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Why a fitness trainer ran a 5K, 10K, half marathon and marathon
Elizabeth Zappi had to run a 5K, 10K, half marathon and full marathon to complete the Dopey Challenge at Walt Disney World on Jan. 4-7. - photo by For The Times

Elizabeth Zappi spends most of her days at Lanier Village Estates. She works with residents as a fitness instructor at the continuing care facility for the elderly.

But in her spare time, she runs.

She enjoys running so much that this year, she took part in the Dopey Challenge at Walt Disney World on Jan. 4-7. In order to complete the challenge, she had to run a 5K, 10K, half marathon and full marathon over the course of just four days.

”I’m very competitive,” Zappi said. “Once you do it and you get that feeling of crossing the finish line, it’s a feeling of you just want to keep doing it and going back.”

So that’s what she’s done. She completed her first Dopey Challenge in 2014 and completed her next in 2015. Now she’s back for the fifth anniversary after taking two years off.

Taking those two years off wasn’t really by choice. Her father, Pat, died from polycystic kidney disease. That’s the reason she’s back at Disney competing in the challenge. She is focused on bringing awareness to the disease and raising money to fight it.

She thinks she’s done a better job at bringing awareness to another disease that has affected her life, though. Her mother, Carol, died from colon cancer, a disease that Zappi said can be prevented. So, that’s what she tells everyone she meets.

“Go get a colonoscopy,” Zappi said. “I know it sounds terrible, but it can save your life.”

While her parents were sick, Zappi was their caregiver. She’s always been interested in helping the elderly so it wasn’t much of a change for her. She’s been a certified personal trainer for 25 years and now teaches 20 classes a week at Lanier Village Estates.

“My passion is to train the older adults,” Zappi said. “There’s some trainers who get into CrossFit and want to train younger people. I love seeing older adults who are having trouble just getting out of a chair and being able to help them.”

She’s been pretty successful at that. The different classes she teaches at Lanier Village Estates, which include strength training, yoga and tai chi, have helped the residents stay active. Bill Terry, one of those residents, said “she keeps us old people moving.”

“We look up to her,” said Terry, a retired insurance agency manager. “If I had a knee or hip problem, she’d be the first one I go to — not necessarily the doctor but to her because she can give me some therapy to help it in the meantime.”

Terry and the other residents see how much she loves her job and cares about them and other people in general. That’s why they’re not surprised she would take part in the Dopey Challenge to raise awareness for those diseases.

That’s also why so many trust she can help them have better lives with the exercises she teaches and challenges she gives them — most recently the 100 days of movement challenge.

Each resident must do at least 20 minutes of exercise for 100 days during the year.

Zappi has already had 75 sign up. And even though she has only been at Lanier Village Estates for a few months, the residents know she is going to take good care of them and not push them beyond what they can do.

“That’s the kind of person she is,”said Gail Werner, a resident at Lanier Village Estates. “She has a heart for the senior citizens. She just wants to see us be the best that we can be.”