It was race day! As I walked to the corrals in the predawn hours, I was accompanied by lots of fairies, Captain Hooks, Peter Pans, and Tiger Lillies just to name a few. I figured I must be headed in the right direction!
When I looked at the race map I was excited to see that my corral, the last corral, was just outside our hotel – SCORE!!!! Ummmm that would be no. I had to walk from the corner of Katella and Disneyland Drive ALLLLLL the way down behind the Paradise Pier Hotel, clear security and walk back down Disneyland Drive into my corral and work my way up to as close to the front of the corral as I possibly could without being too pushy. Many of us joked at the number of steps we’d already tracked and the race was a good hour from starting! I myself had roughly 3,000 steps by the time I hit the starting line.
The main piece of advice I got from my friend who has run lots and lots of Disney races was to try and get as far forward in the corral as possible. Since I was in the last corral I wanted to make sure I had as big of a cushion as possible between myself and the pace runners.
The pace runners, sometimes referred to as the balloon people, keep a 16 minute mile pace. They are the last runners on the course and carry a single balloon. At certain spots along the course a decision can be made by race officials to remove – or sweep the participants who are behind the pacers.
Once I got up to the head of my corral I had about an hour or so before the race started. I knew it was going to be about another 30 minutes after that for my corral to make it to the start line, so it was time to take part in that activity all Disney fans are familiar with — wait in line and make new friends. I chatted with two ladies beside me who were sporting color coordinated fairy wings. They complimented me on my shell shirt, and were impressed that I made it myself. We also were happy to see that more and more participants were still making their way to the back of our corral. We figured the more people between us and the pacers the better. I was pretty happy with myself that I made it closer to the balloon for the E corral then for the F corral.
And then it was time to go. The race officially started at 5:30 but I was so far down on Disneyland Drive that I couldn’t really hear what was going on at the grand stands. As I inched my way forward as each corral started I could hear the announcer getting everyone excited to go. She was a ball of energy, most impressive that early in the morning.
Just before I crossed the start line I made sure to open up the RunKeeper app and set my interval for 15:30 per mile to make sure I kept ahead of the pacers, and also so that my husband could track where I was. Before the race I also set up the bib tracking program that sent automated texts to my husband when I started, crossed milestones along the course and gave him an estimate as to when I’d finish.
The first mile is around the outer perimeter of Disneyland, and then you enter into the backstage entrance off Harbor Boulevard. This is when it started to get seriously fun. The cast members were amazing! They lined the route and cheered everyone as we ran past. Many had Mickey gloves and were high five-ing the runners. The route went a short way down Town Square and then entered the backstage behind Space Mountain into Tomorrowland near Pizza Planet. We ran straight towards the hub and came across one of the first photo spots. runDisney recently switched from an outside race photo company to using their own PhotoPass photographers. Everything I heard from seasoned runners was that this was a huge improvement. Since they are PhotoPass Pictures they can be added to your Disney account and included in a PhotoPass single day purchase, or you may order individual pictures. The photo spots were all clearly marked so you could see them well in advance and get yourself ready to smile!
We continued around the Matterhorn and into Fantasyland. Just a few feet from the Castle a good friend of mine who was running with her mother, sisters, and daughter came jogging up along side me. It was awesome to have a friend to run through the castle with. They had a bunch of photographers as we curved around the hub. The route turned into Frontierland, along the rivers of America to the dock for the Columbia and back towards the Hub through Adventureland. As we approached the Hub I peeled off to get a picture — this is what I was waiting for, this is why I signed up for this! My husband told me that if I was concerned about finishing that I couldn’t let myself get distracted and stop for every picture spot. As a scrapbooker I was horrified by the suggestion, but I told him that I’d try but the Castle was a deal breaker, I had to get that shot. I’m so glad I did! The PhotoPass Photographer took a few on my iPhone (I used the camera in the RunKeeper app so they were linked to my run activity) and then a bunch on his camera. I love them! Yes I’m a little sweaty, but I’m standing in the hub with the early morning sun and hardly anyone in the background, it was AWESOME! And just like that I was jogging “Right Down the Middle of Main Street!” As we exited Disneyland towards Downtown Disney we were greeted by lots of cheering crowds with so much enthusiasm. It didn’t matter if they knew you or not, they were cheering! It was amazing!
