20 September, 2011

Race Recap: Disneyland Half Marathon

The long overdue Disneyland Half Marathon recap!

The night before, a group of us ate at Naples to carb-load...or it was just our excuse to stuff our face with pasta and Neopolitan pizza.  Heading back to the hotel, I realized that I didn't even consider what I was going to eat for breakfast on race morning.  Usually I have a pb&j but didn't have any of the ingredients in Cali.  A quick stop at our hotel's convenience store and I walked out with a banana and some brown sugar cinnamon Pop-Tarts (the ONLY Pop-Tarts I'll eat...love them!).  Healthy, right?  :)

While getting ready for bed, I swore bombs were going off outside and then realized it was the fireworks!  So much for getting to bed early, right?  I quickly went onto our balcony and enjoyed the little that we could see.  If only that stupid tree wasn't in the way!

Disneyland fireworks from the HoJo

Race morning came way too early (3:00am alarm) and Daniel and I slowly started getting ready.  I was trying to meet up with the Running of the Ears gang that was staying at our hotel but I think we missed them by just a few minutes.  We did meet up with Patrick though and the three of us groggily headed to the starting area while I ate my fabulously yummy sugary breakfast.

Heading to the starting area

The weather couldn't have been better.  It was slightly cool in the early morning hours and didn't really warm up too much throughout the race.  I actually wouldn't have minded if it were about 5 degrees cooler at the start but I think that the temps stayed perfect throughout the whole race!  Really can't complain at all.  

When we got to the runners area, I realized that it was set up differently than the runDisney races in Florida and that there wasn't really an 'H' tent....which meant that everyone that agreed to meet there was going to be lost.  :)  We did finally find Running of the Ears people though so hung out with them until it was time to head to the starting corrals.  The porta-potty situation was fabulous and there were definitely enough for all of the runners.  Although, I'll spare you the details, but I easily found the most vile one of the bunch...ugh.

Way too early but ready to run!
We look happy for being so sleepy

The early corrals (A-B-C) were pretty straight forward.  There were volunteers checking bibs and making sure that everyone was where they were supposed to be.  Daniel and I were in B, Patrick was in A so we said our good lucks and jumped in B.  Unfortunately, I heard from a lot of people that the later corrals were a complete mess.  People that were in E were standing in D, etc.  Not really cool if you ask me.  Please move to the corral you're assigned to.

After a few announcements, it was time for the National Anthem.  I started hearing all the Garmin's being set and was getting excited!  And then, before I knew it, the race started!  Sadly though?  NO fireworks for the start of the race! :(  They did have fireworks during the National Anthem but none during each corral wave.  Oh well.  5 minutes after Corral A headed out, it was our turn.  Daniel and I had agreed (I SWEAR we agreed to this) that we would run together until someone decides to push forward or drop back.  Well... *ahem*... the SECOND we hit the start line Daniel sprinted forward like the Road Runner and jetted out of my sight.  Really Daniel!?!??! :)  I seriously laughed out loud and turned on my iPod and started chugging along.

And the rockets red glare....
Waving to the Mouse as we run by

** I apologize for the blurry photos.  Not sure if the camera was on the wrong settings, or if I just didn't pause long enough while running to take a decent photo but most of these just didn't come out right! :( ** 

For awhile before the race, I contemplated if I wanted to try to PR during Disneyland.  I mean...I had NEVER been there before but most of the race was in the streets of Anaheim so I wouldn't be missing much by running as fast as I could.  I could semi-take my time through the parks and see what happens.  At the expo I saw the Cliff pace teams had pace bracelets so I quickly grabbed a 2:15 bracelet (2:15:12 was my previous PR) and hoped for the best.  I made sure to check it as I started running to see roughly what pace I needed to keep. 

I honestly don't remember much of the course, so I have to revert to photos to jog my memory.  First mile or so was outside the parks.  Then we headed into California Adventure but it was such a construction zone zoo that I honestly can't really remember much of it.  I remember the Tron people in uniform.  Due to the construction, I zipped through the park pretty quickly.  There weren't any characters that I saw that I NEEDED to take photos with so I did the fly-by photo and continued on my merry way.

Character fly by

When we hit Disneyland, I was excited!  When I got to Main Street I looked up towards the castle and it was pretty darn cool.  However...I just wasn't overly excited and blown away! :(  When I run down Main Street at Disney World in Florida, I seriously have to choke back tears every single time.  At Disneyland though?  I was totally OK.  It definitely put a smile on my face and it was pretty awesome but that's about it.  Maybe it was because there weren't any spectators cheering and adding to the excitement, who knows.  I also think it's because Disneyland doesn't hold any memories for me.  I grew up at Disney World and Disneyland was just too different.  Still cool though!

The cute little pink castle :)

After realizing that I wouldn't have a huge emotional attachment to this race, I definitely decided to push for a PR.  I tried to stop for a photo in front of the castle but there was a line so I kept on going.  When I turned the corner, I saw Darth Vader and a few Storm Troopers.  There was a huge line for Darth so instead I ran over to one of the solo Storm Troopers and snapped a photo of us.  That was it for character photos for me!

