Tag Archive for walt disney world marathon 2017

Sonya Hazel – car accident left her with a serious break but now she is recovering and is out to run the Walt Disney World 5k!

Hi All! Just wanted to put up another inspirational article shared by 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!

The article today is the story of Sonya Hazel – who was involved in a car accident with a distracted driver and through therapy, hard work and help from Cigna is coming to Walt Disney World in January to run the 5k race at the Walt Disney World Marathon.

I hope you enjoy the article.


Sonya Hazel, 42 years old and resident of Riverdale, Ga. near Atlanta, didn’t have a chance to avoid that truck on February 23, 2017. The driver attempted to pass her while texting and driving. Like many distracted drivers, he misjudged the distance knocking Sonya’s car out of control. Her vehicle finally came to a stop after hitting a passenger van and breaking a highway wall. When the police officer arrived on the scene, she could hear him talking to the dispatcher. Judging by the vehicle, he thought she died in the crash.

“Before the officer arrived, I couldn’t feel my legs and, as silly as it sounds, I remember thinking my husband would be so upset when he saw the car,” said Sonya. “When the officer ducked down to see inside the vehicle, I startled him when I spoke.”

The emergency room doctor thought she might have gotten away with just a sprain and applied a temporary cast. When she visited the orthopedic surgeon, he took x-rays and found a serious break. The injury caused so much swelling that she needed to wait several weeks until April before surgery could be performed. The mental scars might last the longest.

“To this day, I haven’t been able to drive my car very far,” said Sonya. “The few times I’ve driven, I just pray and play loud music to focus on driving and everything around me.”

Following four to six weeks of therapy that ended in October, she said she felt about 85 percent back. As a mom of five children including four adults and one seven-year-old daughter, she feels the hole of that extra 15 percent still ahead of her.

Sonya Hazel – 5K – Cigna Run Together

“I still can’t do certain things,” said Sonya. “Before the accident, I was always active. It’s been a real adjustment for my daughter. I’ll know I’m back at 100 percent when I’m able to keep up with her and run around with my grandson when he’s born next April.”

On the road to recovery and mentally itching to return to work, she asked more information on Cigna’s vocational coaching program. Soon after, she received a call from Bethany Roefs, her Cigna vocational coach, who offered assistance.

“Bethany comforts and encourages me throughout this process to help me get back to work,” said Sonya. “I feel she knows me and cares about my situation. She’s been my liaison between my employer and me and has been right there throughout everything.”

“From the beginning, Sonya’s top goals included returning to work,” said Bethany. “Making sure she stayed on track, I helped coordinate between her doctor and employer to make sure she found the right return to work plan that allowed her to fully recovery without a setback.”

Sonya’s looking forward to returning to work and getting back on track with her career.

“The day of the accident, my boss planned to talk with me about a promotion,” said Sonya. “Now, I’m looking forward to just earning a full paycheck again.”

One of the resources Bethany offered, the Cigna customer referral program with Achilles International, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people with disabilities participate in athletic events, helps people like Sonya build up physical strength and stamina.

Cigna partners with organizations like Achilles International to help customers achieve their return to work goals by providing access to additional rehabilitation resources including ergonomic office equipment, software, education and accommodations to help customers stay safe and be productive at work, encouragement and support, resume review and job placement assistance.

As a result of her hard work and dedication to return to work, Cigna offered Sonya the opportunity to participate in the Walt Disney World® 5K presented by Cigna on Thursday, January 4th as a member of Team Cigna.

“When Bethany talked about my progress and asked if I felt ready for a 5K, I assumed she meant a local race,” said Sonya. “Then she told me Disney – surprised doesn’t quite say it. I’m grateful and see it as a challenge to get my body over that last physical hurdle.”

The Cigna Customer Referral Program with Achilles International demonstrates Cigna’s promise to partner with customers “Together, All the Way” along their unique health journey. When injury or illness occurs, Cigna helps them get back on track to achieve their goals. She will be guided by Joan Harvey, vice president of consumer health engagement for Cigna, on the race course.

“For Cigna customers, participating in a race represents a healthy milestone on the road to recovery, but also independence,” said Bethany. “As people gain physical strength, they also build confidence, which can positively affect all areas of your life.”

“At one time I thought I wouldn’t be able to walk without a cane,” said Sonya. “Look at me now getting ready for a 5K in Walt Disney World. Once I’m able to return to work, I’m really on my way back to the old Sonya again.”


Thanks for reading – I hope you enjoyed the article.

Good luck to Sonya on the 5k race!

2017 Goofy Challenge race trip report – Day 2 – spectating the Minnie 10k and bad news about the half marathon

Ok – day 2 of this interesting trip for the 2017 Goofy Challenge 

I was up early and got out quickly to the path by Disney’s Beach Club Resort to spectate the Minnie 10k race. I just missed the first of the runners heading past the hotel just after mile 5 of the race – I had hoped to get out there to see everyone but I was just a bit too slow. 

I clapped and cheered on the runners right up until the golf cart passed that was there to sweep up anyone unfortunate enough to not be able to maintain the minimum pace. 

I was awesome to see so many people out there having fun – it gives a different perspective on the race watching everyone go by instead of being in your own little bubble rushing through the race. You get a bit more of a sense of the sheer number of folks running one of these runDisney races. Then I thought back to the variety of stories I had heard from just a few runners on my way down and it really hit me just how many reasons for running, goals and stories there must be. Pretty amazing when you think about it. 

