Saturday, January 8, 2011

Walt Disney World Half Marathon

One of the most important rites of passage for every child is that trip to Disneyland, and being initiated into the Mickey Mouse club by virtue of the personalized Mickey Mouse ears. My parents had five kids, so they couldn't afford Mickey ears for all of us. However, because I am the baby, I got mine. That was 30 years ago. I no longer have those ears from my innocent boyhood, so it was very important for me to have the 2011 version. Of course, I had to have my own personalization on it!

Amazingly enough, I was able to convince the powers that be at the Mouse House to embroider my moniker on my ears. Disney is very strict when it comes to their brand. I can understand why. This is the happiest place on earth, and I get that any slight deviation could be deemed offensive to some.

When I filled out the paperwork for the embroidery, it clearly stated in the fine print: "No unusual nicknames, slang terms, profanity or epithets may be personalized."  Of course, I played dumb, and completely ignored the disclaimer. I innocently asked the cast member if I could have my moniker put on my ears, but he unfortunately said no. I then transformed myself into a sad five year old boy and explained, "this is my very first trip to Disney World, and I'm running The Goofy Challenge this weekend. Endorphin Dude is not just a nick name, it is who I am as a runner. I have trained very hard for this event. This is very important to me." Taken aback by my story, the cast member asked me to wait a moment as he excused himself to ask his manager if he could honor my request.  His manager then called his superior, spoke a few minutes, and moments later came back to me and said with a smile, "I understand that you would like to have "Endorphin Dude" embroidered on your ears.  Normally we do not allow this, but since this is not offensive in any manner, we will do it. Good luck on the race." Hakuna Matata!

I arrived in Orlando, Florida, for the Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge a few days before the big event.  If you've been following Endorphin Dude's journey, you will know that I've been training for this event for the past year.  In order to achieve Goofy status, one has to complete a half marathon followed by a full marathon the following day. That's 39.3 miles in two days.  For the past year, I've put my body through what I call 'The Goofification Process." This training regimen required me to shock my body into being able run back to back races.  I took baby steps and started with the 5k/5k back to back combination. I worked my way up to the 5k/10k combo, then the 10k/10k, the 10k/half marathon, then the half/half, and in October I completed my own Goofy Challenge by completing the Healdsburg Half Marathon on Saturday followed by the Silicon Valley Marathon the next day. Amazingly enough, I earned a PR for that 26.2 miler! I knew coming into this weekend that I would be able to complete this task, as I have already done so. Hence, I knew I could relax and have a little bit of fun. Need proof of the fun? Here you go:

After spending the first day and a half at The Magic Kingdom and Epcot, I headed over to the expo on Friday afternoon.  It's no secret that Endorphin Dude loves race expos, and I was super excited to be there.  I don't think Sandy and Christine, my travel mates, were as exuberant as I was, but they nonetheless indulged me. I proudly wore my Marathon Maniacs shirt so that other maniacs would be able to identify me. Sure enough, there were quite a few out there. 

I hung out at the expo for about an hour, walking up and down and checking out every booth. It's always the same old stuff, I never get tired of it. I like seeing GU packets, "Marathon Ho" bumper stickers, and running skirts. For me, all these things are all part of the marathon experience. I did sense that my travel mates were getting a bit restless, so I finished up and we headed back to our hotel. The three of us had to get up at 2:30am in order to catch the shuttle to the start line, so we quickly grabbed a bite to eat and turned in early.  Unfortunately for me, I didn't sleep a wink. I guess it was the excitement of Goofy that kept me up all night. At about 2:15am, I gave up on trying to sleep and got up to prepare for the race.  

We arrived at the start line a little after 5am. 5am! I swear, this is the earliest race I've ever started. I guess it makes sense since the park does open to public at 9am.  Though I didn't not sleep at all, the excitement of being at this half marathon canceled out any fatigue in my system.  I was so ready to rock this half marathon, but I had to wait patiently wait in my corral.  It took about an hour, but once 6am rolled around, my group got to go!  I knew early on that I was going to take this one nice and easy to save my energy for the marathon the next day.  As I plugged along at the one mile mark, I saw a blue Half Fanatic shirt.  Sure enough, it was the spazzmatic Lu-E.  After our initial greeting, we decided to run this one together.   I told my running mate that I was going to take this was turtle slow, as I was running the full marathon the next day.  Louie was cool with this, and so away we went!

