Before I tell you about my Disneyland Half Marathon experience, let me get one thing out of the way: I am not a Disney fanatic. You could say, not even a fan.
Before this trip, we’d been there twice; both times for the sake of KidRuns. My memories leaned more towards “ugh, them friggin’ lines” than “O ye, magical place!”
So when I signed up for this race, I did it for two reasons:
- I figured KidRuns would love going back there, and
- I wanted to see what the big deal was.
And so whenever I told people where we were going to spend our Labor Day weekend, I made sure to justify it out loud with the reasons above. And as they invariably wished me Good Luck and Have Fun, I’d respond with a skeptical, “Eh. We’ll see.”
Like I already said, I should now eat my words. Hands down, the Disneyland Half Marathon was one of the best-organized races I’ve ever run. And, lo and behold, it was super fun, too!
So let’s start at the beginning.
Race start was at 5:30 a.m. “Why so early, why?” I kept wondering pre-race, and then thinking to myself, “Oh, but of course, they want us out of the park in time for them to open the gates to ticket-buying customers. How greedy and capitalist.”
That might be so, but in hindsight, the early start was quite brilliant.
First off, we all love the sights and smells of porta-potties, right? (Not.)
Well, here’s your solution: use one in the dark! Trust me, much better when you can’t really see what’s going on in there.Second, the whole start-area setup with the lights was nice. Each coral was marked by brightly-lit lamps:I was in Corral B and the Start line was a bit far — but from what I could see, there was a little stage where all the celebrities stood to give their inspirational talks? Anyway, I wasn’t really listening to those.
But the national anthem, now that was well done. Made even better by a fireworks show. As in, lady sings “And the rockets’ red glare” — and red rockets actually shoot up in the sky, followed by an even bigger display after the closing lyrics. I can’t have been the only one there to get goosebumps.
Another brilliant decision was soon made apparent: The wave starts were five minutes apart for each corral. That went a long way in preventing what could have been a very, very crowded first few miles. So even with more than 15,000 runners, everyone had spread out by the end of the first mile.
Mile 1: 9:11.
It was still a pretty slow one, but no worries; I figured, I’d catch up later.
Then I realized that my phone, for some reason, would stop playing music each time I opened the camera app – so I’d need to restart Spotify after every single photo.
Would I sacrifice more minutes for those photos? I guess that would be Plan B.
I’d be lucky to break 2 hours in this race. But I would still try.
Mile 2: 8:49
That was my plan, until we entered California Adventures. Then I knew, it was time to move on to Plan B:Plan B: take as many photos as you darn wish and don’t worry about time. For this one, I actually stopped a runner who was about to take a selfie and offered to take her photo – in exchange for her taking mine. I figure at least a minute was lost there, but who cares?
Mile 3: 9:12
After running through California Adventure, we entered Disneyland. Running through Main Street with the sparkly pink magical castle in the distance was quite the experience. I felt like a kid! And I tried to take a photo of the Castle up close, I swear I did! Not sure why my phone has this, instead:But at least now you know which color sparkly skirt I picked!
Running through Disneyland and California Adventure was way, way cooler than I thought it would be! All the lights were on, the employees were out cheering for us (SO nice, by the way, a big Thank You to Disney employees!), the sun had yet to rise and the air was cool… And most of all, of course, there were no lines! Just run, to your heart’s desire, no waiting required!
Unless you wanted a photo with a character, that is. Lines for those everywhere, and I made the executive decision to resist. Just this one time, I would run and enjoy the Magical Kingdom of Waiting in Line without actually waiting in line, thank you very much!
Mile 4: 8:54
[I am giving you the mile splits from my Garmin, by the way, which measured a total of 13.28 miles for this race, so the times are a wee bit faster here than my official race time.]
By the 4th mile marker, we were out of the parks and on our way out and about Anaheim, Calif. I hadn’t paid any attention to the course and had no idea what to expect. There were lots of stretches of wide, straight roads. Nothing groundbreakingly interesting or even pretty to look at — except the dozens of cheerleading teams spread throughout the course. I figure, every single high school in Southern California must’ve sent their team over?
Miles 5, 6 and 7: 9:05, 8:54, 9:02
Notice yet how I’ve settled into a very comfortable 9 minute-mile pace? Yup. Plan B pace!
I think it was around Mile 8 when we started running through a long section with old, classic cars lining up the course and their owners cheering. [The picture doesn’t do the cars justice, but the Vanilla Sky looks cool, huh?]
Miles 8, 9 and 10: 9:13, 8:49, 9:06
Right after Mile 10, we entered a stadium. NO idea which one, but I do love running through stadiums! There were tons of people cheering, too:So naturally, I asked one of them to take my photo:Not my most flattering pose, by the way, but I didn’t have time to ask for a second try. There was that race to run…
Miles 11, 12, 13: 9:01, 9:02, 9:00
Kept up the comfortable pace, as you can see, only pushing it a little at the very, very end. Had to try and make that sub-2 hour, after all. Final stretch: 8:00 pace.
Official net time: 1:59:35
And then, the best thing ever happened:Yup, I ran into Sean Astin at the Finish line! He had crossed and grabbed his medals a few minutes ago and was being assaulted by those like me, asking for photos. (And yes, Sean does wish we had realized the sun was right behind us, so we could have moved around and his photo with me had turned out better. Oh well. Not to worry, Sean – I’ll see you again next year?)
After that, of course, I spent some time on the internets, searching for the most appropriate LORT quote for what had just happened. How about this one?
Sam Gamgee: I don’t think there will be a return journey, Mr. Frodo.
I know. The perfect ending to this 13.1-mile journey.
After that, things went smoothly and quickly. Grabbed my medal and took a quick photo at one of the official Finisher walls. There were so many of them, I didn’t even have to wait in line! Grabbed my Refreshments box from these happy, cheery volunteers:Snapped the requisite shot of the bling:Then dragged myself to the shuttle bus and was back to the hotel — to shower and head back to the parks for a day of walking around and – no excuses this time! – waiting in line for rides.
Running 13.1 miles at Disneyland: $175
Walking another 8.6 miles around the parks for the next eight hours: priceless