Archive for Upcoming Races

Asthma can’t keep this accomplished runner and former preemie from achieving her dreams.

Hi Folks! Something a bit different for me today – I am going to share an inspirational piece courtesy of Cigna!

Cigna is the primary sponsor of the Walt Disney World Marathon event in January and they have invited me to take part in a Blogger / Social Media Meet Up over the weekend. I am super excited about that!

As part of this they provided some inspirational stories to share with you folks and this one spoke to me. I won’t give too big a preamble but it involves Chelby Elam and an after-school mentoring program in Philadelphia helping kids get involved in long-distance running and I can only imagine how my life would have changed if I had gotten interested in long distance running 20 or so years earlier than I did!

Hope you enjoy the article, it made me smile!



Born three months premature, Chelby Elam of Philadelphia always dealt with asthma and a heart murmur. Since joining Students Run Philly Style, running has made her lungs stronger, and she hasn’t had an asthma attack in years.

“My dad loves to run, so I would go to races to support him and saw lots of kids wearing Students Run Philly Style t-shirts,” said Chelby. “It was cool watching them cross the finish line. I felt inspired to join even though I wasn’t a runner and never really enjoyed competing in track.”


Chelby Elam and her Dad – Students Run Philly Style

Students Run Philly Style is an after-school mentor program that gets kids involved in long-distance running, teaching life lessons along the way. Philly schools have their own teams that train together three times each week, coached by a teacher, leader, or parent.

“My Dad became our Students Run coach,” said Chelby. “It’s been so much fun to spend time together running – even though sometimes he bugs me with the dad jokes he makes up to keep our spirits high on long runs.”

“Teamwork and encouragement are two of the biggest lessons I’ve learned,” said Chelby. “Everyone is so supportive- even teammates you don’t know that well. It’s so important to help your friends when they’re struggling.” Another important lesson “is to just enjoy the run, which is different than running track. We’re not competing against each other. We’re all there to have fun.”

As a result of Chelby’s hard work and commitment to her health, The Cigna Foundation, a long-time sponsor of Students Run Philly Style, is sending Chelby and her dad on an all-expense paid trip to Walt Disney World in January. As a symbol and extension of her health journey, she will participant in the Walt Disney World® Half Marathon on Saturday, January 6.

“The Cigna Foundation believes that achieving and maintaining personal health means that communities need trusted places they can turn to for information and services,” said Mary Engvall, Executive Director of the Cigna Foundation. “We support nonprofit organizations that offer better health opportunities wherever and however they’re needed in the communities where we live and serve.”

“Chelby really stands out in our program because she works so hard. Watching her and her dad running together is a testament to the work we do to help the kids in our community and represents what our partnership with the Cigna Foundation is all about,” Lauren Kobylarz, Program Director for Students Run Philly Style.

Chelby and her dad participated in the Philadelphia Half Marathon in November, and the Walt Disney World® Half Marathon will be her first time running out of state. She’s excited to come back to Orlando, a place she hasn’t visited since she was little.

“It’ll be so nice to run in warmer weather, for sure, and to see the different scenery,” said Chelby, “This is really a stepping to my next goal: running the full Philly Marathon in 2018.”

Outside of running, Chelby is a dog walker and freelance photographer, and a member of the Journalism Club. She served as a media intern for the Democratic National Convention, when it came to Philadelphia, and the Washington Post, and continues to volunteer at Students Run Philly Style.



I hope you enjoyed Chelby’s story!

Good luck on the Walt Disney World Half Marathon Chelby!


Running Road Blocks

Hi Folks!

As I mentioned in my last post, I have been invited to participate in Cigna’s Blogger and Social Media Meet-up (super excited!) and as part of that they have passed along a bunch of inspirational stories and infographics that I can share.

So I will do a series of posts using this info to pass along some of this cool info to you folks. I see others involved in the meet-up are already starting to share this info as well – to find those posts look for #cignaruntogether on Twitter and other social media! Very cool stuff!

As I was looking at the info packet Cigna sent along I saw one infographic that spoke to me right off the bat and I am going to do a quick write up on this one and tie it into my own experiences and thoughts as well as into the Walt Disney World Marathon course.


