At the end of every Disney race, I say that I’m done; this is my last Disney race for a while. Yet here I am, it’s 2015 and I’m in Anaheim, CA. I’m back even after I told myself that 2013 would be my last Disneyland race. So why did I register again? Maybe it was the challenge of running back-to-back races, or maybe it was the Disneyland 60th anniversary medal? Truthfully, it’s the opportunity to spend several days with good friends so you know there’s going to be a little bit of running, some eating and a whole lot of fun!
After months of planning and training, I arrived at LAX on Thursday morning. Once the rental car was picked up, my friend and I and headed directly to the race expo held at the Disneyland Hotel. Our first order of business was to pick up the bibs and race shirts before heading over to the merchandise area. The bib pick-up process was quick and we were in and out in less than 10 minutes. I have to say that the race shirts were a great improvement over the 2013 shirts. They were gender specific and the material was softer than previous versions. Way to go runDisney!
Next up was the race merchandise area and I will say that it’s hard to resist the temptation to buy everything in sight. We passed by the KT Tape booth and for once, I didn’t need taping. It was a good sign the exercises my physiotherapist had me doing were working. But sadly, we were not able to get into the official Disney race merchandise area. There was a wait to get wristbands, another wait to enter the merchandise area and another wait to pay. Wow! I know it’s Disneyland but standing for hours on my feet was not something I wanted to do before the weekend races.
So instead of my usual Disney race merchandise haul, I decided to get a running charm for my Pandora bracelet and a pair of Jaybird X2 headphones. A nice bonus was the extra discount I got from the Jaybird rep on top of the expo price – it definitely helps given the high US/Canada exchange rate. The X2 was my first pair of Bluetooth headphones and I was excited to try them out! After the expo, we headed to the Earl of Sandwich for a quick bite and then were off to check into our hotels.
While most races have an early morning start, Disney races tend to start exceptionally early. Both the Disneyland 10K and Half Marathon had a 5:30AM start time which meant I was up bright and early at 3:30AM. Good thing I was still on east coast time! By 4:45AM, I was in the lobby of the Disneyland Hotel chatting with friends, preparing to head over to the start. I wanted to be there early to make sure I was warmed up and inside of corral A. The Disneyland corrals tend to fill quickly and I was afraid of being stuck outside the corral and having to hop a fence.
The 10K was villains themed and from the start, Cruella De Vil was out hamming it up with the race announcers and the Evil Queen herself gave the runners a send-off. The thing about corral A is that you need to be ready to run as soon as the race starts – your tunes need to be playing, your laces need to be tied and your Garmin has to be set because once the gun goes off, you’re out the gates and running. The starting pace was fast but there was always space to run; corral A never felt as crowded the other corrals.
While I wanted to run straight through, part of the fun of Disney races are the characters and the best benefit of being in the first corral was the short lines for pictures. It seemed most corral A runners were focused on their finish times but I wanted an easy race and to have fun!
I posed for pictures with the characters whenever I saw short lines – DJ in Cars Land, a selfie by Mickey’s Fun Wheel, Hades and Lady Tremaine (Cinderella’s stepmom) in Hollywood Land, Captain Hook and Smee in Fantasyland and Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear in Frontierland. My final time for the 10K was 1:01:21 which I was happy with.
Post-race, all I wanted was a nap but I knew I needed to keep myself moving for the next day. A group of us headed over to IHOP to refuel and then we spent the afternoon hanging out at the beach. It was a well-deserved afternoon of fun with friends and there was no better place to be than by the ocean, soaking in sunshine!
The morning of the half marathon was no different – an early morning that started at 3:30AM, and another pre-race meet-up filled with chatter and picture taking.
My plan was to treat the half as my weekly long run as I’m training for an October marathon. That meant going at an easy pace using run/walk intervals. The half marathon course would take us through the Disney parks, onto the streets of Anaheim, around the Honda Center, down a small section of SART, through Angel Stadium, back onto city streets and finally to the finish line at Disneyland Hotel.
I had not planned for any picture stops during the half but when I came across the Queen of Hearts and Alice there were only two people in line. Well, maybe there’s time for one picture!
While I waited in line, I noticed the 2:15 pace group run by – wait a second! When did I pass them? They started ahead of me. So my new goal was to finish ahead of them. Why? Just because.
Once we were out of the parks and onto the city streets, it felt almost like any other race. But the sun was coming out, and it was getting warm. Just before reaching the Honda Center, I spotted Jeff Galloway running along. He was very gracious and thanked all the spectators and volunteers along the way for coming out. On one of his walk breaks, he even took a selfie with me! How awesome was that?
Next up was Angel Stadium of Anaheim which is one of the best parts of the Disneyland Half – the course takes you onto the baseball field and you even get to see yourself on the big screen TV. The crowds and energy running through the stadium were phenomenal!
The final 5K of the race begins once the runners exit the stadium – Personally, I find this section to be the toughest as it’s hot and sunny out and the roads feel like they go on forever. The heat forced me to slow down and I found it hard staying motivated, especially watching the 2:15 pace group getting closer and closer. They eventually passed me right before mile 12.
There was no real reason for me to cross the finish before they did but perhaps I’m more competitive than I cared to admit. I skipped my last few walk breaks and decided to see if I could catch them. I ran a faster pace and passed them around Paradise Pier hotel, so much for not racing.
With a time of 2:13:47, I completed my second Dumbo Double Dare Challenge! I collected my half marathon medal, my Dumbo Double Dare medal and my Coast to Coast challenge medal. If you’re all about medals, this is the race for you! For those of you don’t know, runDisney gives an extra medal, the Coast to Coast Challenge medal, to runners who participate in races at both Disney World and Disneyland in the same calendar year.
Now that we were done with both races, it was time to celebrate by spending the day in the parks. We started with a brunch at Café Orleans and I had to order their Monte Cristo sandwich. I’m glad I ran 19.3 miles because that is one serious sandwich!
The rest of the day was spent riding the rides, touring Disneyland and California Adventure, more eating and we even played a few of the games at Paradise Pier and I won a stuffed Dumbo. I couldn’t have asked for a better day.
Overall, I enjoyed both the 10K and the half! The weekend couldn’t have been any better – the weather was great, the race courses were fun and spending time with my running friends at the finish and in the parks was a blast! Next up, is the Canada Army Run and then the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in October.