Mississippi Gulf Coast

Running in all 50 states brings you to some places you never even thought to go. Believe it or not Biloxi, Mississippi was actually somewhere I had always wanted to visit. Years ago when I lived in Tampa, I remember constantly seeing commercials for the Beau Rivage Casino that was opening in Biloxi, MS. Well that commercial did it’s job because I have always wanted to stay there. So when I saw that was the hotel for the Mississippi Gulf Coast half marathon, I was sold on that race.

I arrived late on a Friday night and was dealing with the lingering effects of a cold, so I slept in a bit and then left the hotel to pick up my bib and explore. The casinos on the Mississippi Gulf Coast are pretty spread out, The Beau Rivage and the Hard Rock were both located in the heart of Biloxi. The bib pickup was located at the MGM Park which is home to the minor league Biloxi Shuckers. This was located just across the street from the Beau Rivage which is part of MGM Resorts International.

With the race being in December, the weather in Biloxi was a welcome change from the cold December weather of Boston. I enjoyed taking a walk down the street and checking out the sites along the way, with a quick stop in the Hard Rock casino to throw some money in a slot machine. Walking by the Gulf of Mexico had it’s typical calming effects on me, a perfect way to start a weekend.

I decided to have a late lunch as my carb loading meal and found this delicious restaurant called Sal and Mookie’s which specializes in Pizza. It’s a great restaurant to take a large group or family. I opted to sit at the bar which was in a separate room from the main restaurant. The servers were all great and the pizza and beer were delicious, I definitely recommend checking this place out.

The next morning I headed over to MGM Park for the race shuttle to the start of the race which was in Gulfport, MS. The race course was absolutely beautiful, 12 flat miles along the beach and then the last mile went up an on ramp onto a highway with and out and back and then off the highway with a finish in MGM Park.

Being a big baseball fan, I enjoyed finishing inside a baseball stadium, it made up for the hill of the highway ramp during the last mile. They had a great finish line festival with food from local restaurants and of course everyone’s favorite post race treat, beer. I had a pulled pork sandwich that was really delicious.

Some of the things to do in Biloxi include the beach (in warmer weather), the casinos, walking along the gulf, Biloxi lighthouse and for history buffs there’s the civil war era home, Beauvoir to explore. I’d definitely like to come back here in the warmer weather to enjoy the beach a little, I’ve always been a fan of Gulf Coast beaches.

Visiting in December though was a great time to check out the holiday decorations. The Beau Rivage Hotel really went all out on their decorations and they had a fun holiday show in their theater. Gulfport, MS also has the Harbor Lights Winter Festival every December.

I highly recommend a visit to Biloxi and definitely running the Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon or Half Marathon to knock off the state of Mississippi. I mean who wouldn’t want to celebrate their race by having some beignets while overlooking this view?

Tips to Experiencing Rise of the Resistance

In December I headed to Disney World for a quick weekend trip to experience all the Christmas activities and decorations. The trip was just a few days after the new Star Wars ride Rise of the Resistance opened in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This ride was highly anticipated and I knew it would be hard to get on so I had no intention of trying to ride it this weekend. After not being able to resist looking at spoilers online and hearing about the new Boarding group process I decided to check it out. Since the boarding group process is new to Disney and I know a lot of people have questions, I wanted to share my experience with some tips on how the boarding group process works.

Due to the amount of guests waiting outside the gates each morning, Disney had been opening the park as early as 6am even though park opening wasn’t until 8am. The morning I decided to check it out was an extra magic hours day. The day before they decided to start the extra magic hours at 6am instead of 7am and they stated that the ride would not be available during extra magic hours. This worked in my favor. Instead of getting up and being at the park by 6am, I decided leave the hotel around 7am so I would be in the park and ready at 8am to get a boarding group. I was staying at the Caribbean Beach Resort so it took me no time at all to get there via the skyliner. I walked out of my room at 6:58am and when I walked into the park at 7:08am.

