WDW Marathon Weekend Presented by Cigna – Half Marathon

30 Dec

Getting so excited!!

Well, next Saturday is the 2018 Walt Disney World Half Marathon – part 3 of the Dopey Challenge and the beginning of the Goofy Challenge!!

This will be my 4th time tackling this particular 13.1 Magical Miles! Last year doesn’t count since…it actually didn’t happen (until April when Angela and I ran through Celebration in the mid-day heat!!)  Even though I’m not as well-trained as I’d like to be, I’m really looking forward to spending a few hours hanging out with some special people.

One of those special people who will be out on the course is Sasha MacDougall. She won a contest that Cigna runs each year where employees can win a trip to Marathon Weekend and run the race of their choosing! And, reading about Sasha, she may be as Disney nutty as a lot of my running friends!!

Sasha has a magical goal: to visit every Disney park in the world. In October, her visit to Hong Kong Disneyland was made extra-special when her boyfriend proposed in Tomorrowland! She’s now eagerly anticipating running her first half-marathon at Disney World in January with her fiancé and friends there to cheer her on.

An avid rock climber, she only recently took up running after deciding to get more fit and needing an activity she could do anywhere. It didn’t go as smoothly as she expected. Sasha explains, “I started off with a ‘couch to 5k’ app, and couldn’t run for more than 15 seconds! It was so embarrassing- I guess I wasn’t as healthy as I thought.”

Working out at the gym with fellow climbers, she began to improve her endurance through a 12-week program. She credits Cigna’s work-life balance with having the time to devote to wellness. Over time, she worked on her form, breathing and taking shorter strides- and invested in better running shoes! In the lead up to Disney, Sasha is considering joining a running group as longer runs can get monotonous. She’s also more conscious of what she eats as that impacts her runs, but confesses, “I wish I could say I am eating better, but running excuses having half a pizza!”

As she built up to running 10 minutes at a time, she needed a new goal she felt passionate about to keep her motivated, so she entered the Cigna contest. She sported a long red Ariel wig in her video submission because The Little Mermaid is her inspiration. “I watched that movie every day as a kid and Ariel was my favorite princess, but the more I watch it as an adult, I see that she won’t accept things at face value. Ariel challenges herself, and the inspiration lies within her. Now I say to myself, I CAN run a half marathon!”

She’s only been with Cigna for a year, working in Nashville for Internal Audit. Her goal is to finish the Half in 3 hours – Good luck Sasha and have a great time!!! And yes, You most definitely CAN run a half marathon!!



WDW Marathon Weekend Presented by Cigna – 10K

29 Dec

Well, next week at this time I will be…well, it’s 9 at night so I will be trying to get to sleep for tomorrow’s Half Marathon. But I’m sure I’ll also be re-living the fun of the 10K earlier in the day!!

More fun times with my friends and a lot of “not exactly strangers not exactly friends”! — and one of the amazing people out the next Friday is our next Cigna guest – Bindu Panapalli.  Like, Mark who is running the 5K, Bindu is also a runner with Achilles International!

