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May 2, 2011

I Hate Running But I Love Runners

by Helen Dunn

I am a marathon runner. For most people who know me, my running is what defines me. I am the person who people come to when they want to try out the sport. I’m the one who answers their questions, who is their sidekick for their first run, who encourages them to try out a 5K or a half-marathon. I am a runner, no doubt about it. But here’s a surprising fact: I kind of hate running.

At first I thought that I only hated it because I was new. I thought that it would get better, that the first mile of every run would stop feeling like the worst 11 minutes of my life. I’ve been running for nearly ten years and the first few steps still stink every time. Running is hard. It’s uncomfortable at best and painful at worst. It’s almost never fun. I do it though, and I’ll never give it up, because running gives me access to the thing I really do love: other runners!

The running community is the best thing that ever happened to me. I’ve been lucky to have become part of two fantastic running groups over the years. My local running club has supported and encouraged me in my adventures over the past six years. I run with the kind of people who literally stay up all night, some running, some just keeping the coffee warm, to support one of their own who was running trying to run 100 miles in 24 hours. (He did it!) The kind of people who text me from their vacations to wish me luck on marathon day. They make it possible for me to get up at 5am, drive an hour to run a hilly half-marathon, and be able to say, with complete honesty, “That was fun!” at the finish line because I’d spent that time with them.

And then I have Team All Ears.

It’s hard to believe that I could be lucky enough to find a group that combines two of my biggest passions into a single entity but here we have it. One of my fondest memories is running with Brad Garfinkel towards the end of his first marathon in Harrisburg, PA. I was struggling, and having a bad day, but when I found Brad, who was suffering the way most of us do during our first attempt at 26.2, we started chatting about our favorite Disney podcasts and suddenly we were at the finish line! Amazing! How about when I ran into Barb Kennedy, who I never met before, at the Hershey Half Marathon and complained to her that my iPod was acting up: she happily handed over her own MP3 player for me to use for the rest of the race. The boost of her music gave me what I needed to catch up with Jamison Reynolds on the course. Jamison and I ran together during some of the more difficult miles and we talked about the Team and what it meant to us and to others and suddenly, the finish line was in reach. It was a little bit of running magic.

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It happened again at Marine Corps Marathon when Jamison, Brad and I managed to find one another amid 30,000 runners on the streets of DC thanks to the Team All Ears logo we were wearing. Jamison shared his enthusiasm with me, and Brad shared his electrolyte pills, and their support helped me finish within 30 seconds of my marathon PR. I was thrilled about my own race but I was even happier that Brad got a huge PR and that I was there to hug Jamison at the end of his first marathon. I’d watched him train for nearly two years to achieve that goal and it’s just amazing to take that ride with someone. I wish that everybody could experience the feeling. Achieving your own personal goals is great but watching other people do it is better. Helping them to do it is the best feeling of all.

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To me, that’s what the running community is all about: helping people to achieve their goals. In the case of Team All Ears we’re adding the dimension of helping the world fight one of the most insidious diseases on the planet while helping our friends have small triumphs every day. It was truly a moving experience when I watched Deb unroll the sign unroll to reveal that the group raised $46,677. For me though, the small victories along the way are what makes the team extra special. I’m excited when I see that Amanda got in a spinning workout and it makes me want to schedule one of my own. When I know that Holly is running 20 miles, I think about her doing it, I use that to push myself a little harder during my own run. I’m excited when my friends achieve PR after PR in their races (Brad and Jorge, I’m talking to you!) I’m sad when my friends have setbacks and I do my best to encourage them not to give up (Michelle, Barb, Cailin & Josh…) It motivates me to know that I have a network of built in friends across the nation that are having the same experiences that I am, good and bad. I love being part of the team, not just in January, but every single day.

My point here is that running is hard. You might never feel the “runner’s high” but even if you don’t, you will probably find these little glimpses of magic along the way that make the struggle worth it.

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If you're planning on running a Walt Disney World race in January 2012 and you'd like to join Team AllEars® in the fight against breast cancer, please email Michelle at Michelle@teamallears.com.

May 5, 2011

Small Steps Lead To Big Changes

by Rhonda Speer

While preparing to write this post I decided to reread the profiles of my fellow team members. I quickly realized that sure we all love Disney and we share a desire to Run With Purpose but there is another common thread that binds us together. The majority of our members have reached a point in their lives when suddenly they realized that changes needed to be made. That's exactly how my story begins too.

