I have two obsessions: Running, and all things Disney. Lucky for people like me there is the Run Disney series of races at the Disney parks. The granddaddy of them all, the Walt Disney World Marathon weekend is fast approaching. After seeing several posts over the last few weeks about people training for the WDW marathon (or the Goofy and Dopey challenges) I thought I’d put together some tips on the event. I am generally going to stick to the marathon itself, but many points can be applied to the other events as well (5K,10K, and half).
· When to vacation? Ok, it might be a little late for this one (and the next one!), but unlike most marathons, a Disney marathon generally has a vacation attached to it. A vacation with a lot of walking! So, do you plan your trip with the marathon at the beginning or at the end of the trip? I think it depends on your level of intensity for running. I need to do the run at the start, because I know I won’t be able to relax all week with a race hanging in the future. Others prefer to run at the end so they can walk the parks without post-marathon stiffness impeding walking through the parks. I can see the logic in both, so make a choice that works best for you. To me the choice comes down to two factors: The week of walking and standing leading to the marathon draining you of some of your running energy vs. gimping around a day or two afterwards.
· Where to stay? My advice here is the same for all Disney trips. Stay at a Disney resort on property. Disney resorts immerse you in the magic 24/7, plus all transportation needs are taken care of, leaving one less thing to worry about. For some Run Disney events, only certain resorts (called host resorts) provide transportation to the expo and races; however, for marathon weekend just about all Disney Resorts should be included. Resorts will have a designated area for bus transport to the expo and races; it is usually close to, but not necessarily in the same area as the park transport buses. The pick-up area is clearly marked with a sign, but it’s a good idea to check with the front desk to be sure of location.
· The Expo is really cool. For one thing, it’s an excuse to see the Wide World of Sports Complex, Disney’s beautiful multi-sport venue. The expo has the usual things, pack pick-up, chip testing, and vendor booths. They also have ongoing presentations by pillars of the running community, and of course a huge area to shop for marathon weekend souvenirs. Bring your family too, they have nice area where loved ones can make their own signs to cheer you on with!
· Don’t count on much sleep before the marathon. The Disney buses pick up at the resorts insanely early, like 3am early. You can try to make up for it by hitting the sack extra early, but that is tough to do at Disney. I remember going to bed at like 8:30, only to be awaken by Illuminations outside my balcony, I of course got up to watch and I don’t think I slept much after this. The good news is that most research has shown that rest the previous night has the bigger pay-off, so make sure you get plenty Friday night.
· There is a lot of downtime at the start. The buses will get you there plenty early for gear check, then you will wait in a holding area before they open the gates to the start corrals. My advice, pick a spot you can sit or lay down and just chill. In typical human crowd fashion people will start piling up at the gate and soon just about everyone is standing in pack like Black Friday shoppers waiting for Wal-Mart to open. Don’t get caught up in the frenzy, use this time to relax and conserve energy. The starting line isn’t going anywhere and there is no prize for being first to your corral. Once the gate opens to the corrals, there is a lengthy walk to each corral. The lower the letter, the longer the walk (my walk to the A corral was at least a half mile). Once you get to your corral, you will have some more downtime. Plenty of time for warm-ups or another chill-session.
· There are clothing donation boxes at the corrals. It can be chilly before sunrise, even in central Florida. If you want to stay warm before the race, but don’t want to run with you warm-ups on, I recommend wearing old sweats or long sleeve shirt and just stuff it in a donation box prior to the start. The Run Disney folks then donate all articles of clothing placed in the boxes after the event.
· The start is spectacular. Music, characters, fireworks. The start is awesome! It is also staggered, every few minutes a wave starts and the corrals move up. It is quite a lengthy process. Somewhere around mile 3 or 4 the course doubles back to near the start area and I could see waves of people still crossing the start area!
· Make sure fun is your priority on this race. Disney goes all out on this event. Christmas lights in the parks. Music, characters, and cast members cheering you on when you are not in the parks. There are lots of photo opportunities throughout, including with many hard to find characters. Character photo spots will have Disney photographers to take official race photos, but will also be happy to take one with your camera or phone if you ask. Although it is possible to run a PR at this race, I’d save such lofty goals for other marathons and just enjoy the sights, sounds, and uniqueness of this event.
