It all started with a 4am morning alarm. We arrived at the start area a little before 5am, and bag check was quick and easy. As I made my way up to corral A, I stopped a few times at the port-a-potties and the lines were all fairly short. Compared to the inaugural Wine & Dine Half Marathon, I found this race to be much better organized.
I staked out a spot in corral A about 7 rows back from the start with a prime view of the stage. My goal for the race was simply to have fun, but I'm glad my half marathon times have improved enough that I can confidently start close to the front. The MCs from the Never Land 5k were back with more banter. They interviewed a couple celebrities that I've never heard of. There were some fireworks during the national anthem. And Minnie and Daisy came out to start the race off.
The first mile and a half were on the roads surrounding the resort. It was a good warm up, but then once we got backstage, it was time to be a tourist instead of a runner.
I've heard mixed reviews about these holiday floats, but I liked them. Anything interesting to look at is always a plus in my book.
I had to stray off course a bit for this photo, but the colorful boats caught my eye. Plus the blue boat was appropriately named Tinker Bell.
When we entered Disneyland park, there were so many character photo ops. The ones below are just a selection of the photos that turned out best and without any repeat characters from the 5k.
It was amazing to see so many princesses together, even though they make me feel short and inelegant. I need to learn how to do the princess hand clasp thing. Also I didn't even realize until I was looking through my photos afterward that Flynn Rider and Rapunzel are up on the float.
My camera didn't like the lights from the parade float that was behind us. In case you're wondering who Donald's friends are, these are The Three Caballeros.
I've heard a couple Tinker Bell participants mention running through the castle, but I don't think we did. At least I don't remember it. I'm pretty sure we just ran around the castle.
Edit: Okay, I was wrong about this. Apparently the course did go through the castle. I still have no recollection of it, but I've seen photographic proof. :-)
After leaving the park we ran through Downtown Disney.
For the first few miles of the race, my legs felt heavy and I was worried I had overdone it with all the running and walking the previous two days. But then after passing the Disneyland Hotel, we came across the most amazing sight. There were hundreds of ladies from the Red Hat Society all decked out in red and purple cheering us on. It was what I imagine the experience is like when people talk about the "wall of sound" at races like New York and Boston.
This was the perfect pick me up as we left Disneyland and headed out onto the streets of Anaheim. Now that I wasn't stopping every couple minutes for a photo, I was able to settle into a comfortable rhythm and felt good about staying strong for the rest of the race.
I didn't think there was anything particularly notable about the course as it wound through Anaheim. What kept things interesting was all the dancers, cheerleaders, and bands that were out along the course. I kept thinking about how I would have reacted as a high schooler being asked to get up that early on a weekend in order to cheer on a bunch of random runners. The cynical side of me wonders if they received an incentive like a free park ticket for participating. But whatever their motivation for being out there, I truly appreciated it. The best was when they'd see my name on my race bib and give a personal shout out for me. In return, I tried to wave, cheer, and of course take photos anytime I passed a group. The photos that I'm including in this post are just a small selection of the groups that were out on the course.
At mile 8 I finally remembered to take a GU, and it was also a good opportunity to get a photo of the mile markers with the Tinker Bell race logo.
It wasn't just high schoolers that provided entertainment. There were also Hawaiian dancers...
...and a military band.
I was glad that I didn't have to worry about getting in the way of other runners when I stopped to take random photos like this one. (Don't worry, I still stepped to the side of the road and looked behind me before I stopped.) The Disney Way sign meant that we were almost back at Disneyland. Just 3 miles left to the finish.
We reached California Adventure and wound through the park in sort of an S-shape. I'm not sure if this next photo is in the right order, but it's too funny not to include. I'm being chased by an angry fairy! (And I have no idea what I was actually looking back at.)
This photo is in the Hollywood Pictures Backlot area of California Adventure.
I saw Sulley and George Sanderson (I had to look up his name) and gave them both giant hugs... they were so soft!
Here's another backstage photo just for fun. It'll be so great to see California Adventure once Carsland and the rest of the construction is finished. Maybe there'll be another new Disneyland race in a couple of years so I'll have a reason to go back.
With less than a mile to go, I saw the Luna cheer squad. They had a ton of hula hoops but no one was using them, so I decided to show them how it's done. I don't think there's any place but Disney where I'd stop to hula hoop during a race!
Coming into the finish, I tried to stop for one last photo with Minnie and Daisy, but was told by a race official to keep moving. There was no point in running the last few steps, so I walked across the finish line. That's a look of annoyance, not exhaustion, on my face.
My race stats:
- Official chip time - 1:50:50
- Pace - 8:28
- Splits - 5k = 28:05, 10k = 53:23, 15k = 1:18:46
- 165 out of 9,393 female finishers
- 22 out of 1,407 in my age group
Before this, I used to say that the Disneyland Half Marathon was my favorite race, but now I think I'm going to have to call it a tie. I enjoy all Disney races, but what gives the west coast races the advantage is the convenience factor. Everything is within walking distance so there's no need to rent a car or waste time waiting around for buses. Registration is on the expensive side, but it's worth it for the experience.
Plus, just look at this medal!