Completing my first runDisney 10K and Other Stories of Perseverance

runDisney - With Determination You Will Cross the Finish Line - Stories of Perseverance

Last year I made a commitment to run a 10K at Walt Disney World.  I knew I was not ready for a half marathon but I had outgrown the 5K.  It was time to move up so I signed up for the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend 10K.  I was now officially committed.

In August I began to train for it.  I was using Jeff Galloway’s couch to 10K training plan but things were not working right.  Immediately I began to feel pain in my shins.  People told me to work through it and it would get better.

Taping Up for Shin Splints

Over the next couple of months this was not the case.  The pain got worse and would last exactly 1.77 miles  before the pain would finally subside.  I knew I was in trouble.

Race Day

The day of the race I headed to the event on time (4:30 AM) and even warmed up by dancing with the crowd.  (Let’s just say doing the waddle was probably not my finest moment.)

Walt Disney World 10K - runDisney Dance Pre-Race Dance Party

runDisney Pre-Race Dance Party

As I headed to the corral I felt good.  I was warmed up and nothing hurt.

Walt Disney World 10K - Warm Up

Unfortunately our corral was the last corral.  We waited 1 hour and 20 minutes at 45 degrees before our start.  Any warm up I had done was completely negated.  It was now time to go.

Walt Disney World 10K - Starting Line

The Start

As I took my first step across the start line the first pain shot up one shin.  Then the next one. Each step was excruciating.  I describe it as wearing concrete flippers.  I had no control over my feet and as they hit the ground a shot of pain would go from my ankle to my knee.

I began to cry and strangely in a sea of people felt very very alone.  As everyone oohed and awed as they ran under Anna and Elsa of Frozen I cried and struggled to make the next step.  I was afraid at this point I would not make it to Mile 1.

Anna and Elsa Look Over the Runners

Anna and Elsa Look Over the Runners (photo credit: Disney Every Day)

I have no idea how I did it but I passed the Mile 1 marker.  My next goal was to make it to Mile 2 with the hope the pain would subside.

Then it happened … at about 1.5 miles an elderly woman using a walker of all thing passed me by.  (To be honest the walker did have rollers and she was doing a pretty good pace.) My hopes of finishing were quickly diminishing.

Mr Fredisckson from UP

I made it to Mile 2!  Next goal was Mile 3.  But the pain was not subsiding and now race officials on bikes were riding along with us telling us the sweep was at Mile Marker 3.  About 2 minutes later the infamous balloon ladies marking the back of the pack caught up to me and passed me.  This was not good.

As I got closer I could see the bus across the road ready for the sweep.  I could also see the balloon ladies getting farther and father ahead of me.

At this point I spoke for the first time and asked the woman next to me “We are going to get swept, aren’t we?”.  She quietly replied “Yes”.

Sweep Busses from the Half Marathon - but you get my drift (photo credit: Home Is Where the Mouse Is)

Sweep Buses from the Half Marathon – but you get my drift (photo credit: Home Is Where the Mouse Is)

Finding the Strength to Go On

At this point I just about gave up.  I told myself to just keep going and if they pick me up they pick me up.  Then I thought about the medal they were going to give me even for being swept and something inside me changed.  There is no way I wanted to get a medal I did not earn.  I picked up my feet and said I am going to make a run for it and if I fail – I fail.  But I am going to go out giving it all I have got.

I have no idea how I did it.  I blocked out the pain and caught up to the balloon ladies.  I actually heard the count down for the sweep.  10-9-8-7…. but I made it!! I was not swept.

Encouraging the Runners (photo credit: Examiner)

Encouraging the Runners (photo credit: Examiner)

At this point my pain was gone, my pace was faster and I was enjoying myself.  I spent the remainder of the race meeting people at the back of the pack.  These are GREAT people!  Everyone was cheering on each other and telling each other we could do it.

At one point there was a chEAR squad person with a sign that read “The last 100 impress us more than the first 100”.  That sign meant a lot to me and I was proud to be in that last 100. We were a determined bunch!!

I do have to say I did pass the lady with the walker at 4.5 miles.  She was still steaming ahead and I loved it!

