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May 18, 2017

2017 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Race Expo

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Tinker Bell Expo

Though I didn't run any of the Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend races this year, I visited the Expo. I wrote in my previous blog about my experiences working at the Expo that day as a paid employee. After my shift was over, I spent some time walking around the Expo.

I was surprised that the entrance to the packet pick-up area wasn't decorated at all. In the past the rug at the entrance has had the race logo, and portraits of the pixies have been on the walls. It was very plain this year.

Tinker Bell Expo

The packet pick-up area downstairs wasn't very busy at 4:00 in the afternoon. There were about 27,500 scheduled to participate in all of the weekend's events: Never Land 5K, Tinker Bell 10K, Kids Races, and Tinker Bell Half Marathon. Not all of the races sold out and bibs were still available for the 10K, half marathon, and Pixie Dust Challenge.

Tinker Bell Expo

There were still quite a few Dooney & Bourke bags available.

Tinker Bell Expo

The main entrance to the Expo upstairs was decorated with banners.

Tinker Bell Expo

Tinker Bell Expo

There were large maps of the race courses posted just inside.

Tinker Bell Expo

The Expo had most of the usual vendors - the New Balance Disney shoes, Clif Bars, Fit2Run, RawThreads, Sparkle Skirts, etc. Springa was one that I did not recall seeing before - they had lots of shiny, sparkly headwear.

Tinker Bell Expo

The runDisney booth had samples of all of the race medals. The medals for this year's Virtual Running Shorts series feature Pluto, and I thought they were cute.

Tinker Bell Expo

There were also samples of the medals that would be distributed for the Tinker Bell Weekend events. All of the medals had new designs this year.

Tinker Bell 5K medal

Tinker Bell Kids Races medal

Tinker Bell 10K medal

Tinker Bell Half Marathon medal

Tinker Bell Pixie Dust Challenge medal

I was surprised that there was no line to get into the Official Merchandise area. And as far as I could tell, all of the merchandise was still available, including some of the items that sell out quickly like the Tervis bottles, the weekend runDisney shoe ornament, and the wine glasses.

Tinker Bell Expo

Tinker Bell Expo

Tinker Bell Expo

Tinker Bell Expo

And there were lots and lots of shirts. Of all different styles and colors - some of them very bright.

Tinker Bell race shirt

Tinker Bell race shirt

Tinker Bell race shirt

Tinker Bell race shirt

Tinker Bell race shirt

Tinker Bell race shirt

Tinker Bell race shirt

There were also a few styles of pants.

Tinker Bell race shirt

I liked many of the designs on the "I Did It" shirts this year.

Tinker Bell race shirt

Tinker Bell race shirt

Tinker Bell race shirt

Plenty of the mini-medal pins for all of the races - those were always some of my favorites.

Tinker Bell mini medal pin

Magnets, lots of magnets!

Tinker Bell magnets

A number of hairbands and headbands.

Tinker Bell headbands

Tinker Bell race shirt

I'd never seen Disney sell a medal rack before.

Tinker Bell medal rack

Since I wasn't running any races this year I didn't feel the need to buy anything. Once I'd finished in the merchandise area I was done with my pass through the Expo. Nothing really stood out to me as being especially new or different this year.





May 15, 2017

A Day in the Life of a Race Support Employee

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Earlier this year many long-time runDisney runners and race volunteers were very surprised when runDisney announced that they would not be using volunteers at the upcoming Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend. Instead race support would be provided by employees of two temporary employment agencies. Employees would be compensated at a rate of $13/hour - higher than the California minimum wage of $10.50/hour.

Tinker Bell Race Support

There's been no explanation for the change, though there's lots of speculation. I personally do not believe it was a cost-cutting measure. It's quite an involved process to hire that many people, and given my experience it does not seem that it was a cheaper option for runDisney.

I'd never volunteered for a race before, but I was curious about how this new process would work. (I should mention that we'd decided not to run any of the Tinker Bell races this year and instead had a family vacation scheduled to start that weekend.) I had Thursday free so I contacted the two agencies - Apple One and Volt - to see if I could work that day. Apple One didn't really respond to my inquiry - I received an empty email in response. The coordinator at Volt got right back to me with information and answered a few of my questions. She told me which shifts were available - at that point it was Expo shifts on Thursday and Friday, and early morning race support shifts on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I could work every day if I wanted to (but only one shift per day). I told her that I was only available to work on Thursday, and she was OK with that.

So then we started the process. And it was a process. I think it's much more complex than the volunteer system. To begin with I filled out an on-line application form. It was a generic form for prospective Volt employees, and nowhere did it say that I was applying to work Race Support, so I was a little worried. In addition to listing previous jobs, etc., I had to provide a point of contact for a previous job reference - though that person was never contacted.

One twist: runDisney required that the two agencies run a seven-year criminal background check on all those who were hired. So that was the next on-line form that I had to complete.

Within a few days I received another set of "paperwork" in my email. These included some forms that had to be printed and signed to complete my "onboarding". The agency was in Irvine, and I was in San Diego, so they arranged for me to visit their San Diego office to complete the paperwork. The main thing they needed to verify was my "right to work" in the United States, which required that someone verify my documentation (passport, in my case) and attest that it was valid. I could have had a friend or neighbor do that (but NOT a family member) and return everything to Irvine via FedEx. But the reality was that there were so many documents, and I wasn't sure what I really needed to sign or not, that it was much more straightforward to just go to the local office to do it.

Less than 10 days out I had to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement that Disney provided. That one I printed out, took a photo of the signature page and emailed it back.

On the Tuesday before I was scheduled to work, I received information on parking and check-in. They provided a parking pass to park for free in the Mickey and Friends garage. I was checking in at the Disneyland Hotel in an area next to Packet Pickup. I also received information on the dress code and lunches and breaks. I was advised to bring as little as possible since there was no place to store belongings.

Whew. As I said - it was a process. And since it's a job, I think it's quite a bit more invasive than it was in the past for volunteers - between the job application and the background check I had to provide a lot of personal information. I can understand that going through all of that would not be attractive to a lot of people - and it took a fair bit of my time to do it all.

It seemed like the company representative did a good job passing information along (I think she got it to us as fast as Disney got it to her). She verified and re-verified what shift I was working - but I think that getting people to show up for something like this can be a problem. She certainly kept offering me more shifts if I wanted them! As of Wednesday they were still trying to find people to work Sunday's half marathon. They apparently also drew upon people who had previously signed up with their agency - the woman I was working next to knew nothing about runDisney, but said Volt had contacted her and said they had some work if she wanted it. She was working four days - including two early morning race shifts.

So...as of Wednesday night I had my parking pass and instructions on where to meet and when.

Thursday morning I arrived at the parking garage about 7:20 - I was supposed to check in by 8:00. I was pleased to see that there were signs directing to the Disneyland Hotel, although once I reached the hotel itself there were no signs telling me where to go - fortunately from previous experience I knew where I was going.

Tinker Bell Race Support

Along the way there were some race weekend signs.

Tinker Bell Race Support

The Family Reunion area was still being put together.

