My family and I ran in the Disneyland 5K in 2011 and saw the beautiful medals they gave out to all the half marathon finishers. I told myself I was coming back the following year to run in the half marathon to earn my very own “Big D” medal . One year later and I have accomplished my goal! A friend of mine who had run this race before told my husband and I it wasn’t a good race to set a PR because the course bottle necked in certain areas so we went into the race with that in mind.
Packet pick up was similar to last year’s event. It was very organized and they had a lot of Disney staff directing traffic flow. You went in and you went out. I had my bib in hand in a matter of minutes. I also needed to change my corral placement and it was very easy and quick to do at the runner relations booth. I showed proof and they moved me up one corral. After we got our bibs we were directed back upstairs towards the expo inside the Disneyland Hotel convention center. One thing you need to know about the technical tees they hand out for this event is that they only come in unisex sizes. So for those women who prefer a more fitted tee you should sign up for a smaller size. I registered for a small and it was still too big but in order to exchange it for an XS you had to get in line at another table and wait for someone to exchange their XS for a different size. I didn’t want to waste my time waiting in line so I kept my small sized tee. Not a deal breaker for me.
The expo had a lot of vendors on hand. They had a very long line at the kinesio tape booth for people wanting to get taped for free. I thought that was a nice touch. They also had several different vendors advertising other half marathons and selling tons of racing merchandise. The official RunDisney merchandise was located at the far end of the convention center so my husband and I made our way down there, picked up what we wanted to buy and paid in a matter of minutes. I was expecting long lines at check-out but thankfully it was not the case.
Race morning we walked from our hotel to the start line a few blocks away. The weather was perfect. It wasn’t too cold or too hot when we headed out at 4:30 a.m. Gear check was quick and easy and they must have had hundreds and hundreds of porta-potties available for runners. I’ve experienced painfully long lines at other races before so I appreciated RunDisney planning for the large numbers. By 5:15 we headed towards the corrals. The corrals were clearly marked and my own corral did not feel over crowded. I’ve been in other races where we couldn’t even get into our own corrals because there were too many people in there. My husband was in A and I was in C. They started the race with the wheelchair athletes first and then about a minute after them they released corral A. They said they would release a corral every five minutes and by the time I crossed the start line the clock read 11 minutes so I think RunDisney stuck to their guns about releasing the corrals on time.
The course itself was very entertaining. The first four miles looped you through California Adventure and then into Disneyland. It was amazing running through the parks and seeing the sights and getting cheered on by the employees. I heard people complain that the course was too crowded and too narrow through the park, and that may have been the case for those in the later corrals, but other than some slowing down in mile one the rest of the way through was mostly smooth sailing for me. I took quick pictures of the scenery along the way (the giant ferris wheel, the new Carsland, Sleeping Beauty Castle) and others stopped and got in line for character photos. I loved that we got to run through Sleeping Beauty’s castle and there were photographers at the end of the drawbridge snapping your photos as you ran by.
From miles four through eleven you ran through the city of Anaheim and past the Honda Center and into Angels Stadium. RunDisney had plenty of water/gatorade stations along the way and at one point they handed out energy gels. There must have also been thousands of spectators and cheer groups set up throughout the course. It was a nice touch having the oldies car show set up along the way with their owners cheering for you and I appreciated the good people of Anaheim coming out and showing their support. At one point I ran past 1972 Olympian Jeff Galloway and said hi to him. I thought it was amazing that he was out there running with us. At mile 9 we started our trek towards Angels Stadium. As you run into the stadium you are met by several hundred boys and girls scouts cheering for you, and then when you enter the field there were hundreds of spectators in the stands all cheering for the runners. It was a once in a lifetime experience to run on the outfield (of course, I snapped more pictures in the stadium) and a memory you will treasure forever. After the stadium you have three miles left to the race. Spectators, high school cheerleaders and bands were lined up along Katella Drive. By that point I was tired and sore and my muscles were cramping up so it was nice to have all that positive energy and support to give me that extra kick I needed to finish strong. At mile 12 you are at your last leg into the Disneyland parking lot and headed towards the finish line past Downtown Disney. There were bleachers set up with spectators along the way and people standing along the sides. I saw my husband waiting for me at the mile 13 sign and got so excited because I was one-tenth of a mile away from crossing the finish line. I finished the race smiling and only missed my personal best by two minutes. My husband actually ran his best race that morning improving his time by two minutes so I was very proud of him.
After I got my gorgeous “Big D” and I grabbed some refreshments and made my way towards the exit. Everything was so methodical with the volunteers handing out cool towels, drinks and boxes of snacks. I found my husband after I exited gear check and celebrated another run well done! All in all it was an amazing experience and something I will remember for a very long time. Great support from all the employees, the volunteers and the community along the entire 13.1 miles of RunDisney magic.