I was a sports nut all my life. I played baseball, basketball, soccer, and even field hockey. I was always the fast one…always the quickest in a foot race…but hated running…despised it. And I coached those sports on the recreation, travel, and scholastic levels. I trained many athletes. And most often, during practices, I would run with them. But I hated it.
I have been a Disney nut all my life too. I was on a family vacation in Walt Disney World and I saw people walking around with nice shirts and medals around their necks. I had no idea what that was about. So I asked a cast member. He told me that it was Marathon Weekend. I had no idea what that was…and I told him that I wanted one of those shirts. He said that to get one, I would have to run. I told him that I would do it right then and there. He explained about Marathon Weekend, what it was about, and that I would have to sign up way ahead of time. I was disappointed about that, but more disappointed that as a self-professed Disney nut, I was completely unaware of the existence of RunDisney and the events that they hold. That was January of 2013.
And it began my journey. What was supposed to be a “one and done” became a passion. In January of 2018 I ran my first ever 5K in Walt Disney World during Marathon Weekend. I was so excited, you would have thought I won a gold medal in the Olympics. I enjoyed my medal and joined in the tradition of wearing my medal around my neck in the park. Every cast member acknowledged me and said, “Congratulations!” Others walking around with medals nodded, waved, and said, “Congratulations.” I did a 5K. Most of the other people had done the 10K, the half marathon, the full marathon, or multiple combinations of these events. I began to realize, I wanted more…I wanted to be a part of that.
I went home and immediately began to sign up for every 5K I could find that was local. I endeavored to do one 5K event per month and continue my workouts in the gym. I thought there was no way I could do the Dopey Challenge, I wasn’t ready for it. I didn’t think so anyway. My thought was to get back to Disney and do the 5K and 10K next, hopefully working my way up to the Dopey.
Going back for the second Marathon Weekend kept me determined. But I was also determined to have my kids join me to do the 5K. Okay…so I actually didn’t tell them that I had signed them up and I forced them to do it. It was fun doing it with them and I am so glad that I was able to con them into it. And yet, I was now even more determined than ever to do the Dopey Challenge. I saw a lot of people wearing those Dopey bibs and I thought, “If they can do it, I can certainly do it.”
So back to gym to begin a whole new kind of workout. With the urging of some friends, I signed up for the New York Roadrunners New York City Half Marathon. I had not yet ventured that distance, but it would be a great way to get started. I was so thrilled with the NYC Half experience, that I signed up for the rest of the NYRR Five Borough Series – the Brooklyn Half, the Queens 10K, the Bronx 10-miler, and the Staten Island Half. I also decided to do the Rocky Run Italian Stallion Challenge – a 5K followed by a 10-miler – another 13.1 mile event. Along with the many other 5K events mixed in, it turned out to be a great lead-in to the Dopey Challenge in January.
In January of 2020, I successfully reached my goal of completing the Dopey Challenge at Walt Disney World – running the 5K on Thursday, the 10K on Friday, the half marathon on Saturday and the marathon on Sunday – for a total of 48.6 miles.
I have a strong background in coaching athletics. I coached girls field hockey, girls and boys basketball, and girls softball on the high school level. I was honored by the New Jersey State Legislature for “Praiseworthy Determination and Spirit” after leading the Middletown High School South field hockey team to a Central Jersey Group IV State Championship.
I graduated from the University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida with a degree in Broadcast Journalism, I have a degree in English from Brigham Young University, attended Brooklyn College for English and Math classes, and received my Paralegal Certificate from the ABA-approved program at Union County College.
I was never an athlete. I didn’t play sports growing up. I wasn’t on any kind of team in high school. As a matter of fact, I hated gym class. Even in college, I didn’t participate in any physical activities. In my early twenties, I started going to the gym and working out with weights and machines just to stay healthy. I’m not thin (never was) or muscular (never was) but I went and didn’t think much of it. I continued to work out into my thirties, toting my kids to the gym and putting them in the day care for an hour or so. Then I started to get bored. I needed something different.
In 2008, I approached a casual friend at the gym who I knew was a marathoner and triathlete. I told her I wanted some pointers on running. Keep in mind that I’ve never run more than one lap around the track continuously. She immediately said to me, “You have to run a 5K.” I thought to myself, “What the hell is a 5K?” When she told me what it was, I truly panicked. “I can’t run that far,” I told her. She explained that I needed a goal, and she gave me an eight-week training program that began simply with walking. She also gave me a copy of Race Forum and told me to pick a race “eight weeks from now” and said she would run it with me and sent me on my way.
It was a fairly simple training program to follow. I was to train three times a week and every week I would increase my running – thirty seconds, one minute, two minutes, etc. I chose a race at Earle Weapons Station called Fear the Pier. I signed up, I trained, and eight weeks later she met me at the start. She guided me through the sign in process and getting my bib all while giving me a pep talk because I was beyond nervous. I can hear her right now say “As soon as the gun goes off the nerves will go away.” She ran beside me the entire time, quelling my panic and coaching me through the entire race. Once we could see the finish line, she instructed me to go ahead of her alone because my family was waiting for me at the finish line.
I crossed that finish line and discovered what a “runner’s high” was. I was thrilled. And instantly hooked. After that I signed up for countless 5Ks and 10Ks. She encouraged me to run a half marathon and along with my family, she waited for me to cross the finish line there too.
Less than a year and a half after my first 5K, at age 36, I was at the foot of the Verrazano Bridge in Staten Island about to embark on the most physically challenging event I have ever endured, the New York City Marathon. For 26.2 miles I saw the city differently and toured the five boroughs and was cheered on by perfect strangers. Kids lined the streets giving high fives and people held up signs and gave out oranges and tissues. My friends and family followed me and I saw them numerous times along the route. It took me six hours, eleven minutes, and forty-six seconds to cross the finish line in Central Park and I was forever changed. The feeling of accomplishment is something I will never forget.
Since I began running, I have completed dozens of 5Ks, 10Ks, 14 half marathons, 5 full marathons, 1 triathlon, and 6 stair climbs. I have become a certified running coach and coached at the middle school level as well as privately for both kids and adults. I have guided numerous people through their first 5K and have run side by side with them just like I was guided.
Like I said, I was never an athlete, but now I consider myself one. I am proof that it’s never too late to start. Running has changed my life, physically, mentally, intellectually, and spiritually. I can never repay my friend for what she did for me, but I can continue to pay it forward.