September 8, 2014
Before anything else, I want to send out a HUGE thank you to all of the volunteers and race crew of the Disneyland Half-Marathon race weekend. There were so many of you, and you did your job really, really well! Thank you!
On August 31, I ran the Disneyland Half-Marathon in Anaheim, California. By finishing this race, I also completed the second and final part of the Coast-to-coast Challenge. I completed the first part by running at Walt Disney World in January.
It will be hard to describe this race experience without comparing it to the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend events. And although this was event was very well done, I thought the experience for the Walt Disney World race were superior to the Disneyland Half-Marathon.
I traveled to this race with my mom who is my biggest fan, personal nurse, and coach! It was an opportunity for both of us to have a little vacation together, and see some family in the area after the race.
I relied heavily on information from DisneyTouristBlog.com. I strongly recommend giving all relevant articles a thorough read before a Disneyland trip because I the information was quite thorough and rather accurate.
Expo and Pre-Race:
I read that one of the reasons Disney expanded east was because Disneyland was surrounded in California. And the contrast is vivid considering that most hotels and even the local buses by Anaheim Resort Transit are third parties. That leads to some logistics complications because it isn’t as simple as DisneyWorld, but you get used to it pretty fast.
The expo was okay, but regrettably not as big or exciting as Disney World’s. It was hosted at the Disneyland hotel, and the hall was filled of vendors and booths, but the hall isn’t as big as the ESPN Wide World of Sports. Race bib pickup was actually in an underground parking garage, but they dressed it up pretty well.
One thing that I found rather interesting was the return of the return of the bracelets from Disney World. During the Dopey Challenge in January, they put a bracelet on you for each race you finished as a way of showing that you finished that race. You had to present all 3 previous bracelets to get the Dopey medal after the Marathon. The bracelets were a pain, but it made it easy to identify fellow runners. When I picked up my bib, they put a bracelet on my wrist for the Coast-to-coast challenge. It became easy to spot other runners who were doing the Coast-to-coast because of the bracelets.
As I mentioned before, using the Anaheim Resort Transit (ART) was a little confusing at first. But they had representatives at the expo who were really helpful. And, all runners got a free 4-day ART pass, so it’s effectively the same as the Walt Disney World logistics once you got the hang of it.
My mom and I went to the Disneyland park on Saturday before the race. I could write a huge post on just that! In short, my favourite things were the little musical show “Mickey’s Magical Map” and the parade. It was also really hot, which was uncomfortable, but probably helped to acclimatize me to the California weather.
Race Morning and Starting Corrals:
I woke up a little after 3am local time. That may sound rather crazy (it is) but that was more like 6am Toronto time. We had a really nice hotel (it had 4.5 rooms and was larger than most urban condos, and even the dining table had a granite top!). After getting ready I met with Mark in the lobby around 4am. Mark ran much of the Walt Disney World Dopey Challenge with me, and really saved my butt in January when he picked up my race kit because my flight was delayed. We jumped on a special ART bus and joined the thousands of others heading to the starting line.
The starting area was much like the Disney World runs: There was a family meet and greet area with a stage and the bag check. Unlike Disney World, the start corrals were very close to the staging area. I was seeded in Corral F, and speedy Mark was supposed to go in Corral C, but he was kind enough to drop back to run with me. the Corrals went all the way to J.
One of the pre-race announcers was the same as Disney World, but there was a lady there who I really liked. She seemed to have a good runner’s insight of what it’s like doing a Disney race. For example, the male announcer made a general comment encouraging runners to be kind to each other, like a family. And then the female runner said we’re like a family: Ohana!!! (A true Disney fan would know what that means…)
I was surprised that there was only one set of fireworks. It was during the national anthem. I was spoiled by the Walt Disney World races were every corral got their own fireworks. And, I imagine the neighbours around Disneyland don’t appreciate a large fireworks display at 5:30am.
