Just One Mile.

When I took my injury-prompted break from running in January, I was at peace with the decision. I volunteered at a couple of races, watched all my online running buddies do the Walt Disney World Marathon and the Princess Half with minimal jealousy and bitterness, and tried a handful of different, low-impact exercises while I normally would have been planning a race calendar and starting a long distance training plan.

Then the itch started.

I trace the origin back to my stress level. We had a lot going on earlier this summer, like job changes and moving. Running had been my go-to stress relief and I couldn’t do it. I toyed with walking my favorite race, The Peachtree Road Race, which is a 10k–but ultimately decided to transfer my number to another runner because I was still having discomfort and I wasn’t remotely prepared. I watched social media with longing. I wanted to be out there! Then the Princess Half registration happened and I couldn’t take it anymore. I put on my Nikes and out the door I went.

My first attempt was supposed to be a slow power walk around my new neighborhood–and then I got chased by a dog and it turned into a run. I changed my route and told myself that I’d do one mile a few times a week. I take it slow, pay attention to my injury…and I won’t let myself go over a mile. In August, I’ll get to two. Then three.

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I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to racing long distances on a regular basis. I really love 5Ks and the occasional 10Ks and I think there might be a half or maybe even a full in my future in a few years. But I’d really like to be healthy enough to run my favorite races and hit the pavement when my stress level starts to creep up.

Until then, just one mile.

Have you ever had to take a long break due to injury? What did you do to keep yourself from losing it?

Today I’m linking up with Tuesdays on the Run with My No Guilt Life, MCM Mama¬†Runs and Run the Great Wide Somewhere. Go check them out!

Planning a Run-cation at Disney World

In honor of Princess Half Marathon Registration Day, I thought I’d share an article about planning a “run-cation” at Disney that I wrote for AllEars.Net, one of my favorite Disney planning sites. I’m not registering for the 2016 race, but I can’t wait to hear the stories from those running.¬†

As a runner and a fan of the Mouse, there is no greater thrill than a runDisney event. I ran my first half marathon — The Princess Half — at Disney and have several more runDisney runs on my wish list.

And while it is truly magical to run right down the middle of Main Street, USA, it can be a little daunting to plan a destination run to the Most Magical Place on Earth. Here are my tips for planning a “run-cation”:

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BEFORE:

Plan ahead: runDisney races are incredibly popular. Some sell out in hours. Many on-property hotels also fill up quickly for race weekend, so think ahead about where you want to stay.

Consider the extras: Disney offers a lot more than just the race during an event weekend. Social mixers, pasta dinners, and before and after race retreats are just some of the things available to runners and their families. I highly recommend the race retreat for longer races — it’s a huge, climate-controlled space with a private bag check and restrooms, places to stretch, food, and character photo ops. It is available for runners before the race and for families after the event starts. I loved knowing my husband and toddler had a place to hang out while they waited for me to finish.

Think about food: Food is always a biggie at Disney, but especially so when you’re racing. Most hotels have the basics available for purchase before the race (coffee, bagels) but if you’re like me and used to eating certain things before a race, bring them with you. When it comes to a pre-race dinner, make reservations somewhere you’re familiar with. The night before a 13 or 26 mile race (or even a 3 or 6 miler!) is not the time to be adventurous and try something new.

Reservations are also a must for a celebratory dinner after the run. You’ll be hungry and happy after the race, and you don’t want to waste that energy searching for an open table. Pick your favorite place and order dessert. You’ve earned it!

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Find a training plan: Be prepared for the actual run. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement that surrounds the race, but remember to train appropriately so you can enjoy your post-race vacation injury free.

Don’t be afraid to run it alone: I ran my first Princess Half Marathon on my own, but I was never lonely. From the time I got on the bus to when I was sipping my post race celebratory glass of champagne, I made friends everywhere. It was so much fun to talk to new people and hear their stories. One of the thing I’ve always loved about participating in races is the energy that surrounds the starting line — and runDisney energy is the best. If you’re on your own, don’t be shy!