· Make sure your supporters have a plan too. The Run Disney website has a spectator guide to help your loved ones find places to watch you run. They can utilize Disney buses to get to spectator locations, including the finish outside EPCOT. We stayed that the Boardwalk Resort, so my family literally just stepped outside to see me hit mile 25. There are reunion tents at the finish area where they can find you after the race. Buses run continuously to take you all back to your resort.
· Wear your finisher medal with pride in the parks. You worked hard for it, so get some mileage out of it! Wearing you medal won’t give you free admission to the parks (once upon a time it did), but you will get showered with praise by cast members who will be sure to commend you on your accomplishment. It will also let people know why you are clenching the rail with both hands as you gently descend the stairs heading to Jungle Cruise!
· Although this race is about fun, respect the distance. No doubt this race is a lot of fun, but don’t forget, it is still 26.2 miles. You will be achy and sore. It will take you longer to walk the parks and exiting some attractions will be difficult. Let your family know in advance that you may not be your usual spry self for a day or two and may need a few extra breaks in the day.
Hopefully this helps our JunkEe representatives at the WDW marathon have a more magical experience. If there is something I didn’t cover or have a general running or Disney question, feel free to email me any time at email@example.com .
About the author: Craig Weyrich is a Physical Therapist and USATF certified coach (with a totally healthy Disney obsession) in Yorkville, Illinois.
I often look right over any accomplishments I achieve and just press on to the next goal and I'm trying hard not to do that here.
I ran an 8k at a great pace, finished third in my age group and got an award. Pretty cool.
I turned around and ran a 5k immediately following the 8k, and got to run with an amazing young man that taught me a lot about not letting anything get in the way of the goals we set. Pretty great day really.
Working the expo was fun and allowed me to interact with runners for two days straight. It allowed me to learn from some veterans and hear the answers to questions I wouldn't even think to answer. Pretty blessed to have that time.
While at the expo a guy (whom I'd be proud to call friend) found me and said he saw I wanted to run a nine-minute pace, and we agreed to run together. I didn't know it then, but this was a huge blessing later.
Sunday morning came quickly, and after a sleepless night I felt as unprepared as ever for my 26.2 miles. Did I train enough? Did I fuel correctly? Was I hydrated? Could I push both mentally and physically? We were about to find out.
I found Scott, my pacer and now buddy, early on and we lined up together. A quick phone call from Bubs and the gunshot start came too fast.
One deep breathe.
Here we go.
Mile after mile ticked off and we posted sub nine-minute mile one after another. In the back of my head I apprehensively awaited the wall. Mile 10, 13, 16, still solid and feeling fresh.
Scott and I talked about training, life, our past and our futures. There wasn't a point we couldn't talk or were too out of breathe to be able to carry on our conversation.
Mile 21, my phone rings and as I round the bend I miss the call from my wife.
Note to self, tell wife to not call me at mile 21, while I’m laying my everything on a 26-mile course in what felt like 25MPH headwinds.
I called her back and let her know I was at mile 21, feeling great and heading in for the last little bit.
I was lying.
Suddenly I wasn’t feeling great. My knee hurt pretty bad and these head winds were not being very kind.
As we began to run onto the bridge, Scott and I were talking just a bit less and focusing just a bit more.
It was crystal clear to me that he was just as driven as I am, and there wasn’t anything that was going to stop our pursuit of a four-hour marathon time. Not our short careers as runners, not inexperience, not headwinds and certainly not a little bit of pain.
We motored on, and maintained the pace. 8:53 average pace was steadily holding and I hoped I could hang on.
As we ran on we approached the foot of “the hill.” The only significant climb in the course was the bridge, and those familiar may know what I’m talking about. While not a cliff, at mile 22 this bridge certainly didn’t seem welcoming.
My knee was talking back to me quite a bit and although I capitalized on every hydration point, my legs were cramping up a bit.