Cigna Run Together – running road blocks

(please ignore that their runner seemed to jump from 5 miles to 13.1 and back to 10…)

Mile 1 – Set your own pace and save energy! Makes sense to me – at the start of the full marathon their is so much energy in the air you are going to want to fly out of the corrals but try to pull back on that instinct and save that energy later in the course. Things can be crowded in the first few miles as well so you don’t want to cause an accident either.

Mile 5 – Pace yourself. Listen to music and enjoy your surroundings. On the Walt Disney World Marathon course this puts you right before the entrance to Magic Kingdom – enjoy that run down Main Street toward the castle, it is hard to express how amazing that section of the course is! Also, take advantage of the park bathrooms if you need to and skip the scenic porta-potties.

Mile 10 – Self-doubt may start creeping in. Focus on yourself, not on the other runners. I like to say “run your own race” and it is especially true at a runDisney race. You can have fast runners doing character stops, getting passed by slower runners and then catching back up and blasting past again – you have thousands of runners out there doing their own thing, don’t waste mental energy on what they are doing. This is not always the most exciting mile of the Disney World Marathon but Animal Kingdom is coming soon and runDisney does try to have character spots and entertainment along the way to keep you going.

Mile 13.1 – Break the race into chunks and focus on the next mile marker. You are in Animal Kingdom now which is very cool to run through – amazing scenery. After you come out of this park though you have some road miles ahead of you that aren’t really exciting but keep your mind distracted looking for some interesting things – like the runners’ graveyard staffed by Haunted Mansion cast members and the McDonalds…

Mile 18 – wall may be nearing. Think positive; it will give you more energy. At this point you are entering the ESPN sports complex and some runners have expressed frustration and this part of the course – but I like to enjoy it in pieces. For example running on the 1/4 mile track, it is fun to enjoy the bounce of the track after lots of pavement, also the run through the baseball diamond is very cool. Plus enjoy the shade where you can get it in this area – it is one of the few places on course where you can get some shade from the Florida sun.

Mile 23 – Exhaustion is setting in. Visualize crossing the finish line. You are now entering the Hollywood Studios park and from here on out there is always some kind of scenery or cool area to keep you positive. The 2 miles after you leave ESPN and before you get to Hollywood Studios are the hardest to push through in my opinion – there isn’t a lot there to keep you going but once you get through that you get a string of visual treats right up to the finish line. You get Hollywood Studios, the beautiful walking path towards Disney’s Boardwalk Resort area, fantastic views around the lake seeing the Dolphin, Swan, Yacht and Beach Club resorts before entering Epcot and getting see all of World Showcase except Canada. Then you have your final stretch toward Spaceship Earth, the run by the choir at mile 26 and then the crowds cheering you down the final 0.2 miles. Miles 21 through 23 are where I start concentrating on my Pieces of Magic items that I bring along to remind me of my family and to keep me motivated.

Mile 26.2 – Celebrate! You will be tired, you may just want to crash out and go to bed, but make sure to take some time to wander around with your medal at Disney World. You will get congratulations from other runners, from all the Disney Cast Members – it feels good, as it should – you just finished a marathon! Also make sure to move around to keep the legs loose and work some of the lactic acid out – if you can do some walking around you will feel better the next day as opposed to just sitting around getting stiff.


Thanks for reading and let me know what you do to keep moving through the miles!

2017 plans. A return to form and a push to Dopey Challenge 2018!?!

With a new year we get a chance to reflect on things both good and bad from the past year and make plans for the future. What do we want to change? What should we keep doing? What can we do (or not do) to build ourselves and others up?

For the coming year there are a few things I know I need to change both running wise and just for life in general.

I don’t like to make resolutions since they usually get broken pretty damned quick – instead I am going to make a few commitments to myself.


First Commitment:

2018 Dopey Challenge – I am just days away from heading down to Orlando / Disney World for the 2017 Goofy Challenge but I am committing to running the 2018 Dopey Challenge now and doing it well. I want a better overall time than I got when I ran it in 2015. I was very happy with my overall time and strength that year and if I want to better that time, then I need to start work now and build through the year. I did 1971 miles in 2014 leading up to the 2015 Dopey Challenge so I will be trying to beat those numbers for 2017. I also set my PRs in the half and full marathons in 2014, so I will have some work to do to rebuild here.