After a series of life events in the early and mid 2000s, I lost the active me and became sedentary. One day I looked in the mirror and didn't recognize myself. My sense of adventure was gone, I felt horrible, my joy for life was gone and you could see it in my eyes. It took quite a while for things to click into place in my brain but one day I finally decided I was tired of the way things were and I was going to make changes. In the fall of 2007 I started walking. The first time I walked up a short steep hill my heart was pounding, I was gasping for air, I had to stop and rest. I couldn't believe how out of shape I was! I continued my walking stretching the distance each day.

By November I was walking 5 or 6 miles a day and I was starting to get bored. I wanted to do more to get into shape, I wanted to start working with a Personal Trainer. I had never been inside a gym in my life and it took some time for me to get the courage to walk into the gym that is near my house just to see how much it would cost to join. I joined the gym in January 2008 and began working with a Personal Trainer. I began weight lifting and found that I loved it (who knew?!). My Trainer and I worked hard all year but by October I was starting to feel restless again and my heart was telling me that it was time for a new challenge. This is when I came up with the really crazy idea that I was going to run the January 2010 Walt Disney World Half Marathon.

The thought of running 13.1 miles scared me to death. I'm not an athletic person. I've never played sports of any kind. I'd never run in my life. December 2008 I signed up for a special 3 week run class at the gym. I could survive 3 weeks, right? Day 1 of run class my new Coach put us on the treadmill and informed us that we would be running for 30 minutes. Run for 30 whole minutes!? I wanted to panic but this new Coach was a no nonsense type of person and I knew that she wasn't going to put up with me saying, "I can't." So, I DID IT! I ran for 30 minutes on that first day and the huge sense of pride I felt had me hooked on running.

I knew that my first race would be special and I wanted it to be at Walt Disney World so I picked the March 2009 Royal Family 5k. I was nervous. Real runner people would be there and I was afraid that I would stick out as not a real runner. I wasn't very sure of what to do or what to expect. Arriving to the race (at a crazy early time of the morning) I heard music and it sounded like a party. Looking around I saw people dressed in costumes and they looked like fun running people not intimidating at all. I roamed around the start area taking in all the sights and sounds and looking at all the people talking together. I wished that I knew someone there. Soon it was time to line up and then we were off and running. At first I was caught up with pacing myself and getting used to running with so many people around me. I had to remind myself to soak in the moment and remember the beauty of running through Epcot in the early morning.

October 2009 I ran my second race, The Race For The Taste 10k at Walt Disney World. This is where I met Holly and Dave from Team AllEars. I had heard about Team AllEars early in 2009 and I really wanted to join but the Team filled up quickly that year and I was too late to get my application in. I knew early on that if I was going to run half marathons and beyond I wanted to make those miles count for something bigger than me. When registration opened in 2010 I quickly contacted Michelle and became a proud member of Team AllEars.

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I achieved my goal of running the Walt Disney World Half Marathon in January 2010. It was an incredible uplifting experience. I worked hard for a year. I became a runner and discovered something new about myself. I love long distance running. Since then I've moved on to run my first marathon and my first Goofy Challenge. I'm no longer standing alone in the start area wishing that I had someone to talk to. I have my Team AllEars friends to keep me company. MaryJean was at my first marathon. She was running her first half marathon and we bonded over our mutual nervousness that morning. Holly and Jessica ran with me during my first Goofy Challenge and made the miles easy and fun.

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I began with a very small change, a short walk down a neighborhood street. Now I run marathons and I'm preparing for bigger challenges. On that first day when I decided to do something different and take a walk I never could have imagined where those steps would lead me. On a daily basis I don't think about how far I've come. Writing this post has forced me to take time to pause, reflect, and be amazed. I think I'll be a bit easier on myself the next time I get frustrated because I feel that I'm not fast enough or strong enough. I'll remember that at one time my heart pounded and I gasped for air when I walked up a short steep hill.

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If you're planning on running a Walt Disney World race in January 2012 and you'd like to join Team AllEars® in the fight against breast cancer, please email Michelle at Michelle@teamallears.com.

May 8, 2011

Being A Sports Enthusiast

by MaryJean Kancel
I am a Sports Enthusiast. Yes, I’m enthusiastic about sports. I participated in various sports in high school and college. I enjoy watching sports. But at Disney, being a Sports Enthusiast means you are a volunteer. A volunteer for athletic events held at Walt Disney World.

