Thursday, September 8, 2011

Disneyland Half Marathon Race Recap!

Sunday morning was the 6th running of the “Happiest Race on Earth”, the Disneyland Half Marathon, and I was so glad to be a part of it. 
Amanda, Annette, Jamie & I were running the half marathon and we were all very excited!  Our alarms went off at 3:50 am so we would be dressed and ready to head out to the shuttles by 4:20.  Our hotel, the Anaheim Marriott, is one of the Good Neighbor Hotels that offered free shuttles to the parks/races/expo all weekend for the runDisney participants.  It was easy and very convenient.

Start Area:  The buses let us off at the regular Disneyland bus stop area and we walked through Downtown Disney to the start area.  The start area was situated between the Disneyland Hotel and the DL Parking Garage.
The set-up was great, room to sit on the ground, relax, stretch, etc.  Bag check was set up alphabetically and was quick and easy.  They started sending us to the start corrals by 5:15 or so.  My running watch was still set on East Coast so I wasn’t too aware of what the actual time was. 

Race Goal:  My goal for this race was to finish it in 2:30, giving me an 8 minute PR over the Miami Half Marathon I ran in January.  I knew this would be a good goal for me because I can tell I have become a stronger runner over the last 7 months and wanted a goal to focus on.  I was hoping to run with the Clif Bar Pace Team, but the 2:30 group started in Corral C and I was in Corral D.  Felt pretty bummed about that.

Corrals:  There were 7 corrals in all, A-G.  A, B and C were easy to see and to get into.  Corrals D, E, F and G were a little more difficult to find.  Those corrals were actually what you would call chaos.  I noticed some comments from people saying that no one was telling them where to go.  That is actually not true, there were volunteers there the whole time saying D & E to the right and F & G straight ahead, people were obviously not following directions.  The problem with these corrals were the signs were difficult to see because it was still quite dark outside.  
Jamie & I were in D & E, and had to walk all the end of both corrals before we even saw the D & E signs.  One thing that was confusing us was when we were looking for D and were checking people’s bibs most said E, F or G.  So many people got into the wrong start corrals.  That was super irritating, but more on that later. 
The half marathon started with the usual fanfare of national anthem, fireworks, music and color commentary by the race announcer.  The half marathon had 14,000 runners, 49 states were represented (no one from South Dakota), 66% of the participants were female, over 600 were legacy runners (have run the half all 6 years) and 2,300 were going to complete the Coast to Coast Challenge.

Race Start:  The race started at 6am and it took me about 18 minutes to cross the start line.  Once I started to attempt to run I realized that a lot of the people around me were walking.  That’s right, walking right from the get go.  Now if you walked that race and went into the starting corral you were actually assigned to, kudos to you, great job!  I would never have the patience to walk 13.1 miles.

Tisk, Tisk:  BUT if you are one of the people who had an E, F or G on your bib but then decided to take it upon yourself and go into the D corral and then proceed to start the half marathon by walking, you are a selfish a--hole.  Yes, I was the crazy person in the pink shirt who was looking at the walker’s bibs, seeing they were NOT assigned to D and then shaking my head in disgust.  I am not quite sure why you thought you had a right to mess with the flow of the race. 
Start corrals work beautifully when people respect the rules!  Just know that if you ignored your corral placement you disrespected your fellow runners and displayed unsportsman-like behavior.  If you don’t want to be in the last corral, run faster… hell, actually just run.  I couldn’t care less if you are worried about the 16 minute per mile race limit Disney has for its races (which is extremely generous BTW), every one starts the race with an unknown ending and anyone could be out of the race at any time.  I don’t want my speed to be the reason I can’t get my awesome medal at the end, so I spend months training… running in 80 degree Miami summers, soaked through with sweat, I take occasional spin classes to help with my cardio abilities, do yoga and AquaFit to help with stretching and weight training.  And I have the utmost respect for the runners who are faster than me, so I do not go into a corral I am not assigned to.  Would I like to get away from the walkers, hell ya, so I realize I need to be faster and it is something I am definitely working on.

