Sunday, July 26, 2015

My Time With the Flame | Illumination In The Opening Ceremony of the 2015 Special Olympics World Games

I admit, I refer to it as "my flame."  Yes, I was privileged to be one of this summer's Unified Relay Across America Torch Bearers.  Though by far one of the most thrilling moments I've lived, while running the Flame of Hope through the streets of Astoria, Queens I realized this open fire seemed a casual curiosity to those going about the business of shopping, walking from work and wheeling the clothes to the laundromat.  (Have I mentioned how heavy and REAL that torch was?  I almost lit my hair on fire.  Twice.)  Was the symbolism of this journey apparent to those on the sidelines?

In following the progress of the Flame of Hope since I last saw it in 2011 at the Special Olympics World Games in Athens, I am almost taken back by the progress that has been made.  The "R-word" is fading into obscurity.  The Unified Sports movement that saw my son play in its very first World Games contest in softball in 2011 is now close to one million athletes strong; thanks to a collaboration with The Walt Disney Company and ESPN, social acceptance through sports is no longer simply a dream.

(Keep your eye on #11!!)

Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum- venue for the 2015 Special Olympics World Games Opening Ceremony
In 2015, the goals and rhetoric are loftier; attitudes have changed.  Acceptance has turned to inclusion, which is now elevated to a declaration of interdependence.  Special Olympics Chairman Timothy Shriver once again addressed the 7,000 World Games athletes, conveying this message:  The Special Olympics movement is the school of the heart.  "Learning about the power of difference is unifying."

Special Olympics Chairman Timothy Shriver
When I began working with athletes with intellectual disabilities, I was honored to help others.  When I traveled to the Athens 2011 Special Olympics World Games, I was hoping to teach my son.  The 2015 Los Angeles Special Olympics World Games are for me; I come to learn from athletes and families that having something powerful to teach.  No longer is the goal to bring those with different abilities into our world; as Temple Grandin often suggests, perhaps there is greater merit in valuing exactly what makes those with intellectual disabilities different.  (Some Kind of Magic.)  Tim Shriver quotes renown Special Olympian and board member Loretta Claiborne: "Come into my world.  I don't want to join yours.  Mine has no war.  Sports are played with the spirit of joy and exuberance and affirmation, not anger or cheating or aggression."  These are powerful words with a profound message for us "typicals!"  Perhaps we should join their team and not the other way around. The illumination of these Games is ours, not that of the athletes.

"My" Flame of Hope that was ignited in the home of the last Special Olympics World Games, Athens, traveled the Atlantic Ocean, into my humble hands in New York City, crossed over 4,500 miles of this country, and ignited the Olympic Cauldron in Los Angeles Memorial Stadium lit up minds and opened hearts.  Let the teachers become the students.  And let's see how many minds the Torch sparks before the next Games...

My Special Olympics Journey:

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Davy Crockett's Explorer Canoes | Nature On Disneyland's Rivers of America

Just around the river bend in Disneyland Resort's Critter Country awaits a nature experience for the entire family.  Grab an oar, be prepared to get just a tad wet, and paddle around Pirate's Lair on Tom Sawyer Island.  Your backwoods expedition winds you past beavers, skunks, moose, osprey, and mountain lions, as well as a frontier cabin, and a Native American village.

My family just loved this unscripted adventure along the Rivers of America; the 20-adventurer canoes are entirely powered by YOU, so grab your paddle and get to work!  (OK- your river guides will probably do the yeoman's share.)

You will break a sweat.  And depending on who is sitting behind you, perhaps get a bit wet or clunked in the head wth an oar.  (My husband will not be rowing again with my son anytime soon...)  If you get lucky, you'll cruise past Mark Twain Riverboat and the Sailing Ship Columbia.

There is no height restriction to this Disneyland attraction, but small children will be required to wear life jackets.  Davy Crockett's Explorer Canoes are seasonal, operate only during good weather and for limited hours each day.