Tinker Bell Race Support

The Finish line was in place, and workers were assembling the bleachers.

Tinker Bell Race Support

Once I checked in I got my Race Support shirt - this was to be worn as our top layer.

Tinker Bell Race Support

Who knew that Race Support had sponsors?

Tinker Bell Race Support

Then at the next table I received my assignment for the day. Everyone from Volt was being assigned to Runner Shirts and everyone from Apple One was going to Packet Pickup. I would've preferred to work Packet Pickup, but oh well.

The Expo wasn't scheduled to start until 10:00 (though we heard it would open at 9:30), so we still had a lot of time where we were just sitting around. Fortunately there were enough tables and chairs for everyone. Other than ice water dispensers and cups there were no refreshments of any kind. One of the men sitting at my table had volunteered at a number of runDisney events in the past, and said that they used to provide food and beverages to the volunteers - but that's gone by the wayside.

The workers were generally older - there were a number of retired people, though there were some younger people who looked like they were in their early 20s.

About 9:00 a couple of runDisney people came to give us a pep talk about how important we were to the process, etc., etc., and then escort us to our work areas, where we would receive whatever training we needed.

My group went upstairs to the main Expo floor and the shirt distribution area. Most of us would be giving out shirts, but they needed a few people to work the Shirt Exchange and others to be the "runners" who brought out additional shirts and bags from the back as they were needed.

The process was quite simple - each runner's bib had a tear-off strip indicating the size of shirt they were to receive. Each of us had only one size shirt available at our station - I had 5K shirts, size Adult Small. So I had to verify that the bib was a 5K bib, and the shirt size was "AS". Then tear off the strip and put it in a plastic bag that was taped to the counter. Under the counter was the stack of clear plastic runDisney bags, which already contained a Clif bar and a packet of safety pins, and each runner received one of those in addition to the shirt.

Tinker Bell Race Support

Here's a photo of one of the shirts I was distributing. I thought they were really cute, and I was surprised that a number of runners didn't like the color or the design. Most thought that it was really cute, though. You can't please everyone. At least it wasn't gray. :-)

Tinker Bell Never Land 5K shirt

The runDisney guy in charge of the shirt area had very definite ideas on how he wanted it to work. Understandable, since obviously he has lots of experience at this. Whatever size was at our station was what we gave out - we were not to reach over or move to fetch a different size. If the bib said they were to receive a small, but they wanted a medium, we gave them a small and directed them to Shirt Exchange. We were always to face the guests. We were to refer anyone with questions beyond "where do I get my shirt?" to one of the black-shirted runDisney employees, or direct them to the information booth in the lobby. No cell phones. We were to smile and thank the guests, but not chat too much with them. We were not supposed to lean on the counters. (Since we were standing the entire time, that was a little bit difficult.) We were always supposed to have a full contingent of workers at the counters, even when things were slow. So that meant if anyone needed a break, our leads had to bring someone up to fill the space. I guess there were some extra "floaters" who did that.

Here's what my area looked like. That space between the bins held two of us - not much room to move around. The woman to my right had two sizes of Youth 5K shirts.

Tinker Bell Race Support

We didn't really see the first people come to shirt pickup until after 10:00. In the meantime we could see what the Expo floor looked like with no one in it.

Tinker Bell Race Support

It all was in spurts. Sometimes I had people waiting, but most of the time I just stood there.

I got my first 10-minute break after about an hour, and wandered around the show floor briefly before I went back. There were two leads from Volt who made sure that everyone got their breaks and lunches.

Tinker Bell Race Support

We only got 30 minutes for lunch, which was really very little time to try to go someplace, get food, and eat. Since I was told not to bring a bag, I didn't bring lunch (I had been warned that lunch would not be provided and that I would only have 30 minutes). About all I had time for was to grab some yogurt at Tangaroa Terrace... I didn't have time to go through the security line and into Downtown Disney.

The afternoon was like the morning - brief periods when it was busy, but mostly a lot of standing around. A little excitement when one of the guys restocking shirts dumped the wrong size shirt in one of my bins - but I caught it before I gave any of them out. I was quite ready for my 10-minute break, which I largely spent sitting down backstage. I'm fairly used to standing for long periods of time, but not having any room to move around made me more tired.

At about 3:30 they brought up the people who would be working the afternoon/evening shift. We were responsible for training them - not that there was much to that. Though I think we got all of about five minutes before they told us to move out. Our group was escorted back downstairs. I clocked out with the Volt representative and my day was done.

I mentioned that my group seemed to be an older crowd. The afternoon shift appeared to be quite a bit younger on average.

In my area I didn't see any problems with having paid employees versus volunteers. I heard that there were issues in packet pick-up - some people said that no one checked their IDs! And we had one woman come to shirt pickup who had been given an extra bib that wasn't hers. Fortunately she realized that and gave it to a runDisney person. She was pretty frazzled and said that packet pick-up had not been a good experience for her. I'm curious to hear what the on-course experience is like for runners with the paid support versus the volunteers.

Working the Expo was an interesting experience for me. Not exactly challenging, but I enjoyed my interactions with the runners. I only saw one person I knew (Hi, Gail!), but I saw a number of people I recognized from previous Disney races. I'd do it again, though I'd like to try Packet Pick-up the next time. For one thing you get to sit down for that!





April 30, 2017

2017 Star Wars - The Dark Side Half Marathon Weekend, Part 2: 10K and Half Mararthon

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Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

Kim Scharoff and Tom Troost continue their coverage of the Star Wars - The Dark Side Half Marathon weekend events as they describe their successful completion of the Dark Side Challenge - the 10K and Half Marathon races.

Saturday, April 22 - Dark Side 10K

The 2016 Star Wars Dark Side races at Walt Disney World were inaugural events. As with most first time events, it went okay, but there were things that could have been better. We were excited for the 2017 versions of the next two races because they would both be following a new course.

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

The 2017 10K course was a point-to-point race. This meant we were starting in one location in the Magic Kingdom parking lot near the Ticket and Transportation Center, running down closed roads and finishing at the EPCOT parking lot. Due to this fact, we decided to take the race transportation to the start. The 10K race also started earlier at 5:30am (compared to the 5k 6:00am start). We stayed at Animal Kingdom Lodge and had no issues with getting to race start on the Disney buses.

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

In the pre-race area at Magic Kingdom everything was well organized. The pre-race character meet and greets were the same characters from Friday and DJ Elliott was spinning tunes to get everyone up and excited to run. The DJ was reminding people to hydrate and that the characters would also be in the finish area. There was plenty of space for folks to hang around before heading to the corrals. We milled about and used the porta potties, which we felt were in ample supply before heading to the corrals. For the 10k, the corrals went from A to F. Each corral was subdivided into two or three waves and were sent off in two minute intervals. Every wave was sent off with fireworks.

For the 10K, we were starting in separate corrals and decided to take different approaches. Tom hung to the back of his corral and Kim went to the front of hers.

