Posts Tagged by The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler

Running The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler All By Myself…Not Really

As many runDisney veterans can tell you, when you run a Disney race you are never really alone even if you start out that way.  The spectators, on course entertainment and overall friendly atmosphere make it the perfect place to run if you are a solo runner or if it is your first long distance race.  Well this past weekend, Holly found all of that to be very true as she ran The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler!  If you have ever hesitated to run a race because the distance seemed to long or because you didn’t have a running partner, you MUST read this story!

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10 miles…52,800 feet…633,600 inches…Could I really run that far? All by myself? In a crowd of 12,000 people? YES! How do I know? Because I DID it! And you can, too!

Saturday, October 4, 2014 was my first ever runDisney event, my first ever competitive distance over 3.1 miles, and most importantly, the first time I’ve ever run a race without a friend along for encouragement. My husband and I were vacationing at Walt Disney World for 11 days and my race was scheduled for day 10 of our trip. After nine and a half days of beating up my feet in the autumn heat, humidity, and rain, I was about to say goodbye to my husband and start on a two-and-a-half hour journey all on my own. This wasn’t just any race for me. There was a lot riding on this finish.

After running a 5K last year, I wanted to try a longer race, but I hate to run, so I really needed something that would motivate me to keep lacing up my sneakers again and again.  My friend Jessica suffers from a chronic form of cancer that she will be battling for the rest of her life, and I found that motivation when I decided to run for Jessica’s benefit. Every time we come home from WDW, Jessica anxiously awaits my report of all of the new things that are happening in our favorite place. But as her cancer recurs again and again, I’ve started to notice a change in Jessica’s eyes when we talk about these trips. It’s not jealousy or sadness, but a steely acceptance that she’ll only ever experience these things vicariously through me. With such an uncertain future, allocating money to a Disney vacation is just not something that her family can do. So I decided to take action. I decided that I would run a race to raise money to send Jessica and her family to Disney. When we arrived in Florida, we had already exceeded our fundraising goal of $5000 and all that was left was for me to finish the race.

On race night,we took the Mears event bus from Saratoga Springs Resort at 7:45pm and arrived at the staging area which is in the Film parking lot at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. We entered the event venue via the makeshift bag check line, but no Disney Cast Members were there to welcome us or give directions. The giant parking lot loomed in front of us with lines to sign the guest registry, lines to take a photo, lines to take a last minute potty break.

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I was too nervous to be in the mood for dancing, but a DJ was warming up the crowd and playing lots of familiar, inspiring tunes from both Disney and popular repertoires. While waiting in line, we met up with two other solo runners, but they were starting in different corrals, so I would have to say goodbye to my new friends once the race began.

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At 9:15, my husband and I went our separate ways. He went off to watch the start of the race from the big screen and I headed into my corral dreading the 10 lonely miles ahead and wishing that I had chosen the 5K instead so I could have been on my way to the Villain’s Bash instead of embarking on the torture trail. I kept my phone with me for comfort and because I didn’t want to do this run without access to a camera!

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At about 9:45, the corrals started to move out to the starting line. I had submitted my estimated finish time of 2:15:00, which had earned me a starting spot in corral H. Usually I can find someone to chat with in any Disney situation, but during the 30 minutes that I spent in the corral, I didn’t speak to anyone. I was just too nervous. Then at 10:00, the first corral was released.  I wanted to run away, but I had come this far and there was no turning back now. As each corral was released on 2-minute intervals, I felt more and more nervous. Then suddenly about 20 minutes into the race, our time had come! This time the fireworks were for corral H!

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At that moment, I was missing my training buddies. I wanted to chat away the 10 miles with them as we alternated between jogging and walking. I wanted to look forward to sharing the joy of crossing the finish line with them. I wanted their support and encouragement for the moments ahead when I was going to want to quit.

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Typically, I run 1-minute intervals, but as all of the people around me started to run, I got caught up in the excitement. I ran for nearly a mile and a half straight before I realized that I had better pace myself if I hoped to survive until the end. We ran all the way to Animal Kingdom before turning around on Osceola Parkway and heading back to ESPN Wide World of Sports. Between the mile markers, characters, music, and water stops, it was easy to get lost in the atmosphere and not pay attention to the distance for the first five miles or so.

