2017 February Goals

It’s been a while since I’ve done a blog post on monthly goals. So as we move into a new month tomorrow, I want to talk about some goals for the month of February.

  • Read 2 New Books: I love to read. Usually I find myself reading at least a book a month. However, I’ve been so busy lately that I’ve starting slacking on my reading. My first goal is to read 2 new books for the month of February. Not sure what yet, but I’m thinking at least 1 leadership book and maybe 1 fiction (fun) book.
  • Run 100 Miles: With February only having 28 days, this one will take some work on my end. With no full marathons on the schedule right now, my weekly mileage has dropped a little bit. I’m still getting close to 20-25 miles a week, but I’m hoping to average 25 miles a week in February.
  • Weekly Date Night: Rachel and I try to spend quality time together throughout the week. Another goal of mine is to have at least 1 night a week where I intentionally turn off my phone and Rachel and I have a meaningful conversation about our hopes and dreams.
  • 3 Weekly Blog Posts: I’ve been blogging a little less over the past few months with my job change at the church. I want to blog at least 3 times a week.
  • Reaching Out To Old Friends: As life gets busy, we all tend to get caught up in our own worlds. I am hoping to spend some time this month reaching out to some of my friends I haven’t seen or talked to in a while.
  • Living In The Moment: Finally, I want to spend this month being present where I am. I think we all should disconnect from our devices a little more and live in the present. This will involve turning off devices early in the evening. Running without technology from time to time. Eating lunch without watching Netflix or staring at my phone/iPad. I want to live more in the now.


What are some of your goals for the month of February?


10 Year Anniversary

10 years ago I married my best friend. 10 years. Seems like yesterday. Rachel is a wonderful partner for this journey called life. She is kind, caring, sweet, thoughtful, smart, generous and beautiful. She’s the total package. I am one lucky guy for sure.


Through our dating and marriage, we’ve stayed true to each other and ourselves. It helps that we not only love each other, but genuinely like each other. We communicate and try to be completely honest and transparent with each other. It’s not always perfect, but we are very happy.


Below are some of my favorite pictures of us through the course of 10 years of marriage. Happy Anniversary Rachel! Here’s to another 50+ more years of happiness!

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Confirmation Retreat

As you may know, part of my job involves running the Student Ministry at St. James UMC in Atlanta. One of the things we do in the Methodist Church world is confirmation classes for our 7th and 8th grades (the grade range varies from church to church). St. James UMC runs their confirmation classes from September through January.

This past weekend, we took over 20 of our confirmation students and adults to Camp Glisson in Dahlonega, GA for a 2-day retreat. 


Now after almost 20 years of student ministry, I stepped away from students about 2 years ago. But this past September, I jumped back in on a part-time basis in addition to running the activities ministries for the church. Therefore, this was my first retreat weekend with students in almost 3 years!

The weather ended up not being the best for the first half of Saturday. We started with quite a bit of rain. Nothing like trying to get everyone’s luggage off a bus and into cabins in the pouring rain. Fortunately, it didn’t damper anyone’s spirits.

From team building exercises and s’mores by the campfire to singing and learning more about the confirmation experience, we had an excellent time with the students.

We will close the 5-month experience this weekend with a banquet on Saturday night for all of the students and their families. And then we will officially confirm the students on Sunday morning at our late service. I’m excited to welcome in 26 new students to the church.

Guest Post: 2017 WDW Marathon Weekend Recap (Part Two)

(Rachel is taking over the blog today to talk about part two of our 2017 WDW Marathon Weekend Trip – The Fun Part)

As you know from Allen’s previous post, our half marathon – as in the reason we planned this trip – was canceled. So we were in kind of a weird, bummer mood to start the thankfully NOT canceled fun part of the trip. Luckily, that feeling can be completely cured by a trip to the Magic Kingdom. Doctors of the blogosphere: take note.

It had been four years since my parents visited Disney World, so I was happy to have them join our trip partway through (for the fun part). Luckily, we have friends in high Disney places (thanks, N and C!), so my parents were able to sneak into the park for free that day. Seriously, that’s about $220 saved for a peak Magic Kingdom day.

Let me begin by just saying – and this is Florida we’re talking about, so take it with a grain of salt – it was COLD that day. Like, high in the 50s. Starting the day in the 40s. On the ferryboat (the monorail was being commandeered by the marathon). With the wind whipping our faces. We’ve been to the parks in cold weather before, but nothing like this. It was brisk. (Southern complaining over.)

The Christmas decorations (including the tree) were still up, so that was a fun/odd way to spend the January day. (Side note: it was much less jarring than hearing Christmas music in Disney Springs the next day.) The park was crowded, but not overwhelmingly so, and we were able navigate fairly easily. We took a ton of photos – thanks, PhotoPass! – of my parents, Allen and me, and the whole fam.

