|Smacked in the Face by Fairy Wings: What I Learned at the Tinkerbell Running Festival
||[May. 24th, 2016|12:03 pm]
Jeffrey, Jeff, or Jeffy
Earlier this month I ran the Tinkerbell Half Marathon. Actually I did the Pixie Dust Challenge, which was the 10K on Saturday and the half marathon on Sunday. I was going to write a regular race report, as I usually do with big races, but I'm prompted to write this instead.|
I am a "regular" race runner. I run on average three marathons a year, having run my first in 2009, and I've run so many half marathons, 10Ks, and 5Ks that I've literally lost count. I save all of my race bibs, and I've run out of medal hangers, yet again.
I knew about Disney races but wasn't really prompted to try one out until my friend Maire convinced me to try one out last year, when I ran the Tinkerbell Half Marathon in 2015.
Most of my footraces are of the conventional variety: My first Marathon was the San Francisco Marathon. Since then I've almost been averaging one race a month, and I have many running festivals I regularly run: Oakland Running Festival, SF Marathon, (Either the full or half marathon,) The Berkeley Half, The California International Marathon...
Not that I've only run conventional races. Another friend got me hooked on Ragnar Relays, (Which is a long distance relay race you should definitely look into, especially you Disney runners,) and the very first run I ever ran was the infamous Bay to Breakers in San Francisco.
But the 2015 Tinkerbell Half was a new experience for me. It was the most laid back and funnest fun run I've ever participated in. Previously, before running it for the first time, I had made a PR attempt at the Oakland Running Festival's half marathon, where I fell just three minutes shy of my 2:02 PR. (Still trying for a sub two half!) It was a race that I grinded out along with a lot of other Hanz and Franz type runners who were also trying for their personal bests. When I ran Tinkerbell, I really didn't care about my pace. And by that I mean I truly didn't care about my pace. Even during other fun runs like Ragnar Relays I'm tripping on my velocity. During my first Tinkerbell Half was surrounded by tutus and fairy wings and all kinds of costumes and a large group of people just taking it easy. The characters and the bands and just the camaraderie was amazing.
And I knew I wasn't around a usual group of runners. Of course this race had people who wanted to run well and many were thinking about PRs, but it wasn't so apparent as the usual races. It wasn't the teeth-grinding, damn-the-IT-bands charge that I am more used to during regular foot races.
I've rarely seen so many costumes at a race. Oftentimes it was just a gratuitous set of fairy wings and a tutu, but there were plenty of more elaborate getups. And it was also a lot more emotional. For many Tinkerbell runners the race was a big personal deal. I saw people becoming overwhelmed at the finish line, some weeping, others hugging their families, and others just dazed by a mixture of exhaustion, adrenaline, and happiness. After the race, and I mean way past the finish line when we were in the park, people not only were wearing their race shirts, but even wore their medals for the entire day. That's something I've never seen any runner do after a non-Disney race. (On my flight back to the Bay Area right after the last Tinkerbell Half two women were still wearing their medals on my plane, all the way home!) This kind of behavior is something many runners believe only a complete dork would do, but these runners were shining with pride, and they wanted everyone to know it.
It's not as if all Tinkerbellers and Disney racers are strangers to racing. Far from it. Some Disney running fanatics have been known to run enough half marathons in a short enough time to qualify for the Half Fanatics running club. And it's not all Pixie Dust and smiles all of the time. Emotions run high, and sometimes there are a few ugly scenes when someone's fairy wings won't stop smacking the runner behind them, and the fight for limited race merchandise can get nasty. But overall it's mostly great positive vibes and runners support, more so than in many other races.
Experiencing this race let me know where myself, and many other runners I know, have put ourselves. I can admit it: Sometimes I get jaded. I run so many races I've been known to approach them with a lackadaisical attitude. "Eh, it's just a half," I've been known to say. "I guess a 3:30 is okay for a marathon," said one runner friend of mine. (Said with shoulder-shrug.) I'm not a particularly fast runner, and I look more like the "Dad-bod" kinda guy then Ryan Hall, but even so running races can become a routine, and when that happens myself and many other runners can lose some perspective on what we're doing. The distances we run are extreme physical feats. The emotions we should be feeling when running with a herd of flying runners are suppressed or dulled by repetition. What happened to the fun? What happened to the "Holy crap, I just ran thirteen miles???" Why not laugh, cry, exult at the finish line? Why not dare to be a dork and wear your medal all day? When I see a chubby middle-aged woman in fairy wings and a big frilly tutu become overwhelmed after she's just completed her first ever half marathon it tells me that I've lost some perspective on why I started running in the first place. And that's something I want to share, not only with my running friends, but also all of my fitness geek friends for whom intense physical feats have become as commonplace as making the bed or washing the dishes.
Running a half marathon is a big deal. It's a physical feat that will tax even the no-body fat super ripped runners for whom running has become a routine. It is a physical feat that can be underestimated, not just physically, but also emotionally. And if you've lost that, sign up for a Disney race and slow down to commune with a bunch of regular gals and guys in sparkle skirts and pirate hats, running a heart-pounding half marathon that's a really big deal for them. Do it even if those wings smack you in the face from time to time.