Early on in the run I realized that Scott was a pusher, and I was glad I had him on my side because as we laid down mile after mile we ran down everyone in sight. Not a single person passed us, save one. The “Stroller Warrior.” This excited and clearly prepared mom had “Stroller Warrior” scrawled on her calves and as we ran through the trails she and I discussed training with strollers and an online Stroller Warrior running club she was a part of. As we exited the trails we slowly passed her and motored on, for a minute. She fought back and I watched Stroller Warrior pull away from us. We made mention of her push, and I think we both had it in our heads that her passing us didn’t sit well. It was nothing more than competitive edge on our part, we wished her no ill will, but I think we both knew we were going to have to run her down.
Mile 19 she slowed to have a small mid-course celebration with her cheering section.
So long Stroller Warrior.
As we crested the bridge I made mention that I intended on letting my legs go for the downhill, striding out a bit to gain some time back.
Ok, here we are, the top; time to relax and stride out.
Not so fast.
The downhill proved just as hard as the uphill. The wind held us in place like a schoolyard bully. I was waiting for it to pick my hands up and start slapping me in the face telling me to quit hitting myself.
Running downhill took just as much effort as running on the flat course, and that was a bit demoralizing. We motored on and at nearly the same time, as if intricately coordinated like a last minute ambush, our legs began to tie themselves in knots.
Everyone says endurance-running forces the athlete to push right through pain and everything else, and in fine fashion pain had shown up to the dance.
She would not be ignored and demanded laser-like focus.
We set our goal, and neither of us was about to quit now, and we didn’t.
Silence had fallen over our struggle and we both had little to add to any conversation.
Enter music. We both dawned our headphones for the fist time and looked for a few notes of inspiration.
The music surged through my body like a second wind, only at this point it was more appropriate to call it a final push.
I picked the pace up.
We rounded the corner and were staring right down the barrel of the final stretch. Just a couple of miles, a couple of corners rounded, stood between our goal and us.
I pushed with everything I had. Scott was quick to catch up and we hammered out the best we could.
I looked down as my watch registered mile 25. 8:53.
We were going to get our four-hour marathon.
Like a maniac I screamed “WE’VE GOT THIS. THIS IS OUR RACE. OUR DAY. OUR RUN!!!”
Scott must have thought I was absolutely crazy; well, if he hadn’t already figured that out along the last three hours and forty minutes.
As we rounded the next corner I swear my body was going to shut down. It was incredible. Nothing in life mattered at that very moment. Not my past. Not my future. Not the pain.
I was fully present. Fully engaged. Fully aware that if I didn’t mash the pedal down with everything I had, my goal would slip away.
The final corner approached and as we rounded it I experienced something I’ve never experienced before.
100% uncontrollable emotion.
I was smiling and in complete euphoria and yet strangely aware that I was in more pain than ever before and somehow experiencing more pleasure.
I have heard many times about “the edge” in running. I suppose it’s different for everyone, but this was it for me.
I can’t explain it well enough for anyone to understand the enormity, the clarity, the purity, the honesty, the utter life altering experience those last .2 miles provided me, but I can say this.
If you never find that edge, that moment, in your running career, in life, then you may never understand what life is truly all about.
I shouted above the crowd and music to Scott, “Let’s go get our sub-four!”
We picked up our pace, and finished in grand fashion, sprinting to the finish as if the last 26 miles were nothing more than a warm-up.
Tears streaming down my face, new medals around my neck, water in hand, finisher’s visor propped atop my salty head, I turned and looked down back down the course.
At that moment I realized that I left more than a little bit of me out there. I left what was the biggest part of me for over 35 years. I left my fears, doubts, and insecurities out there and they were nowhere to be seen.
As I turned I hugged Scott and smiled.
We did it.
We hit our goal and let nothing stand in the way.
As the medics snatched me and sat me down they asked me if I felt all right and I smiled and said I had never felt better in my entire life.
They notice the swelling on my knee and iced it for a minute, and sitting there allowed me to gain some perspective.
Amidst the cheering, clapping, music and electric atmosphere, I realized that I had never felt so peaceful.
I did it.
I’m a marathoner.
I’m not done.
Follow Josh online at https://www.facebook.com/drivenrunner
I am an Army Veteran of over 17 years service, Husband of an Army Officer and Father of three boys. I have been a lifelong runner, but in May of 2004, shortly after my return from Operation Iraqi Freedom, I suffered a Heart Attack after an Army Physical Fitness test. I luckily survived a heart attack my doctor called the “Widow Maker.” Since then, with great physical rehabilitation, I got a second chance on life. I worked hard on getting back to running because I missed it so much.
