Submitted by Heather Stewart @captainstewie
Tinker Bell Half Marathon showed me this year it’s that I am truly blessed. Running has given me so much, but I think the coolest thing about running and Disney races especially is how people are brought together. My worlds collided at this year’s race, so instead of a mile by mile account, I’m going to give you a friend by friend account.
Blessing #1: First of all, the usual suspects were there. Ditto and her husband Cody and Ryan (the girl) all went down and spent the weekend together. We shared a hotel room, made jokes, did our morning ballet, got sufficiently frustrated by shuttle busses and anxiously rushed to get to the start line together. Although this is not our normal way (stupidly early…standing around freezing, but not rushing), it’s the same people and I can count on them to carb load with me and meet me at the finish line. Being the slowest of my friends, I ALWAYS have someone waiting for me!
Blessing #2: Who knew I would renew a High School friendship when I started running? Stephanie and Jason are high school sweethearts who I hung around with in those formative years. We didn’t keep in close contact, but the popularity of Facebook helped us realize that we were both signed up for Tinkerbell last year (you know, after I bought that bib on Craig’s List). Now Jason has gotten the bug and they run together. Stephanie got her Coast to Coast in 2012 for completing the Wine n Dine as well. But it’s so much fun to see her at races and catch up! AND when I checked out Facebook Saturday morning, there was her daughter, Gillian, posing with Sean Astin after the 5K. Sing it with me people, “It’s a small world after all…”
Blessing #3: I literally met Tara two or three times when we worked together as Training Team Leaders for New Store Openings at Applebee’s in the early part of 2000, but spending two full weeks living in hotels with a group of people cements friendships more quickly. We reconnected on Facebook a couple of years ago and lo and behold, look who’s running! She signed up with her best friend Nicki who is a Disney fanatic and a running fanatic.
Blessing #4: New friends are fun too. Ditto is a High School teacher and some of her teaching friends ran too. Cassie has done a bunch of races with us and she brought Sami along. The ELEVEN of us went to dinner together and all I could think about was how cool it was to have all these different people from different stages of my life represented. People who have seen me at my heaviest and lightest, fastest and slowest, youngest and (HUSH YOUR MOUTH) oldest!
However, my newest blessings are the friendships I’ve made from #run3rd.
Sean Astin mentioned me ON STAGE? (I missed it, long shuttle bus story, but I blame myself… LEAVE EARLIER!!!) [Still hoping to find video. -Ed.]
AND LUPE STEELE!!! Are you kidding me! She got up at 4am to hold a sign for nearly 3 hours so I would feel her support! I saw her in the first mile holding her sign and I ran over and gave this virtual stranger a huge hug and she said, “Nice to meet you!” It didn’t even occur to me that I was meeting her for the first time. And then as I was about to cross the finish line, there she was again, waving the sign and cheering! I could just yell “LUPE!!!” and she yelled, “GO HEATHER!”
This is just the tip of the iceberg. I knew at least a half a dozen other people running, including my trainer from the gym and another former co-worker.
Running has enriched my life so much, but what I love most is not my wall full of medals or my nice firm rear end, but the opportunities it has given me to connect with friends old and new. To be inspired and hopefully be an inspiration. I’m not 100% sure I deserve all of these wonderful blessings but I will take it.
I had a rough race, but every face I knew and every friend I saw made this race one of my favorites.
I had your dedications in my pocket , #run3rd on my back and finished with some bling around my neck!
2:56:11 isn’t a great time, but I had a GREAT time!