The 8th Annual Disneyland Half Marathon took place in the early morning of September 1st, 2013, and it was a pretty significant race for me. First, it was the second leg of the Dumbo Double Dare challenge. I had run the first leg the previous day during the Disneyland 10K, which meant I only had 13.1 miles left to go of a 19.3-mile, two-day challenge. Piece of cake, right? Or something… Second, it was the longest continuous distance I had run since being struck with symptoms that turned into a diagnosis of ulcerative colitis. That fun little tidbit threw a huge monkey wrench into all of my summer training, sidelining me for five-weeks. When I was able to start up again in early August, it felt like I had never run a single step in my entire life. I wasn’t even sure I was going to be able to compete in this event.
But SPOILER ALERT! I did. More on that in a moment.
Third, and the most fun part, was that I was running the Half Marathon with my buddy Suzannah. Suz and I have known each other since junior high and reconnected through Facebook several years back, and have been cheering on each other’s running and training both there and on Daily Mile. After she completed Disney’s Princess run earlier this year, she was ready to go for the Coast To Coast challenge and run Disneyland this year. I was more than ready for that challenge as well; I had run the 2012 Disneyland Half the previous year, and loved it, and couldn’t wait to do it again. So a few months back we agreed to run it together and have a total blast. She was looking to PR, with a previous best of 2:30. I told her we could do that easy, through intervals and proper pacing and all that other awesome running blablabla talk.
So would we beat her previous time? Would Suz hit a PR? THAT is the mystery of today’s blog, ladies and gents. Got to have a few surprises left…
So let’s begin our tale with a satellite view of our course map, courtesy of my Endomondo app and Google Maps:
… and then start at (where else) the very beginning!
My alarm rang out promptly at 3:30 AM. I literally leaped out bed, threw some clothes on (thankfully I remembered to do this this time around), took the elevator down to the Disneyland Hotel lobby, walked out towards the pool and finally made my destination: the Coffee Shop. Not that I like to wait to the last minute, but the convenience factor alone made it easy to grab a bagel, peanut butter, banana, and bottled water. The Runner’s Breakfast of Champions, as it were. I actually prefer my oatmeal and peanut butter, but in a pinch a bagel works. I headed back upstairs, where Boots and Ann were already up looking entirely bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and we chatted happily while I noshed. Looking out our 7th floor window, I could see scores of people already pouring into the pre-race area. Madness! I’m not much of a pre/post-race party kind of guy. I prefer to just get there, get to my corral, and go. If you see me off by the stage doing the “Cupid Shuffle” or some such nonsense, someone has apparently replaced my brain with cabbage.
It was a blessing staying at the DL Hotel though. When we were ready to go, we just had to roll downstairs, walk a a few minutes, and we were there. Nice! Eventually I suited up, grabbed my GUs, phone, earbuds, armband, and we headed downstairs. Suz met us in front of the hotel at 4:45AM, and she instantly looked like her head was in the game! In it to win it! Go big or go home! Neither a borrower nor lender be! And other such bigtime sports cliches! All of them true!
No but seriously, we were both super-stoked!
The weather was a little more agreeable. It was a tiny bit cooler (mostly from being earlier in the morning), but it was a LOT less humid than the previous morning. Still hotter than I would have liked it (definitely a good 6-7 degrees warmer at the Start Line than it was last year), but more than manageable. Suz and I bid Boots and Ann goodbye and made our way to the corrals. I was still scheduled in Corral B but joined Suz in D. We planned on starting and finishing together, plus people in D seem to be having a lot more FUN than the B people! Everyone was chatting it up with strangers, taking pictures, and generally enjoying themselves. We posed for several of our own Start Line snapshots…
… while taking shots of others around us as well. It was definitely a festive atmosphere in Corral D. All that short-tempered negativity I had seen the previous day? Gone. I think that was more because of the chaos and confusion during the pre-race 10K corral marshaling than anything else, but overall moods were pretty great.
To give you a sense of proportion, there were estimated about 17,000 people running, with 16,000 finishers. Here was the look behind us…
… and ahead of us:
Yeah. This was packed… but this was a festive communal excitement!
The race proper began roughly around 5:30AM, with the national anthem, the launching of the wheelchair athletes, and then the staggered corral waves. Suz and I kept each other’s spirits going. We agreed that it might work best to run 5:1 intervals throughout the race (5 minutes running, 1 minute walking). Suz was new to that style but agreeable to it. I was still a little sore from the 10K and definitely didn’t want to go all out either.
And while I’m at it, it’s tempting for me to say that I was ONLY running slower for a friend’s benefit to help her hit her PR goal, but let me tell you something: NOT the case. I was definitely feeling the entire race from start to finish. And that’s OK. Because I did it with a buddy, which made it infinitely more fun.
The race this year was pretty much absolutely identical to the race last year: same course, same amount of water stops, same character photo ops, and the same on-course entertainment. If you were looking for hula girls, Mexican dancers, school bands, cheerleaders, scouts, antique / muscle car aficionados, and other local supporters on the streets of Anaheim, they were all there in abundance.