By 2009, I ran my first Marathon in 4:18. This proved to me I can do anything in running again, just not with the fast pace I once had, but I am still working on it. In 2010, I met a running coach that trained the Fort Lee 10 Miler team and with his expertise I was able to compete in that year’s Army Ten Miler. I ran it in 74 minutes and I felt that was a comeback race. Since then I have run a ton of half marathons, improved my marathon time with hopes to one day qualify for the Boston Marathon, and I started a Fundraiser project for the American Heart Association that consists of running, environmentalism and fundraising. I called it the RecyclingRunner Project.
On every run I wear a backpack and push my twin son’s jogging stroller where I stop to pick up any litter along my run routes which I store in my pack and under the stroller. The items that are redeemable/recyclable I cash in and donate the money to the American Heart Association. This year’s campaign, which runs from Jan to Veteran’s Day, I’ve raised over $1,500 dollars from my collection redemptions and contributions from supporters. Every year I hope to continue to run, think green and fundraise.
You can follow my progress on Twitter: @recyclingrunner and on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RecyclingRunner
To my fellow RunJunkEes:
A while ago I sent Mr. Woods a story about a young lady who, during the time of her biggest running struggle, found it inside herself to encourage me through my running struggle. She reached out her hand and gave me the "side-five" of a lifetime. The story was uplifting and showed how we, as runners, have the power (and some might say the obligation and the duty) to share our strength and love for running with others in the community. I was very proud of that moment and how it inspired me and brought me closer to this group.
This time, I approach you to remind you that, as runners, we have the potential to be thrust into other people's lives without warning our notice. We are not in our home – so we can't turn the story off. We are not in our car – so we can't drive by with our eyes diverted. We are compelled to often engage right in the moment, and we have no choice but to act. I know, before my run last night, I would have been the one to turn the channel or drive by – but not anymore. I will remember this story and remind myself that I am a runner regardless of whether I have my shoes laced up.
Let my story serve as a reminder to you, like it will for me, to apply your runner's mentality wherever you are. Apply that love for the human spirit in whatever situation you are in. If you are in driving in your car or lounging on your couch, you are still a runner at heart and in spirit. Engage that mentality and do what you can to make the world a better place. Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts.
Here is my story:
Tonight, my run (which is one of my favorite times of the day) was interrupted by an event that was, at the same time, one of the saddest and most pathetic events I have ever witnessed.
If you have a moment, get out a pen and a letter, address it to [In my original letter, I asked my personal friends to send the letter directly to the "Young man" in the story, but if you send it to me at "Cory McAnelly, 801 Grand Ave. Suite 3200, Des Moines, IA, 50309," I would be more than happy to get it to him. It seemed better not to post his address to the world.] Read this story and then send him a quick note.
As I was on my run I neared the top of the hill on Park between SW 38th and SW 39th. As I crested the hill, the light at the bottom of the hill by the Dry Cleaner turned green and a big black pickup peeled out like he was drag racing. His vehicle screamed up the hill and, even with my headphones in, I could hear the noise of his engine revving. As he got to the intersection of SW 39th and Park, a small yellow lab ran into the street followed closely by a young man who, it seemed, had just lost control of the puppy. The black pickup slammed into the puppy, slowed, made eye contact with me, and then sped off. I stood with another man in the road as the child sat crying his eyes out next to his dying puppy. The father came and loaded the dog into the car and I can't describe the sadness and sorrow in everyone's eyes as the limp, but still breathing, puppy was moved, only to reveal evidence that it would, most likely, not survive much longer. The young man and his parents loaded the car and headed to the vet. Sadly, I did not get the young man's name, but I stopped and got his address on my way back. If you have a minute, a card just might make his day.
The real address I want to give you is the one of the grown man in the pickup. I know accidents do happen, but even accidents have consequences. It is how you react in those moments that truly defines your mettle. Pardon my anger, but; to that waste of human space in the vehicle: you are pathetic. If I had seen your license plate, your world would be very small right now. Nothing I say will fix what you did, but trust that your actions will be judged, one way or another, and hopefully by one with ultimate power. The lessons from this are many, but remember (1) the speed limit on Park is between 30-35 in most places for a reason, (2) if you ever hit anything, stop and see what you can do, especially if a human being is involved, and (3) respect yourself enough to take responsibility for your actions in your vehicle, even if the consequences might be great.
