It’s been a week since the big event and I’m still sitting at my desk admiring my new shiny medal, haha. Labor Day weekend was a whirlwind of a vacation filled with all things Disney! In Downtown Disney and throughout the theme park, you could sense the level of excitement from all the participants, staff, and everyone else involved with the race.
This being my first half marathon, I had no clue what I was getting myself into. So I began gradually increasing my mileage and endurance a couple months prior to the race, each weekend alternating between a long and short run. Following Olympian Jeff Galloway’s training tips from the Run Disney website was a huge help. Not only did it provide me with an easy-to-follow training schedule, but it also came with a downloadable calendar to sync with my laptop and phone. I had my schedule on-the-go and could receive reminders of what was in store for the next day.
Packet Pick Up was a breeze on Saturday. Keep in mind that the 5k and 10k had just finished earlier that morning, so only half marathoners were coming to get their bibs. Each station in packet pick up was clearly marked and there was staff at every corner to guide you through the process. After picking up my bib, commemorative pin, and GET Travel Disney tickets, we proceeded to the Run Disney Health and Fitness Expo.
This was the largest run expo I’ve attended in my brief time as a runner. The event filled the entire Disneyland Hotel Exhibit Hall, featuring lots of well-known vendors like New Balance and Clif Bar, both major sponsors of the run. Throughout the duration of the expo, Run Disney hosted speaker sessions with doctors, nutritionists, famous athletes and a few celebrities. T-shirt pick up was here as well, although the sizes were on the larger side, even for unisex sizing. There was a constant crowd of people at the Size Exchange booth just hoping to snag the coveted extra small shirt. I spent my time sampling the goodies at the Clif Bar booth and gathering all the freebies. Whatever item you needed for running, you could find here. I came across a cool Halo headband that could help me “stay cool” during the run and perfectly matched my character costume. Can you guess who I was? 😉
Sunday Race Day
I awoke bright and early at 3:30 AM to get ready. Still groggy, I got my gear and costume on and headed to the corrals. Upon stepping outside, I couldn’t believe how humid it was! I began to worry because A) I was in a costume and B) I had never trained in that kind of weather. Nevertheless, I decided I’d tough it out and just think about having FUN. The course would have plenty of water stations… and I knew I’d be using them all. Start Time was approximately at 5:30 AM and the event kicked off with brief celebrity interviews (Alison Sweeney, Joey Fatone, Sean Astin) and a dazzling display of fireworks, accompanied with appearances by Mickie and Minnie Mouse!
The course began at the end of Downtown Disney, through the theme parks, around the streets of Anaheim, around the Honda Center, through Angel Stadium, over the freeway, and back. From experience, running an unfamiliar course always feels longer; and combined with high heat and humidity, proved to be a challenge. Halfway into the run, I was prepared to rip my pants off because of the heat (I had run shorts underneath) but decided not to and continue running as my character. Throughout the course people were cheering for Aladdin, haha.
At about mile 11, I could feel a sharp pain in my left calf muscle. I knew my leg was cramping so I decided to switch to a walk-run routine. The cramp subsided but returned at mile 12. I was so close to the finish line but knew I had to take it easy to avoid any serious injury. Just my luck, my calf cramped for the third time at mile 13.05! Yeah, the finish line was literally within reach and I had another shooting pain in my leg. I hopped, skipped, did whatever I could to finish the run. At that moment I couldn’t think of anything else but finishing. Finally crossing the mat, I proudly claimed my medal!
This was an intense experience and a roller-coaster of emotions. If there’s one thing I could recommend, I would recommend that each person runs a race. It doesn’t have to be a half marathon, it can be as short as a 5k. There’s something about being with a group of people competing and striving to complete the same goal, yet facing their own set of challenges to overcome. Half of it’s physical and the other half is mental but when you finish, everything seems to come together and that feeling of accomplishment feels fantastic!
1) If you plan on participating in this run, sign up to receive email updates for when registration opens to the general public. If you have a Disney Annual Pass, you get the luxury of early bird registration.
2) Book a hotel within walking distance of the run. You don’t want to take the chance of getting stuck in traffic or arriving at a road that’s closed for the event.
3) If you’re a procrastinator like me and decided to book a hotel last minute, you can call hotels to ask if they have extra rooms assigned to certain orgs. that aren’t being filled and see if you can get that deal.
4) Disneyland and CA Adventure are fun to go to after the race (after resting of course). Our experience on Sunday was that the parks were only about 65 – 75% full. Some factors to take into account: it was hot/humid for most of the day, a lot of the runners were tired, and most of the annual passes were blocked out except for the Premium passes.
And who knows… you might just see some celebrities when you go. 🙂