Running the Disneyland Half Marathon

Last weekend, Andrea, the boys and I ventured up to Anaheim for a weekend visit to Disneyland. Compared to driving over from Phoenix, the car ride from San Marcos felt like a jaunt to the grocery store. I think Annual Passes are in order.

I’ve never been a runner. I think it was middle school where I tried cross country for a month or two before I realized that running pretty much just sucked. As a friend once said, “If you put the worst thing about every sport into one sport… that’d be running.” While on some levels he’s right, on others, I have to say, I’ve learned otherwise.

Singing Up

Watching my friend, Kim complete the Disneyland Half Marathon the year prior, among a slew of other halves she’s ran, I realized that this was something I actually really wanted to do. Don’t get me wrong, I’d never think of running a race that doesn’t at least go through a Disney park, but what better way to get this non-running, sedentary man up but to sign up for a half marathon? February came, and I did it.

Signing up for the Disneyland Half Marathon.

The Disneyland Half is obviously very popular.

For the price of a big steak dinner for two, or 2 kegs of cheap beer or around 40 Double Quarter Pounder w/ Cheese meals, I was registered for the race. It was going to happen. I was going to run 13.1 miles and I was going to get one of those awesome RunDisney medals!

So I ran.

Training, What Little I Did

For about 2 months, I ran maybe 3 times a week. I knew I had a ton of time before the race so I focused primarily on just getting up and doing at least something. Maybe around summer time I would begin trying to lengthen my runs in order to start training for a full half.

Summer came, and that didn’t happen.

With about 5 weeks before race day, I decided to kick it into gear. I had spent pretty much my entire summer away from home. From our Disney Cruise, moving to California, trips to WA, trips back to Phoenix, etc. I was giving myself hardly any time to run.

August came and I decided to plan out 3 long runs I knew I needed to do before I’d be able to even consider finishing a half marathon. The first ended up being 7 mile jog around the house which was comforting in fact that I had proof that I could maybe do this. I then decided to do a 9 mile run the following weekend and an 11 mile run the weekend after that. That would then give me 2 weeks to heal and prep for race day.

Disclaimer: Do not do what I did. There are tons of half marathon training programs out there that are much safer and attainable than what I did.

My 9 and 11 mile runs were done a few miles away from our house along the California coast. Trying to replicate race day as much as possible, I forced myself to wake up at around 5am, drove down to Carlsbad and ran with everyone else who thinks 6am ocean view runs are a good idea… there are a lot of people come to find out.

Running along the California coast.

Heading south along the California coast.

California coast 7am

The path for my Sunday morning runs between Carlsbad and Encinitas was absolutely amazing. I later found out the Carlsbad Half and Full Marathons run along the route.

I was ready. The two weeks leading up to the Disneyland Half were excruciating, in a really good way.

Labor Day Weekend at Disneyland

We arrived Friday afternoon along with the thousands of other Disneyland visitors and runners planning to attend the weekend festivities. Lucky for us, our friends Yvonne, Matt and Brenna came out to join in on the fun.

Disneyland Half Marathon Expo

Walking through the Disneyland Half Marathon Expo Hall

Fantasy Tower Disneyland Hotel

Xavier was excited. Not sure if more for the race or the fact that we were at Disneyland.

On Saturday, Xavier ran his kids race which he was very nonchalant about. As opposed to me, he was more interested in going to the parks and riding rides. I suppose I can’t really blame him. In the end, after it was all said and done, I think he actually had a really great time, although I might not sign him up for races again… that is unless his friend Greer runs.

Andrea was lucky enough to spot him in a sea of staggered starting 4, 5 and 6 year old runners. Xavier actually caught up with the group ahead and beat some of them! – Sorry for the vertical video. -_-

Adding to my collection with the Minnie RunDisney Vinylmation. The cast member helping us was so proud.

Adding to my collection with the Minnie RunDisney Vinylmation. The cast member helping us was so proud.

Saturday night, we tried to get back as early as possible, which for Xavier meant around 9:30. While my feet were REALLY sore, I wouldn’t say I was too particularly stressed. Waking up for the run in a few short hours, I knew that my small, yet condensed training regimen would kick in. Everything that I read or watched on YouTube talked about how nerves can sometimes make restful sleep difficult before a race. I slept like a damn baby.