I saw a few people I recognized from twitter that I interact with but most wouldn’t have recognized me in real life. But I saw Jeff Galloway, which was awesome and said a quick hello to him as he went past. I also saw @sharpendurance from twitter go by looking very focused and I recognized @LoveDisneyRun as well, but she was across the course so I didn’t do a shout out. Looking at my twitter feed later, it looks like there were other runners there that I follow that I did not recognize, so if you are one of those folks, sorry I didn’t say “hi” as you went past! 

That was a cool experience. 

My Garmin tracker figures I did 150% of my step goals for the day just from the clapping which was kind of funny. 

From there, I went and had a quick bite to eat and packed up my stuff since I had to move hotels that day. I dropped my bags with the bag check folks at the hotel to be transferred to my new location and headed into Epcot. I was able to get on Soarin’ after a short wait and then headed out of Epcot to get on the monorail to Magic Kingdom. 

I had lunch there and did a quick ride of People Mover, which has become a bit of a tradition for me during Walt Disney World Marathon weekend. 

The park was too busy to do much else though, so I went out and caught the bus to the new resort to check in. I moved to the Saratoga Springs Resort for the rest of the trip and luckily the room was ready when I got there. 

Saratoga Springs has a walking path in to Disney Springs (the new name for Downtown Disney), so after a bit of a walk around I went there for some shopping and exploring of the new areas I hadn’t seen yet. 

While there I had an early supper to make sure whatever I ate wouldn’t impact the half marathon race the next morning. 

At this point though I am starting to stalk the weather reports as they were calling for a chance of thunderstorms the next morning…and lightning is the one thing that runDisney is pretty specific about cancelling a race for. The forecasts kept changing too, sometimes it would just show rain (which I could handle) and then it would come back and show lightning again. 

I then went back to the room to prep my gear for the next day and to get to bed early. 

As I prepped, I noticed that the pin holes in the racing bib seemed awfully close to the edge of the bib. I had visions of ripping my bib like I did on the 2015 half marathon as part of the Dopey Challenge that year. I put that out of my head for the time being though to continue to stalk the weather reports. 

runDisney indicated that they were going report back by 7:00 pm through various channels on what they were going to do about the race and weather, however by 7:30 there was still nothing coming. And then we started to hear noise that the race was cancelled the next morning…but still nothing official from runDisney on any of the 4 info channels that they indicated. 

And then they finally made the official announcement…but only on Facebook. I don’t use Facebook so my wife had to send me screen captures. It took ages before they finally put out the info on the other channels. To me this was the one real failure for runDisney. I fully accept, understand and support the decision they made but it was ridiculous that they only provided info to one of the 4 info channels they had just indicated they would put info out on….sigh. 

Edit – I have heard some grumbling on the net that runDisney did the best they could and that they are only human and that my opinion above that they fell down in one area is just sour grapes. I agree that they did extremely well – but they set themselves up to have a problem by indicating that they would update all 4 info channels. The comment above is meant as constructive criticism. As a learning opportunity for runDisney, they should be reviewing their contingency plans (and I have no doubt they will be) and refining their communication strategy. So for those that didn’t like my critique – remember that a company like Disney, and runDisney in particular, is always trying to improve and constructive criticism is a method to let them know how they can get even better. I think they did awesome all around with the unique issue but when they look to see where they can improve – here is a spot. Disaster management should have one info channel to prevent miscommunication but they indicated that they would use 4 and only updated 1 initially. If runDisney had indicated that they would provide the info by Facebook only initially then the onus would be on me to monitor that info channel but the communications strategy as it stood indicated that I did not need to look at the one channel they initially updated. So again – great job! But here is a spot that can get better.

Now with that being said, runDisney is very clear that there are no refunds but they stepped up and gave everyone a variety of options. One of them was a refund in the form of a Disney gift card and you could still get the race medal. Another option was a sign up for another runDisney half over the next couple years, and yet some others could try to get a few limit spots to move up to the full marathon on Sunday. 

When I think back to the 10k in the morning and all those runners’ stories, I really feel for the runners who were down to do the half marathon as their destination race and weren’t able to do it. 

Goofy Challenge and Dopey Challenge runners were put in a strange position though – you would still get your medals…but you wouldn’t have actually done the challenge…I think for most runners doing the challenges the mindset at that point was not about the race being cancelled but instead being concerned that they didn’t earn the final challenge medals. 

Not acceptable. 

I started doing math of how many laps around the resort I would need to do to get 13.1 and I saw on twitters that others were doing the same. I even saw runners blast out basically as soon as the announcement came out – they got in their miles that night. Just awesome. 

So now I was left with the decision of what to do that night. I was no longer planning on going to bed early so I decided to head out and hit Disney Springs again for a wander and a think (and a beer). 

By the time I wandered back to the room, I had come up with a plan. My resort (Saratoga Springs) has a nature trail to the Old Key West Resort and also a walking path to Disney Springs and a running trail around the resort. I decided to loop around Saratoga Springs then take the trail out to Old Key West, do a loop there and come back and repeat. It would take only a few of those loops to hit 13.1 miles. Plan sorted. 

I filled a water bottle with some electrolyte drink for the morning and went to bed wondering when I would be able to actually get my miles in the next day. 

Next – Day 3 – a monsoon half marathon and thousands of determined runners…everywhere