Virtual Runs: Yay or Nay?

My life is beginning to fall into a runner’s pattern again: maintenece runs on Tuesday and Thursdays, long runs on weekends. Training goals highlighted in my calendar. And the best part: races.

I love race day. It’s why I run. I love the energy and the comraderie at the starting line and the swells of emotion at the finish line. And since those things are so important to me, I generally don’t like virtual runs. I enjoy T-shirts and medals as much as the next girl, but the bling isn’t what drives me. 

However, there have been a couple of virtuals that have had me reconsidering my stance. Like the Hogwarts Running Club. They raise money for various charities and have virtual race themes like the Fantastic Beasts 5K and the Platform 9 3/4K. They all have adorable medals. 

I also have a hard time saying no to the virtual  runDisney Running Shorts event. I didn’t do it last year, but I just saw the announcement that it was returning for 2017. 

I think I’ll consider registering for one if we vacation at Disney this spring or summer. It might be fun to cover the miles for the virtual while at a resort. 

Another virtual race I always think about is the Celebration Half, which is run in Celebration, Florida. Their virtual goodies are always really nice–especially those raw threads T-shirts–but I’ve never pulled the trigger. 

I’d love to hear about your experiences with virtual runs–love them or hate them? Do you run them for charity? Or to keep yourself motivated between races? 


The Strangest Thing I’ve Ever Done to Reach a Fitness Goal

I’m officially two years out from my marathon goal! It has been really fun to watch all my runner friends on social media arrive at Disney for WDW Marathon weekend and know that, in 24 months, I’ll be one of them!

But I still have a long way to go–and I’m excited to get started working my way up to marathon level. To kick things off, I did something pretty strange.

I quit the gym.


I had been feeling a little burnt out by the classes, and I really had to drag myself there. So–despite the new year and the influx of new resolution members–I handed in my 30 day notice.

Obviously, I am not resigning myself to a slovenly life of Cheetos and Netflix (although at the end of this post-holiday week, that sounds pretty good). I am focusing on 5K training for the next few months, and have a few 5Ks on the calendar. First one up is the Hot Chocolate 5K at the end of January.

I’m really looking forward to getting out of the gym and finding some fun in my fitness this month. I’d love to know–what do you do when you feel burnt out at the gym?

The Marathon Plan

I want to run a marathon.

To be honest, I want to run one marathon. And that’s it. I want to be able to say I did it. I want to know that I can train my body for that type of endurance. I also really, really feel like I need a long-term tangible goal to work towards. My husband thinks I’ve completely lost my mind–but I know that my running buddies out in the virtual world will completely understand.


My marathon plan is a very long-term plan. Right now, I would like to do a marathon as a 35th birthday present to myself. That gives me about 2 years to become 26.2 ready, depending on the marathon I choose. Right now, I’m leaning pretty heavily to the Walt Disney World Marathon in January of 2019. Being a runDisney regular takes a little fear out of the process–I will know what to expect pre-race, and lets be honest: running nearly 30 miles through Disney Parks will fun and entertaining.

Here is the lose timeline I have set up for myself.


Fall 2016-Spring 2017: Focus on the consistency of my workouts and my short term goals (hitting my weight/body fat goal, and focusing on 5Ks).

Summer & Fall 2017: Focus on working up to 10K distance and become comfortable with it.

Winter 2017-Early 2018: Train for and run 13.1

2018: Focus on maintaining and begin training for the full marathon.

January 2019: Run the WDW 26.2

Writing it all out like that makes it seem like a very, very long time away. But I’m okay with that. When I became a runner, I jumped right into half-marathons–I went from not even owning a pair of running shoes to running 13.1 miles in less than 7 months. I don’t recommend it. This time around, I’d like to hit the distances in order and be strong enough, mentally and physically, for the distance of a full marathon. I also want to have enough time to work towards a PR for my proof of time, instead of frantically finding a suitable race the weekend of the deadline and running it hopelessly untrained so as not to end up the last person starting the half marathon (this is an unfortunate true story).

So I’m putting out a call to all of you who have done this before: am I missing something? Is there something I should know before embarking on my 2-year plan? If you were only going to run ONE half marathon, which one would it be?





Is There Life After Running? Finding a New Healthy Home.