What a difference a year makes! I was the girl in high school that walked the mile. I hated any form of exercise. So when my friend asked me to sign up for a mud run last May, I shocked everyone by saying yes. I had recently divorced and decided I needed to try some new things, why not run in a mud pit?
The training started out ugly, I was a single mom of 3 working full time and had very little free time to run, I did c25k for almost 3 months and couldn't get past week 4.
Then end of July hits and I came down with a mysterious infection that went septic. By the time I made it to the ER I was near death. The doctors told me I would have died that day if I had stayed home. I was in the ICU for 5 days and my biggest worry was that I couldn't continue my c25k. I also had my first 5k coming up less than 3 weeks later. My doctor told me I could not run it so I walked that first 5k. A month later, I did that mud run.
I signed up for a few more 5Ks that fall/winter and still not able to complete a 5k without walking. Then in Dec, I finally ran an entire 5k in 34:38. It was such a wonderful feeling after 7 months of trying!
A year later, I have completed many 5k's, a 12k, and the Rock n' Roll half marathon that I did as a last minute sub.
I never believed in my wildest dreams that I would be able to complete a half. During that last mile, I almost couldn't finish because I was trying so hard not to cry, not from being tired, but because I was so close to doing something I thought was impossible for me.
I still struggle to find time to run, most of the time I run twice a week. I've lost 2 toenails, tried 5 different running shoes before finding my perfect shoe, and have discovered the wonderful world of the running community.
I am a runner.
My name is Christopher Merken. I'm seventeen years old and started running in November of 2012. I weighed 230 pounds and was pretty unhappy with my life. I was sluggish and slow, really out of it. One day I just decided to go running. I had no running experience, I had no running clothes, I had no running shoes. But I wanted to change my life. I decided to run a 5k in April of 2013. I thought that would be plenty of time to train for a run 3.1 miles.
I got bored though. It was the middle of January and snowing and cold but I wanted to race. I found a race in the middle of Pennsylvania scheduled for January 26th. Nervous, I signed up. The day of the race it was four degrees at race time. It had snowed the night before and there was snow and ice all over the course. But the forty runners who made it out were enthusiastic and encouraging. I finished the race and actually placed in my age group.
Since then I've run twenty races this year. I entered the lottery for the Philadelphia Broad Street Run and was accepted as one of the nearly 40,000 runners. It was a ten mile race, and when I finished it I knew I wanted to do my first half marathon. In June I ran the ODDyssey half marathon in Philadelphia. This fall I'll be running the BAA half marathon and the Philadelphia half marathon. I hope to run the Marine Corps Marathon in 2014.
Running has provided me with the discipline and goals I've lacked in my life. I've lost fifty pounds and six inches on my waist since November of 2012. I've become happier in life, and I will continue my running with new goals and new challenges in college at the University of Delaware this fall.
A while back I was having heart palpation and other tightness in my chest. After a week long heart study, I was told that I needed to be active again. When I was in high school I ran cross country and distance events in track and I loved to run, but in my senior year I hurt both my knees running in the state meet of cross country. I tried to run in college, but it never worked out. So when the doctor told me I needed to be active, my desire was to run but the injury from high school was in the back of my mind. In the middle of trying to get active again, I started to get migraine headaches; They determined that they were caused by a hole in my heart, and if I wasn't careful I could have a blood clot, it could pass through the hole in the heart I could have a stroke. The cardiologist said that I had to do more than just be active, I had to really up my cardo and loose some weight. So I thought I would try running again and see how the knees would hold out. At 43, overweight, heart palpations, hole in my heart, and bad knees: I started a Couch to 5k and the first time running the knees felt great, as the millage increased, the knees felt awesome and I fell in love with running again. Still the migraines persisted and all the doctors said I needed to repair the hole in my heart. I was scared of getting blood clots and knew the more cardo I did the blood clots would decrease, so I upped my weekly millage and started to train for the Detroit marathon. Still the migraines persisted to the point that surgery was not an option. so I had the surgery. 3 weeks later I was on the road again. I did the Detroit marathon last year, only 4 months after they closed the hold in my heart. I finished in 4:13:13. I was so excited. The day after I was determined to try to qualify for Boston 2013, and run Boston in 2014. My first marathon of 2013 and shot at qualifying was April 12 of this year. On January 3, while on a 13 mile training run, I slipped on some ice and really hurt my knee. After a 2 week break, I went to see the orthopedic doctor and sent me for physical therapy. 6 weeks later the pain was as bad as when I started so they sent me for an MRI and found that I had a ruptured ACL. They said that my legs were so fit from running so much that the other muscles were protecting the knee and was not presenting as a typical ACL injury. I had my ACL repaired on April 15, as I was recovering in the hospital I saw what happened at this year's Boston Marathon and was resolved to run it in 2015.
