Bitter Cold in DISNEY World

  January 8, 2009




    This was supposed to be my winter post-holiday vacation.  Having spent Christmas and New Years working from home, I was really looking forward to a long weekend in Orlando before my MBA studies started back up at GWU.  I was delighted when I was able to purchase a bib from a friend who broke her foot --not just for the marathon but also for the Disney Goofy challenge, this year being the momentous 5th anniversary.  It would be a perfect time to rest and reflect before the start of a very intense semester -- or so I hoped...


     What an apropros name for an event that sounds honestly quite wacky the first time I heard it from Jackie (still nursing her foot) -- a half marathon on Sat, followed by a full marathon on Sunday.  At first, I wanted to figure out why I would ever want to try something like this.  "Because it's something new", I thought. But that's what my 12-year old son would say.  I'm a believer that the human body is built to run long distances -- our entire body from the shape of our feet, our Archilles tendon, the head-stabilizing ligaments in our neck and spine and even the way we breathe and dissipate heat when running have become well defined and deftly designed(1).

    Our bodies were definitely not built for Kona, but could it be that our bodies were built for the Disney Goofy Challenge?


    I arose Saturday morning to temps in the mid-20's and a constant onslaught of sleet and a massive shiver that shaked vigorously like a happy dog's tail.  Thriving and running in DC all year long, I have gone face to face with the biter cold and treacherous snow before, but never dreamed of running under the same conditions in the sunshine state and never a marathon distance in the heart of winter.  This was going to be a blast alright -- a frigid Arctic Blast!

    Serious doubts ran through my head whether I should even get up at all.  But any lingering, divergent thoughts were quickly quelled by the price of my airline ticket and hotel.  Think of it this way: It's a lot cheaper to visit the parks via a marathon than to pay the price for admission.

     Disney corrals you up at the Epcot Center parking lot by 4:00'ish -- or "O-Dark Thirty" in military terms.  When we arrived, a dank frosty slush of rain, sleet and flurries blanketed the sky over the geodesic Epcot dome, creating an eerie mist -- not unusual for this time of the year, in places like Chicago or NYC, but in Orlando?

     Perhaps the most excruciating part of the race was the two plus hours we lallygaged around until the fireworks erupted the predawn sky.  It was sensational to watch, but I was more thrilled with the opportunity to start warming up my frost-chilled body.  


    The first five miles was an easy stretch from the perimeter of Epcot to the Magic Kingdom.  When we entered the compound of the Magic Kingdom,  we were dazzeled by the festive welcoming.

    Greeting us to their home was Snow White, Cruella DeVille, Jimmy Crickett,  Country Bear Jamboree, and a whole host of characters.

    We strolled down Main Street USA, towards Tomorrowland, Fantasyland and through Cinderella's Castle.  

    We were given magnificent first-class treatment -- Not just the Disney characters, but all the volunteers were way- awesome -- and the best thing, there were plenty of potta potties with no lines.

      We left the Kingdom via Adventureland and Frontierland before exiting the park to head back towards Epcot.


                              (Fireman running for a  5yr. girl with leukemia)    
 Over the 13.1 miles, jackets, hats, gloves, Tyvek jackets and even trash bags littered the course as runners ran in multiple layers.

   The rest of the way, was rather dull, and the sleet and rain continued to come down softly and incessantly. I drudged along, my mind calling to the finish line. Knowing I could not or rather would not stop. I believe that anything I start I must finish.

   And then, the worse part of the race was when I dropped my camera.  With the cold and ice, I heard a loud crack and then was dismayed to see that the LCD display was no longer functioning. My camera did not feel as if it was the only thing broken. As I continued the strenuous jog around the magic kingdom, I wondered about the pain tomorrow would bring. If how I felt now was any indication of tomorrow, I would truly be in for a very rough experience.

    But despite the technical difficulties, my body did not quit -- I felt relatively strong and periodically wanted to speed up to keep my body warm.  But throughout the morning, I constantly reminded myself of the big run the next day, and although I was testing out my hypothesis that the human body was built to run long distances over multiple days, I wasn't yet fully convinced of going back-to-back days. 

(1) Lee, Karen, "Author Believes Human Body is Built to run Long Distances without Shoes" Philadelphia Inquirer, Aug 4, 2009

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