When I entered the park, cast members were handing out flyers that stated boarding groups would open at 7:45am. I went to grab breakfast and as I was walking I noticed a lot of people looking at their phones and then there was an announcement regarding boarding groups. I opened the app and noticed the boarding groups were already open so I hit join boarding group and got boarding group 21. I’m so glad I didn’t wait until the published time of 7:45 since ALL boarding groups for the day were gone by that time.

How to access boarding group (this can be done after you enter the park):

1) Open My Disney Experience App

2) On home page, there is a section for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance – Access Boarding Group, hit Find out More

3) Hit Join Boarding Group (this will be greyed out when there are no more boarding groups available)

4) Select everyone in your group (it’s important that before you get to the park you have everyone in your group linked to your My Disney Experience account so that you can all be selected and added to the same boarding group)

5) It will then tell you what boarding group you are in (see picture above).

After you join a boarding group, you are free to explore the park or even leave the park to head back to the hotel, to another park or anywhere else you need to go. When you hit Find out More on the app it will show you what boarding groups they are boarding now (as seen in this screenshot). When your boarding group is called you will have 2 hours to get back to the park and on the ride. They seem to call approximately 12-15 boarding groups an hour when the ride is working correctly. The morning I went, the ride broke down for quite a while, so it wasn’t until after 11:30am before I got on the ride.

Once your boarding group is called, you can head over to the ride. The line is minimal at that point and it pretty much keeps moving, I think I was in line about 10 minutes. The ride itself is more of an experience will multiple pre-shows that totally immerse you. In total the ride experience took about 20 minutes.

A lot of you may be wondering if all the hassle that goes into this is worth it. The ride is by far the best ride I’ve ever been on and definitely worth getting up early and rearranging my day for. I am already eagerly awaiting trying to go on it again during my next trip in February. If you ever wanted to truly feel like you are part of a Star Wars movie, you will love this ride. I’ve yet to hear anyone say it wasn’t worth the wait.

Tips to remember from BB8:

1) Get to the park no later than opening time (they are no longer opening earlier than the stated open time).

2) Open the app the minute you get into the park.

3) Make sure your entire party is listed in your app (the same as when you make fast pass reservations) so you can select all of them and are in the same boarding group.

4) Remember you can leave the park but have 2 hours once your boarding group is called to get back and onto the ride.

5) And finally, have a blast experiencing this amazing ride.

If you have any questions or need any further tips on this ride, please feel free to reach out to me at any time. sue@beyondthemilestravel.com

Where did 2019 take you?

Where did you travel to in 2019? My trips this year were all domestic trips and mostly

involved running. I visited 4 new states and was once again reminded that there is something beautiful and fun to see just about everywhere in this country. From the beauty of one of New England’s most fun cities of Portland Maine to….

… the awe-inspiring national parks of Utah! Never did I think of going to Utah but it was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. So beautiful it just didn’t seem real. Running a half marathon along the Colorado river with the tall rocks bordering it was unreal!

I also ventured out west to Arizona to run both a half marathon and a 5K and also visit my cousin and his wife in Phoenix. Arizona is a great place to visit for some delicious mexican food, beautiful scenery and lots of great hiking.

My 50 state running journey also took me to the middle of the country to the state of Kansas. How many people can even say they’ve been to Kansas? I ran a wonderfully run race in Wichita and being the huge Wizard of Oz fan that I was drove a few hours to Wamego, KS which truly is in the middle of nowhere to visit the Wizard of Oz museum, it was a great long weekend trip.

In April I was able to visit one of the most famous horse racing locations in the country, Louisville, Kentucky. I took an extremely interesting tour of Churchill Downs and was able to run through it while running my fastest ever half marathon. Louisville was such a fun city with lots of historic places to see and great restaurants to check out, I’ll definitely be heading back there in the future.

I ended the year down south on the Mississippi Gulf Coast town of Biloxi. It’s a beautiful place to visit with beaches and casinos.

I also headed to some of my favorite places, a summer weekend in New York City where I got to meet up for lunch with a good friend, saw a Broadway play, ran through Central Park, walked the Highline and checked out the Vessel at Hudson Yards.