I look scared...

There weren't a ton of characters out on the Disney part of the course, which surprised me.  There were a ton of parade floats but no real people on them!  It was slightly odd.  No pictures of them b/c I thought they were slightly boring!

Running backstage of the parks is always cool.  There were a ton of props and ride vehicles getting repaired.  Didn't really snap any photos though.  And before I knew it?  We were off Disney property and in the streets of Anaheim! I knew this would be dullest part of the course but it wasn't too bad!  They did a great job of having a billion cheerleading/dancing squads, marching bands, Mexican dancers, hula dancers, etc all along the course.  Spectators were out in full force with signs and cowbells which helped a lot!  I will say Disney World races don't have enough spectator areas!

Watching the sun rise over Anaheim
Hawaiian dancers

As each mile ticked by, I noticed that I was slowly building my buffer for my PR.  I was easily running 10-20 seconds faster each mile compared to where I needed to be to get a 2:15 PR.   I might actually have this!!

Another cool part of the course was when we got to run through Angels Stadium.  Wasn't as cool as Yankee Stadium but...I'll take it!  When I got there, there weren't too many runners crowding the warning track but I've seen other peoples photos where it's wall to wall runners...yikes!  Oh...and thank you to the stadium employee/volunteer that was smoking a cigarette at the entrance to the ramp to get onto the field... seriously?!?

After leaving the stadium, I tried to kick it into high gear.  High gear, in my mind, was apparently just maintaining the same pace as I had been running earlier.  :)  Just focused on finishing and looking for familiar landmarks.  When I saw Tower of Terror come into view, I breathed a sigh of relief!  I tried looking for my friend Keith when I got closer to the finish line chute but couldn't find him.  Luckily he saw me and got some nice photos.  I'll have to bug him to see if I can get copies.

ALMOST there!

The second I crossed the finish line, I stopped my Garmin and looked down....2:09!!!  I looked up smiling and immediately saw Daniel, who was waiting for me.  He finished 3 minutes earlier and also PR'd (I think?!).  I had done it!  Killed my previous PR by almost 7 whole minutes!!  To say I was giddy was an understatement!  I quickly got my medal and then Daniel pointed me over to the Coast-to-Coast area where they cut off my bracelet and handed me my 2nd medal.

I was also handed a Chilly Towel at some point, which was amazing.  The two of us then made our way through the food area, grabbed a water and banana, and then headed over to bag check.  The volunteers were AWESOME and cheered every single time a runner walked in to get their bags.  It was cute!

Back at the reunion area, Keith and Patrick immediately found us.  Patrick had a great race as well and after hanging around for a few minutes, we decided we would rather be sitting in the pool at the hotel.  We made our way back (after grabbing a HUGE iced coffee at La Brea Bakery at Downtown Disney first) and then quickly changed and jumped in the pool for at least 15-20 minutes.  Felt fabulous but don't think it was cold enough to be considered an ice bath.  I was definitely a little sore the next day!

The East Coast Transplants

So overall, the race was a fun time.  I'm a little sad that it didn't hold the special warm and fuzzy Disney feeling in my heart though like the Florida races.  To me it felt like another regular race with just a tiny bit of Disney thrown in.  The volunteers and spectators on the course were amazing though, and nothing beats the fabulous Disney medals! 

Will I be doing this race again?  I'm sure I will at some point, but not for a few more years.  Maybe I'll do this race again when runDisney decides to offer another medal for runners that run every single one of their endurance races in a calendar year...*hint hint*  :)


  1. Great report!

    Congrats on your PR, that is HUGE!!

    I thought your pictures came out really clear compared to my photos from the first two miles. I was using Brad's camera and when we saw him between DCA and Disneyland he had to put it on sport mode for me. They cleared up a lot after that!

    It was totally not as boring in the Anaheim area as I expected - thanks mostly to the crowd support and cheerleaders. Did you see the 24 hours Mexican restaurant? I had a debit card and cash. We debated popping in for drinks.

  2. Nice job on the race & PR!!

    I really want to do the Coast to Coast for 2012 or sometime after that... I'll cross my fingers!

  3. Wow!! Love your recap. And a huge congrats on your PR!

    That is a little odd they didn't have more characters. But it is still pretty cool you got to run through Angels Stadium - I don't think the Tinker Bell route goes through it. Darn. Guess that means I should plan on doing the Disneyland Half at some point. Maybe when they come out with the medal for people doing all the runDisney events. (which is a great idea, by the way)

    I'm getting hungry reading your post though - Naples and La Brea? Two of my faves!! Good thing I'm leaving Thursday to visit Disneyland! :)

  4. Nice report and congrats! I was possibly thinking of doing this one next year for my coast to coast medal. I guess I need to get through my first half marathon first though...and then see. :)

  5. Great post, as always and congrats on your PR!!!!!

    I'm in agreement DLR isn't as magical for me either (as I'm an east coaster), but still nice. Now, bring on W&D!!!!

