Be Prepared

     Hey gang! And Happy Halloween! Today's post won't be too scary...beyond thinking about running a half marathon...that's pretty frightening.

     Over the past 19 weeks, I've been training for the runDisney Wine and Dine half marathon, (November 3rd 2019) and I figured this would be a good time to chat about how I prepare for a runDisney event. I thought the title of this post was a clever tie-in from the Lion King, but now that I'm thinking it over, Scar dies at the end. That's not super reassuring. I think I'll keep it anyway. I mean, if you don't prepare well for a half marathon, you may end up falling into a pit of fire and/or attacked by hyenas. That's just a fact.

     Before we get started, it's important to know that I am in no way suggesting that everyone or anyone should follow what I do. If you find something useful in my routine, GREAT! This is all about what has worked for me in the past. As per usual...this is alllllll about me. I have no idea what limitations or restrictions you may have in your life or what your experience with running might be. To be clear, it is very possible that most people reading this are way more experienced, and are only here to laugh at my terrible advice. Well the joke is on you, because if I get 50 readers, I'm treating myself to ice-cream. Deal with it.

     Lets start with some runDisney basics that informed how I train for the run. If you are running in a runDisney half marathon you must finish the run in 3 hours and 30 mins or less. (this time is of course different for the 10k and the 5k...but this will focus mainly on the half marathon) This means, you'll need to be able to maintain at least a 16 min per mile pace. There are pace markers throughout the run that feed into a system which averages out your pace up until that point. If you are consistently under the 16 min per mile pace, you will be in danger of being asked to pull yourself from the run. This is for your safety, but lets be honest, Disney needs to be able to open the parks on time, so they have a limited window in which to make sure all runners have crossed the finish line. I have never seen anyone pulled from the run, but it does happen. There is also a group of volunteers who are the last to start the run. Their job is to maintain a 16 min per mile pace. They can easily be spotted, as they each carry a balloon (in fact they are called The Balloon Ladies). Don't worry, they aren't as terrifying as Pennywise. Their job is to motivate you to keep moving. However, if you fall behind them, you will be asked to remove yourself from the run. There is no shame in this happening. It is what it is. But with enough training, I know you can make it across that finish line, ahead of the Pennywise brigade.

     So how do I train? Thank you so much for asking. My preferred training is through Jeff Galloway's plan. Whereas I am in no way, by any means a running professional...Jeff Galloway is in every way a running professional. In fact, he is the official runDisney training consultant. He competed in the 1972 Olympic Games in the 10,000-meter event and he broke the U.S 10-mile record in 1973. He's currently a competitive runner on the masters circuit, he owns 2 running stores and has written multiple books on running. If you want professional, thoughtful advice on running, go to Jeff Galloway. If you want want professional, thoughtful advice on Mickey Pretzels, come to me.

     Galloway endorses a Run Walk Run method. In a nutshell, his plan is to help you cross the finish line with minimal aches and pains. Using his plan, you won't run the entire time. You will push yourself, but not over the edge. Depending on your goals, you could in fact run half the time and walk half the time and still finish way under the time limit.

     Disney and Jeff Galloway have come up with easy to follow and incredibly useful training guides for new runners and experienced runners. Here is the link: Training Guides. I've altered this a bit, for myself. In fact I continue to make alterations to fit my goals, my schedule restraints or even how I'm feeling on that particular day. In general I try to follow the timeline of how many miles to run on a particular weekend.  And on Tuesdays and Thursdays I do a 30 min session. On my long runs, I usually use one of two methods; I start walking for a few mins and then run to mile 1, and then walk for 2 to 5 mins, and run to the next mile OR I will follow my play-list and walk for the first song, and run for the next song, walk for the next, and so on. It seems counter-intuitive to walk during a run...after all it's called a "run." But, as someone who has no interest in speed...whose only goal is to comfortably finish the run...I constantly see improvements in my time and my endurance. I have run an entire half marathon without walking or stopping and my time was about average for me, however, it did NOT FEEL GOOD. It felt good to know that I COULD do it...but it didn't make me feel like I SHOULD do it. Kind of like Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park. Anyone?

