Many of you have asked me how I trained for my first half marathon, so here's my story.
I didn’t take my first few race events seriously. I thought I was at the time but looking back, I was only fooling myself.
I did a few 5Ks and ridiculously thought I was ready for a 10 Miler. I never trained for it. The fact that I crossed that finish line was probably an act of God. After that, I had excuse after excuse why I couldn’t really run anymore before I ultimately just stopped pretending to try altogether. Some of those excuses were more legitimate than others but were ultimately still just excuses.
When I started Weight Watchers in late December 2015 was when I really got my rear in gear and took running seriously. I stopped joking around and stopping giving myself excuses. I didn’t hop right into a half marathon but worked my way up with a few more 5Ks and eventually ran the Star Wars Dark Side 10k in April 2016.
That race was where something clicked and was when I went from “I kind of like running and will do this to lose the weight” to loving running. I think a big part of that was the atmosphere of the race: the spectators and volunteers cheering you on, the 501st Legion trooping on course, everyone in costume and a general feeling of excitement, plus the route along the Boardwalk and through Hollywood Studios is so charming.
In my training, I followed Jeff Galloway’s run/walk/run method. For those of you who don’t know who Jeff Galloway is, he’s an Olympic runner who established an interval running and walking system that helps you run long distance better and easier. It’s great for both beginners but also people looking to improve their time. Jeff is also the official training guide of sorts for runDisney events and he has training plans for all their half marathons. I’ve met Jeff twice - he attends all the expos - and I’ve never been able to find the right words to express my deepest thanks to him because I owe him and his program so much. I don’t think I’d ever have been able to do any of this without his system. So if you find yourself struggling with just running, know that taking walk breaks is a completely acceptable thing. Some hardcore runners - and you will experience this type of pompous runner - will try to say otherwise. Ignore them. I mentioned Jeff is an Olympian, right?
I used the Galloway system for not just that 10k, but in my training for my first half marathon: the 2017 Space Coast Half Marathon, held on Thanksgiving weekend. I gave myself a very, very long time to train despite most training programs and being only 19 weeks, give or take, because I wanted to be prepared. Before I knew it, I was running 8 miles, then 10, and the first time I hit 13.1 was completely by accident on an overambitious rush during what was supposed to be a 9 mile training run. It was hot, I was unprepared, but I did it and I was mentally ready for the real deal.
They say once you run 8 you can run 13.1, but I didn't want to be the girl who fooled herself anymore. I didn't want to use that as an excuse to not finish training on the weekends where I didn't feel like doing a long run. It's not always easy. While yes, I do love run/walking, there are days where you just don't feel like doing it. But that's part of why I love it, because you get such a sense of accomplishment when you do it anyways. Some people will tell you it's more parts physical or mental, but I'd say it's pretty 50/50.
And sometimes, there are long, boring miles logged on a less-than-thrilling stretch of a course or a treadmill, but you have to find ways to make it better. I like music. This is where my love of Star Wars comes in: I like to listen to the soundtracks from the movies when I run. When Rey's theme plays, I'm no longer running on the road but I'm on Jakku, running from stormtroopers. When the Imperial March plays, I'm marching right alongside Grand Moff Tarkin. Don't even get me started on the rush I get when I hear Michael Giacchino's "Hope" from Rogue One; mentally, my running clothes are now a Rebel soldier's uniform, and I am running with the Death Star plans in hand instead of a water bottle from Darth Vader as he attacks my comrades, before I finally escape and hand the plans to Princess Leia. Music is powerful and it can help us on our runs, and it's even better if it's music from a piece of work that you're passionate about.
I've also found that always being signed up for something - whether it be just another 5K or a half marathon down the road - helps me stay motivated because it forces me to keep moving. I remember the physical pain I experienced after Tower of Terror 10 Miler and I don't ever want to put myself through that ever again. I've made running fun for me - and it really is such a personal sport - and it's something I now enjoy. You just have to find what works for you and you'll get there, too!
Jessica is a huge Disney and Star Wars nerd who channeled that love into motivation to lose 75 lbs.