At last, the main event!
Like I mentioned in my 10k recap, a fast time was not ever in the cards for this race. My training since my first half marathon in October was comically bad (basically a few short runs and races and some physical therapy), and since this was my first runDisney half marathon I wanted to take it slow anyway and not feel pressured to meet a certain time so I could enjoy the scenery and character stops. I also promised Jason I would not push myself too hard and risk injury; if I felt like walking, I’d walk. With that in mind, I woke up at 3:30 with Beth and Andrew and we all went through our pre-race rituals (for them, actually eating and drinking, and for me, sipping water and eating Starbursts, my fuel of choice, while going to the bathroom to get “everything” out).
I was in Corral C for the half, so smack in the middle of everyone. I’d have plenty of cushion from being swept so I could take my time, but I was also not right at the front getting run over. For future races I’d love to do some local halfs to improve my time and be a little competitive. But for my first Disney half, it felt just right. Corral A started at 5 am on the dot (a wheelchair racer started one minute earlier) and each corral took about 10 minutes to get cleared out, so at around 5:20 I was off!
If you scrub around 7:47 of this video, you can see me cross the left third of the frame (I was on the opposite side of the road from the camera, so you’ll be looking into the crowd).
Like the 10k, we started on some of the Disneyland streets rather than inside the parks. But we also spent a little more time outside on the streets before heading into the parks. We crossed the I-5 twice before entering the parks on the opposite side from where we started at about the one-mile mark (a spot we’d see again 11 miles later after more Anaheim running; they even had the “Mile 12” marker up).
Unlike the first two races I ran, California Adventure was the first park we ran through instead of Disneyland. We also ran in the opposite direction through the same places as the 5k and 10k, so the courses started to blur together. Our first stop in California Adventure was Hollywood Land (after running through the same giant tunnel Jason and I passed through during the 5k), where I detoured to grab a photo with fellow Pixar characters The Incredibles.
After leaving Hollywood Land, the course went through A Bug’s Land and into Cars Land, where I skipped getting a photo with Mater and Lightning since I got one during the 10k (the lines for characters were already so much longer than yesterday). But I did stop with the Cars Land sign before heading toward Paradise Pier.
We crossed into the midway side of Paradise Pier and ran behind the ferris wheel before coming around to the front side, where once again the World of Color lights and fountains were a popular photo stop.
Then we headed through Grizzly Peak and Condor Flats before rounding the Buena Vista circle (where we could see the later corral runners coming into the park from Hollywood Land) and heading out of California Adventure toward Disneyland. I still felt great – not tired at all, and making sure to stop at every water stop since I don’t typically carry my own water. It was still dark and still pretty early, so I didn’t expect to see them. But I knew Jason and his parents were coming out with Evan to watch me at some point along the public parts of the course.
Once inside Disneyland, we ran straight down Main Street toward the castle. Captain Hook and Smee were at the end of Main Street and I almost didn’t stop… until I noticed Tinker Bell up on top of their float! Lots of people missed Tink altogether, and while I waited in line I saw dozens of people pass the spot, notice Tink, and double back for a photo.
The course circled around the famous statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse at the end of Main Street before heading through the castle, and lots of people stopped for a castle photo. The crowd was also starting to back up a little because everyone knew there were official photographers on the other side of the castle waiting to get running photos, so I waited for a bit of a gap to avoid someone jumping in front of me and posing (which, Facebook forums tells me, happens A LOT). My castle photo is blurry, but… it counts!
At this point, I’m also going to note that my costume isn’t actually finished. I ordered some buttons that stand out more but they didn’t arrive in time, and I need to add the red swirly trim to the top. There are also wristbands that look like Jessie’s shirt cuffs. So if you like my costume, expect even better next month at Disney World.
On the back side of the castle, we passed the Mad Tea Party teacups before doubling back toward Tomorrowland. Several of the rides in the park had their lights on and were fired up and moving, which was cool and eerie. Like a ghost park, except with thousands of people running through it.
Inside Tomorrowland, I encountered my longest character stop line yet – Darth Vader! As a self-respecting nerd, I couldn’t NOT stop. I could tell other corrals had caught up to us and I was bleeding time, but I wasn’t worried at all about getting swept.
Our brief trip through Tomorrowland returned us to Fantasyland, where I passed It’s a Small World in the dark for the third and final time.
Not long after, we were directed back into the park backlot. The persistent audio reminders over the speakers – “Sharp turn ahead and the course narrows” – always popped up when we switched been public and cast-only areas of the parks. We ran behind Toontown for a while, passing the Disneyland Railroad trains and other cast areas I’d already seen in the previous runs before heading back into Towntown near Chip and Dale’s house. And then I promptly fell down. I was trying to go to the left around some walkers and didn’t see a curb, which I then tripped over. I hit the ground with my left hip and thigh, and although it didn’t really hurt, I was in shock for a minute. Several people stopped to make sure I was okay, and they were unconvinced that I felt totally fine because I didn’t get right up. Mostly, my head was just saying, “Crap! You really just fell down!” and so I just sat on the ground a little confused. But after a few seconds I got back up, and when walking for a few paces didn’t hurt, I started running again.
We left Toontown and headed toward what I call the “brown” parts of Disneyland – all the wood and fake logs and fences. But of course I had to stop at “Princess Row,” what I dubbed the little area that had three princesses (and a prince) all in quick succession. In fact, Rapunzel was so close to Cinderella that I think I lot of people thought it was one really long line and skipped it entirely.
