Reflections of One Goofy Runner

It’s been a week since I attempted the Goofy Challenge (13.1 miles followed by 26.2 miles the next morning) in Walt Disney World Orlando, Florida. The pain in my feet is starting to subside, I am walking with only a slight limp and my toe and foot is slowly growing new skin. Plus, I can breathe out of one nostril now so it gets better everyday! I’m actually looking forward to my next run – Saturday, maybe?! – and can’t wait to start training for the Cap City Half in May. I’ve been taking it easy, sleeping a lot and reflecting on what I learned from this experience. Here are my thoughts:

  • Sometimes your body just says No. Now usually it is my mind that says, “No. You can’t do this” or “It hurts too much” or “You’re too slow, fat, tired, busy, etc.” The mind can be a precarious thing and negative thoughts are more than difficult to overcome once you get caught in that downward spiral, but physically not being able to go on is different and something I had never quite experienced like this before. Can you push though physical pain? Is it really mind over matter? I have learned that I think you can push through pain to an extent, but sometimes your body just stops you from going on. The mind is very powerful – and has derailed my body a time or two before – but I don’t think wishful thinking can always make up for physical limitations.
  • Blisters are more painful than I ever imagined. Period.
  • Florida is not flat.Don’t let anyone tell you differently.
  • A DNF (Did Not Finish) is better than a DNS (Did Not Start). Thank you, Bill. And to those few of you that said I couldn’t, did you even try?
  • There is always another race to run.
  • I ran two very challenging races on very little sleep. I could play the what if game over and over again (What if more sleep would have made a difference), but it wouldn’t change thisoutcome. I now know I need plenty of rest to perform at my best.
  • It got hot. I wasn’t appropriately prepared. Lesson learned. No matter the forecast, from now on I take at least one racing outfit for each possible weather scenario. After all, I had 11 pounds left in my bag before I hit the flight weight-limit.
  • I need to stop comparing myself to other runners. I am not other runners, I am me. I ran my race and that is all that should matter.
  • “Hard” is not a figment of my imagination. This race was damn hard.
  • I was not in my best physical shape to run this race. I will be when I run it again. “THE WILL TO SUCCEED SHOULD ONLY BE SURPASSED BY THE WILL TO PREPARE.” Train harder, train smarter.
  • Never underestimate the value of an effective training plan. Stick to it. Learn from those who are more experienced than you are. Everyone has a story, a lesson learned, a triumph achieved, a challenge not met. Thanks, Jeff, for making me run those 20 miles the day after Christmas. I wouldn’t have made it to 22 without them.
  • 22 miles on the heels of 13.1 is an accomplishment, no matter how many more there were to go.  
  • I am a relatively young runner – and I dream really big. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I need to remember I took on a challenge that even seasoned runners have not or maybe even will not.
  • Practice makes perfect. Even in running. This was my second marathon ever. My first one was only about eight months ago. I have not had a lot of marathoning practice. (Never mind that Shalane Flanagan has also only run two marathons, one of which was setting a record in the Olympic Trials…stop comparing…).
  • Vacation and Race don’t really go well together for me. Not good, not bad, just a realization.
  • I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world. I am grateful to have had this opportunity.
  • I have said it before and I am saying it again now – The running community is second to none. Where would I be without everyone who helped me get to and go on this journey? Some of you I personally know, some of you I have never met; some of you I see every week and some of you I may never see again, but you have all made a difference. Your support, encouragement, kindness, motivation, love and advice has been a meaningful part of my journey. Thank you to: Dad, Mollie, Michael, MIT and the Lucky 13’s, Judi, Deb, Amy, Laurie, Kim C., Kim K., Kim B., Laurel, Duane, Jeff G., Jeff H., Ben, “The Bike Boys” (Chase, Joe and Adam), Julia (Pain, Pride, Perseverance), Elle (Eat Run Sail), Jennifer R. (From Fat to Finish Line), EMZ, Miss Zippy, Running to Health, Dr. Bright, Randy, Judy, Dave, Heather, Nita, Kris, Brent, Jennifer M., Jennifer H., Suzi, Keri, Lisa, LeDawn, Chrissy, Julie, Mandy, Sarah, Wendy – to name a few, and I know I forgot some! Thank you to everyone who has been with me on this journey, you know who you are. (Is this how Grammy winners feel!?!?!)
  • Honestly, I am comfortable with a DNF. Yes, of course I wanted to finish and earn the Goofy medal too, but looking at where I came from only a few short years ago, that was downright incredible. I am proud that I gave it my all and left it allon the course. It was emotional, exhilarating, exciting, real, raw and surprisingly, healing. This for my mother and I know she was there with me every step of the way. I know she is not disappointed in me and therefore, I am not disappointed in me either.
  • I may be content with a DNF in this race, but watch your back Goofy. It doesn’t end here!

