Running with Team JDRF

Posted on April 13th, 2017

If you’re new here (welcome!), you may not know I am one of the 0.5% of American adults who have run a marathon.  I logged my 26.2 miles in January at the Walt Disney World Marathon in Florida, a race I ran with my husband, Ian, to celebrate our marriage.  Registration for the Disney Marathon Weekend opened recently, and I am so excited to be partnering with my favorite nonprofit, JDRF,  to write about my experiences with running and participating in their national endurance team.




I am truly an accidental distance runner.  I began my fitness journey in May 2011, taking long walks every day and spending time on the elliptical five days per week.  One fateful September day a few months later, all of the ellipticals at my college’s gym were occupied, so I had no choice but to face what I viewed as an archenemy: the treadmill.  I still remember the day that fall when I first ran three miles without stopping– I felt like a superhero.  I called my brother, a cross-country runner living with type one diabetes who has since completed four marathons with Team JDRF, to tell him about my big accomplishment.  He wasn’t impressed.  But I had been bitten by the running bug, and that has proven to be life-changing.


Running became my primary physical activity over that next year, and I was logging about 20 miles per week.  In November 2012, I decided to kick it up a notch, roping my mom into joining me in training for the February 2013 Disney Princess Half Marathon.  Run Disney events are so well run and entertaining, and sharing that bond and that magical weekend with her was so special.  I ran a few more half marathons, but did not seriously consider training for a full.


…Until my brother ran the New York Marathon, his first as a nineteen year old, with Team JDRF in November 2014.  He had the opportunity to set a personal goal and link it it to a bigger purpose, simultaneously training for the run and fundraising for type one diabetes research.  I tagged along to the team breakfast the day before the run, and was moved by how dedicated and determined the runners were both to their personal goals and to supporting their favorite cause.  During the event the next day, I had to stop myself from jumping in and chasing my brother up First Avenue.  I knew I wanted in.





The real benefit of running as part of your favorite charity’s team is you receive guaranteed entry into high profile races that fill up quickly, and Team JDRF offers entrance into different events and race lengths all around the country.  Ian had not been running as much, so we first decided to sign up for a half marathon together as a teaser.  Even though no one else from our chapter was participating, Team JDRF does an amazing job of building a virtual community.  Leading up to the January 2016 Walt Disney World weekend, we were welcomed into a group of runners from around the country training for distances ranging from a 5k to the Dopey Challenge (48.6 miles over the weekend).  The staff from JDRF facilitated conversations around how to meet our fundraising minimums, and a coach was available to give us personalized guidance on our training plans.  Ian and I had to ask about how to handle a high amount of treadmill training as we combatted an excessively rainy Seattle season!  And at the end of our fundraising season, the Team JDRF Disney runners had raised about $150,000 for type one diabetes research.


Predictably, we loved our experience running the Walt Disney World half, and only wished that it wasn’t over so quickly… so singing up for the full marathon was the natural next step!  We found the same wonderful support network during our training journey (and we once again leveraged Hal Higdon’s training plans).  With every mile I trained and ran on race day, I had that constant reminder and motivation that I was working not only for myself, but to do my part to improve the lives of everyone impacted by type one diabetes.  Running 26.2 miles is no sweat compared to finding a cure!



Whether you’re hoping to start running or wanting to get more involved in nonprofit work, this is the perfect way to set your personal finish line.  Connect with an organization supporting your favorite cause to see if they participate in endurance fundraising, and if you’re interested in opportunities with Team JDRF in particular, you can reach out to teamjdrf@jdrf.org for more information.  (For those of you who do not run, they have AMAZING destination cycling events, too!)


My journey to marathoning was a long one, and I think most people don’t become marathoners overnight.  Yet even before I started officially training, every workout brought me one step closer.  I don’t know that I’ll be running at Disney again in January… because I have my sights set on running Chicago!