In 2018 the race will be the 5th anniversary of the Dopey Challenge, the 5th anniversary of the Minnie 10k and the 25th anniversary of the Walt Disney World Marathon. That is a party I want to be involved with! I suspect there will be many who feel the same way so hopefully I can get in through the early entry with my annual pass!

My wife and I want to bring the kids down for this one too. I am doing Goofy Challenge this year and Heather is doing the Glass Slipper Challenge in February. We both have fallen in love with runDisney races and we really want to share that with the kids and get them more active at the same time. So we intend to do the 5k with them and see where else we end up. Our son is old enough to do the 10k so we will see if we can get him interested in that too. We are going to start building them up to this with the Pro Bowl 5k on January 28th – they will get a taste of a race through Epcot and hopefully they will catch the bug too!

Basically, all my running this year must lead toward this goal.


Second Commitment:

Spruce Woods Ultra – I let myself down on this one in 2016. I didn’t run my own race and it cost me. I know I could have completed this race and it eats at me a bit that I messed it up. So this year I will do it again and do it properly (properly for me – RUN MY OWN RACE). The only thing here is that I will have to decide what distance – 50k, 50 miles or 100k (smart enough to know I will not be ready for a 100 miler any time soon). Completing the race will be rebuilding my confidence so I need to figure out if I will feel better running a very strong 50k or if going well beyond 50k will work better.

The decision here will depend on how well my Achilles tendon continues to recover. I also don’t want to jeopardize 2018 Dopey Challenge with a big injury during the year. I realize you risk injury on every run and you can’t let that hold you back from reaching your goals…but there is a big difference between taking chances and deliberately flitting with disaster.

This race is in May, so I have some time to decide how things are going before I finalize my plans.


Third Commitment:

24 hour Lemming Loop – considering I really had no idea what I was getting into and my Achilles tendon didn’t cooperate  at all, I am a fairly happy with what I accomplished at the 2016 Lemming Loop…but I know I can do better.

I want to do this one again when I am stronger and healthier and just see what I can do. I have always thought my strength as a runner was more about endurance and quick recovery and this event lends itself to those traits. And I want to know what I am capable of here.


Other things:

These aren’t quite the same as the commitments above but they are things that will either need to happen or I want to happen over the year.


Lose weight…this one starts to sound a bit like a New Years resolution but it really isn’t. With my reduced mileage and injuries, my weight has crept up over the past year and a half and I have probably gained back 20 of the pounds I had previously lost. This needs to be rectified to achieve my goals above. I know how to do it and this will happen.


Marathon Maniacs – there are about 4 marathons run near(ish) to where I live and either combined with each other or with the ultras listed above I should be able to get Marathon Maniac status this year. I think this is something that would be pretty cool – but I am not going to commit to it as being healthy for the above races will take precedent as will various family commitments through the year.


Half Marathons – there are a few I like to do every year and I will most likely do so again with the goal of getting some speed back. My half PR is 1:46:00 and getting back there this year might be difficult but I think I can get back down to sub 1:50 and I would be quite happy with that.


Stress reduction – Over the past year or so I have been dealing with some big stressors that have been impacting my running motivation. I need to find a way to deal with those. At this point I suspect doing additional writing on the blog will help. I have been a bit lax over the past year on the blog but I will be picking it up and posting more. I find the writing helps focus my brain and lets me come up with solid plans better…so let’s do that.


As a conclusion, I have to say I am fairly excited about the upcoming year of running and looking forward to see where I end up!

Good luck to everyone in 2017!!

2016 year end review – kinda rough but getting better!

Time again for a year end recap – and this one is a bit of an odd one to write up. On one hand my total mileage is not really awful and I did manage to get in my longest race event ever, but on the other hand my weight is up, my motivation was down, I had some injuries to deal with, and I had my first ever DNF.

There were definitely challenges this year but also some moments of light – I don’t want to focus on the negative, so I will mention some of the challenges but will try to concentrate more on the positive aspects of the year.

Total miles 1206.5 – down from 1400 in 2015 and 1971 in 2014. Definitely down – my Achilles tendon issue near the end of the year did not help here and without that I suspect I would have beaten my 2015 mileage. An injury is never fun but I did more mileage in the last half of the year than the first half despite the injury, that shows an increase in drive and strength.

