My Sixth Post for Running Disney: Is There a Link Between Disney and the New York City Marathon?


My original blog post Running Disney: Is There a Link Between Disney and the New York City Marathon? can be found here on the WDW Radio Blog. Please check it out!!

Here in New York City the leaves on the trees have begun to change, the temperature has begun to slip into the high 50’s, and children are shopping for their Halloween costumes.  Some boys want to be Captain America this year.  Little girls walk out of the Disney Store in Times Square with Rapunzel costumes.  Children look forward to the end of October and I can relate to that; however, I look forward to what comes right after All Hallows Eve here in the Big Apple…..Marathon Week.

As I walk down Broadway near Lincoln Center, I notice the advertisements for the marathon near train stations and on the sides of our buses.  Banners line Central Park South.  Central Park itself has begun its annual transformation, as grandstands are being assembled near Tavern on the Green, and floods of runners can be seen basically all over the place (most of them passing me as if I’m standing still).  For a runner, this is a magical time to be in Manhattan.  It’s as if The Fairy Godmother waved her magic wand and cast a spell over midtown, spreading the anticipation and excitement.

As I’ve mentioned in prior blog entries, I pride myself on being a bit of a Disney Geek.  Well, truth be told, I’m a bit of a marathon geek as well.  I read the websites and the magazines.  I follow the sport the way that most people from my old neighborhood in the Bronx follow the Yankees.  I study the various books out there about the history of marathoning, as well as how a person can go about improving his/her time. (I keep re-reading those chapters of the books in my small library….but for some reason none of the authors’ brilliant points actually stick with me.  Concepts like “you need to cut down on chocolate or any other foods that might taste fantastic but do not offer optimal nutritional qualities” are lost on me.  Oreos + pop tarts + diet coke = breakfast of champions, as far as I’m concerned).  Well I am happy to say that I found a common link between my Disney Geekdom and my Marathon Nerdyness.  There is a link between the New York City Marathon and the Walt Disney World Marathon…and his name was Fred Lebow.

Now there is a ton of stuff out there on the internet and in books that tell the very interesting story of Fred Lebow – but I’ll quickly give you the crib notes version.  He survived World War II in Eastern Europe, came to New York from Europe, worked in Manhattan’s garment district, and began running with a group of seasoned runners near Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.  Through leadership, creativity, and an almost Disney-like ability to see no limits to what he could achieve, Fred helped to put the New York Road Runners on the map.  He turned his unique vision of a marathon that “celebrates the masses” from a small gathering of 127 runners in Central Park to the wonderful race the 45,000 runners and 2.5 million fans experience the first Sunday of each November.

So I know what you’re thinking – great little story, Joe…but where’s the connection?

In the early 1990’s, Disney began to contemplate the possibility of creating a marathon to be held in Walt Disney World.  Fred Lebow, being the consummate cheerleader for the sport of distance running, thought that this was a wonderful idea.  Disney representatives picked Fred’s brain for several years and, in the spring of 1993, the company green-lit the project of a marathon for January 1994.  Fred flew down to WDW during the spring and summer of 1993, providing his advice and sharing his recommendations.  According to the books I’ve read, he added so much value to the development of the inaugural marathon that Disney named him the honorary chairman of the 1994 event.  Fred, battling cancer and in a weakened state, still toed the line alongside 8,200 of his fellow runners that January morning in 1994 and began to slowly jog with the masses that he felt so close to.  He couldn’t finish the race that morning – but he helped get the marathon off to a sound start.  The rest, as they say…is history.

What's up Fred?Fred Lebow passed away from cancer in October, 1994. I pass his statue almost every morning at about 5:30am.  The tall bronze statue stands at the Engineer’s Gate of Central Park, the entrance to the park that every runner of the New York City Marathon waddles through on their way to spectacular finish.  He’s dressed in his typical jogging suit and painter’s cap, and he is staring at his stopwatch.  A true innovator – I bet Walt would have gotten a real kick out of Fred.

On the first Sunday of November, if you have a few minutes to spare during the morning, I’d like to recommend checking out the New York City Marathon on T.V.  It truly is the best day of the year to be in the city, for it shows off some of the character of the five boroughs.  Thousands of volunteers and millions of spectators line the streets, yelling and screaming – doing whatever they can to help 45,000 people achieve a pretty cool goal.  Families wait at the finish line for loved ones to emerge from the mass of humanity – tired, sweaty and in pain….and with medals draped around their necks.  It truly is a sight to behold.

