Race Review: 2014 Disneyland Half Marathon (8/31/2014), or: “If you’re in the swing, run run away…”

blg2014dlhalflogoThe 2014 Disneyland Half Marathon was not only my 18th Half Marathon, but the 3rd time I’ve run that race. By my calculations, that means that, as of this writing, I’ve participated in this race more than any other Half Marathon. Three years in a row, three years running, therefore I must really love this experience, right?

Quite so, I’m happy to report. And this year’s race was no exception.

I’d like to get the obvious out-of-the-way first: the race itself was no different from when I ran it in 2012 and again in 2013. It was the same exact route, with the same number of water stops, with the same basic photo ops, characters entertainment, and cheering squads. I’ll go briefly into what can be expected during the race throughout the course of the review, but for a more detailed (some might say ‘pedantic’ — but I’m not friends with any of them!) overview of the race offerings you might want to look at those earlier reviews. It’s pretty much note-for-note what I found this year.

But let’s talk about me, shall we? The night before the race, Boots, Ann, and I had an early dinner at Flo’s V8 Cafe in Cars Land at California Adventure. I never go crazy with “carb-loading”, especially the night before a race. I just have a normal (but filling) meal and dessert, with no caffeine, spicy, or high-residue food of any kind (in other words: no hot sauce, no roughage, no high fiber). Afterward it was just a matter of killing time and assembling my clothes, bib, and running gear before going to bed, which I did somewhere around the 9PM mark.

The next morning we woke at 4 and quickly got ready to head down to the Start Area. I got dressed, gathered up my gear, and had a quick breakfast of a peanut butter and jelly bagel with Gatorade. Staying at the Disneyland Hotel made it very easy; we arrived there in a matter of minutes. I was wearing all black this time around: CW-X compression shorts, my black custom race shirt, and a black Halo band. I was also running my first race using my Camelbak Dart hydration backpack. I use mine all the time in training, but this was the first time I was actually racing in one. My rationale was that being able to run with my own hydration meant not having to stop at the hydration tables, thus shaving seconds off my valuable race time.

My goal that day was not to PR; I’m a stronger runner now than I was a year ago, but still nowhere near my peak of two years ago. I wanted to see if, much like at the 10K the previous day, I could set a course PR for myself. The time to beat was 2:13:35. Emboldened by my speedy performance the previous day, I figured I could accomplish this. Or at least come real, real close.

This was the third day in a row of Disney racing, and maybe I was getting a little worn out because there isn’t much to report in terms of pre-race festivities for me. I met up with my good buddies Suzannah and Jeff at the Start Area, where we chatted excitedly and posed for this cool pic of three VERY good-looking people:

Dig us! We're ath-el-etes!!

Dig us! We’re ath-el-etes!!

… which was soon followed by this “Action Jackson” pose!

You might accuse us of about to break out into a Kung-Fu Breakdancing competition. I will neither confirm nor deny such a thing occurred.

You might accuse us of about to break out into a Kung-Fu Breakdancing competition. I will neither confirm nor deny such a thing occurred.

Such fun. Everyone was planning to run at their own pace, interval, and corral. As I was two corrals ahead, I bid my friends adieu and made my way to corral E. Boy did I miss them. It’s nowhere near as fun being just by yourself while waiting for all the activities to begin. Fooey! Still, I did my usual bits of taking my pre-race selfie:

Someone looks MIGHTY pleased with himself

Someone looks MIGHTY pleased with himself

… and took my usual views from the corral, as seen in the Slideshow below:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It was a warmer morning than expected, but still quite pleasant. It was about 70 degrees when we started, but with cloud cover, some (by South Florida standards) low humidity, and a VERY cool breeze blowing. Others were complaining about the heat and humidity, but it felt like Paradise to me. The race proper started at 5:30 AM, and at 5:46 AM I crossed the Start Line, hit play on Metallica’s “Master Of Puppets” — my kick-off song tradition for all Disney races — and was off on my way.

Here’s the course overview, courtesy of my Garmin 220 and Google Maps:

The 2014 Disneyland Half Marathon course map.

The 2014 Disneyland Half Marathon course map. Click to embiggen.

Same race, same course as always. No problem with that. As you can see, it’s one mile on the city streets adjacent to Disneyland, then four miles through the parks and Disney property, followed by 8 miles through the city of Anaheim, and a last mile back on Disney property, taking us to the Finish Line at the Disneyland Hotel.

Right away I noticed something that I knew was going to be an impediment for me on this race: quite simply, I was sore as hell from the day before. Even with stretching and taking it easy, there was noticeable soreness in my calves, heels, and quads. I also tried to push myself too hard, maintaining 6:1 intervals instead of going to the 5:1 or 4:1 that I’m used to. I thought I could repeat my 10K performance, going out hard, maintaining pace, and finishing strong.