Miles 1 to 4:  The first four miles of the race I had a lot of conflicting feelings.  I was beyond irritated and frustrated with the amount of walkers who started in the wrong corral, but I was also trying make sure I was enjoying the race since we were running through the parks at that time.  At about mile 1.2 we entered California Adventure for our run around that park.  I was frustrated at this point because I hadn’t made it to mile 1 in time to stay on track for a 2:30 finish, so I didn’t concentrate on the characters that were around.  I did see the dog and little boy from ‘Up’ though.  They were cute and I love that movie! 
We came into the park near Tower or Terror, headed through the backlot area, then ran up towards Pacific Pier, down by Grizzly River Rapids and then out of the park towards Downtown Disney.  We crossed the area that separates the two parks and then entered Disneyland.  We ran up Main Street and turned right into Tomorrowland.  Along Main Street I remember seeing a parade float with the Princesses and in Tomorrowland there was Darth Vader and two Storm Troopers.  I loved that Darth Vader was there, very scary looking and cool.  Then we headed into Fantasyland where we saw Mary Poppins, Burt and a couple of chimney sweeps.  Sitting on the carousel horses were the fairies from Sleeping Beauty and Aurora herself!
I am behind the tall guy in blue
Way stupid picture but it is in front of the castle.
The couple behind me look like they got a good picture.
We then ran through the castle (yippee!) and headed right into Frontierland.  I can’t remember the characters in Frontierland, but I saw someone else's pictures and they were Pooh, Tigger and Eeyore, love it!  We then headed into New Orleans Square, passed the Haunted Mansion and into Critter Country.  Once through Critter Country we entered the backstage area.  We ran backstage for what seemed like a mile or so.  It was pretty cool to see that area and we got a good wiff of the horse stables :)  We then ran back into the park for a bit through Toontown, passed It’s a Small World and then into another backstage area .
At this point my 5K time was 37 minutes with an expected finish time of 2:37.  This felt pretty grim to me.  I was 3 minutes behind where I needed to be.  I kept thinking to myself, do I just give in and forget about my goal or do I try and make it up once we are out of the parks?  Would going faster to catch up make me tired and miserable at the end?  Would I end up finishing slower than I wanted?  Ugh, running can be such a mind game!
Just a little side note… I did not run with any music for the first 3.5 miles so I could be sure to soak up all the sights and sounds of the parks.  This is the first time I ran “naked” and I actually really liked running without headphones.  I thought hearing myself breathe would drive me nuts, but I didn’t even notice it.

Miles 4 to 9:  The course through the Parks was complete and we took to the streets of Anaheim.  Once we had more space to run, I decided to just put my anger into running, put my headphones on, blared the music and went to work.  Disney did a great job of entertaining us along the way.  There were countless marching bands, dance teams, cheerleaders, hula girls, Mexican fiesta dancers and spectators all along the way.  What I thought would be a long and boring portion of the race ended up being great!
By mile 5 I couldn’t believe it when I checked my pace band and I was pretty much back on track!  I was so happy!!  My 10K time was 1:10 with an expected finish time of 2:29.
Mile 8 was run on the Santa Ana river trail.  Running on dirt feels weird to me, like I am going to slip at any moment.
Mile 9 came and Angels Stadium was in full view!  We entered the park in right field and ran along the warning track on the first and third base sides, exiting park in left field.  I would say this was definitely a highlight of the race!  Very cool experience!  There were even spectators in the stands cheering us on.  Totally loved it. 
Loved running in Angel Stadium!
Need to work on a new picture pose
Mile 10 to 13.1:  As I was leaving the park there was just over 3 miles to go and I was saying to myself “Just a regular run on a regular day”.  I usually hit my wall at about 11.5 so I was feeling nervous about that.  I had just killed my 15K time though, I was a couple of minutes ahead of my goal pace! 
It was all going so well and so quick at this point, I knew this would be a PR!
During mile 10 I felt a charley horse in my right calf.  Oh no.  I have never cramped up while running and was not happy with this.  I pulled over to the side and stretched my leg on the sidewalk curb.  It felt pretty good after that and I continued on my way, just a little slower.
I was still ahead of the 2:30 pace at this point, so I knew I had a couple of minutes to play with.  I want to improve my running, but I also don’t want to get hurt in the process.  I was really listening to my body at that point. 
I did not hit my mile 11.5  wall during this race!  I think it was probably because I was paying attention to any signs of cramping in my right calf.  It was kind of nice to have my mind on that! LOL
Mile 12 had us approaching Disneyland again.  I was getting excited and started running faster when I got another cramp in my calf.  As soon as we entered Disneyland, I pulled over and stretched it out… I was thinking “One more mile, it HAS to make it to the finish line at this point!”
Calf felt good again and I went on my way.  We ran behind California Adventure, ran through a parking lot and then made the left hand turn onto the road outside of the Disneyland Hotel and on to the finish line.  I saw my cousin right before mile 13!  That was fun, I don’t usually see people I know along the way!  The last .1 I ran as fast as I could over that finish line!!  So excited to have run such a great race!
I am behind the lady in the red dress
You can see me looking at my watch
Race Results:  I rocked a 10 minute P.R.!!!  2:282 minutes faster than my goal of 2:30!!   I could not have been happier! 