We entered DCA through a side back stage area and came in around Soarin’. We then headed towards Paradise Pier. I took a quick selfie in front of the Little Mermaid ride (I wished I had my custom ears for that shot!) and then turned towards the lagoon for World of Color. They had the fountains running and it was a spectacular site. I grabbed a quick selfie and then helped another group of racers take their pix and they took mine. The route then moved along Paradise Pier and then dipped back stage behind California Screamin’. We entered into Cars Land from the back of Radiator Springs Racers. They had a few cars going rather slow on the track and I got a few selfies and a few action shots from the PhotoPass photographer. We then made our way to the back of Tower of Terror and then through Hollywood Land towards Buena Vista Street, and out the main gate for DCA. I couldn’t help myself, I asked the Cast Member waving one of the crowd control flashlights, “Do I need a hand stamp?” He gave me a weak smile, I’m guessing I wasn’t the first one to come up with that gem.
We had a about another mile running parallel to Harbor Boulevard and then turning towards Katella. At one point mile five is running along side those on mile 12. Yes as I was exiting the property the elite runners and early corrals were in the home stretch!
This is where I started to feel like there is quite a lot of race left and not a lot to distract me. I was very happy that I had the I Heart Radio app on my phone. After a few months of using it for training runs it had an eclectic mix of music for me. I kid you not, the first song as I started the race was “Under the Sea”, somewhere along the course Five for Fighting’s “Wake up in Disneyland”, and as I re-entered the park at mile 12, “Disney Girls!”
Along the city streets there were tons of volunteers at water stops, residents out on their lawns cheering, and high school bands & pep squads strutting their stuff! The group that puts them all to shame has got to be the Red Hat Society ladies. There were easily two city blocks lined with them near the Anaheim City Hall at about mile 8. They were all decked on in purple with their signature red hats and feather boas cheering us on as if we were just inches from winning a gold medal! It was a great pick me up.
Another fun thing along the race was the signage folks had, they were hysterical. Some of my faves:
“If you think this is hard, try growing out bangs!”
“Run like a hot guy is in front of you, and a creepy guy is behind you.”
“Think of any happy little thought… like the finish line is up ahead!”
Along the course I took pictures of each mile marker. I tried to get a selfie if I could or just take a picture as I went by. It wasn’t until mile 6 along the route that I realized there was a race volunteer at each marker calling out how far ahead of the pacers we were. At mile 10 we were at the same pace, I had been running a good deal of the race in the park but once I got on the city streets I started walking a bit more. Hearing that I was at the same pace and now seeing the balloons 100 yards behind me, I got a bit spooked and started jogging to pick up my pace.
As we came down Manchester Avenue I could see the Matterhorn up ahead and I started to get pretty excited — I was doing this! Soon we were re-entering the backstage area and going down a tunnel underneath a roadway, there were cast members cheering us on letting us know there was a slight uphill then we would be at mile 12 and it was all flat from there on out!
Shortly after I hit the 12 mile marker I got a text from my husband letting me know that they were along the route past the Paradise Pier Hotel just before the 13 mile marker. That last mile felt longer, perhaps because I was so excited to be so close to finishing, or because I misread the text and thought he was in front of the hotel! As I was coming into the home stretch I saw my husband and son waving to me and my husband had the best sign ever! I have to give him mad props, he made it himself with my Cricut Explore!
I came into the finish line and gave Mickey a High Five and I was done. My app showed that I had completed 13.52 miles. I was a bit confused until someone pointed out that if I was weaving at all that would account for the extra mileage. By the number of pictures I got, yup I was dodging and weaving. I was also rather impressed to see from my splits that I ran/jogged about 6 of those miles!
I got my shiny medal and made my way to Downtown Disney to meet up with my husband and son. It was an awesome way to spend Mother’s Day. After a much needed hot shower and big brunch we were back in the parks for the rest of the day. I was moving a bit slow but we still managed to add an additional 12 miles of walking by the end of the day!
Next up, what I learned, and will I do this again!
Stephanie is an avid paper crafter, scrapbooker, and lover of all things Disney. She also enjoys playing with geeky toys to create her paper creations! When not creating scrapbook pages about her husband and son, she can be found at HainingMade.com making handmade paper crafts for parties and events.