The other day when I was on a run (it was one of my last longish training runs before Surf the Murph) and for whatever reason "Disney" popped into my head.
My family last went to Orlando back in 2006, we were there over Thanksgiving with 2 other families we have know for almost 30 years and we had a great time. I do like many things Disney offers but not all things. And as I was thinking about Disney I got off on random track of comparing Disney to my upcoming 50 miler and to ultra running. This may also provide insight to why I love running longer distances as I have many great internal conversations and tons of random thoughts, my only problem is that most of them I can't remember a mile later let alone a day later but for whatever reason this one has stuck with me.
Anyway back to Disney, anytime my family has gone to Orlando to experience Disney, I have always had mixed feelings. I enjoy the rides, the shows, the experience but I hate the crowds, the lines, the costs. Did I mention, I hate the crowds. So as I pondered Disney, I decided that there are some similarities between Disney and the Ultra experience.
First, at each ultra I have done all of the volunteers (and race directors) have been very friendly, courteous and they try to make our experience a good one. They make us feel welcome, like we belong even though I know I am just a back of the pack runner, why even the best of the best runners usually smile and say hello. When you go to Disney almost all of their workers are friendly, courteous and they try to make the guests visit a good experience. Then you have the start, kind of like when Disney opens it's doors, the energy of the crowd is very similar to the energy we all have at the start of a race.
Then you have the courses, hills, rocks, roots, lakes, creeks, birds, deer, snakes, foxes, coyotes, eagles, hawks an amazing variety of nature and beauty all of which change each time you run the course yet they always seem familiar. Have you ever run a trail and not enjoyed the experience? Have you ever run the same trail over and over and then stop and you see something that you had missed or taken for granted. Kind of like Space Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, Buzz Lightyear, Test Track, Mission Earth, Imagination, Rock n Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith (I have to admit that I like this ride as it brings back memories of seeing Aerosmith back in 1973, man are they old), Everest Expedition and many more. Each time I go back it all seems familiar but I see things that I missed the previous time through, ok, maybe this is a stretch as the trails are definitely more enjoyable.
Then you have the bad stretches that almost always happen in an ultra, kind of like the long lines and the crowds at Disney, if you are patient and don't lose your cool the time passes and you are back enjoying yourself. You also have the food, good at Ultras and ok at Disney and both venues have some strange food. Like mash potatoes or potatoes you can dip in salt (when I mention these type of foods to other runners, you should see the look on their faces) or the foods of the world at Epcot, ok now I am brain dead, I know they have some weird foods there, just can't remember them. You have the weather, always a concern at Ultras and at Disney. You have people from all over the world who run ultras and people from all over the world who visit Disney (yeah, not probably the same group). You have old and young, fat and thin, men and women, families, costumes, strange clothing, rules and many other things at both. Ok, my comparisons may be getting lame but I am still amazed that I remembered any of them.
So sometimes when I am running my training runs and I start thinking to myself why am I doing this, all of a sudden "It's a small world after all" pops into my head and everything seems ok. So if you see me zoned out I might just be meandering my way through Walt Disney world, Animal Kingdom, Epcot, MGM, Blizzard Beach or various other Orlando locations and if you see me struggling just mention "would you rather be here or waiting in line for Buzz Lightyear?", I am sure you will get a smile and a very quick reply, "here!", as I do so hate crowds.