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November 2011 Archives

November 3, 2011

For Me It all Began as a Birthday Challenge

by Jill Bent

My journey to Team AllEars and the fight against breast cancer began when, with a significant birthday looming, I resolved to adopt a healthier lifestyle and weight. I decided to explore running and made use of a popular "Couch to 5K" program to start.

Jill_Bent_Pic1A1.jpgAbout a month into my training, I was planning a trip to Walt Disney World when purely by accident I discovered the inaugural Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend. Being a huge Disney fan and a new found ahem, “runner,” I was elated to discover that not only was the event taking place during my trip but (and here’s the really good part) it included a Halloween-themed 5K race. What could be more perfect than running my first 5K at Walt Disney World? The rest of the summer was like the night Cinderella went to the ball. Everything fell perfectly into place. I recruited a lifelong friend to join me in what we termed our “significant birthday challenge.” We trained through the hot Texas summer and before we knew it, we were heading to Walt Disney World. Mickey’s Halloween 5K was all that we had hoped it would be and we had the time of our lives running through the Magic Kingdom. We agreed we could not have picked a better place to try our hand at running. To celebrate our accomplishment Lisa and I planned to attend the Wine & Dine party at Epcot later that night, but on our way we stopped by the finish line to watch the half marathon. The pride and joy on the faces of the runners as they crossed the finish, the enthusiasm of the spectators and the energy…the energy Disney had created for the runners was truly amazing. Almost immediately we found ourselves swept up in the excitement and we realized at that point that our birthday challenge was not nearing an end but rather just beginning. We decided we would extend the challenge to run a 10K in the spring and return the following October to run Disney’s Wine & Dine Half Marathon.

Jill_B_Pic_2.jpgAfter arriving back in Texas, we embarked on another six weeks of training and ran Leg #2 of our challenge at the Capitol 10K in Austin, Texas. We set out on a beautiful spring morning running through the Texas capitol complex, amidst the cheers of Texas Longhorn coach Mac Brown and alongside Lady Bird Johnson’s Town Lake to the finish. With Leg #2 on the books, it was now time to begin training for the big one. I admit the thought of running 13.1 miles was quite daunting as I had only been running about nine months which in my mind certainly didn’t classify me as a real runner. Since I realized I needed much more than a virtual coach, I signed up for a Galloway half marathon training program. I had the pleasure of meeting Jeff Galloway at the Disney expo and purchased his book “Running until You're 100.” His approach to injury-free running for older runners seemed to be a perfect fit for me. Almost simultaneously I also registered for the Wine & Dine Half Marathon because I knew that would carry me through the uncertainty of training.

Not being a morning person, my first step was to learn to rise at dawn to run. Every Sunday I would run with my Galloway group and what I worried might be an overwhelming experience quickly turned to one of the best experiences of my life. Oh don’t get me wrong, achieving new distances was challenging alright, but the program, the people and the Galloway experience overall was unmatched. From the very start, we learned to work together as a team, encouraging one another, exchanging ideas and becoming friends as we trained for whatever race we hoped to complete. Our leaders provided so much insight and direction that I quickly found myself looking forward to getting up before daybreak to run.

After a very harsh training season, summer finally turned to fall and it was once again time to head to Orlando. For the second time, we set off for Disney World filled with excitement and more than just a little apprehension.

JillB_Pic_3.jpgOn the day of the race, we woke early to watch Lisa’s nieces run the kids’ races before heading over to the expo to begin soaking up all of the excitement of race day. Once there we picked up our race gear, did too much shopping, took more than a few pictures and tried to distract ourselves as much as possible. After the expo, we headed back to the hotel for some lunch, pool time and an afternoon nap, but, despite our best efforts, napping was out of the question as pre-race jitters had really set in.

