I am not the best story teller or blogger to that, but something amazing happened on Saturday and I wanted to share a little piece of it with whom ever may read this. I know I won’t be able to do it the justice it deserves but here it goes.
So the backstory first. My friends know I run annually with RODS (Racing for Orphans with Down Syndrome). I raise money in the spring and then we race in January at Disney World. This was my 3rd year running with them and doing the Disney World Half Marathon. So while I do enjoy Disney, I think of each January as a business trip. I am there to run for RODS and raise awareness for the cause. I flew down on January 4th to give me plenty of time before the Half on January 7th. On the 4th I did the expo and on the 5th I did the parks. The 6th was my traditional rest day before waking up at 2am on Saturday to crush it.
So that gets us to Friday night. The Coats Family, Ben Okon and I all had a great dinner at Kona Cafe, which is one of my favorite dining spots in Disney. It is located at the Polynesian resort. Mattie Coats Gaskin and I were heading back to the hotel after dinner, while the rest of the crew headed back to Magic Kingdom. I had gotten an email earlier in the day that said Disney was monitoring the weather and would keep everyone posted. At about 6pm got the same email, but this time it said the next one would come at 7pm. So on the bus back to the hotel with Mattie it was past 7 and I hadn’t gotten an email. I ventured to the Facebook page and there was the message:
“In an abundance of caution, the Walt Disney World resort has canceled all running events on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017…”
At first, I was like oh well, at least they are looking out for our safety, but as I pretended to be a weather man, I became frustrated that they made the call so early and more disappointed I wasn’t going to get to do my Disney Run. So I took this frustration to the Resort outside bar and grabbed a beer with my friend Keith and his friend Larry. It was packed with many other disappointed runners. This is when the inspiration started.
Side note: I think the Coronado Springs Resort was also the headquarters for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) runners and they have a lot of runners and they wear purple. That is an important piece of info as this story moves forward.
So back to sitting outside drinking a beer. While we drank and commiserated, A small group of the LLS runners maybe 10 or so along with their support crew providing water and Powerade started running. As they started all of us whose initial thought was to drink (not actually run) cheered them on as they came around. While this group was the one everyone noticed first because they were a pack of purple with lights and support, there were other people running as well. One girl ran with her bib on. One couple ran, which I nicknamed Robbie and Carter because he was super tall and she had blond hair like my friends Robbie and Carter Pine, the opposite loop from everyone else. More and more people started adding on as the rain began and I headed back to my room still disappointed, to avoid getting soaked. As I tried to sleep that night you could hear people cheering on those who began running their 13.1.
As I awoke Saturday morning, my plans to use my free day in the park with Ben and the Coats family changed. As Ben was getting ready I told him I would meet them at Epcot a little later. I am going to run a little, even if it’s not 13.1. The night runners had impacted me and as I looked outside Saturday morning, people were running. I was here in Disney to run for RODS. If Disney is mailing me a medal, then I am going to earn that medal. So 8:30 AM I headed downstairs, RODS shirt on, bib pinned on, and set up my own private water stop with water, a banana, and my honey stinger chews. Then I set off for the Unofficial Disney World Half Marathon also know as the Inaugural Coronado Springs Half Marathon. As I started there were LLS water stops and they cheered everyone on. As I ran by different sections of the resort there were random people cheering everyone on. Runners were running both directions and supporting each other. Lots of groups of purple runners (The LLS peeps). This began to motivate me more, and I knew at the point that I had to do 13.1.
As I continued around lap after lap, more runners joined and more runners finished. More spectators joined throughout the course. One guy brought out bottled water and some music as he cheered for each runner calling them out by name (Names were on our bibs, so not that creepy). At Disney runners run in costume (not this guy), so the Mad Hatter and Alice ran past me. The resort lifeguards joined in on the fun and cheered runners on with signs and maracas. I even spotted some of my fellow RODS runners and we cheered each other on lap after lap. The resort eventually got wind of what was going on and brought out canisters of water to help fuel one of the impromptu water stations. As I finished up my 13.1, some volunteers made me a toilet paper finish line that I got to break through. I completed my half marathon and I ran for RODS while doing it.
Somewhere, along my course, I was getting pretty emotional because a day that could have been just a huge disappointment had just transformed into something incredible and unique. It was a day fueled by the goodness of people supporting people. Everyone could have just done their own thing on Saturday like I planned to do, but people ran and people cheered them on. It was something that just happened and people joined in on it. The inspiration that runners provided to each other can not be placed into words. As I signed on to Facebook later in the day, I saw it was not unique to the Coronado Springs Resort, but happening at all the resorts around Walt Disney World. I saw pictures of kids dressed up in Disney costumes and they were now a part of the run because they were “character stops” along the course. Everyone found some good in the canceling of the half marathon. In my opinion, it turned out for the better and provided a crazy, inspiring, unique experience. I wish I could have recorded all the smiles, cheers, support that everyone was giving each other. Thank you to everyone out there who made this half marathon special.