Race Review: 2014 Disneyland Family Fun Run 5K (8/29/2014), or: “Where I can see it all, find out who ya call…”

5klogoThe 2014 Disneyland Family Fun Run 5K occurred on the morning of August 29, 2014, and you really couldn’t have picked a better looking morning for any kind of race, really. I mean, a morning in the low/mid 60s with low humidity — at least from my South Florida perspective? Listen, after three endless months of muggy, sweaty, thick, swampy and steaming summer vileness, that cool and breezy Southern California morning felt like paradise to me.

OK I got that out-of-the-way. Let’s get to the race itself.

The 5K was scheduled to begin at 5:30 AM, so we set our alarm for 4:45 that morning. Staying at the Disneyland Hotel allowed us the luxury of simply waking, changing, and heading downstairs to the Start Area. Oh several minutes of walking were still involved, but compared to the hours of pre-race preparations involved at Walt Disney World races, this was a godsend. Boots, Ann, and I quickly got ourselves ready and headed out. We met up with my buddy Jeff over by the DJ stage in the family reunion area.

Ann, Jeff, myself, and Boots posing before the 5K.

Ann, Jeff, myself, and Boots posing before the 5K.

Even in the early morning darkness it was a hotbed of activity. There was a sea of runners of all ages and types, everyone from elite runners, no-nonsense PR-OR-DIE types, families, children, older folk, costumed runners… and then there was us. Both Jeff and I were competing in the Dumbo Double Dare Challenge, which meant that the next day we were running the 10K and then the day after that, the Half Marathon itself. Boots and Ann were doing the 5K only, but as this represented their first Run Disney event, it was definitely a cause for celebration. And that meant we were just going to walk the entire 5K, take our time, and enjoy the sights. This made sense: Jeff and I needed to take it easy since we had 19.3 miles to run the following two days, and Boots and Ann were just there to have fun and enjoy themselves.

In other words: the 5K was literally going to be a Walk in the Park. Well, park(s) really.

Here are some shots of the pre-race festivities:

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One thing I want to point out: the Star Spangled Banner was sung Hawaiian-style and accompanied by ukulele. This could be my favorite rendition of our national anthem, EVER. People around us were really digging it. I’ve never heard cheering like that before. Great stuff, indeed.

Anyway, the race proper started just after 5:30 AM. There were corrals for the 5K. Both Ann and Boots were in Corral C, and Jeff and I joined them there. We moved ahead slowly as the race began; so slowly in fact, that the first racer finished the 5K before we even got started! Now if THAT ain’t humbling, God knows what else is, really. Jeff and I had to remind each other that we were, in fact, “real” runners and that walking this 5K was in no way a lesser event. I mean, man, I was approaching my 18th Half and Jeff was about to do number 8 of his 12 Halfs in 12 Months challenge. We were bonafide! Or something…

Anyway, let’s take a look at a satellite view of the course, courtesy of my Garmin and Google Maps:

The 2014 Disneyland 5K course.

The 2014 Disneyland 5K course.

The 5K takes you south down Disneyland Drive, past all three Disneyland hotels, then down Disney Way which takes you backstage behind California Adventure. You then curve north into California Adventure, running adjacent to Paradise Pier as you enter Cars Land, up Route 66 and past the entrance to Paradise Pier, through the Grizzly Gulch area, past Soarin’ and into Cathay Circle. From there we headed north into Disneyland itself, up Main Street, through the hub and then up past the Matterhorn. From there we headed west through Fantasyland, down through New Orleans Square and Frontierland, and backstage once again. After leaving the backstage area, the course took us west through Downtown Disney and finally to the Finish Line right next to the Disneyland Hotel.

If you’re looking for strictly Disney “bang for your buck” on a race, you can’t do better than the 5K. The entire race is on Disney property; the 10K spends about a third of its time off-property, and the vast majority of the Half Marathon is spent trekking through the streets of Anaheim, with only about four miles spent in or around the Disney area. But the 5K, that’s strictly Mouse Territory, my friends.