Rudy, John and Carissa sent everyone off for the race. We started the race by heading back toward World Drive and got to run through the back side of the toll booths for Magic Kingdom. Within the first half mile, there was a local high school band playing Star Wars music. The kids and their adults were highly enthusiastic, cheering and giving high fives. The first three miles were down World Drive, a divided highway. You needed to stay alert to the side of the road because of construction, but most of it was well lit and well-marked. There were no PhotoPass photographers on the highway portion of the course for action shots, but there were character stops. R2-D2 was in this area of the course. Character photos were also available with Star Wars Rebels, the Emperor's chair and Darth Maul. After running a little more than half way we left World Drive, and snuck in to Hollywood Studios by the back of the Tower of Terror and the Fantasmic show area. At this point, there was an exciting group of cosplayers from the 501st Legion and the Saber Guild.

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

As you came out into the Studios, there were some Storm Troopers available to take pictures with.

We made the left onto Hollywood Blvd. to go out the entrance of the Studios. There were lots of Cast Members with light sabers cheering us on at this point and at least 4 to 6 PhotoPass photographers.

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

It was now time to go down the path to the Boardwalk and over to EPCOT. This was the only place we felt the course was a bit narrow and bottlenecked a little, although it was not like last year when it came to a complete stop. On the path, they had the Endor speeder bikes out for a photo opportunity. We took the boardwalk past the front of the Yacht and Beach Club. This was nice because there was some shade from the trees and folks out cheering with signs all along the area. We entered EPCOT in World Showcase and Chewbacca was near the backstage entrance by the International Gateway (the same spot as the 5k). We made our way from World Showcase to the front of EPCOT. The Storm Troopers were on the fountain again for photos.

As we headed backstage for the final two tenths of a mile, there were more cosplayers available backstage where the gospel choir is normally during Marathon and Princess weekends. As we approached the finish line, we stopped to talk with race announcers Rudy and John briefly before crossing the finish line with our arms raised in victory.

The finishers area where you get your medals, water and snack boxes was perfect. We stopped to get our photos taken by the PhotoPass photographers.

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

As the temperature was getting warm already, we headed to the buses to head back to the resort and had no waits getting right on a bus. One thing that did surprise us was that while there were adequate water stops, there was no Powerade available on the course.


Sunday, April 23 - Dark Side Half Marathon

When we woke up for the half marathon, the temperatures were already in the low 70s. We knew this was going to be a rough one. We got ourselves prepared, made sure we had full water bottles and damp cooling towels and boarded the bus to Magic Kingdom parking lot.

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

Like the 10K, we got to the pre-race area with plenty of time to spare, but three days of three a.m. wake up calls were taking their toll. We met up with old friends, made some new friends, used the porta potties and casually made our way to the corrals.

While in the corrals, the race announcers were great at reminding everyone to be careful and safe due to the heat. They even got Jeff Galloway on camera to remind us that it was important to watch your pace and to listen to your body. We took the same approach as yesterday with Tom starting in the back of his corral and Kim starting in the front of her corral hoping to meet up early in the race.

The new half marathon course started the same as the 10K by going towards the toll plaza of the Magic Kingdom. The band was there again, doing a great job of motivating the runners as we went by. Then it was time for a few new twists. The course turned off of the familiar World Drive route and they routed us down Bear Island Road. Those who have run the full Marathon or the 2016 Wine & Dine course will recognize this as the road behind the Speedway, running by the water treatment plant.

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

R2-D2 was out again early on. Then we ran back in to the quiet and darkness of the 5:30 a.m. start.

As we ran back onto the dark roadway it seemed a little creepy until suddenly we were in the middle of the battle of Endor. There were laser blasts, sound effects and fire balls to make it feel like you were in the middle of the action. This was a great addition to the race.

Also during this stretch, they had out the speeder bikes and meeting with an Ewok around mile 2.6.

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

We entered Animal Kingdom backstage and made our way into the park. We ran a little backstage, saw some of the holding cages, and then popped onstage near Kali River Rapids. All of the water in Kali was a very cooling thought for what was yet to come. We got to pass by the Nemo theatre, where there were Storm Troopers for photos, and exited the park near Chester & Hester's Dinoland attractions.

We went through a backstage area where there were plenty of cosplayers and then out into the near-park side of the Animal Kingdom parking lot. This can be a long stretch but they did a great job of breaking it up with people cheering and a water stop.

There was also another photo opportunity, the ice cave on Hoth where you had to try to reach out and use the force to recover your light saber. We were a little more than halfway there at this point.

Then the hot happened.

We started on another long highway stretch down Osceola staring into the rising sun. First we got to make jokes about the double suns of Tatooine. The heat jokes got old, so we started the chant “I am one with the Force, and the Force is one with me.” Somehow this morphed in to “I am one with tequila and tequila is one with me.” Heat and humidity can do silly things like that.

We had to run up the circle entrance ramps from Osceola to World Drive and again from World Drive to Buena Vista Drive. The incline on the ramps wasn’t bad, but the sloping of the Florida roads around the circle ramps led to more silly comments as we made our way towards Hollywood Studios. The sun was pushing its way up, and the comparison to living on Darth Vader’s volcanic planet of Mustafar was mentioned.

The clouds blocked the heat a little, but with no breeze it got muggy quickly. The path we followed into and through Studios was the same as the 10K. Back through the Fantasmic Theatre (no cosplayers on Sunday), down Hollywood Boulevard and then out to the park entrance. There were plenty of PhotoPass photographers in this stretch and lots of people were hamming it up for the camera.

The course then went back down the path to the Boardwalk resort where we went closer to the shaded BoardWalk side. It was in this area that there the various running teams out supporting, cheering and having snacks available. We also got to see a famous (?) podcaster who is just a little taller than an Ewok and another section of additional cosplayers.

We entered EPCOT and made the right to go the long way around World Showcase. We joked that we could have ridden the Frozen ride because we hit this part at park opening. The lack of an open margarita stand was also pointed out. We continued to make out way to the front of EPCOT. There was a final group of cosplayers in the backstage area again.

After seeing our favorite race announcers near the end we tried to dance our way across the finish line and learned that Kim has much better rhythm than Tom.

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

As we made our way through the finish area, we were given our medals and the blessed relief of new cooling towels. The medical volunteers were out in full force encouraging us to hydrate hydrate hydrate.

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

We got medals and finish line pictures, and they had beer and food available in the reunion area, as well as merchandise opportunities for people who missed out at the expo, but Tom was too tired. We hopped right on to a bus for a ride back to the hotel.

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

While we were smart with hydrating and using cooling towels during the race, this was a tough one. The new courses were a refreshing change from what we are used to running. The minimal crowding on the course made it very enjoyable to run. With lots of time on open roads the crowd was able to thin out and you got an excellent balance of open running time mixed with some time spent in the parks and seeing characters.

We would recommend these races to those who are Star Wars fans. We believe that as Disney does more with the Star Wars franchise we will see more variety of characters on course and ultimately a change in the course when Star Wars Land opens. This weekend certainly wins most improved over the inaugural experience and it will continue to get better with time.


From Laura: I'd like to say a huge thank you to Kim, Tom, and Molly for sharing their experiences at the Dark Side Half Marathon Weekend with us! After reading their blogs I'm seriously considering signing up for the Challenge again next year...







