Going Goofy: Disney runs benefit Inheritance of Hope
By Caroline Maynard Lamar Special to The Daily Times
I wasn’t born a marathoner. For much of my life I regarded people who ran those kind of distances with a mixture of fear and awe. But there I was in the fall of 2007, crossing the finish line of my first 26.2 mile race. Immediately I knew that I had to run another one, so in 2009 I traveled to Orlando to run the Disney World Marathon. While I was there I learned that Disney offered a special medal, a Goofy medal, to runners who completed both the half marathon and the full marathon on back-to-back days. With that knowledge, I knew I had to be a Disney racer at least one more time.
Even though I signed up for my second Disney marathon in January 2010, training wasn’t due to begin until late summer. As I plotted out a conditioning plan, I started to question my ability to pull off such a feat. I complained to my husband that I was too busy to train. With three kids and a 40-hour work week, I simply didn’t have time for something so intense. I also insisted I didn’t have what it takes physically to run so far in such a short period of time. Despite my husband’s insistence that I was as Goofy as they come, I really struggled with my decision and seriously considered dropping out. Then in early August, my cell phone rang. My sister told me that one of her friends caught wind of my plan and asked if I would run to benefit a charity started by her family. As my sister explained how the charity was reaching out to families with a terminally ill parent, I realized my decision had been made for me. I hung up the phone knowing that not only would I train for the races, I would finish them.
Inheritance of Hope
The charity, Inheritance of Hope, was founded in 2007 by a family facing terminal illness. They realized the need for emotional, financial and spiritual support for families who were facing a life-threatening diagnosis. I read testimonials from families who had benefited from Inheritance of Hope, and I immediately took steps to join the team. Week by week I logged my training miles and diligently worked to raise the funds necessary. Thanks to the generous support of my friends and family, I not only met, but surpassed my goal, raising a little more than $1,400. The funds raised by all of the runners on Team IOH — more than $30,000 — helped bring 15 families from all over the country to Orlando for a weekend of fun. By design, that weekend coincides with the marathon weekend, Jan. 8-9.
The night before the half-marathon portion of my Goofy Challenge, the other runners and I had the opportunity to meet the families at this year’s IOH Legacy Retreat. It was an incredibly powerful experience to come face-to-face with a mother of three who is dying but is doing her best to be there for her children and to give them memories and a future. She was in complete awe of my running 39.3 miles in two days. I felt unworthy of her attention and saw her as the awesome one. Her strength and grace in the midst of such adversity made my race look like a walk in the park. As a parent, I connected with her on a level that is difficult to describe. I wish we had had more time together, but we both had busy weekends ahead. Thanks to the Legacy Retreat, her family’s time in Orlando will help prepare them to face the challenges ahead and will give them wonderful memories not tied to a diagnosis or a hospital.
Race day “number one” dawned early as the alarm went off a little after 3 a.m. You know you’ve found true love when your spouse is willing to get up at 3 a.m. on vacation to stand around and watch you run for hours on end. We loaded onto a bus at our hotel and headed for Epcot. Starting a race at Disney World is nothing short of magical. Mickey and all his pals are on hand as fireworks shoot up into the darkness and more than 25,000 runners surge forward onto the course. With the race starting just after 5:30 a.m., the majority of my half-marathon was run in darkness. But darkness doesn’t equal boredom, especially at the Happiest Place on Earth. The half-marathon course takes runners by marching bands, Disney characters, and through two theme parks. I had a great race and met my husband at the finish line just over two hours after I started.
Sunday morning was colder than Saturday, and we arrived at the race staging area much earlier than the day before. That meant less stress, but also more time standing around in the pre-dawn chill. The fireworks finally lit up the sky, and I made my way across the starting line. I was sluggish to say the least. My legs felt heavy, and the thought of running for the next four and a half hours weighed on me. My brain went into Negative Nelly mode and automatically calculated a five hour finish time. But then, I thought of the families involved with Inheritance of Hope. I was reminded of the journey they are on and what must be going through their minds on a daily basis. “Just keep moving,” I thought to myself. “Just stay upright and put one foot in front of the other.” The miles clicked by, and eventually the sun came up over the horizon and brought us a beautiful Florida day. I relaxed and decided that, Negative Nelly notwithstanding, I was going to have a great run and a good time. I saw my daughters’ favorite Disney characters along the course and stopped for photo after photo. What good is it to run through all four Disney theme parks and not have photographic evidence of the fun? By the time I hit mile 20, I felt like I was flying. I practically sprinted through the final miles and crossed the finish line in 4:28:50.
As I look back on the entire experience I’m still in shock that I pulled it off. Everyone else in my life was confident that I would be handed that Goofy medal, and yet I doubted myself. I learned a valuable lesson during my races, one that will stick with me for many miles to come. We all have a race to run. Some of us are running to feel more alive, while others are running to stay alive. But no matter why we are on the course, the important thing to remember is that what happens along the way is just as important as finding your way to the finish.