Gina, Katie and Michelle after crossing the finish line in Honor of Joanne.
Beneath the heart and soul of a runner is a deep, underlying, purpose; a driving force that propels one foot in front of the other, which eventually leads to crossing that finish line.
I have always considered physical exercise an important contributing factor to a healthy body, mind and spirit. When I was in my thirties, I would run from time to time, and somehow over the years, running became a part of my regular weekly exercise routine. Following the passing of my mother, it was what I tapped into regularly as a healthy way to cope with the tremendous loss. I began my journey of racing with a 5k (3.1 miles), which got me thinking that I would like to add a half marathon (13.1 miles) to my bucket list. My goal was “I will do a half marathon before the age of 50 and will do this at Walt Disney World in honor of my mother, Joanne.”
Over the many years of vacationing at Walt Disney World, I can’t even begin to imagine how many total miles my feet have taken me, many of these have been while trekking through the theme parks, water parks and resorts with my mother. She had a special love for Walt Disney World, so I wanted to do this for HER. I decided to register for the Disney Princess Half Marathon which was to be held in February 2015. Not only was I about to embark on this fitness journey, I also convinced my girlfriend Michelle and my daughter Katie, both who never even previously considered running, into doing this with me. As usual, Disney does not disappoint as they bring special magic and features even to these race weekends. Fireworks send you off on your 13.1 miles, characters are on the race route to cheer you on and take photos, running through the theme parks is especially fun, and running the length of long the highways that connect the world together is amazing. Finally crossing that finish line and receiving that beautiful medal is a life changer. Walt Disney World Resorts also add additional special touches for race weekend. RunDisney offer a huge expo with running merchandise, including special items from runDisney and guest speakers from the world of running to offer advice and tips. Transportation is provided to all race participants and their supporters, the ChEAR Squad, to transfer to and from the race weekend events.
Special touches provided throughout the entire race weekend including race expo, special congrats from Disney Resorts, character meet and greets, and running through Disney Parks.
Though there was so much fun and excitement all around us, I have to say, completing those 13.1 miles was not as easy as my pre-race mind convinced me to believe. It was very challenging and sometimes grueling, especially when having to push through the fatigue and aches, and then the Florida sun began to beat down. I ended up speed walking the last 5 miles of the race due to a previous injury that just would not allow me to continue to run, all while Michelle stayed by my side saying, “Do this for Joanne, Do this for Joanne.” Michelle, Katie and I all crossed that finish line, and I was overcome with emotion as I tearfully received that medal for Joanne. We all said, “Never again,” but little did we all know that after crossing that first finish line, the fire would grow deeper and soon we were planning our next race, Disney’s Wine and Dine Half Marathon, and even roped Michelle’s daughter and my brother into participating as well. I have also completed Disney’s Castaway Cay 5k with my husband at my side.
One race leads to another: Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon and Castaway Cay 5k.
I have to say running the Disney Princess Half Marathon is the catalyst that led me to running other races throughout the United States but running Disney races has really created a special bond and memories between family and friends, which I will always treasure. I will continue to run, as long as my body will allow, continue to dedicate each race in honor of others and always remember this passion in my heart began In Honor of Joanne.
Written in Honor of Joanne with love always.