April 29, 2017

2017 Star Wars - The Dark Side Half Marathon Weekend, Part 1: Expo and 5K

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Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

Lee and I did not attend any of the events of this year's Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side weekend, so I prevailed upon friends to blog about the race weekend instead. Kim Scharoff and Molly and Tom Troost collaborated on notes and photos, and Kim wrote Part 1. A big thank you to all of them!

Thursday, April 20 - Expo

Tom, Molly and I are veteran runDisney runners and know that the Expo can be crazy at opening, so we decided to wait until later in the day. We drove over to the Expo around 3:30pm. We had no problem getting parking and walked right in.

The set up was the standard for WDW events - bibs in one building and Expo in another. While all of us printed out waivers prior, we forgot them at home and needed to print them on site. This was extremely easy to do. We were able to quickly get our bibs - all of us for the 5k and Tom and me for the Challenge.

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

In the same area where we picked up our bibs, the race shirts were available. The shirts were gray, maroon, and red, with black writing to keep with the Dark Side theme.

(Laura's comment: Of course there was a gray shirt. There's ALWAYS a gray shirt.)

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

Upstairs there was a merchandise area. Tom went to pick up some commemorative items that he had pre-ordered while Molly and I went to check out the merchandise.

The merchandise was well stocked. It had race specific items as well as Star Wars generic items. We did not see pins in this area or the "I did it!" shirts.

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

We went back outside and across to the main Expo. We first went to the runDisney merchandise area. Again, there appeared to be no shortage of anything. In addition, this area had the pins and shirts. Molly and I both purchased capri sweatpants that were Star Wars themed. Going through checkout was simple as well, requiring a less than 5 minute wait.

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

We walked around the remainder of the Expo, checked out some of the exhibitors and picked up a couple of items that we needed. New Balance sneakers were readily available and easy to purchase with no wait. I was able to basically walk right up and speak with Jeff and Barb Galloway and get my usual picture with Jeff.

We were done within 2 hours and headed off for dinner prior to calling it any early night since we knew the morning would be an early one.

Friday, April 21 - Dark Side 5K

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

Since the 5k was the usual EPCOT 5k that everyone knows from Marathon and Princess weekend, we drove over early so we could explore the pre-race area, and arrived at 4:00. Going through security to get in was easy. They continued with the bag vs. no bag lines and considered someone with a water belt as no bag.

DJ Elliot was spinning the tunes to get everyone pumped up. There were 7 picture back drops/characters that you could take photos with - Rogue One, Boba Fett with a carbonite Han Solo, Jabba the Hutt, Darth Vader, Kylo Ren, Captain Phasma, and BB-8. We were able to quickly get Darth Vader, Kylo Ren and BB-8, never waiting more than 15 minutes.

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side Darth Vader

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side Kylo Ren

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side BB-8

By that time, the lines had gotten long and for the first time, runDisney had signs with estimated wait times for each character. The ground was also nicely marked for moving the lines.

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

We made sure to make our way to the corrals with time to spare before the 6:00 race start. We were starting from corral C so that we could all stay together as we walked this race. There were the usual 5 corrals. Prior to the start we were reminded of proper course etiquette. It was relatively cool for Florida in April - about 61 degrees at the start, but quite humid.

Storm Troopers came out and told us this was Level One of our training. This was the same script that was used last year.

Rather than release an entire corral at once, they subdivided the corrals into 2 or 3 waves and released them at 2 minute intervals. This definitely helped to reduce some of the crowding on course.

Once on course, we felt they had a nice selection of characters. Less than a mile into the race, there were two Ewoks. The line was long when we got there and we decided not to stop, which is something we regretted later. We kept going and right before entering EPCOT near Test Track, the Emperor's Chair was available for runners to sit and take photos.

R2D2 and Star Wars Rebels were available in World Showcase for photos. Chewie was also in his usual spot for the runDisney events on the path near the International Gateway which allows for plenty of space for a long line. As you came near the Fountain in Future Wold, there were Storm Troopers on the ledge to take pictures with but without a PhotoPass photographer which we thought a bit strange.

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side

We saw lots of cool costumes, especially mash-up type costumes and we even dressed as droids. We got lots of great photos from the PhotoPass Photographers stationed throughout the course.

Of course, right before we crossed the finish line, we had to stop and talk with race announcers Rudy Novotny and John Pelky and take a selfie.

We all enjoyed the 5k race. Molly was now done racing for the weekend but Tom and I had two more races to go....

Star Wars Half Marathon - The Dark Side







March 4, 2017

2017 Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend - Part 2, Half Marathon

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Princess Half Marathon

Sunday, February 26 - Princess Half Marathon

With almost twice the number of runners there had been in the 10K, we knew we needed to arrive early at the start area. We met our friends Kim and Charlie in the lobby of Kidani Village at 3:15 and drove to Epcot. The buses had started running at 3:00, and already there was a whole lot more traffic than there had been the day before.

Still, we were on the early side and it didn't take too long to drive to Epcot and park. We learned a long time ago that driving ourselves is not an excuse to sleep for an extra hour. We really need to leave about the same time as we would if we were taking a bus. The main advantage to driving is that if the weather is bad, we have a place to stay inside where it's warm for a while!

We had no bags, but bag check really wasn't backed up anyway. I wanted to do character photos again - the choices were Tiana/Belle and Merida/Pocahontas. Both lines were already very long, and it was only 3:50! I chose the Merida/Pocahontas line. The line was so long that it was Merida when we got in line, swapped to Pocahontas, then swapped back to Merida before we reached the front! We were in line for almost an hour...I had no idea it would take that long.

Princess Half Marathon Lady Tremaine Drizella running costume

The weather was just about perfect. It was a little cooler than the day before - about 57. But most importantly, the humidity was way down, so it was really so much more comfortable for running than it had been on Saturday. I had a large trash bag that I wrapped around me - I needed just a little something to block the breeze and help me stay warm.

Lee and I were running with two other people, Eddie and Liz, who were coming from two different resorts. Liz texted us that she had a long wait for a bus, and then the bus was stuck in traffic. And Eddie was driving, and he was also stuck in traffic. We weren't all able to meet up until almost 5:00 - and the race started at 5:30!

And then we had the 1/2 mile walk to the start corrals...which was still very crowded, even with less than half an hour to the start of the race. As we were walking, Eddie got a text that the start had been delayed because of traffic. Given the experience of our other two runners, we were not surprised! Even with the delay we were still walking to our corral when the cast member sang the national anthem. I think we made it into the corral just after Corral A started, so we were barely in time.

Princess Half Marathon

The corrals were further up on World Drive this year, so it was a slightly longer walk. We knew the course had been modified through Magic Kingdom, so assumed that was the reason for it.