DURING:

Be prepared to get up early: Since the big runDisney races bring you through the park, they start early. After all, everything has to be clean and ready for the parks to open on time. For the long races, buses often start running as early as 2 or 3 a.m. Plan accordingly and be ready to be up before the sun! Keep in mind that these buses operate separately from the usual Disney buses. I was very impressed with the runDisney transportation — there were plenty of charter buses, I never felt crowded, and the wait was short. A bus driver even helped store my stroller when I was headed back to the hotel with my family after the race.

Take time at the Expo: Every runner has to go through the Expo to pick up bibs and T-shirts. But plan to spend a little extra time there — it’s full of vendors and samples from all sorts of athletic companies. It’s also where you’ll find official race merchandise, which is usually only available at the Expo. There can be some long lines, but I think it is totally worth it.

Embrace the costume: Many people run in costume. Don’t be afraid to get in on the fun! You can make your own costume, and there are many places that carry “costume” pieces without compromising comfort or athletic wear. Make sure you get a few good runs in while wearing your costume to make sure you’re comfortable running in it.

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Run with a camera/camera phone: One of runDisney’s trademarks is the on-course entertainment and character photo ops — moments you can’t capture on a regular day at a park. All the villains together, all the princes together, a shot of yourself running under the “Magic Kingdom” sign or through Cinderella Castle — it is definitely worth carrying a camera or having your phone available. The characters often have photographers with them, but not always. Also, keep in mind runDisney uses a third party photography company for races, not Photopass.

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Run for fun, not to PR: Let’s be honest: runDisney races are crowded. I’ve never tried to run one for a personal best, but I’ve heard from some fellow runners who have been frustrated about the crowd levels. Disney does a great job keeping the wheels moving smoothly, but remember to be patient. Everyone is there to have fun.

AFTER:

Plan to vacation after the race: I’ve always found it best to come a day or two before the race and then plan to vacation afterwards. It’s hard to stay on track with last minute training and healthy eating pre-race when you’re tempted by a Kitchen Sink at Beaches & Cream, but after the run you’ll be more free to eat that second piece of pie or stay out late at Downtown Disney.

Know your own body: Never run a long race before? Slow to recover? Give yourself a day off before hitting the parks. Take advantage of one of the renovated Disney spas, book a carriage ride around Port Orleans, or take in a movie at Downtown Disney.

Wear that medal and t-shirt: Be proud! Race medals make for great photo memories. Get creative: I ran into a group of ladies who were having characters sign their race bib, and another who was taking pictures of the character statues in the hub wearing her medal. When I earned my first medal, I wore it everywhere: the parks, restaurants, character photos. It was fun to discuss the race with characters. When I showed Cinderella my medal and told her I’d run 13 miles, she looked positively aghast and asked me why my prince didn’t buy me a carriage. Rapunzel and I discussed hiding my medal from the tricky Flynn Rider, who has an eye for shiny objects. And Stitch, being himself, tried to eat it.

Yes, it is truly magical to run right down the middle of Main Street, USA — and with some planning you can enjoy it not just as a runner, but as a Disney fan, too!

Finding Your Strong

It’s a funny thing, running.

It’s funny because even though most of the time you’re running for sport, you’re not going anywhere in particular–but you’re still getting somewhere. You’re getting to that next finish line, the next PR, the next mile marker. It’s amazing how much accomplishment one can feel from basically paying money to be squished elbow-to-elbow with crowds of people all doing something you could be doing for free.

I was still a new-ish runner when I got sidelined by an injury in December of last year. My doctor told me to stop running entirely and my foot would feel better. So I did…and nothing changed. As I waited for the injury to heal, I stalled.

I suppose I shouldn’t say I was a new runner–it would be more precise to say I was new to all exercise. So when I stopped running, I stopped…everything. I knew something had to change, and over the past six months I started to make goals or start exercise plans. Nothing stuck.

A few days ago I saw this on Instagram, and it resonated with me.

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You can’t find your strong if you’re not looking. I realized I stopped looking a long time ago, hiding behind the excuse of an injury. It’s time to start looking again. It’s time to try a mile or so on my foot. It’s time for a second opinion. It’s time for trying out a new class, a kettle bell, or a yoga mat. If I’m honest with myself, what running really did for me was give me confidence and help me feel comfortable in my own skin. And that’s the strong I want to find.

What strong are you looking for?