Until next time!  Make sure you double-knot your shoe laces, get out there and get moving!  I’ll leave you with a quote from Fred Lebow.  While fighting cancer, he still managed to get out there and shuffle his feet around the park – but his friends noticed that he actually walked faster than he jogged.  So someone asked him why he chose to jog, since walking would get him where he was going quicker.  Fred’s response was really cool: “…my friend, jogging has a rhythm that walking doesn’t have”.  Get out there and move to your own beat.

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My Fifth Post for WDW Radio Running Disney: Let’s Get it Started!


My original blog post Running Disney: Let’s Get It Started can be found here…please check it out!  I hope you like it!!!

In my last couple of blog entries, I provided a very brief description of the Run Disney calendar, as well as a few notes from each of the races that Disney offers throughout the year.  In this installment, I’d like to provide you with some simple tips on how to begin the journey toward earning your first Disney medal.  I’ll gear this entry toward those who never ran an organized race before – but hopefully those of you that already have some running experience will also grab a interesting piece of information before we are done.

In my first couple of blog entries, I wrote about the wonderful, accepting atmosphere that the Run Disney series of races provides the new runner.  For those of you who are reading this and thinking to yourself “maybe I’ll give this thing a shot, and earn myself some Disney bling” (…ok, I just read those words back silently to myself – and I apologize), I’d like to offer up some of the basics to help you get started:

1) Go to a running store and pick up a decent pair of running shoes.

It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner, who mixes in jogging and walking.  It doesn’t matter whether you are walking a half mile or running a 10k race.  Hight….weight….age….it doesn’t matter.  Good running shoes should be the el numero uno item on your running to-do list.  Go to a running store, and talk to a representative.  Let him / her help you pick just the right shoe for your training.  Their expert input will hopefully result in resisting some of the normal annoyances that plague us friends of the asphalt.

Note to all of you: I picked up my first pair of running shoes simply because they were 70% off…..without trying them on first…..because I liked the cool colors.  And yes – I agree – I need a checkup from the neck – up.

2) Look at the Run Disney calendar. Pick a race.  Circle the calendar and BINGO!  That’s your target.  Now you have something to focus on.  Something to aim for.  A Mickey-shaped carrot to chase.

The act of selecting a race and entering it into your calendar makes the training you are about to begin worth the effort.  It also gives you the motivation you need on those less-than-perfect days.  And let’s face it: planning a visit to Uncle Walt’s Backyard is flat-out fun!

3) Pick a nice location – a park, a path alongside a quiet river, or anywhere else that is safe to run on or along – and just begin putting one foot in front of the other.

I’m fortunate.  I live in New York City, so my back yard is Central Park.  When I wake up in the morning, I lace up my shoes and hit the park, and the sights, smells and sounds of the early morning flood my senses and clear my mind.  By the time I get home, I feel energized.  Awake and alert.  Ready to take on the day.  In the evening, after work and the stress of the day has my nerves slightly frayed, I lace up my shoes and hit the park.  There’s something about the connection between the body and the environment that washes away the stress while I jog along the park’s bridal path.  The great thing about running is that you can really do it basically anywhere.  Use running to explore – your neighborhood, or wherever your travels take you.  If you’re spending time in Walt Disney World, running around the resort property is a WONDERFUL way to see little touches that the Imagineers have placed all over (more on that in a later blog entry).

That’s really all there is to it!  3 simple steps.  Grab a proper pair of running shoes, select a Disney race to use as your motivation to stay focused, and just get out there and get moving.  It really is that easy.

Some beginners get self-conscious.  They feel like people will look at you walking / jogging / running and judge you.  That feeling is pretty normal.  Let’s face it: when I began, I ran like a penguin.  Waddled around, flailing my arms like a 8 year old on Dinosaur!  But I realized that the only person that made me feel this self-conscious was…….me.  In actuality, no one was staring at me.  No one teased me.  No one looked at me as if I was some oddball.  It was all in my head.  Once I got over that feeling of self-consciousness, I hit the park every chance I got.   still do.  And the exercise has improved my outlook on life, made me look and feel healthier, and helped me realize that I can achieve any goal that I put in front of myself, as long as I put it on my calendar, plan for success, stay motivated and just keep trying.

