Three Lessons from the Disney Coast to Coast Challenge

IMG_1579If you’re not familiar with the Disney Coast to Coast Challenge it is a pretty slick marketing scheme whereby Disney convinces you to run a minimum of a half marathon in Florida and one in California in the same calendar year in order to obtain the coveted Coast to Coast medal. Up until recently there were a couple options in Florida, the biggest  being in January and only one in California, that being over Labor Day weekend.

We’re pretty big Disney fans here in the Fletcher home and we have a lot of family memories at Disneyland in particular. The Coast to Coast medal, as you can see here, depicts Walt and Mickey holding hands, a representation of a statue that is in front of the castle at Disneyland. That statue has been “the meeting spot” for us since our boys were four and five. If you get separated in the park, you go to the meeting spot.  I mention this because it is a large part of what makes this medal special for me.

  • I first found out about the challenge about seven years ago. I had done a couple triathlons then but I’d never run anything longer than a 10K. (6 miles).
  • Six years ago I decided I would go for it and try to run a half marathon in each location.
  • Five years ago I missed the registration date.
  • Four years ago it wouldn’t work in our schedule.
  • Three years ago the half marathon was sold out by the tie I checked.
  • Two years ago I missed it again, it sells out fast.
  • Last year I was determined not to miss the registration and got to the web site in time, called my wife to confirm it was in the budget, and it sold out before we decided.

I was seriously disappointed! You see if you don’t get the January race in then running the one in California in September doesn’t matter. In a moment of crazy deep frustration I looked to see how much it cost to run the full marathon…after all we’d agreed we could budget for the half…and lo, it cost the same amount.

I signed up.

I would never have agreed to try a full marathon. I was pretty sure I could struggle through 13 miles but 26 was insane. And yet I wanted that Coast to Coast.

Before last year at this time I had only ever run 6 miles in a stretch and frequently said I wouldn’t run even THAT far unless I was being chased.. Since last October I have run three half marathons, including the one at Disneyland, and one full marathon, at Walt Disney World. I have run through the soles of three pairs of Vibram Five Fingers through hundreds of miles of training and I have convinced my wife to run HER first half marathon.

So what did I learn in the process?

Here’s three lessons I learned about achieving goals:

1. Don’t give up on your goals.

It would have been easy to give up on the idea of completing the Coast to Coast. Year after year it seemed to elude me. But I persevered because I had a emotional connection to what I wanted to accomplish and I didn’t give up on it. Circumstances will often conspire against you when you’re going after a goal, sometimes it requires a new strategy or a greater effort but many times it just requires that you soldier on and don’t give up.

2. Recruit a team to your dream.

Yeah, sounds cheesy, but it makes it easier to remember. My wife first got behind the idea of me running in Florida because I was going to try to do the impossible. Her support through the process and then the weekend was awesome. Even bigger though was her commitment to run with me in California. That meant we were training together for months. On days when I was too tired or too sore she’d pick me up, and vice versa. I also convinced my buddy Kurt to run with us in California after he’d done the half in Florida. The occasional check in via phone to see how training was going kept us honest too. Having a team sharing your goal with you provides the motivation to keep going in those times when your motivation lags.

3. Focus short to go long.

I REALLY learned this in the marathon. I couldn’t think about running 26 miles or mentally I would collapse. I COULD think about making the four or five miles between parks. I COULD focus on making a couple miles between water stations. In the months in between races we dealt with bad weather, multiple nagging injuries, and schedule conflicts any of which could have derailed us. By just focusing on the next opportunity to train, rather than worrying about how a miss might effect the big picture, we took the little steps that got us to the starting line ready to go on race day. Sure we set a goal time but our BIG goal was to finish a feel good about it and by focusing on the little goals along the way we accomplished that is stellar style.

By persevering over seven years, recruiting a team, and focusing short I finally achieved the dream. When they hung that medal around my neck I have to confess I got a little teary and man, did it feel good.


What goal do you have sitting on the shelf? How can you apply these strategies to achieve it?

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