Perhaps the only thing I didn’t like was the temperature. When the gun went off, it was already over 22 degrees celcius with a humidex above 30 degrees….
They sent off the waves much faster than I expected. After the wheelchair athletes, they sent off Corral A at 5:30am, then Corral B right after. Shortly after they sent out Corral’s C & D together, and then Mark and I got to start about 18 minutes after Corral A when they sent out Corrals E & F together.
This isn’t my goal race for the season, and I had no goal time, so all I wanted was to finish without any damage. I made it a point of going as slow as possible. And Mark was nice enough to stick with me for the whole race at my super-easy pace.
There was a 2:15 pacer that set up slightly ahead of us, but we lost her quickly because we were closer to 8 min/km. A lot of people were passing us right and left, but I wanted to stick to a comfortable pace in this humidity.
We met my mom around the 1-mile mark. I was glad she was there to cheer me on!
Shortly after the 1-mile mark we passed a sign that said 12 miles. I guess we cross this point again later in the race!
The race went through Disney’s California Adventure first. I had never been there before, but it looked pretty cool.
After that, we cross the street and head into the iconic Disneyland.
Here’s a little video I took running through the castle:
There were a few characters to have photos with, but none really caught my eye. Mark and I paused considering lining up to have a photo with Darth Vader and a couple Stormtroopers, but the lineup was really long.
5k Split: 41.04 [8:13 min/km]
After about 6km, the race leaves the Disneyland resort area and went onto the suburban streets of Anaheim. This was much less exciting than being in the parks, but we also got 2-3 lanes so it was much less crowded.
But, a really nice surprise was that there were A LOT of marching bands. Over the whole course I think there were at least a dozen. It was nice to be cheered on by dozens of screaming teenagers!
The sun was up around 6:30am, but thankfully it was overcast. It was warm enough and there was no wind so sunlight would have baked me!
Around the 10k mark we started to see a really cool cars display. There were really old classics from the 20’s, right up to modern sportscars. My favourite was the batmobile!
We ran by the Honda Centre, which was a little disappointing because all we really saw was the building and a sign. After that we ran along a section of the Santa Anna River Trail. That was interesting because the river should have been to our left and it was completely dry! That was likely a symptom of the massive drought affecting California.
However, running through Angel Stadium was a different story. We got to go through the stadium, and there were LOTS of people! That was a great feeling!
10k Split: 1:17:02 ( 35:58) [7:11 min/km]
15k Split: 1:53:02 ( 36:00) [7:12 min/km]
15km to Finish!
Shortly after leaving Angel Stadium, a 2:30 pacer caught up to us. I overheard when she told her group of their elapsed time and I realized they started about 8 minutes after us and had caught up. Even though this was supposed to be an easy run, I felt compelled to finish before her and her group.
Around that time the sun came out too. Mark and I exchanged a glance and put our sunglasses on without a further word.
Once we hit the 12 mile sign (for the second time) I really sped up, close to my hopeful race pace for the Army Run in a couple of weeks. Moving around 5:30 min/km I expected to be passing a lot of people, but to my surprise, everyone seemed to be going around the same speed. I guess everyone was holding back until the last mile because of the heat!
21k: 2:34:51 ( 41.43) [6:48 min/km]
At the finish I received my half-marathon medal and coast-to-coast medal. I was glad to find some ice. No muscles hurt, but it was nice to cool me down.
Overall, I had a really good time, definitely felt the Disney magic, and was glad I did the race. I would recommend the race, but I probably wouldn’t do it again myself.
To be honest, I don’t think I would have done this race if not for the coast-to-coast challenge. In my opinion, Disney World offers a superior race and vacation experience, with a shorter flight (from Toronto) and notably cheaper. But, I might be convinced to do the Star Wars Half-Marathon in DisneyLand in January 2016.
I won’t be able to do any of the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend events next January, which will break my “Goofy Streak”. But perhaps the Wine & Dine in the fall of 2015, or back for another Goofy in 2016.