It’s been a little over 6 weeks since I ran my first half marathon in “the Happiest Place on Earth.” As some might know, the Disneyland Half Marathon was not my first choice for my first half marathon. The Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco was what I had my eye on a year ago when I set the goal of doing a half marathon this year. But when I learned that it was a hard race to get into – without joining Team in Training, I went to a plan B. Running a half marathon was my main goal so I looked for another race to do in case I couldn’t get into the NWM during the random drawing(which I didn’t). My good friend suggested that we do the Disneyland half together and I went for it. The original plan was for a girls weekend where we’d meet in L.A, go to the parks, go to the beach, and do the race. Unfortunately, my friend had something come up right before the race and had to cancel. It was slightly hectic getting last minute hotels and deciding if I was going to fly or drive myself. Ben came to my rescue and took time off work, got his dad to babysit, and rented a car so he could come with me. So it turned out to be a mini vacation for the two of us.
We left early Saturday morning – before the sun was up. We wanted to get there early enough to make sure we had enough time to get my race packet and beat any traffic. The people who set the date for the race are no fools. Race weekend also happened to be Labor Day weekend. Ben did all the driving. It was a very pretty drive seeing the sunrise.
He got us to L.A. in 4.5 hours. We were too early to check-in to the hotel so we went had an early lunch at his favorite restaraunt – Bubba Gumps. I usually have carbs at lunch time the day before the race so I enjoyed some shrimp and rice.
After checking in to our hotel, we headed towards to Fitness Expo. So… here is where I had a complete blonde moment. The whole time I was preparing for the trip, I thought that the Expo was at the Anaheim Convention Center which was right next to our hotel. We walked over and saw a Christian convention but no sign of a fitness expo :-/ Ben was a little irritated because we were walking and it was a bit hot that day. When I looked again, I realized that it was the convention center inside the Disneyland Resort. It wasn’t too much further of a walk and it gave us an idea about how far I would have to walk on race morning to the start line.
We headed to packet pick up which was at the lower level. It was well organized. You picked up based on you bib number, showed your ID and got your packet. I went to Runners Relations to change my corral since I didn’t put a proof of time down when I registered. I was originally assigned to be in the second to last corral and I wanted to be closer to the front. I used my Big Sur 9miler time to get into corral A – the front :-) It’s not that I was expecting to win but I did have a time goal and I knew being closer to the front would help me. We decided to get one day park passes for after the race. We left the Expo and walked towards Downtown Disney. We made reservations for dinner at the Rainforest Cafe since it’s such a long wait if you don’t. We were a little tired from the drive so we decided to relax and watch a movie. We saw Will Ferrel’s The Campaign. It was one of his better movies of late. Then we walked around Downtown Disney. I bought a neon pink Minnie Mouse shirt from one of the shops. We decided to try our luck at getting a table earlier than our reservation and got in.
Our table was right by the gorilla which we both knew our youngest son would have loved. I ordered roasted chicken with a double order of grilled veggies and Ben got some steak. We talked about our kids and how they were going to enjoy our vacation we had planned. Then we walked back to our hotel and it was time for me to get some rest for the race. I set out my clothes and gear, set my alarm for 3:30a and was in bed by 9p. Didn’t quite fall asleep until after the booming of the fireworks show ended though.
I got up at 3a and got ready. Breakfast was a banana and Chobani Champions w/ almond butter. I realized I didn’t have a spoon so I used my straw to stir and eat.
Ben stayed asleep. The plan was he would meet me at the finish line around 7:30a. It was dark when I headed out the door. I walked to the intersection and followed the group of fellow runners to the start line. I arrived just as they opened the corrals. I walked around to check things out and see where the bag check and restrooms were. I hung around until 5a then checked my bag, used the restroom, and headed to my corral. While I waited a nice man said he would take a picture of me at the start line. He was an older man but a very seasoned runner and he talked to me about his experiences with the Disney marathons. Intimidating and Inspiring at the same time. Lol. The race started at exactly 5:45a.
What can I say? It was definitely a Disney race. I think I saw pretty much every character along the way while running through the parks. A few of the people in the group I ran with stopped for pictures but it was very quick and they were quickly back in the race. I did not stop for pictures because I focused on running. The music through the park was very loud so it was hard to hear my own music. I didn’t mind though. And it was magical to run through the castle.
You cant help but smile. Even though there wasnt music outside the park, there was still quite a bit of entertainment on the streets on Anaheim for the runners. Bands, cheerleaders, and of course supporters/volunteers were all throughout the race. I did have to make one pit stop for a bathroom break right around 10K. I really enjoyed running through Angels Stadiums.
There were supporters as you came in cheering you as you ran around the stadium. At the last mile, it was just non-stop cheering. Ben didn’t get a front row spot but he saw me cross the finish line via the video screen they had. I felt great crossing because I saw that I had come in under my 2 hour goal! I wasn’t sure after my pit stop of I would still make it.
I picked up my finisher goodies – the medal was heavier than I expected it to be, water, banana, and my checked bag then met up with Ben. I was really happy that he was there for me. I pulled out my chocolate Zico and Luna bar and enjoyed them on our walk back to our hotel.
I showered and changed into the new Minnie Mouse tee I bought and we walked back to the park. There were people still running the race when we got back. We headed into the park to be kids for the day. My right hip and glute were really sore but I did pretty good. We didnt have wait too long for any ride.
By 11a we were starving so we decided to have an early lunch. We decided to do the Big Thunder BBQ.
It was an all you can eat kind of place. We both ate a bucket of chicken and ribs. I did not even touch the corn bread. We stayed a couple more hours then decided to head home.
Yes, I slept for quite a bit of ride. I also drove for a couple hours but my legs got really tight while driving so after stopping for dinner, Ben got back to driving. We were home by 9:30p and it was not hard for me to climb into bed and fall back asleep :-)
Would I do it again? Yes! I will probably do it again next year :-) I have more friends that want to do it with me. I think it’s a great race to do for a first half marathon. It’s all pretty flat with just a couple overpasses that serve as “hills.” The energy is amazing and everyone is pretty happy to be there. And of course, it’s prefect to plan a vacation around. They even have a 5k and kids races the day before. Definitely something for the whole family. Disneyland and Disney World have several races they do throughout the year, so definitely check them out and do one! My goal is do the Coast to Coast challenge were you do a race in both Disneyland and Disney World in the same year :-)