And of course there were multiple Disney trips throughout the year to get my full money’s worth of that annual pass. I was able to hit up all four annual festivals at Epcot this year: Festival of the Arts, Flower and Garden Festival, Food and Wine Festival and Festival of the Holidays, check some pics from these festivals below. Time to start planning 2020 travel, what are your plans? I’m definitely planning on some international travel this year and some more new states in my 50 state journey. Happy New Year, here’s to a travel filled 2020!

Las Vegas is more than just gambling…

There is so much more to Las Vegas than gambling. Do you enjoy great restaurants, beautiful hotels, amazing shows, good shopping, fun night life, amusement rides and people watching. If so, then Vega is for you.

For years, Vegas was known for it’s buffets. Over the years this has changed and it’s now become a foodie paradise with restaurants by celebrity chefs like Bobby Flay, Gordon Ramsey, Guy Fieri and Emeril Lagasse. There are restaurants for every different type of food you can think of. You might leave with an empty wallet, but you will definitely leave witha full stomach.

The strip is lined with one beautiful hotel after another. You could spend days just walking from hotel to hotel and never get bored. The hotels will transport you to places like New York City, Paris and Venice. Each hotel has something special and they all try to be more over the top than the next.

One of my favorite hotels in Vegas is the Bellagio. Outside the hotel they have a beautiful fountain show set to music that starts at noon each day and runs every 30 minutes and then starting at 8pm it runs every 15 minutes up until midnight. Inside the hotel is just as beautiful. They do a wonderful job of decorating for each season with these beautiful flowers.

Some of the hotels also have wonderful shopping. Imagine shopping along the Venice canal in the Venetian or in the Forum Shops in Caesars Palace. There are also all sorts of other activities in the hotels, like Lions in the MGM hotel.

For the thrill seeker there are amusement rides available. Like this ride that is just one of the rides available on the top of the Stratosphere hotel. Not up for the thrill of the ride, it’s definitely worth going up top anyways for the view alone.

Other entertainment options include the High Roller ferris wheel, multiple different Cirque du Soleil shows, concerts by multiple big name performers and lots of nightclubs where you can dance the night away.

If you aren’t into the party scene Vegas is still a beautiful place to be at night. The hotels and casinos light up the strip and it’s a great time place for people watching. This is just a few options of things to do in Las Vegas, there really is so much to see. What are some of your favorite things to do while there?

Rock n Roll Las Vegas

Last weekend was the Rock n Roll Las Vegas Marathon weekend. This is a night race that gives you the unique opportunity to run down the Las Vegas strip. The race takes place in mid November each year which usually means perfect running weather.

Two years ago, I headed to Vegas to run the 5K and Half Marathon. This was definitely one of my favorite half marathons that I have run.

The mass shooting in Las Vegas happened a little more than a month before the race. More security measures were put in place and the course start line was moved. They did a really good job of honoring the victims with plenty of Vegas strong signs along the course and they also sold Vegas Strong t-shirts where the proceeds went to help the victims and their families. It’s beautiful to see the running community come together in times of need.

The 5K was on Saturday evening and started at the Las Vegas Festival Grounds on the northern end of the strip. It was a very fun race although my old eyes did think it was a little too dark. The course wasn’t anything specials, just running on some streets around the festival grounds, but of course there was the usual entertainment that you see at Rock n Roll races.

Night races are always a little difficult to figure out your eating schedule. The Half Marathon started at 4:30pm, so the race was during most people’s dinner time. It’s even hard to carb load at lunch with a 4:30pm race start. I ended up having an early lunch but think maybe a big brunch might have been a better idea.

Normally when you run a morning race, you are getting to the start line while it’s still dark and the sun starts to come up as the races starts or during the beginning of the race. For this race, I was walking to the start line in full daylight and the sun was setting just as the race started.

This is a really big race so there were multiple wave starts. Being a slow runner, this worked to my advantage. I had plenty of time to watch the official start of the race and get back to my corral with plenty of time to spare. It’s an exciting experience to watch the start, I definitely recommend it if you get the chance.