Bindu Panapalli
Bindu is 47 years old and a resident of Glen Allen, Va. near Richmond who always felt a
desire to help people with cancer through research. In February 2016, she found herself at the start of
18 months of firsthand experience battling the disease through three surgeries and eight rounds of chemo  –
she just  didn’t know it at the time.
Her journey began with a scheduled surgery to treat fibroids and a hysterectomy, leaving her bedridden.
Six weeks later, persistent pain led the doctor to find a bowel obstruction and scheduled another surgery. This time, the doctor discovered ovarian cancer and it spread. Six rounds of chemotherapy, which also caused numbness in her leg hindering her ability to walk, stretched from summer into the fall. By November, the third surgery removed the  rest of the cancer, but the battle still required two more rounds of chemotherapy in February 2017 before she could finally say she would feel like she’s truly recovering.
“I never thought I would get cancer”, Bindu recalled. “Even before all this, I wanted to help people with cancer as a researcher. After the diagnosis and treatment, I volunteered at the cancer treatment center every Thursday encouraging people during chemotherapy treatment. I was even on the bone marrow donor list.”
By August, she felt ready to start thinking about a return to work. She researched what her employer’s Cigna disability insurance benefits offered including the vocational coaching program, so she requested referral. That’s when she met Robin Randol, her Cigna vocational coach, who offered assistance.
“Every customer’s needs are different,” said Robin. “What she wanted was to build up her physical strength, so we talked about self-care and various strategies and tips to address fatigue and stamina. She also wanted to find a new job that matched her passion. We talked about career goals , updated her resume, and I provided help researching job leads.”
Well-educated, Bindu’s background includes nearly enough for a doctorate from India. She hopes to take her work history, education, and personal experience to help people.
“I want to help people,” said Bindu. “I want to interact with patients. Not sit in a lab anymore, but a make a real
difference in people’s lives. Now, that I’ve had this experience fighting cancer, I can be even more helpful.” Robin helped prepare her for job interviews and gave her the encouragement she’s needed to help take back her health and move closer to a job for which she can feel truly passionate.  One of the training programs Robin offered was the Cigna customer referral program with Achilles International, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people with disabilities participate in athletic events
Cigna partners with organizations like Achilles International to help customers achieve their health and return to work goals by providing: access to additional rehabilitation resources including ergonomic office equipment,   software, education and accommodations to help customers stay safe and be productive at work, encouragement and support, resume review and job placement assistance.
As a result of her hard work and dedication, Cigna offered Bindu the opportunity to participate in the Walt Disney
World® 10K presented by Cigna on Friday, January 5th as a member of Team Cigna. She will be guided on the race course by Jonathan Prokup, Cigna’s executive sponsor of Achilles International and General Counsel for Cigna.
“I’m celebrating my 21st wedding anniversary in January at the race,” said Bindu. “When I cross that finish line, I want to raise a glass and celebrate life.”
The Cigna Customer Referral Program with Achilles International demonstrates Cigna’s promise to partner with customers “Together, All the Way” along their unique health journey. When injury or illness occurs, Cigna helps them get back on track to achieve their goals.
“For Cigna customers, participating in a race represents a healthy milestone on the road to recovery, but also independence,” said Robin. “As people gain physical strength, they also build confidence, which can positively
affect all areas of your life.”
“Cancer is a part of me,” said Bindu. “It changed my life completely. Now, because of Robin, I’m back at work part time work with a new employer building towards full time. I want to thank Robin because now I can look forward.”

WDW Marathon Weekend Presented by Cigna – 5K

28 Dec

Happy Tuesday!!

Next week, I’m heading to Florida for my second (and last?!) #DopeyChallenge at the WDW Marathon Weekend Presented by Cigna. And, while I am a *bit* undertrained I am SUPER excited!

The first race of the weekend is the 5K – Bright and early Thursday morning I will join a few thousand of my best friends as we take a tour of EPCOT– a lot of backstage sights and a loop around the World Showcase (margaritas not included 😦 ) And let me tell you – the sight of Spaceship Earth lit up in the early (early!) morning hours and running through a World Showcase lit by the sunrise – is an awesome sight!

One of those thousands is the gentleman I’m going to introduce to you now!

Meet Mr. Mark Harsanye, 58 years old and resident of Henderson, Nev. (near Las Vegas)

Mark is a long-term disability customer with Cigna who is also a Cigna customer referral program participant with Achilles International. He will be running the 5K as part of Team Cigna and here’s his story!

Mark figures the injury occurred more than 35 years ago during basic training in the United States Air Force. He climbed a 30ft tower when the wind took him. Gravity and the ground did rest breaking his leg in two places.

“Over the years, normal wear and tear caught up with me,” said Mark. “In my 40s, my doctor warned me knee replacement surgery would be inevitable. I hoped that I could make it until 70, but the pain became unbearable. I just couldn’t do it anymore.”

He researched the surgery, the recovery time, and talked with others about it. He felt fairly well prepared for the procedure and the journey back to health and to work in June 2017. Twelve weeks later, he grew impatient as his knee still had a lot of scar tissue. So, he opted for another surgery to remove scar tissue.

“Before the replacement, I thought hard work would get me back on my feet faster,” said Mark. “After surgery, it felt more like ‘what did I do?’ I’m competitive. When I saw others recovering faster, I wanted to become better. An in-home physical therapist helped, but the second surgery helped me improve the flexibility of my knee.”

