Commit to starting to train for the Walt Disney World Dopey Challenge - running 48.6 miles through all of the WDW parks in a matter of four days.
(Disclaimer: We’re not talking the Dopey Challenge in 2020, we’re talking more in the range of Dopey Challenge 2030 or something like that).
In February of 2018, I ran the Disney Princess Half Marathon, seven weeks pregnant, and totally unprepared.
I had always wanted to run a half marathon and have always loved Disney, so when a friend of mine asked if I wanted to run with her (her second half marathon), I was so thrilled I agreed and packed everything without even thinking.
A few months before we were scheduled to run through the Magic Kingdom, my friend let me know she could no longer make it to the race, so I had to decide if I was going to back away from the challenge, as I tended to do my entire life, or finally step up and run it by myself. I decided I needed to do this race for me: I needed to prove to myself that I could not only run a half marathon but endure all of the other things that seemed impossible to me.
It completely changed my life.
I remember almost every minute of it.
The thrill, the energy, the shameless amount of times I went to the bathroom before the race, my husband’s face at the giant letter “F” for our our new shared last name with a giant Pooh Bear at the end of the race.
I remember being remarkably surprised that my Princess Anna tutu didn’t chaff my skin and that I didn’t starve to death over the course of the 13.1 miles.
I remember the relief I felt when I ran past the Sweeper Bus that would pick up the runners who couldn’t finish within the allotted 3-1/2 hours.
And, of course, I remember the pain. The incredible shooting pain through my leg that reminded me I actually had accomplished something I had convinced myself I couldn’t do.
As I ran across the finish line, I broke into tears realizing I had completed something I had fully convinced myself would never happen.
It was a moment when I realized I was much stronger, braver, and resilient than I allowed myself to believe.
It was a moment when I realized I was capable of enduring much more than what I strive for.
It was a moment when I realized life is only limited by the beliefs and restrictions we create for ourselves.
It was a moment when I realized that life can be much more vibrant and colorful when we are present about each step forward we take.
On the way home from Florida, I started brainstorming ways I could keep this feeling alive: the feeling of accomplishing anything I set my mind to.
I decided, on that Delta Airlines flight, I would set the goal to complete the RunDisney Dopey Challenge (48.6 miles in a series of four races through Walt Disney World over four days).
It was the perfect plan to continue on this race-running high and the best way I could think of to be the best role model for my soon-to-arrive baby.
Two weeks later, the miscarriage came.
At our first doctor’s appointment since finding out I was pregnant, we discovered our what-was-to-be-baby measured ten days behind where we anticipated.
I, naive and hopeful, thought nothing of it.
They scheduled us for an ultrasound one week later, where we were excited to see a tiny little peanut appear.
The second ultrasound, more thorough than the first, showed our not-likely-to-be-baby had not yet made its debut.
Our doctor recommended one last ultrasound one week later to give we're-just-hoping-to-be-fashionably-late-baby a chance to materialize.
Many tears, many bars of chocolate, and many wishes that I could drink a glass (or six) of champagne later, I became prepared for the news that 99.9% of me already believed to be the truth: I was no longer having a baby - at least not now.
A pregnancy that had completely changed our world slipped through our fingers like sand.
The idea of names and nurseries, hedgehog swaddle blankets and giant Pooh Bears had to be set aside for another patient day of peeing on a stick.
I had a D+C procedure, less than four hours after that final ultrasound, the one that finally confirmed what we had been expecting: I was having a miscarriage.
It completely changed my life.
I remember almost every minute of it.
I remember feeling like I was waking up from one of those immensely vivid pregnancy dreams that used to horrify me in college - the ones that feel palpably real, but were just my brain's way of processing the fact that I was bloated from too much cheese bread - except this time I had actually been pregnant.
I remember trying to be cheerful about the fact that the procedure was over and that that meant we could try to get pregnant again.
I remember driving home and counting the number of ways I was blessed and trying to be grateful for those countless things.
I remember telling myself that this experience was just making room for the baby we were meant to have.
I remember returning to work the day after my D+C, my boss being the only person who had known I was pregnant and now wasn’t, and having to pretend like nothing happened.
I remember uncontrollably crying in the shower a few days later when the mask of gratitude could no longer cover the amount of grief I was feeling.
Several weeks later, as I sat on my front porch reflecting on the events in my recent life, I broke into tears realizing I had gone through something I never believed would happen.
It was a moment when I realized even though having a miscarriage was once of the hardest experiences of my life, in the end, it made me feel incredibly grateful for the days I had been able to call myself a Mom, the most important role of my life.
It was a moment when I realized I had been living each of those days with joy, presence, and gratitude in my heart and how different that was from my general state of timidity, over-anaylzing, and saving things for the “perfect” opportunity.
It was a moment when I realized how much lighter and vivid my life had felt during those days because, much like the day of my half marathon, I was focusing more on presence than on worry.