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Somewhere around mile 6, running started to become difficult. I had only done three runs that were longer than 6 miles, so I expected to be tired by this point. Then the most amazing thing happened. We turned the corner into one of the baseball diamonds and spectators were lining the stadium to cheer for us. From the time we left that stadium, volunteers and families lined our route shouting words of encouragement, smiling, waving giant Mickey hands at us. Suddenly I didn’t feel alone anymore. These people were cheering for me! Encouraging me to keep running! I wanted to stop and hug each and every one of them individually for giving up their time to help motivate 12,000 strangers to accomplish something a goal.

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We made a left turn back onto Osceola Parkway and down the home stretch to Hollywood Studios. I wasn’t alone anymore. These people were rooting for me and my husband was waiting at that finish line, ready to tell me how proud he was of me. I was unstoppable! I had long since thrown the intervals out the window. I was running for as long as I could and walking when I needed to conserve energy. When we passed under the Hollywood Studios welcome sign, Hades was waiting for us and announcing that we only had a mile and a half to go!

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As we wove our way through Hollywood Studios, both onstage and backstage, the excitement started to build. We ran past the hat and past Toy Story Mania before looping around backstage to the finish line. All the while, people were cheering and it was such an amazing feeling! As soon as I crossed the finish line, a volunteer was waiting with a cool towel. Then another volunteer handed me a medal and another presented bottles of water and powerade. Down the line, more volunteers were waiting to hand me a snack box and a banana and someone else wanted to take my picture.

Twelve thousand people crossed the starting line for this race and when I crossed the finish line, every single person that I encountered made me feel like I won the race. It was a hero’s welcome so grand that I could barely feel the pain in my legs and feet. All of the feelings of being alone and scared at the start had vanished. I was inaugurated as a member of the runDisney club. I wasn’t alone after all. I had this huge network of strangers who cared enough to make me feel like I had scaled Mt. Everest. My time of 2:07:11 was good enough to finish 432 out of 1102 participants in my age group, better than I could have hoped for at the start of the race.

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In the end, I’m glad I was running by myself. I could set my own pace and shift my position on the course to avoid traffic without the burden of pacing myself to the group’s speed and ability. I was able to run when I wanted to run and walk when I needed to walk. The festive atmosphere and music was enough to keep the course fresh and interesting. I did not stop for any character photos because the lines were long and I didn’t want to risk falling behind the required pace, but seeing Jafar, Captain Hook, Queen of Hearts, Big Bad Wolf, Stitch, Dr. Facilier, the hyenas, and others on the course certainly helped to keep that atmosphere light. I will do a runDisney event again and I would readily run alone again. It was intimidating at first, but the tremendous volunteers and all of the fanfare made it a fantastic and memorable experience!

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Holly Liska never thought she would be a runner. As a gymnast, she grew up competing in an anaerobic sport and struggled with the endurance required to run long distances. After one season of high school track, she didn’t care to ever run again, but a community event sponsored by the Real Estate Agency where she works inspired her to try to run a 5K. She’s been running regularly ever since and she just completed her first 10-mile race.

Transformation Tuesday: Adam Roberson

Adam was one of the first people I knew who ran a half marathon in Walt Disney World.  He cheered me on (along with more of our BOGP family!) during my first 5K in 2010 and I returned the favor during the Wine & Dine Half Marathon that night.  Look here we are!

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His determination and how he continues to set goals for himself have been extremely inspiring to me.  It has been so great to follow along with Adam’s running journey over the years and I’m so happy he’s here to share it with all of you today!  Enjoy 🙂

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Prior to 2010 I had never even thought about running a race at all. In the spring of 2010, with some Disney friends influencing me, I decided that I would not only run my first ever race, but my first would be a half marathon! What was I thinking? I thought if I was going to run a race, it’d have to be a runDisney race. So I registered for the 2010 Wine & Dine Half Marathon. I’m always up for a challenge and “can’t” has never been in my vocabulary.