My adventures as a Disney Sports Enthusiast started as a volunteer for the 2006 January Half Marathon. Shift start was 2:30am, the temperature was in the 30’s, and I was stationed at the start corrals with thousands upon thousands of runners. Feeling overwhelmed I wondered what did I get myself in to. Talking with other volunteers I learned that there were opportunities to volunteer for events other than Disney’s Marathon Weekend.

Since that first chilly, early morning I’ve volunteered at track and field events, soccer matches, triathlons (Danskin and Ironman), running events including Expedition Everest, Wine and Dine Half Marathon, Marathon Weekend, Muddy Buddy, and the now defunct Minnie Marathon, Race For the Taste, and Tower of Terror 13K.

Jobs have included water stops, course monitor, bag check, race packet pick-up, javelin retrieval, pulling tape/measuring shot put throws, retrieving soccer balls that have gone out of bounds. I’ve been out there in freezing cold temperatures and broiling hot Florida summer afternoons. I’ve accumulated a significant amount of volunteer swag.

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Having watched the fun and excitement at the start of Disney races, I decided I would sign up for a 5K – the January 9, 2009 Circle of Life 5K, part of the Marathon Weekend events. I had done two 5K’s in my hometown of Pittsburgh, before moving to Florida. If I could manage those surely I could manage a race in the Happiest Place on Earth. I started my training a few months before the race – run some, walk a lot, and worked my way up to 3 miles.

On race morning, having volunteered for so many events, I felt out of place in the start corral – as if I didn’t belong and should be over at bag check helping out. The race started, we raced through Animal Kingdom and I had the best time of my life. I’ll admit, most of the race was a blur but I remember seeing the 3 mile marker. Although the last 1/10 of a mile seemed endless, I crossed that finish line and received an amazing medal.

After that I signed up for every Disney 5K race they had. I wasn’t hooked on running, I was hooked on the thrill of racing thru a Disney Park!! And the excitement of crossing a finish line and getting that medal!

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During the 2010 Disney Half Marathon I was volunteering just beyond the finish line, directing runners. I saw all levels of fitness cross that finish line. I thought, I can do this. I have the mental fortitude to keep going – I just wasn’t sure if my legs and knees (my weakest link) had the strength.

Before I could change my mind, I registered for the 2011 Half Marathon. One of the scariest moments of my life was hitting that submit button. I read Team AllEars was being formed for the 2011 Marathon Weekend. I had followed the blogs of the 2010 team and thought it was a great idea.

My Dad died of lung cancer in 1991. Members of my family on both sides fought battles with cancer, including breast cancer. Here was an opportunity to help fight this terrible disease. I joined the team and have never regretted it.

It sounds cliché, but joining Team AllEars truly was a life changing experience. The advice, encouragement, and friendship of my teammates were invaluable thru the long months of training.

When the 2011 Marathon Weekend finally arrived, it was exciting to finally meet all my teammates I had come to know only by status updates in Facebook. At the main team meet, Deb Wills gave a heartfelt thank you speech - not a dry eye was to be found. I knew I was part of something special but didn’t realize how much until that team meet.

It drove home that we were part of something much bigger than running a race and raising money. We had the opportunity to help lives impacted by breast cancer.

It was a whirlwind weekend with races (I completed the Half!!) and Team AllEars events, but I did not neglect my Sports Enthusiast duties. My mom and I volunteered for the Marathon on that Sunday morning. We were at water stop 15, located exactly at the 15 mile marker. It was so exciting to be watching for Team AllEars folks running by and to shout words of encouragement to them.

I had never been positioned at a spot where there was pontential for the dreaded sweep bus to pick up those behind the pace. At one point I saw the race official put the orange flag on the Mile 15 marker, signaling runners were now behind the pace needed to complete the race. I looked and there were approximately 100 runners still to come. My heart sank. I could see the sweep bus, with “Parade Bus” displayed where it normally had happier words such as “Magic Kingdom” or “Epcot”.