Mark couldn’t wait to get back to work. Getting a call from his Cigna vocational coach, Alicia Troski,  he found a partner with the energy he needed to make even greater strides.

“He came ready to work,” said Alicia. “He didn’t want to be dependent on anyone. That mentality means a lot when overcoming a difficult recovery process. For some, it’s easy to quit and fall back into an easy chair. Not Mark. He remained focused on getting himself back.”

One of the resources Alicia offered, the Cigna customer referral program with Achilles International, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people with disabilities participate in athletic events, encourages people like Mark to build up physical strength and stamina.

Cigna partners with organizations like Achilles International to help customers achieve their return to work goals by providing access to additional rehabilitation resources including ergonomic office equipment, software, education and accommodations to help customers stay safe and be productive at work, encouragement and support, resume review and job placement assistance.

“My employer has been supportive throughout my recovery process from accommodations to treatment,” said Mark. “If I needed a break to ice my knee, I could do it as I needed, when I needed. If I had to take off for therapy, I felt comfortable do so.”

As a result of his hard work and dedication to return to work, Cigna offered Mark the opportunity to participate in the Walt Disney World® 5K presented by Cigna on Thursday, January 4th as a member of Team Cigna.

“I have a plan – stretches, working my core, weight training,” said Mark. “If I did nothing, it would be like owning a sports car and letting it rot. I’m only going to get better by working at it.”

The Cigna Customer Referral Program with Achilles International demonstrates Cigna’s promise to partner with customers “Together, All the Way” along their unique health journey. When injury or illness occurs, Cigna helps them get back on track to achieve their goals.

“For Cigna customers, participating in a race represents a healthy milestone on the road to recovery, but also independence,” said Alicia. “As people gain physical strength, they also build confidence, which can positively affect all areas of your life.”

“I’ve come far, but I see it as just the beginning,” said Mark. “I’m back and work because of Bethany and none of this would have been possible without Cigna. So many resources came together to make things happen at my own pace.”

So You Want to Run a Marathon?

27 Dec

Or, a Half Marathon. Or even a 10K or 5K. Or….there are crazy people who run hundred miles and fifty miles at a time but that’s a whole ‘nother nother.

I’ve mentioned my favorite full is Marine Corps Marathon a few times but a LOT of people – and I mean A. LOT. – think that the Walt Disney World Marathon is a great first time marathon. And it is definitely fun!! RunDisney also offers shorter distances from 5K all the way up to the Marathon in this one weekend!

But whatever event you choose – Cigna, presenting sponsor of the above mentioned WDW Marathon Weekend – has pulled together this cool infographic with some important tips for working through your training plan!


So, choose your distance and find a plan. Then, the sky’s the limit!!

So…Yeah…. About That…. :)

19 Dec

Well. Here we are. Again.

End of the year and I’ve posted, what? 4 times maybe? And generally I’d be all “oh…I’m going to do better” “I’ll catch up” …but not today people. Well, maybe I’ll throw that in somewhere!!

This hasn’t been my best year. Hasn’t been the worst either so:)

I had a fairly light race calendar this year – relatively. I’ll do a summary later (really, I will!) but I think I only “officially” ran 5 half marathons this year, not including the weather-cancelled WDW Half in January. And, no marathon. I did run a Ragnar Relay though which was an amazing experience that I can’t wait to repeat!!

In July I started developing some issues with my feet – the most prominent being a ganglion cyst on the left. This put a big damper on my running/training for the year (which I’m sure contributed to the above 20 lbs) I ended up DNSing at the Marine Corps Marathon which, you all know, is my absolute favorite event all year! For the first time, I decided in advance that it wasn’t going to happen. I actually based this on medical advice for a change! Given my lackluster training there was no way to safely build up the mileage and even just jumping in to 26.2 could get ugly! So, I made the adult decision.

I’m still planning to “run” the 5th Anniversary Dopey Challenge presented by Cigna at Disney World in January – I’ve done a lot of half-assed training and am pretty sure I can get through it. It will NOT be pretty. Not at all. But it most definitely will be fun!! And then there is the Gasparilla Michelob Ultra Challenge in late February. This one has been on my to-do list for quite a long time now so I’m really excited to get to it!

After that I’m not so sure. Of course there are races that I love and really want to do (I’m looking at you Hershey 10K and Marine Corps Historic Half!) and definitely need a real do-over for Marine Corps Marathon.  And I’m sure there will be new adventures showing up along the way!