If you’ve been following along on my journey for awhile, you know that I was a COMPLETELY non-athletic child, teenager and adult…until I got a wild hair in 2012 and signed up for a runDisney race. I then became hooked, and it was thrilling to enter a world of health and fitness that I previously didn’t even know existed. I was healthier than I’d ever been before, and it was great.

An injury in late 2014 caused me to stop running. I keep trying to run again…and the injury flares up. It’s so frustrating. My favorite race happens here in Atlanta on July 4th. It’s a 10K, and I didn’t sign up for the lottery back in March, because I knew it wouldn’t be good for me. But now I’m right on top of it, and I’m seeing all these people prepping for it…and I have to talk myself out of signing up at the last minute. Even though I know I’m not prepared in the slightest. Even though I know I could hurt myself.

(What in the heck is wrong with me?!?)

I’m struggling with finding where I fit in with fitness now that I’m a “recovering runner”. I miss the training plans and the excitement of race day. I miss the runners high. I miss the jeans I fit into 3 sizes ago.

I’m trying to find my new healthy home. Is it yoga? TRX? A barre studio? I don’t know. But I do know I’m tired of sitting on my tushie waiting for it to come to me. So I’ve decided that it’s time to try everything, even things I never thought about doing before–because, quite honestly, this time 10 years ago I NEVER, EVER thought I could love running like I do.

This weekend my goal is to list out all the fitness things I want to try, even if they scare me. I know my new favorite thing is out there.

What do you do when you want to switch out your fitness routine? What workout do you love that surprised you? 


Running on a Disney World Vacation

My favorite vacation spot is Disney World, so I thought I’d share my favorite places to run while visiting. Many of the resorts have running paths and most of the deluxe resorts have gyms, but these are the places I’ve enjoyed running the best. I ran them all with my jogging stroller–with mixed results.

First off is the Magic Kingdom area. Bay Lake Towers and The Contemporary have great running paths throughout the resort, labeled with these cute little signs. Fun, right?


The Bay Lake Tower/Contemporary paths are a breeze with the stroller, as they’re entirely paved and quite wide.

I also love running from Bay Lake past the Magic Kingdom–it has the best views. The path leads from the resort, past the Magic Kingdom entrance and underneath the monorail track before it dead ends with a beautiful view of the Grand Floridian.

MKfrompath mkjogpath monorailpath GFfrompath

While the views are great, it’s not the path to take if you’re going for a steady pace. Depending on the time of day, the path can get crowded and it offers little shade, so it’s best to run it early morning or in the evening. It is almost exactly one mile from the door of Bay Lake Towers to the end of the path.

The only part of this path that gave me problems with my stroller was the section with the commemorative bricks–it made for a very bumpy ride for JC. Luckily, he’s a bit of a thrill seeker so he was fine with it.

If nature is your thing, be sure to check out the fitness/jogging paths at The Wilderness Lodge. The sandy soil path that leads to Ft. Wilderness is my favorite, as it makes you feel like you’re out in the middle of nowhere, not smack in the middle of Orlando. All the noise of the resort melts away and you can be one with the trees, the fresh air, and…whatever made this paw print.


Some of the paths also offer great views across the lake to The Contemporary and Bay Lake Tower.


The stroller was a little challenging on this route–it’s doable but it made for slow going. I also have a pretty heavy duty stroller, so that made it easier.

The last route I’m going to talk about at the Boardwalk resort–my favorite path heads down the boardwalk and then past The Beach and Yacht Club. There’s some little hills, which seem bigger when you’re doing it with a stroller, but the scenery is a nice distraction. There’s also some signage that tells you about the routes and the distances. They are placed on a couple of different locations around the path. I also really like to walk this path at night–there are some great spots to take in the fireworks from Epcot.

boardwalk running trail

I know sometimes you don’t want to think about running and exercising on vacation, but I always seem to be preparing for a race while I’m at WDW–and I’ve learned the hard way what a week or two skipping runs can lead to. Plus, if you exercise while you’re on vacation, you get to eat more things like this:


And isn’t that what vacationing is all about, anyway?

Do you exercise on vacation? Where is your favorite place to run at Disney World?

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”:

Brandt main street running


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!


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!


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.


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.


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.


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!