Until the next mile marker,


  1. Love this uplifting post, Sara. Such a wonderful review and I am so glad to hear you are feeling better and healing and mending. You continue to inspire me and motivate me, every day! Thanks for that, too. Have a healthy week!

  2. These are all really great reflections. Sounds like you learned so much in just going through the process of preparing for and running this race. You know what you would do the same and you now know what you would do differently. Very insightful…loved it!

  3. Learning means growing and you’ve learned the important one: keep going! Thanks for posting this!

  4. You are soooo awesome and inspirational Sara — I think you not finishing as maybe even more significant — You pushed your body to the limits and you ran 35 miles in two days… in the heat. This is a triumph and you come away with experience, perspective and a gift to us all.

    The guy who said on your FB page that “DNF i still more important than DNS” is sooo right. Those are wise words that should give us all the freedom to TRY. You tried. which is sooo much more than most of us (too fearful to take on such a lofty goal) does in this lifetime.

    You are fearless and brave and I know your mom is so super proud of you.

  5. What an inspiration you are Sara!!!! You should be PROUD of what you accomplished!!! And good girl for having a positive outlook and learning from this experience! I love following you and your training and know without a doubt that next time…Goofy will be yours!!! 🙂

  6. Livebreathehuzzah says

    Kudos to you for making it to 22. I’m sure you will conquer goofy next time! Thankd for sharing. Great lessons for all!

  7. The most important thing is that you got out there and did your best on that day. That is a success story not matter how you look at it! And, I love your reflections.

  8. Kimberly Turner Bouldin says

    Sara – I have said it before, and I will say it again – you are such an amazingly inspiring woman and I am so glad to have met you through MIT last year. You mother is smiling down on you & I am positive that she is proud of you! I am so PROUD of you!

    Love you!!


  9. Lisa Graziano says

    What an amazingly positive attitude, Sara! From where I sit, your 35 miles is more inspirational to me than the runners who were able to pull off PRs in both races–in part because of the lessons you took away from the experience and, more importantly, were willing to share with the rest of us! Looking forward to next year’s post-Goofy recap where you show us pictures of those medals! 🙂

  10. Sarahelyze says

    you are so inspiring!

  11. Eleanor Burns says

    22 miles is A LOT after 13.1! I’m glad you have a good perspective about the DNF. I think it is awesome that you are getting right back into running.

  12. Many lessons here for all of us. You continue to inspire me! Go, Sara GO!

  13. Jessica Fries-Gaither says

    Wise words for us all. As always, you rock!!

  14. Bethanyrcouto says

    Hi Sara, sorry to hear about your DNF, but wow, what an amazingly positive attitude you have towards it! I am so impressed after reading this reflection! It’s obvious that this was a huge learning experience for you and it will no doubt make you a better runner in the long run. I love the part about not comparing yourself to other runners, that’s a HUGE thing to realize, i wish more people would realize that. I’m proud of you for what you did accomplish and evenmore so i’m proud of you for your positive attitude and wisdom towards it. Thanks for your comment on my blog 🙂 Glad to hear you are feeling better.

  15. Running While Mommy says

    DNF or not, you have inspired me by your words and actions. You did awesome!

  16. Shannon Morrison says

    We should go back together-I was a DNS. I knew after a struggle on Saturday that it woudn’t be wise for me to start the next day. Kudos to you!

  17. Shannon Morrison says

    Also we should get together sometime- I will share with you about my THREE (yes you read that right) DNF”S at the Columbus Marathon. It was a monkey on my back to say the least. It doesn’t feel good, but it builds us up as runners.

  18. I am new to your blog Sara. You’re an absolute inspiration, have been reading through your Goofy entries and I had to hold back the tears. You kick ass!

  19. RunToTheFinish says

    maybe orlando isn’t flat, but miami is a pancake. Good to know in case i’m ever crazy enough to drive up and try the goofy 🙂

    I COMPLETELY agree that a DNF is better than a DNS…you have to have the courage to go for it sometimes and just see what happens

    hope the healing continues quickly

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