We again ran as a Cinderella group this year - but this time there were four of us. Lee and Eddie reprised their Drizella and Anastasia costumes, Liz was our Cinderella, and I was Lady Tremaine. (Most people didn't seem to know who I was, and it occurred to me in the first mile that I should have brought a stuffed gray cat with me.) Not surprisingly, the guys got all of the attention again, and had lots of people who wanted photos of them or photos with them. :-)

Cinderella Anastasia Drizella Lady Tremaine running costume

The corrals again were being sent off in waves. We were in the back of corral D, and went out about 9 minutes after the official start of the race. My understanding is that there was 62 minutes from the start of the race until the final wave of the last corral. Yikes.

Princess Half Marathon

The waves did seem to help - the one-lane sections of road we had around miles 1 and 2 did not seem as bad this year. Still, it's always good to get onto World Drive where there are four lanes to run on!

It was very nice to see my friends Gail and Julian cheering on the overpass about mile 1.4 and stop for a quick hug.

The first character stop was the pirates about mile 2. Loooong line already and we didn't stop. Followed by the heroes a little later with another long line.

The mile markers were very popular photo stops, so I took very few photos of them, but we had to stop at mile 3 since it was Cinderella!

Princess Half Marathon

I think Mrs. Incredible was the next character we saw, near the speedway. The line didn't seem too long, but took longer than I expected. There were villains later, but they always have a huge line and we didn't stop.

Princess Half Marathon Mrs Incredible

With the change in the course, the mile 5 sign wasn't at the corner past the Contemporary Resort where we turn left to go into the Magic Kingdom - I think we were almost backstage before we saw it.

And then we were on Main Street. Lee and Eddie delighted the spectators by having a hand fight as they ran down Main Street. Unfortunately the PhotoPass photographers didn't catch them in action, but it was really funny.

Princess Half Marathon

We did stop for a photo near the castle where Sam and Chuck from Mickey Milers were cheering.

Princess Half Marathon

Buzz Lightyear was in Tomorrowland, and the Queen of Hearts was next to the Mad Tea Party, but we didn't stop.

This year the course went back into the new part of Fantasyland, past the Storybook Circus and Beast's castle. Gaston was posing near his tavern, and we HAD to stop. The line wasn't too long, but when we were about 6 people from the front, Gaston had to go on a break. The cast member told us it would be about 5 minutes, but it was over 10. I get it...since Gaston is a face character they can't just swap in a different one like they do with the others. We were seriously debating moving on when he came back.

He was really an excellent Gaston - I wish I'd taken video of him. So fun to watch him with the ladies - especially those dressed as Belle. But he really wasn't sure what to make of the guys in the stepsister outfits. :-) He shook their hands as we were leaving and said something like: "Good job."

Princess Half Marathon Gaston

We were hoping to meet the stepsisters and stepmother again this year, but with the focus on Beauty and the Beast this year, the next character stop was the Beast. Since we'd already waited about 20 minutes we weren't really interested in another long line.

I was surprised when we ended up running through the castle. The course map seemed to indicate that we would loop around past "it's a small world" and Peter Pan's Flight into Liberty Square. Anna, Elsa, and Kristoff were up on the balcony at the back of the castle. We were able to run through the castle. There were a couple of photographers, but the main photo stop was at the bottom of the ramp and off to the left, where multiple PhotoPass photographers were taking posed photos. Very popular, but we ran on through Liberty Square. Woody was greeting guests in Frontierland not far from the Mile 6 sign.

Princess Half Marathon

We ran backstage next to Splash Mountain, and that's where the princesses were. One line got us two photos - with Cinderella and Prince Charming, and with Snow White and her prince. (But aren't they both named "Prince Charming"?) Another long line...15 minutes, I think. Cinderella didn't quite know what to make of us - she said something like: "I love to see families together", but her prince was more in the spirit of it.

Princess Half Marathon Cinderella

Snow White and her prince got more of a kick out of us.

Princess Half Marathon Snow White

We'd lost a lot of time because of the two very long character stops, and were really dreading "Cone Alley", the one lane stretch from the exit of Magic Kingdom until we were past the Polynesian. It wasn't too bad, though.

We passed character stops with the penguins from Mary Poppins and the Genie, but had to stop with the "bachelors" in front of the wedding pavilion - because they had the glass slipper. The guy on Eddie's left looks very worried! Too funny.

Princess Half Marathon
Princess Half Marathon

It was nice to get back on the four-lane part of World Drive again. The sun was up and it was a beautiful morning - but it was clear and sunny, which can mean pretty warm conditions for running. Fortunately it stayed cool and there was a little bit of a breeze. And as I mentioned before the humidity was way down. It was really just about as good as it gets!

There was a long line for the heroes but a short line for the pirates. No PhotoPass photographer there, but there was a cast member to take photos. Jack Sparrow certainly took a long look at the sisters.

Princess Half Marathon pirates

Yay...mile 10!!! Just 5K to go. Sarge was encouraging runners as we took the cloverleaf up onto the overpass above World Drive and back towards Epcot.

Princess Half Marathon

No characters on the return to Epcot, though I saw Gail and Julian again about mile 11. Liz's mom, Molly, was waiting for us outside the entrance to Epcot and took this photo.

Princess Half Marathon

There was a character just backstage at Epcot, but I don't remember who it was...except that it wasn't one we cared about. :-) We popped into Future World with about 3/4 of a mile to go. Princess Daisy was waiting at the turnaround point near World Showcase Plaza with no line, so we got a nice photo.

Princess Half Marathon Daisy

We stopped for a photo in front of the fountain, too.

Princess Half Marathon

The PhotoPass photographers took a couple good ones of us as we ran through Future World towards the finish. The one of Lee is my favorite from the entire race weekend.

Princess Half Marathon
Princess Half Marathon

As we approached the finish line, Eddie and Lee were again "fighting" - so engrossed in beating the other to the line that they didn't notice Cinderella blazing by them to finish ahead of them. :-) The race announcers got a big kick out of it.

Princess Half Marathon

We finished in 3 hours, 10 minutes - those two long photo stops really slowed us down. But it was about having fun and not getting a good time. And we had fun!

We got our half marathon medal (sooo pretty!), our Glass Slipper Challenge medal, and our Coast-to-Coast medal. It's the 10th year for Coast-to-Coast, so it received a slight re-design this year. It's larger than in previous years.

Princess Half Marathon medals

We all had finisher photos taken together for the half and the challenge.

Princess Half Marathon

Lee and I had a third photographer to visit because of the Coast-to-Coast medal.

Princess Half Marathon

Once we exited into the finish area we got into yet another line to get beer and champagne. Fortunately that didn't take as long as the character lines!

We munched on some of the contents of our runDisney boxes (sigh) while we were waiting. The boxes were slightly different between the 10K and the half. The open box is the 10K box. The bar and apple berry medley were substituted for the Builder's Protein bar and the dried cranberries in the half marathon box.

Princess Half Marathon snack box

Oh, and that reminds me...one of the things I really like about the Princess and Tinker Bell half marathons is that they give us a bag after we finish to put our drink bottles, food boxes, etc. into. That makes everything so much easier to carry. Why don't they do that for the other race weekends?

Princess Half Marathon bagt

Our friend Charlie finished and met us at the beer line...after the guys finished their beers we went back to the car. But the traffic to get out of the parking lot was awful - it took us about 30 minutes to get out of the parking lot. They really needed some cast members directing traffic in that area. That was the only real negative of the day, though.