Crossing the finish line (sorry MarathonFoto)

Crossing the finish line (sorry MarathonFoto)

In the end I found out I was not in the last 100.  There were 700 people behind me and I congratulate every single one of them. Each one of us overcame something that day to make it across the finish line and we should be proud!!

runDisney Walt Disney World 10K

Walt Disney World 10K Finisher

This was my journey but I want to share a couple of more stories of determination.  These are some of the people Cigna helped through Achilles International.


Stanley Dabrowski – 5K Finisher

Achilles International - Cigna - Stanley Dabrowski - 5K Finisher

Stanley Dabrowski

No one expects the work van you’re driving would get hit by a refrigeration truck. But in November 2009, that’s exactly what happened to Stanley Dabrowski, a 60-year-old Wilmington, Del. resident, and he’s been struggling to return to health and to life ever since.

I felt fine right after the accident, but the next day the pain started,” recalled Stanley. “I kept thinking the pain would go away.”
Three months after the accident, he couldn’t take the pain any longer. A spinal specialist tried injections, but they didn’t work. Then a surgeon told him he needed a lumbar discectomy and a spinal fusion. He could never hold the same physical job again.

He started working with a Cigna vocational coach and he didn’t know what to expect. Among the things she offered was an exercise regimen approved by his doctor to complement the others tools and resources she felt could him return to health and to life. Cigna provided a gym membership, new shoes and a back brace to support him.

“The more I’m active the better I feel. The doctor said endorphins from exercise are a painkiller. The physical therapy, walking and swimming all helped” Stanley says.

On January 8, 2015, he completed his very first race and a major milestone in his recovery as a Cigna-sponsored athlete participating in the Walt Disney World 5K presented by Cigna as part of the Achilles International team.

Amanda Brown – 5K Finisher

Achilles International - Cigna - Amanda Brown - Walt Disney World 5K Finisher

Amanda Brown

Amanda Brown found herself leaving work crying while dragging her foot behind her. After two surgeries in 2012 for synovitis, tendonitis, bursitis, and plantar facitias that included screws in both of her feet and getting around with a scooter for six months, she couldn’t walk for another six months.

I remember when Stacey Nidositko, my Cigna vocational coach, called last year,” Amanda recalled. “With the surgery, the boot, the scooter… I just felt rattled. I had no sense of the future. She made things easier.”

Stacey offered encouragement and worked with Amanda to find ways to help with her recovery and build her strength back up.
Physical therapy helped, but she needed more exercise. Cigna provided a gym membership, comfortable shoes to exercise and also a referral to the Achilles Cigna Customer Referral program, which help Cigna long-term disability customers return to health and life.

With the screws removed in May 2014, she became more motivated than ever to still with her new routines. “When Cigna called, I was speechless. And I’m not normally speechless,” Amanda laughed. “Completing this race will be HUGE for me. It will be very emotional crossing that finish line. I’ve worked so hard to get this far.”

Because of her hard work and determination, Amanda completed the Walt Disney World 5K presented by Cigna on January 8, 2015 in Orlando, Fla. and reached the next milestone in her journey back to life and good health.

Joey Mercer – 5K Finisher

Achilles International - Cigna - Joey Mercer - Walt Disney World 5K Finisher

Joey Mercer

Joey Mercer, 36-year-old restaurant manager in Hamilton, Ontario, knew he had a problem when he lost his license two years ago. Like many people who need help, it takes a big scare to catch their attention and Joey suffered from a combination of scary conditions: alcoholism, depression and bulimia.

For a lot of people, it would be easier to quit than fight such an avalanche of conditions.  Instead Joey has attended Alcoholics Anonymous and now offers a message of hope. With the help and support of his Cigna vocational coach, he’s worked with other support groups to combat his diagnoses, he’s returned to full-time work and he’s taken his physical health to a level he never had before.

He started running, going to the gym and attending yoga to help his body and mind. Cigna paid for these exercise memberships for several months to help Joey get moving.

Running makes me happy. It makes me feel good about myself,” said Joey.  I want people to know that they can do anything they put to their mind. A diagnosis doesn’t mean your life is over. It’s time to pick yourself up and fight for who you are inside.”

In January, he completed the Walt Disney World 5K as a sponsored Achilles Cigna Customer Referral Program athlete reaching a milestone he never thought was possible.