Why I Ran the Walt Disney World Marathon — Or, What Motivates Me

This past Sunday, after months of training, I completed the Walt Disney World Marathon. 26.2 magical miles.

Many people thought I was crazy. There were even times during my preparation that I doubted myself. But on Sunday it all came together, and I can now officially call myself a marathoner.

But why did I do it. How did I do it?

When you’re running for hours at a time, especially when you’re training in the snowy Chicago winter alone, you have a lot of time to think. And during that time I often found myself thinking, “Why am I doing this?” Throughout the entire experience, I realized there are a lot of things that motivate me. Some intrinsic, and others not so. But either way, I think it’s important to know what motivates us to do things. Especially things that are hard. So, here’s what I learned about myself, and why I decided to run the Disney Marathon.

1. It sounded cool. 

A few years ago, I heard about runDisney, and it probably comes as no surprise that I was instantly intrigued. At this point in my life, I had never run farther than about 5 miles, so I certainly wasn’t thinking about running a marathon yet. But, as soon as I heard that you could run a race in Disney World, I wanted to do it.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts how when I hear about something cool and find myself thinking, “I want to try that someday” it goes on my List. Needless to say, running in Disney soon found its way onto the list.

2. I wanted the Mickey Medal.

I admit it. I’m a sucker for gimmicky motivators. I’m also a little Mickey-obsessed. So, when I was contemplating signing up for the Disney Half Marathon (in which you earn a wonderful Donald Duck medal), I realized what I really wanted was the Mickey Mouse medal. However, in order to earn Mickey’s medal, you needed to run the full marathon.

From the RunDisney Facebook Page

Now, this was around the time I had just completed my first half marathon. As I was approaching the finish line of this race, I found myself thinking, “Thank god this isn’t a full marathon. I could never do another 13.1 after this.” I had no desire to actually run a marathon.

But I also knew myself. I knew that if I made it all the way down to Disney World, ran the half marathon, and came home with my Donald medal, all that I would be able to think about was how much I wanted the Mickey Medal. Then I’d have to pay all that money again to schlep back down to Orlando to run the full another year. Why not just bite the bullet and sign up for the marathon now.

3. A Runner’s High makes you do stupid things. 

With all this half/full, Donald/Mickey stuff weighing on my mind, I had gone for a 7 mile run one night after work. This particular run felt especially good, and when I came home, I was definitely experiencing a runner’s high. I felt on top of the world. I could do anything.

Before I came down from this feeling, I went online and registered for the Disney Marathon.

4. There will be a day I cannot do this. Today is not that day. 

A friend gave me those words of wisdom the day I ran my first half, and it resonated with me. I realized that I could already run 13.1 miles, so I was half way there. I also realized that with each passing day I am only getting older. Putting things off because I cannot do them yet doesn’t make them come any easier in the future.

Once you reach a certain point in life, things only get more difficult with age. If I can’t run a marathon this year, I might not be able to run it another time. Now is the time. I’d already increased my mileage to 13 miles. I might as well keep up the momentum before I lost it.

5. I have supportive friends and family. 

There were many days during and after training runs that I found myself doubting everything it was I was doing. My 16-miler was the hardest run of my life (including the following 18 and 20 milers). It was cold. I was alone. It was dark. For the first time after a run, instead of feeling proud of my distance, I was only angry. For weeks after that run, I swore I never wanted to run again. Ever. I was done. Physically I hurt, but mentally I was even more damaged. I did not want to do this.

But, that night when I came home from my run, my boyfriend had dinner on the table for me. And he stayed clear when I came in looking ready to cry, scream, or punch someone.

In the weeks following, my friends gave me lots of pep talks. Many of them had just completed the Chicago Marathon, and assured me that 16 was their hardest too, but it got better.

When I finally did decide to get out and run again, friends sent me cheers on Nike+, motivational messages on Facebook, and texts to keep me going. I also knew that if I cut my run short, they’d all know it and I didn’t want to let them down.

And then came my 20-miler. It would be the longest distance I’d run before the marathon. And it was snowing. But, for the first time in my training, I didn’t have to do it alone. I had not one, but THREE friends offer to run with me, including one who ran the full 20 miles by my side. At the end of 2o miles, when we finally were able to stop, I was moved to tears and she was there to hug me and congratulate me.

Me with my amazing friends during my snowy 20-miler.

Without the support of these people, I would not have made it through my training. Of this I am sure. But I did make it through, and the morning of my race, I knew I had people who cared about me seeing me through. I had my boyfriend and parents who flew down to Florida to cheer me on. I had more texts and Facebook messages from my friends back home than I did on my birthday.

Although I was running this thing alone, it was absolutely in no way a solo adventure.

6. Adrenaline carries you through. 

After I had made it across the starting line, I knew there was nothing to do but finish. I don’t recall much of what I actually thought about during those 26.2 miles, but I do know that I never once wanted to quit. Unlike with my training runs, I never hit a wall. I just kept going forward, looking for that finish line. And I felt good the entire time.

I crossed the finish line strong. Hot and tired, but strong. No aches, no pains.

It wasn’t until I had stopped running and received my medal that I realized just how fatigued I was.  It hit me then that I really had used up all my energy during the race and was being fueled purely by adrenaline. And that adrenaline saw me through.

Finishing Strong

So, now here I am. I can officially call myself a marathoner.

And it’s not just because I wanted to, or because I thought I could, or because others believed in me. My motivation came in many forms all along the way. And without any one of those motivators, I wouldn’t be able to cross another item off my list!

Oh, yeah. And I got my Mickey medal.

Showing Off My Medal

4 thoughts on “Why I Ran the Walt Disney World Marathon — Or, What Motivates Me

    • Thank you so much for your comment! And congrats on the relay! I actually really loved the Chip and Dale medal! So cute.

      I’m hardly an expert at marathon training tips, as this was only my first. But one thing I’d suggest is not doing it alone in the wintertime! :) I used a modified version of Hal Higdon’s training plan, adjusted to fit with my schedule, and it worked pretty well.

      Certainly let me know if you have specific questions, because now that I can call myself a runner, I find that I can’t stop talking about running!

  1. I ran the Disney Marathon in 2009 for exactly the same reason, that MICKEY MEDAL!!! I live outside Cleveland and can sympathize with all that snow running. Congrats on your fabulous accomplishment, and Im gonna give in another shot hopefully in 2013!!!

    • I’m so glad I’m not the only one who does crazy things just for the medal! :) Thanks for reading my blog, and good luck to you! Hopefully I will do another Disney race in the future, too. Maybe I’ll run into you there! :)

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