I guess that’s the goal of my blog entries.  I get a lot of joy out of my DisneyGeekdom (if that’s a word…).  I also found tranquility in running.  I found that combining these two things resulted in amazing experiences thus far, and many – MANY -more in the years to comes.  There are MANY dates circled on my calendar that combine these two aspects of my life…and when each one of these days end, I feel a sense of accomplishment.  My newest motivation is to share these with you all – fellow DisneyGeeks that “get it”.

 

Until next time, make sure to double-knot your shoe laces, get out there and get moving.  If you have any comments / questions / suggestions / thoughts, please share them with me.  Drop me a line any time at joseph_kolinsky@yahoo.com.

The Run Disney Calendar, Take Two


Here’s my fourth blog entry, Running Disney: Run the Disney Calendar, Continued! for WDW Radio. To read my original post visit here:

As mentioned in my previous blog entry, the crown jewel of Run Disney’s calendar is its first race of the year, WDW Marathon Weekend.  However, there are other races throughout the year that really are special and deserve the consideration of my fellow DisneyGeeks that either currently enjoy running…or are looking for a reason to purchase their really cool first pair of gel-infused Nike’s.  So I’ll paint a quick picture of each race, hoping that some of you might be motivated to earn a run Disney medal in the near future.

The newest race on the run Disney calendar is the Tinkerbell Half Marathon, scheduled for its inaugural running during the weekend of January 27th-29th 2012.  This race goes off three weeks after the WDW Marathon, in Disneyland.  No other real details are available as of yet – but I’ll keep you posted on any details I may hear.

Walt Disney World’s Princess Half Marathon occurs annually in late February (the next run is scheduled for the weekend of February 24th – 26th 2012).  I’ve heard nothing but great things about this race!  It’s slated as a women’s half marathon, although approximately 300-400 men ran it last year, I believe.  As a father of a 12 year-old daughter that’s just dipping her toe into running, I think this race is absolutely fantastic.  It’s a true celebration of women’s’ strength.

The first weekend in March brings us to the Champion 5k race, run as part of ESPN the Weekend in Walt Disney World.  March is a great time to run in WDW – the humidity is low, the temperature is just right, and a 5k distance is a wonderful entry race for any new runner.  If you’ve never run before (or haven’t run in quite a while), and you are looking for a manageable distance with a fun atmosphere, put this one on your calendar!

In early May, the Everest Challenge is run in Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom.  This race is….well…unique.  I just ran it about 3 months ago, and had a really fun time.  It’s run in the evening, and it is more than just a 5k jog past the home of the Yeti.  The race begins in the parking lot of the park, sends you through the front gates, and winds you past the Tree of Life.  At several points along the next three miles, you have the added challenge of maneuvering up, over, and around various obstacles in addition to your evening jog.  Once you cross the finish line, the challenge is only half complete!  You are then handed a tiny flashlight, a pen and a map, and sent back into the park on a scavenger hunt!  The prize?  An extremely cool medal that doubles as a compass!

The Run Disney race series takes a bit of a break from mid May through the end of August as school’s out for the summer and, let’s face it, it’s more fun to work on our tans than train for a race!

The Disneyland Half Marathon is run each Labor Day Weekend.  I ran the inaugural race in 2006, and it was an absolute blast.  Through the streets of Anaheim, around the warning track of the Anaheim Angels’ baseball stadium, and through Disneyland itself, the sites and sounds of this race were a joy to experience.  I’m sure that, 5 years later, this race has consistently improved.  If you’re thinking of a first half marathon, this could be the one for you.  It’s flat and fast, and the finisher’s medal rocks!

The Wine and Dine Half Marathon is run in early October (the next one is scheduled for the weekend of September 30th – October 1st 2011).  While I don’t want to end this blog entry on a sour note, I do need to be honest about this race: I ran the inaugural one last year, and was quite disappointed by the lack of proper lighting on parts of the course (it’s another night time race), as well as the lack of organization within the finishers area and the afterparty in Epcot’s World Showcase.  That being said, I am sure that Disney received a ton of feedback on how to improve this race…and I look forward to seeing the positive changes in less than 2 months.

