I’m Going to Disney World!

DisneyAfter a roller coaster 2018, Laura and I are very excited to be making our return to the annual Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend this year. And over the next four days, more than 50,000 runners will be descending on the Most Magical Place in the World to join us in the race weekend festivities.

I included a version of this story in the book, but I think it bears repeating here:

Every January, my family makes an annual trek down to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Truth be told, I guess you could say we are one of those “Disney families,” but the real reason why we make the trip is in honor of my Aunt Judi — a breast cancer survivor and a phenomenal human being in her own right — who’s also the founder of an educational software company that’s spent the better part of last four decades helping struggling students learn how to read.

How do you pay tribute to someone who’s done so much for so many? Because let’s be honest, when you’re trying to find the perfect way to honor the CEO of a software company, breakfast with Mickey is cute and all, but cards and flowers kind of fall short.

Answer: you convince your entire family to run a marathon.


And so for the past 10 years or so, members of my extended family (moms, dads, aunts, uncles and cousins) make the trip down to Orlando to take part in the race events surrounding the annual Walt Disney World Marathon — the largest weekend running festival in the country, with proceeds benefiting the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Some of my youngest second cousins and older aunts and uncles started out by running the “Mickey Mile” or the Family 5K, while the more “Goofy” among us 20- and 30- somethings typically run some combination of the 10K, the half marathon, the full marathon, a two-day combo race, or the full slate of events for just under 50 miles in four days and the right to call yourself a proud owner of the coveted “Dopey Challenge” medal. Half a decade later, and it’s become a family tradition. And my Aunt Judi’s cancer is in complete remission.

The Disney race weekend is a really good example of just how easy it is to lose yourself in a world of escapism and fantasy. As your heart pounds and your adrenaline pumps, it’s hard not to get caught up in the sheer force of positive energy from costumed characters lining the streets and the thousands of strangers cheering every step that you take. It’s almost no wonder that the race weekend attracts somewhere in the neighborhood of 50,000 runners every year. Because as Disney puts it, you’re entering a world where “every mile is magic” — and it’s pretty awe-inspiring to see the incredible lengths that people are able to push themselves to when they’re able to look past the fact that they’re actually putting forth, like, a TON of really hard work.

So, for the million dollar question of the day…

Do our classrooms inspire the same level of commitment? And how much more would we learn if going to school felt more like going to an amusement park?

More to come. In the meantime, I’m off on a weekend “business trip” for research and fact-finding!

Author: John

John Meehan (@MeehanEDU) is an English teacher and school instructional coach at Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington, Virginia. He began his teaching career in 2010 as a career switcher through The New Teacher Project, after spending five years working in social media and event marketing. He is a 2017 ASCD Emerging Leader, and an alumnus of the 2016-2018 Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Teacher Advisory Council. In 2016, he was named one of Arlington, Virginia’s “40 Under 40” by the Leadership Center for Excellence. He is a past presenter and regular attendee at educational conferences throughout the United States, including the annual conference for National Catholic Education Association, ASCD Empower19, and the Play Like a Champion Today: Character Education Through Sports summer conference at the University of Notre Dame. He’s an avid runner who’s completed more than three dozen marathons, half marathons, long-distance road relays, mud runs, and obstacle course races. John lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.

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