On Sunday Sept 3rd, I ran the Disneyland Half Marathon. You’re probably wondering, why all these Disney races? Well, Disney gives out a bonus “Coast to Coast” medal to anyone who’s participated in races at both Disney World and Disneyland in the same year. Since I had done the Goofy Race and a Half Challenge in January, I figured this would be the perfect year to run the Disneyland Half and collect my Coast to Coast medal.
I arrived on Friday afternoon and headed over to the Disneyland Hotel to pick up my race kit. It was a barebones bag – the final race instructions, a race guide, a sample sized Cliff Bar, race bib, safety pins and the bag itself was to be used for bag check. That seems to be the going trend lately, so much for the “goodies”.
The expo had the usual vendors such as KT Tape, Running Skirts, Garmin, Clif Bar, various representatives from other races and Run Disney. I picked up a new waist pouch from iFitness and the “I did it!” Disney shirt but didn’t see anything else I liked. I thought the other Disney tech shirts were expensive and plain-looking. I know some people were upset with the merchandise but it saved me money that I’ll put toward my next trip or race. I can’t say that I’m disappointed.
On Saturday, I went to Magic Kingdom, did a few rides, ate lunch and sat by the pool until it was time for dinner. The weather was hot and I wanted to take things easy. After dinner, we headed to Disney’s California Adventure to snap some pictures of Cars Land. If you’ve never been at night, I highly recommend it. Cars Land has a lot of neon signage that looks awesome lit up at night! Back at the hotel, I laid out my racing gear, made sure I had my ID, room key, bloks, and phone tucked into my pouch and headed off to bed. Going to the parks that night was probably not the best idea because by the time I got into bed, it was already midnight.
Though I fell asleep right away, the four hours passed quickly. My alarm went off at 4:00AM sharp and I had no intention of hitting the snooze button and risk sleeping in. I got dressed, made sure I had my gear, and then headed downstairs for food. The hotel was nice enough to open their breakfast room for the runners at 4:30AM. I ate a small bagel, oatmeal, apple and yogurt and felt good to go.
The walk the start line was about 10 minutes from my hotel room and the streets were full of runners and spectators all headed in the same direction. I wished there were more volunteers out – At 5:00AM, it was dark and hard to spot the signage. I was worried about missing the bag check but luckily, the set up of the start was similar to the races at Disney World where you have to pass through bag check before you can start walking to the corrals.
I got to Corral B 15 minutes before the start of the race. The area was packed and there was little room to my warm up. Later on, I heard from friends in Corral D, they weren’t able to get in because it was full. They said the volunteers weren’t checking corral assignments and they saw people who were suppose to be in corrals E and F queued in D.
The national anthem was sung before the start and the gun/fireworks went off promptly at 5:45AM. It took about 8-10 minutes for the chair racers and Corral A to clear out before Corral B was allowed to head for the start. I thought each corral would get their own send off with fireworks like in Disney World but my corral just walked toward the start and we were off.
The race started out on Disneyland Drive, turned on Katella Avenue, headed into Disney’s California Adventure, Magic Kingdom and then back out onto the streets of Anaheim. The first few miles were crowded and I was constantly bumping into someone else. The lines for characters weren’t long but none of them really appealed to me except for the Star Wars characters, Merida (Pixar’s ‘Brave’) and Daisy Duck. Unfortunately, only Daisy Duck had a short line so I only got one character photo.
I made sure to grab water at every aid station so I’d stay hydrated. Normally, I don’t stop for water that often but the temperature at the start was about 22C with an expected high of 32C. The plan for this race was to go at a slower pace but to finish somewhere in the 2:10-2:15 range. I didn’t want to be out on the course getting sunburned but I also didn’t want to drop from heat exhaustion either.
My favourite thing about Disney races is the entertainment on course. There were cheerleaders, dancers and an entire street filled with classic cars. But for me, the highlight of the race was running through Anaheim Stadium – there were crowds cheering in the stands and images of the runners were broadcast on a giant screen. It was a fantastic experience! After running through the stadium, I was ready to head back as the weather was starting to heat up and my ankle was feeling achy.
At mile 12, we headed to the backstage areas of the parks, back towards Disneyland hotel then to the finish. Minnie Mouse and Donald Duck were there to cheer on the runners at the end and I got to high-five them as I ran past! I wanted to stop and take a picture since they were in their running outfits but the finish line was narrow and I didn’t want to get in anyone’s way. I finished the race in 2:13:56 and felt really good!
In the finish area, volunteers were handing out cooling towels and misting runners. Once I received my medal, I had to wait in another line for my Coast to Coast medal. This line was long and moved quite slowly because they only had two volunteers handling the crowd. After that, I picked up a bottle of water and waited in another line to have my picture taken. By this time, I was feeling very hot and was looking for the med tent so I could get some ice for my ankle.
After I picked up my checked bag, I met up with my friends Jeff, Scott and Lynn. Then I realized I had missed the med tent! Jeff and Scott were awesome and helped me get ice. Jeff even used the cooling towel to tie the bag of ice to my ankle. Clever! I chatted with them and then headed back to my hotel so I could clean up and get ready for lunch.
My complaints about this race was the rationing of water bottles at the end. Volunteers were restricting runners to one bottle of water. While, I had no intention of grabbing five bottles, I would have liked more water since it was hot out. If I knew ahead of time, I would have brought my own. I also didn’t like the food box given out at the end. The squeeze tube of peanut butter was messy and I felt there was barely any food in the box. I would have prefered a bagel and some cookies like they give out at other races.
Overall, I felt it had been a good race and I felt strong afterward. I had a fantastic weekend hanging out with friends and touring the parks together. Best of all, I got my Coast to Coast medal! Next up, the Marine Corps Marathon!