So there you have it – the Run Disney calendar at a glance.  In my next entry, I’ll begin to share some ideas on how to pick the right race for you, as well as how to get started on your trek toward finishing your first Disney race.  Until then, make sure to double-knot your shoe laces!  And if you have any feedback, comments, etc., please feel free to email me at joseph_kolinsky@yahoo.com

My Thoughts Regarding the WDW Marathon Weekend, Running Disney: Running the Disney Calendar


My original blog post Running Disney: Run the Disney Calendar for WDW Radio can be found here ….and yes…my 3rd blog entry for WDW Radio…..have I bored you yet?  No worries – I’ll get back to whining soon…..

In this blog entry, I’ll begin to summarize for my fellow DisneyGeeks the Run Disney calendar of events.  For those of you that are already runners (but haven’t given a Disney race a shot yet), hopefully these descriptions will help you select the race that sounds best for you to dip your toe into the Run Disney water.  And for those of you that are considering taking up walking, jogging, or running, maybe these descriptions can help you select the first race you enter.  As a reeeeeeally slow runner, I know that I need a carrot to dangle in front of myself in order to stay focus while I’m training.  Is there any bigger carrot to dangle in front of my eyes than a trip to WDW?  Not for me there isn’t!

So the Run Disney calendar kicks off in a BIG way, with what has become their signature event: The Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend.  There are shorter distance races for kids, a 5 kilometer (3.1 mile) race on Friday, followed by a Half Marathon on Saturday and, to put a huge bow on the racing weekend, The Walt Disney World Marathon goes off on Sunday.  Some absolutely crazy runners actually run the half marathon on Saturday, and then wake up the next morning to run the full marathon.  Let’s face it – you gotta be Goofy to do that, right?  So if you run both races on this weekend, you travel home with not 1….not 2….but 3 medals!  A Donald Duck medal is hung around the necks of all Half Marathon finishers.  A very shiny Mickey medal is all yours, as long as you run all 26.2 miles on Sunday.  And….if you dare to run both….you also earn the Goofy Challenge medal, thereby making it clearly evident to those around you that the cheese must have fallen off of your cracker a loooooong time ago.  (I ran the Goofy Challenge in 2009, and most of my buddies have taken that act as firm confirmation that I’m slightly…well….askew).

This weekend of races has historically been held the second weekend in January.  The next WDW Marathon weekend is slated for January 5th – January 8th, 2012.  As of June 30th, the half marathon and the full marathon were at 50% of their overall participant capacity (which reminds me – I got to sign up soon).

The Family 5k Fun Run held on Friday, January 6th takes the participants through Epcot.  I think this is a great opportunity for teens (or tweens) to get their first taste of running in a large group with a runner pinned to their shirts.  Fun runs like this aren’t held with a fierce competitive overtone to them, so each person can go at his or her own pace and feel the satisfaction of finishing a distance that maybe they’ve attempted before!

The Walt Disney World Half Marathon will be held on Saturday, January 7th.  The race takes the runners through the Magic Kingdom before a big finish in Epcot.  Runners have the opportunity to run through Cinderella’s Castle, down Main Street USA, and through the World Showcase.  There are characters and photo opportunities everywhere, so most runners don’t come into this race with a goal time in mind…but I bet they run with a camera in their hands!

The Walt Disney World Marathon will be held on Sunday, January 8th.  This race is truly special, because it’s the only race on the Run Disney calendar that allows the participants to run through all four theme parks.  The number of characters out along the course, rooting for the runners, is amazing.  By finishing this race, each runner can say that he or she was in every one of the four theme parks….before lunchtime (or, in my case, before a late dinner – I really need to stop running with a grand piano on my back….but I digress…)!

Volunteer support throughout the weekend is fantastic.  Water stops and medical facilities are always available.  Cheering spectators can be found lining the various courses all weekend, helping you to achieve your goal.  By the time you pack your bags for home, you cannot help but depart with an incredibly positive vibe that you’ll carry with you for weeks….hopefully months!