    Justin (DisnyRunr24)

  6. Congrats on the awesome PR - that's amazing.

    It's funny, I grew up going to Disneyland, but I still think the WDW races are better as well - more park time and not having to be on "city streets" makes a big difference. I do agree that Disneyland makes it easier for spectators to line the course.

    I hear you on the special medal for all races - that would be so cool!

  7. I love your blog! I read it to keep motivated and get excited about running. (sometimes it's hard to get off of the couch!) So, anyway, this is my first time responding to a post...

    I live in AZ and go to Disneyland at least once a year. The 2010 DL Half was my very first race. I've done 7 half marathons this year, including the Princess, and I have to say that the DL Half is by far my favorite. It's funny because I had similar reactions as you only for DL. I teared up when I ran through the castle, but only felt "meh" about it at WDW. The thing I didn't like about the Princess course was all of the Disney Highway. I was bored out of my mind!! I realize I'm in the minority here, but I actually prefer DL's course. Of course, that hasn't stopped me from signing up for the 2012 WDW Half and Relay this year and finishing my C2C at the Tinkerbell. :D

    I wouldn't say DL is better (WDW is much more awe inspiring, for sure) but there's something about it that feels like home more than WDW to me. I think you are right... It's tied to the memories you have... at least for me.

    Congratulations on your PR!

  8. Awesome recap. I love reading recaps of races that I did. I have to say that being a So Cal Disney lover, I had a blast at this race. Definitely meaningful to run around the park that I take my kids to on many occasions. It's all tied to the memories for me.

    I totally remember that moment in the race when Tower of Terror came into view. That was such a welcome relief. Those few miles after Anaheim Stadium back to the parks were really tough.

    It being my first 1/2, I was back in Corral G. It wasn't too bad chaos-wise.

    I'd love to do the Coast-to-Coast. Congrats on your PR!!!

  9. I am SO sad I didn't get to run with you guys! I shan't be lagging on signing up ever again. Great report, and congrats again on the PR.

    "I'll have to bug him to see if I can get copies." -- Ask and you shall receive! Check your email. ;)

  10. Wow,this is awesome. Love to take a run in Disneyland. I can see you do enjoyed it guys. Congrats! :D

  11. Congratulations on your PR and thank you so much for sharing!

    Question: for your camera and you using a point and shoot or your phone? I'm going to run the WDW Half Marathon as my very first race and am trying to figure out if my iPhone is the best choice so I can tweet, photo, text? Love to hear your thoughts.


  12. @FF...thank ya! And you know...I DID see the Mexican restaurant. I was starving by then! :)

    @StephanieAnne...definitely do Coast to Coast when you can! The medal itself is worth it :)

    @Emily...have a great time in DL! Not sure where all the characters went too but it doesn't seem like many people are complaining about it. Maybe I just missed them somehow? Bad timing?

    @Jennifer...haha, you sound like me. I think I had a million races planned before I even finished my first one! You'll really enjoy these! :)

    @Justin...YES! Bring on W&D...and Jellyrolls :)

    @Amanda...maybe someone at Disney is reading and gets the fabulous idea to offer a medal to do all races. Hello? Disney? You out there? :)

    @Jamie...thank you! And I completely get that everyone has an emotional tie to the park they grew up with. It's funny talking to my Cali friends vs. my WDW friends! I also think I might have been overwhelmed since it was my complete first time. I will do this race again at some point and I'm expecting to have a few more memories! Impressive that you'll have your C2C by January!! haha!

    @Carrie...thanks! I've never been so happy to see Tower of Terror in my life! And so glad Corral G wasn't too bad. I've been hearing horror stories! :(

    @Keith...Damn you..next time you better register the day it opens (whenever I decide to do it again!). And thank ya for the pics...saw the emails, haven't had a chance to open them yet!

    @Spartan...you should definitely run Disney one day! It's awesome!

    @Brian...thank you, and welcome! :) I carry a point and shoot during these races. I just think the photos come out better than my Blackberry. The iPhone though has some decent photo capabilities so you should be ok just using that. For half marathons I just use my point and shoot and don't carry a phone on me. For the full marathon this year though, I carried both. The phone stayed in the pouch on my waterbelt and I only took it out a few times to text friends with where I was and to update/tweet some photos. I guess it all depends on if you have somewhere to store a camera/phone while you run. I actually carry my camera in my hand the WHOLE race. People think I'm absolutely crazy but I never want to miss something! Good luck in January!! I look forward to hearing how it went for you.

  13. Great race report - and congrats on your big PR! I've never done a Disneyland race - only Disney World. I kinda want to wait until the year I make it to Goofy....that way I can have all 5 medals in a frame on the wall :)

  14. @Rach...thank you! Sorry I didn't reply sooner, I didn't realize I had gotten so far back with comments! Like your reasoning behind doing DL with Goofy... one of these days I'll do them all :)