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So my training begins and I’m on my way to accomplishing something I had NEVER thought I’d be able to do. I remember my first time stepping outside to run, I was pumped and ready to get this training on. I started running and I honestly didn’t make it more than 5 houses down before I had to stop. My legs were aching and I was out of breath. My first thought was, this is going to be harder than I imagined. But I never gave up, the next day I went a little further and the next further and so on. I remember the first time I completed a mile without stopping I was jumping for joy. Before long I could run 5,6,7 miles without stopping. A week before the race, even though the training program I was using didn’t suggest it, I decided to run the 13.1 miles…I wanted to make sure I could actually do it and survive. haha I did it and I actually felt pretty good afterwards, I knew I then I’d be ready for race day.

I actually set a personal goal on race day. I wanted to complete my first half marathon in less than 3 hours. The week prior when I ran that distance I ran in 2:48, so I knew this could be a reachable goal. The race was awesome! So much entertainment on the course, the miles actually flew by. My wife Suzie was there to cheer me on and I also had lots of friends from the Be Our Guest Podcast cheering me on as well. There were plenty of friends running the race also. It was so much of an encouragement to have these people to talk to in the holding area prior to the race.

I remember nearing the finish line and thinking to myself, I can’t believe that I’ve actually done this! So many people the last mile lining the streets and sidewalks. I crossed the finish line and so many emotions running through my head, I had tears of joy as the medal was placed around my neck. And about that goal I set, I finished in 2:57:13. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. If you have the determination and will power, you CAN do it!

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I enjoyed the race so much that I signed up for the 2011 W&D Half the following year. I was able to get my wife running some and we both ran the Disney Family fun run 5k in 2011. I was so proud of her for setting that goal and best of all, we ran it together.

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Later that night as I was in the corral for the half, I got a family emergency call and we had to make our way back home before the race started.

In 2012 I decided to run the inaugural Tower of Terror 10-miler. Something about the night races, I just love them. It was another great race but boy was it hot and humid that night, but I finished and that’s all that matters. 🙂

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I wanted to run a race in 2013 but I had to work it around my work schedule and the only week I could get away from work was going to be the Princess Half Marathon. So I was hesitant about signing up for that one but with the assurance that other guys would be running, I went ahead and registered for it. So glad I did as it was such a fun race and I especially enjoyed running through the Magic Kingdom.

The Princess race was a little tougher for me as I had put on some weight since the other races I had run. With the passing of my father-in-law and my dad being diagnosed with cancer, the stress and all from all that I had added some weight. But I was determined to do it, and that I did, not the best time but I did finish. It was a great accomplishment considering the weight I had gained. My dad passed away about 5 weeks after the Princess.

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In April 2013 I ran my very first non-Disney race, The Bridge Street Half Marathon here in Huntsville, AL. I was so scared of this race just because I was used to having all the Disney entertainment in the runDisney races. All in all it was a good race, boring compared to runDisney, but not nearly as bad as I was expecting. In fact, I got a PR for this race and finished in 2:49. 🙂 I’m thinking about running more local races in the future.

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This is where I decided to start to do something about my weight. I knew if I could just get jump started, with the running, I could lose the weight I needed to lose. Even though I had been running since 2010, I needed to start to eat healthier. I had done Weight Watchers (WW) for several years, in fact I’m a WW lifetime member. It’s a great program and works for me. However, my brother had recently been using Advocare products and told me about the 24-day challenge I’d been seeing a lot of people doing on Facebook and telling of their success stories. I knew I needed a jump start and this may be just what I needed to get a boost.

This is the day I started the challenge on left and on the right is a month later. I had lost 13 lbs but most importantly a whopping 9 inches. I’m now wearing clothes I haven’t worn in over 2 years. I basically take the vitamins daily from Advocare and eat sensibly throughout the day using the WW program I had done so well with in the past. It’s a great combination and it’s working. I have a long way to go, but with the same determination and will power I had for finishing my first half marathon, I KNOW I can do it!