Another good thing about this Marathon Weekend is the time of year that it’s scheduled for.  Early January provides comfortable temperatures and slightly lighter crowds within the parks. So you can celebrate your achievements by riding Splash Mountain, beating a family member at Toy Story Mania, or simply strolling down Main Street USA, taking in the splendor, unparalleled creativity and unique ingenuity that is Walt Disney World.

So get out there, get moving, and make sure you double-knot your shoe laces, because Marathon Weekend is only 6 months away!  In my next entry, I’ll continue to share with you brief a description of the other races that Run Disney offers.  In the meantime, if you have any general running questions, feel free to drop me a line at joseph_kolinsky@yahoo.com.  I’ll try my best to offer advice – and I’m more than willing to offer motivation to get your ears in gear!  I’m not a doctor, specialist, elite athlete or coach – I’ve just run a few of these races and I’ve made every single dumb mistake a runner can make.  If I can help you not to duplicate my utter stupidity, I’ll do my best!

In the words of my wise Irish grandmother,

“whether you think you can, or you think you can’t…you’re probably right.”

My Second Post For WDW Radio Running Disney: Ya Gotta Start Somewhere…


My original blog post Running Disney: Ya Gotta Start Somewhere on WDW Radio can be found here…please check it out!  I hope you like it!!!

In my first entry, I simply painted a brief picture of my rather pedestrian background, as well as providing you with a quick synopsis of what to expect from this blog.  In this second installment I’d like to do to turn my attention to you, the reader.

I’m figuring that, if you’ve read my first blog entry and made it this far into rant number two, you might have some interest in running a Disney race – or at least learning a bit about what Disney offers for runners, joggers, walkers….and waddlers like myself.

The great thing about Disney races is that is offers something for literally everyone.  For the serious runners (I’m talking about those runners out there that actually get to stand next to the starting line when the gun goes off, or those rabbits that weave around everyone on their way to a personal best time each time they race), Disney offers races that range from a 5K to a marathon in distance.  So whether you’re a shorter distance specialist or a true endurance athlete, there’s a race just waiting for you.  In addition, the courses are usually quite flat – so setting a personal best time is not out of the question.  Lastly, there is solid support throughout any Disney racing event –so there’s always enough water and available medical assistance on the course.   Quite simply, Disney knows how to organize a race – you won’t be disappointed.

For the casual joggers (and here I’m talking about those athletes that jog several times a week and run a few races a year, mainly for the fun, social aspect of it all), Disney races offer all the great qualities that I just mentioned as well as one other pretty interesting characteristic: a relaxed atmosphere.  Here in New York City, I consider myself very lucky to have Central Park as my backyard for running.  There are quite a number of races held in the park throughout the year, and the overall atmosphere on race day is intense.   Don’t get me wrong – I’ve come to LOVE that feeling.  But when I first started jogging, I felt as if I needed to “keep up with the pack”.  That feeling of competitiveness was a bit intimidating for me, since I constantly felt like I was running with a Steinway piano on my back.

I can assure you that the intimidating feeling I’m trying to describe does not exist in Disney races.   When I jog in a Disney race, I feel no pressure.  I feel like I can take in the sights and the energy around me, and simply enjoy the event.  That, combined with the feeling of accomplishment I get as I cross the finish line, is a combination that’s hard to beat.

For those of us that enjoy walking – or those that are thinking about trying something new or setting a new personal goal…something that would get them moving….something that they can build on….Disney races present an amazing opportunity.  Participating in a Disney running event provides you w

When I first began “jogging” (again – let’s throw that word in quotes for me, because what I look like while “jogging” can best be described as an excerpt from a reeeeeeally horrid 1950’s horror movie.  One guy from my old neighborhood actually told me I run like Herman Munster – not a good athletic role model), I couldn’t go 3-5 minutes without stopping and walking.  It took a lot of work to get myself to the point where I could jog a mile at a slow (and I do mean SLOOOW) pace.  I felt impatient – I wanted to be able to just throw on my sneakers and jog with everyone else I saw in the park, at their pace.  After a while, I felt like giving up.  Fortunately for me, I didn’t.  Instead, I picked a race 4-5 months away, and I used it to focus my efforts.