     So that's how I run...and walk...and then run again. Now some quick thoughts on where I train, and what I bring. I prefer to train outside. There is a lake near where I live, that is exactly a 5k once around. I like to think it was created just for me. Seems right. Though that's my preference, I live in Minnesota. It's Winter here, roughly 11 months out of the year. I'm exaggerating for dramatic effect...but only slightly. Sadly the only runDisney event I can fully train outdoors for is the Wine and Dine. The rest of the runs have training schedules that are either fully or mostly in the Winter. I COULD brave it and run outdoors. But I don't want to, and you're not my supervisor, so you can't make me. My other two options are to run on an indoor track at the gym, or on a treadmill. Personally I prefer the treadmill. The indoor track isn't very big, so I'm constantly turning a corner, which makes my knees sad (I don't have great knees. They are attractive knees to be sure...just not great.) The treadmill can get tedious, especially when you have anything beyond 7 miles to run. But here's a little secret that people don't often talk about. Running isn't always fun. In fact, sometimes it sucks. That's why ear-buds were created. To help ease the monotony of running, especially on a treadmill, I curated some play-lists, sometimes I listen to podcasts, and occasionally I'll watch a movie on my phone...but that can make me dizzy, so I don't often do it.

     Now on to what I bring with me. When I can train outside, I bring a smallish water bottle that has a carrying case with a hand-strap and a pocket that I put my car-key, ID and cellphone in. I use an Amphipod handheld bottle, and I love it. I also, have my blue-tooth ear buds. I prefer to have the ones that are connected, as opposed to the fully wireless ones. I've seen so many people lose their wireless ones while on a run...and I'm not made of money. I am however partially made of popcorn. Fun fact. Try out different styles and find what feels comfortable for you. Almost every company and brand will tell you that theirs is the most popular, or the best. But all that matters is what works best for you. Beyond that, I don't bring anything else with me, other than my shoes and clothes. I don't run nude...anymore. At least not often. I keep it basic when it comes to what I wear on a run. For shoes, I currently wear Nike Air Zoom Pegasus. These work great for me. I'm lucky in that my feet feel fine in most running shoes. But I ALWAYS make sure a shoe is a good fit before taking them on a long run. Beyond anything else, make sure your shoes are right for you. There are many running specialty stores where you can have someone assess your running style, and recommend a shoe that works well for you. Take advantage of them. Ask questions. Get involved. Your shoes can either be a major factor in a successful run, or they can cause serious damage to your body. Do not take your shoe decision lightly. Try on different styles and make sure you have the right fit.
     Beyond shoes, I wear running shorts that hit above the knee (any brand that feels comfy...most often C9), and a basic athletic t-shirt (any brand that feels comfy...again most often C9). Lots of people love and swear by compression shirts and or shorts / leggings. I don't typically wear them, but I suggest trying different styles until you find what works best for you. One thing I do wear that has helped me out tremendously are the Injinji toe socks. They look weird and feel weird at first, but they are a life saver. Or at least a toe saver. I tend to get blisters on my toes after long runs. How turned on are you right now? A combination of putting Body Glide anti-chafe balm on my toes, and wearing these toe socks prevents me from getting blisters. It's a sexy magic. Or science. A sexy science. Last but not least, when I'm on the road, either for training or for the actual run, beyond my music or podcast, I have the Nike Run Club app on in the background. I love this app. There are many different settings, but I prefer to just click quick-start and go. This will tell you each time you hit a mile, and it will let you know on each mile what your time and your current average pace is. This has been incredibly helpful for me to know whether I need to speed up a little, or if I can relax a bit. Hot tip from me: turn the auto pause function off. When it is on, if you stop running for any reason, it will pause your time...which runDisney does not do. You'll want to stay as accurate as you can for the day of the actual run, so factoring in your lost time while stopped is key.

     On the day of the official run, I make one minor change. I don't bring my water bottle. What's great about runDisney, is that roughly every 1.5 miles there is a water station with small cups of water and/or some type of energy drink. So no real need to bring water with me. Instead, I just hold my cellphone, or put it in my running belt along with my ID.  The belt can hold a surprising amount of items. I've had my ID, credit card, car key, cash, cellphone and a pack of energy gummies in the belt before. I use FlipBelt. It's super comfortable and I don't notice it when I run. (It also kind of acts as Spanx...which I won't complain about.) I also usually wear a thin headband either on my head, or I wrap it around my hand to wipe sweat away. It's generally from the last run I participated in. This is mostly a good-luck charm.