Probably almost an hour after the official start of the race, it was time for my corral to start. We started just in front of the New York, New York hotel and casino and headed south down the strip. We then turned around a little after passing the Welcome to Las Vegas sign and headed north up the strip. It’s anything but boring running up the strip, I had so much fun and it definitely helps give you the motivation to run faster.

The race takes you up the strip, past all the casinos and wedding chapels and then into Downtown Vegas and Freemont Street. I do not remember any point in this race where there wasn’t entertainment or something fun to look at. The race then goes back down the strip and finishes on the strip in front of the Mirage hotel. It’s definitely a big race with a lot of people. If you are meeting someone after the race, I definitely recommend having a meetup point as it’s pretty difficult to find people.

If you are looking for a fun race full of entertainment, I definitely recommend this race, it would make a great race for someone that wants to run their first half marathon.

Here are a few pictures from the course. Next week’s blog I will talk about the fun things to see and do while in Las Vegas, it’s definitely quite the destination!

Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend – Part 2

It’s been two weeks since the Wine and Dine Half Marathon weekend and I think I have finally recovered and caught up on sleep after all the early morning wake ups and nonstop fun!

The weekend started with the expo which can get crazy at times, the line to get into the runDisney merchandise area was long due to this being the 10 year anniversary of the half marathon. I was proud of myself that I didn’t end up buying much, I stuck to my usual shoe ornament for my Disney Christmas tree and I was lucky enough to get some of the few medal pins they had left for my niece and nephew.

And I definitely couldn’t leave the expo without a photo with the mouse himself all dressed up in his Patriotic gear!

The next morning I woke up bright and early and got on the bus at 4am to head to the Fall Feast 5K. This was the first 5K I’ve ran at Disney since 2015 Princess Half Marathon weekend. The 5K is a great race to do with family that may not be that into running, it’s not timed and they are a little more lenient with the time limit.

Running a 5K at Disney means you start and finish in the dark, which is great on warmer days since you get to avoid running in the sunshine. The race ran through Epcot which is truly magical and beautiful in the dark. It’s definitely my favorite place to run.

The morning of the half marathon didn’t seem as early since it was the night of the time change and we all were able to enjoy an extra hour sleep which means so much when running at Disney. The weather was a little cooler than the morning of the 5K and I was just ready for the race to start so I could get moving. It’s funny how quickly my northerner blood adjust to the Florida weather.

Being that I had a pretty good proof of time and knew there were 3 corrals of runners starting after me, I decided to take my time and stop at all the character stops. I was glad I did, the lines weren’t long and I got some really great pictures like this one with Beast. I stopped my watch at each stop because I was interested in seeing just how much time the character stops add to the final finish time. I stopped for 10 characters and was surprised that it only added 25 minutes to my finish time. This was a really fun half and I felt great while running. The last mile was a challenge but running through Epcot at that point made it more bearable.

After the finish I took some pictures including this one with my favorite Donald Duck before heading back to the hotel for my favorite post race meal of beignets and then some relaxation at the pool.

After relaxing at the pool for the morning, I headed to the parks and Disney Springs for a bit and then went to Epcot for the special post race party that is included in the race registration for everyone running the challenge and half marathon.

The post race party is a blast, they have the most popular rides at Epcot open: Frozen, Test Track, Soarin and Spaceship Earth open. It’s a great time to hit up these popular rides with slightly less wait times. They also have character photo opportunities throughout the World Showcase. These are normally characters you don’t see too often in the parks and the lines were quite long so I only managed to get this one picture with Geppetto and Pinocchio. The food and wine festival booths are open for you to eat and drink your way around the world. The after party definitely sets the Wine and Dine Half Marathon apart from the other Disney races that don’t offer after parties. If you are looking for a unique runDisney weekend to try, I recommend the Wine and Dine Half Marathon weekend.

Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend – Part one Holidays

runDisney has many race weekends throughout the year and the Wine and Dine Half Marathon weekend may be one of my favorites. It started out 10 years ago as a night race and as someone who isn’t a morning person I had to try it out. Due to some stomach issues during the race, I had the worst race ever and was afraid to try it again until last year and I’m so glad I did, it was so much fun. They have since changed it to a morning race and added a 5K, 10K and the 10K and Half Marathon challenge.