This was my first time participating in the Disneyland 5K, and for a 5K it was pretty enjoyable. There were plenty of characters and photo ops, with two water stops along the way and lots of cheering volunteers and cast members. The 5K course does not take your through the castle, which is a money shot for many a Disney runner. However you do get to reach the hub in Disneyland, which allows you a photo-op with the castle in the background, which Boots and I took advantage of here:

Our castle shot!

Here’s a few highlights from throughout the race, which ended up being quite the smashing time indeed:

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Soon we were out of Disneyland, past backstage, and heading back to the Finish Line through Downtown Disney. We were just past the Starbucks when I came across actor Sean Astin for the first time that weekend — a chance encounter that would set the stage for a 24 hour period of accidental stalking of the poor guy. You see, Sean is an accomplished runner who started the Run3rd movement, runs Disneyland every year, and is also a Run Disney guest speaker during the Expo. I saw him on the sidelines waiting to cross the 5K course, so of course I had to give him a shout-out.

“What’s up Sean?”

He looked up, smiled, and waved. “Looking good brother! Keep going!”

We exchanged a few more pleasantries as I passed by. But alas. No pictures. We shared a moment, but no photographic evidence of such. This hopefully might change throughout the weekend. Stay tuned.

Anyway, we made our way back to the Finish Area and leisurely crossed the Finish Line, where we received our much-deserved medallions from race volunteers.

Still waiting for MarathonFoto to add this one to my race pics.

Still waiting for MarathonFoto to add this one to my race pics.

Main Steet Station Selfie!

After the race, we made our way back to the room, showered, and the ladies decided to nap whereas I was too full of energy to do anything but keep moving. I took the Monorail into Tomorrowland and decided to take a bit of a solo tour around Disneyland. It paid off big-time, as I managed to hit Space Mountain, Indiana Jones, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Thunder Mountain with barely any wait times whatsoever, and even made some new friends in the solo riders line (since we all seemed to be hitting the same rides at the same time!) So a shout out to my buddy Mary from St. Louis!

We had a 1:20 PM reservation for lunch at the Blue Bayou (which overlooks the Pirates of the Caribbean ride), so I met up with Ann and Boots in Tomorrowland and we walked over to New Orleans Square. Lunch meant only one thing and that was the greatest Monte Cristo sandwich ever. EVER! I was introduced to them last year and fell so deeply enamored of the dish that I had to grab another. Take a gander at this:

THE greatest Monte Cristo sandwich I've ever had...

OK this picture is from LAST year, but I forgot to take a new one this year. It still works.

After lunch we putzed around Disneyland a bit more, then it was back to the hotel to change and head down to the pool for some more R&R and cool dips into the water. The 10K was the following morning and I didn’t want to do too much running around. I spent about two hours relaxing, catching some sunshine and reading, before I went back up to the room to shower and change… again. I got a text from my buddy Suz that she was at the Expo so I made my way downstairs to meet her and wander the vendor booths and Run Disney merchandise.

It was right then when I noticed a huge line in the corner of the speaker area. Coming closer I realized it was a photograph/autograph line for none other than Sean Astin! A-HA!! I would finally get my photo, right?


As I approached, two Run Disney volunteers said that the line was closed due to time restraints. I was a bit crestfallen, but I was wanted to get my picture anyhow. So I did the next best thing: I pinched one!

Hey it counts... right?

Hey it counts… right?

You would think this might have ended my Sean Astin Stalking Adventure. Perhaps? Perhaps not? Stay tuned…

Anyway, it was quite the fun, eventful, and VERY packed day. I enjoyed the 2014 Disneyland Family Fun 5K. Since there really aren’t any age limitations, it’s a great way to get the entire family out there in the early morning, blood pumping, legs moving, arms waving akimbo… wait, don’t walk or run with your arms waving akimbo. That could be dangerous. Nonetheless, we had a fun time and if you’re at Disney doing the 10K, Half, or Dumbo Double Dare challenge, this is a great way to get your racing weekend started with style and excitement. And you never know which celebrities you might end up accidentally stalking meeting as a result!

Anyway, here’s the video:

If you're reading this blog, YOU'RE AWESOME! Let me hear your thoughts.