I was not born a runner. An athlete, yes. A runner, no! I was a college volleyball player and a 3 sport athlete in high school. I spent countless hours training, going to camps, working on my skills. The culmination was a wonderful college volleyball career, and, oddly enough, a career coaching college volleyball. I spent years working to become the best I could be, and it helped me accomplish great things.
December 28, 2008 was a day that changed my life. Every December I sit down to write what I call my challenges for the next year. I don’t like resolutions, but I find it hard to pass up a challenge. I had always been a Disney fan, but I felt like I had to hide it. I had talked to my boyfriend, Chas, about planning a trip for the summer of 2009 to Walt Disney World. He had never been there, and after a two year absence, I was desperately missing home. I started searching for information to plan our vacation, and, to my surprise, I found a ton of it. Best of all, I found something called podcasts!
I will never forget my first podcast experience. The WDW Radio Show was a blessing from above! Finally, there were other people just like me! I wasn’t the only closet Disney freak out there. Then I heard Lou say the 4 words that would change my life: Walt Disney World Marathon.
I never knew that Walt Disney World had any races, let alone a marathon. At that moment, it felt like the perfect way to combine my two passions: athletics and Disney. So the first challenge on my list for the year 2009? Train to run the 2010 Walt Disney World Marathon.
I spent the next year of my life running. Running, running, and more running. Come January, I knew I would get to go to Walt Disney World and accomplish something that most people would never do. Training for that marathon was the most rewarding experience of my life. Disney was affecting me in a way I had never expected. Disney podcasts helped me make it through the long, grueling runs. The light at the end of the tunnel was going to Walt Disney World with my mom and accomplishing my dream.
On January 10, 2010, I completed the Walt Disney World Marathon in 5:53:13. I really don’t know if I could have done it if Disney World hadn’t been in the picture. People would ask me why I wanted to put myself through that kind of torture, and I always told them that if I was going to torture myself through 26.2 miles, I wanted to do it at Walt Disney World. I still cry when I think about running that race. It was such an accomplishment, and something I will never forget.
I am still running, and I plan on completing my second marathon in Oklahoma City in May. I feel so fulfilled by running and competing, and I can’t thank Disney enough for that.
“All our dreams can come true, if we only have the courage to pursue them.”
Jen has had a fascination with the Disney culture since her first trip with her family when she was 12. After discovering that there was a community of people who were “as crazy as she was” about her love of all things Disney, she started finding ways to visit WDW more often and give back to the community. In 2010, Jen started her own company, Hyperion Travel, and became a Disney Destination Specialist. As an avid endurance athlete and a college volleyball coach, Jen is very connected to the WDW athletic world. She also trained and completed the 2010 Walt Disney World Marathon. As a pet travel specialist, Jen brings unique destination advice to her clients by “experiencing the magic” with her bulldog, Lucy. You can follow Jen and Lucy on Twitter at @hyperionginn and @thedisneydog, or visit her website, hyperiontravelco.com, or Lucy’s website at disneydogblog.com.