The two of us had a blast, frequently making stops to pose with all the Disney characters. How could we not?  I remember Peter Pan being scared of Endorphin Dude and Mary Poppins being fascinated by Louie’s Asian F.O.B. pose.  It took us 15 minutes to get a shot with The Pirates of the Caribbean, but that didn’t matter.  Louie and I walked a little, jogged a little, and posed a lot.  What was the rush?  Ah, to be able to run a half marathon at Walt Disney World is an experience that's so difficult to put into words, so I'm glad I have photos to illustrate how awesome the experience truly was.

The runner you see in the last photo is Lynette Garcia.  I met Lynette a few months ago via Josie Stidham Phelps, a mutual Facebook friend.  Both Josie and Lynette are incredible individuals who took charge of their lives, got healthy, and lost obscene amounts of weight.  These two spent a good portion of 2010 training for a half marathon.  The Walt Disney World Half Marathon was supposed to have been their first together, but Josie unfortunately suffered an injury and couldn't run her BFF.  She was definitely there in spirit, which no doubt helped her other half to succeed.   

I got to meet Lynette in the most spectacular fashion possible.  As Louie and I casually plugged along at the mile 10 mark, I heard a voice from behind shout out "Endorphin Dude!"  I turned around and saw Lynette run up to me.  Imagine my excitement when she gave me a big hug and gushed, "I hit the wall, and then I saw you."  I didn’t believe that she had bonked because she looked so strong.  We exchanged a few pleasantries and then I told her to quit wasting time chatting with me and to keep on going.  Lynette then zoomed off.  It definitely made me smile when she credited me for giving her that boost of energy she needed to run that final 5k.  I absolutely love hearing stories of people who make positive healthy changes to their lives, and both Lynette and Josie are prime examples.  These two are truly inspiring.

After seeing Lynette, Louie and I continued to plug along.  We looked behind us and saw so many walkers that we decided just to walk the rest of the way.  Neither of us felt that we were in any danger of getting picked up by the sag wagon.  That is, until Christine caught up with us and warned us that the sweeper was not too far behind and that she had to hustle!  The girl ran two miles in order to escape the sweeper!  With that, the three of us picked up the pace!  

When we reached the mile 13 mark, we ran it in!  Woo Hoo!  Waiting for us at the finish line were Half Fanatics Elizabeth McKay and Jennifer Walker along with her fiance Mitchell, who ran the half marathon as well.  I love that these guys were waiting for us at the finish line.  Louie and I took an eternity to get there, so seeing the crew out there made me happy.

Louie, as always, spazzed out, while Christine quietly reveled in her victory.  Christine came into the race fearing that she would not be able to make the cut off time.  She came close to being get picked up by the sag wagon, but she kept pushing herself, and as a result, she got the job done.  This one was a hard earned medal for her. She kept pushing herself and never once did she give up.  I admire that.  I admire her.

Ah, Sweet Victory!


  1. Thanks Tony! I definitely would not have even considered a 1/2 marathon if it wasn't for you! Also, I like expos too! It was fun to be there! Next time I want to get ear buds and one of those cool expandable fanny pak things! You are an awesome person and I am sooooooo glad to have you as a great friend! :)

  2. Love your pics from the Disney race. I can't believe your foot is misbehaving. You've GOT to be able to run on Sunday!!! I will be looking for Endorphin Dude. Thanks for stopping by my blog :)

  3. Heya Tony!

    I am big fan of your blog! You are simply inspirational. I am a Journalism student in Aussie and I running a story about insirational individuals from around the world, and I was wondering if it is possible to do either an email interview or a Skype interview?

    Please let me know if you're open to this.



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