I’ve now run this race the past two years. In 2018 I did the challenge and last weekend I ran the 5K and Half Marathon.

The race weekend normally takes place the first full weekend of November each year. The timing the past two years was great as it was right at the first of the month so it was a great time to visit Disney World. When visiting Disney World at the end of October and beginning of November you are lucky enough to experience both Halloween and Christmas all in one trip.

Halloween is a great time to visit, each resort holds pumpkin decorating contests for their employees and the guests are able to vote for the winners. And the decorations in the park are just beautiful.

They had the final Halloween party on November 1st and by November 2nd there were Christmas decorations up and by November 3rd it was full on Christmas in the Magic Kingdom, tree and all. Christmas decorations definitely make Disney World even more magical than it already is, I mean look at how beautiful the castle is! I definitely recommend the end of October thru beginning of November as a great time to visit Disney World. Stay tuned next week for my blog on the actual races and the special after party at Epcot.


As I get ready for my next runDisney race next weekend, I can’t help but think of my first long distance race that I participated in, the 10th annual Walt Disney World Marathon in Janury 2003. This race was so different than all the later runDisney races I have run. It didn’t involve dressing in costume, no fear of time limits and no real training, just getting out there to have fun.

I signed up for this race as part of the Train to End Stroke program. In 2002, I lost my grandfather to stroke and did the marathon in his memory.

Prior to this I had walked many 5Ks and a few 10Ks but had never ran a race. My plan was to walk the entire race. I barely trained and when I think back, I can’t believe I thought I’d be able to just go out there and walk 26.2 miles.

The temperature that morning was 28 degrees. Being that I was living in Florida at the time, that was beyond cold to me. I was so cold that this girl who never ran a step in her life ended up running the first 4 miles of the race just to warm up. The things that happen when you hate being cold!

By the time I got into the Magic Kingdom, I was so ready to be over with the race. I kept going knowing that my sister and her friend would be at the castle to see me. After that I was definitely ready to just be over with it especially when I ran into a friend doing the half who was almost at the finish. I really wanted to finish with her instead of continuing on but she convinced me to keep going. When I left her, I spent that next 4 miles asking every volunteer when they would take me off the course for being too slow.

Finally after going through Animal Kingdom, there was a bus to pick up those of us who fell below pace. I think I was the only happy person on that bus.

I may not have finished, but I did accomplish way more than I ever thought possible. I made it 17 miles which is quite the accomplishment. This race started my love of running and specifically runDisney races. And Disney is also kind of enough to give those that aren’t able to finish a great “participant’ medal, which I’m still proud of all these years later!

For this race I stayed at the Animal Kingdome Lodge. This is a one of the Deluxe resorts at Walt Disney World and it’s absolutely beautiful!

One of the things that makes staying on Disney property is the beautiful theming of every resort. Disney did a wonderful job with this resort. It makes you feel like you’re in Africa complete with a savannah full of animals right outside your room. Below are some photos from the resort lobby and the view from the hotel.

Disney World has become my absolute favorite racecation destination. I’m looking forward to heading there again for the 2019 Wine and Dine Half Marathon weekend later this week. If you haven’t done a Disney race yet, I highly recommend it. There’s just something magical about running at Disney!

Sunday Run Day Travel Blog

Welcome to the first edition of the Sunday Run Day Travel Blog.

When you love to run and travel, what better way than to combine the two.

There are so many races around the world and so many great places to see.

While the race may be the main reason to travel, you can turn that trip into a racecation by exploring the area attractions before and after the race.

I’m currently working on completing a half marathon in all 50 states. It’s a great way to see the country and you’d be surprised how beautiful each state is.

I’ve now taken my love of running travel to another level by opening my travel business, Beyond The Miles Travel LLC, which specializes in running travel.

I look forward to featuring the different locations I’ve run each Sunday and hope to help some of you plan some great racecations someday.

Til next Sunday Run Day…