Finish Line Area:  The finish line area was awesome and easy to navigate.  They were handing out cold, wet towels... AMAZING!  Wiping that salty sweat off of my face never felt so good. 
I got my beautiful Disneyland medal and then got in line for my amazing Coast to Coast Medal.  Love them both! 
Best medal picture I have ever taken.  Yes, this is a good picture.
After collecting my bag from bag check I took off the shoes and socks and put on my flip flops.  While my toe was not as sore as it has been in the past, it got bruised again :(
I then went over to the porta-potties to change my shirt.  There was one lady coming in and out of each one.  I asked her if they were all filled with poop and she started laughing.  For those of you who don’t know, when your running mileage gets up over 10, your insides get all rumbled around, so the bathroom is sometimes necessary following a run! :)

"Meet by the 'Lilo' sign":  I met up with Amanda & Annette at our meeting place to wait for Jamie.  Annette & Amanda also had PRs on Sunday too!  Amanda at 1:50 and Annette at 2:11!!  Needless to say we were a happy bunch.  While waiting for Jamie to finish we sat around, stretched, took pictures, it was fun!  

Jamie then showed up with her shiny new medal having happily completed her first ever half marathon – woohoo!  She, too, got a PR and I think she may be interested in running for some more Disney bling in the future.  We’ll have to see what we can coordinate with her :)  She had told me that morning that when she saw pictures of me and Annette’s medals she was like “Yea, those are nice, but I am not sure I know what all the hype is about”.  But at the expo when she saw her first Disney medal in person and was like “Whoa that is awesome!”
Unfortunately I did not get a chance to meet up with any other bloggers (next time Fruit Fly & Girafy!), but the weekend was a whirlwind blur!!

Overall thoughts:  I thought this was a great runDisney event.  Very organized, easy to get around, definitely could not have asked for more... well maybe just better signage for the corral system/walkway to get to them.  The entertainment along the course was good.  Annette & I thought it was the same amount of entertainment as Wine & Dine, but paled in comparison to Princess.  The Princess half was no holds-barred awesome entertainment the entire time.  I will be interested to see what it is like along the marathon course in January.  
Once out of the parks it is a flat, fast course, so PRs are definitely achievable here.  Amanda & Annette said it was not crowded at all running through the parks, they were in A & C.  So I guess the faster you are, the easier the first few miles were.  If you get stuck with a lot of walkers, just enjoy the time in the parks and pick up your speed one you hit the city roads.  If you are walking the course, a run/walker or a first timer, Disney races are great because there is a no pressure, have fun atmosphere with participants of all levels and abilities.   
I can definitely say this is a course I would want to run again and I will be back next year for another Coast to Coast Challenge!

After the race we headed back to the hotel for a shower and toasted our runs with Alaskan Amber.
Jamie drove the beer down from San Francisco, since it is my favorite and I can’t buy it anywhere on the East Coast.  I loved every sip Jamie, thank you!  
Do you think we cared that we had beer at 10:30am?  Not at all.

*Thanks Brightroom for being the source of my race pics.


  1. Congrats on breaking 2:30!!! I've heard horror stories about the higher corrals during the race and it infuriates me that people are rude/ignorant/disrespectful enough to start in an earlier corral too. The volunteers should have been more aware of where people were going but I guess with that many people to watch over, it's almost near impossible. :( Same thing happened at Wine & Dine last year. However the January races I always notice that people are where they should be! Congrats again! :)

  2. What a fun recap!

    You for sure passed me. I was in Corral C - and quickly died in the heat and from not really being able to train for the last month. Plus we hit every single photo stop. I'm sure my "team" (Rose, Giraffy and myself) was way annoying, and you probably saw us when you passed! ;)

    Congrats on your PR, that is soooo cool!!

  3. Great job, Heather! I really, REALLY enjoyed reading this; I may have to try for this race in the future. Is it nearly impossible to get into? Like, when do you have to apply?
    Anyway, great job and, nicely done with the Alaskan Amber; also one of my favorites.