Posts Tagged by Marathon

Transformation Tuesday: Crystal Wiseheart

I think Crystal’s story will resonate with a lot of people.  Stress is a big trigger as to why people gain weight and understandable so.  It’s how those people get out of the slump that inspires us….I’ll let Crystal and her abs tell you that story 🙂



I started with Disney races a little different than some people.  I started as a volunteer.  After being average weight most of my life, in 2006 our family went through some very stressful times with my than 6 year old son.  Basically 4 months of waiting for biopsy results, surgery, etc.  I didn’t handle any of it well to say the least and I turned to food for comfort during that time.  I gained 40 lbs in 4 months!

Being a huge Disney fan I had heard about the Inaugural Disneyland Half Marathon and I decided it would be fun to volunteer.  I was so inspired by the people out there of all shapes and sizes doing that race that I decided in 2007 I was going to do the 5K and work my way up to the Half.  Unfortunately I didn’t make the changes I needed to and by summer 07 I reached my highest weight of 210 lbs.  I was miserable and now I had to do a 5K totally untrained.  After completing the Disneyland 5K that year I vowed to work on my health so I could come back and do the Half.  I actually lost about 30 lbs and kept it off from late 2008 – 2010.  During that time I walked many Half marathons and also did my first Marathon (WDW 2009) and first Goofy Challenge (2010).


In Spring 2010 during a routine physical my doctor told me that my blood pressure was a concern.  It had been borderline for some time and she wanted me to take medication.  All I could think about was my boys.  My sons are both severely autistic and will need care well into their adult lives.  I did not want to do anything that could prevent me from being there to care for them for as long as possible.  So I knew I needed to make changes and get the other 50 lbs off.  I’d like to say I had that “a-ha” moment and did the work but it didn’t go that smoothly for me.  For the remainder of 2010 I struggled with yo-yoing back and forth and could never keep my weight down.


In early 2011 I finally got real about my relationship with food.  I could no longer use it to comfort me.  I needed to address the real issue that I worked out solely so I could eat!  So I totally changed my eating at that point.  Got rid of the junk in my house and loaded up on the healthy foods that I enjoyed eating.  After about a month of that, I was ready to find an exercise plan that would really make a difference for me.  As much as I enjoyed walking, it just wasn’t cutting it physically anymore.  So one early morning I saw an infomercial for a workout called Turbo Fire.  I was hooked!  I had to have this!  So I got Turbo Fire and sprung for the deluxe set (which was a 20 week program!) and dug in!  From April 2011 to Nov 2011 I did that program and lost 50 lbs!


With the weight gone and my fitness and health back on track, I started running more during the runDisney races.  Every race my time would improve just a little more.  I went from walking marathons to running marathons.  Definitely a proud moment for this one time couch potato!


I made it my mission to try to inspire others to take charge of their health.  Since the at home workouts helped me so much, I decided to become an Independent Team Beachbody Coach so I could help others reach their fitness goals as well.  In January 2014 I took it one step further and became a NASM Certified Personal Trainer so I could help even more.


Never in my life would I have thought that volunteering at the Disneyland Half could turn into a whole new life for me and my family.  I am blessed beyond measure and only hope to pay it forward.

About Crystal:  I’m a 40 year old married mother of 2 teen boys.  I work from home helping people with their health and fitness as an Independent Team Beachbody Coach and NASM Certified Personal Trainer.  My online site is  I’m currently training for several runDisney races including my second Dopey Challenge followed by the new Star Wars Rebel Challenge.


Has running at Disney helped to transform your life?  If so, I want to hear your story!  Send me an email at to be featured on an upcoming Transformation Tuesday!

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Transformation Tuesday: Michele Elbertson

Do you ever see one of those before and after photos of someone’s transformation and your jaw drops to the floor?  This is what happened when I first saw Michele’s photo.  I honestly couldn’t believe it was the same person!  She has such a positive attitude and just keeps on trying new things along her journey to get healthy.  Enjoy her wonderful story…  



At the young age of 23 in October 2009; I weighed a whopping 427 pounds and wore a size 32 clothing. Growing up, I had always been heavy; it was who I was, I knew no different. I weighed approximately 180 pounds in the 5th grade; a TYPICAL 5th grader weighs around 100 pounds. I was wearing women’s clothing; which prevented me from wearing what was “in”; further isolating me from peers. I was extremely inactive and would do anything to get out of school gym activities; especially the timed 1-mile run. I remember having anxiety attacks the night before the run; crying to my mother as I lay in bed and begged her not to send me to school. As the years progressed, I began getting doctors notes due to exercise-induced asthma that I had developed. I PHYSICALLY could not do the activities I was expected to do at my age. My parents tried to help me; but the more they pushed for me to eat healthy and exercise, the more I pushed back. There was nothing anyone could do.