After 3 months of recovery of nothing more than stationary bike, and not running since my injury on January 3, I was cleared to run again just last week (June 26). When at physical therapy on the day I was cleared to run again, I was on the treadmill at a very slow jog when the trainer told me to stop, I said, "can I just finish this mile" and she replied "you are like addicted to running, you are a run junkee arn't you?" we both laughed when I told her about this page. Pages like Runjunkees, have been very instrumental in getting me back on the road again.
I was staring down at my running shoes when they turned blurry; the tears I had been fighting back falling quickly and quietly. My legs were shaking and my heart began to pound wildly as I stared at the treadmill. I can’t do it. I don’t want to do it. What am I even doing here? Why did I think this would be a good idea? I glanced at my husband and saw a familiar subdued panic in his eyes – a reflection of my own. Every unreasonable bone in my body screamed at me to go, get out of here, get my son, get in the car, and drive as far south as I could get. I could feel the fear rising in my chest and I suddenly felt like I was about to be sick right then and there. It was now or never. I said a prayer and hit the big green start button.
It is June 20, 2012 just another Wednesday for most people. But I am not most people. I am 3 hours away from home, on a treadmill in a tiny windowless room on the 10th floor of a children’s hospital. There is no amount of training, nothing I could have ever done that would have prepared me for this day. My 15 month old son is with a team of surgeons a few floors below me. He is undergoing a 7 to 8 hour cranial vault reconstruction, which means a team of highly skilled surgeons are cutting open my baby’s head from ear to ear, removing his entire skull, breaking the bones apart, reshaping them, and putting it all back together correctly with plates and screws in order to give his brain enough room to grow.
Unbeknownst to us, our son Emmett was born with a birth defect of the skull called Craniosynostosis. The sutures in his skull were closed at birth, inhibiting his skull growth. For the first 12 months of his life, he was a happy, seemingly healthy baby boy. Just a few days after his first birthday, we found him unconscious and seizing wildly in his crib. This one day, this one event would alter the course of our lives forever. Not only would this lead us into a major, invasive surgery to fix his skull but routine pre-op testing would bring us completely unrelated, more bad news about his brain. As they laid diagnosis upon diagnosis on our baby boy – it was like an anchor around my neck growing heavier and heavier. We gathered a team of 16 specialists, we started forcing numerous medications down his throat each day, we went to multiple weekly therapies, and spent an insane amount of hours each week watching him undergo extensive testing and fading into the halls of the hospital.
The anchor was paralyzing at first, so heavy I could hardly bare it. In the midst of the worst turmoil I have ever known watching my little boy suffer so greatly, I did the only thing that still made sense, the only thing I could control. I went for a run. Having been a dedicated distance runner for about 8 years at that point, I knew the healing qualities in running. I ran and I cried. I ran and I prayed. I ran and I screamed. Sometimes the pain and anguish that came pouring out during a run scared me, but I kept running. I ran until my legs ached and my lungs burned. I ran until I could feel the anger, shock, fear, and helplessness slowly leaving my body. I continued to run in an exhaustive zombie-like state in between hospital stays and testing. Each time I returned from my run, that anchor felt just a little bit lighter. It was during one of our 3 hour back and forth drives to the hospital that an idea formed. I am not a woman of inaction; I can’t just sit in a waiting room like a normal person. I knew exactly what I had to do. I had to run. I decided to run for the entirety of my son’s surgery; the greatest show of solidarity I could muster, the only thing that still made sense. If he must endure this surgery, I can endure my own special brand of pain in his honor and so I started training for the longest run of my life. I was no stranger to the marathon, but this would be far above and beyond what I had ever done. Emmett’s (virtual) Endurance Event was officially born. I made a Facebook event, a race bib with his picture, and encouraged family and friends to do something active on that day with me. It was a show of support for Emmett, even though he was too young to understand it, letting him know he wasn’t alone in this and raising awareness for Craniosynostosis in the process.
