And that is exactly why it's so important to BELIEVE in the power of hard work, the power of setting goals, and the power of having those all pay off to make a dream become reality.
It's been an incredibly, almost indescribably exciting start to 2011 for me. I headed down to Disney just after I officially signed my contract on 1/1 with the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project (based out of Rochester, MI!). I have been to Disney World every year since I was born basically -- so yes, I've been there over 20 times! We've gone at this time for the past 3 years but I've never taken the step up to the half marathon since I've normally been preparing for 3K's and 5K's on an indoor track and my Coach would've probably killed me for running that long of a distance. Well, this year was obviously different and what made it even more exciting was that Hansons have sent team members down there for the past 3-4 years, so I'd have the opportunity to run the race I've been eagerly anticipating running--as my first professional race in a Hansons-Brooks uniform!
I didn't fully realize just how much extra walking you do through the parks at Disney. My Mom wore a pedometer and it generally added up to be about 5 miles a day, sometimes more! By about Wednesday I got very nervous as my legs started to feel like bricks. I decided--with help from Mario Fraioli (competitor.com running expert!), who was kind enough to help me prepare for the 1/2 by giving me workouts from about December 10th to the day of the race-- to cut my runs a little short on both Thursday and Friday and to go extra slow. Luckily, by keeping in mind this "if a little is good, a lot is NOT better" mentality, it paid off come early Saturday morning. My legs were back under me for the most part.
Getting to the starting line was an adventure in and of itself. Luckily, we had a sort of "shortcut" to get to the front which enabled us to get in plenty of strides before the race began. A record 27,000 people laced up their shoes for the race. AND there was a simultaneous half marathon run in Baghdad-- the husband and dad of two of the runners at Disney signed up for the half but ended up being deployed to Iraq, so Disney decided to have cameras ready so he and many other soldiers could run the half at the same time as us halfway across the world! So, with a little extra inspiration, and a special countdown to the race by the one and only Mickey Mouse, we were on our way in the darkness that is 5:40 a.m. Race time temps were around 50 degrees - cold for Floridians, perfect for us Midwesterners!
I started out running about 5:50's for the first few miles, and then I kind of just ran by feel, I'll be honest! There were about 2-3 women ahead of me for the first half of the race, and then, at around mile 6.5, which just happens to be when you run through Cinderella's Castle, is right about the point where I took the lead for good. I felt very smooth the entire race-- only hitch came as my racing flat came untied with about 4 miles to go... but I never stopped to tie it and ended up no worse for the wear, finishing in 1:17:05! I accomplished my goal of sub-1:18 and won my debut as a professional! Best yet, I had an absolute blast. Who would've thought a race in complete darkness could be quite so much fun?!
It's so great to have a half under my belt-- there is definitely much to be learned from my experience! I know I still have SO much work to do-- but don't worry, I did indeed take time to soak in the thrill of victory! :) I got a hug from both Mickey and Donald Duck at the awards ceremony, and then I had an entire day at the parks after the race with my family! Doesn't get much better than that!
The win at the Happiest Place on Earth reminded me just how blessed I am, and how much faith has guided me throughout this amazing journey I'm on! I logged a couple of 90+ mile weeks in the past month and have worked harder than ever before. Lucky enough for me, I can now say that hard work has rewarded me as I am truly living a dream. Next week, as I make the move to Michigan, I will be given the opportunity to wake up every day and run... for a living. I am one lucky gal.
Thanks once again to my INCREDIBLE support system--my parents, brothers, grandmas, aunts, uncles, cousins, my boyfriend Steve, my former teammates at SNC, my Twitter friends, and now the Hansons and my Hanson-Brooks teammates-- who continue to post well wishes and notes of congratulations all over the place :) I am filled with more excitement than nervousness as I look towards the future, and a lot of that is thanks to all of you. I know I'll be able to get through whatever comes my way as I make this transition because of you and your support!
I can't wait to start training with such a talented group of women... can't wait to continue to work hard and set big goals... because "NOTHING is impossible to a willing mind."
You've got to Believe in the Power of Dreams.
After all, fittingly coming from Walt Disney himself, "All your dreams can come true if you have the courage to pursue them." :)
I hope you'll continue to join me as I take this step in to the professional running ranks. I'll continue to tweet furiously as @knightrunner22 and will try to update this blog as often as my schedule allows! Speaking of schedule, I'll be setting my racing schedule for 2011 very soon so I'll keep you all updated on that as well.
Couple of fun links on my Disney debut on Saturday...
- Orlando Sentinel Coverage (including a SWEET pic they captured with Minnie cheerin me on in the background!)
- Jezebel Blog feature:
- "Off the Couch" Blog Entry from Tom Held of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: http://www.jsonline.com/blogs/lifestyle/113231814.html
Thanks again for ALL your support!
Till next time... Remember, It All Started With a Mouse! :)
Sending you smiles and a week, month, even year of good health & great running...courtesy of warm, sunny Disney World!
-Jenny (forever KnightRunner!)