The weight steadily climbed throughout middle school and high school. I entered college bordering on 300 pounds. I was determined to “start fresh” in college. This was my first time away from home and I wanted to make the best out of it. I was away from the bullies of middle school/high school and wanted to make a new impression. Even though I had a new positive attitude, my weight was sky rocketing and I was being teased and made fun of for my looks. During this time, I was eating fast food at every meal, and junk food in between.   I also realized that I had no feeling of being “full”. I remember sitting down and being able to eat a ½ pizza, an order of wings, breadsticks, and a 2 liter bottle of soda….by myself. My weight went from 300 pounds upon entering college all the way up to 427 upon graduation.

After college, I moved back home to save some money. I was content with myself and hadn’t realized how far I let myself go. I got my first job immediately upon moving home; I was teaching in a 4th grade classroom. Up until this point, I had become “used to” being teased by my peers, however, when I stood in front of a class of students who were teasing me, I had to draw the line! I overheard my student’s talking about their “fat teacher”; and realized that teacher was ME! Something had to be done! That was my Ah-ha moment!


In 2009, I began researching weight loss surgeries. I had decided upon the Lap Band; it was less invasive and it could be removed if needed in the future. The fact that it could be removed was important for me; I needed to have a “fall back” option at this point in my thought process. I still wasn’t 100% certain that this would work. I was told that lap band typically doesn’t drop as much weight as a more intensive/invasive surgery, TYPICALLY a 50-75 pound weight loss, but it was the surgery I had decided upon.

Here’s a little background info on the lap band. It’s a band that is wrapped around the upper portion of the stomach. It has an attached tube that is connected to an internal port. The band is “filled” through the port with saline to make the band tighter. The tighter the band is, the less food is able to pass through, resulting in increased weight loss. Sometimes if the band is too tight and I eat too much; it results in vomiting. This is very unpleasant and unpredictable. Vomiting is also very dangerous for a lap band patient; it could result in a slip, which leads to another surgery.

Fortunately as the months/years went by with getting to know my band, I was able to determine what my band was able to tolerate and what would make me vomit. Breads, anything “doughy”, certain stringy vegetables, pastas….these things are not tolerated well with the band and result in vomiting episodes. These vomiting episodes can last for 3-4 HOURS and are extremely unpleasant. There are foods, however, that easily slides down and can be easy to cheat with! I have to be VERY careful when eating these foods since they go down so easily. For me, these foods are chocolate, ice cream, and cookies. All of these foods are high in fat and calories, but for some reason, slide down easily! This is where self-control is crucial for me! The lap band is different for each person; each person has their own “stuck” foods and “slider” foods. No two lap band patients are the same.

The surgery was NOT an easy fix. I went into surgery the same weight as I was when I came out. The surgery went beautifully. My doctor was pleased with the results. Little did I know that my life from there on out would change for good!

Recovery from surgery was text-book. I followed the post-lap band surgery diet strictly. I spent a week on liquids; 2oz of clear liquids (watered down apple juice/grape juice, and chicken broth) every 3 hours. I then switched to mushy foods; potatoes, baby food, applesauce, etc. After that stage, I switched to more solid foods and re-introduced myself to “regular people” food; tuna fish, chicken salad minus mayo, etc. Mentally, this diet was extremely difficult. Physically I wasn’t hungry, and some days it was a force to eat the “meals” every 3 hours! I remember two days post-surgery lying in my bed smelling the pot roast, veggies, and potatoes my mom was cooking in the kitchen. This is a meal I never really liked, but at this point, I WANTED IT! I sat in my bed crying over not being able to eat it; and I began to regret the surgery!

I was able to push through this difficult stage and moved forward! The first few months, the weight began to “drop” off. I had lost about 30 pounds in the first three months before I hit my first plateau. At this point, I had just been eating healthy, but I knew in order to pass over the plateau, I needed to add exercise into my routine. Exercise had always been difficult for me; but I was now 30 pounds lighter, so it was time! I started walking and doing light cardio on the elliptical at the gym, enough to kick start weight loss again.