There were also the requisite runners in full costumes. Most of the costumes were Disney related, but at one point we had two runners dressed as Michael Jackson — in two separate Michael Jackson career phases. One guy was dressed up as MJ from the Off The Wall album cover, the other from Thriller. How they didn’t collapse from heat stroke within the first 20 minutes, I’ll never figure out…
The highlights of the course were the expected ones: the excitement taking off down Disneyland Drive, running through Disney’s California Adventure — seeing the World of Color fountains all lit up and the majestic view down Route 66 in Cars Land — as well as Disneyland itself (down Main Street, left into Frontier Land, up around through Fantasy Land, through Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, into Tomorrow Land, then around the Matterhorn and into Toon Town), rounding the bases at Angels Stadium (with our images up on the JumboTron), and returning back to the Disneyland Hotel.
The stretch from Mile 4 to Mile 9 is probably the least “interesting”. Once you leave Disneyland at the fourth mile, you hit the Ball Road overpass (the only real “hill” of the course) and then you have five miles of running through the streets of Anaheim. A lot of the magic is lost, but there’s still enough on-course entertainment to make things a lot less mundane.
If there’s a “low” point to the race, it’s the Santa Anna River Trail. I didn’t mind it so much last year, but this year it seemed a lot more… meh. There were patches of sand that seemed softer and damp, almost like beach sand. It was a much hotter day, and with no shade in the area, I think that is the one spot in which runners roasted the most! Still, it’s maybe, what, a half-mile in distance? Nothing major.
My personal low-point occurred when I was high-fiving scouts inside the cheering stadium. They were all holding their hands out so I just went down the line, and I think I might have accidentally smacked one on the head! Oops! Sorry little dude!! 🙁
At least you have an interesting story to tell….
As far as our pace was concerned, we held up very well. I had to make one pit-stop in DCA and we posed for a picture in front of the castle…
… but overall we managed to maintain. I think we even kicked it up a few notches during the Anaheim street running portion of the race. While we did slow down a tad during the last 5K stretch of the race, it wasn’t a very significant drop. By the time we got to the last stretch of the race, past Paradise Pier and the big freakin’ Hat, we could see the Finish Line in sight, and turned it on!
I managed to high-5 Chip (Dale left me hanging) as we crossed the Finish Line to cheers and much huzzahing! We had done it! I checked my Garmin to see where we stood on our finish time. I had been monitoring pace and time throughout the entire race, and was pretty confident we could beat 2:30. Our slowdown during the final 5K stretch gave me a bit of concern, but even then I knew we’d be OK with whatever time we had. It’s always about the experience, never about the finish time, right? THAT’S what we keep telling ourselves, anyhow.
So our final time?
Yup. We did it. 🙂
We were pretty over-the-moon, but it was also REAL hot at the Finish Line. Thankfully they were handing out cool towels that were put to much good use. We walked over to the proper areas to get our Coast to Coast medals, as well as my Dumbo Double Dare Challenge medal, and scootered over to the Self Aid station for some Biofreeze and ice. I came away feeling this was another very successful run for Run Disney. Let’s be clear here, there is NOTHING they can do about unseasonably hot/humid weather, but the layout, crowd control, hydration stations, and post-race facilities were very well run. I mean, we had a blast, and we’re tough freakin’ customers!
OK I did have one complaint. A very specific complaint. A very specific complaint that has nothing to do with Run Disney and everything to do with IDIOT RUNNERS.
BY NO MEANS WHATSOEVER SHOULD YOU EVER STOP DIRECTLY ON THE FINISH LINE MAT AND POSE FOR A PICTURE.
I almost came crashing into them. NEVER come to a dead stop at the Finish Line mat. Keep moving, even a slow job or a brisk walk. But a dead freakin’ stop? I was tempted to pull a clothesline maneuver. Sheesh.
OK well… other than that major annoyance at the Finish Line, it was still a fun run and a great time. Suz and I parted ways as she had some affairs to tend to at her charity tent, so I met up with Ann and Boots, where I drank my recovery choc-o-late milk and stretched. We walked back to our room — right there near the race area, woot! — where I showered, changed, and we made our way into Disneyland for some more fun.
I was wearing my Dumbo race shirt and medal, and milking my smug sense of accomplishment for every bit of its worth. No trip to Disneyland is complete without a cream-cheese pretzel (salted and lightly broiled) and some ridiculously unhealthy and entire delicious treat from Main Street. What did we score? Why nothing less than the Specialty Hot Dog of the Day from the Coca-Cola Refreshment Corner! That day it was a Mac-N-Cheese Hot Dog with bacon bits:
How’d it taste? Tune into an upcoming Noshing In Wonderland post to find out. (SPOILER ALERT: Mmmm….)
Later that night we met Suz at Napa Rose for dinner and celebratory cocktails. Turns out she, Ann, and Boots had some shared work history, so it wasn’t just us talking about the race and our 8th Grade Washington DC school trip the entire night. After WAY too many Maker’s on the rocks, it was time to turn in. We braved the insanely crowded Downtown Disney walkway and made it back to the Disneyland Hotel, where I passed out in roughly 3.7 seconds after hitting the bed.
Overall we had a great time running the 2013 Disneyland Half Marathon. Suz hit a PR, we both did the Coast To Coast challenge, and I completed the Dumbo Double Dare as well. Will I run the Disneyland Half again? Without question, absolutely. But I think I want to try the Tinkerbell Half first; it’s a race I haven’t done before, and it’s in January, where the temperature is most likely going to be much more… awesome 🙂 I love running in cold! Listen I’m a South Florida kid; running in cooler weather is a rarity. Bring it on, Run Disney.
- Click here for my write-up on our arrival and the Expo.
- Click here for my review of the Inaugural 2013 Disneyland 10K.
Here’s the video: