You've Got a Friend in Me

Hey team!

On January 11th, I completed the runDisney Marathon Weekend, half-marathon. It was my 5th half-marathon and my 1st experience at the Marathon Weekend. It was an amazing trip overall, with many firsts and many favorite repeats. This trip definitely sits in my top three Disney trips and was for sure one of my favorite times on a run. I haven't fully explored why that is we're going to go on this exploration together. Buckle up...who knows what's about to unfold!?

As I said, the trip itself was incredible. I had the privilege of hanging out with some dear friends and their four amazing kids. It's not often that I experience Disney World with children, and I'm so glad I got the opportunity. As much as I love being in a Disney park (shocking, right?), seeing Disney through the eyes of a child is absolutely magical. The pure joy and honest emotions that children emote is something to strive for, as an adult. And taking a child on one of your favorite rides, for their very first time, is unforgettable. But enough about kids! This is a runDisney blog, and those kids are terrible at running long distances...lets move on.

I'll spare you the full details of the run itself. You can read previous posts to get an idea of what my general experiences are at a runDisney event. However, a few things did differ on this run. For one, it was incredibly hot and humid on the day of the half-marathon. When I landed in Disney, a few days prior to the run, heat advisories were sent out, telling people to stay hydrated and not to attempt a personal record on the run.  Leading up to the trip I expected the weather to be around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, early in the morning and then warm up to around 75 degrees as the run went on. However at about 2:30am it was already pushing 70 degrees with about 60% humidity. Not great running conditions...especially when you live in Minnesota where the temp and the humidity in January is drastically different.

All that being said, it wasn't the end of the world and it was absolutely manageable. I slowed my normal pace down a bit, and I made sure to take advantage of every water station. In past runs, I never felt like I HAD to grab a water every time it was offered...but this time, I KNEW I needed to. The amount of sweat happening was a bit of a nightmare. Not a dry spot to be found. We're talking a salty monsoon situation. Is that enough? Should I go on? No? Cool.

Though I didn't participate in the full marathon, I know many people who did, and conditions were not any better. In fact they may have been worse. Disney didn't end up canceling the run, but they did decide to shorten the course by about 1.5 miles. This decision was made after most of the faster, earlier start runners had crossed the finish line. Of course the decision was in favor of the safety of the runners, but I for one would be incredibly disappointed if I had trained for a marathon and then not get to finish the full mileage. Here's a bit of inspiration for you though. I heard many stories of runners who got close to the finish line and then turned around and ran back the distance they would need to make up for that lost mileage before crossing the line. There were also runners who kept running beyond the finish line, back and forth in the parking lot, to get in their miles. That my friends, is dedication. I am in awe of every person who crossed that finish line, and especially those who had it in them to make up the miles. Well done folks. My Mickey Ears are off to you.

Another element that was a bit different for me, was I ran with my friend Amanda. I don't normally run with other people. In general, I tend to enjoy my own company while preparing for a run, and while on the road. But that's certainly not a hard and fast rule of mine. This happened to be, not only Amanda's first time at a runDisney event, but this would prove to be her very first half-marathon ever. We had never run together before, so clearly running 13 miles together in disgustingly hot weather seemed like a perfect idea. Fun fact; prior to this run, we were supposed to do a 5k Reindeer Run together, but there was a snow storm that day, which kept us from the run. Apparently when Amanda and I get together for a run, we turn into Weather Witches.

At the end of the day, Amanda and I proved to be pretty good running buddies. She let me know that I should take the lead in setting the pace, and we agreed that having conversations while running wasn't our favorite thing in the world...but we would also stay together. So we both shut the #$@% up and began our journey at 5:30am. Knowing it was too hot and humid to go at my normal pace, and knowing that Amanda simply wasn't as experienced of a runner as me (not that I am in any way superior...just slightly faster) I kept us as a fairly moderate and comfortable pace for the run. We checked in with each other, often times with just a simple meeting of the eyes, or a nod or a thumbs up. At mile 10, something unexpected happened to me, emotionally. I knew once we crossed that mile, this would officially be the furthest Amanda had ever run. I looked at her, and saw the accomplishment and the emotions wash over her, and I started crying. Fully crying. I was so proud of what she had accomplished, and I was brought back to my first half-marathon, and how thrilling and frightening it wall was. We high-fived and hugged and continued on the run.

