By Caitlin Brown
In February, my mom, Suzanne Brown, and I ran the Disney Princess Half-Marathon with all donations made by our family and friends who sponsored us. The money was raised through our special Facebook Fundraiser and the National Foundation for Ectodermal Dysplasias (NFED) online event page. All money went to our favorite foundation, the NFED.
This was 13.1 miles through Magic Kingdom and Epcot! We both prepared for the trip, and Suzanne, who is affected by ectrodactyly-ectodermal dysplasia-clefting (EEC) syndrome, was sure to have a plan to put her PROSE contacts in early in the morning and stay hydrated throughout the day since she has an inability to sweat.
Preparing for the Race
Anyone who has run a half marathon knows how important electrolyte replacement is. My mom refuses to drink Gatorade, Powerade or the like. She says it is too sweet and it sticks to her palate. We found the perfect substitute for my mom – Nuun electrolyte drink tablets.
The morning of the race, we boarded the buses to get to the park around 4 a.m. We thought it would be a cool February morning, but it was hot and humid. We drank water with a Nuun tablet in it before we started the race. (We love the strawberry lemonade ones).
It was so magical at the starting line – fireworks, music, and a once-in-a-lifetime experience running a ½ marathon with me and mom. I turned 30 this year (she would kill me if I mentioned her age) and decided I wanted to run a half marathon.
Rising to the Challenge
If you know Suzanne, you know she never says no to a challenge. I told her I was signing up for the race, and she said, “Can you sign me up, too?”
I responded, “Mom, you know a half marathon is 13.1 miles?”
“Yes, Caitlin. You don’t think I can do it?”
If I learned one thing growing up, it was never to tell my mom she couldn’t do something.
This wasn’t just a race for her. There was planning that had to go into the race to make sure she could keep cool throughout the race and that her eyes would be okay. My friend, Rachael, completed the race numerous times before and helped us know where all the water stations and cold towels would be.
It’s Race Day
Disney does a fantastic job organizing the race. Our strategy was to stay consistent and run without a break until we got to Magic Kingdom. It would still be dark, so it would be cooler for my mom.
After that, we would slow down and walk as needed since the sun would be up. At approximately every mile, there was a water station and we made sure to constantly drink. They also had Powerade at every other mile mark. My mom would refuse to drink some, so we diluted it with water to make it palatable for her.
As the sun started to come up, it got really hot and humid. At the drink stations, we poured water on my mom to keep her cool. At one point during the race, I said, “Mom, it looks like you’re sweating!” She responded, “No, it’s just all the water you’re pouring on me!”
The Disney Princess race has characters, photo opportunities, music or something at every mile marker. There are so many fans cheering you along the way. It was truly inspiring. We decided we would stop at one place for a picture so we stopped about halfway in front of the Magic Kingdom castle.
Keeping Our Cool
The second half of the race was HOT! There were again numerous water stations, and they also had a stop for a snack with energy jelly beans. I made my mom eat some, and later found out she just spit them out!
They also had a stop with cold sponges we put on our necks. With a combination of running and walking, we crossed the finish line in a little over three hours! Not many people can say they’ve run a half marathon with their parent, especially one with EEC, but I feel pretty special I have.
Here are some suggestions for runners with EEC:
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Electrolytes are just as important as water. Nuun is a great alternative to sports drinks.
- Research the course before you sign-up for the race. Make sure there are plenty of water stations!
- Have some type of energy chews or beans to eat along the way.
- Find a running buddy. The race was so much more fun with my mom and I doing it together. (We could keep each other hydrated.)
- Keep hydrating after the race!
- Have a support group. We are so thankful for all the family and friends who donated and cheered us on along the way! My dad tracked us the whole race and texted us encouraging words.
- Pick a course that excites you. We LOVE Disney and had so much fun running through Magic Kingdom and Epcot.
As my mom said, “If I can do it, you can too.”
EEC doesn’t define you. You can do anything you set your mind to. It takes planning and making the necessary adjustments. You just have to do it!
Running for Money
Start small and work up to a half marathon. Register for the race. Then, set up a Facebook Fundraiser for the NFED and ask your family and friends to support and sponsor your race.
You can also ask the NFED to set up a special event page, like we did, for those who don’t do Facebook. They will help you promote your event. We created awareness and generated close to $2,000 for the NFED as part of Ectodermal Dysplasias Awareness Month.
I am so proud of my mom. She can cross running a half marathon off her bucket list now!