Back in the tiny windowless room, the monotony of my footsteps begins to threaten my sanity. It’s no longer soothing. It’s a quiet room with only my pit crew - my running expert husband and marathon running pastor. My footsteps echo loudly in my ears, to the point where I consider plugging my ears to drown out the noise. In my head, I am a thousand miles away: far away from this treadmill, this hospital, and this new life. In my head, I ran away from all of this. But in reality, I am here. Running and waiting in this agonizing state of the unknown.
To pass the time, my husband reads to me and shows me pictures from Facebook. Somewhere in the middle of our crisis, the most amazing thing happened. The running community and strangers from all over the world united with us for Emmett’s Endurance Event. I saw endless pictures of people running, biking, walking, golfing, jumping on the trampoline, gardening, swimming, Zumba, Crossfit, lifting weights, band practices, meetings, and more. All of these people dedicated their workouts/daily activities to Emmett, holding up a picture of him. Hundreds of messages, prayers, and emails flooded in completely overwhelming us. We were rendered speechless by the response. I wasn’t alone in this tiny windowless room at all, over a thousand people were right there with me.
Hour 6 was the hour that almost broke me. I was physically more exhausted than I can ever remember being, I was running on empty and desperate to stop. Everything hurt - my legs, my feet, my head, and my heart. I was scared. I was tired. I wanted to see my son. I was choking back tears. But I don’t give up; it’s just not who I am, stubborn as an ox if you ask my husband. Failure was never an option for me. My son has no choice in his surgery and if he can’t stop, then I can’t stop either. There comes a point in every race when your heart must carry you because your legs can’t do it anymore. It’s sheer will power. It’s what you tell yourself you have to do, what you tell yourself you MUST do and right now my legs were taking orders from my heart.
Hour 6 is something that will forever live on in my mind. I will never be fast enough to be considered an elite athlete. In reality, I am far from elite. I am slightly overweight and although I run a heavy load of miles each week, I am still a comfortably middle of the pack runner. I am quite average and I have no qualms about that. All these facts aside, hour 6 made me feel like an elite athlete at the top of their game. I was all heart, all soul, all passion, gritting my teeth and bearing what I thought was once unbearable. Never in my life had I felt so very weak, but yet so full of power. I certainly didn’t look powerful but I was doing it. The simple fact that I was still moving was about as powerful a statement as I could make.
We did not ring in hour 7 with a picture and Facebook update as we had every single hour before. If you ask my husband Tony, he will swear my eyes were glowing red and I growled at him when he brought the camera over, but I’m pretty sure I just said “no picture.” One of my closest friends (and fellow runner/training partner) made a podcast for me to listen to and gave me explicit directions to listen to it when I was at my wit’s end. This was it. Hour 7 - there were no wits left. I cried and laughed in a barely comprehendible fashion. No doubt at this point, my pit crew was sure I had lost my mind. I listened to it over and over until the call finally came. My son was out of surgery. 7 hours and 26 minutes after I first stepped on to that treadmill, a different woman stepped off of it. One that knew there were no such things as boundaries and limits. I had run exactly 36.2 miles with an average 12:19min/mile pace. It wasn’t about the pace at all, but secretly I was hoping to keep it in the 11’s. I told myself that is next year’s goal.
Even though I was exhausted and my legs were like jell-o, after a quick shower, I was rapidly walking down that hallway. I wanted to kick open those double doors, push everyone aside, and run as fast as I could to that recovery room. Just as I willed myself to keep running at the end, I now had to will myself to calm down and not start running. Emmett recovered from surgery well and went home within a week. He had 2 different shorter, surgeries since then as well but I did not run for those. He continues to face challenges with his health but is resilient and strong.
