the weekend (you better believe I wore it everywhere!).
10. You’re stronger than you think you are. I did it. I entered my first 10K, I showed up on race day, and I crossed the finish line. I never thought I could do it, but I did. It’s a point of pride and accomplishment for me even now. I’m still not a runner. But I know I could be, if I put my mind to it.
So…when’s the next race?