Ginesa Schleuse: Making Dreams a Reality at the Disney Marathon

Ginesa Schluese just completed her first marathon — the Disney Marathon in Florida. This is quite an accomplishment from someone who had this to say to when she first contacted me:

“Running is something that I never thought I could do; I was always the girl picked last in grade school for any sort of athletic endeavor, and in high school, I picked the few things that involved the least amount of work/exercise possible.”

Read more about her experience, and how she has come to believe that her only limitations are the ones she places on herself. For complete race day coverage, visit her blog, Destination: Athlete.

When you originally contacted me, you mentioned that running was something you never thought you could do. Why is that?

As a child, from 2nd grade onward I was always overweight. I fell into the trap most children fall into — peer pressure. I was always one of the last ones picked for any “team sport” and, as such, assumed I could not do anything athletic. In middle school (5th grade or so?), I found the sport of softball. “Heft” was good for being a catcher, thus, I established a new pursuit. Being a catcher meant very little running, and “being slow” was the norm. I continued playing on different teams through high school and college and always tired out quickly with any running activities. This, combined with a variety of knee problems, always led me to think that I could not run, especially not any form of distance. In college, while studying for my master’s degree, I finally decided to challenge that belief. I can still remember the day I completed two miles around the indoor track (in fact, I can not only tell you what I wore, but what I was listening to!). Finishing my master’s degree and starting “real life” pushed any thought of running aside – especially with 25 pounds of weight gain. It wasn’t until my daughter was born that I decided to re-start running.

What provoked you to change your habits for you and your daughter?

While I was on maternity leave, I was let go from my job –a job that I thought was quite secure and safe, not to mention a job in which I had excelled. So while I was trying to negotiate that space between “new mom” and “sane human being,” I had to start a job search – and had absolutely nothing to wear since I was almost out of maternity clothes but not quite. I was utterly tired of feeling miserable, so January 1, 2008, I decided to start trying to lose weight and find myself…see who it was I could become.

Has eating better and being more active made you feel different? Better?

Of course! I still struggle with the “Sugar Demon” every day — sometimes I win, sometimes he wins. But overall my habits are much improved. I think our grocery bill has gone up slightly, only because I buy so much fruit and yogurt (!), but I definitely feel more energy throughout the day.

In addition to running the Disney Marathon, it also sounds like you participate in duathlons (biking and running) and triathlons. How/when did you get interested in these?

I’m a class A perfectionist and type A personality. I found out early on that I really liked local road races, just because it was something to strive towards. I think, in my head, that getting “out there” and proving that an (overweight) new mom could run would prove something to myself. I believed that if I was out there, I could prove that I was worthy of doing races and competing against other people. Around six months into my weight-loss/healthiness journey, my husband struck up a friendship with two co-workers who did triathlons. We ended up getting “looped” into a few local races; I had a good time (other than swimming) and realized I enjoyed biking as such as, if not more than, running. This past summer I found a local charity group that had set up short duathlons, and so I started participating in those. I will never be the fastest one out there, and I’ve come to terms with that. Nonetheless, I will always try to be out there.

What was harder/easier about marathon training than cycling and swimming to prepare for tris?

The hardest thing about marathon training is the consistency; I had good runs, I had bad runs, and I had more “eh, ok” runs than anything else. Staying motivated throughout all of these different runs was difficult, and my running partner helped me SO MUCH with these. Knowing that even though my last 5- or 8-mile run stunk, I had a 16+ mile on the weekend and I could never dwell long on the previous run. I just had to get out there and keep going.

Tell us about your race day experience.

Amazing!! The Disney Marathon, from what I understand, is one of the largest races out there. There were over 17,000 people that ran the marathon, and over 27,000 who completed the half-marathon on Saturday! They start the race very, very early (due to the park hours), so we got to the parking lot of Epcot at 4:10 am. My running partner, Kim, and I sat in the car for about 20 minutes before heading out to start walking to the starting corrals. There were SO many people — you couldn’t see one way or the other and we just hoped that the crowd would point us in the right direction. We eventually found our corral and then stood around for another 30 minutes, taking in all the sights. When there are 17,000 people around you, it’s hard NOT to catch onto the excitement! The other great thing is that every corral had fireworks go off at the start – really made the experience exciting! Kim and I had planned to do a run/walk method, as we wanted to complete it in a reasonable fashion. After mile 2 we settled into our rhythm and, for the most part, starting going along our regular pace. At mile 10.5, you go through Cinderella’s castle — how COOL that was!  We both were doing well — until I hit mile 22, which was my “wall.” In retrospect, I realized my last fuel intake was around mile 18, and my crash was because of this. Kim kept me going forward though with our regular intervals. Crossing the finish line was amazing — totally amazing. We both started to tear up and hug just past the finish line. It was truly a dream come true!

Would you recommend the Disney Marathon to others?

Definitely! You have to like crowds, though. It was so well organized and supported throughout — I cannot speak highly enough of this race. Though I haven’t run any other marathons, compared to half-marathons I’ve completed, this was by far the most organized, supported, and supplied race I’ve experienced.

What advice would you give to others who are training for their first marathon?

No matter how slow you are — no matter how much you doubt yourself — you CAN do it. Just keep pushing forward, one step at a time.

What have you learned about yourself through this whole process?

Like most people have said, I realized I really can do anything that I pursue and put my mind to. I realized how amazing my family and my husband are to support me every step of the way. I realized that my friendship with Kim was/is incredibly important to me. I realized that my dreams CAN become reality if I push for them. But most importantly, I realized that my only limitations are the ones I put on myself.  I may never be a millionaire, or own a home in Hawaii, or be able to afford many things in life, but I can ensure that I will have a great time doing what I want to do for no other reason than I can. 🙂

Melinda Hinson