It’s been exactly one week since my first Half Marathon, or any race for that matter, in over two years. We decided to complete a bucket list item this year by earning the Run Disney Coast to Coast medal this year. In order to do so, you have to run a half marathon or greater at BOTH Disneyland and Walt Disney World in the same calendar year. We chose the Tinker Bell Half Marathon at Disneyland in California for the first leg of our Coast to Coast. We will complete the challenge in November at the Wine and Dine Half Marathon at Walt Disney World.
This trip was full of firsts for us; our first time to California, our first time to Disneyland, our first Run Disney race, etc. So we were full of nerves the week leading up to our leaving. Although the race wasn’t until Sunday, we decided to fly in Thursday to hit the expo, check out the parks, and be relaxed and ready for the race on Sunday. On top of the fact that I had not run a race or a half marathon in over two years had my nerves a mess, and then I had started to feel an injury in my left ankle/Achilles the week leading up to the race. So my anxiety levels the week before the race were high to say the least.
We stayed at the Anaheim Hilton, which was a really nice hotel. Great lobby restaurant and bar, amazing pool area, etc. The room was big and everything we wanted. Nice comfortable bed, wifi, tv, etc. Upon check in we were giving a handicap accessible bathroom. We didn’t think much about it at the time, but now it is one of my learnings from this trip. More on that later though.
After check in (on Thursday afternoon) we had about two hours until the expo closed. Our hotel was about a mile to the expo and the Disneyland parks, so we decided to walk over and pick up our race packets and check out the race merchandise. We got turned around on the way there and literally did a complete circle around both Disneyland and Disneyland’s California Adventure parks. Once we finally reached the Disneyland Hotel where the expo was, packet pick up was a breeze.
We had booked our race registration and park tickets through Get Travel, and were so happy with the service they provided us. We were able to upgrade our one day park ticket to multiple day park hopper tickets right there at the expo through Get Travel. They even gave us a great deal, that was better if we just purchased them at the park.
We grabbed some awesome race swag (see above) and went back to our room to rest up from the long day of traveling. I was bummed that the special edition New Balance Disney shoes were already sold out at the expo. Damn scalpers (yes they are already on ebay for three times their retail). I really wish they would only let people with race registration bibs, etc purchase them. The thing that bothered me about the expo was that anyone could go in and purchase stuff, which left slim pickings for the acutal people running the race who maybe came later. I’m glad we were there earlier in the week, and able to get everything we wanted other than the shoes.
Friday and Saturday we spent exploring the parks. We both wore pedometers at the park and walked over 15 miles on Friday and over 10 miles on Saturday. My ankle started to hurt even worse from all of the walking, so we went back to the expo to some KT tape so I could tape up my ankle for Sunday’s race. We checked New Balance again but they were sold out still. Booooooo. We decided to retire early on Saturday to get some rest before the race. We had to be up at 3AM to be ready for the 5AM start time.
Luckily for us, we never adjusted to West Coast time, and my phone and both us were still on East Coast time. So when we got up at 3AM it felt like 6AM to us, which is usually when we wake up. I was a little tired at the start, but it was more nerves showing in this picture. I had a time goal in mind, and was hoping to just complete the race with this ankle bothering me, and not get swept. I never smile in pictures, but add in the early start time, the injury, and being a bundle of nerves, I look less than thrilled. (I’m on the right by the way)
Because we didn’t have a recent time to submit at registration we were placed in the very last corral. The energy at the starting line was awesome. Everyone was dressed up and ready to go. I knew that there were a lot of walkers in the last corral, and that I was going to have to push myself in my pace to pass the walkers once we started so I could get to a comfortable place to settle in to my run. Again the nerves just kept piling up.
Let me just say that I have no problem with people run/walking or just plain walking the whole thing if you have to. I’m happy for and inspired by anyone who takes this on, and does the best they can. I met some really inspirational people through this race.
The start time was 5AM, but since we were in the last corral, we started later as they released each corral in waves, with a break between each one. So we really didn’t cross the starting line until after 5:30. The first few miles of the race, you run for the park, but there were some areas that were so congested that everyone had to slow to a walk to get through. This really hurt my time in the first part, and also hurt me as I tried to weave in and out of the walkers to get to a place where I could comfortably run at my own pace.