Usually at this point in the run, I switch from being incredibly tired and wanting to stop, to knowing I only have a few more miles to go and feeling the adrenaline kick in.  It's a real roller-coaster of a final few miles. This time, however felt a little different. I was with my friend, full-filling one of her dreams, and doing something I love to do and sharing that with each other...and the other thousands of people who were on the same journey. The connectedness and the friendship and the camaraderie pushed me through that final hurdle to the finish line. Not since my first half-marathon had I felt so proud of this accomplishment. I am so proud of my friend Amanda, and I am so honored to have shared in this milestone with her.

Later that day, after we had both rested a bit cleaned the sweat-turned-to-salt from our faces, we met back up and enjoyed what would be her last day in the parks. We walked around with our medals and event shirts and congratulated other runners who were doing the same, and accepted their congratulations with a giddy excitement. There is something beautiful about being at Disney, which is already a joyful experience, and then sharing the pride of a physically exhausting fete with perfect strangers. It's such a juxtaposition of experiences that match up perfectly together.

Earlier that week I had met up with two friends of mine, Nick and Dave who had flown in from Canada with a group of their friends. Some of them were doing the Dopey challenge, which is aptly named, because you do a 5k, 10k, half-marathon and full marathon on 4 consecutive days. One was doing his very first 10k, and one was volunteering at two of the runs and doing the marathon. Other than Nick and Dave, I had never met this group and they welcomed me in as though we had all known each other for years. We had all planned to meet up after they had run their marathon, which meant I had that morning to myself.

This trip had already proven to be one full of inspiration, so I took it upon myself to give myself one more scoop of it. I got up early and headed to the parks so I could cheer on the runners in the marathon. As a runner, one of my favorite parts of an event, is running past the spectators...strangers...cheering you on. It's a thrill that helps me dig a little deeper and run a little faster. This was the first time I had an opportunity to cheer people on, and it moved me. As hundreds of people ran past, I could see a small glimpse of humanity. I could spot people who had done this many times before and were confident and full of energy, and I could spot people who were pushing themselves harder than they ever had before, and were tired and in need of support. People of all ages, sizes, races and walks of life were running past me, accomplishing something very few people even attempt...including me. It was easy to be swept up in the excitement of it all. I was clapping, and crying and cheering. I'm so glad I showed up to be a small part of their journey, and I encourage everyone to show up at a run in support of a friend or a loved one or a stranger. You won't regret it.

Later that day, I met up with my new Canadian friends (Nick, Dave, Jenn, Julie, Cody and Mike) at the Magic Kingdom. We watched the parade, took pictures with our medals, went on some rides and forgot we were adults with jobs and responsibilities. Though I had traveled to Disney alone, I never felt alone for one moment of the trip. Whether I was with Amanda and her family, or with my new maple loving friends from the north, or literally by myself, I always felt surrounded with love and support.

Since my trip I have stayed connected on a daily basis with my new friends who use a currency called a loonie, and I'm already planning to meet up with them at my next trip to Disney. Which brings me to what I believe to be the best thing that's happened to me since I started running with runDisney...and of course since I started co-hosting the Gays Do the D podcast. The friends I've made. It's not easy to make new and lasting friendships as you get older. Especially as an introvert. Which I very much am. But nothing could have been easier than meeting so many wonderful people who have changed my life for the better. People who would have otherwise been strangers. People from literally all over the world, who I never would have known even existed if it weren't for my experiences with Disney.

To anyone who is still contemplating whether or not they should sign up for a runDisney event, I highly encourage you to do so. Aside from the challenge of doing it, and from the shiny new medal you get, if you are open to it, you will meet people along your journey. And it will change you, in ways you didn't expect. And if that doesn't happen, you will at least want to change after the run...because I'm talking a swimming pool full of sweat.

Thanks for reading! I believe in you!


  1. All the love right back at you from Loonie land :)


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