Each day I got just a little bit better.  Weeks went by, and my efforts began to very slowly show results.  On race day, it felt great to simply finish this small assignment I gave to myself.  Once I crossed the finish line of that first race, I picked another one.  Then another.  From there…I was literally off to the races!

If you’re a real DisneyGeek / DisneyNerd / Disney Enthusiast (I am all three, and proud of it), or even if you aren’t a huge fan of the House of Mouse, Disney races offer that carrot that you can hang in front of yourself, motivating you to get out there and get active.  At a Disney race, there is no feeling of judgment.  Instead, there’s a feeling of electricity.  Each time the gun goes off at a Disney race, it symbolizes a bunch of people taking strides to achieve their own personal goals.  I look to my left – then I look to my right – and I always wonder what motivates each runner to the starting line.  At any other race, I normally stand alone, waiting for the gun to go off and the masses to begin moving slowly forward.  At a Disney race, I don’t just look to my left and right – I actually strike up conversations with strangers.  I ask them what motivated them to run this race.  The stories I get to hear are amazing.  Next time – I hope to hear yours!

So there’s something for everyone at a Disney race.  It doesn’t matter how slow or fast you are.  It doesn’t matter if you run or walk.  All that matters is that you motivated yourself to the starting line.  Get yourself there, and let Disney take care of the rest, because each race they host is special.  In my next entry, I’ll briefly describe each of the Disney races for you, and I’ll discuss some of the really fun aspects of every one of them!

Until next time…throw on your sneakers, get out there and get moving!  And, as my coach constantly reminds everyone within earshot, double knot your shoelaces!!!

I’ve Added a Few New Blog Entries For WDW Radio, Running Disney: An Introduction


….and here’s my first one!  I hope you enjoy it!  I’ll get back to whining about my running life in just a bit….

Visit WDW Radio to read the original blog post Running Disney: An Introduction

Since you’re a fan of WDW Radio, I’m going to go out on a limb and just assume that you’re a Disney enthusiast.  Am I right?  I figured as much.  Well, so am I.  I’ve been called a “Disney Nerd”, a “Disney Geek”, a “Disney Addict”…and the list of labels goes on and on (and, frankly, I’m proud of every moniker that I’m assigned when it comes to my admiration for Walt and his works).   Spending time in the parks, at the resorts, and amongst fellow Disney enthusiasts makes each trip to WDW special for me.  I always seem to come home relaxed, refreshed, and with a bit of renewed creativity.

Another passion of mine is “running”.  Yes, that’s not a typo – I put the word “running” in quotes, because I firmly believe that what I do while wearing a pair of sneakers can be loosely referred to as running…although it looks more like waddling.  I look in the mirror each morning and the same thought passes through my rather dense cranium: I’m built for comfort, not speed.  But that doesn’t stop me from lacing up my sneakers at an obscene hour each morning and logging a few miles before going to work.  I know I’m slow – that I’m as quick as a turtle – but who cares!  Running – just like all things Disney – puts a smile on my face.

While my appreciation for Walt Disney World was easy to establish and cultivate through my joy of being a Dad (my daughter and I first visited WDW in 2004 – when she was 5 years old – and we’ve been Disney Geeks ever since), my passion for running was one that required a prolonged incubation period.  I always looked at running as a punishment.  In high school, if I threw an interception in a football game, the coach would yell “take a lap!”  In little league, if I struck out with runners in scoring position, my coach would yell “take a lap!”  When I joined a crew team in college, the first thing my coach would yell each morning was “take 5 laps!”  So let me be quite honest here: by the time I graduated college, I hated running.  However this opinion would drastically change after I made a promise to my daughter to run a marathon.  (I know – I should have promised her a Dole Whip and an Fastpass to Toy Story Mania – what was I thinking!)  I trained for and waddled through the 2005 ING New York City Marathon – and shortly after crossing the finish line, I wondered whether Disney held any running races at any point during the year.  I hopped on the internet…and eureka!

Being able to enjoy two of my passions at the same time – Disney and running – is what motivated me to begin this blog for WDW Radio.  In future entries I’ll provide updates on the various races that Disney offers, as well as some motivation and recommendations on how you can start working toward a goal of earning a medal in a Disney race.  All this…and a load of laughs mixed in for good measure.  So stay tuned!!