This past Sunday I picked up a shift at Disney’s Animal Kingdom to assist during the marathon. I knew the race weekend was happening and I was already sad that I wasn’t taking part in it this year and already wanted to volunteer. Before I searched the RunDisney website for information on volunteer opportunities, I decided to check the extra hours on my schedule. To my excitement I found this DAK shift from 5:00 am until 11:00 am along the marathon route. Because of the nature of my recent motivation, I knew working this event would help; I had no idea the emotions it would stir up.
We saw our first participants come along our mile #12. The first several were all wheelchair participants and we cheered them on their way. These racers were inspirational enough, not letting being in a wheelchair confine them to not doing something as awesome and taxing as a full marathon. Finally we heard that our first male runner was on his way to us. For the first hour or so of runners, they were the most elite and were still keeping a fast pace. Sure, that’s motivating enough, but I don’t want to race in the first corals. I love running, but I don’t care if I qualify for any of the big-wig marathons.
It was later on where I saw the people like me running. You knew they had worked hard to be able to run this, but they were tired and doing their best. They were the ones I wanted to cheer for most. They needed it more. They inspired me more than the elite runners, because their pace was much more obtainable for me in my current training and I could relate more to them than to the ones who look professional. After DAK opened, a husband and his two young sons waited at the entrance to Expedition Everest for their runner to pass by. As soon as she saw her family she started crying, hugged her sons, kissed her husband, and went on the second half of her marathon. I didn’t know these people and I was crying for them.
Out of 25,000 runners, I managed to spot the celebrity. Sean Astin passed by me and it was one of the most exciting things I’ve experienced working at Disney. For the last several years I’ve followed Sean and his running campaign, Run3rd, online. His blog can be found here and it’s one of the most inspirational things I’ve read, especially his most recent post, his recap of the Dopey Challenge. The way he uses running not only for himself, but for everyone else in his life and as a way to reach out to his fans is really amazing and I admire him a lot for it. Seeing him post pictures from races on his Twitter is one thing, but seeing this man run past me in person was really cool for me. Plus, I’m a huge Lord of the Rings and The Color of Magic fan, so I geeked out a little there.
During and after the race, I got to talk to a lot of the runners about their experience and my plans to run my first half marathon this year. So many people were excited for me and gave me great advice for my anticipated races. The running community is so welcoming and encouraging and it makes me glad that I’m slowly (very slowly) becoming a part of it. I hope to pick up another shift during the Princess Half Marathon weekend next month, because it was exactly what I needed to give myself an extra boost in momentum as I train for my Coast to Coast challenge in November!