Eleven teachers at Water Spring Elementary School laced up their running shoes after months of preparation for the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. Kelly Bua, Stephanie Fraunberger, Amanda Harper, Erin Heitzman, Lindsay Johns, Karen Lane, Heather Neuman, Andrea Silva, Robert Snodgrass, Krista Steele and Christine Van Lue all participated — for some, it was the first time, and for others, it was the chance to add a medal to their collection.
Harper and Fraunberger, who train together, ran the 5K, 10K and half marathon during the weekend, totaling 22.4 miles over three days. It was their sixth weekend participating in RunDisney events and their 12th RunDisney race.
The running duo even has a RunDisney Instagram, @mandyandstephrunwithmagic.
The two ran their first RunDisney race for Wine and Dine Weekend in 2021. When they realized other Water Spring teachers were running it too, they started the school tradition that anyone who runs in any of the races during a race weekend would meet in the lobby the following school day to take a photo wearing their race shirts and medals and celebrate their accomplishments.
“We really feel this has brought people together at school by sharing our love for RunDisney with each other,” Harper said. “It has really helped people across different grade levels and positions feel part of a community. This marathon weekend was very exciting, because for some staff members it was their first RunDisney event. Stephanie Fraunberger and I run every race together, but for this 10k, Krista Steele joined us. It was so much fun being part of her first race experience.”
“It was so much fun cheering and encouraging our friends, making sure we saw them at each spot,” Fraunberger said. “We were so proud of them and everyone else who was running.”
Harper and Fraunberger will be running the 5K, 10K and half-marathon for Princess Weekend in February. Once they complete this Fairytale Challenge, they will receive a fourth medal. They also plan to run the Springtime Surprise weekend in April, and completing all three races will earn them a fourth medal.
“Even though there are some real early mornings on RunDisney Weekends, the sense of community and accomplishing goals with complete strangers keeps bringing me back on registration day,” Fraunberger said.
Steele said she is not a big fan of running, but one of her goals from last year was to exercise more, so she accepted the challenge of participating in the 10K.
“I was really pleased with my time since I had never done a race like this before and kept up a good enough pace to avoid the balloon ladies and not get swept,” she said. “The 2:30 a.m. call time was not fun, but seeing everyone ready for the race and their throwback outfits gave me a boost of energy and adrenaline. Running through Epcot at 5 in the morning and stopping for some character pictures was so much fun. When a Photopass opportunity came up, we tried to make sure that our poses were fun, quirky, and had high hopes that they would turn out well. I would tell everyone that I was not a fan of running, but after that weekend, it’s become something that I like to do with others.”
Steele has plans to sign up for the 5K and 10K and, maybe, the half marathon, at Disney’s Wine and Dine in November.
Heitzman has been running Disney challenges since 2015, and this was her second half marathon and her sixth RunDisney race.
Her next half is in late February, and she has numerous Disney races scheduled: Enchanted 10K, Princess Half Marathon and the Toy Story 10-miler during the Springtime Surprise race weekend in April. She said she is looking forward to the runs that take her through Epcot and Hollywood Studios.
Snodgrass decided to tackle a marathon after participating in a 5K, 10K, 10-miler and half marathon, all with RunDisney.
“RunDisney events are always a magical experience,” he said. “I allowed myself to stop to meet characters and take in all the entertainment Disney provides during races. Another huge factor was the crowd. Seeing the support of friends really helped keep me motivated. The race was difficult, but I felt pretty good throughout the race, stuck to my pace and really enjoyed the event.”
Snodgrass has no races scheduled, since he is focused on welcoming the arrival of his first child in April. He does, however, plan to participate in more RunDisney events and, possibly, tackle another marathon.
Neuman has run many halves and triathlons before, but never a full marathon.
“I decided to give it a try to see if I could,” she said. “My daughter met me on Main Street to cheer me on; it was the best hug ever. At mile 20, when I hit the wall during training, my daughter and best friend were constantly texting me encouragement until the end. I still get emotional over it when I think about it.”
Neuman doesn’t have another marathon scheduled, but she is running two more halves, a 10K and a few 5K events in the spring.
For veteran runner Van Lue, who has been running consistently since 2009, this was her 29th half marathon; she also has run three full. Her son also ran the half, and when he was struggling with ankle pain, the two met up around mile 6 and walked most of the rest of the route.
“The time with him was more special and important than the time on the clock,” Van Lue said. “Running Disney is like no other. I have done many half marathons, but nothing compares to running down Main Street and through the castle at the crack of dawn.”
She hopes to run the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C.
This was Johns’ first RunDisney race, and she started with a 5K.
“I loved the experience and getting the opportunity to cheer on my coworkers and friends,” she said. “I would not consider myself a runner, or even someone who enjoys running, but there is something about the Disney atmosphere and the camaraderie that comes with running a marathon that pushed me through.”
She has signed up for a 10K later in the year and wants to run more Disney races.
Lane, who ran in college and is a cancer survivor, calls herself the school cheerleader and said she has inspired others to get involved with running, especially the RunDisney races. Her first marathon was part of the Dopey Challenge last year, and she signed up because her two daughters were running it.
She appreciates her running community at Water Spring and the fact that everyone checks in on each other to make sure they are staying inspired and prepared.
Lane plans to run the Dopey in two years to celebrate her 60th birthday and hopes to get 60 participants from the school.
The school is participating in the SeaWorld Run in February, and close to 40 school members already have signed up.