Due to some actual planning on my part, we were able to eat at Be Our Guest (my favorite) for lunch and give our Seven Dwarfs Mine Train FastPasses to my parents, as that ride was still being built during their last trip. I’m thinking while that day’s weather is ideal for some reasons (e.g., not sweating), for others – like riding an outdoor roller coaster – it might be less ideal. But I think they had fun! (Mom, you can verify in the comments.)

I also realized that trying to corral six people and decide what everyone wants to do in a timely manner is near impossible, so we did spend some of the day meandering around the park and just enjoying the atmosphere.

That night, Allen and I ditched my parents (sorry, Mom and Dad!) and had an amazing meal with some great friends (Justin and Devin) at Artist Point in the Wilderness Lodge. It was meant to be a celebratory post-race meal, but since I didn’t run…I enjoyed celebrating everyone else!


Monday was a fun, more relaxing day – the parents didn’t want to pay beacoup bucks for a park day, so we spent much of the day resort hopping. We took them around the Boardwalk and hit the Beach and Yacht Clubs along the way. We ate lunch at Beaches & Cream (yum!) and ice cream at Ample Hills (double yum!), where we split an ice cream flight – my new favorite kind of flight!

We also met up with my sister-in-law and some of her friends, who were down there to surprise friends running the marathon the previous day. It was a great surprise for them – there is truly nothing better during a race than seeing familiar faces!

After leaving the Boardwalk, we hit Disney Springs for a little while, to show my parents all the new stuff that’s opened lately. We grabbed some pizza and made our way back to the condo to watch the college football national championship.

Needless to say, the game did not go Allen’s way…but he is always a gracious fan. Plus, we were hitting Universal Studios and Harry Potter the next day – what’s there not to be pumped about?!

Day 3 was strictly a Universal day. The weather was perfect – I wish all park days could be 72 degrees and sunny. My parents hadn’t yet seen Diagon Alley, so we wanted to show them that awesome land. We started in Dr. Seuss Land and, being a years-long teacher, Mom insisted we make a character stop. We also rode the kiddie roller coaster (I have always wanted to ride it), which was super cute! Thankfully, the crowds were low on a post-race Tuesday.


We made our way to Hogsmeade (to see what my parents had previously seen) and grabbed some lunch at the always-yummy Three Broomsticks. Seeing the castle is always amazing…and the ride isn’t half bad, either!


We took the Hogwarts Express over to Diagon Alley. This land is extremely well done, y’all, down to the smallest detail. We rode Escape from Gringotts, which is such a great ride. I think the parents were a little rattled, but they had fun!


It started raining around the time we decided to head out…always a good sign that a day in the park is done. We had a low-key dinner and tried to pack up that night.

Even though the trip started oddly, we ended up having a great few days with my parents. It’s always hard to leave Disney…so luckily we have another trip planned next month.

Princess Half Marathon, here we come (to hopefully actually run this time)!

2017 WDW Marathon Weekend Recap (Part One)

Last weekend, we headed down to Walt Disney World for the WDW Marathon Weekend. This was to be our 5th straight year running at least one of the races for this event. Two years ago, I ran the Goofy Challenge (a half marathon and full marathon on back-to-back days) and last year, I ran the Dopey Challenge (a 5K, 10K, half marathon and full marathon in 4 consecutive days). This year, we had decided to “only” run the half marathon. This particular half holds a special place in my heart, as it was my very first half marathon back in January 2013.

We got down to Orlando on Friday morning after staying with some friends, who live about 2 hours away, on Thursday night. We hit up the expo first, as we wanted to go ahead and knock that out. We grabbed our race numbers before heading into the main expo area to pick up our shirts and walk around the different booths.

One of the big things that was happening was the broadcast alerts from runDisney throughout the expo and the ESPN area. Orlando was under a significant weather advisory for late Friday night/early Saturday morning. Obviously, we had been paying attention to the weather as well, but runDisney was alerting runners they would be monitoring the weather and letting us know if anything changed with the race over multiple different avenues, including text alerts.

At this point, we had picked up a few rain ponchos from Target earlier that day, so we were ready to run in the rain if needed!

So after the expo, we hit up a few parks before checking into our condo for the next 5 days. Once we got unpacked and settled in, we ran out to grab a early dinner. After dinner, we stopped by Publix to pick up groceries for the week before heading back to our place for the night. It was going to be an early morning the next day, since the Disney races start very very early.

And then….our race got cancelled.

Literally right as I was laying out my running clothes, I started getting texts and Twitter alerts from friends. I jumped online and saw that runDisney had officially called off the half marathon due to weather concerns.


Bummer! We were seriously disappointed, but we totally understood. Safety is the number priority!

However, one of the nice things is, Disney ended up offering several different options for all of the half registrants. And honestly, they didn’t have to do anything. When we signed up months ago, they told you the race can be cancelled due to weather and there are no refunds. This was a great gift from Disney and very much appreciated.

The different options were very generous, in my opinion.


We decided to get a refund back in the form of a Disney gift card. This made the most sense to us. We are annual passholders, so park tickets aren’t helpful. And while we knew we would run another Disney race, we didn’t want to defer when we weren’t sure what and when our next Disney race would be.

