(A 'Mickey Mouse' Wedding?)
Elaine Doll-Dunn, Psy.D.

The quest for fitness and fun may produce astonishing results. I’m not just talking about physically and emotionally and mentally…I mean life changing! Be so careful, be so ready.

I was casually going about my life, happy with my new freedom, recovered health, comfortable living, great job, and running my one marathon a year just to keep my streak alive at the Black Hills Marathon, and to prove that I could. Then I met Marathon Man.

It was at the starting line of the Black Hills Marathon in 1993…

Flash forward two years. It’s a chilly breezy morning in a milling crowd of 8,000 scantily clad runners. One couple is decked out in wedding regalia. He in tux, tails, and top hat; she in a specially made “traditional” wedding costume---albeit altered to accommodate running----complete with tiara, veil, long gloves, and …Asics???

Shivering in the pre-dawn chaos, I slide the ivory satin hood from my head and let Van arrange my veil. (Not long until the starting gun, but y’gotta look good for the photographers…) The voluminous cape is a welcome cover for my “gown”, a body suit festooned with thousands of pearls and sequins to catch the sun, low cut (gonna be hot sometime today…) with short bouffant sleeves and a flowing chiffon skirt. The skirt opens in the front and is attached at the hips with Velcro; in the event it impedes my stride, it can be discarded. I’m having second thoughts about the full-length veil attached to the tiara headdress, the combined weight of those added to the chandelier earrings, hmmmm. Oh well, anything can be jettisoned. Long gloves, Nike watch, and a new pair of sparkling white Asics complete the ensemble. The groom stands elegant in his natty tux, tails, top hat… yes, and also white Asics. Our best friends, garbed in more rational running attire, step with us to the starting line of the Disney World Marathon as we wait for the shot that signals the beginning of a new life for ‘Wonder Woman’ and ‘Marathon Man’.

He never gave up. I returned from Mayo with an altered body and a firm resolve never again to become entrenched in marriage. I was well, had a great job, lots of freedom, family raised, and was happily enjoying the life I had fought long and hard to attain…he never gave up. Married again? I don’t think so! Date maybe, remain friends, yeah; but a commitment? No way. But he persisted, and finally convinced me that a lifetime together was our destiny. (Being unconditionally loved is a big draw.)

So he offered a proposal, contacted all the right people, and convinced Disney to organized their first ever on-the-course wedding. It was the second year of the Disney World Marathon in Orlando, Florida.

In a flurry of plans, I designed a dress that would accommodate 26.2 miles of running, and an Indianapolis Bridal Company created it for me. Jerry commandeered a tuxedo and top-hat, and a bouquet of roses was spirited to the wedding site for the actual ceremony and for pictures. (I was willing to run in a dress and veil, but I drew the line at carrying a big bouquet.) Asics donated two pairs of shoes, the Floridian Hotel gifted us with a four day honeymoon and rehearsal dinner, The NBC Today Show was on tap, and the Kissimmee Court House provided the marriage license.
Van and Dan, two gentlemen from Indianapolis who do magical things with hair and make-up; took care of my–-uh--hair and make-up, provided a specially made satin cape to cover my dress ’till starting time, and directed the TV crew for appropriate media coverage. (This all started with a simple, “And, who are you?” at that windy hilltop on highway 385 in South Dakota!)

We waited in the milling throng, shivering not only from the uncharacteristic pre-dawn chill, but in anticipation for who-knows-what kind of an adventure lay ahead--- running and beyond. Then fireworks sparkled the sky, the wheel chairs took off, and the mass of humanity who unwittingly comprised our wedding guests exploded at the crack of the starting gun. I tossed my cape to Van, stepped into the melee, and hand-in-hand Jerry Dunn and I began our journey together. Don and Cindy Walker, running friends from South Dakota, were there with us; Cindy as my matron of honor, and Don in charge of keeping my veil out of the puddles. Syd Arak from Indy, also tuxedoed and top hatted, was Jerry’s best man. We were unquestionably the most interesting entourage in the eclectic field of runners.

As we ran and chatted and garnered best wishes, we had more fun than is probably legal even at a wedding. (And the dress worked fine. Just enough breeze that it floated behind me and wasn’t a problem to any but those who ran too close to the ‘wedding party’.) Our delightful dash through the Disney Empire slowed to a halt at ten miles; The Magic Kingdom, chosen wedding venue. Gathered there were my two daughters, Sami and Erin, the hair guys, Van and Dan, Jenny-- another friend of Jerry’s from Indy (have you guessed by now he’s from Indianapolis?), and the Reverend Tim, Disney Designated Dignitary. Then I heard a cheerful, “Elaine!” (In this huge crowd, someone knows my name?) I looked to my right; there on the incline leading to the wedding site stood a smiling Dr. Jim Hess and his daughter Stacie from Spearfish! How they timed that I’ll never know, but it was a great surprise.

Sami brought my heels (I wasn’t about to get married in flats, it’s a height/weight ratio thing), Erin sang “The Circle of Life” (The Lion King) to the accompaniment of cheering crowds and the rhythmic slap of running shoes, the Reverend Tim performed the simple, elegant wedding ceremony, and Jerry and I committed the rest of our lives to each other. We had written our own vows; Jerry said he had run thousands of miles to find the one who could break his stride, I responded with the race of life being best done as a couple. Or words to that effect.

As the moving party marathoned past, we spent a few minutes being interviewed by the NBC hosts, live from New York City. The Hoosier was inspired. When asked, “Why did you choose the Magic Kingdom for your wedding?” He responded in his rich baritone, “It was a fairy tale romance; it had to be a fairy tale wedding.”

Wow. I was impressed. Katie turned to me and sighed, “And where do you go from here?” I gave a practical South Dakota answer…
“Uh…to the finish line?"

Ah, but enough of the fun patter, we had a marathon to run. Once again into the Asics, “Just Married”, signs on our backs; we continued our metaphorical adventure as man and wife through the Magic of Disney.

Many miles and smiles and ‘down-the-aisles’ comments later, we reached the coveted goal (Jerry carried me across the finish-line, so I beat him by a hip). Welcomed by a leaping and cavorting Mickey and Minnie, Pluto and Goofy; we shared a wedding bagel, donned our Mickey Mouse finisher medals, and collapsed into the waiting limo for a relaxing ride to our host hotel.

The Floridian, pink and posh and perfect, was the setting for an elegantly orchestrated reception, complete with tiered cake, silver service, winding staircase for pictures, and sparkling champagne. The dress and tux had stood up well, and a little sweat just photographs as a healthy glow, so interested spectators could see that “running around together” can result in a happily ever-after finale’. After pictures, champagne, cake and numerous toasts, we decided on a stroll down the beach to savor that incomparable sun-drenched day. As we soothed our tired feet in the cool sand, we happened upon Frank Shorter and his daughter, out for a bit of the same. Can you think of a more appropriate “accidental guest” for a pair of marathoners? Providential that they were at the wedding, deliberate or not.

What a terrific day, what a terrific man. See what I mean? Running can take you the darndest places…

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