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Wednesday, February 27, 2013
The race followed by Disney fun

By Summer Sanders

Summer Sanders and her son ran Sunday at the Disney Parks in Orlando.

Summer on the Run is a 12-week blog and video series that follows former Olympic swimmer and avid runner Summer Sanders on her journey to train for Disney's Princess Half Marathon on Feb. 24.

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, she will share training tips, and a little inspiration, as she gears up for the main event. Use hashtag #GoRun on Twitter to follow Summer and be part of the ongoing conversation.

Orlando's Walt Disney World Resort was the perfect spot for our family runs this past weekend. We came to see the parks, and that's exactly what we got to do!

There were so many trips during my swimming days when traveled to an amazing place, and then I had to leave without seeing any of it; Tokyo, Perth, Sydney -- barely got to see anything outside the race venues.

That's changed now that I'm choosing my own races and locations. Whereas I used to see the one spot I went for dinner, now I choose my own big races with the biggest crowds. I love the encouragement of the fans on the sidelines and I feed off that energy when I run. And because a race is such a commitment -- emotionally, physically, and financially -- I make sure I squeeze every wonderful minute out of my trip.

I did get Spider to wake up with me to do the Disney Royal Family 5K on Saturday morning -- I knew he would once we got so close to the parks. He worked hard in his run -- his first real 5K! -- that for the second time that weekend, I was the proudest mom in the world. It was all about having our moment together. Now we have great photos that capture his moment and this great event. I was just in the background; he did all the work just like he said he could.

My favorite thing was hanging out in Epcot and getting time together, just the two of us. It felt so good to walk around and loosen up before my race on Sunday morning. I also couldn't stop telling Spider how incredible he was; I was so impressed. I'm sure he was sick of hearing it at the end of the day, but I really wanted it to sink in that he was a champion. There were many first-time finishers out there, and though it feels good every time you race, you have to really enjoy that first one because it's what hooks you for life -- at least that's how it was for me!

Spider was excited to check out Disney's Hollywood Studios; I promised we'd go there right after my race on Sunday, and we did! Luckily my race started early, and we had plenty of time to play afterward. A day in Disney flies by, even when you've run 13.1 as the sun rises. In Disney, everyone gets up and lines up at the park entrances bright and early, so it's normal to be up and running around at 7:30 a.m. You don't want to waste a minute!

And we didn't. It's rare that we get to take a vacation because there's always so much going on at home. Spending two days with Spider, and all our new friends, felt so wonderful. We managed to channel that Disney spirit and find energy to see everything we came for -- Toy Story Mania! (what fun), and the Muppets (I've always loved them!); there was no stopping us.

It pays to choose your races carefully, and then explore everything you can while you're there. If you ask me, any event that involves a postrace celebratory hamburger and shake is pretty cool, but Disney sure delivered! Whatever you're craving right now, get it, and then catch some Zzzs because you never know what surprises tomorrow will bring!

Summer got the job done in 1:43:31! She's already thinking about her next race -- the Boston Marathon this April. At the finish line, it doesn't matter how many people are in front of you or behind youyou've earned your place and your medal. Whether you're planning your next race or taking a break until the snow melts, it's your call. First thing's first, let's celebrate!