Last December I decided to run my first ever race at Disneyland. You see my boyfriend, Chris, had gotten a contract job in Irvine, California so I made plans to go visit him in January. It just so happens that The Light Side Half was still available, so I signed up.
I have to say that Disneyland races are a very different experience from Disney World races. There were some things that I liked, but also some that I was disappointed with. The Expo was very confusing. We parked in the only lot that we found and then walked around trying to find the entrance to the expo. We didn’t see any signs pointing in the right direction, but eventually found a line of people and assumed we were in the right spot. That line was for the main expo floor so we followed a crowd underground to packet pickup where we were directed to stand in another line in what looked like the first floor of a very old parking deck. I arrived on the third day, so I didn’t expect to have to stand in line and I have no idea why they were only letting a few in at a time, because when we got in there I saw that there was quite a bit of room to allow for a lot more people.
Once I got to the front of my packet line I was given a bib, but it was not mine. The volunteer had mistakenly given me the wrong bib. I told her and it was promptly fixed. I had to ask about the “X” next to my name which signified that I would be receiving a Coast to Coast wristband. After I was banded we headed back upstairs to the main expo floor.
The expo itself was very open and exceeded my expectations after experiencing packet pickup. It was not crowded at all and I was able to receive my Half Marathon shirt right away. The merchandise area was on the other side of the building. When we got over there we were told to stand in a line in another room which led to another line in the expo room until we were finally in the merchandise area. Since I couldn’t get a pass holder discount I only bought a magnet and then we left.
The next morning we woke up early, but I didn’t feel as tired because I was still on east coast time. I decided to wear my Princess Leia costume from the 2016 Enchanted 10k in honor of Carrie Fisher, who passed away the month before. After I was dressed and ready to go we took the short drive to Disneyland. One thing that I knew about before hand, but still didn’t like was the charge for parking. Parking is always free for races at Disney World and I don’t understand why they charge almost twenty dollars at Disneyland that early in the morning especially since there aren’t as many hotels and most people probably have to drive in.
After leaving the parking garage a security booth was set up and it was the only one we had to go through before the race. The walk to the staging area wasn’t too far and I passed the entrance to the corrals on the way so I knew where to go later. Like always we stood around people watching and taking everything in before my final restroom visit and then the walk to the corrals.
At the corral entrance, Chris took some pictures and then we said our goodbyes then I was on my way. I really liked how they had the corrals set up for the earlier ones. I had to walk through a couple bib checkpoints before I made it into “B,” which made it extremely hard for someone trying to move up a corral.
Once in the corral it was the same wait as always. I was a bit nervous because I hadn’t raced in a while since the half the week before was canceled. I just told myself what I always do, all I can do is my best. The same Disney World announcers were there, but the entertainment just didn’t feel as big, which was fine until the race started and there were no fireworks. I understand that Disneyland is in a more residential area, but it just felt weird starting a race with a giant pulsating “GO!” on the screen above.
I felt pretty good at the start of the race. It was so cold out, which made me run faster as I tried to warm up. In less than a mile I was already in California Adventures. I had never been to that park before so I tried to take everything in as I ran through it. The park was gorgeous and a real thrill to run through. The only problem that I had was the ground was wet so I had to try my hardest to not slip and fall.
After we left California Adventures we ran around Disneyland park on the outside and entered through the back at about mile three. It’s a Small World was beautiful all lit up. I had only been to Disneyland once before and I was about ten years old at the time. I knew that the run through the castle was coming up so I tried to position myself to get a great photo. At one point a guy did run in front of my right before the castle and I later saw my displeasure in my race photos as you can see on the left.
I did get a great castle photo, but this was the part of the race that didn’t come close to a Disney World race through Magic Kingdom. My favorite race moment ever was running down Main Street towards the castle during the 2016 Princess Half Marathon. First of all, spectators aren’t allowed in Disneyland during the races so there was no crowd cheering us on, just a few Cast members. Second of all we were running away from the castle. I had to keep looking behind me as I ran to see the castle. The whole thing seemed very lackluster compared to running through the Magic Kingdom. After we ran through the gates we were done with the parks; the rest of the race took place on the streets of Anaheim and through Garden Grove.
Even though there weren’t Disney Parks or Characters to look at, there was plenty to keep my attention. There were spectators everywhere! Whole bands and cheerleaders came out to play and cheer. It seemed like one big party! I just wished that the parts through the parks were that entertaining and lively. And since we weren’t on Disney property anymore there were no more pictures until the finish-line.
After leaving Disneyland the course headed south and at about mile six started a huge loop through neighborhoods and then meeting back up with the same road heading north back towards the parks. Almost the whole time I just kept thinking about the turn north and to the finish-line. I knew I would know when that point was because we would be passing the later corrals in the opposite direction. I also knew that it would give me a push at the end of the race as I looked at my fellow runners and we encouraged each other. I also liked looking at everyone’s costumes!
My splits were actually not bad and I kind of maintained a steady pace almost the entire race, though I didn’t know that at the time. At mile ten I just wanted to be done and rest, though I kept pushing onward. For a while I ran near this guy who kept counting down the miles as we approached each mile marker. For some reason that helped me and pushed me forward. I knew I was almost there and as I passed mile marker twelve I gave it my all. That was probably my hardest mile. As I rounded the corner right after mile marker thirteen I could see the finish-line. I had made it! Crossing the finish-line always brings me joy and makes me feel incredibly accomplished. I ended up finishing in 1:54:30 with an average pace of 8:44, which is my second best half time.
The finishing chute for some reason felt twice as long as the Disney World ones. I grabbed my drinks and snack box and then found the challenge tent. All they did was cut off my wristband and then let me proceed to collect my Coast to Coast medal. It was so beautiful! The main reason I wanted to do a Disneyland race was to get a medal with “Partners” on it. I just lucked out that I completed the challenge in an anniversary year. I got my finisher photos taken then stopped by medical for some ice. I had never stopped in medical before, but my foot started hurting as I crossed the finish-line. I thought I must have landed on it wrong. A medical volunteer gave me a bag of ice and I chatted with them as a sat for a bit and iced my food.
Chris was waiting for me as I entered the family reunion area. Another thing I was disappointed about was the lack of photo opportunities after the race. There was one set up, but no photopass photographer, so we decided just to leave. Chris also told me that he couldn’t find anywhere to spectate beside near the finish and every person he asked couldn’t give him an answer so he just waited back at the car until I was almost finished.
Overall I had a great time and really enjoyed the course. I felt it was missing that extra magic from Disney World races, so I will probably stick to those from now on. Coming soon: my Dark Side recap. It was a crazy one!