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The Windy Run Through all Four Family Parks

9:54 PM Reporter: RuninDC 0 Responses


    Yesterday, I experienced one of the most miserable runs this year, if not for an entire decade.  It was bone-shivering cold; it snowed, then rained giving all 20,000 plus runners a dripping wet feeling from brow to bun. C'mon, I could get this cold treatment back home in DC.

    It was the coldest Disney Marathon on record and arguably the longest cold streak in the sunshine state in a seeming eternity.

    To add frostbite to injury, I dropped and cracked my Canon video camera; my legs perpetually stayed frozen, if not cramped, and I was literally on the verge of acquiring a mild case of hypothermia, if not pneumonia.

    My bitter memories of yesterday crammed down my brain as I rammed down the snooze button not yet ready for the morning with all its searing pain ahead, but over the horizon, there would be lots to gain. Even though I knew it would hurt, I knew in a way that not completing this would be a mistake. I came to Disney to run and run I shall.


    As I mentioned the day before, I wanted to see how far I could push myself to reach my upper limit of physical ability.  VO2 max, endurance, heart rate, muscles and joints -- all would be seriously put to the test today.

  But the Goofy Challenge wasn't strictly physical.  It was a social economic opportunity as well.  I also wanted to capitalize on the opportune moment to meet a diverse group of people, young and old, from all walks of life and from all over the world. I wanted to meet them, see what made them tick and to be inspired by their greatness and gratitude for limit-free living.

     And I had other personal motives.  I also wanted to use the marathon as a way to tour the theme parks, and perhaps catch a few rides (Dinosaur in Animal Kingdom, Rock and Roller Coaster in Hollywood Studios), go country hopping along the International Gateway -- In doing so, I would gain a greater appreciation for other people, their cultures, and why it is truly important to take time to smell the Glories.


    The decision I had to make was whether to push myself hard, or to take my time and value the spirit of the moment.
    As usual, I wanted to make the best of each and every moment I held a pulse.  I was firmly committed to make this experience both wholistic in events and wholesome in lessons-- so I decided to capitalize on the prime opportunity to visit each theme park that we ran through and to chat and get to know some of my fellow runners and sightseers.


    I was inspired by the service and commitment for Distance 4 Dreams that each year fundraises hundreds of thousands of dollars to sponsor the wish of a child with a life-threatening disease to spend a week at Disney World.

    The wonderful young ladies who I met were specifically raising money for Paige and her family to stay at Give Kids the World Village.

   I was also inspired by Walt Disney, himself, the quasi-experimenter and quintessential entrepreneur.  He used his imagination to chase his dreams and to spread his wings.  

   What was amazing about the founder of the "Happiest Place on Earth" was that he was resourceful and clever in making the best choices despite his spartan and unstructured upbringing. 

   Another neat thing about Disney is that he did not set off on a single career.  Instead, Disney continually reinvented himself.  He started out drawing, then started making films.  Then he opened up Disneyland and started planning Disney World before his death at 65.  If something didn't work, he wouldn't mind going back to the chalk board to start all over again.


    The "I" in RUNIN also stands for Innovating.   Cigna, who is sponsoring the Marathon events, has been experimenting with a virtual reality game designed to help treat cancer in young adults and children.

    Disney as a company is also known for its Innovation.  From its purchase of Pixar to its reinvention as a digital entertainment powerhouse, Disney has recently entered the emerging field of visualization.
New attraction at National Harbor
   In terms of its theme parks, Disney has taken steps in taking its theme park experience to the masses by building niche resorts and hotels such as the 550-room, 15 acre hotel they are building close to "my backyard" in National Harbor, MD.  After for many years in the early 90's planning a national park near the Civil War battlegrounds in Manassas, they decided to build a hotel in PG County instead.

    This is marketing ingenuity at its best.  In today's economy, a niche resort hotel will compete for the pocketbooks of those Disney-fun travelers who want the experience but not necessarily the expense.


So the entire experience was incredible and up lifting.  

I learned a lot from others, all perfect strangers who became priceless inspiration and indelible, incredible memory for all of us as they ran in honor of  those touched by cancer, tragedy or war or for simply for just the challenge.  Some had lost close friends.  Some had lost a family member.  Virtually everyone I ran into became lifelong friends as we ran in step to experience a miracle occur right in front of our own eyes.

    They were willing and able to beat the odds to complete a remarkable task -- The Marathons of Miracles.

    So, this weekend I experienced both the hardest and happiest runs of my life, and I'm a better man because of it.