The next day we went to Epcot - I wanted to get a picture with Belle and my race medals. We were waiting for rope drop at Chefs de France for the 11:00 meet and greet with Belle. There were a number of other people with the same idea - there were more adults than children!

Princess Half Marathon Belle

We saw a couple of people ahead of us who had Belle sign the back of their half marathon medal, and I thought that was a great idea!

Princess Half Marathon

It was another really fun race weekend. While I think the Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend at Disneyland is my favorite set of races, Princess Half Marathon Weekend might be the most fun I have at a race weekend. It's such a fun atmosphere, and despite not being a girly girl, I still love the Disney princesses.

Next year will be the 10th Princess Half Marathon and the 5th Glass Slipper Challenge, so it will be interesting to see what the theme is for that. And how much bigger the race is. There were 20,595 finishers this year - 18,499 women and 2096 men. That's about the same total it's been the last few years, though this year there were more men than in any previous year. The biggest year was the 5th anniversary, when there were 22,739 finishers, and it seemed very crowded that year...I hope it won't be that big next year, but I'm afraid it will be since it's an anniversary year.

Thanks for reading!








March 3, 2017

2017 Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend - Part 1, Expo and 10K

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Princess Half Marathon

This is the 9th year for Disney's Princess Half Marathon Weekend. It's always a fun one for me. Even though I don't like the 10K and half marathon courses I still have a really good time!

Disney figured out yet another way to capitalize on the upcoming live action "Beauty and the Beast" movie by making it the theme of the race weekend this year. Besides, it really was Belle's turn - Ariel got it last year, and Anna and Elsa the year before that. :-)

As usual, the Expo was held at the Wide World of Sports complex. I went on Friday afternoon - the Expo had opened Thursday morning.

Princess Half Marathon medalPrincess Half Marathon Glass Slipper Challenge medal

Bib pickup was in the HP Field House. There was a nice backdrop just inside the entrance.

Princess Half Marathon

If you have your race waiver already printed (which I did), then bib pickup is almost always an easy process, and this year was no different. There are printers available for those who don't have their waivers. Sometimes there are lines for those, so it's always better to just bring the waiver with you.

Shirt pickup for those of us running the Glass Slipper Challenge was also in the Field House. I really love the blue and purple shirts! But the VERY pink Glass Slipper Challenge shirt? Not so much. I was having flashbacks of the 25th anniversary "Cakestle" nightmare they did for Magic Kingdom. <SHUDDER>

Princess Half Marathon 2017 race shirts

No gray shirt for me this time - yay! But those who ran the 5K ended up with a gray one. :-(

Belle and Rapunzel were posing for photos in the Field House. Belle's line was quite long, but Rapunzel had just come out, so the line was still pretty short.

Princess Half Marathon Rapunzel

The main expo was in the J Center (formerly Jostens Center), but there were plenty of cast members to direct us and some signs to entertain us as we left the Field House.

Princess Half Marathon
Princess Half Marathon

I was there about 1:30 in the afternoon. It was busy, but not super crowded.

Princess Half Marathon Expo

Since I already had my shirts I went straight for the Official Merchandise area. I was somewhat surprised that there was no line to get in. Though there were plenty of taped queue lines on the floor to indicate that there had been lines! Once inside, it seemed to me like there was an excellent variety of merchandise still available. Maybe Disney has finally gotten a better idea of the quantity they need to order of certain very popular items.

For example, there were still LOTS of wine glasses - and those are usually gone early on the first day.

2017 Princess Half Marathon wine glasses

The Princess Weekend runDisney shoe ornament was also still available.

2017 Princess Half Marathon shoe ornament

As were all of the mini-medal and race pins.

2017 Princess Half Marathon merchandise

Plenty of magnets, too.

2017 Princess Half Marathon merchandise

There was some 5K merchandise.

2017 Princess Half Marathon Merchandise

With something in the neighborhood of 24,000 people registered for the half marathon, there was lots of half marathon merchandise.

Princess Half Marathon

2017 Princess Half Marathon Merchandise
2017 Princess Half Marathon Merchandise
2017 Princess Half Marathon Merchandise
2017 Princess Half Marathon merchandise
2017 Princess Half Marathon merchandise
2017 Princess Half Marathon merchandise

A number of Glass Slipper Challenge shirts and jackets.

2017 Enchanted 10K

A few items that I'd seen at previous expos.

2017 Princess Half Marathon Merchandise

More generic runDisney merchandise.

2017 Princess Half Marathon Merchandise

I think these mugs are probably available around the resort, but I thought they were really cute - and definitely matched the weekend's theme!

2017 Princess Half Marathon Merchandise

The "I Did It" shirts were all very nice - but while the 5K and 10K shirts were unisex, the half marathon and Challenge shirts were women's cut.

2017 Princess Half Marathon merchandise
2017 Princess Half Marathon merchandise
2017 Princess Half Marathon merchandise
2017 Princess Half Marathon merchandise
2017 Princess Half Marathon merchandise

There were still a lot of Dooney and Bourke bags left. The only thing that I know of that was sold out at that time was the pink Tervis tumblers.

2017 Princess Half Marathon merchandise

I wandered around the Expo a bit - it was most of the usual exhibitors. I must admit that seeing the new medals for Tinker Bell weekend almost makes me wish we were running that this year.

2017 Tinker Bell Half Marathon medals

Upstairs, in the area where the speaker series used to be (there did not seem to be any speakers this year!), there was a Beauty and the Beast set up with the rose. Very long line for that.

2017 Princess Half Marathon

Off to the side was the magic mirror, and it displayed various characters.

2017 Princess Half Marathon

A new (to me) exhibitor was Sparkly Soul, which offered a variety of headbands and hair ties themed to different princesses, and I bought a couple of items. I also took a couple of the GoGo SqueeZ applesauce packets that were offered - I like those. So below is my Expo haul:

2017 Princess Half Marathon

We went back to the Expo on Saturday afternoon. I was surprised at how crowded it was - much more than Friday afternoon. But apparently there were about 17,000 people running the half marathon only, and many of them didn't pick up their bibs until Saturday. There was a significant difference in the availability of merchandise by then - the wine glasses and ornaments were gone, and so were a number of other items. We have a friend who is an exhibitor, and a lot of her stock was running low. Which is a good thing! She'd much rather sell it than take it home. :-)

I was much more pleased with the Expo overall this year than in previous years. While I didn't really buy merchandise, it was really nice to see that it was available, and that there was still a very good selection on the second day of the Expo.


Saturday, February 25 - Princess Enchanted 10K

2017 Princess Enchanted 10K

Ahh...another race morning, another much-too-early wakeup call. 2:30. I was targeting a 3:15 departure. Though I miscalculated - I thought the buses started running at 3:00, but they didn't start until 3:30. Otherwise I would have said we should leave at 3:45.

We drove our rental car from Animal Kingdom Lodge. Since we were quite early there was no traffic at all, and I think we were parked by 3:30. We were so early that they weren't letting people through the security check yet! But that opened after we'd stood there for a minute or so.

