Posts Tagged by Walt Disney World Marathon

Transformation Tuesday: Pete Olson

As a former student athlete and smoker myself, Pete’s story really resonates with me.  Sometimes it takes a look in the mirror to find yourself again…that’s just what he did 🙂


From Athlete…to Obese Smoker…and Back Again


So as you’re reading a Transformation Tuesday feature, you might be wondering why that young baseball player in the picture is being featured! Well, just give it a minute…you’ll find out. You see, the guy in the picture is me, and a couple of years ago, when I looked at this picture, what really grabbed me was not how young I looked. No, what really got me was that I weighed 165 pounds and stood at the same height I stand today.

But what’s interesting is that I wasn’t just a skinny, scrawny kid. I was actually in shape. This picture was taken during my college baseball team’s “Spring Training” in January 1985. Two months earlier, in order to earn the practice uniform I was wearing, our coach stipulated that any NCAA athlete should be able to run two miles in twelve minutes, and he required us to do so before he handed us our Spring Training uniforms. Well, it took me a couple extra weeks because I tweaked my knee on my first attempt – with just two laps to go, too – but ended up completing the two miles in 11 minutes, 27 seconds.

That’s a long way of saying (or bragging about how) I was a pretty good athlete in 1985; however, that well-conditioned young man didn’t stick around much longer. I was “hampered” with arm injuries; and unfortunately, because those injuries never fully healed, my dream of a baseball career was pretty much over before it got started.

So now I really didn’t “have” to run anymore. I really didn’t need to be as finely conditioned as I had been, as there was no game to train for, no two miles in twelve minutes to run. So, in retrospect, the day my baseball career ended was really the day I started heading down a slippery slope to a less healthy life and ultimately to a pretty darned unhealthy one. It didn’t happen overnight, but it happened.

Slowly but certainly, I watched the numbers on the scale go up consistently and drastically. After a decade competing professionally (and not very successfully) in golf, I went back and earned my Master’s Degree and started teaching…and that marked the beginning of a sedentary lifestyle to follow for the next fifteen years. In just a couple of years, the scale told me I had gotten up to around 215; and in 1998, I walked into corporate America, sat down at my desk, and within two years I was up into the 230s…and by the time my daughter Mary was born (three years later), I found myself at around 260.

Prior to Mary’s birth, I did have an “I am going to be a dad and need to do something about my health…right now!” moment, and I quit smoking about six months before she arrived. Then, about six months after she was born, I came to realize that I also needed to lose weight (still hovering in the 260 range), and I actually got myself back down to about 210 pounds again…208 to be exact. This was the result of strict adherence to a diet for about a year. That said, though, somewhere in the middle of the weight loss, I thought it would be wise (it wasn’t!) to start smoking again (but “just for a little while”). I actually justified smoking over being obese, and I had the intent to quit smoking again “once I found myself back in the 100s” again. Pretty good logic, no?

At the end of the day, my trip away from obesity was short-lived, and to be honest I can’t remember what triggered me back to my old eating habits…which, basically, was something like “I’ll eat as much I what, when I want it” while hiding from everyone how much I actually ate and how often I was eating. Between fast food places, candy machines at work, bags of chips at home (these were a few of my favorite things), coupled with the days’ “normal” meals (yes, fast food sandwiches became snacks), I once again journeyed back to the 260s and then actually surpassed them to find myself at an all-time high of 278.

From that moment, I panicked and would put myself on crash diets, but nothing stuck…or, more appropriately, I stuck with nothing. I would lose a few pounds here and there, and then they would come back…and this was the cycle for the next few years. The reason why there aren’t many pictures of me from this era is because I guess I was hiding from cameras when I saw them…and I would always seek cover (either consciously or subconsciously) behind people or objects in the photographs that managed to capture my now obese frame. Here are a couple of shots that somehow got by me, though…


So at the end of this fifteen-year period (from 1996 to 2011), I didn’t recognize the guy in the mirror as a former college and professional athlete. Instead, I saw an obese man who lacked power over food and cigarettes, who was too lazy to get out and exercise, and who was ultimately dying a slow, unhealthy death for which he would be deemed the primary cause.

But on November 1, 2011, an unfortunate event finally lit a spark under that obese guy, and he decided right then and there that it was time to change his life…

As my mother-in-law underwent a surgical procedure to repair the arteries that transport blood to the brain, I spent the day working, smoking cigarettes, and overeating…since I weighed around 260-ish at the time, it was probable that I was overeating.

