Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Princess 10K and The Frog

October 2017
Jonathan Seal joins me on the podcast to relive his experiences running the Inaugural 10K at the Princess Half Marathon Weekend in 2014!  Listen to the broadcast HERE and enjoy his blog below!

I’m not really much of a runner, but my family is.  It’s not that I dislike running, but I’m always trying new exercises and routines and not sure if I have the discipline to build endurance to the level of the rest of my family.  But I want to.

Combine this desire with my childlike love of all things Disney, and running my first 10k during Disney’s Inaugural Enchanted 10k seemed like a perfect fit.  Of course, training in one of the coldest winters South Mississippi has seen in decades didn’t go as planned and before the race my artistic side got more into the fun of creating a costume for the race (I went as a Mardi Gras homage to Prince Naveen).  Needless to say, I wasn’t quite in tip-top performing shape.

Still, runDisney had way more to teach me than just how under prepared I was physically.  In fact, that was the least important thing I took away from the weekend.  Here are the top four things I learned from my first Disney run that I can take with me into my day-to-day life.

1. It’s Never too Early for Fun

Waking up at 3:30 in the morning for a race while on “vacation” may not seem like fun to a lot of people, but this was perhaps the biggest surprise I had in store for me over the weekend.  The energy of everyone waiting in line for the bus at our hotel was intoxicating.  All of us shared a love for Disney, we were all kids at heart and every single one of us was dressed up.  It was almost like Halloween, except everyone was dressed as Disney characters in running gear.

From the moment we got to the Epcot parking lot where the whole thing took place, it was one gigantic party.  It didn’t matter that I was the only one I knew (everyone else I came with that weekend was running the Princess Half-Marathon), but it didn’t take long for people to notice my costume and make conversation on the way to our respective corrals to await the start of the race.

By the time 5:30 rolled around and the Fairy Godmother announced that she was going to be counting down to the start of the race, I was nearly bursting with anticipation.  Early is all a frame of mind and this race couldn’t start soon enough!

2. A Little “Magic” Goes a Long Way

Around the half-mile mark, I was lagging behind big time.  The sun wasn’t up yet, I was sleepy, it was almost too humid to breathe, I was already dripping with sweat and people were passing me left and right.  I was trying to pace myself since I knew that I was in for a long morning, but it never feels good to have that many people speed by you from the start. 
Just when my mind started going to that dark place that says “you can’t do this”, I followed the stampede of runners to an over pass and started hearing something strange.  Up ahead I could see that the overpass was flooded with a pale blue light and saw someone on a stage that had been erected at the top where cars would normally be zooming pass.  I took my earphones out and heard “Let It Go” blaring from the distance.  That’s when I saw what appeared to be rain.

As I got closer, I realized that the person on top of the overpass was Elsa from the movie Frozen, using her magic to shower us runners with actual snow! It might sound like something small and insignificant, but this little act of Disney magic not only brought a smile to my face but gave me an instant burst of energy that helped me get through to the 5k mark before feeling the least bit tired. After all, I knew I had it in me but it was the negative thinking that was keeping me back.  I just needed to “let it go” and look ahead to the finish.

3. Friends Can Make Tough Spots Easier

Greater Orlando isn’t really known for it’s hilly scenery, but that didn’t mean that there weren’t plenty of inclines to be tackled on this run.  Manmade hills are kind of a staple of the landscape at Disney Parks.  It’s how a place as flat and uniform as the pine swamps of Central Florida are transformed into far off fantasies.  In total, I counted six hills, including one long on-ramp.  But it’s quite possible that I missed a few and miscounted.

How could I miss a few “hills” in one of the flattest areas of the country? 
Soon after the 5k mark, the race took us behind Epcot and through the back doors into the World Showcase.  Entering the park before hours was the highlight of the experience, but it was also the toughest part of the race!  People like me who weren’t normally runners were beginning to get exhausted and the landscape suddenly began to change.  There were plenty of characters and other cast members nearby to cheer you on and distract you, but when your legs are screaming at you to stop, it’s hard not to listen.

By this point in the race, though, you’ve found your pace and nearly everyone around you has been with you for the past mile and will be with you till the end.  I was running by myself and one of the things I wasn’t expecting was the instant camaraderie that the runners I kept pace with formed for those twenty minutes or so of our lives.  Whenever the incline got a little tough, we kept each other going simply by reminding each other “It only seems too big.”  In the end, it’s the positive feedback of even the most unexpected friendships that help you get through.

4. You’re Never Too Old to be a Kid

This last lesson is less about what runDisney taught me, and more what my family’s love for Disney has taught me over the years in general. I’ve always enjoyed every fun run and 5k I’ve ran I didn’t expect any less of this 10k.  The difference was the frame of mind and the total abandon to the “inner child” that all the runners had that Disney brings out of everyone.  From teenagers to grandmothers, each athlete was running this race and enjoying themselves.  It’s this joyful “Disney life” that addicts so many adults to these kinds of experiences.  By the end of the weekend, I knew I was going to have to go back to my job and return to my University classes, but for one weekend with 35,000+ strangers and their friends and families, I was just another kid again running through crowds of my favorite movie characters all cheering me on and encouraging me to the finish.  It was a literal childhood dream come true.

If that’s not reason enough to go back and run again, I’m not sure what is.  I will definitely be going back to run a Disney race again, and might even try for a half-marathon this time just to extend the fun.  And from this non-runner who sometimes runs, that’s something I definitely haven’t said before.


Jonathan L. Seal enjoys his life in Baton Rouge as a published author and artist. You can find the first book of his fiction trilogy The Darkened Glass HERE And enjoy his newest endeavor Art(ish) Theory  :  a blog and podcast for art education.

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