Through Frontierland we went and into New Orleans Square, and we were heading toward another backlot section when I noticed one last character stop I had to make – Captain Jack Sparrow.
As I left Jack, I heard a familiar voice – Beth and Andrew had caught up to me! We ran together for a few seconds before they detoured to go the bathroom.
In the backlot behind New Orleans Square, we saw where they parked the trolley cars that go up and down Main Street before heading back into the public area between the parks. But, because we weren’t even halfway done, we took a sharp turn to the right and ran through Downtown Disney. Jason had texted me to let me know they were stationed near Build-a-Bear, so I was able to text back and let him know when I was about to pass them. I haven’t seen any yet, but I’m hoping his dad got some photos of that stretch.
Downtown Disney runs right into Disneyland Hotel, where the road then turns sharply and takes you out of the park. And it was here were we encountered our largest cheering section – the ladies of the Red Hat Society! These ladies can make some serious noise.
And with that, we crossed the six-mile mark and left the Resort. And I decided to take my first walking break, conveniently alongside a water stop.
At this point, I had spent 30 “extra” minutes on pictures (I was roughly 20 minutes behind the clock time, so around 1:46 at mile 6), and I knew that even though I’d make up time in Anaheim because there’d be no stops, I also knew I was going to start walking more than I had through the parks. So I kept my walk breaks to a minute or so and started doing intervals.
I was also starting to feel the effects of spending so much time walking around the parks. I think if I had done just the runs and spent the rest of the time by the pool or lounging around in our room, I wouldn’t have been nearly as sore. But my feet were starting to KILL me. And for the rest of the race running actually felt better than walking.
The first couple miles after leaving the parks were almost entirely residential, and although a few kind souls had ventured out of their homes to cheer us on, it was still early (barely 7 am on a Sunday, so spectators were few and far between). Once we left the houses behind and entered Anaheim’s downtown area, there were more spectators, mostly marching bands and cheerleading squads from nearby high schools.
After mile 8, we looped through what looked like a little area in downtown Anaheim similar to Belmar but much smaller. And right before we turned on to Harbor for the long slog back to the parks, Clif had a huge booth area set up before a water stop with every type of Clif Shot you could hope for. I took one, not intending to use it but just to have a sample, and then spent the water stop slowing walking and trying to stretch out my feet (I made sure to stay out of traffic and got off the course).
Harbor Boulevard was just awful. It was long and straight and reminded me of running down Colfax. And during one of my walk breaks my feet hurt so bad and I was so mentally exhausted that I called Jason “just to chat.” He and his parents were having breakfast in our hotel room waiting until I was closer to the finish, and I have never craved bacon so badly as I did at that moment. But the chat was just what I needed to get a second wind. I also happened to hear another runner sing-songing “just keep swimming, just keep swimming…” I don’t know how they knew my race motto, but it helped me put one foot in front of the other and make the few final turns on Anaheim’s streets.
Just after mile 11 I stopped at the medical station to put Biofreeze on my knees. I’m not sure why, exactly, since my knees didn’t hurt, but making my knees all cool and tingly helped me take my mind off my awfully painful feet (all I knew was that I didn’t want to stop and take my shoes off to put Biofreeze on them, because I’d never get my shoes back on). And my back was starting to hurt too, probably because when I’m tired I slouch and my form goes to hell.
At last, the Mile 12 marker I’d seen earlier! We headed into the backlot, ran through the giant tunnel again, and passed some of the Pixar Play Parade floats as we ran past the back side of Cars Land and Paradise Pier.
I texted Jason to let him know where I was, and he let me know that they were waiting near the Mile 13 marker before the finish line. So I pulled up my big girl panties and ran the rest of the way. The cheering crowds didn’t hurt; they definitely helped me take my mind off the pain. I was able to high-five Evan as I passed their viewing spot, and Tara (who had finished a couple of hours before me) called out to me shortly thereafter and I detoured over to give her a high-five as well. Then I weaved in and out of the walkers between me and the finish, doling out more high-fives to Mickey, Minnie and the other characters at the finish before crossing the line.
About an hour longer than the time from my first half, but so worth it.
After getting my snacks, I found my family and we headed back to the room. Beth and Andrew finished just a few minutes later, and they headed back as well. And thus began my recovery period, which started with a foot massage from my two favorite fellows.
I spent the next few hours drifting in and out of sleep, visiting the bathroom (I never have to go while I run, but my body typically forces the issue not long after), and picking at my lunch. We started watching the Broncos game, but decided our time would be better spent in the parks since it was the last day our park tickets would be valid. Evan was almost as exhausted as I was, but he perked up when Mickey and Minnie came out to dance along to a band playing on Main Street. We also stopped to get him his own Mickey ears, and ponied up the $3 for his name on the back.
Then we wrapped up our four days in Disneyland with a trip to visit Pooh Corner. I wanted to wear my “I Did It!” Tinker Bell shirt, but my loyalties were divided. So our PhotoPass+ photos with Winnie the Pooh have me wearing this beauty:
I’m not saying the combination of my medal and my Broncos shirt is lucky or anything, but… the AFC Championship ended as we were in line at Pooh Corner, and we subsequently got high-fives from every other person in the park wearing Broncos gear. The medal might have to make an appearance in a couple weeks at the Super Bowl.
Tomorrow: We go home! I won’t write a blog post about it. Because I’ll be asleep.