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The Family That Ran 680 Miles to Disneyland

Guest post from Erin Harding, Salt Lake City
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Let me start by stating we are nerds. I know this. So, the excitement of Christmas had just wound down, and I was bracing myself for a long, inversion-ridden winter. January and February were going to be hard (if it was anything like 2013). What could we do differently this winter than last winter to make it more bearable?

We were taking our kids to Disneyland in February and I had the idea that we should run (or walk) the amount of miles of the distance from our home in Salt Lake City, Utah to Anaheim, California. It was right after Christmas that our treadmill of 14 years finally died. We bought a new one on Dec.31. The challenge was on! Salt Lake to Disneyland-680 miles in 52 days! To make it to Disneyland in time, my husband, 3 kids, and I had to walk on average 2.6 miles a day.

Jesse, my sweet, sexy spouse, made a chart that mapped our progress. Each family member had circles by their name, and each circle was divided into 4 parts. Each part representing 2.6 miles. We shot right out of the starting gates. Everyone was into it. On Sundays, the whole fam would walk for an hour. It was such a great way to spend time together and get in our miles for the day.

We made it to Provo in just one week! But as school resumed, the kids got busier, and the miles weren’t adding up. Jesse and I were getting our miles in, but it was really hard for the kids. In addition to their homework and extracurricular activities, it really was a major challenge. Gracie, my oldest, is in 8th grade and takes all honors classes. Which means a ton of homework. She kept doing what she could, but some nights it was just too late to fit it in. Sam, my middle, in 6th grade, had 2 basketball practices and 2 games a week. All he was doing was running. But he still had to log his miles. I know some nights he was exhausted, but he’d get on that treadmill like a trooper. Jonesy, my youngest, was hilarious. He has quite a bit of homework for a 4thgrader, but he would make time to get his miles in, usually watching “Good Luck, Charlie” or “Lemonade Mouth” (umm someone doesn’t have an obvious crush on Bridgit Mendler!) but complained quite a bit that his legs were tired. Some days none of them wanted to do it and we’d tease, “we’re in Fillmore, if you don’t get walking, we will leave you there for real–at the Maverick, and you won’t go to Disneyland with the family!”

Sometimes I felt bad, like we were being mean parents by telling them they needed to do their walking. But then I always reminded myself, “we’re building character.”

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About a month in, it was very obvious that we weren’t going to make it. Jesse and I had already finished our miles, but the kids were a long way off. Jesse and I decided that our miles from then on could be added to the kids to help us get there. I thought it was fun logging my own miles. It was nowhere near as fun as logging miles for my kids. It took on a whole new level of enjoyment when I would start my run knowing it was for Jonesy. Or Gracie. Or Sam. I found my mind focusing on that particular child during my run, and when I was finished, I couldn’t wait to mark that child’s chart. Time was almost up and one day Gracie told me she felt bad that Jesse and I had compensated for some of her miles. Now I’m a Christian. That said, this is where the real, unexpected lesson of our family challenge revealed itself. I told her, “Don’t feel bad. We wanted to help you. You did all you could do, and we are happy to make up the miles you couldn’t do.” That’s the lesson of life, isn’t it? You do all you can, and He will make up the rest. Just do your best. Let Jesus take the wheel…or treadmill, as it were. I couldn’t share this Disneyland challenge without sharing that experience. It will always be a memory I treasure.

So, one week from our Disney trip, and we were in Barstow, California. Over 80 miles from Anaheim. No way we would make it. But close enough, right? Wrong-o. Not close enough for me. I refused to quit in Barstow. If Jesse and I each did 40 mile weeks, we could make it! Normally this would not be an issue for me. When I’m racing ultramarathons, I average 60 miles a week. However, I’m a lunatic and thought attempting a half-Ironman triathlon would be a good idea. The training has been kicking my 37 yr old trash! So a 40 mile week was out of the question. But Barstow? Unacceptable. I would get 40 miles in addition to my swimming, biking, and running if it half-killed me.

What can I say? We made it! In true Harding, last minute, procrastinator, 11th hour style, WE MADE IT. I was so proud of my crew. I think it proved to them that they can do anything they want to do, if they stick to it long enough.

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I love Disneyland, so I’m always happy when you go that first morning of your trip—the smell of sunscreen, pb&j sandwiches, fruit snacks, and Capri Suns crammed into every nook and cranny of the backpack, the faint scent of hotel lotion on your husbands neck…I love it. But this time was different. I had not anticipated the level of satisfaction and accomplishment I felt as I walked through the turn-style of the front gates. Not gonna lie, my sunglasses hid a few tears. It was simply magical. And almost as magical, not ONCE did we hear “My feet hurt” or “My legs are tired.” And not hearing that made it the perfect Disneyland experience.

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