About a year into my weight loss journey, I had lost almost 100 pounds. I had already passed the “typical” lap band weight loss; but I was determined to keep going.

Someone asked me how I was going to celebrate losing 100 pounds. It obviously couldn’t be an edible celebration anymore- so I had to think outside of the box. I decided my goal was to do a 5k run in Walt Disney World. This meant I had to actually run and train! Something I had NEVER done or even imagined ever doing! I signed myself up for the Walt Disney World Princess 5k in February 2011.

I started my training that summer. I never followed a specific training plan; I just ran. I started off slowly. I mostly ran from one mailbox to another until I could keep going further. I was still 300ish pounds at this point, so running was tricky but I was ready and excited for this race!

Princess weekend came and I was ready for it; or so I thought! It was the LONGEST 3.1 miles of my life. I refused to stop for any character pictures. My finish time was somewhere around 48 minutes. (My current 5k time now is 28 minutes). When I finished, I was as red as a tomato and I hurt. I gladly accepted my plastic medallion that I proudly wore around my neck for the next week, however; I swore I would NEVER run again!

The next morning, I woke up in my hotel room to a lot of noise. I walked outside my room and saw thousands of runners racing by me in the half marathon. My immediate thought was “those people are crazy”. I had run 3.1 miles the day prior, and here they are running 13.1! The more I watched the runners; I noticed how much fun they were having. I must have stood for over an hour watching and cheering as the race continued before grabbing my plastic medallion and heading to the parks for the day. It was in the parks where I saw the half marathon medal; all of the sudden my plastic medallion was not good enough anymore and I wanted that ½ marathon medal! It was at that point where I decided to run a half marathon!

I knew I had to continue my weight loss journey and my training in order to achieve my new goal of running 13.1 miles. I stayed strong and I ran my first half marathon the following November. I did very well; and was quickly hooked to running!

I very quickly caught the running bug! In 2.5 years, I completed 38 half marathons, 6 full marathons, and one 50-mile ultra-marathon. The weight loss continued throughout this journey as well. There were many parts of my journey where I would plateau and need to switch up my workout/eating routines in order to get my body moving and losing weight again!


I just celebrated my four year lap band anniversary this April 15, 2014. I went from 427 pounds down to 174 pounds. A size 32 to a size 6.   I am extremely proud of my progress, but I’m not done yet! Weight loss has slowed down immensely; and I am trying to base my progress on how my clothes fit. I am currently doing some heavy weight lifting, and I know I am gaining a lot of muscle. I just recently had a body fat percentage test done; and I currently have 14.4% body fat; which falls in the “excellent” category. As per the BMI charts, I am still considered “overweight”, but that does not take into account muscle and lifestyle! So there we have it, the lap band was supposed to ONLY have me lose 50-75 pounds….I beat the odds by losing 255 pounds, and still losing!

I am a totally different person than I was four years ago. I now workout 7 days a week; and LOVE it! A few years back, you wouldn’t find me in a gym. A few MONTHS back, you wouldn’t have found me in a group exercise class; and I am now a certified Bokwa group fitness instructor! I actually look forward to my workouts. Those days of me trying to get out of a mile run are over. I now barely sweat in the first mile or two of a run! My eating is still difficult with the lap band on certain days; but I never complain. Is it a pain?  Yes, but it was the band that gave me the tools I needed to be successful!   I count my calories daily and workout; it’s not a “diet”, it’s a lifestyle!


Has running at Disney helped to transform your life?  If so, I want to hear your story!  Send me an email at to be featured on an upcoming Transformation Tuesday!

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Transformation Tuesday: Six Weeks of Awesome!

Transformation Tuesday

It’s been six weeks since I started Transformation Tuesday and I feel so honored to have been able to share these inspirational stories.  I wanted to take a moment to look back at these stories and share them all in one spot in case you missed any.  We can all use a heartwarming story to get us through the day and I don’t know any better ones than these 🙂

The series started off with Liz and her story of losing over 100 pounds with the goal of running the Walt Disney World Marathon in mind…she did it!


Next up was Sandy.  She started, like many of us do, with the Couch-to-5K program and has now completed Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge!

2014 marathon


Cindy joined us for week three to share that not only she has been shrinking in size because of runDisney, but she is shrinking her race time too!


Ilene only started running 17 months ago at the age of 54 during Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend with the Family Fun Run 5K.  She has since gone on to complete Ragnar Cape Cod AND the Boston Marathon…amazing!


