Thursday, February 19, 2015

Throwback Thursday: My Very First RunDisney Race – Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler

In honor of the 2015 RunDisney Princess Half Marathon this weekend, I thought it would be fun to reminisce about my very first race at the happiest place on earth – the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler.

Two years ago, after months of late night runs and early morning cross-training, I arrived at Walt Disney World for race weekend on a humid October day.  I only live an hour away, but it was still a nice staycation with Mike, since we decided to make a weekend of it.  

My first stop was the Health & Fitness Expo at the ESPN Wide World of Sports.  I was almost more excited for the expo than I was for the race, because I couldn’t wait to have all of the vendors and products that I’ve admired from afar right there at my fingertips.  I spent more money than I really needed to, but hey, everyone needs a new pair of compression socks, right???

Afterwards, Mike and I walked EPCOT for a bit (I can never resist a creme brulee from France) and then lounged in the hotel for the rest of the day.  I couldn't wait for the evening so I could put my training into action and see all the awesome costumes that the other runners had created. I knew that one of the coolest parts of participating in a RunDisney race is wearing a costume, but since it was the longest race I’d run at that point, I decided to go simple with mine.  I painted a Maleficent-style pair of Mickey ears onto my shirt, and I made myself a matching hair bow.  Cheesy?  Yes, but totally me!

Once the sun set, I got decked out in my gear, and then we headed over to Hollywood Studios to get ready for race time!  

I walked anxiously over to my corral for the long wait.  It was nice to look at all of the costumes (some were so elaborate!) and chat with my fellow runners – I discovered that I wasn’t the only nervous person there that night.  Once the corrals started moving towards the start, I honestly had a moment of feeling like we were all in some sort of death march (OK, that’s a little extreme and dramatic, but I couldn’t help myself – my nerves always get the best of me!).

Each corral had its own special fireworks display.  That’s one thing that I love about RunDisney – they create more than just a race; it is an event.

When my corral was given the go-ahead, I was in motion!  I didn’t even think about it, I just started running down a corridor of green laser light overhead (one of the cool little touches from RunDisney).  It was exhilarating! 

As much fun as I was having, I was also utterly terrified of being swept.  Trust me, I had read about the “balloon ladies” and bicycle pacers, so I passed by the Old Hag, Jafar, Dr. Facilier, and a handful of other awesome villains.  I didn’t stop for a single character photo.  That is one of my biggest regrets from that race – there were characters on-course that I have never seen elsewhere in the parks - but I just couldn’t risk stopping for long lines, even for the Haunted Mansion Gravediggers (boy, do I regret that!).  I did manage to snap a few photos though…

This gigantic spider:

These card guards:

This haunted baseball field (which was really awesome to run on, by the way):

I felt surprisingly good through the first few miles, but once I hit Mile 7, the real struggle began.  I don’t know if the adrenaline of the surreal experience had finally worn off at that point, but I suddenly became acutely aware of the ache in the muscles of my legs and arms.  My feet felt like bricks that I had to shuffle along beneath me.  I had a flash of a thought – “I don’t think that I can do this.”  Of course, it was too late to turn around and go back, so I took a deep breath and just kept going. 

The miles ticked by.  I was just about ready to give up, ask the sweepers to scoop me up and carry me away.  Then, I saw it – the Hollywood Studios sign.  That’s when I knew that it was all going to be OK.  As soon as I stepped into the backstage area behind Lights, Motors, Action, I felt an immediate surge of excitement and pride – I was finishing this race after all!

With my newfound energy, I perked up and ran through the park, spurred on by the cheers and applause from the hundreds of spectators.  It seemed to take forever around dozens of turns and volunteers shouting “You’re almost there! Just a few more feet!” but when I rounded the last corner and saw the Tower of Terror looming before me, I felt a smile creep onto my lips.  I had seen that Tower many times before at night during one of my previous visits to the Studios, but for some reason, it was the most beautiful sight that evening, all lit up and welcoming me over the finish line.

I received my sweet medal, graciously accepted the box of post-race treats and goodies, and endured the uphill climb to the finisher photo area and then on to find Mike amongst the other spectators.

It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, and it’s been my motivation during all other races and runs that followed.  Whenever I get that inevitable “what-have-I-gotten-myself-into” feeling that I sometimes get mid-run, I remember how I survived this race.  I remind myself that I am actually capable of achieving so much more than I ever thought possible before, and I have proof of it.  I realize that I am strong, even during times when it seems that I am weak. 

I ran the ToT again last year too, and I was disappointed to see that it wasn’t on the list of 2015 RunDisney races.  Oh well – I have the Wine & Dine Half Marathon to look forward to at the end of this year and the full Marathon at the beginning of the next!

**On a side note, I have a little happy moment to share: I found my new favorite side dish for dinner last night - Uncle Ben’s Quinoa & Brown Rice with Garlic.  90 seconds to heat, then ready to eat.  Delicious, AND filling.  Oh, where has that been all my life?!? (yes, I’m easily excited, and yes, I'm a dork) J

Have you ever participated in a RunDisney race?
Are you running in the Princess Half Marathon this weekend?
What is your favorite race that you’ve completed in the past?


  1. Great recap! I really wanted to do ToT. I registered with my sister for 2014, then had to defer...and, of course, they then took it off the race list. Sounds like such a blast!

    1. Thanks, Jennifer! I'm a Disney Villains kind of girl, so the ToT was perfect for me. I'm so bummed that it's not on the list this year. Maybe it will make a comeback next year - let's cross our fingers! :)