As I mentioned above, I don’t mind walkers in races, but it was hard to pass them as we went through small areas in the park, where there was congestion, and then most of the walkers didn’t bother to move over to the right to make room for faster walkers, joggers, and runners. It’s just a common courtesy that seemed really lacking in this race.
Running through the park was so magical. We started in the park, left the park and ran through the streets of Anaheim, and then ended back in the parks. I was able to gain some time as we hit the streets of Anaheim, but was literally jumping up and down the median to pass walkers who were not moving over to the right to allow others to pass.
It was pretty neat to see some behind the scenes parts of Disneyland. We ran through Sleeping Beauty’s castle as it was all lit up, being that the sun was not up yet. I decided that in order to improve on my time, I was not going to be able to stop for any of the pictures with the characters, etc. But that was fine, because they were not any characters that I loved. The only one I would have liked to stop for was Rapunzel and Flynn from Tangled, but the line was too long.
I never once saw Tinker Bell, which I thought was really odd since the race is named after her, and most of the runners dress as her. Apparently, she was there, but in some weird location that most people missed her. I might have stopped for a picture with her, especially since I ran the race dressed as her best boy friend, Terence.
Out on the streets of Anaheim we were entertained by local high school marching bands and cheer leaders, plus the citizens of the town. It was so amazing to feel their energy and it helped to spur you on. My favorite group of spectators was the ladies of the Red Hat Society. There were literally hundreds of them, in their purple outfits and big red hats. They brought a smile to my face, and helped me to keep going.
I have a hard time running without my own bottle of water, which sadly I dropped into a port a potty before start. So I had to rely on water and powerade from the water stations through out the race. I have to say that they were handled better than any other race I’ve been in. Whenever I felt I needed water, they were right around the corner. They were well staffed, and there didn’t seem to be any issues going through them at all. I really liked that they were on both sides of the course, so you could go either way without weaving in and out of runners. This also allowed those not wanting to stop for water, to keep running right through the middle. I was really impressed with how efficiently they seemed to work.
Finally, we hit the finish line. The biggest crowd of people at the end were there to cheer you on towards the end. I didn’t make my best time ever for a Half Marathon, from two years prior, but I had beat the time I set for myself on this race.
Even though, living in New England, we trained on some hilly runs, it was nice to have a pretty flat course. Although it was a Half Marathon, I actually logged 13.69 miles on my Map My Run app that I used. I found that Map My Run would tell me the mile marker each time, way before I hit the mile marker on the course. Apparently, this happened to a few others. The best explanation is that you run more when weaving in and out of the crowd of runners. I guess so, but seems weird. Plus, given the time I completed the race, vs what Map My Run, the app has me running at a much faster pace than my official Run Disney time. Oh well! I’m not running these for a PR, but to experience a Run Disney race and to have fun.
There was only one thing I wanted after I crossed that finish line…BEIGNETS!! We headed straight for Downtown Disney and I awarded myself with an order of 6 of those delicious, sweet pillows of sweet dough, covered in as much powdered sugar as they could shake on top. Not the healthiest thing to eat, but I earned it. It was my reward for running 13.1 miles.
Here we are in line at the Jazz Cafe Express waiting to get those well deserved beignets, with our well earned Tinker Bell Half Marathon medals. You can see my Terence costume a bit better in this picture too.
The second thing I wanted? An ice bath! Didn’t think about that till after the race was over. Remember that handicap accessible bathroom I mentioned? Yeah, that would mean a walk in shower. No tub. No ice bath. So my big learning form this race? Make sure your hotel room as a bathtub!
I’m also glad that now we have a time that can put us into an earlier corral for the Wine and Dine Half. That will be a huge relief, and help us to improve our times as well.
Now I week later, I’m itching to get back out there, so we just signed up to run the Boston Run to Remember (a race we did back in 2011) Half Marathon in May. It seems so far off, but we are also gearing up for the second leg of our Coast to Coast Challenge, with eyes on the Wine and Dine Half Marathon at Walt Disney World in November. Let’s just say I might becoming a tad obsessed with Run Disney Races.
Keep on running!!