Like many mom’s, Katie turned to runDisney to lose the weight she gained after having twin boys.  Not only did it get her active, but she became healthy in all areas of her life!

1st Run - 5k

And rounding out the 6 weeks is Richard.  runDisney helped him to lose 141 pounds and gain some much needed mental clarity!


Aren’t all of these people amazing?!  I hope to continue this series going, but I can’t do it without you! If running at Disney has helped to transform your life or someone you know, I want to hear your story!  Send me an email at to be featured on an upcoming Transformation Tuesday!

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Transformation Tuesday: Richard Green

I’m excited to have our first Transformation Tuesday from a male point of view!!  Richard found runDisney as a way to not only lose weight but as a way to fight his depression and enjoy a healthier, happier life!  A true inspiration in how to turn that frown upside-down 🙂


Richard-Green-Transformation-BeforeIn August of 2011, I was poking around the internet when I stumbled across the runDisney site.  Registration was open for the inaugural Tinker Bell Half Marathon.  I knew that in my present physical shape a half marathon was out of the question, but I saw that they had a 5k fun run. I’m a lawyer.  Before I plunked down $100 for a 5k, I read the fine print.  There was a pace requirement.  I had to hold a 16 minute mile pace or I’d be removed from the course.  I didn’t know how fast that was, but I didn’t think I could do that.  I did not want to fail, so I dismissed the thought of running the Neverland 5K.

About a week later I saw a Facebook post from a friend doing the Couch to 5K program.  I investigated it and discovered how I would run the Neverland 5k. I plunked down the $100 for the 5k bib because I knew if I didn’t register for the race, I’d flake on the training.

On September 1, 2011, I mounted the treadmill at my apartment complex and ‘ran’ day one of week one of C25k.  At the end of that 30 minutes, I stepped off that treadmill with a clarity of mine that I had not had in years.  The mental fog that I had been living in was gone.  The dysthymic depression that had pervaded my life was gone, and I saw myself in a whole new way.  After that first treadmill session, I realized that I was depressed and that I was treating the depression with food.

After realizing that running was an effective treatment for depression for me, I realized that if I were to keep running, I would need to lose weight.  I downloaded a calorie log called Lose It!  Running gave/gives me the mental acuity to log and restrict my caloric intake.  I also sought medical advice and treatment for depression.

I ran the Neverland 5k in January of 2012 and kept on running.  Along the way, I finished the Disneyland Half Marathon, The Double Dumbo Dare, and most recently the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon.



Through running, calorie logging, and medical treatment for depression, I lost 141 lbs. I now weight 225 lbs.  I am also significantly more self aware.  runDisney was my path out of darkness of mental illness and back to a healthy lifestyle.



Richard is a Southern California native and a huge Disney fan.  He used to be huge in more ways than one.  Not only is his a Disneyland annual passholder, but he also tipped the scale at 366 pounds.  Through runDisney, Richard has lost the weight and found happiness all while completing numerous races along the way.


Has running at Disney helped to transform your life?  If so, I want to hear your story!  Send me an email at to be featured on an upcoming Transformation Tuesday!

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Transformation Tuesday: Sandy Estrada

I’m so excited to have Sandy here for the next Transformation Tuesday!  I smiled reading the whole post and ended with tears in my eyes.  Her journey from Couch-to-5K to Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge is incredibly inspiring…now Boston is in her sights!  Enjoy Sandy’s story 🙂


My runDisney obsession started in late 2010. I was looking to lose some weight and decided that running would be a good form of exercise for me because it could be done by walking right outside my front door. I had heard that Disney had a half marathon and this sounded like a great goal. My father was a marathon runner and triathlete and so doing something along those lines was always in my mind but honestly felt like an unobtainable goal.

I quickly realized that if I were going to run a half-marathon I first needed to learn how to run. When I started I couldn’t run to the end of my street without getting out of breath and needing to stop. I heard about the Couch-to-5K app and decided to download it on my phone. This was August. I set my goal for a 5k the first Saturday in October. I figured that if I survived I’d be able to train for the half-marathon in January. Probably a little more aggressive than most training plans, but once I decide to do something, I don’t want to wait around.

I finished Couch-to-5k and ran my first 5k. Well there was some walking involved, but I did it and I felt great. Completely hooked I signed up for the half-marathon and started my training. It was hard and lonely but my mind was on the prize and I never gave up. Before I knew it I was there at Disney with the 3am wake up call necessary to get to the start line on time. I think that was the first and only time I had a moment of doubt. But it was too late to quit so off I went.

