Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Disneyland 1/2 Marathon race report

Was feeling a little nervous about this race -- let's face it, we hadn't run longer than 6 miles since the Seattle Rock and Roll 1/2 at the end of June. Sure, we'd trekked in the Pyrenees and such, but we had probably run less than 20 miles total since then. But we were happy to be going back to the Happiest Place on Earth and figured that, worst-case scenario, we could just walk most of the way.

We liked the fact that, staying so close to the park, we could avoid the whole middle-of-the-night/crack-of-dawn shuttle affair. 6 am start meant a 5 am alarm, a quick breakfast of a bagel and cheese for me, peanut butter for Wil. We left the hotel about 5:20 and then headed over to the start. It took a while to make our way across the main plaza and through the crowd toward the corrals. We made the requisite porta potty stop, and then tried to make our way into our corral.

We had been assigned corral C, which meant squeezing through crowds of people. There didn't seem to be much policing of corrals... until we got to our corral, to find the gate shut. A woman near me said "I guess we have to wait to enter the corral." That seemed silly to us -- so Wil quickly opened up one of the barriers and we slipped through. We moved a bit away from the fence, but behind us heard a volunteer telling others that, no, they couldn't come in, but they could start with the D corral. It was strange -- the corral wasn't crowded at all, and once they started telling people to move forward, there was tons of space.

I had been a bit worried by the lack of costumes after seeing so many at Disney World. But, happily, once we got into the corral and looked around we saw some fun folks. This guy with the rainbow wig was a frequent companion during the race.

Because we had been able to arrive at the start so close to gun time, we didn't have a lot of time to kill. We took the usual pre-race photo and then, suddenly we were off.

We headed south down Disneyland Drive to Katella, where we headed east to follow the lower edge of the parks. We rounded a couple of corners and entered California Adventure "backstage". Lots of very, very perky cast members... and very few characters. Flik and Atta were standing near the entrance to Bug's Land -- other than the "Fab 5" at the start, these were the first characters I spotted. Then we quickly ran past Soarin' (and some people from a parade perhaps?) and left DCA.

We crossed the plaza and entered Disneyland, almost immediately going backstage. I was a bit bummed that we didn't get to run up Main Street -- made me wish we had run the 5K the day before. But we wound through Tomorrowland and around the Matterhorn, passing the carousel, where princesses -- and Mary Poppins and Bert -- were riding. Then a quick sprint through the castle, a right turn into Frontierland, and suddenly we were backstage again. Again, there didn't seem to be many characters about, though we did see Aurora in front of her castle, Peter Pan and Wendy... somewhere... and some of the parade dancers here and there.

Not long after mile 3, we left the park and the backstage area completely, and started the meandering trek through Anaheim. I must admit, it wasn't the most beautiful of courses... not a lot of supporters out (I think so many of the streets had been blocked off that no one could get close) but they did have lots of cheer squads. Absolutely no characters out there. And we had to do a lot of winding back and forth. But it was flat, the course was wide, and they had TONS of water stops. Really good job on keeping us all hydrated!

I was surprised when we were suddenly at mile 8 and running through the parking lot at the Pond (aka the Honda Center), where the Anaheim Mighty Duck play. Wil and I mused at the idea of laying down carpet and letting us all run across the ice, but we figured that would be a logistical nightmare. After the parking lot, we entered a tiny stretch of packed dirt trail along the bone-dry Santa Ana River. The dirt gave way to a nicely paved bike trail (complete with sad bikers wondering why they couldn't ride for a few more hours), and then we turned off and into the Angel Stadium parking lot.

Everyone got a boost from running toward the stadium, and I think we all sped up a bit. Down through a tunnel, and suddenly we were on the field... or the warning track, anyway. The stands were filled with screaming Boy Scouts, and a stadium announcer was calling out cities, states, and countries as the runners crossed the timing mats. Pretty cool. They even had a video camera we all ran past, giving us split-seconds of fame on the jumbotron.

Then out of the stadium and a little more meandering through Anaheim. We got to a tunnel that was lined on both sides by three or four very excited cheer squads. For some reason, they triggered on my name and all started screaming "Sunny! Go Sunny!" Very strange, but very sweet. Cheerleaders love me. :)

We ran past our hotel for the second time, feeling pretty good. I couldn't figure out where else the course was going to go -- I seemed to recall more meandering -- but suddenly we were going through the little purple archway, across 10 yards of grass, and then we were headed back into California Adventure. I was feeling pretty confused, but just running along. Then -- where I was expecting to see a "mile 11" marker, there was a "mile 12" marker. Um, really? We were that close to being finished?

We ran past Tower of Terror and then (through a backstage shortcut" into Bug's Land, which was shady and beautiful, and then a run past what -- next year -- will be the gorgeous lagoon again. Another quick trip backstage, and then we were headed past the hotels and through the cheering crowds to the finish. It was neither our fastest nor our slowest half marathon; but we both felt great afterward and even today, two days later, I have very little soreness. Was I ready to run a full marathon on Monday? No. But that's what the next few months are for.

We picked up our Castle medal, our Coast to Coast medal, and the armloads of water, PowerAde, bagels, bananas, etc. Pretty organized, as usual. Nice touch: lemon-scented cool towels. Who needs a mylar blanket when it's 95 degrees? We did a bit of stretching, some people watching, and then crossed Downtown Disney to head back to the hotel. Another nice touch: these do-it-yourself photo backdrops:

Then back to the hotel (Disney, why did we have to wait in line to be searched? Can't you just let the runners through?), for a shower and a change of clothes... and then we had a great lunch with Gretchen where we both ate too much. :)

I had pretty much decided that we wouldn't be doing the race again... but within a couple of hours, Wil had pointed out that NEXT year will be the fifth anniversary, so there will be a special commemorative medal, and, really, wouldn't it be nice to have the Coast to Coast medal again to go with our Goofy medal set? Umm, can someone tell when Wil became the Disneyphile? :)

But with swag like this, it's hard to say no. So... count me in!


  1. Congrats and very inspiring. I've yet to run since my last 1/2, but after reading this I'm getting the itch to hit the pavement.

  2. Yay! You make it sound so easy and fun! More hardware! Yeah!