Here’s a Helpful Tip from your Uncle Hokey: 10K races and Half Marathons are two entirely different animals, in terms of pace, timing, and strategy.

I went out too hard, which is a ROOKIE MISTAKE if there ever was one. The goal for a Half is to start slower and finish faster. I did the opposite, with a surge of hubris that came from the day before.

Which is not to say that I had a bad race! Far from it. I was having a ball out there. I’ve run this race three times in a row for a reason: it’s a great course, almost entirely flat except for the Ball Road overpass. Now if the scenery around industrial/commercial Anaheim isn’t the most memorable in the world, it’s more than made up for by the views around Disneyland, through the parks, through Angels Stadium, down the Santa Ana trail, and with the hundreds of cheering spectators, vintage car enthusiasts, cheerleaders, Mexican and Hawaiian dancers, and the Creepy Free Hug Guy!

And yes, we really need to retire the “Worst Parade Ever” sign. Remember when that was clever the first time you saw it?

Anyway, there are a couple of notes of interest from throughout the race. You first enter California Adventure right around a mile-and-a-half into the race, through the western edge of Paradise Pier. There are very few sights as welcoming as Mickey’s Fun Wheel (the giant Ferris Wheel with his face on it) lit up and colorful at the break of dawn, with the colorful, bubbling water of the World of Color fountains welcoming you into the park. I didn’t stop for pictures but I got this pic taken on the course:

In California Adventure, passing Mickey's Fun Wheel and World of Color.

In California Adventure, passing Mickey’s Fun Wheel and World of Color.

Boots and Ann were waiting for me at the Esplanade — the area that connects California Adventure and Disneyland, right around Mile 2.5 of the course — and managed to capture these shots of me heading through:

Passing World of Disney at the Esplanade.

Passing World of Disney at the Esplanade.

"Hey! I'm OK!"

“Hey! I’m OK!”

Heading into Disneyland, I roused up a rather sedate crowd (Platinum Level Chear Squad members, who paid something like $100 a pop apiece to be there) with a “C’mon let’s make some NOISE!” roar that got them fired up. Self-serving, I know, but I did it for runners everywhere! Promise. After hitting the hub, we made a sharp right and entered Tomorrowland. Here’s a bonus for you, my adorable Hokeyblog-reading buddies: an animated shot of your intrepid host passing the Astro Rocket Orbiter thingy! Now THAT’S entertainment:


Cracking up at the shrugging dude behind me!

I was able to get this one shot running through the Castle as well, but this was pretty much it for in-park pics:


I hit the 5K mark at 30:56, which is a 9:59 minute/mile pace. For a Half Marathon, that would be a great sustainable pace; ‘sustainable’ being the key word here…

Soon the course took us out of Disneyland and onto Ball Road, for the “Less Fun” portion of the Half Marathon. As usual there were plenty of nubile young cheerleaders and dancers, and they were more than willing to pose for pictures with runners. I kept moving, determined to score a decent race time. In retrospect I should have stopped to take a pic at Mile 7. Not only was there an extremely, shall we say, “not unattractive” young hula dancer strutting her stuff with aplomb and derring-do, but at Mile 7 of the Disneyland Half Marathon I had officially run 700 miles for the year. My goal is to break the 1,000 Mile barrier for 2014, and at this rate I should hit it sometime in November or December. A momentous occasion at Mile 7, but I still kept on running.

The 10K mark was crossed at 1:02:50, which means I was averaging a 10:08 minute mile. Slower than before, but definitely respectable. Still, I could tell I went out too quickly, especially having run the 10K the day before. I happily resigned myself into settling into a steady, slower groove, and I just kept on running. Besides, I always got a bit of energy when running past the rows and rows of vintage cars and auto enthusiasts on East Cerritos Avenue, and this year was no exception. I cheered when I saw a vintage ’63 Volkswagen Beetle with a 53 on it; I’m an old-school Herbie fan.

10672192_10152671678877445_6777531790362596941_nThe turn onto the Santa Ana Trail comes after mile 8, and I was surprised at how much of it was paved this year. Surprised, but also delighted, as I don’t do much any trail running as part of my training. It was slow going, narrow and crowded, and I heard more than a few tempers flaring but what are you going to do? Might as well just enjoy the view of a dried-up riverbed as you make your way to Angel Stadium. And speaking of which: the inimitable run through Angel Stadium was as amazingly awesome as it always is! Running past the dug-outs, high-fiving scouts who have their arms outstretched, counting how many high-fives they’ve received, hearing the cheers and the stadium announcer, seeing yourself on the Jumbo-Tron… it’s one of those great experiences that makes the Disneyland Half one of my favorite races.