Now I’ll be honest…I was super tempted to upgrade to the full marathon on Sunday. I had just run the Chicago Marathon less than 3 months ago, so I knew I would be ok. However, with Rachel’s parents were flying in on Saturday evening, I knew I needed to stick with our original plans, which involved going to the Magic Kingdom on Sunday morning (the same day as the full marathon).

So the next morning (the half marathon morning), we slept in. We went to the expo (which was absolutely crazy) and picked up the finisher’s medals (which we hadn’t earned yet) and our gift cards. Then we waited for Rachel’s parents to fly in so we could pick them up from the airport and begin the rest of our trip!

On a side note…I decided on Sunday morning to get up early and go run 13.1 miles by myself. I wanted to get in the half marathon distance while on the trip. Since we already had the medal, I wanted to earn it. Although it wasn’t the race I was expecting, I was happy to get in the distance.

Plus, the medal is awesome!


While the race experience ended up not happening, I am grateful to runDisney for making the right call to keep all of us safe. And even more for being so generous with the refunds when they didn’t have to. I am looking forward to the races in 2018, where I am seriously considering Dopey!

Stayed tuned for part two of our trip – the fun part!

Checking In

As I sit down to start working on blog posts from our trip to Disney for the WDW Marathon Weekend, I find myself trying to find the words to describe the 5 days we were in Florida. It was definitely a very different trip than I was expecting.

Mainly, our half marathon on Saturday was actually cancelled due to weather concerns. This was absolutely the right call…however, when you plan your trip around the race and it doesn’t happen, it throws everything off.

As I begin to work on the posts, I’ve decided to break it up into 2 posts. I’ll talk about our overall trip, as this year Rachel’s parents came down for most of the trip. It was such a great time with them! Secondly, I’ll talk about the race weekend that was/wasn’t. And if we are lucky…we may even get a 3rd post from Rachel!

So stay tuned for the 2017 WDW Marathon Weekend recaps coming soon!


2017 WDW Marathon Weekend

Today Rachel and I head down to Walt Disney World for the 2017 WDW Marathon Weekend. This is our 5th year running the January races.


Two years ago I ran the Goofy Challenge and last year I ran the Dopey Challenge. This year I’m “only” running the half marathon with Rachel. I’m very much looking forward to only running one of the mornings. They are very early.

The bonus part of our trip is Rachel’s parents are flying in on Saturday afternoon to stay for the rest of time at Disney. We are looking forward to having time with them as well as seeing a lot of our friends who will be down there for the race weekend.

Make sure to follow me on social media to stay up-to-date on all of our amazing adventures this weekend!

Instagram: @allenwhittaker
Twitter: @allenwhittaker
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/allenwhittaker


A New Year

“So this is the new year. And I don’t feel any different.” Death Cab for Cutie

As we enter into a new year, I find myself reflecting on 2016, while looking forward to 2017. Below are some exciting things that are happening in 2017.

  • Races: 
    • Walt Disney World Half Marathon Rachel and I are running the half marathon at Walt Disney World this coming weekend. It will be the 5th straight half marathon I’ve run over the January race weekend.
    • Princess Half Marathon Rachel is running the half marathon at Disney at the end of February. I will be spectating this race, but am excited to go with her!
    • Publix Half Marathon Rachel and I are running this race in mid-March in Atlanta. It was one of my favorite races in 2016.
    • Tinkerbell Half Marathon Rachel and I are heading out to Disneyland over Mother’s Day in May to run this half marathon. It will be our 4th consecutive Coast to Coast Challenge!
    • TBA At the moment, these are the only races on the schedule for 2017. I assume I will add several more races to the schedule over the course of the year.
  • 10 Year Anniversary Trip: Rachel and I are celebrating our 10 year anniversary (which is actually January 27) by heading to Paris (including Disneyland Paris for a few days), Barcelona and a Mediterranean (Disney) Cruise with stops in Italy and France. We will be leaving in late August and returning 16 days later. We are very excited!
  • Family Milestones:
    • Rachel and I celebrate 10 years of marriage.
    • My Dad is turning 70 years old.
    • Rachel’s Dad is also turning 70.
    • My brother Will is turning 40.
    • Rachel’s brother Travis turns 30.
  • Trips: In addition to our anniversary trip, we have several other exciting trips we are looking forward to in 2017.
    • Disney As annual passholders, we will more than likely make a few additional trips to Orlando to visit Disney for a few days.
    • California In November, Rachel’s annual work conference takes her to San Diego. I plan on joining her for a few days after her conference so we can sightsee.
    • Whittaker Family Trip My family is planning a trip together around Thanksgiving or after Christmas. This has become a every other year tradition in my family. This year we are looking at the mountains or the beach.
    • Hilton Head Island Every summer we typically spend a few days at the beach in Hilton Head with Rachel’s family.

Overall I’m hoping for a happy and healthy 2017! I hope you all have a great year as well!