Olympian and 2011 Boston Marathon runner-up Desiree Davila is no stranger to running Disney. I had a chance to catch up with the American running star at the 2013 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend in January. We chatted about her recovery from injury, goals for the future and, of course, running at Walt Disney World.
“This is the only place in the world where people go, ‘I’m just doing the marathon,’” Davila said with a laugh.
Indeed, runDisney unveiled for the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend the Dopey Challenge, an event that dares runners to complete four races on four consecutive days for a total of 48.6 miles: the Family Fun Run 5K on Thursday, a new Walt Disney World 10K on Friday, the Walt Disney World Half Marathon on Saturday, and the Walt Disney World Marathon on Sunday. The Dopey Challenge is already sold-out for 2014. But runners can still register for the Walt Disney World Marathon, Walt Disney World Half Marathon, and Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge, where runners complete both the marathon and half marathon.
Desiree Davila, 29, didn’t run this year’s Walt Disney World Marathon. She’d been in long-term recovery from a femoral stress fracture, the same injury that forced her to drop out of the 2012 Olympic Marathon in London before the 5K mark.
After taking 12 weeks of from running, Davila slowly built up mileage and time on her feet.
“I took an extended amount of time off, let that all heal up, and I’m heading in the right direction now, making sure I’m 100 percent and slowly building mileage,” Davila said. “When you come back from a stress fracture, it’s like 10 minutes the first day, add 5 minutes every other day. Officially, I’m uninjured, but just building back up.”
Davila only started running scheduled workouts early this month in Rochester Hills, Michigan, where she trains.
But she was on hand to greet fans at the Walt Disney World Marathon Meet-Up and to cheer on teammates from the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project, a partnership between Brooks Running and famed coaches and brothers Keith and Kevin Hanson.
Hansons-Brooks athletes nearly swept the Walt Disney World Half Marathon, nabbing the top two spots in both the men’s and women’s competitions. Champions Mike Morgan and Melissa White set new course records for the event in 1:05:26 and 1:14:56, respectively. Teammates Brendan Martin and Ariana Hilborn finished second in 1:06:38 and 1:17:48, respectively.
Davila joined fans for a 3-mile easy run around Disney’s Hollywood Studios at the Walt Disney World Marathon Meet-Up, an exclusive event for 100 runDisney fans selected via a first-come, first-served e-mail application. After the run, Davila joined a panel discussion featuring running luminaries Joan Benoit Samuelson, Bill Rodgers, Bart Yasso, Jeff Galloway, Dick Beardsley and celebrities Drew Carey and Joey Fatone.
I got some one-on-one time with Desiree Davila to chat about what’s next for her and more.
Q: Do you have any thoughts about what races you might be targeting in the future?
A: No. Right now the biggest thing is just to get healthy 100 percent and to get fit. And then once I get to that point where I go, “Man, I really want to race,” then Kevin and Keith and I will sit down and say, “All right, what do we want to look at? What will we build towards?”
Q: How did you feel about your Olympic performance? How has recovering from that setback and injury affected you?
A: It was good to go out there and get the experience. I obviously hope to be back in 2016. And to have that experience under my belt and know what it’s all about, I think, will be very important. It was bittersweet, but it definitely left me hungry thinking about Rio, and I’m pretty motivated for that now.
Q: So the Rio Olympics in 2016 is your big long-term goal?
A: Absolutely. I’ll definitely be running for a couple more years at least, and shooting for that race. Hopefully, I’ll be out there next time and doing a better job of being able to represent the country.
Q: I’m sure you have a long career ahead of you. So many marathoners are running later and later into their 30s. Is that something you’re aspiring to?
A: Absolutely. There are so many inspiring people who have gone on to run really well in their mid to late 30s, even. So you kind of start looking at those people and go, “Well, 29 is not that old just yet.” We have a bunch of young studs on our team right now, so you head out the door and you’re like, “Aw man, I’m so old compared to these guys.” But there’s plenty of people that are running well into their mid 30s. So they’re an inspiration for me.
Q: You were on a panel today with some legends of American running. If there was any one runner in all of history you could go on an easy jog with, who would it be?
A: That’s tough. I think Joan Benoit has some great stories. Greg Meyer has some great stories. I’d love to go for a nice easy run with Greg Meyer.
Q: Who were the runners that you looked up to when you were coming up as a kid and as a collegiate?
A: I think the American women that made the sport huge here for us — to even get us out the door and have that option to go race — Joan Benoit, Kim Jones, Deena Kastor are obviously people that I’ve looked up to.
Q: For the first time in 20 years, more women than men are running the Walt Disney World Marathon. There’s been a huge shift in the sport. You said that you looked up to runners like Joan Benoit Samuelson and Deena Kastor. But now you’re one of the runners that little girls are looking up to. How does that make you feel?
A: I guess I don’t ever really feel that way. Because I see those people and they’re still like the heroes to me. I think they always will be for the sport. But if my running inspires someone or a younger girl to go out and run, that’s the best thing I could ask for. It’s kind of a selfish sport, where you’re just doing what you need to do. So it’s kind of nice to know that’s always there, and, in a way, you are doing something good.
Q: OK, fun questions. What’s your favorite splurge when you want to treat yourself?
A: I love a good apple fritter. We have this place in downtown Rochester that has an apple fritter that’s literally the size of my face. Every now and then you just got to go for it.
Q: And who’s your favorite Disney character?
A: I’m going to go with Mickey Mouse. He’s just a classic. I like the roots there.
Q: Any chance you might run a Disney race?
A: I’ve done the half here before, several years back. [Davila finished third in the women’s competition at 2007 Walt Disney World Half Marathon in a time of 1:18:53.] It’s a great event, a great weekend. I would definitely do it again. I think I could see it in the future.
For more information or to register for any of the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend events, visit runDisney.com.
Disclosure: As part of the running media, runDisney provided me with complimentary race entry, hotel, park tickets, airfare and some meals for the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. But as always, all opinions are purely my own. I really do believe in being honest about my experiences and Disney is no exception. For more information read my Disclosure Policy.