In January, I was lucky enough to be selected to attend RunDisney‘s Walt Disney World Marathon Meetup, held at Disney’s Hollywood Studios the Friday morning of Marathon weekend.
A friend dropped me at the park’s front gates shortly before we were asked to arrive for a 3-mile run around the theme park. After we were greeted and changed into white 20th anniversary RunDisney T-shirts, three members of the original Disney gang passed through the gates – Mickey, Donald and Goofy.
A group of 100 or so extremely excited runners lined up to pose for pics. And while in line, I made an awesome new friend, Amanda. She and I together raced Goofy (he won) and chatted as if we’ve know each other for years, not minutes (love ya girl!)
Racing Donald Duck!
Soon, we were greeted by a slew of running heroes – Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first female Olympic marathon winner in 1984; Jeff Galloway, former Olympian and master of the run-walk marathon method; distance runner Des Davila; Bart Yasso, Runner’s World’s chief running officer; running legend Bill Rodgers. Dick Beardsley, a TV and sports personality; and Adriano Bastos– now the 8-time winner of the Disney Marathon.
Being in such company was a bit overwhelming to say the least.
We were split into two groups:
– 9-minute milers with Des Davila, Joan Benoit Samuelson and Adriano Bastos
– 12-minute run/walk group led by Jeff Galloway, Bart Yasso, Dick Beardsley and Bill Rodgers
I had planned to try to the run-walk group, but when I realized I’d have the chance to run alongside some of my running heroes, I jumped at the chance. I knew I may never have that opportunity again.
Soon, we were off! I fell into step next to Des Davila and we chatted as we ran – about past races, favorite marathons, injuries and life. It was so nice to chat with her and run with her and she was so down-to-earth and lovely.
Des running down the main drag at Hollywood Studios
shooting while running
I fell off pace midway through the run – I later learned we were running 8min/miles and I AM NOT that speedy!
We paused in the middle for a photo op:
And while there, I asked Joan if she would be willing to take a photo. She agreed.
Pic by Des Davila!
As for the run itself, we ran around the park, in between rides, and into the back lot area, past a whole slew of props, including through the studios tunnel, which is part of the back lot tour. Because we ran before the park opened, it was empty and quiet, which was a bit eerie since Disney parks are always packed.
This is one of my fave pics from the meetup and is of Des and others running past the old MMC soundstage. I couldn’t resist.
We ended our run at an outdoor venue where the Lights, Motor, Action stunt show is held. They fed and watered us and soon we sat down to hear what the experts had to say. They offered great tips on wellness, strategies for the weekend races, the importance of listening to your body and more. They also all decided Des would win any footrace held today.
Photo: RunDisney, the panel discussion, that’s Galloway on the left
A few more stars popped by to say hello.
Former NFL player Eddie Mason spoke about the importance of having a strong core (hello kettlebells!).
N’SYNC’s Joey Fatone told us how he signed up for a 5k race, then offered to run Goofy Challenge in place of his wife, who broke her foot.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet Joe
Photo: Courtesy RunDisney. I just asked Joey why he likes to run, Joey’s answering. Can you see me? haha
Comedian Drew Carey, who is injured so opted not to run, told us about why he charged his lifestyle –“I started running to be healthier, see my kids grow up.” Amidst what seemed to be a standup show, he also offered some very valued Price is Right advice: Let the Plinko chip fall from the middle of the board.
Drew Carey with RunDisney’s Bob Hitchcock right behind him!
After the chat and some giveaways (fantastic Disney-themed New Balance sneakers, RunDisney bags and entry into next year’s marathon) we had the chance to chat with and meet some of the speakers.
Here are a few more pics from the event:
With Des after our run
From left, Bart Yasso, me, Dick Beardsley and my friend Jenn Lazzaro
Yup- me and Joey, He’s super nice.
Adriano Bastos shows me his Mickey tattoos. He has one for each Disney marathon win. Guess he will soon be getting another!
It was an incredible experience and am so thankful for RunDisney for the opportunity to attend. I made some incredible new friends and reconnected with another. Thank you!