Only Disneyland can give a nod to the 'ole frontier in such a charming way.  Need some time off the rails?  Head West!

Focused on the Magic

Monday, July 20, 2015

runDisney Walt Disney World VS Disneyland

Welcome to this month's Blogorail Orange Loop. Today we are comparing Walt Disney World and Disneyland.

East meets West!  The runDisney Coast to Coast Challenge and new race announcements have been propelling runDisney racers to rack up those frequent flier miles and fend off jet lag.  Though the brand may be the same, the Orlando and Anaheim runDisney experiences are not.  But have no fear- the pixie dust flies on both coasts!!  In 2015, the runDisney Walt Disney World VS. Disneyland run-off looks something like this:

Just the facts-

Walt Disney World  

4 race weekends                                                                      
1 full marathon (Walt Disney World Marathon)                    
1 night race (Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon)                
1 after party (Finish Line Party)                                              
Race Retreats (Marathon & Princess weekends)                    
Transportation to starting/finishing line needed                                    
runDisney Expo (ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex)    
# of Racers ~ 26,700 (Walt Disney World Marathon)            
Run solely through Disney property                                        
Run through the Disney Parks and ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex 
Resort 25,000 acres in size 
Disney Resort Hotels: 26   
Restaurants: 327



4 race weekends
No marathons
No night races
No after parties
No Race Retreats
Walking to the starting/finishing line possible
runDisney Expo (Disneyland Hotel Exhibit Hall)  
Racers ~ 16,000 (Disneyland Half Marathon)  
Run through surrounding neighborhoods
Run through the Disney Parks and Downtown Disney District
Resort about 500 acres in size  
Disney Resort hotels: 3   
Restaurants:  94


Walt Disney World  

This Disney Park in Orlando can be overwhelming in size and therefore tiring to runners who do not pace themselves before their event.  Think fresh legs!  Though Walt Disney World offers free transportation to and from the runDisney Health & Fitness Expo and all events, a significant amount of time must be factored into your pre-race routine.  For morning races, this may mean a 2:30 am wake-up call!

Despite the vast number of choices, many Disney Resorts sell out quickly; attempt to book as soon as you are registered for your race weekend. 

Runners need to carefully plan their pre-race meals and Walt Disney World has a wealth of smart restaurant options.  However, many of the most intuitive choices fill up quickly as soon as the 180-day Advance Dining Reservations window opens.  If you want to stick to your personal tried-and-true dietary plan, you should book early.  Getting stuck with a late hamburger the evening before your race will surely not sit well... 

Special Events abound at the Eastern cousin and if you can time a race to enjoy one, do so!  At present, Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend will not only overlap with Epcot International Food & Wine Festival but also with Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler has promised to return to its Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party slot once construction at Disney's Hollywood Studios allows and perhaps there will one day be a runDisney event that capitalizes on Star Wars Weekends...  If you can get double the reward for your endurance contest achievement, I say go for it!

Though the perception seems to be that most Orlando races rule when it come to the amount of time running through the Disney Parks.  However, the race averages are about the same.  What IS very different is exactly where you can find the Disney Characters.  In addition to spotting characters in Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom, you can find your favorites along the sometimes long stretches of Disney-owned highways that connect the parks; they serve to break the monotony and spread pixie dust outside their usual walls.  (Where they are usually most needed!)

Last, but never least, consider the nostalgia factor.  For me, Home means the sight of Cinderella Castle from Main Street, U.S.A.; just as I first saw it in 1972.  For you, that might be something/somewhere quite different, but I promise- running past these life landmarks gives you a chill.  Every time.  



The Disney Park in Anaheim is compact and a walker's dream.  One can easily walk from Disneyland Park to Disney California Adventure in two minutes.   You can stroll to Downtown Disney District for lunch and return to the park of your choice without stress.  On race mornings, a fairly short walk from any on-site hotel is all that is required.  (For the inaugural Tiner Bell Half Marathon, I literally went down the elevator and exited into the adjoining parking lot corral area in minutes- without wings!!)