It was a moment when I realized the best we can do in life is show appreciation for the day ahead of us because nothing in life is guaranteed and everything can change in the blink of an eye.
It was a moment when I realized just how much my obsession with doing things “just right” and always “keeping it together” was really restricting me from having real connection and spirit in my life.
Running a half marathon is a very lonely experience.
It's just you and the road.
You, alone, have to push yourself to keep moving forward.
No one can understand the exact mental and physical rollercoaster you are going through, even if they have been through it themselves.
Going through a miscarriage feels pretty much the exact same way … except that no one talks about it.
But through both experiences you learn similar things.
You learn how much stronger you can be in the face of adversity.
You learn how many people are rooting you on.
You learn how to be patient and trust that, eventually, the end will present itself.
You learn that you just have to tell yourself “You CAN do this” one more time than you say “You can’t”.
You learn that pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone brings you to a place where you can learn how capable you are and how amazing things can be on the other side of fear.
You learn how to cherish every day of the journey.
You learn how glorious the celebration at the finish line can be.
Just over one year from those events, I am sitting at my computer with my newborn daughter laying across my lap and she is the inspiration I have always needed to finally put this goal into motion.
You see, while I’ve had this plan in mind since that sore-leg-filled flight back in February of 2018, my unwavering sense of fear has kept me from taking that first step to truly committing to what it would take to accomplish.
Fear of admitting this impossible goal to anyone who knows how much I huff + puff at any amount of cardiovascular activity.
Fear of having to break habits and order the salad instead of the cheese curds when I go out to eat.
Fear of having to be “selfish” and get my workouts in instead of take care of my family.
Fear of failure when I’m not able to meet my daily goals.
Fear of injury or physically not being able to accomplish what I am setting out to do.
But as I downward-dogged through a recent yoga class and our instructor kept reminding us to think of our “intention” (something I often don’t even bother with when I take classes), I kept picturing my daughter’s face.
I pictured what she might look like at various stages of her life, watching me live mine, and how my actions, decisions, and words would affect her.
I pictured her rooting me on when I want to give up and how I never wanted to see her give up on herself.
I pictured her copying my every move and how I never wanted her to think she wasn’t capable of doing something.
I pictured her listening to the way I talk and how I never wanted her to say a negative thing about her abilities.
Let’s get something straight before we even start: just because I ran a half marathon last year, by no means means I am a seasoned runner.
This goal will definitely not be an easy one.
As I am writing this post, I am doubting whether or not I will ever actually achieve it and I’m sure I will feel that way up until I cross the finish line on that final day.
I grew up as a ballet dancer, so running on a treadmill will never be as much fun as dancing to Waltz of the Flowers.
When we lived in Wyoming, I blamed the altitude on the fact that I would “Big Bad Wolf” it after about 41-seconds of cardio; now that we live in Wisconsin, I don’t have that excuse anymore.
I would much rather eat my body weight in tacos and cheese curds than in salads and Larabars.
I fear running in my neighborhood because we live in the country and I am convinced I will be eaten by a bear.
For my first day of training my goal was to get back on the treadmill for the first time since having Dagny.
When I was pregnant with Dagny, I stayed active until my third trimester when we found out she was only measuring in the 4th-percentile and I officially became “high risk”.
Along with other precautions, I was warned that I needed to dial it way back on my exercise and, because I teach dance for a living, I knew I needed to cut back on any extracurricular activity.
Over the course of the last three months of my pregnancy and then the first two months of new motherhood, I went to sloth status and, not so secretly, was enjoying that I was on doctor’s orders to not overexert myself.
I get winded pushing my daughter in her stroller when we’re going uphill.
My arms get tired when I have to rock my nine-pound baby for more than three minutes.
I never knew how much you used your stomach muscles when you walk until I got a muscle cramp walking to the mailbox.
For my first day of getting back on the bandwagon (or, rather, the treadmill) I reminded myself of my hot yoga experience: today was my new “square one” and I couldn’t compare it to where I was at pre-baby.
I ran a half mile before running out of new Taylor Swift music and deciding, “That’s enough”.
I struggled breathing through even that much (little) running and my abdominal muscles flipped me the proverbial finger as they had also enjoyed their hiatus after going through the trauma of a pregnancy and a C-section.
I was glad to get Dagny papoosed up and take each of the dogs for a long walk.
Through the course of the day I wound up clocking over six-and-a-half miles which was way higher than my goal of walking five miles (just over 10,000 steps) for the day.
A twenty-minute workout under my belt and I felt great about everything I had accomplished by 5:00pm.
It was a bit ugly and it all took a bit longer because everything had to be scheduled around my daughter’s eating and napping schedule, but it got done.
I hope you’ll follow along with what is likely to be a sweaty and sore-muscle filled journey from the couch to (many 5k’s,10k’s, half marathons, and marathons, and eventually many years down the line) the Dopey Challenge!