RunDisney’s slogan, "Runners Night Out", could not have been more apropriate for the Wine & Dine Half Marathon as the party atmosphere was apparent from the time we boarded the bus. After a pre-race party at ESPN, we embarked on a 13.1 mile night run filled with the sights and sounds of Disney. The Tree of Life in Animal Kingdom, a preview of the Osborne Family Lights in Disney Studios, floats from the Main Street Electric Light Parade, Disney musicians and my favorite, Disney characters, lined the route. We made our final turn at Epcot and crossed the finish for the big prize…the Disney bling. We had done it! We had finished the birthday challenge and run a half marathon. It was truly a night to remember.

On the plane ride home, as I reflected on the past year, I quickly realized that so much of my new found enjoyment in my life was as a result of my decision to try running. I had just enjoyed an unforgettable experience with one of my dearest friends. I had met and made so many new friends from both the running community and the Disney community. I had improved my lifestyle. I had improved my outlook, and the pièce de résistance was that I had combined my love for running with my passion for Disney.

The Next Step – Adding a Purpose

I can still remember the tone of my mother’s voice as she said, I have breast cancer. The sense of helplessness hits you immediately and all I could think was, " What do I say? What should I do?"

I had only known my mother as one of the most beautiful, vibrant women on the planet, but as I later sat with her during her first meeting with the oncologist, all I could see was fragility and fear. I knew the woman before me had been forever changed; she had cancer.

Shortly after my mother was diagnosed in 2010 I learned of Team AllEars and remember thinking how coincidental it was that this team of runners was raising money for breast cancer at Walt Disney World.

Fast forward to 2011, Mother was immersed in chemotherapy and the horrific lifestyle that accompanies it. During this time I would often find respite by running and I soon discovered that my running gave Mother and I both a little peace as it provided us something to share that didn’t involve diagnoses, medical procedures or treatments.

So as I sat on the plane that day thinking about a next step, I already knew the answer. I wanted to honor my mother by becoming a part of Team AllEars and the effort to raise money for breast cancer. I wanted to share the next Disney experience with my Mom. You see mother has never seen me run and it is her hope (and mine) that she will be well enough to join me for marathon weekend to witness it for the first time. We want to put this cancer beast behind us and celebrate...celebrate that Mother is cancer free, celebrate the end of the horrible treatments and most importantly, celebrate our love and the admiration this daughter has for her beautiful mother.


November 9, 2011

Putting the “I” in “Purpose”

By Daniel Rajnik

When I first joined team AllEars last year, I thought the tag-line was “Running with Porpoise”. As I thought about how fun it would be finding running shoes to fit a dolphin, my wife gently explained to me it said Running with “Purpose”, not “Porpoise.”

“Purpose?” I thought, “whatever THAT meant..”

Well, I actually knew what that meant. In joining Team AllEars I knew I was committing to raising funds to help with Deb’s fight against breast cancer, but in all honesty, it wasn’t the #1 reason in wanting to join. I wanted to run a half marathon, I wanted to do it in Walt Disney World, and I knew I needed help doing it. The promise of getting that help from Team AllEars was just too cool to pass up. So I joined, and my journey to the 2011 Marathon Weekend began.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Spaceship Earth…

As the team evolved and grew, I began to read more about why others had joined – personal stories of fights with cancer, memories of loved ones already lost, and concern for friends and family that may have to fight the disease themselves someday.

And as the training miles piled up on my “new” running shoes, I was also humbled by my friends and family’s generous response to my own fund raising efforts. Quietly, I realized my reason for being on Team AllEars was changing and the team’s goal was becoming my goal.

Fast forward to January 2011. My training completed, my fund raising goals exceeded, and my travel reservations secured, I was at a fever pitch anticipating meeting my Team AllEars family in person and tackling a fitness goal that I thought was unattainable. Well, at least I thought it was a “fever pitch.” Unfortunately, it turned out it was just a real fever. Three days before my trip, I came down with the flu – not just any flu – but last year’s version of H1N1.

