During the 2011 Walt Disney World Marathon weekend, I was one of over 1200 runners and walkers joined together to train and raise money to battle cancer. Over $4 million was raised by these participants in the WDW marathon and half marathon in support of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. These runners and walkers were members of Team in Training, or TNT. If you’re a runner, you may have seen us in a race near you! We’re the wave of people wearing purple singlets out there who are smiling at the start and cheering at the finish.
Team in Training is the world’s largest sports charity training program, and the races over marathon weekend are some of the single largest events for the organization. In exchange for raising money that goes directly to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the athletes receive coaching for their respective events. For many of the athletes, this is their first attempt at an endurance event. The races at Disney are so popular that many TNT alumni return year after year. I was one of those alumni, but I was also making my first attempt at finishing a marathon.
I first got involved with TNT when I was planning on running on the 2010 WDW Marathon weekend. I knew it was a trip that I was already going to take, but I decided I wanted to raise money for a good cause while training for the race. TNT seemed like a perfect fit for me. While training I was able to push my body to new limits. I made some of my best friends while training too. We regularly train together, and one friend is trying to convince me to do the Goofy Challenge with her next year. I admit that I am slightly jealous because she went on to complete in the Coast to Coast challenge last year by finishing both the WDW Marathon and the Disneyland marathon. I loved my experience with TNT that season and even joined them again for a few local races before fundraising again–this time while training for the marathon.
Training for the WDW races starts for TNT in August, the summer preceding the races. Everyone is responsible for training during the week on their own and each weekend the athletes meet up with their coaches and teammates in order to get the ‘long run’ in for the week. Each week the distance of the long run increases and the time you get to spend with your teammates grows. I found this to be a great time to get to know the people who would be traveling with me to WDW.
The weekend for the TNT athletes starts with arrival on Thursday or Friday. The necessities of the weekend are similar to any other race participant (package pickup, 2 am wakeup calls, etc), but there are a few additional activities that the TNTers have the opportunity to take part in. These are the Inspiration Dinner and the Victory Party. This year’s events were all held at the Coronado Springs Resort convention center.
During the Inspiration Dinner on Friday night before the half marathon, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. This year’s emcee was John “The Penguin” Bingham. He entertains the crowd with stories of his own training and his participation in Disney races before inviting Disney cast members to share the logistics of the race days with everyone. After getting all the technical details out of the way, a survivor is invited to speak to the group. This year’s survivor was a lovely 12-year-old girl who had been diagnosed with leukemia 10 years earlier. Her father had joined TNT when she was diagnosed, and she hoped to join the team when she was old enough.
The Victory Party was held Sunday night after everyone completed their events. The party was complete with a buffet dinner, DJ, and a slide show of the weekend events. Everyone was there wearing their medals. And there were even some photo opportunities with the Big Cheese himself! Even though there were lots of achy muscles, you still found several people out on the dance floor celebrating their achievements. I wasn’t one of those out there dancing though. I was in WDW, after all! There were parks to be visited after the race!
Of course the events over marathon weekend aren’t the only events that TNT participates in at Disney, and I am not the only Neurotic Disney Person who has raised funds for TNT. Our own Tim W. completed his first half marathon this month and Courtney F. (NDI #151) is mentoring for the 2011 Princess Half Marathon next month. If you’re on the west coast, you may find some TNT chapters who participated in the Disneyland marathon. The Virtual TNT chapter is participating in the Wine & Dine Half Marathon in October.
If you are interested in signing up for the 2012 WDW Marathon or Half Marathon, or any of the other endurance events that take part in Disney, visit: RunDisney. Registration for the 2012 races opens March 15, 2011. Registration is currently open for the Disneyland Half Marathon and the Expedition Everest Challenge.
If you are interested in learning more about Team in Training and how you can get involved in their mission visit: Team in Training. WDW’s Marathon weekend is part of what TNT considers to be its Winter season, so you can’t sign up with them just yet. Be on the lookout for more information this summer.