Earning My Wings on a Treadmill (Training for a Destination Race in the Off-Season)

This is it: I’ve arrived to the coveted taper in my training for the Tinker Bell Half-Marathon in Disneyland! And it’s not just a race: it’s the first leg of my Coast to Coast Challenge!


Speaking of challenges, there are a few that come with training for destination races, specifically when they take place in your off-season. The thought of a little get-away to somewhere warm and sunny in the middle of a dark and dreary winter sounds like a fabulous idea, right? Well, it can be…so long as you are prepared for the asterisk accompanying said fabulous idea: WINTER TRAINING REQUIRED.

I am no fair weather runner. I run in the bitter colds of winter, the winds and rain of spring, the heat and humidity of summer, and then I savour my reward with the cool, crisp temperatures of fall.

What I do not run in: ice storms, frost quakes, flash freezes and record-setting low temperatures. ALL of which I have experienced in the past month. Yep, Mother Nature is on a bender and her wrath hit hard during the peak of my training cycle for the Tinker Bell Half-Marathon. Have you seen Disney’s Frozen yet? Well, they didn’t need to animate it. They could have filmed it in my backyard.


There is nothing unique about my lament. There has been an army of Disney runners training through this vicious winter in preparation for the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend (January 8-12), Tinker Bell Half-Marathon Weekend (January 16-19) and Disney’s Princess Half-Marathon Weekend (February 20-23). The pros of running Disney? There are many, but a big one is an escape from winter. The cons of running Disney? Training through said winter.

I am an outdoor runner. I run outside because I love to breathe the fresh air, feel my feet hit the earth, and soak up the sun. I have worn a path in my favourite running routes along Lake Ontario where I can see and smell the water, enjoy the little pops of colour of the sail boat masts in the distance, notice the ducks and geese as they splish and splash, search for the ferry heading out to Wolfe Island, and check out how quickly the wind turbines are spinning on any given day. I always notice other runners and nod hello, wondering how far they are going and what they might be training for. In short, I love to crank up the tunes and set off on foot to cover some serious distance that is sure to stimulate all of the senses. Just give me a road.

fitnessrace 009

What I do not love: running in place on a treadmill. Going nowhere. Seeing no one. The treadmill has always been a Plan B, parked in the basement and used only when I absolutely have to for shorter weekday runs. I share this so you will understand the gravity when I say that the majority of my training for Tinker Bell has been done on my treadmill – gasp!

This includes not only the shorter maintenance miles, but also the epic long runs. We’re talking 2 hour+ runs of sheer mental torture. This is never how I would plan to train, but this Canadian winter has come screaming in, burying my beloved running routes in snow and ice. With my Coast to Coast fast approaching, and knowing that I had to train safely to get myself to the start lines injury-free, I had no choice but to shut up and get it done. On the treadmill. Shudder.

treadmill toolbox

Some people love the convenience of the treadmill. You can watch TV. You can refill your water bottle as needed. There is a bathroom nearby. If you are training for a race in a warmer climate, running indoors can also help with that acclimation. And yet, for me at least, treadmill running is much harder than running outdoors. I never really get into a zone or lose myself in the run. I stare at the numbers ticking by. I run more slowly. I sweat more quickly. Every step requires more effort. There were days I spent more time procrastinating the run than it would have taken to just get it done! It has taken a new level of discipline and mental strength to finish this training cycle strong.

A few things have helped me survive and tolerate these training runs along the way. It has been a great opportunity to experiment with different fueling strategies – if something didn’t sit well, I could hop off (actually, I may secretly have hoped things wouldn’t sit well so I would have an excuse to do just that!). I could have multiple water bottles at the ready, taking full advantage of not needing to stop for a refill. I watched some motivational movies like Hood to Coast, Spirit of the Marathon and Running on the Sun. I also watched seasons of old favourites like Beverly Hills 90210 (Brandon or Dylan?) and Felicity  (Ben or Noel?) – don’t judge me. You do what you have to do.


I found that I couldn’t do just one thing for the whole run. So if I started with a TV show, I would switch to a podcast at some point. Or throw on the music. Or BBM with my friend, Laural, who was doing the same darn thing I was (not sure who was cursing more loudly). Anything to break up the monotony while watching the numbers climbing higher than I ever thought I’d see – or ever wanted to see – on the treadmill.

And when I’d get discouraged or bored or tired or just want to get off and give the ‘mill the middle finger, I’d focus on the single piece of paper in front of me: a full-page advertisement for the very race I was training for, which I squealed upon discovering in my Runner’s World magazine. You can run, you can run, you can run. Yes I can, yes I can, YES I CAN.

tink cover

I have no idea how this very challenging training cycle will translate to my run in California. What I do know is that I am excited to run in short sleeves and in shoes without Yak Trax. To run outside again on clear pavement with no trace of ice or snow. To strap on the fairy wings and fly along the course. To meet up with friends in my first group costume. To join thousands of other women in the closest thing I’ve ever seen to a female revolution. To chase a dream and run to Neverland because I can.

Have I done enough? Am I ready for this next adventure? We’ll find out next weekend when I toe the line to officially earn my wings. Faith, trust and pixie dust.