I was devastated - stuck in bed, cursed by my own thoughts. No trip to the World. No half marathon. No meeting up with people I had corresponded with for months. But while I laid there feeling both physically and mentally sick, I was reminded of how powerful the drawings of a three and six year old child can be. My kids (with the help of my wife, I’m sure) created a new team, Team “No-tEars.” While it was a small team (comprising of rather small people), they did make their own posters and drawings designed to cheer me up and show me that I had achieved something great, even if I didn’t get a chance to prove it physically in Florida. And they were right, I had become part of a community – Team AllEars – something that was furthest from my mind when I joined almost a year before.

So while I didn’t make it to the race in 2011 (let alone complete it), I did realize that “I” had become part of the “purpose.” And as I look forward to tackling the full marathon in January 2012, I look forward even more for getting a chance to finally meet those I’ve known virtually for almost two years, and those that will be experiencing Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend for the first time (just like me).


While I failed to complete my first half marathon at Walt Disney World, I’m happy to say that with the help of fellow Team AllEars teammates Brad and Jamison, I reached that goal in March 2011 by finishing the National Half Marathon. Now bring on 26.2!


November 21, 2011

Following Your Runner WDW Marathon Weekend PART I of III

The excitement of a RunDisney race is not owned exclusively by the runners. Family and friends can also get in on the fun by following their runners along the course. Team AllEars runners look forward to finding their supporters on the course for that special photo at a special location, running supplies, a smile or hug for encouragement, or a reminder of the reason why they are running...to fight breast cancer.

Walt Disney World is hard enough to navigate on a normal day. Imagine how even more of a chore it is to get around when roads are closed and normal transportation rules are altered. That’s why most spectators settle on watching the races from only one location. To get to see your favorite runner on race day it takes time, patience, planning and good luck, but for our family, it’s so worth it.

Today, we'll feature Part I of our "Following Your Runner" strategies as learned from two Team allEars members and their families.

In Part I Jessica Awotona offers her family’s tips for viewing the Walt Disney World Half Marathon using their car for transportation.

Heeeere's Jessica...

One of my favorite things about running at Walt Disney World is seeing my family in different places along the course. The first race I ran at WDW was the 2010 Walt Disney World Half Marathon. My father, sisters, and boyfriend came to watch me run that year and they got to see me twice on the course. During that race we learned some important spectator lessons.

My family wanted to watch the runners come up Main Street, but were caught in traffic so long due to the road closures that they made it only to the Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC) luckily before I arrived at that point in the race.

They cheered me on from the right side of the bridge at the TTC and then took the monorail to Epcot to cheer again just after mile 12 (near the resort bus stop terminal). It was a great place to see familiar faces, and with just one mile to go, it gave me the lift I needed to finish strong.

This past January I ran The Goofy Challenge, which is both the half marathon on Saturday and the full marathon on Sunday. My dad and youngest sister came this year and learning from the lessons of the year before, had a very successful weekend of cheering. For the half marathon on Saturday they drove to Epcot before the roads were closed, parked the car, and took the monorail to the TTC, and then to the Magic Kingdom.

They were able to watch me run on Main Street USA, and saw me again when I came through Cinderella’s Castle. After that, they took the monorail back to Epcot and cheered from the same location as last year, before meeting me after the finish line.

Full Marathon Strategy

For the full marathon, I was able to see my family at four places in three parks! The first two locations were the same as the half; Main Street USA and coming back through the Castle. After seeing me in the Magic Kingdom, they took the monorail back to EPCOT and took a bus to Animal Kingdom and saw me near Expedition Everest.

I'm Beating the Yeti

Then, they took the bus back to EPCOT and cheered one last time near Germany in World Showcase. I think they were as exhausted as I was after almost six hours of cheering and park hopping. They said they had a great time and look forward to doing it all again this year as I go for my second Goofy medal.

View from the Germany Pavilion

Next: Part II of our Follow Your Runner series will feature Dave Aulen's no-car strategy for Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend.

November 26, 2011

Following Your Runner WDW Marathon Weekend PART II of III

In Part II of our series on following your runner at Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, Dave Aulen shares the strategy he perfected for following his wife Holly through the Magic Kingdom and Epcot without a car during two Goofy Challenges.