2016 started pretty well with the 129 day 485 mile run streak but after the streak was broken the motivation tanked. That being said the streak didn’t work the way I would have liked either – I needed to adapt the streak to training for the specific races I had coming up and I failed to do so.

I then messed up on the Spruce Woods 50k by not hydrating during the race and then the Fargo Marathon by not eating properly the night before. But for both of these races I saw glimmers of strength still inside – if I hadn’t mentally screwed up on the 50k, I could have finished quite well. And for Fargo, I ran well early on in the race and despite g.i. issues and some major heat it still wasn’t my worst race. They both represent some screw ups on my part but I enjoyed them enough to want to do them both again – so that says something.

I had some recovery in the fall but then I had issues with my Achilles tendon that spanked me fairly well and through the last few months of the year. I am still struggling with the tendon now and it will probably define the start of 2017 too.

My longest run of the year (and ever), the 24 hour Lemming Loop, got me 53.3 miles – I believe I could have gotten farther but my ankles rebelled and I couldn’t run nearly as much as I would like on the race. I probably walked about half of the distance due to ankle issues. So while it was my longest event ever it was also disappointing. But man did I ever enjoy the event…starting to think I like messing up on races…

Then, 2 weeks after the 24 hour Lemming Loop, I ran my fastest half marathon in a year and a half at the Winnipeg Fire and Paramedic Services Half Marathon. My Achilles was really not pleased after that but it shows some solid recovery capability.

One common thing I found through the year was that I was struggling to feel strong in my legs when I ran. I finally figured out what the issue was and I understand that the issue led directly to the Achilles problems I have been trying to recover from. What was the issue? I have been running in the wrong shoes.

I won’t get too deep into the issue but to keep it simple, I switched from a high heel to toe ratio shoe to a lower one. A lower heel to toe ratio puts extra pressure on the Achilles tendon (it gets stretched a bit more each step) and since I have used a high ratio shoe for years, my tendons weren’t prepared for the extra extension and rebelled. Note to self – changing running form overnight = bad.

But I have now figured that out, gotten shoes that work with my running form and I have seen improvement over the past few months. The tendon is still healing but I am seeing some strength return. I have a lot of rebuilding to do but I am ending the year with hope that I will recover and come back stronger in 2017.

Next week is the 2017 Goofy Challenge and I won’t be running it for speed or to challenge myself – I will be doing it for fun and as a reminder to enjoy the running. And then, I get down to work to seriously rebuild over 2017. I will do another post on what I hope to do over the upcoming year – as a spoiler though, I want to do Dopey Challenge in 2018 for the anniversary year and I will be building to be stronger than I was when I did it in 2015.

So maybe that leads me to my take away for 2016 – I made mistakes, I had motivation issues, I had injuries, and things did not go to plan in any way, shape or form…but I am still running. Even injured, I am still at a spot where others might spend years getting to, and I have to be thankful for what I can do and proud of what I have accomplished.

I will be stronger in 2017.

Happy New Year everyone and keep running!

Updated Goofy Challenge Packing List – Carry on only

A few years back, I put up a packing list for the Goofy Challenge and then added another packing list specifically for the Dopey Challenge. But, both of those assumed I would be checking a bag with the airline to fly down, which is what I would normally do. However, this year I am hoping to get away with just carry on bags.




For this trip, I am flying from Winnipeg to Toronto and then from Toronto down to Florida with a couple hour layover between flights. This means I will need to do US Customs in Toronto. That’s not a big deal but it means I have to collect my checked bags at a special luggage conveyor in the Toronto airport before I go to the US entry area. I have never had a lost bag here or missed a flight but it is a frustrating thing, standing there wait for your bags as you watch the US entry area get fuller and more backed up and your flight time gets closer and closer. Frankly it is a frustration I would rather avoid this trip and it should be doable if I plan well.


To achieve it, I have to be more focused on what I really need to bring and what I can do without. I may also have to commit to doing laundry on the Sunday after the marathon but I will have a better idea on that as I start to pack and see what will actually fit in my bags.


On the bag side, I will be using a luggage piece that fits the airline’s size restriction for carry on. The trick is determining what the additional “personal item” will be and how much I can fit in it. Usually I bring a padded camera backpack into the cabin area and I might do that this time but it would be nice if I could get away with a simple messenger bag instead. Again, I won’t be able to fully decide that until I get actually packing.