Ask me to talk about Emmett’s Endurance Event and I will start crying, every single time. People think they can’t make a difference in this world and that they are only one. But to people like us going through that, every single one of these people made a difference just by taking a picture, sending an email, and sharing in the difficult time in our lives. When all was said and done, over 1,000 people in 45 states and 13 countries took part in Emmett's Endurance Event. These people, even though we may not know all of their names, made a difference in our lives forever. They are a part of our family now.
On June 20, 2013 exactly one year after Emmett’s surgery – I took to my treadmill once again in an effort to continue raising awareness for Craniosynostosis. I collected names and dedicated each portion of my run to others to give back some of the support and encouragement we had been given. When I hit 7 hours and 26 minutes this year, I was just over 38 miles and so I pushed on dedicating my final two miles to my son Emmett. 7 hours and 52 minutes later, I had covered 40 miles with an average 11:48 min/mile pace. It wasn’t about the pace at all, but secretly, I was quite pleased. Next year though, I want those 40 miles in the 7 hour and 26 minute mark….
My name is Jim. I'm 36 year old father of 4 (2 daughters and twin boys (1 is an angel). I've been running for the past 4 years now. I was a police officer for 7 years when I was struck by a car on a traffic stop. I tore my ACL, MCL, PCL, LCL, meniscus and my hamstring was torn away from the bone. Two surgeries later and the doctors decided I wouldn't be able to return to work as an officer and they weren't sure if I'd even be able to run again. After 1 year of PT my last day the therapists decided to let me get onto a treadmill and try to jog. I jogged for 1 minute, albeit with a great deal of pain. Before my accident I hated running, but the prospect of losing that ability pushed me to w whole new level of respect for it. I love running now.
Two years ago my sons Grady and Cullen were born, however, we lost Cullen after he battled to be with us for 5 hours. We almost lost Grady too. They had TTTS (Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome) and the doctors were not aware of this. I have again turned to running as a form of therapy. I have Cullen's footprint tattooed on my left ankle so that he can be with me physically as well as mentally during my runs. I don't know where I would be today if it wasn't for running. I am 100 lbs less in weight and it has become a spiritual thing for me. Running has enabled me to overcome many obstacles. I love the Run Junkees group as you are all so supportive in my efforts and I can turn to you for advice. Thank you for being here for me and allowing me to partake in your knowledge sharing.
I am working on a 10 mile race now then a half soon afterwards. I even got my 8 year old daughter into running 5k's with me. I would definitely say running is my drug of choice. I've become addicted.
Journey of a Year… July 10, 2013
A little over a year ago my mom was diagnosed with colon cancer and my dad, almost exactly a month later was hospitalized for a very large abdominal aorta aneurism. They were both treated and have now recovered from their battles but this scared the hell out of me and was my wake up call. I was 45 years old at the time and had been a smoker for most of my life, that combined with high cholesterol and my weight put me in the high risk category for a heart attack by the VA. I decided after my parent’s encounters that I couldn't keep going the direction I have been going and decided changes were in order.
I quit smoking cold turkey exactly one year ago today. I knew I was gonna have to do something to help fend off the urge to smoke so I chose running as my crutch and medication. I started running on September 8, 2012. As of today I have not picked up a smoke, fully changed my diet, lost around 20 pounds, have run two 5k’s, two 10k's, a Marathon and have logged over 760 miles over the last 12 months. I have also signed up for four more 5k's, an 8 mile trail race and a Half Marathon to close out 2013. I hope to break through my goal of 1,000 miles for the year of 2013 and am currently just over 600 miles into this goal. I also plan on running a 50k Ultra Marathon in the spring of 2014.
As an added note, I recently learned that a cousin of mine has been following my Journey very closely. Through complications with an infection, he had to have one of his legs amputated below the knee and is now being fit for prosthetics. He has told me of his desire to run again and how much I inspire him so I have promised to run a race with him when he is ready and able. It amazes me that he looks to me for inspiration when he is actually the one who inspires and motivates me now!
I have learned over the last year that it is never too late to make changes and that your changes may not be just be for you but may also be the inspiration or motivation someone else needed to do the same.
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