I've have had an extraordinary few days with some of my fellow runners (try 17,000+ of them!).
This last weekend was the Disneyland Half Marathon with runDisney at the resort and it was my first Half Marathon ever! I'm sure some of you read my post earlier this year about signing up and being a bit nervous about it as a ... well, lets just say "first time runner". (I don't think a year of track and field in HS count). If you haven't and would like to, read this. It talks about how I had never even dreamed about training much less running at all.
We were able to book a room at the Grand Californian Hotel for the race weekend and I'm so glad we did. It bypassed a whole mess of parking issues we possibly could have been stuck in before and after the race. It was really exciting for me to be able to stay there as I'd never stayed at a Disneyland resort hotel. Sounds crazy, right? A Disney addict who'd never set foot in the hotel rooms. Living close by made the resort hotels obsolete. I never really wanted to shell out the funds to spend the night when I lived 11 miles away. Heck, I could have run there! Anyway, the point being, if you're running a Disney race - Stay on Disney property! (or at a hotel that's walking distance).
|our view from the balcony of the Hotel room|
Alright, on to the packet pick up and expo!
The packets were super easy to get at check in. Again, they had transformed the lower level parking into a black carpeted check in center where you picked up your race bibs and pins if you bought them. Specialized tracking chips are connected to your bib so they check to make sure they're working before you leave - as in girls by a computer screen yell out your name as you walk by ;p
The expo was a whole floor of running goodness! They've got samples of power eats (my mom walked around like she was at Costco!), all kinds of equipment, shoes, clothes, light up things, and of course the official race merchandise. I was able to pick up a SPIBelt with the bib holders, a commemorative poster, an Angel's water bottle, flyers for other races, a light runDisney jacket, and last but not least a Team Sparkle skirt and arm sleeves! If you haven't checked out Team Sparkle and the skirts they have go now! They're so much fun and the girls who make them are super friendly! I think they do make you run faster :)
After hitting up all the nooks and crannies of the expo, we had a late lunch at Trader Sams at the Disneyland Hotel. They have an amazing Hawaiian burger with fresh pineapple and sweet potato fries. YUM!
We spent the rest of the day taking it easy, walking around Downtown Disney, and generally relaxing knowing the big day started early in the morning.
That night I laid out all my gear so it would be ready for the morning.
|my "Ariel" attire - the team sparkle skirt rocked!|
I had even made this for my hair :)
The alarm went off way too early in the morning. The race started at 5:45 so we needed to be down there and ready to go before then.
The corrals were PACKED! I couldn't believe how many people were running this race. I'd seen that a record number had signed up, but until you're there and you actually see that number... it was insane. That being said, its incredible how smooth the event went. Props to the runDisney team in that department.
|The lights in the back are the parking structure. I believe this is on Disneyland Dr.|
I had sort of expected a bigger beginning to the race. There were a few fireworks and announcers but I guess I expected the same type of sending off some of the Walt Disney World races recieve. Maybe it has to do with being so close to residential areas. I dunno.
Our corral was off and running at 6am! I'd been really nervous leading up to the send off. Even with all the training I'd put in, the week before had been a pretty bad run. I settled myself down and came to the conclusion that all I needed to worry about now was just to keep going. No one ever finished anything if they sat down and quit!
We rounded Disneyland Dr and came in on the backside of Screamin' and into California Adventure. Getting to see it's backside was very entertaining! LOL As we ran through Paradise Pier the fountains for World of Color were on and they had the theme music playing. I couldn't help but to sing along with it while I ran, it was so peppy! The lanes moved us over by the Winery and into Carsland, we rounded the turn down and were led into Tower of Terror area before heading down Hollywoodland and through Buena Vista Street. All the while with Castmembers and characters cheering us on.
|my cousin and I with the World of Color fountains|
The path led us straight through the castle and debuted us to the cameras waiting right on the other side. We couldn't pull over in time to take a picture right then but we sort of got one to the side. That's a problem with so many people - you're always in a pack. But it's a small trade off for the joy of running Disney races.
|the Matterhorn was like gold in the sunrise|
I got even more excited as I knew this was where Ariel was! Sure enough, I spotted her and we quickly jumped in line.
|I'm such a nerd LOL|
Exiting the parade route by Small World, we again went backstage as the race entered the streets of Anaheim. As we passed by the stables backstage, some of the handlers had the main street horses out as well as the Indian ponies. I wish I'd stopped to take a picture, but I didn't even think about it until later. How often has anyone seen the Indian ponies up close? Darn!
At this point the race course itself became a bit, shall we say "normal". We went up and down mostly the main streets of Anaheim but every bit of the way was full of cheering crowds! From ChEAR'ers, pep bands, cheerleaders, flag teams, classic cars, hula dancers,... it was incredible how many people were out there and how much it made a difference to the runners. I also learned something about myself this weekend...
I will RUN 13.1 miles for continuous applause!
The next highlights after the park section was running past the Honda center where the Ducks play and then entering, not only the grounds, but the actual field of Angel's Stadium!
We came in through the tunnel and popped out on the field to hundreds of Boy and Girl Scouts in the stands cheering us on! We even made it on the Jumbo-tron!
By that time, we were up into the higher milage. I want to say it was around Mile 11.
There was only a short distance left considering how far we'd come.
The cheering crowds had thinned out a little bit but the closer we got to the finish, the louder and denser they became. One amazing thing about these races is that it brings so many people together in a positive way. No other race will be as supportive as the Disney races. Everyone out there is on your team willing you to succeed!
The race ended pretty much where it started on Disneyland Dr and we all recieved runDisney food boxes that included some recovery items, a cold towel, and of course... the Medal!
|not too shabby!|
I don't think any other races could ever compare to this particular Half Marathon. It was indeed an incredible experience. Who knew in January that I would be completing this huge race and would have accomplished something I never thought I could do? I completely underestimated myself and it blew my mind to do this.
After the race was over, we walked back to the hotel (another reason to be so close!), took some much needed showers, and got something to eat. The rest of the afternoon included more food, naps, a walk to Lush to get some relaxing bath products, and more food :) *on a side note: if you plan to get a massage or treatment from the spa at the Grand Californian... BOOK EARLY! The receptionist told me the days of and after the races are the busiest of the year*
We all went to sleep pretty early, but the best part of our room happened twice a night... at 9:00 & 10:15...
|World of Color from the room patio|
The next morning we needed to be up at a decent hour to pack up and be out of the room by 11am. I was a sad panda. But instead of walking out to Downtown Disney, my mom and I ordered room service. The best way to spend your last morning at the Disneyland resort...
|Bananas foster syrup|
I was so sad when the hotel cast member came and got our bags. If only I could live there forever!
That about wraps it up! This weekend just blew my mind and shattered any doubts I had about running a Half. I'm already signed up for another one in a couple months haha! If any of you are wondering if you should sign up with runDisney... DO IT!! You must put in the time for training and get in the milage, but its so worth every single step. A life accomplishment made possible by motivation from Disney :)