a non-runner’s advice :: how I started running

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I get a lot of DMs on Instagram when I share about the Disney races I’m running asking questions like this:

I want to run a Disney race, but I’m not a runner.  Where do I even begin with training?

I totally feel you on this.  The truth is, I actually hated running until I turned 30.  I remember being the only kid in my 8th grade gym class not to finish the mile in under 12 minutes, which was the requirement to pass the class.  In my adult life, I worked out at a crossfit gym where I could pretty much guess the days we would be running in the workout and chose to skip those days.

Not until Chris couldn’t run anymore and expressed how much he missed it and wished I would try it did I even care to try it again. And if I’m honest, if it hadn’t been for the RunDisney races, I probably never would have had the motivation to stick with it.

I did my first RunDisney race in February of 2018 and have since run 7 more races in the Most Magical Place on Earth. I started out with the Princess 5k and Half Marathon and ended up loving it so much that I signed up for the 2018 Wine & Dine 5k, 10k, and Half Marathon.  I’m truly not a “runner” but it’s safe to say, I’m addicted to running Disney.

Here’s the secret:  The training is NOT MAGICAL. When I started, I couldn’t even run for a solid 30 seconds without my lungs exploding in pain.

Before I share HOW I started training, I’ll say this: Make sure your heart and body are healthy enough to run (in other words, follow your doctor’s advice on that, not mine!)  I am NOT a professional running coach.  These are my own opinions and what has worked for me.

Before you start, go get fitted for a pair of running shoes!  I had no idea how much impact the correct shoes has on form and risk of injury.  After struggling with a knee injury before my first race, I promise this is important!  I love the Brooks Ghost 10, but you want to be professionally fitted to see what is best for your foot and your gait.

I started training with the Couch to 5k app, which instructs you to train 3 days per week for 30 minutes with set run intervals and set walk intervals.  This really helped me to work towards getting my lung capacity up.  It was hard.  A lot of days I couldn’t run as long as the app told me to, so I would repeat that day again the next time I ran, and sometimes a 3rd or 4th time until I could complete the entire training day as instructed.  I was inconsistent, but I got slowly better.  I used that app for around the first 6 months of my running journey.

I knew just signing up for a 5k wasn’t actually going to be enough to get me to train, so I eventually signed up for a bucketlist race, the Disney Princess Half Marathon, and knew I would have to be serious about training if I would finish it in the allotted time.  Remember, I couldn’t even run for 30 seconds, much less 13 miles.

I carried on with the Couch to 5k App until I could run for a mile solid without stopping.  This took me SIX MONTHS.  Once I could run for a mile without walking, I switched over to RunDisney’s official training program, the Jeff Galloway Method.

Jeff’s method includes running 3 days per week: 30 minutes on Tuesdays and Thursdays + running a set mileage on Saturdays.  It starts out small with just 2 miles on the first Saturday and works all the way up to running the Half Marathon at the end of the 18 week program.

In the early weeks of the Galloway method, I couldn’t run the entire 30 minute training run on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so that was the goal I worked toward.  The program is set up to allow you to run-walk-run and find an interval system that works best for you. It’s really important that you don’t push yourself so hard that you get hurt trying to do too much too fast. He also has a handy little thing called the “Magic Mile” sprinkled throughout the training that helps you to calculate what your estimated race finish time.

The Galloway Method

Click here to download the Half Marathon training plan!

My strategy was this: run as long as I can without stopping, then alternate running for 2 minutes, walking for 30 seconds.  As I got better, I increased the time I would run before walking again.  It took months, but eventually I could run for a solid 30 minutes without stopping, which was a huge accomplishment when you think that I couldn’t even run for a solid 30 SECONDS in the beginning.

I continued working up and up from there, never really worried about my speed, just pushing to increase my endurance. My comfortable cadence is somewhere between 138-144 steps per minute, which I know because my handy Garmin watch tells me so.

Now, after 3 years of training on and off and after running 3 Half Marathons, my long run training days typically look like: run 2 miles … walk .10 mile … run .5 mile … walk .10 mile.  I am by NO MEANS a fast runner.  I still don’t even consider myself a “runner” 3 years later.  I just show up consistently and put in the work and slowly slowly get a little bit better.

Let me be clear on something… you do NOT have to run the entire time to finish a Half Marathon.  I have never once finished an entire race by running the whole thing.  But guess what?  You still get a medal… you just have to cross that finish line, friend!  I was actually living in a hospital room with Chris while he was undergoing treatment, running on the college campus across the street for the last 4 months of my training before my very first Half Marathon.  He was discharged from the hospital less than a week before my first race.  If I can do it in between appointments, while sleeping on an air mattress in the corner of a hospital room and eating crappy hospital food and carry out every day, you can do it too. I promise.

Disney Princess Half Marathon Medals

The really cool thing about RunDisney races is while the 10k and Half Marathon are timed, and you do have to be able to keep a 16 minute pace, there are lots of fun character stops and entertainment throughout the race.  And the majority of runners are in costume, which makes it feel like less pressure, in my opinion.  I was worried before my first race that people would notice how un-runner-y I am ( that’s a word! ) but I can confidently assure you that no one is looking around and judging who is or is not a “real runner.”

I have had the best time running Disney races and highly encourage you to sign up for one!  I’ll be doing the 2019 Wine & Dine Challenge and the 2020 Princess Challenge!!

I hope that is helpful and encourages some of you who are intimidated by signing up for a race to just START RUNNING!!

If you have questions, feel free to leave them in the comments, and if you want to join the email list to get regular running encouragement in your inbox, shoot me a DM on Instagram: @xoashleyvictoria and I’ll get you added!!


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