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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