The really nice thing about being there so early is that there were very short lines for the characters! I think there were maybe eight people in front of me for Aurora.

2017 Princess Half Marathon Aurora

But the lines built quickly, and by the time I'd had my photo with Aurora the line for Jasmine was 5 minutes long. As you can see, I wore my Belle costume again. Lee put together his Maurice costume at the last minute, but it turned out well, I think! Jasmine was very good - she was engaging with the runners and doing different poses with them.

2017 Princess Half Marathon Belle Maurice running costume

The character lines were getting very long already. I believe that Cinderella and Snow White were alternating with Jasmine and Aurora but we didn't get back into line...just waited around for friends to arrive. We'd lucked out and had a bench to sit on. So there are some advantages to being early! We had fun watching all of the people and all of the different costumes. Not surprisingly, Belle, either in the blue dress or yellow dress, was a VERY popular choice, but most of the other Disney princesses were well-represented, also. A few people dressed as Mrs. Potts and Chip, or Lumiere and Cogsworth. And quite a few as Gaston.

It was a great temperature for running - about 60 degrees, though it was quite humid. I had a mylar sheet to wrap around me - I was a little chilly just sitting around without it.

I believe this was the largest 10K I've been part of. There were about 14,000 registered, and 11593 finishers. We've learned from previous experience that there are lots of porta-potties with shorter lines once we go into the "runner's only" area near the corral, so we did that, and entered our corral about 5:10. We were in Corral A.

One thing I really enjoy about the 10K is that it isn't a long walk to the corrals and the start. Maybe 10 minutes before the start of the race they walked us to the actual start line. The current Miss America and a representative from Children's Miracle Network Hospital spoke, and then a Disney cast member sang the national anthem. It was nice to see race announcer Rudy Novotny again - we miss him at the Disneyland races. But we're very happy to see him in Florida!

2017 Enchanted 10K

And then it was time for the race to start! I was surprised that they separated the corrals into waves - we were in the second wave of Corral A, which started a minute after the first wave. Maybe it was to introduce even more separation. The race starts on a nice wide road for the first mile, so it really wasn't much of an issue.

2017 Enchanted 10K

I hadn't decided if I was going to run this race for time or take photos, but I started off running for time. So I didn't take a photo of Moana on the overpass, shouting encouragement to "voyagers". I would have stopped for Elena of Avalor at Mile 1, but the line was already long. Tinker Bell and friends were between mile 1 and 2. But I did stop for the Hag just past mile 2. The line didn't look too long (though it took longer than I thought it would), and I've never had my picture with her before! I think it turned out well. The Disney PhotoPass photographers again did an excellent job throughout the weekend. That has been a huge improvement over the previous third party vendor. And since we are AP holders, all PhotoPass photos are included as an AP benefit, which includes race photos!

2017 Princess Enchanted 10K

OK...so now I was apparently running the race for fun and not time. :-) There are a lot more character stops than there were when Disney originally rolled out the first 10K on this course. The course itself is still very boring, since it's on roads and backstage at Epcot for the first 3.5 miles. It's always really nice to finally come into Epcot between Norway and China and see the torches around World Showcase Lagoon and hear the music!

Dopey was out at Germany and Pinocchio at Italy, but the lines were a little long. Marie at France had a short line, but I didn't stop. Lee did, though.

2017 Princess Enchanted 10K

We ran out of Epcot and around the Boardwalk. I was very surprised that there was no character in front of ESPN Club, as there usually is. It turned out that I was too early - the Genie was there a couple minutes later when Lee went by. There were lot of PhotoPass photographers on the Boardwalk, though, so they got some shots of us. Lee always looks happier when he's running than I do. :-)

2017 Princess Enchanted 10K
2017 Princess Enchanted 10K

At the International Gateway was Princess Minnie, and the line was fairly short so I stopped.

2017 Princess Enchanted 10K

From there it was less than a mile to the finish. PhotoPass got an excellent shot of Lee in front of Spaceship Earth...though I think he forgot which character he was portraying, as that pose is more Gaston than Maurice. :-)

2017 Princess Enchanted 10K

I finished in 1:02:28. Not a PR, but since I had a couple of character stops that was still pretty good. 20th in my division and 917 overall, so in the top 10%. I was happy with that.

2017 Princess Enchanted 10K

Lee had a good race and finished in 1:06:44.

2017 Princess Enchanted 10K

Our friends Eddie McCoy and Phill Vanderpool ran together and finished second and third in their age group, respectively. Congratulations to them!

The medal is very nice - keeping with the Beauty and the Beast theme.

Princess Half Marathon 10K medal

After the race we got in one of the character lines - it was Mulan when we got in line, but Jasmine again when we reached the front of the line. Oh well.

2017 Princess Enchanted 10K

We walked to our car and had no problems getting out of the parking lot - easy drive back to the hotel.

It was a fun race. Even though I don't like this course very much I still enjoy the race. It's a great atmosphere and everyone has a good time. I'm glad that Disney is continuing to change the theme of the 10K each year. Though it would be nice if they would announce the theme BEFORE the race actually went on sale!

Next up: The Disney Princess Half Marathon








January 22, 2017

2017 Disneyland Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend - Part 3, Half Marathon

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Sunday - January 15, Star Wars Half Marathon

Star Wars Half Marathon

We'd scheduled a wakeup call for 4:00 - but we never got it. Fortunately Lee is a "belt-and-suspenders" guy and had also set the alarm on his iPhone, so we were still up at 4:00.

Since we knew from the day before that security wasn't going to be an issue we didn't leave the room until 5:00. I was still in my corral my 5:17 - plenty of time. I was in C, Lee was in E, so we again ran separately...I wanted to try to stop for some character photos this time, so wanted to be further forward so the lines maybe wouldn't be quite as long.

Running costumes for us that morning, also - X-wing pilot for Lee, and Rey for me. The arm wraps were quite welcome since it was another cool morning. A little warmer than the day before - 50. I had a mylar sheet to wrap around me while I was waiting, and that was really all I needed. I had gloves, but I never actually put them on - finally just put them in my pocket. Again, it was just about perfect conditions for running a race.

Star Wars Half Marathon
Star Wars Half Marathon

While we were waiting for this race to start we saw scenes from Rogue One - A Star Wars Story. We saw that in December - good movie.

Star Wars Half Marathon

Again, not much of a "show" from the race announcers while we were waiting. But that's ok. The race started right on time. There were 5 minutes between corral releases, so my corral started 10 minutes after the official start.

Star Wars Half Marathon

The first four+ miles of the course were almost identical to the 10K the day before. But that was ok - since I wasn't running for time I was able to observe my surroundings a little more. I liked this sign backstage at DCA. :-)

Star Wars Half Marathon

The line at R2 and Threepio's character stop was long, but there was a short line for the Rebels at Paradise Pier.

Star Wars Half Marathon

One thing that I don't think I've mentioned in my blogs, which I should, is restroom stops in the parks. I always try to have some idea of what the race course is inside the parks so that I know where there restrooms next to the course. I only need to find one, but it's really nice to be able to use a REAL restroom instead of a porta-potty. This time I went to the large one between Ariel's and Grizzly River Run, but I would have had a lot of other options.