Upon exiting the stadium, the rest of the race is little more than a 5K back to the Disneyland Hotel. I was slower now, but steady, making my way past the old First NLC office building (where I spent several days working way back in the summer of 2007, long before my running career was even a glimmer in my eye), heading west down Gene Autry Way. It was around here that I bumped into Jeff Galloway — the second time in two days on the course! Normally I would have left him alone, but I was tasked by my friend Marcela to deliver a hug all the way from Fort Lauderdale. Well, I was way too sweaty and it would have been WAY too weird to run up and hug the poor guy, but I passed along Marcela’s greetings. Jeff was surprised and delighted to hear from his awesome Columbian buddy from over in Fort Lauderdale, which was way cool. We exchanged a few brief happy words of encouragement and then it was back to finishing the race.

The rest of the race was pretty straightforward. It was starting to get hotter but it didn’t feel too bad at all, really. I didn’t run the Final Mile straight through, and got a bit discouraged when I saw the 2:15 pacer pass me by at around the 12.5 mile mark, but it didn’t matter. I was almost done and feeling very good about it. Pretty soon I had rounded the Paradise Pier parking lot and was heading towards the Disneyland Hotel… towards the Finish Line.

Boots spotted me and managed to grab this shot here:

Almost looks like I'm prancing here? Yeesh.

Almost looks like I’m prancing here? Yeesh.

Almost immediately afterward I saw my buddy (and fellow Mickey Miler Running Team member) Jennifer holding up signs and cheering me on. That definitely helped me finish with a smile as I ran that last 0.1 miles with my head high! Here I am about to cross that magical threshold…

What a happy dude! He sees chocolate milk in his immediate future.

What a happy dude! He sees chocolate milk in his immediate future.

… and here I am, after high-fiving Minnie and crossing the Finish Line, slowing down into a walk:

Chocolate Milk. NOW.

Chocolate Milk. NOW.

And sadly, AS USUAL, neither Rudy nor Carissa called out my name. I think they’re just messing with me at this point… 🙁

I finished in 2:16:30, which, while being 3 minutes slower than my course PR, was still 11 minutes faster than last year. Granted I was coming off a bad UC flare-up summer and hadn’t trained enough, but I was just as tired and worn-out last year as I was this year. So I’m more than happy with my result!

The Qualitative Analysis

The Quantitative Analysis

I like Disney race stats because they make me feel like a bad-ass! I placed 3,043 out of 15,977 (top 19%) overall. For Men, I was 1,818 / 5,835 (31%). And for Men 40-44 — what is UP my mid-life crisis brothers! — 273 out of 806 (34%). While these stats are sort of nice to look at, in the grand scheme of things they are altogether meaningless. Disney races are stop-friendly, walker-friendly, picture-friendly, and aren’t the most competitive races on the planet by any means. But still: I like numbers!


Posing (somewhat angry looking) with my bling. I was happy, I SWEAR!

That blue thing around my neck is an amazing cooling towel which was one of the greatest post-race accouterments ever. Seriously. I loved (and needed!) that thing. After collecting my Disneyland race medal (along with my Coast To Coast and Dumbo Double Dare medals; all that bling was going to give me scoliosis!) and walked over to find Jennifer and gave her a big sweaty high-five (no hugging, I was a mess) and thanked her for all her cheering and those fantastic cookies from the meet-up the day before. I then walked to where Boots was to cheer on Suzannah and Jeffrey as they came in. We saw Suz but missed Jeff somehow. Alas! Still, we had plans to meet up for lunch at ESPN Zone at 11ish, which gave me plenty of time to head upstairs to the room, take a relaxing bath with some bath salts I purchased from a friend (more on that in another post), didn’t eat anyone’s face off, thank you very much, got dressed, and joined the girls as we met up with Jeff and Suz for our celebratory lunch (and NUMEROUS beers) at ESPN Zone!



Another year, another Disneyland Half Marathon, but it still remains one of my favorite Half Marathons. And in case anyone’s keeping score, I’m now two years running on become a Dumbo Legacy runner. Will I do it again in 2015? Hey it’s far too soon to say. But the temptation is strong, I tell you what… I had another great time this year; I was sad upon realizing that, as I made my way up to my room, overlooking the last 0.1 miles of the course and being able to hear all the Finish Line excitement, that the race weekend was pretty much over. Makes you wanna do it all over again, right? So Hokeyblog might yet return next year. We shall see. In the meantime, if you haven’t done the Disneyland Half Marathon, take this review as one ginormous recommendation.

I’ll see you in two months for the Avengers Half Marathon, Disneyland. Until then, here’s the video:

2 thoughts on “Race Review: 2014 Disneyland Half Marathon (8/31/2014), or: “If you’re in the swing, run run away…”

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