Suddenly, the volunteers started waving the runners on and broke in to even louder shouts of encouragement - “you can do it,” “keep going.” As if by our words alone we could keep everyone off that bus. It was a very emotional moment and one I will never forget. For me it was the point where being a volunteer and being a runner had suddenly merged. I knew what it was like to train for a race and the anticipation of crossing the finish line. I knew how it would feel to have the sweep bus at your heels. As volunteers, we were in a unique position to encourage and help drive these folks on. Yet it was heartbreaking to know that some may not make it, despite their determination.

At the time I thought I never wanted to volunteer that far along in the race again – it was just too emotional. Now I realize there will always be those in jeopardy of the sweep bus. On the course, especially where there are no spectators, it falls to the volunteers to provide shouts of encouragement and support. This is as much our job as it is to hand out water. So I will return!

Thinking back to my first volunteer shift on that cold morning in January 2006, I had no idea the path it would lead me down. It has been an incredible journey of fitness, friendship, and being part of an amazing group of people working to fight breast cancer – Team AllEars.


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If you're planning on running a Walt Disney World race in January 2012 and you'd like to join Team AllEars® in the fight against breast cancer, please email Michelle at Michelle@teamallears.com.

May 14, 2011

Neverland

by Dave Aulen

I'm not going to string you along. There will be no mention of pirates, pixies, or Pan in this blog. Instead, I'll be writing about what keeps me going.

I caught the travel bug from my family. My parents enjoyed vacations for the same reasons most of us do: relaxation, new experiences, and a change of scenery. Living in New York put us within a few hours drives to great East Coast destinations like Mystic Seaport, Cape Cod, Washington, and The Jersey Shore. I was seven when we took our first road trip to Walt Disney World. We visited the parks three times as a family.

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We stopped going on family trips when I entered high school. During Freshman year I had a chance to go to Europe on a school-sponsored trip. My mom jumped on this opportunity to send me and my grandmother since the tour matched-up with what I was learning in school, and my grandmother had never been to Europe. Flash forward two years later: I arrived home from a trip to Russia to find my mom crying. She just found out that day that she had breast cancer. My travels the rest of the summer were on the commuter train to New York City; exploring the east-side blocks around Sloan-Kettering Hospital.

Mom had a mastectomy and went through radiation. Everything was eventually clear and life was back to normal. I was given one more trip to Europe, then started college on the other side of the state that fall.

Then the cancer came back a year later.

Mom was hospitalized while I was in college and she told me not to worry - just to concentrate on my studies. I came home for Thanksgiving week and spent all the time in the hospital, still hopeful she'd get better. About an hour before I was to begin my road trip back to school we got the call that the end was near. My grandmother and I were a minute too late.

That was over 21 years ago. As I think back to the time and think about my mom, I always come back to one thing. She never got to go to Europe. She postponed that dream for me to go. The day she entered that hospital was the day she entered Neverland -- Never going to see new places, never going to see the rest of her son's milestones, never going to enjoy growing old with her spouse. I can't fathom what could go through one's mind during those final weeks.

When I get crap from people for all my travels, I go back to this: There's nothing more important to me than spending quality time with my wife Holly. Fortunately she has the travel bug too. For both of us Day 1 of any trip is very exciting (once we land). There's always something on the calendar to look forward to.

When the opportunity for Holly to join Team AllEars came up in 2010, I was happy. A new trip and we get to do something good for others. That was just the surface. We have so many new friends and have been moved to tears so many times as we've witnessed the generosity and support of this community. Now that I've been through my own health issue (heart-related), I decided it was time for me to join my friends and commit to fighting cancer in my mom's honor. I have joined Team AllEars 2012 and will raise money participating in the Disney Family Fun Run 5K in January.

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Travel may not be everyone's thing. What is your thing that keeps you excited? Running? Scrapping? Kid's sports? Photography?

What are the things you want to do and haven't? Would not doing these things be a regret if you found yourself in "Neverland?" Can you plot a course towards these things? Of course you can give your kids everything they could want...but save a little for yourself.

Travel and spending times with my wife keeps me up. I'm going to do everything I can to keep myself up and I encourage anyone reading this blog to find what keeps you up. Once you find that thing, do everything you can to stay up and NEVER LAND!

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If you're planning on running a Walt Disney World race in January 2012 and you'd like to join Team AllEars® in the fight against breast cancer, please email Michelle at Michelle@teamallears.com.

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About May 2011

This page contains all entries posted to Team AllEars® Running Blog in May 2011. They are listed from oldest to newest.

April 2011 is the previous archive.

June 2011 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.