If you watch the channel on a regular basis, you know that I am a late night kind of guy. Yes, staying up into the wee hours of the morning is just what this livestreamer tends to do, whether it be live streaming an after hours party, playing some new video game with chat or just creating some new, innovative things for the channel.
But, this Sunday morning, when it was still dark outside and the parking lights from Magic Kingdom had a magical sort of dewy glow, this livestreamer was about to hit the course with hundreds of people that LIKE to RUN at this hour, when I am usually getting ready for bed.
Thank you to Disney for inviting me out to cover RunDisney’s Wine and Dine race on live stream. It was super exciting to be there along with the excitement and anticipation that the participants had as they were getting warmed up to take on this very cool 13.1 mile course. Along the way, were volunteers handing out water and even some Disney characters to motivate them on their trek. Young, old, running, walking and even those riding, took part in this very popular weekend where everyone can make their dreams and goals come true.
As we watched to first participants cross the finish line from the chEAR section, it was super exciting and you could see the joy and sense of accomplishment on their faces. Also, the fact that Mickey and Minnie Mouse themselves were there to give them high fives for their hard work made it super magical!
As if this was not inspirational enough, I had the priviledge of being there when they interviewed an amazing runner, Boyd Dunleavey from Canada.
Running a half marathon is an incredible feat itself. Running a half marathon after twice surviving Leukemia is truly miraculous. Incredibly, that’s exactly what Boyd Dunleavey, 45, did at the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon this past Sunday. And waiting for him at the finish line with his medal? The man who saved his life – Nathan Barnes, who donated his stem cells which ultimately gave Boyd a new lease on life. Needless to say, this was a truly inspirational and emotional moment for those that were there.
Boyd was diagnosed in 2011 with a rare blood cancer – acute myeloid Leukemia – and given a 10 percent chance of surviving more than a few months without a stem cell transplant from a donor outside of his family. After enduring a year of treatments and a cancer relapse in February 2012, doctors identified Barnes as a suitable stem cell donor. The challenge? Barnes was in Japan, stationed there as a gunners’ mate in the US Navy. But, finally, in May 2012 the life-saving stem cell transplant happened.
“When we found out it was a gentleman named Nathan, it was incredible,” said Dunleavey. “Our middle son’s name is Nathan, and it means ‘Gift of God.’”
Soon after the transplant, Dunleavey began running as part of his recovery, and it quickly became a passion, partly because of his love of Disney. At last count, he has done several half marathons and seven full marathons.
“I never would have run a marathon without Disney,” Boyd said. “January 2015 was my first, during the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. I’ve run the marathon twice, multiple virtual races, four half marathons, and several 10Ks. The runDisney community is fantastic!”
This past weekend, during the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend, that passion for running led to something even bigger. After more than seven years – while Barnes had been stationed overseas – Dunleavey and his family were finally able to meet the man who saved his life. “I had no idea you could actually feel this good about something,” Barnes said about their meeting, even before presenting Dunleavey with his medal for running 13.1 miles through Walt Disney World Resort.
“My motto is ‘never lose hope,’” Boyd said. “Life is a special gift. We were told that with the stem cell transplant, my chances of living five years were only 30 percent. This is Year 7! Never lose hope.”
I am hoping that we too will be able to take part in a RunDisney race soon and the Mayne Mafia can run alongside those other motivated race goers who ‘go the distance’ to reach the finish line, sometimes facing the greatest odds.