Sunday, January 18
The alarm again went off at 3:30. This is starting to seem normal. That worries me.
As usual, we had a light breakfast. Lee was unhappy to discover that, while we had started with two packets of coffee in our Studio, the remaining one was decaf. An uncaffeinated Lee is not a happy Lee.
Different costumes today - Lee was an X-wing fighter pilot. I thought it was pretty effective as a running costume! Since I'd been unable to come up with something else (I used up all my creativity with Amidala), I wore my Cinderella costume again. Which has the advantage that I've run in it before, and I know it's not going to give me problems.
This time we knew to go through Downtown Disney to get to the pre-race area, so it was a much more efficient process. We met up with friends and walked to our start corral - we were all in B. We weren't all planning to run together this time, though - just Lee and me.
For the half marathon there were some fireworks during the national anthem and for the start of the race.
And then we were off. The course started the same as the 10K - north on Disneyland drive and east on Ball, but instead of going over the freeway we ducked into the Team Disney Anaheim area, then backstage at Disneyland. That was all before mile 1. Most of the park time part of the half marathon course was similar to the 10K the day before, though there were a few times we ran in the opposite direction. Like the 10K we ran around the perimeter of Disneyland and behind the Indiana Jones attraction, then out to the Esplanade, but then we went into Disneyland's main entrance and down Main Street to Frontierland.
Luke and Leia were posing in front of the Mark Twain's dock. Another loooong line. But this time there was a cast member pointing out a safe place to stop for a quick photo or selfie, and telling us we were fine as long as we stayed within the yellow cones (meaning we were off the actual race course). It was nice to see them bow to the inevitable and do that at most of the character stops, though at one of the stops in DCA they STILL were chasing runners off.
We ran around Big Thunder Mountain in Fantasyland. At the teacups, Lee demonstrated that an X-wing pilot can fly anything. :-)
Leaving Fantasyland we went back towards the hub. Chewbacca was behind the Matterhorn this time. The line wasn't quite as long as the day before, but still more than we wanted to deal with!
We again ran into Tomorrowland. Darth Vader and the Storm Troopers (sounds like the name of a rock band) were in front of Star Tours. I can't remember how, but we ended up backstage near Space Mountain and then went out into Town Square, then exited Disneyland. I saw my friend Masayo cheering in the Esplanade before we went backstage between Disneyland and DCA.
We entered DCA by the Tower of Terror and ran down Hollywood Blvd. Boba Fett was near Off the Page, still with a long line, but shorter than the day before - we didn't stop, though.
Along the way between Grizzly Peak and "a bug's land" there were several sets of Storm Troopers. Which was a great idea because it meant none of them had very long lines. At some point we also saw the Star Wars Rebels characters again, but didn't stop because we'd gotten them the day before.
This time we went counter-clockwise around Paradise Bay, and passed by The Little Mermaid and Jumpin' Jellyfish. The Jedi were in front of Silly Symphony Swings. This was the third set of Jedi we'd seen, so another example where there were multiple instances of similar characters, which made the lines a lot more reasonable!
After that we went out the parade gate again, and behind California Screamin', again re-entering the park by the arch into Radiator Springs. There was some nice lighting on Ornament Valley as the sun was starting to rise.
We exited the park between Flik's Fun Fair and Luigi's Flying Tires, and found ourselves going south on Harbor Blvd. About mile 4.5 of the race, and we'd been on property for about four miles. Quite an improvement over the Avengers half marathon course, in my opinion. One of the best parts about park time is that it makes the race seem to go by more quickly - we were over 1/3 done with the race when we left the parks!
As we ran down Harbor there was a spectacular sunrise.
There's about a mile of Harbor Blvd where the course is going both directions - outgoing runners at ~miles 5-6, and returning runners about miles 11-12. We saw some of the early finishers - we didn't see the men's winner, who was almost done by then, but we saw the first woman runner - yeah, she was about 6 miles ahead of us...
Harbor is a very wide street, and runners had two lanes in each direction. That made for very easy and uncrowded conditions. It was great.
In the median was a guy dressed as Chewbacca. He looked just as good as the one in Disneyland, and did NOT have a 30 minute line. The spectators really embraced the Star Wars theme, and we saw lots with Star Wars-inspired signs, and some in costumes. I saw a guy dressed as a Jedi master and said "May the Force be with you". He saw Lee's X-wing fighter costume and replied: "Stay on target." :-)
I guess one thing I haven't talked about is runner costumes. I think R2D2, or something reminiscent of him, was what I saw the most of. There were also a lot of Princess Leias, a number of them accompanied by Han Solos. I didn't see nearly as many Jedi as I expected - Lee suggested that the robes would've been too warm for running. Though we did see one guy in a complete Chewbacca costume! Yikes.
There were a lot of X-wing pilots, and a few runners in Darth Vader helmets. I saw almost no Disney characters, and I actually received quite a bit of attention in my Cinderella outfit - probably because the spectators could easily tell who I was. :-)
The high school bands and cheerleaders were out, also, and several of the bands were playing Star Wars music.
By about mile 6.5 we were in the city of Garden Grove, and had turned west on Garden Grove Blvd. There were a number of policemen, fire departments, and paramedics along the course to cheer us on.
Around mile 7 we entered more of a residential district, so no more bands for a while, in consideration of the residents who were probably still trying to sleep! I noticed that we crossed "Newhope Street" - how appropriate for a Star Wars-themed race! (For those who are not big Star Wars fans, the original Star Wars movie's subtitle was "Episode IV: A New Hope.")