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About Adam:
I’m 39 years old and married to the most beautiful woman I know! Suzie and I just celebrated our 10 year anniversary. I love traveling, especially to our “happy place” Walt Disney World several times a year. Looking forward to another challenge as I’ll be running in my very first full marathon in January down in WDW!

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Has running at Disney helped to transform your life?  If so, I want to hear your story!  Send me an email at sarah@runningatdisney.com to be featured on an upcoming Transformation Tuesday!

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RAD Reads and Weekly Review: October 13, 2013

I seriously become incommunicado when I travel.  It’s like my brain shuts down and I can’t even muster the strength to open up my laptop.  I guess that’s a good thing so I actually live in the moment and enjoy my vacation, right?  Anywho…I got back from a whirlwind weekend in Walt Disney World for The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler (full recap coming this week!) and then dove right into a seriously hectic work week that involved numerous events and a trip to Boston.  Gah!  Disney trips always leave me needing a vacation from my vacation, but I would give anything to be here right now:

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Speaking of Food & Wine, I was lucky to get to film a few episodes of Travel with Rick while I was there.  Check out my take on the Cheese booth at the festival this year!

In case you missed it, here’s what I’ve been up to on Running at Disney these past weeks:

And here’s what’s been happening over on RAD Living:

Now on to some long overdue RAD Reads!

Running & Fitness Posts
Live, Run, Grow explains R.I.C.E for Runners…a tried and true recovery technique.

Fit2Flex proves that you can do anything when you put your mind to it.

Journey of a Dreamer answers the question Will CrossFit Help Me Lose Weight?

Disney Posts
WDW News Today has a first hand report of the new Disability Access Service that began this week in Disney Parks…looks confusing…

DVC News found evidence on a New Balance Disney Running Trail map that there might be a name change in store for the Polynesian Resort.

The Disney Food Blog reports on the new cancellation policy coming to ALL table-service restaurants in WDW.

Bwana Blog shares the story of Harambe…it’s quite intricate.

Eating WDW experiences and awesome event at the Ocean Spray Cranberry Bog.

Imagineering Disney reviews the details of the Club 33 Expansion…I’m so glad I got to see the Court of Angels while it was still open to the public!

Weekly Review
Full recap of the Tower of Terror 10-Miler coming this week, but the short story is…

1. It was HOT

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2. I got more awesome runDisney bling

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I managed to get a few workouts in when I got back, but my week was definitely lacking in the exercise department.  And let’s not even talk about the paleo challenge…sigh.  Here are all of my workouts from this week and to view a complete list of WODs, visit my dailymile page.

Sunday: 11 miles combined running & walking in WDW
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: CrossFit: Power Cleans, Strict Press, Romanian Dead Lifts & Air Dyne Sprints
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: Rest
Friday: CrossFit: Back Squats, Pull Ups & Lurong WOD 5
Saturday: Rest

This week I really need to get back into my steady CrossFit routine.  I’ve got Barbells for Boobs coming up soon (make sure to donate!!) and I need to get my strength up to tackle Grace.  I also want to start tackling the things I’m not good at…pull-ups, box jumps, handstands.  I’m never going to get better if I keep avoiding the things I don’t like…maybe I should adopt that theory in all areas of life.

Have a great week and remember to Be RAD!

New Ribbon for the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler Medal!

Finisher PhotoThe medal for The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler is undoubtedly one of the coolest runDisney medals (or ANY race medals) out there.  It glows in the dark, has a moving elevator and features one of the coolest attractions in all of Walt Disney World…how can you go wrong?!

For the inaugural year, the theme of the medal seemed to be orange, which goes along with the Halloween theme of that whole race weekend.  The medal ribbon was orange, the logo background was orange, etc…  I actually liked this since it was very different from the other races the runDisney offers.  But this year, it looks like they are changing it up.

Stitch has been a synonymous character with The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror attraction (not sure why…) and you can find him in a lot of the attraction merchandise dressed at a bellhop.  He was also on the “I Did It” shirt for the race last year.