Fewer Disney Resort hotels translate into instant sell outs.  In fact, many runners book their Disneyland hotel stays before registration day.  Nearby Good Neighbor Hotels are also good choices and are often also within walking distance to the starting lines.

Though many folks normally feel they can walk up to the restaurant of their choice at Disneyland, I can assure you this is not the case on race weekends.  Just try to grab a bowl of pasta at Naples Ristorante e Pizzeria the night before a race!  (BestPre/Post Race Restaurants in Disneyland)  Get your dining reservations 60 days in advance and your tummy will be happy and the porta-potty will be lonely...

At present, Avengers Half Marathon Weekend takes place at the start of the Disneyland Holiday Festivities.

Though you will not find Disney Characters on the streets of Anaheim, you WILL find perhaps the next  best thing.  Avengers Half Marathon and Star Wars Half Marathon brought out a cavalcade of Cosplayers along the route- freely posing for pictures (without long wait times), signing autographs, and chEARing on the troops.  You can read more about my impressions of running through Anaheim HERE.  Unlike Walt Disney World, your fans can and will line the routes outside of the parks- many times armed with candy!!!

Nothing can trump the house that Walt built for nostalgia.  As I ran the inaugural Tinker Bell Half Marathon, it hit me like a ton of bricks; the last time I had walked/run past Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln was when I was 5 years old and visiting the New York World's Fair.  Who could have forecast that my oldster self would be running her very first half marathon in Abe's shadow fifty years later?  Surreal!!!

As you can see, there is no winner and certainly no loser in the "runDisney Walt Disney World VS. Disneyland" contest.  As I often say, there is only magic of a different color!  Stay tuned for the upcoming "runDisney Walt Disney World VS. Disneyland VS. Disneyland Paris"  race off.  Vive la mouse diffĂ©rence!

For more information on Walt Disney World vs Disneyland, check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!

Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail Orange | Walt Disney World vs Disneyland Loop:

Saturday, July 18, 2015

A Super Evening With Paul Rudd As Ant-Man

Used with permission of  Walt Disney Pictures

What you have heard is true; Paul Rudd IS the original nice guy.  Even when engaging in some bad boy petty larceny as Scott Lang, his endearing personality looms large.  (Admittedly, he won me over long ago as the Clueless Josh Lucas.)  At the New York City July 16th special advance screening of the new Marvel film Ant-Man, Paul charmed the audience with short anecdotes and generous insights into this, his most mighty role.  On the screen, his affable nature is equally appealing as he portrays this Avengers founding member character.

Ant-Man surprised this not so Marvel-ous fan; I'm typically nonplussed by superhero types.  The story of this unlikely hero (an ex-convict) saving the world as the protege of Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) is sweet and comical and GIANT hit.  Rudd makes rooting for the underdog easy in this one hour and fifty-two-minute film.  His character, Scott Lang, agrees to utilize Dr.Pym's secret technology, become Ant-Man, and redeem his jailbird self in his daughter's eyes.  Oh, and save the world in the process.  Clever and sometimes hilarious, the duo train and plan for a heist that will use Paul's ant-like size and super strength to squash the villains.  Aided by Pym's daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) and Lang's slapstick sidekicks, Paul Rudd successfully steals our hearts and more as Ant-Man.   Not only is this movie a must-see for Marvel lovers and outliers alike, it appears it is not the last.  Be sure to sit through the entire length of the credits for tips and clues as to what is coming next.  It's super!

Special thanks to my friend Gayle for the inspiration, Marshall Weinbaum for the kind invitation, and Paul Rudd for proving that nice guys don't always finish last.

Like ANT-MAN on Facebook:
Follow ANT-MAN on Twitter:
Visit the official ANT-MAN site:  
ANT-MAN opens in theaters everywhere on July 17th! 

Even Times Square loves ANT-MAN!!