Heeere's Dave...

I know what you’re thinking, “I didn’t choose to run this thing so why should I get up so early and go with my runner to the start area?” The simple answer is that by doing just that it will make getting around the property so much easier for you. The added bonus is getting to share in the excitement and experience with your runner and the rest of Team AllEars. Driving to the EPCOT start area gives your runner a warm place to sit for a few minutes and allows for an easy exit after the finish line.

I follow the EPCOT-Monorail-TTC-Magic Kingdom-Monorail-TTC-EPCOT strategy Jessica mentioned. You can't get off the TTC monorail at the Magic Kingdom until the park opens, which is 5:30 am. Your choices are to either keep riding the loop or get off at The Contemporary Resort for coffee (the lobby coffee kiosk and Contempo Café opened early last year for the race weekend), and walk to the Magic Kingdom. You do not need a park ticket to watch the race from inside the Magic Kingdom.

At 5:30 in the morning you will find an empty park. You have some time to walk around and snap pictures before picking a viewing point. I prefer not to stand on Main Street proper because it's roped-off to create a narrow path for the race and it gives you mostly a side view of the race. The direct center of the hub is where you want to be to take that special photo of your favorite runner. It's a coveted spot and that's why you are there at 5:30 am. My actual favorite spot is just beyond the hub at the entrance to the Tomorrowland Bridge. There the runners are rounding a corner which gives you a better view of them for your photos.

View from the Hub Center

Half Marathon View from Tomorrowland Bridge

Once your runner passes get ready to move. The Tomorrowland Bridge area gives you the chance to turn around and go close to a roped-off area by the castle entrance. From here you can see your runner come out of the castle and get pictures as they run the ramp down toward Adventureland. Another good spot to stand for the “Castle Shot” is right behind the ChEAR Squad VIP area by the Adventureland Ramp.

View From Front of Cinderella’s Castle by the ChEAR Squad VIP Viewing Section

View In Front of Cinderella’s Castle from the Roped-off Area Behind the Hub

Time to go. Get on the monorail and go over to TTC for the EPCOT Monorail. Monorail lines are very long this weekend, but don't panic like me. You will get there in time because the runners are six plus miles from the finish. When you get down the monorail ramp at EPCOT, turn right, (away from the finish area) and you should be able to see your runner as they enter EPCOT (this is the spot Jessica mentioned).

Entering Epcot Near Bus Terminal

Then, book it over to the finish line. Depending on how fast your runner is you should be able to see them come into the finish area.

View In Front of Cinderella’s Castle from the Roped-off Area Behind the Hub

Finish Area

EPCOT Viewing Strategy

On marathon day (Sunday) I follow the same strategy of getting to EPCOT early and taking the Monorail to the TTC and then to Magic Kingdom; still entering the park around 5:30 am. Once I see Holly on Main Street USA and see her leave the castle, I exit via Monorail back to EPCOT.

Unlike for the Magic Kingdom, you are required to have a ticket to enter EPCOT to watch the race. The first year I just went into the park and killed some time in Innoventions until it was time to exit the park and head to the finish line area. Last year, I decided to skip the marathon finish line area in favor of watching the race in the park. I went to the UK Pavilion and watched the runners entering EPCOT and head counter-clockwise around the World Showcase for their final mile. You can choose some other countries to watch from (just not Canada) depending on how fast your runner is and if World Showcase is open.

The View From The UK Area of World Showcase

After you see your runner in the UK you can walk back to the World Showcase Plaza and see them coming toward you from Mexico. This is a good photo location because they are heading straight at you and your vantage point is on a slight incline.

View From the Mexico Area in World Showcase

After that you can exit the park and meet your runner at the family reunion area. Bring your sunglasses because there will be lots of shiny bling there.

Jessica and Holly: Bling Twins

In Part III of our series on following your runner at Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend Jess and Dave combine all that they and their families have learned and summarize all their top tips for you.

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About November 2011

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

October 2011 is the previous archive.

December 2011 is the next archive.

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