We had heard the Disney had invited "Costumers" (though we would call them Cosplayers) to officially come out dressed in Star Wars attire to cheer us on, and we passed the first set of them about mile 8. That's at a point in the race when we're starting to need a distraction and some encouragement, and since we were still in a residential area, no bands or musical groups were appropriate. But these people were terrific. There were so many wonderful costumes!
And even a special vehicle - notice R2D2 in the back. (The license plate was OBISHWN.)
Soon after that we went down Garden Grove's Historic Main Street. This was only one block long, but it was a nice area with lots of shops.
Then we headed north again and just before mile 9 we encountered the second set of Costumers - a much larger group than the first. Wow! Lots of different costumes, and a much better variety of characters than we'd seen in the parks. Honestly, after seeing them I think there was really no reason to wait to see the characters in the parks - these were even better!
We had friends who were dressed as Leia and an X-wing pilot, and it was wonderful to see them out there!
In miles 9-10 we went east on Chapman Avenue.
It seemed like we had a few more residents/spectators out cheering for us than we had in miles 6-8 - the support was great. The residential areas that we ran through seemed very nice - there were several parks as well as this one more natural area.
Just before mile 11 we turned north on Harbor again - we'd already run this stretch of road, but in the opposite direction. All the runners had gone through on the other side and they were starting to clean everything up, but they hadn't re-opened the southbound lanes yet.
After a mile we turned left on Katella and ran around the outside of California Adventure. This was different, since for the other three half marathons the last mile is all on Disney property. We saw Colin and Beci cheering - and also this guy. :-)
We turned onto Disneyland Drive and then into the Simba parking lot. On the course map I'd seen that there was a loop in this lot, and I was a little concerned about that. It seemed like a cruel place to add some extra distance! But it was short, and we were soon on the familiar final 1/4 mile finishing stretch past the Paradise Pier and the Disneyland Hotels to the finish line.
I'd really hoped to finish in 2:35 or less and we did it: 2:33:53!
This time the volunteers were handing out mylar sheets! Nice, because it was a cool and overcast morning. We also got our half marathon medals.
And then went to the Coast-to-Coast tent to get both our Rebel Challenge and Coast-to-Coast medals.
They looked our bib number up on the computer and matched us to the photo taken at the Expo, and also verified that we had a finishing time for the 10K. It was quick and efficient. For Coast-to-Coast we just showed the wristband we'd received at the Expo and got that medal.
The medals are nice - the Rebel Challenge is a spinner, with Yoda on one side and Vader on the other. The ribbon is also different colors on each side. I mentioned this in a previous blog, but one thing I noticed about the Half Marathon medal: it does not say "Inaugural" on it. That most important word is only on the ribbon, but not the medal. :-( The 5K, 10K, and Rebel Challenge medals all say "Inaugural".
We got our runDisney boxes, and had someone take our photo, but then we went back to our room - it was chilly to just be standing around, and we just wanted to sit down/shower/get a hot beverage/all of the above.
All in all, this was a terrific experience. The Star Wars 10K is my new favorite "more fun than anyone should have while running" race. The half marathon was great, and I really enjoyed the course. It was wide and fast and made for very easy running. It certainly wasn't crowded, so it'll be interesting to see how many more entries will be added to next year's race. There were about 12,000 entered this year, with 10,374 official finishers. While I liked this course a lot the Tinker Bell half marathon course is still my favorite because it spends more time on Disney property, and I think the downtown Anaheim areas are a little more interesting.
When it comes to the overall race experience, though, I think this one is my new favorite half marathon. The organizers brought so many wonderful elements of Star Wars to these races. There were the costumes worn by the race announcers and DJs, the movie clips while we waited in the corrals, the Stars Wars "crawl" at the beginning of the races, and the marvelous music and sound effects in the parks.
I only wish that the Disney characters in their Star Wars costumes had been out in the parks. They didn't even have to be available for photos - they could have put them on the ramp of Innoventions or someplace like that where we could only see them, and that would've been fine with me.
And my very favorite part was the Costumers who were out on the course. The costumes were amazing - it was great to see such a variety of characters from the Star Wars universe - both the heroes and the villains. As I said earlier, there really wasn't a reason to wait in character lines in the park when there were so many more out on the course! And they were so very enthusiastic and supportive, too. I'd like to express my thanks to runDisney for inviting them to participate in both the Avengers and Star Wars half marathons, and I sincerely hope that they will be invited back again next year. And thank you to all of you who came out - it really meant a lot to the runners for us to see you, especially at that point in the race. We get a burst of energy from your cheers and enthusiasm at a time when we need that.
Thank you to everyone who came out to support us: the bands and cheerleaders, friends and family of runners, the kids who high-fived us, and the kind people who handed out orange slices, red licorice, and pretzels.
And thank you to the volunteers who checked us in at the Expo, kept us supplied with water and PowerAde, distributed medals and mylar and food at the finish, and performed all of the other tasks that are so essential to a race. Thank you to the cast members and police departments who kept us safe, and the medical teams who were ready to assist if needed.
And that's just some examples of the people that we SAW - there's an awful lot of people behind the scenes, too. The audio visual people, the graphic designers, the people who set up and tear down the bleachers and the tents and deal with all of those barricades and orange cones - and let's not forget those who have the less-than-pleasant duty of servicing the porta-potties! :-)
The entire race weekend was a lot of fun, and we definitely hope to participate in the Rebel Challenge again next year!