My Journey to Running at Disney
By Eric Bouchet
My journey actually began in January 2008. I was extremely overweight and getting closer and closer to the 315-320 lb. mark. I was a reader of the AllEars.net website and occasionally read the blogs.
One evening I happened to come across Mike Scopa's blog. At that moment in time, my life began to change. The blog series he was writing was called "Marathoning With Mike And Mickey" and was about the 2008 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. He wrote about his participating in the half marathon that year; talking about everything beginning with the training leading up to the race, the race itself, and the aftermath, including followup thoughts. This was done over the course of a few weeks and for some reason I was transfixed to each of his entries.
Now the thing you have to realize about me is that in 2008 the word "running" was not even in my vocabulary. To run meant “that thing you do sprinting from the garage door to your car door when it's pouring down rain outside.” Of course then I would have to catch my breath from that 15 foot jaunt and eight second “run." My how things had gone downhill for me!
In grade school, I was usually considered somewhat active. I played baseball. I played soccer for a couple of years. I even gave football a try. But the two things that I did the most were karate and playing the trumpet. I was not a heavy child by any means and my parents always made sure that I was as active as possible and were so very supportive of any extra curricular activity I wanted to try. Karate was my thing....for 16 years.
In high school I discovered marching. I have played the trumpet since the forth grade and for seven years marched throughout high school and college.
Ah college......the college years. Yeah, lets just skip those years. The total lack of anything that would be remotely considered as exercise continued until January 2008.
Along came this writer and The View From Scopa Towers blog. I read every single word he wrote about running a half marathon. Don't ask me why, because even to this day I don't really have an answer. All I do know is that something inside me began to change. I read those articles and found myself crying. I read those articles and found myself yearning for something to say “look at me!!! Look at what I did!!!” I found myself wanting a medal. I found myself inspired.
In March I informed my wife Tasha that I wanted to run the Walt Disney World 2009 Half Marathon. She never batted an eye. All she said was “Ok do it!!” I was actually not prepared for her immediate support. It actually took me a few more days to talk myself into signing up. When I did finally hit that submit button Tasha told me point blank “Now do it, or you just threw away $125!!”
Because of my weight the first few weeks were absolute shear torture. My first timed mile was almost 21 minutes. My ankles and knees screamed at me not to do this..... the impact pains were horrendous. I was questioning myself and my sanity. After only about four weeks I had pretty much given up. Then the bottom fell out of my life.
In April my grandmother, Ma, passed away very unexpectedly. This hit me so very, very hard and it really gave me a reason to stop this whole running nonsense. I talked with my grandfather, Da, and he flat out told me to suck it up. Ma was so happy that I was trying to get healthier and she would be extremely upset with me if I just gave up. I had found a whole new reason for undertaking this journey. I hit the local high school track even harder. Then the strangest thing happened.
The weight started dropping, the pains went away, and I clocked a mile at under 16 minutes. And then in August my Da died as well. They were married for 56 years, and being separated four months apart was just too long and too much. When Ma died it was as if I had been gut punched and could not breathe. When Da died the world came to a complete stop for me. My whole life I had grown up thinking that they were invincible. I took them to Walt Disney World in May of 2005. Unfortunately they never got to see me race. My very first race ever was the 2009 Walt Disney World Half Marathon and I dedicated that race to them.
Crossing that first finish line was an instant addiction for me. It was shear euphoria and I instantly wanted more: the joy, the tears, the happiness, the understanding of what I had just accomplished, and of course that beautiful, beautiful medal. That Donald Duck medal was my Olympic Gold medal.
Since that first race I have ran too many races to count and am very proud to say that I have ran eight half marathons and completed my second full marathon this year with TEAM ALLEARS 2011. I was blessed and lucky enough to be an Inaugural member of TEAM ALLEARS 2010. This team has become a VERY large outside family. The friendships that are made over a simple Facebook page are just absolutely amazing, especially when we all get to the WORLD and meet everyone in person; some face to face for the very first time.
This year on TEAM ALLEARS I am very proud to say that I am a Mentor. I look back to January 2008 and now realize that unknowingly Mike Scopa was my mentor. His words through his blog touched me more than I could ever express in words. I will never be able to repay Mr. Scopa for his inspiration. Instead I will continue to RUN WITH A PURPOSE for as long as I can. Running has become an addiction for me. It is my drug of choice that I will gladly share it with anyone.
TEAM ALLEARS is a collection of people from all over the United States and Mexico (shout out to Jorge Romero)! We come together not only for our love of DISNEY, but for a burning desire to become healthier people. In our quest to become healthy we also RUN WITH PURPOSE and that purpose is to raise much needed awareness and money for Breast Cancer Research. One day Breast Cancer will be wiped from the face of this planet we like to call Spaceship Earth. In a way, every time I go out and run I am helping to see this happen. If it doesn't happen in my lifetime then so be it. At least I will know that I helped make a difference. Together with Deb Wills and TEAM ALLEARS, we will continue to make a difference.