As I split the stuff up between bags I will need to keep in mind that I might get stuck having to gate check a bag, meaning there will be stuff I want to make absolutely sure is in the “personal item” bag, just in case of issues with the gate checked bag. This means electronics and at least one running gear set in the “personal item” bag.


I will also try to save some space in the bags by wearing layers of clothes onto the plane. Frankly I would probably have to do this anyway. It will most likely be parka weather in Winnipeg as I head to the airport and I will not want to bring the parka with me to Orlando. So that means I will layer on clothes so I don’t become an icicle getting to the plane but I will be able to get comfortable once I am in warmer air again.




  • Standard jeans, socks, etc (for staying warm – not much I can do here for efficiency)
  • Long sleeve running tech shirt – could be used to run if required (some efficiency here)
  • Sweater / light jacket – layering in action – but can also be used to run if the race mornings are cool
  • Nike Elements running jacket – this thing can keep me warm in damned cold weather but is still light enough to use if it is only cool out – again can be used for running or just wearing if it is cool as I am wandering a park or something
  • Shoes – I will wear my planned running pair on the plane – going to make sure I have that pair of shoes with me
  • Running gloves
  • Running hat
  • Garmin running watch (Garmin Vivoactive)
  • Cell phone in armor case and holster and a set of headphones



“Personal Item” – backpack or messenger bag


  • Passport
  • Race waiver!
  • Travel documents including Disney receipts for tickets to pick up, etc
  • Chargers and charger cables galore – watch, phone, laptop, etc
  • Portable battery bank (fits in my running belt and in my pockets, keep the phone charged)
  • Laptop (Surface 3 tablet actually with keyboard and hard case to keep it protected) and connectors to read camera memory card, etc
  • Headphones – I will probably have a pair in a pocket of the jacket I am wearing but I will bring a spare pair
  • Sunglasses – I would just wear them but my first flight leaves at 5 am – the sun will still be asleep
  • 1 set running clothes – shirt, shorts, underwear and socks
  • Running belt and bib belt
  • DSLR camera + one lens – I would normally take 2 lenses and a point and shoot camera but will cut that back this trip to save space
  • Kindle – I could read on my phone or Surface while flying but I prefer the feel of the Kindle and it is an easy carry so I will bring it.
  • Minor toiletries – won’t bring much since you can bring much liquid through security but I won’t need much while I am down there and things like shampoo, etc will be supplied by the hotel anyway.
  • Disney Pieces of Magic – mementos that I carry on every run to remind me of my family and have them with me on the run.
  • Electrolyte drink tablets
  • Bottle opener – for beer.
  • Magic band – being Canadian, Disney won’t have mailed out my new band for this stay but I will bring an older one to have options (plus it makes getting on Magical Express a bit quicker)
  • Nipple protectors – because otherwise, ouch. 




  • Normal clothes – jeans, shirts, socks, etc – number of full sets will depend on room – if I can avoid having to do laundry that would be good but lounging in the pool while doing laundry after the marathon is done doesn’t seem that bad a thing either…
  • Additional running gear full set – possibly 2 to give options with a warmer weather set and colder weather set. Disney World Marathon weekend weather can be odd – I have had blistering heat warnings…and snow (curse you 2010!).
  • Running shoes – 1 pair – back up pair / walking around pair to use instead of the race pair I will be wearing on the plane
  • Space – going to have souvenirs and race items to bring home and will need that room. I expect I will check the bag on the way home so having the luggage fit the carry on size requirements but still be expandable would be good.
  • Ziplock bags – good to have to carry stuff on the race that want to protect
  • Water bottles for the electrolyte drink tabs
  • Running backpack – I carry way too much stuff on marathons but I also can’t handle PowerAde so I need to bring my own liquid fuel for the race – I find the 2 liters in the backpack gets me through a full marathon.
  • Couple of big garbage bags – easily disposable rain barrier if needed
  • Knee and ankle braces – have had issues in the past and they are easy to pack as a just in case
  • Swimsuit
  • Wipes – easy pack for GI issues on the race and a nice quick clean up after the race
  • Grooming / blister kit – bandages, nail clippers, etc – I will have to double check here exactly what I can bring in carry on bags – this may have to be modified.


Let me know if I missed anything!