At 4:30 on Sunday morning, I woke up.

A blurry photo taken while walking to our corrals.

A blurry photo taken while walking to our corrals.

Corrals at Disneyland Half Marathon

There were over 15,000 runners for the Disneyland Half Marathon. Corral planning was quite good I’d say.

A few last texts with Kim before starting. She was in coral A.

A few last texts with Kim before starting. She was in coral A.

The last picture I took before our corral was set to go. See you at the finish line!

The last picture I took before our corral was set to go. See you at the finish line!

Finally, the Race

Now I’ve seen a lot of blogs with race recaps showing pictures along the way; mile markers, some of the bands and cheerleaders, cars and characters and everything else. I didn’t take a single picture during my run. Maybe it was because this was my first race. Maybe it was because taking my phone out of my arm band was way too difficult. I’m sorry I don’t get to enlighten you with those memories. Instead, let me just talk about what I’m now calling my “moments of running enlightenment.”

  1. The first came the moment I stepped across the starting line. Sure, I mean it’s the start of a long journey. A journey I had been looking forward to for a while. Slowly stepping up to that line and then hitting it with everyone around you suddenly in a medium jog; it kinda gets you going. Nothing monumentally moving or touching, but worth noting nonetheless.
  2. The second moment was when I hit Paradise Pier in California Adventure. By the time I got there, the sun wasn’t quite up all the way, but it was light enough to see everything. Weaving my way through runners, I wish I would have stopped for a second to take it all in.
  3. The moment I saw Andrea. She had texted me saying she was near the gates at Disneyland on my left. So as soon as I left DCA, I hugged that left side as close as I could, eyes pierced on the crowds to my left. I was almost to the gate when I finally found her. With a good luck kiss and a “see you at the finish line,” I knew that the next time I’d see her, I’d be tired. Dead tired, but done.
  4. There really weren’t any noteworthy moments as I ran through Disneyland that stuck out. The whole experience of running through the park at dawn, music playing, and that humid filled air hitting your nostrils just made it so amazing. For a year, I had envisioned this run in my head which in the end, made the whole thing incredibly enjoyable. Just as any RunDisney guru will say, there really isn’t anything like running through the parks. Definitely one of my favorite parts.
  5. At around mile 4, you’re out in the streets of Anaheim now. I’m not sure how long it lasted, but with my corral starting about a half hour after the official start, I hit the bridge running over I-5 at the perfect time to get the blindingly bright rising sun, right in my face. This was probably THE most magical moment for me because as I started to climb the bridge, I could see hundreds of silhouettes ahead of me all running into the sun. Something I’ll probably never forget.
  6. Running through Angels Stadium was such a blast. From the people cheering in the stands, to the people taking pictures on the field, I think that whole experience should’ve been longer. How you’d do that? I don’t know. Maybe you introduce snaking ques of running lanes through the ballpark. No, that’s a terrible idea.
  7. Finally, running into Downtown Disney. That tree-lined street running between the Disneyland Hotel and Downtown Disney had been engrained in my head as the final, albeit short, leg of the Disneyland Half since seeing videos of the finish line a year ago. Approaching it and running through with everyone cheering, will give anyone an adrenalin boost to help them through the finish line. For me, I didn’t actually see the finish until I was practically on top of it thanks to Andrea and Yvonne who were situated about 50 yards away.

I was done. I was tired… and for a split second, I thought that maybe I would someday do a full marathon. Yeah right.

Kim met up with me at the end even though she finished about an hour and a half before.

Kim met up with me at the end even though she finished about an hour and a half before.

Andrea is ready to run it next year. I think I know 2 or 3 others who are going to sign up.

Andrea is ready to run it next year. I think I know 2 or 3 others who are going to sign up.

The Disneyland Half race medal. Totally worth it!

The Disneyland Half race medal. Totally worth it!

Our weekend at Disneyland for the race was one I’ll never forget. Running in my first ever half marathon, seeing our friends and family there, enjoying the parks; I can’t wait for next year’s race to open up so I can start planning once again. I think I’m hooked.

Oh and those passes…

Disneyland Annual Passes

The year ahead should be a lot of fun!

What do you think? Do you want to run in a RunDisney race? There are lots of events at Walt Disney World and the Disneyland Resort in California. In addition, they’re hosting their first ever half marathon at Disneyland Paris next year.