As Michelle listed the outcomes of the stroke her mother suffered while on the operating table (paralysis, inability to speak or eat), she also shared with me that the sign in the hospital elevator indicated two of the leading causes of strokes were cigarette smoking and obesity…and it was at that moment that the proverbial “light” went off and I knew that it was time to get my life and my health back on the right track. It was at that moment that I realized that my weight and my smoking was leading me down a path of heart attacks, strokes, and lung disease.

So I picked November 11, 2011 (11-11-11 sounded easy to remember) as the day to quit smoking; and over the next couple of very tough months, I allowed myself to eat whatever I wanted to eat (couldn’t get too health crazy all at once) while keeping it in the back of my mind that I was going to undertake weight loss after the “give me a cigarette!!!” moments subsided. And on January 7, 2012, weighing in at 275.6 pounds, the cravings subsided and I started dieting again.

But later that year I realized that dieting just wasn’t enough, so with Michelle’s encouragement to “just go out there and run,” I started running again after a twenty-six-year hiatus. The plan at the time was really about running for weight loss. You see, while I had lost about thirty pounds over the year’s first six months, my dieting had gotten me to a weight loss plateau, which is a dangerous place for a habitual dieter. But rather than repeating past behavior and accepting life at an obese 245 pounds, which would have ultimately taken me back to 275, I was finally ready for a real change.

On July 23, 2012, I woke up at around 5:15am on a hot and humid Monday morning, threw on a pair of gym shorts (not running shorts), a white cotton tee shirt (sweat retaining – not a running shirt), golf socks (not sweat resistant), and what I thought was a decent pair of sneakers I had purchased at an outlet mall (I was wrong). After drinking a cup of water, I walked out my front door at around 5:30. I had neither Garmin nor running app to track my pace or mileage…and I had no clear-cut plan but to “just go out there and run.”

After a few stretches I had recalled from my athletic past, I walked to my mailbox and just started running. Immediately, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to keep this up for very long…my breathing was labored, my fat was bouncing to and fro, and there were varying levels of pain shooting through my body.

I thought to myself, “okay…keep pushing…just make it to that house, and then you can walk.” And I did…so I did. Only later did I find out that the house was just over a quarter mile up the street. After that point, I decided that I was going to walk until I felt good enough to run again. Well, when I reached another house, I figured I would turn around and start running back home. It turns out that the house was about a half mile more up the way, so I had gone a total of three quarters of a mile. I can’t recall how long I ran the next time, but I am certain it wasn’t another quarter mile. In fact, to the best of my knowledge and memory, I don’t know how many run/walk intervals it took to get me through that second three-quarter-mile stretch…but I believe that the walking was about equal to the running. At least that’s what I tell myself.

For that first month, I ran/walked the same route five days a week, and each time I tried to run a little more than I had the last time…no matter what. I iced my knees after every run. I took Aleve at least twice a day. I sweat like crazy even for hours following my showers. At times I knew I wasn’t going to be able to keep this up. And at others I just wanted to quit.

But I didn’t.

I just kept running.

And on a fateful day about a month later, I started running at my mailbox, right past that first house, all the way to the three quarter mile house, and then all the way back home. A mile and a half…without stopping!

Over the course of the next year and a half, with the help of a training apps, good friends to keep me accountable, a Garmin, some real running equipment, and stringent training plans, I managed to lose 100 pounds and to work myself up to running and completing my first full marathon on January 12, 2014, at Walt Disney World. And as my sister Karen had put in an email to me after the race…

“What an amazing journey you’ve started!”

Started? Yes, started. This isn’t the end of anything. Yes, a fence post has been driven in the ground, but for me, there are so many more marathons to run, so many goals for which I am reaching. My sister was right. This is not the end. It’s the beginning. In fact, right now I am halfway through my training for the Chicago Marathon in October…and from there I have many more athletic dreams to realize. That athlete has made it back from smoking and obesity…and I don’t want him to go away again!





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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Mission to Marathon: Preparing a Training Plan & July Schedule

We have a great new series here on RAD called Mission to Marathon!!  I’m happy to welcome Hannah Suhr as a new monthly contributor…you may remember her from her Lessons Learned from the Walt Disney World Marathon earlier this year.  Hannah will be sharing her training and travel tips as she preps for the 2015 Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge.  This is going to be an excellent resource for all of you getting ready for any races you may have coming up.  Hannah is super organized and has great ideas on how to stay on track!  I’m thrilled she is here…please join me in welcoming Hannah!  


runDisney makes putting together a training plan super easy. If you aren’t familiar, just check out and under the training tab you will find training plans for Jeff Galloway’s walk/run method. If you are a beginner, this a great program to follow because it is easy to understand and gives you step-by-step guides for what to do.

