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John Putman running in the Walt Disney World marathon in Orlando, FL. Photo courtesy: J. Putman
|A self-described former Disney curmudgeon, Office of Communications editor and writer John Putman says, “I was aware of Mickey Mouse, but I was not a big fan. Then I met my wife Jackie, whose family takes an annual trip to Disney World. Jackie is such a fan that for one second we thought about getting married at Disney World. Our three-year-old daughter Madelyn was raised on Mickey toys and videos. They converted me although I’m not quite as enthusiastic as they are.” Yet.|
Putman started running to improve his general fitness around the end of 2007. After he discovered that Disney World hosted several running events, including a full marathon, he convinced his family to take their annual trip in January to allow him to compete in the Walt Disney World Marathon (WDWM). A full marathon is 26.2 miles.
Training consisted of running five days a week. Four times a week, he ran 5–8 miles and the fifth day he ran increasing distances between 12 and 20 miles. “Staying motivated to train turned out to be harder than running the actual marathon,” says Putman. “Because of my work schedule and life with a toddler, I had to train at either 5:00 a.m. or 10:00 p.m.
“I ran on center a lot too. On a Saturday during the blizzard of 2010, I came to Goddard to run because the Center was open and I knew that the roads would be clear. I felt pretty silly, but then I saw three other people running here too. Seeing them made me feel a little better. The weekend before the marathon, I ran 20 miles and then I began tapering. I did not run at all the three days leading up to the marathon.”
The evening before the run, Putman told his daughter, “You’re not going to see me in the morning because I’m going for a run.”
|Explains Putman, “Disney had these stations but they also had something entertaining, motivating, or distracting every single mile. Things like a high school marching band, high school cheerleaders doing flips, a local radio DJ playing music, or a Boy Scout Troop cheering on the runners.” There were also Disney characters, ranging from the Country Bears to Minnie Mouse in a pith helmet and safari outfit inside Animal Kingdom, to cheer on the participants. Says Putman, “These acts made the run fun. You never knew what was coming, so you never knew what to expect.” |
Disney World consists of four parks: Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Magic Kingdom, and EPCOT. The marathon starts and finishes at EPCOT and runs through the other three parks. “Animal Kingdom was my favorite one to run through because it had the most interesting scenery from a runner’s perspective,” says Putman. “Some of the attractions had been turned on. The giant, robotic dinosaurs in DinoLand, U.S.A. were moving and making noises.”
After the race, Putman met his family in the post-race staging area. Says Putman, “Despite all the noise, I could pick out my wife and daughter screaming. Maddie was yelling, ‘Yay, Daddy!’” He finished in good shape after about five hours. “Maddie instantly recognized Mickey on the medal. I wore the medal for a minute, but then gave it to her to wear. She hugged me and was thrilled.”
Disney gave the runners tracking chips for their shoes. Every time a runner passed a sensor, the chip registered a time, which would then be sent via text message to subscribers.
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Donald Duck high-fives John as he crosses the finish line. Courtesy: J. Putman