Here is where I usually will resolve that “next year will be much better” but, since for the last 2 years my “word” for the year has been “Consistent”… at least I’m consistent about that!!

What I will resolve is that I will make much more of an effort to be more motivated – even if I’m not doing a ton of races, there’s so much other fun to talk about! Rest assured though…there will be running!!

Disneyland Half – Cigna Blogger Event

20 Sep

Earlier this summer I was invited to attend my first ever blogger event at the Disneyland Half Marathon weekend, sponsored by Cigna. Cigna has been the presenting sponsor of this event for 3 years now as well as the presenting sponsor of the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend events (2018 will be the 10th year of this sponsorship!)

As part of their presentation of the event, Cigna provides plenty of great information to participants and others over the months leading to the event. The current campaign “GO. KNOW. CONTROL” encourages folks to go see their primary physician and get to know vital numbers (weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, etc) and learn how to control these health markers. If you follow Cigna on Twitter you’ll get all the goods!!  And some other fun stuff, like this reminder of how important sleep is for runners

They also provide important race information – etiquette anyone?!!

The blogger event started with a healthy lunch at the Grand Californian hotel – delicious salads and some sandwich fixin’s! 🙂 I arrived late because even though my plane hit the ground 30 minutes early, we sat for 35 waiting for a gate…#whompwhomp But I made it and was assigned to Team Minnie! And as latecomer to the table I was volunteered to be captain!

Lunch is served…and I’m on my way!!!

If you look reeeeaalllly close, you can see that I finally arrived and am grabbing a yummy salad!!!

We set off for the Disney California Adventure park for The Cigna Great Race — a series of educational – and FUN – tasks and games!

Well, of course I’m in Skirt Sports…what else does one wear??!!

It was a super hot day, but we managed to stay hydrated and finish up our tasks – it was great getting the Cast Members involved as well!

Exercising with the Green Army Men!!

I’m not sure this is what they mean when they talk about Yoga in the Park….

Big and tall like a tree!!! Rhymes with Three!!

In addition to Cast Members, unsuspecting tourists also got involved in our games!!

A friendly game of Red Rover in front of Mickey’s Death Wheel…

I’m just putting this here because, how ridiculous am I??!!

At the end of the Great Race we headed back to the Grand Californian for treats and a visit with the head Mouse and his lady!

They are just Too Cute!

I thought this was a fantastic way to kick off the weekend – making new friends and seeing old ones

Everyone ends up being a friend when you runDisney!!!

So…Moving on :)

22 Aug

My good intentions have not been so great at keeping up on this so I’m hoping to throw a bunch of race recaps out her interspersed with some …you know…life kind of stuff!!

So back in April, after the Hershey 10K and my make-up WDW half, I only had one more 5K on my schedule – it is one I started doing a few years ago. MahoneySabol 5K.

This 5K is kind of the kick-off event for the Traveler’s Championship, a PGA tour that I have volunteered at for 9 years now!  It is run out at the golf course and is really a fun, family friendly event!

Stormtroopers make good parking lot attendants….

It’s a bit of a late starter – usually 11 am- which is a nice change. Sponsors are Mahoney Sabol & Company, a regional , tax, assurance, and business advisory firm, and Traveler’s Insurance. Partners  include Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, Bears BBQ (my favorite!), Dunkin Donuts (another fave!), and Two Roads Brewery among others.

The tents with all the goodies….and The First Tee of Connecticut building

Dunkin is there with a hearty breakfast of jelly donuts and coffee as well as bagels if you’re into that kind of thing! And at the finish line Bear’s provides a delicious sandwich that you can wash down with Two Roads IPA!

The course starts and ends at the TPC River Highlands and has it’s nice moments and it’s meh moments! There is a small part of running around the golf course itself (not through!) and a nice residential area. The meh comes in the form of a little less than a mile on the main road through Cromwell – it isn’t awful but…ya know…meh.

I spend a lot of time at this course for the tournament and I’m always surprised how different it looks when there’s no tourney!

Luckily the race starts by running *down* this hill!!

There are kids races which are always awesome to watch and cheer before the 5K and this year we had some characters! I’m pretty sure I saw Batman talking to a Stormtrooper!


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