Race day started at 3:00am. I set four different alarms to make sure I was up but it’s not like I was really sleeping anyway, right? My mother repeatedly voiced her concerns that the costume was too much and it would be too hot out to wear it but my resolve was like steel and I wasn’t budging. I had spent so much time on this thing like hell was I coming all this way and not wearing it. She offered to “rip off the sleeves,” an offer that I balked at and responded with a “no f#*%&ing way!”
I loaded up my pockets with my sport beans and my phone and headed out. Turns out a few people from the hotel were also leaving so I ended walking with them to the starting area. It was totally dark out and really chilly, well relative to how it had been all summer. People keep saying it was humid, I wasn’t feeling humidity and my hair was drying perfectly straight all weekend so I don’t know what they’re talking about.
The starting area was right by the Disneyland Hotel and I had actually seen them putting the area together on Thursday when we walked to dinner. The staging area seemed a little empty though. I suspect this had something to do with my getting there at 4:00am. I didn’t see any characters for pictures, just tents for the teams who were there (like Team in Training who were walking over in big groups) and then a backdrop that said Disneyland 1/2 Marathon on it. The stage had a DJ who was playing disco hits, which quite frankly is exactly what I like at 4:00am regardless of whether or not I am running a race. He announced that we could start going over the corrals so everyone started moving and that was where I saw it: the sea of humanity.
This was officially the longest line I have ever seen in Disney, but surprisingly it still moved a lot faster than the line for Peter Pan. Yup. The hosts had some witty banter back and forth, showed clips of Disney parks etc., but all I was thinking about was that I was cold and wanted to get moving. I listened to the people talking around me, one husband and wife team had been trying Disney 1/2 marathons but still hadn’t finished one and one man was giving another a lecture on how Disney World people did things differently and better, “We set off fireworks for every corral in Disney World. We have more characters in Disney World.” “I’m sick of you Disney World people! You’re not in Disney World, we do things differently!”
A little after 5 things started getting more and more crowded and I ended up being really close to the front of the corral. At 5:45 they started the star spangled banner, with tasteful supplementary fireworks, and then the wheelchairs were off followed by the elites and corral A. By 6:00am, it was corral D’s turn! D as in determined, said the announcer. I didn’t see Mickey at all and I couldn’t see anything going on on stage because we were either too far back or moving too fast to stop and look. Somewhere I have a video of the start that makes the Blair Witch Project look steady. Before I knew it, moving up to the starting line became moving! My hair fell out into pigtails but I continued along my merry way and didn’t let it phase me in the least.
The first mile was outside the park, the 2nd took us into California Adventure and by the 4th mile I think we were out in Anaheim and heading towards Angels Stadium. The first “real bathroom” in California Adventure had a really long line, longer than the line for Darth Vadar when I passed it. The funniest part of the first mile was how many people couldn’t figure out if their interval timer was beeping or if it was someone else’s. I don’t know at what point I decided I wasn’t taking a lot of pictures I was running… My phone was sending me tracking alerts so I’d know where I was and when I saw the time I said to myself, “Oh, I can do better than that!” So I just kept plugging along.
Things I should’ve gotten pictures of: more of the signs, because people really made some awesome signs and the classic cars. I loved that section! I slowed down just because I was drooling and thinking, “Why am I running these miles when I could be driving a 1962 candy apple red corvette?” The car owners were even nice enough to turn on their radios and play Van Morrison! Other course highlights included the woman who handed out remedies for chafing… the people who turned out in the baseball stadium! Why weren’t more people giving them high fives when they ran by?! C’mon people, where else can you high five your way around the bases of a major league baseball stadium?! Get your priorities in order. And then there was the high school band around mile 10 who played Neil Diamond’s Opus Sweet Caroline. Did I throw up my arms and sing along? Is Mickey a mouse?
During the race, I definitely saw things that were less than magical–I saw people at the medical tent with their knees wrapped in ice, and the worst was when I saw a woman fall flat on her face in what looked like a very painful tumble.
But before you know it, the race is at an end. I finished 10 minutes faster than my last 1/2 and feeling great. I wanted to maintain a 12 minute mile and guess what? According to my Garmin, my average minute/mile was exactly 12! I made a last ditch run for the finish line, of course stopping to high five Chip and Dale though Goofy wasn’t ready for it so I kinda ended up hitting him instead of high fiving him, but then that was it. I funneled out with the other people, received my medal, got my post race photo taken, received my box of food, and walked out to meet my mother. Just like that, it was all over.
I went back to the room, showered, changed and fell asleep for about an hour with my medal on, then we headed out to Disneyland because like hell was I not wearing my medal around the parks with my I did it! t-shirt. I couldn’t believe it, honestly. The first time my sister and I went unknowingly for marathon weekend, I was almost 200 lbs and couldn’t sit up let alone run to save my life. And yet, there I was, nearly 60lbs lighter and I had just finished my 2nd 1/2 marathon. In many respects, I’m indebted to Disney for this–it was because of photos at Disney that I couldn’t really hide from my weight and it was the people who participated in marathon weekend that inspired me to start running. I have no idea if I did that for someone else in Disneyland that afternoon, but I certainly hope so. This started in pursuit of a medal and I think has become a more fundamental lifestyle change that extends beyond the confines of running in a Disney park on either coast, though I am officially hooked on the Disney races. That pixie dust is more addictive thank crack cocaine.
If you’re thinking about a Disney race, I have to say, back in January when I started running I did it because I wanted a Mickey medal and if I had to run anywhere through a theme park seemed the best option. I still want the Mickey medal and I really enjoyed the Disneyland 1/2 marathon but you know the best part wasn’t the parks themselves, it was the wonderful, amazing people who showed up on the side of the road, along the back ways of Disney, and in the baseball stadium with their classic cars, their homemade signs and their M&Ms that made the race a really wonderful experience. That’s something you can’t get from a training run, that great feeling when someone who doesn’t know you from a hole in the wall says, “You go, Nicole!” and gives you a high five. You know, hand touching hand, reaching out touching me touching you. So nothing made me happier than to stop on my way back to the room where the runners/walkers were going into mile 12 and cheer them on.