If you aren’t running Disney (hey, not ALL races are Disney races), you can find similar training programs online through Hal Higdon, Runners World and many other sources. Some plans cost money. I don’t pay for a plan since I feel comfortable enough making my own. But, if you feel like you need it, go for it. Just make sure its reputable before you shell out the dough.

Short post, right? Nope.

While the training plans you can find online can be followed point-by-point and help you achieve the goal you want to achieve, they are not customized for your needs, schedule, experience, etc. If you are okay with that, then by all means. But I like to make it my own.

Here is how I put together a training plan:

1 – Research. I look at all the different options out there and see what they have in common and what differs. For a marathon, training plans for beginners or amateur runners can vary quite a bit. Many take you up to 20 miles for your longest long run, while others go beyond the 26 mile marker. Some have three days a week of running, others have four or five. Some incorporate cross-training, others leave that up to you to figure out. And, very few discuss nutrition (but that’s another post, for sure).

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For me, I either print out various plans or make a comparison chart on paper or in excel.

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2 – Consider your schedule. Do you work a 9 to 5 job? Work weekends? Gotta get up early? Take a look at what your normal weekly schedule is and then compare that to the different training plans. If you find one that works well with your schedule and you’re comfortable with the plan, then go for it, just follow it directly. I’m willing to bet that you won’t find one that fits perfectly and you’ll need to make some adjustments to suit your needs.

For me, I have the opportunity to train with my Team in Training team on Saturday mornings so I like to keep my long run on that day since I know I’ll have company. I also know my weeknight schedule is hectic so I need to keep my workouts as quick and effective as possible.  I also know that I really need to work on improving my strength (specifically my core) in order to improve my running and avoid injury.

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3 – Put it all together. This is where it gets fun. Most plans have you running 3 or 4 days a week and cross training 2 or 3 days. I start by scheduling my long runs. For me, Saturday and Sunday are best so I fit them in there. Then fill in your shorter, speed runs, to suit your schedule. If you’re doing 3 short runs, try to space them out so they aren’t three days in a row. Break things up to give your muscles a break and allow yourself some recovery time so that you won’t burn-out.


I am using the runDisney Goofy Challenge, Race and a Half training plan as my base for my overall plan and as guidance for my long run distances. What is nice is that my husband can modify the plan very simply by skipping the Saturday run (swapping for some strength training, yoga or a rest day) on weeks I am running four days and then do his long run on Sunday with me.

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My weeks will generally look like this:

Monday  – Cross training (strength –  I have been liking the Tone It Up routines lately, but also use the Women’s Health Big Book of Exercises to put together my own routines).

Tuesday – Run 30-45 mins; Speed work/Interval training & 20 mins focused strength training

Wednesday – Cross training (strength)

Thursday – Run 30-34 mins; Speed work/interval training & 20 mins focused strength training

Friday – Cross training (yoga/stretch/light strength)

Saturday – Long Run & stretch

Sunday –  Long Run & stretch

Notice I added stretching into my schedule on several days. I need a reminder to stretch. It’s important. If you aren’t good at stretching, just add it to your schedule!

Here’s my July Run Schedule:

1 – Week of 6/30: Tuesday and Thursday 30 mins; Saturday 3 miles

2 – Week of 7/7: Tuesday and Thursday 30 mins; Saturday 4 miles

3 – Week of 7/14: Tuesday and Thursday 30 mins; Saturday 3 miles

4 – Week of 7/21: Tuesday and Thursday 45 mins; Saturday 5.5 miles

5 – Week of 7/28: Tuesday and Thursday 45 mins; Saturday 3 miles

How do you put together a training plan?


Hannah is an attorney from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. She started running in 2011 while preparing for the Bar Exam as a means of helping her focus on her studying. Hannah completed her first half marathon in October 2011 at the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco. In 2013 she completed 13 running events including 5 half marathons, 2 10ks, 3 5ks and 3 fun races (2 color runs and a zombie run).  She enjoys setting goals and crossing things off of her “bucket list.” Follow Hannah at, where she blogs about her everyday goals and challenges.

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.

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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.

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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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