~Princess Jodi

*Fly along with me! Follow me on our Facebook page and Twitter account for real-time updates and photos from Disneyland, the happiest place on earth!

This post is part of the Virtual Blog Hop about all things Tinker Bell! This is your “one stop shop” for all information regarding Tinker Bell Race Weekend from fairy bloggers all across the land! Together, we have you covered from training to finish line and everything in between, such as where to stay, what to wear and how to get that perfect race day photo. Happy reading!

Virtual Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend Blog Hop Directory

18 thoughts on “Earning My Wings on a Treadmill (Training for a Destination Race in the Off-Season)

  1. OMG I feel you! I’m training for Disney Princess and it’s definitely tough this week. My 2 longest runs have been in inches of snow! I also don’t really mind the treadmill as long as I have good TV to watch. Reality TV is my fav – how can I be miserable when I’m watching Teen Mom? And I also have the ad for Disney Princess taped up on my refrigerator to inspire me 🙂

  2. Fantastic post Jodi! I too am having the same trouble, but I don’t have a treadmill, I have an elliptical, not much better. My plan is to keep borrowing treadmills over the next 5-6 weeks (plus I have a brief getaway to Vegas coming up which I plan to take full advantage of let me tell you) and hope for the best. I can’t get in the zone either, but focusing on my music helps me. Have a great race!!!

  3. I am actually jealous! I would love to be able to afford a treadmill! It’s on my list of things I need to buy in 2014. What brand do you have now and are you happy with it? Or do you have a recommendation?

    • Agreed – it is a necessity, especially if you are training off season. Whether it is a gym membership or home treadmill, you need a plan for times when outdoor running is not possible or safe. I have a Horizon treadmill that works for me, but I inherited it from a family member. If I were buying new, I’d read some reviews, compare prices and ask for suggestions at my local running store or in online running groups. Good luck!

  4. I need a treadmill in the basement! Though when I got to the gym…OVER 3 miles and I start to get bored. I don’t think I have done more than 5 on one..and with me being slow….. TORTURE. Thanks for the movie tips though Always good to have options.

  5. Jodi, you are so funny! Somehow, you make horrifically cold weather sound super amusing (as I sit here typing this from Los Angeles . . . ) Just you wait and see, that treadmill training is going to make you super fast!

  6. Ha ha, I loved 90210 (and still watch repeats when I can). I hear ya on the treadmill. I much prefer running outside too! Best of luck at Tink! And BBM? ( I am so in love with my BlackBerry and don’t know one other person on this earth that still uses one..haha) I am now seriously hoping that when you wrote BBM that you meant BlackBerry Messenger!

    • Yes, you have found another BlackBerry Messenger user! I’m not the best at texting and running, but those little messages of hope and encouragement from my friend that day really helped me through it. And I knew there had to be other 90210 fans out there – way to be brave and own it 😉

  7. What is so funny is that I didn’t think I’d every do Wine & Dine again after having to train for it during the hot and humid Florida summer! It was so amazing, I think it was worth the sweat, but I guess Florida’s summer training is kind of as miserable as the rest of the country’s winter training! I do hate the dreadmill though and can’t seem to do more than 3 miles on it, so sweltering 5am runs are just part of the fun!

  8. Point for point, I am in total agreement Jodi! I’m a whimp in the cold, so I default to the dreadmill for a majority of the Vermont winter; it does make those warm Disney Parks races so much sweeter! YES YOU CAN. 😉

  9. I hear you on the treadmill! I hate how slowly the miles go by on that thing (and for some reason, runs are 1000 times sweatier and more awkward when done in the gym as opposed to the trail). I cannot wait for this weather to stabilize so I can get back to consistent outdoor training!

  10. Ok, well…sigh. No one ever said running would be convenient did they? (Insert an evil queen cackle here.)

    I am going to Disney in the coming year, no doubt about it. I thought I’d do Princess ’15, but when I realized what kind of wintery long runs would be required, I decided to do WDW weekend instead. This January, and the possibility of another brutal winter next, has me thinking maybe I should just head for Wine & Dine instead! That’s a night race though, and I’m a morning gal… decisions, decisions!!

    I hope you rocked out in California!

  11. This winter has me reconsidering any winter runDisney race ever again, thats for sure! When I did PHM in 2010, the winter here was relatively mild, so training seemed so easy! This year is anything but. Days like this I wish I did have a treadmill at home so I could just run miles throughout the day to at least get my total mileage in, even if its not all at the same time…

  12. My daughter and I have done almost all of our Princess training on the treadmill. It’s her first half, and I wish we could have done more outdoor miles. I’m like you, because I will run outdoors in any conditions…which is how I broke my ankle a year ago!

  13. After completing the Goofy challenge last mth I am excited to be going back for Princess this wkend to complete the glass slipper challenge. In addition to that we will be completing the pixie dust challenge in Disney land in May. So looking forward to earning our pink coast to coast medal.

  14. I love how you mix up your distractions. I do that sometimes too – start with music, then switch over to an audiobook or a TV show that I’m binge-watching. It definitely helps pass the time on my longer runs.

    Good luck and have fun in California! 🙂

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