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So it only makes sense that he would be now be featured on the medal ribbon right??  Don’t worry, the super cool medal is still the same!

2013 ToT Medal 2013 ToT Medal Close UpI have to say, I don’t love the red and wish they would’ve stuck to the bright orange.  However, I surprisingly like the addition of Stitch.  It adds that Disney touch.

What do you think of the new medal ribbon?

If you’re looking for more information on The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler, check out my 2012 race recap and the Health & Fitness Expo!

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler Health & Fitness Expo

One of my favorite things about runDisney races are the Health & Fitness Expos.  There are always great vendors, speakers and merchandise.  My husband and my wallet probably don’t like them as much as I do, but that’s another story…

The Expo for the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler was a lot of fun, but definitely on the smaller side from other expos I’ve been to in the past for the Wine & Dine Half andthe Princess Half.  We arrived to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex just after the Expo opened on the first day.  If you’ve never been to the complex before, be prepared to walk.  This is a HUGE facility.

There was a long line to get into the Josten’s Center when we arrived, which seemed to be a theme here throughout our visit.  I’ve never been to an expo right at opening and all that hot merchandise is what everyone seemed to be after.  When we got to the door, we were greeted by a bell hop from the Hollywood Tower Hotel (aka Tower of Terror), which I thought was a really fun detail.  You could immediately see that the expo was on the small side, and  I was surprised to see that packet pick-up was on the floor with the rest of the expo because I have always seen them separated into different areas.

Love the addition of the costumes!

My first priority was to head to the race merchandise area to make sure I got everything I wanted.  At the Princess Half, they were sold out of a lot of things by the time I got there and I didn’t want that to happen again.  The race specific merchandise was just ok.  I’m continually disappointed with the lack of performance tank tops available from runDisney. I’m not a fan of running in short sleeves and would love to see some tanks for women.  I spoke to a few other women at the expo who felt the same way.  The “I Did It” shirt was cute and I did get one of those.  The women’s tech shirt available was also nice, but a little to sparkly for my taste so I passed.

My favorite item at the expo was the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler pint glass!  I always drink water (and maybe some other beverages) out of pint glasses at home and this is the perfect addition to my collection!  I just wish I bought more than one.

The line to check out was super long and we ended up waiting at least 20 minutes.  B got a shirt and I also picked up a pin, a car magnet and some fun runDisney stuff for a giveaway coming up (hint, hint!).  The line wound past all of the medals and I was able to hold the Tower of Terror medal for the first time and most importantly check out the 20th Anniversary WDW Marathon medal!  This thing is giant and I love it…the spinner is super cool!

I love that the elevator moves!

You will be mine!!!

After checking out, we headed to the back of the Josten’s Center to pick up our race packets.  Oh look…another giant line!  Well we are in Disney after all.

My line extended back into the vendor booths!

After about another 20 minutes in line and some fun conversations with fellow runners, I got my bib and commemorative pin.  I then had to head over to another line to get my t-shirt…I gave in at this point 🙂  The t-shirts are pretty cool and they glow in the dark like the medals.  I’m not a huge fan of unisex shirts because they always fit me weird, but this one will get some use.

Commemorative T-Shirt Design

We then wondered around the Expo for a bit and visited with various vendors.  I wanted to pick-up some new BondiBands and B wanted to get a new fuel belt since he was using my hand-me-downs and he got a great one at iFitness.

It was about this time that Jeff Galloway was coming out to give some tips for the race, so we stuck around for a bit.  He provided some great information, particularly on eating for a night race…something I had been struggling with.  There were other great speakers lined up that day, but we had just flown in that morning and were starting to fade.  I hope that in the future runDisney releases the list of speakers in advance so participants can plan their days around these great presentations.

Jeff Galloway

By this time, we had been at the Expo for over 2 hours and I still didn’t feel like I saw everything.  There is so much to see and do!  I can’t wait for the Wine & Dine Half Marathon Expo next month, which should be bigger and better!

What did you think of the Health & Fitness Expo?  What fun stuff did you find?

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