This was my second Disneyland Half Marathon, and I will say that the weather in 2016 was definitely better. The humidity was low and the temperatures were great for running – especially after the heat and humidity of the East Coast summer. My friends were giddy with excitement for round 2 of the Disney Double-Dare Half Marathon Weekend while I on the other hand was was trying to psych myself up for 13+ miles. It was another one of those moments where the voice in my head was asking “Why do I do these things?” Nevertheless, I quickly got ready and headed out. As you are aware, the outcome of your race depends on several things, but primarily weather, race preparation (training) and mental state (attitude), and I was clearly struggling on two of those three fronts.
I took my ‘flat Megan’ photo (and sort of roped Brooke into it as well). It’s become a ‘fun’ tradition to post your race ‘costume’ or gear with your bib (covering your bib number). I purposely took a picture because I worked so hard the night before my flight to make these crazy elephant ears. I wasn’t sure how long they would make it during the race, so I wanted some documentation that I wore them – even if briefly. The extra fun part was that Brooke and I played one of the arcade games on the Pier and I won DUMBO. It was a sign!
Our larger group was able to meet for only a quick photo prior to heading to our corrals. Since we were all participating in the Dumbo Double-Dare Challenge (10K and half-marathon) we were well represented with the DUMBO theme. We of course had Dumbo as our main star, Timothy (2 of them), Mrs Jumbo, the stork and Brooke and I were rounding out the group as ‘elephants on parade’ – complete with pink and blue headbands to distinguish ourselves. I joked that I was hoping to not be an elephant on parade both literally and figuratively based upon the way I was feeling.
As noted by Rob in his Disneyland 10K Recap, the pre-race festivities were pretty much nonexistent. However, the beauty of this is that you don’t have FOMO (fear of missing out) by arriving ‘just in time’ to go to your corrals. You won’t miss any characters or photo opportunities. A huge win for Disneyland races is the proximity of the race (corrals) to your hotel regardless of whether you are staying on or off-site. You can WALK without worrying that your bus driver will get lost! It also allows at least an extra hour of sleep on race day.
The pre-race commentary was a little better than the scripted 10K, but it still lacked the ‘flow’ that we are used to with the Florida races. It’s not an exciting start because there isn’t any fanfare, and by the time my corral was ready to go, the announcers were leaving to go to the finish line. I did notice that the size of each corral was much smaller than I am used to, and that was a welcome change. My last race had some runners pushing to get to the front. Everything and everyone seemed more relaxed during the entire weekend and race.
The great part about the 1/2 marathon is the amount of park time you have right away. My all-time favorite picture is of the pier. For me, it is similar to when you run up Main Street to see the castle. The colors are simply amazing. I knew that we would have all of our park time front-loaded during the race. We used that opportunity to take as many pictures as possible (as well as take advantage of ‘real bathrooms’). When you hydrate well the day before, it becomes a necessity to know where the best ‘facilities’ can be found. We made our first stop in Carsland near Flos – sorry, I just couldn’t resist.
We took advantage of many photo stops along the way – especially those ‘rare’ character stops. It’s not often that you see Donald and his cast of characters willing to mimic your photo pose. I will say that there were lots of photo opportunities, so feedback to runDisney has definitely been received. My only critique was that many of these perceived photo opportunities were ‘selfie stations’ or you were informed to “keep moving” instead of stopping for a photo. Luckily, I’ve practiced and most of the time I am able to take a ‘decent selfie’, but I do think that information needs to be added to the race weekend information – especially for generations (or those ‘selfie-challenged’) not as comfortable with a selfie.
As we rounded the pier, I was able to get another really good photo to ‘preserve’ the awesomeness of Paradise Pier in the dark or at least prior to sunrise.
Brooke and I focused on what I would like to consider ‘iconic’ photo stops. This includes the Walt and Mickey statue in California Adventure Park. We had to stop and talk to Walt and Mickey before leaving the park.
As I mentioned earlier, the amount of park time was front-loaded so we went directly from CA Adventure Park to Disneyland. There were some new and different characters (from the 10K the day before). The signs for the races were something new and different. It was a fun way to ‘change things up’.
We needed to get our obligatory castle picture and waited for the perfect opportunity. I was very impressed with my ‘professional’ race photos from Photopass. I made a huge effort to be sure I was looking and SMILING when I passed them. As a result, I think I had some of the best pictures of any race. I even got a great jump shot; I’ve been practicing.
Probably one of my favorite experiences was with the Dapper Dans. Not only did they sing our National Anthem prior to the start of the 1/2 marathon, but I was able to get a picture in the midst of their singing in Disneyland. We couldn’t pass up this photo (and it was worth all the extra wait time)!
We then headed out of Disneyland and back into California Adventure Park. We needed one last photo in front of the Tower of Terror before it closes (as ToT) and is changed forever (just as those that entered the tower as guests many years ago).
Judging by the amount of time it took for the first 3 1/2 miles of this race, we clearly enjoyed running through the parks. However, I made the mistake of looking at my watch. It was at this point that I realized we were about an hour into the 1/2 marathon and only 3.5 miles were finished with 9+ to go. Cue the negative self-talk…. I had already told myself that it was about the pictures and the experience, but the time did weigh into my psyche especially when I knew the ‘fun’ for me was over.
There was more entertainment along the way as we ran through more commercial areas and didn’t have to be ‘quiet’. This reference is from the Tinkerbell half-marathon where you run through residential areas where there are signs posted to ‘be quiet – residential area and people are sleeping’. I was also looking forward to the crowd support when we run by the classic car clubs. They really are a great support for runners for over a mile and are willing to take your picture. At this point, I would have liked to surf to the finish, but we had a good number of miles still to go. Just when you thought you were at the end of the cars, there were more….
We soaked up every piece of crowd support from the stadium. It was filled with so many girl scouts, cub scouts, boy scouts and other groups of people. It was the last push we needed to finish the race because we still have a few miles to go..
Overall, the race had good support – frequent Poweraid and water stations, good crowd support with bands, miles of classic cars, dancers, scout troops and cheerleaders once you left the parks. I will say that while it was a good race, it wasn’t my personal best – not talking about time so much but overall preparedness for a variety of reasons. I know that the majority of my friends had their expectations exceeded with the Disneyland 1/2 Marathon and are committed to running it again.
After walking around the parks for two days prior (and a 10K) I was all smiles when it was over. Luckily I had my running partner Brooke to keep me moving when my negative self-talk got in the way. I need to remind myself that running (and races) are about the journey – some are better than others! You will persevere if you can keep yourself in the proper frame of mind as much as possible.
After we enjoyed some post-race snacks, we had a quick turnaround before we met back up for brunch at Goofy’s Kitchen. These weekends to me are all about running but even more important is the connection to friends. It gives us a great reason to get together (and get exercise).
How about you? Did any of you run the Disneyland Half Marathon? What were your thoughts? We want to know what you loved vs wished was different!