Here are some of the items I use on a run...but not the pumpkins. I don't run with pumpkins.

     A big part of my training, is something many people overlook. Post-run recovery. There are MANY theories out there on what steps should be taken for proper recovery. I've tried many of them and use a few of them consistently in my training. Immediately after a long run, I don't stop moving. I try to walk for at least a few minutes. This dramatically decreases my chances of getting a cramp. And I can't afford to cramp up if I'm trying to go on Splash Mountain later! After that, the most important part of recovery (in my opinion) is hydration. After 13.1 miles, your body has used up and sweat out a lot of water. I try to drink at least 8oz of water right after a run, and then continue to have a small glass of water around every hour for the rest of the day. (NOTE: It is possible to over-hydrate, which can be dangerous. It's pretty hard to do...but just be cautious of that.) I also like to have a small snack, within 30 mins of completing a long run. Peanut butter is my go-to. It's got a good amount of protein, and it has salt, which has also been depleted from the run. I try to have something that has a fair amount of carbs and protein. A protein bar is also a safe bet. Once I'm home, I immediately start stretching. I prefer static stretching, which just means holding a stretch for an extended period of time. I do this for about 10 mins or so, and then...on to my love/hate relationship with an ice bath. I love an ice bath because it does wonders for my post recovery. It prevents me from walking like baby Bambi on ice for the rest of the day. I hate it, because in the moment, it does not feel good. (Note: an ice bath doesn't need to literally be a bathtub filled with ice. cold water will work just fine). I try to soak my legs for at least 15 mins or as long as I can stand it. And of course, plenty of rest. The general rule of thumb is to give yourself one day of recovery for every mile you ran, before your next long run. It's not a hard and fast rule, but I tend to follow it. There are very experienced runners who are just fine running 10+ miles every day. I'm not that runner. I possibly could do it...but do I want to? I do not.  

     This all seems like a lot. Looking back, it's at least a lot of words. If you're still with me, you have a lot of time on your hands. No judgment. So here I am, a few days before the half marathon. Did I completely follow everything I laid out above, including hitting the weekly mileage goals? Nope. Sure didn't. I was unexpectedly sick quite a bit over the past few months. (is anyone ever expectedly sick?) I had some vacations that I tried to run during...but didn't always. And there were days when I simply wasn't into it. It happens. It's not the end of the world. It doesn't make me a failure and it doesn't mean that I'm not ready for November 3rd. I feel as prepared as I can be, given my circumstances during this training period.

     Here's something to consider. When it comes to running, it is my experience that I can never be ready for everything. It could rain that day, which will either stop the run altogether, or will at least slow me down. I could wake up feeling sick. I could twist my ankle, trip and fall, or pull a muscle. In fact, if I'm honest, my knee has been giving me trouble this week, which means, I need to cool it on my Tuesday and Thursday training sessions. I'm not happy about it, but I'm going to deal with that as it comes. Which is something that I've learned through running. I can plan and train as much as the next person. I can be as prepared as I possibly can. But circumstances change. The course gets altered. And I have two choices; I can let it take me out, or I can adjust and figure things out as they come. This has helped me at work, on the road and when ordering food at Taco Bell.

     If I had to recap everything you just read, you'd probably be like, "Why did I read all of that if you were just going to summarize it at the end? That's rude Patrick. It's rude." That's fair. But I can't be held responsible for...anything really. Here's what I'll leave you with. There are thousands of opinions out there about how to train, how you're supposed to run, what shoes to wear, what products to purchase, etc. It can be daunting. But it doesn't need to be. Try things out. Use different combinations. Keep doing what works for you, and disregard what doesn't. As long as you are feeling good, and avoiding injury, then you are on the right track. And if you're not on the right track, it's possible you're running in the woods...and that's generally not where the finish line is.

     Thanks for reading.  Take care of yourself. Take care of each other. I love you and I believe in you.


(Be sure to check out the podcast Gays Do the D for all things Disney. New episodes every Monday!)

My last training run before the Wine and Dine half marathon



  1. 1. Can confirm that you have attractive knees!
    2. Could you share your favorite running playlists in a future post? Eeeee!


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