Running through the parks was such an amazing experience, so different from my lonely long runs in the neighborhood. The music and crowds  made the time go by quickly and I didn’t even mind when my phone (music source) died at mile 3. The last mile was tough and painful, but when I rounded that corner in Epcot and saw the gospel choir and then the finish line, it made it all worthwhile.

finish -first half

I was hooked and ready to take on the next thing. However, other plans were in store for me. I soon found out I was pregnant with my daughter and needed to take a hiatus from running. My baby girl was born in November 2011 and I spent my maternity leave wondering how and when and where I could make my running come-back. I followed (ok stalked) my friends on the Pacebook Running club during the marathon weekend 2012 and knew that I would be running the Goofy challenge in 2013.

Starting to run again was hard. I was so ready mentally, but my body was not there yet. I had 30 pounds to lose to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight. They weren’t coming off easily, and it wasn’t as easy to find time to run with two young children at home. But, I was persistent. And while I was pregnant, one of my friends from work decided to take up running. So I had a partner in crime, which made all the difference in the world. We started signing up for local 5ks and then a 10k. The 10k was in May, one month after I had signed up for the Goofy challenge. I struggled and came in next to last. What was I thinking, how would I be able to get to 39.3 miles by January if I could barely do 6.2 miles. Persistence, that’s how. I kept plugging along through the long hot summer. We signed up for The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-miler and the Rock N Roll half-marathon in Las Vegas.


Tower of Terror was my first night race. It was hot! And humid! And hard! And fun! Again, some doubts going through my mind about Goofy. This was really the wakeup call that made me realize I had to find the time and get serious about my training. The holidays rolled around and before I knew it, January had come. Unfortunately, I had not lost much weight that year. I did the half – marathon, took it really slow and felt great when it was done. That was a huge confidence booster.

goofy half

The day of the marathon came and it was hot again!!! I got through the first 10 miles great and then the heat started to affect me and I also over hydrated. By mile 16 I started walking and I didn’t really ever start running again. It was a long 10 miles! I considered quitting once or twice, but I thought about my son and there was no way I was going to tell him that I didn’t finish. That thought got me through to the finish line and having that medal around my neck was amazing. When I was done, one of my friends texted me, “You will never have to do that again, if you don’t want to”. Not want to? Of course I wanted to. Now I had something to prove to myself. I was not proud of my time or how I finished. I knew I could do better.

iphone 230

2013 was my year. The kids were a little older, I finally got with a program that helped me get stronger and lose weight. Sure enough a few more of my best friends were running by now and having a group of running friends makes everything so much better and fun. We ran the Princess Half Marathon and had a fabulous girls weekend.  We continued running a lot of local events and I completed my first Sprint triathlon. The year was flying by, the pounds were continuing to come off and my confidence was increasing.

first princess

Two more of my friends started running and we all headed back to Disney for the Expedition Everest Challenge.


Before I knew it, 2014 Disney marathon was here. I was ready. I had done the training and was ready to show everyone (mostly myself) what I could do. I ran conservatively but consistently and had fun along the way. The miles were ticking by. I felt some anxiety at Mile 14 remembering how badly I had felt the year before. But this year was different. Yes, my legs were starting to hurt, yes I lost my sunglasses in a bathroom, but I didn’t care. I was doing it. And I did, taking 2 hours off of my time.

2014 marathon

I was on a roll and actually obtained my half-marathon PR just one week after the Disney marathon. Next up was the Princess weekend – glass slipper challenge and another girls weekend.


I will be back in 2015 for the Goofy Challenge. Who knows what is next. My Boston Qualifying time is 3:45. That seems crazy right? Or maybe not crazy, maybe its Goofy…..and in that case – totally doable!

If you are here thinking I could never do those things, let me tell you that you can. If I can do it, anyone can!


Sandy Estrada is a 38 year old wife to Paolo, mom to Josh (7) and Sarah (2) and fan of all things Disney and all things running! She started running to lose weight but ended up being motivated to lose weight to become a better runner. A combination of food tracking, cross-training with Beachbody products and running allowed her to lose 40 pounds. She has run many Disney races and is looking forward to start training for Goofy Challenge 2015. Check out her fitness page on Facebook – Shape Up With Sandy.


Has running at Disney helped to transform your life?  If so, I want to hear your story!  Send me an email at to be featured on an upcoming Transformation Tuesday!

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