    Can't wait till next year and especially next week, when I can register. Hopefully by then I can feel my fingers as they click against my laptop keys. 


Bitter Cold in DISNEY World

11:32 AM Reporter: RuninDC 0 Responses
January 8, 2009


    This was supposed to be my winter post-holiday vacation.  Having spent Christmas and New Years working from home, I was really looking forward to a long weekend in Orlando before my MBA studies started back up at GWU.  I was delighted when I was able to purchase a bib from a friend who broke her foot --not just for the marathon but also for the Disney Goofy challenge, this year being the momentous 5th anniversary.  It would be a perfect time to rest and reflect before the start of a very intense semester -- or so I hoped...


     What an apropros name for an event that sounds honestly quite wacky the first time I heard it from Jackie (still nursing her foot) -- a half marathon on Sat, followed by a full marathon on Sunday.  At first, I wanted to figure out why I would ever want to try something like this.  "Because it's something new", I thought. But that's what my 12-year old son would say.  I'm a believer that the human body is built to run long distances -- our entire body from the shape of our feet, our Archilles tendon, the head-stabilizing ligaments in our neck and spine and even the way we breathe and dissipate heat when running have become well defined and deftly designed(1).

    Our bodies were definitely not built for Kona, but could it be that our bodies were built for the Disney Goofy Challenge?


    I arose Saturday morning to temps in the mid-20's and a constant onslaught of sleet and a massive shiver that shaked vigorously like a happy dog's tail.  Thriving and running in DC all year long, I have gone face to face with the biter cold and treacherous snow before, but never dreamed of running under the same conditions in the sunshine state and never a marathon distance in the heart of winter.  This was going to be a blast alright -- a frigid Arctic Blast!

    Serious doubts ran through my head whether I should even get up at all.  But any lingering, divergent thoughts were quickly quelled by the price of my airline ticket and hotel.  Think of it this way: It's a lot cheaper to visit the parks via a marathon than to pay the price for admission.

     Disney corrals you up at the Epcot Center parking lot by 4:00'ish -- or "O-Dark Thirty" in military terms.  When we arrived, a dank frosty slush of rain, sleet and flurries blanketed the sky over the geodesic Epcot dome, creating an eerie mist -- not unusual for this time of the year, in places like Chicago or NYC, but in Orlando?

     Perhaps the most excruciating part of the race was the two plus hours we lallygaged around until the fireworks erupted the predawn sky.  It was sensational to watch, but I was more thrilled with the opportunity to start warming up my frost-chilled body.  


    The first five miles was an easy stretch from the perimeter of Epcot to the Magic Kingdom.  When we entered the compound of the Magic Kingdom,  we were dazzeled by the festive welcoming.

    Greeting us to their home was Snow White, Cruella DeVille, Jimmy Crickett,  Country Bear Jamboree, and a whole host of characters.

    We strolled down Main Street USA, towards Tomorrowland, Fantasyland and through Cinderella's Castle.  

    We were given magnificent first-class treatment -- Not just the Disney characters, but all the volunteers were way- awesome -- and the best thing, there were plenty of porta potties with no lines.

    We left the Kingdom via Adventureland and Frontierland before exiting the park to head back towards Epcot.


(Photo courtesy of Cindy Kubica)    
     Over the 13.1 miles, jackets, hats, gloves, Tyvek jackets and even trash bags littered the course as runners ran in multiple layers.

   The rest of the way, was rather dull, and the sleet and rain continued to come down softly and incessantly. I drudged along, my mind calling to the finish line. Knowing I could not or rather would not stop. I believe that anything I start I must finish.

   And then, the worse part of the race was when I dropped my camera.  With the cold and ice, I heard a loud crack and then was dismayed to see that the LCD display was no longer functioning. My camera did not feel as if it was the only thing broken. As I continued the strenuous jog around the magic kingdom, I wondered about the pain tomorrow would bring. If how I felt now was any indication of tomorrow, I would truly be in for a very rough experience.

    But despite the technical difficulties, my body did not quit -- I felt relatively strong and periodically wanted to speed up to keep my body warm.  But throughout the morning, I constantly reminded myself of the big run the next day, and although I was testing out my hypothesis that the human body was built to run long distances over multiple days, I wasn't yet fully convinced of going back-to-back days. 

(1) Lee, Karen, "Author Believes Human Body is Built to run Long Distances without Shoes" Philadelphia Inquirer, Aug 4, 2009


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