There was a set of Jedi performing a light saber training exercise in Hollywood Land.

Star Wars Half Marathon

And the speeder bikes were placed outside the Tower of Terror just before mile 2. Lengthy line for that, too.

Star Wars Half Marathon

When we ran through the tunnel under the bus area I noticed some new special effects - in addition to the Star Wars music that was playing there was the sound of lasers firing, and on the walls were red and green laser trace fire lines. Hard to see in this photo, but I thought it was a really neat effect!

Star Wars Half Marathon

We passed the mile 3 sign backstage at Disneyland, and then entered the park back at Toon Town, then ran by "it's a small world". It's nice that Disney leaves it in holiday mode through this race weekend. It's decorated for Avengers weekend in November and for Star Wars weekend in January.

Star Wars Half Marathon

There was a Storm Troopers character stop along "small world way" before we turned left to go around the Matterhorn.

Star Wars Half Marathon

There were more Storm Troopers on the ramp of the Launch Bay. The BB-8 photo stop was near Star Tours. The line wasn't too long so I stopped.

Star Wars Half Marathon

We again ran back towards Fantasyland. Kylo Ren was engaged in a light saber battle with some Jedi near Pixie Hollow. (Five against one doesn't seem exactly fair, though, does it? There should be at least ten Jedi.)

Star Wars Half Marathon

From Fantasyland we ran through the castle, but instead of taking the loop out through Frontierland and Adventureland like we did for the 10K we went straight down Main Street.

Star Wars Half Marathon

Two of the horses were out and posing for photos. They seemed to like the runners - the one on my left nuzzled me lightly on the shoulder. Such beautiful gentle giants!

Star Wars Half Marathon

The Mile 4 sign was along Main Street, and Chewbacca's photo stop was in the same location as the 10K - next to the Disney Showcase store. Longish line, so I didn't stop. While this was "The Light Side" half marathon, there were a few Dark Siders who showed up to spoil the party. I already mentioned the Storm Troopers and Kylo Ren, but Captain Phasma was also there, on the bridge next to the train station.

Star Wars Half Marathon

After we ran out through Disneyland's main entrance we went through the east tram area and out to Harbor Blvd - the rest of the course was outside the parks. But about 4.5 miles in the parks is a pretty good - better than some of the other race courses.

On the other side of Harbor I could see some of the early runners who were already returning. The winner had already gone by, but I saw some of the higher finishing men as well as the female winner.

Star Wars Half Marathon

By mile six it was starting to get more light out as the sun came out. There were a few clouds with color, but it was a fairly clear morning.

Star Wars Half Marathon

The course took us down Harbor Blvd into the city of Garden Grove, where we turned right on Garden Grove Blvd. There were a number of bands and cheerleaders who had come out to cheer us on. And we even had a feline cheerleader! This cat was not at all bothered about being in a harness and watching all of these crazy runners go by him. I'm guessing he has some Dark Side leanings. :-)

Star Wars Half Marathon

One of my favorite things about this course is that it crosses Newhope Street. How appropriate for a Star Wars-themed race! That's after the halfway point - about mile 7.5, and just before we turn north to go back towards the finish.

Star Wars Half Marathon

But my favorite thing about this course is around mile 8 and mile 9 - the two areas where there are Cosplayers who come dressed in their Star Wars costumes to cheer us on. They are so amazing! They love having their photo taken with runners, and there's usually no line to do that. I can't say enough about their wonderful enthusiasm and support. Their placement on the course is really good, because it's when runners are getting tired, but still have a ways to go to the finish. They really help give us an extra boost to keep us going as we get a lift out of all of their energy.

Star Wars Half Marathon

There are lots of heroes:

Star Wars Half Marathon

And villains:

Star Wars Half Marathon

And even cars and droids!

Star Wars Half Marathon

Lee found his fellow X-wing squadron pilots.

Star Wars Half Marathon

This video shows most of both sets - as you can see there was really an extensive variety of costumes from all of the different movies.

After the excitement of the cosplayers, mile 9-10 of the course is pretty quiet. It's largely in a residential neighborhood, so in the interest of keeping the noise down early on a Sunday morning there are no bands or other entertainment. Though there are residents and groups, like my friends Colin and Richard, who come out to cheer on the runners in that area, and it is greatly appreciated.

Star Wars Half Marathon

Just before mile 10 the course goes right on Chapman Avenue for about a mile. There's a lovely pond there, and it always has nice reflections in the morning. Thanks to all of the recent rain the water level was higher than normal, and on this race morning there were lots of ducks enjoying the pond.

Star Wars Half Marathon

My legs were a little tired after my hard run the day before, but I'd managed to mostly stick to my usual run/walk pace. But by about mile 10.5 I started to feel it and had to slow down a little more. I was very happy when we turned left onto Harbor Blvd since I knew I had just about 2 miles left. I could see runners at the back of the pack still coming towards us. It was just before mile 12 that I saw the balloon ladies.

Star Wars Half Marathon

The last mile of the course took us down Katella to Disneyland Drive, and then around the Paradise Pier Hotel to the finish line at the Disneyland Hotel. I finished in JUST under 2:22 - 2:21:59 to be exact. :-) Considering photo stops, a restroom stop, and tired legs I was VERY happy with that.

Star Wars Half Marathon
Star Wars Half Marathon

I got my race medal - it's a spinner with Han and Leia (awwww) on one side and the Medal of Yavin on the other. And my Rebel Challenge medal. That's a new design this year. I'm not really sure I like it.

Star Wars Half Marathon

I didn't talk about the runDisney snack box after the 10K...we received the same assortment after the half. It had a slightly different variety than what I've seen before. The best part is that it has a small container of Nutella!!!! Yum. I guess I'm resigned to the fact that it's what we're going to get after any Disney race from now on. Most of it is stuff I'll eat except the Builder Bar - yuck.

Star Wars Half Marathon

In the finish area there was a Nesquik van, and they were handing out chocolate milk! Yay!!! Or "Protein Enhanced Milk Beverage", as they called it. There was a choice of chocolate or vanilla. I didn't hear anyone ask for vanilla.

Star Wars Half Marathon

The "trash compactor" photo backdrop had a short line, so I had my photo taken there.

Star Wars Half Marathon

Lee was still somewhere behind me (though it turned out he was closer than I thought - apparently he was flying down the course!), so I walked back to the room before I started to get cold. The sun was out, and it was slightly warmer than it had been for the 10K, but still. I was ready to get back and take a hot shower! Lee also had a good race - took it easy and stopped for some photos.

Star Wars Half Marathon

Final Thoughts

I still really love this race weekend - it's definitely my favorite of the Disney race weekends. And I think this half marathon course has now overtaken the Tinker Bell course as my favorite half marathon course. The roads are nice and wide so it doesn't feel crowded. The course is mostly flat, also. A few slight inclines - the only hill is the tunnel under the tram area. No overpasses!

The race medals are always a highlight. The BB-8 medal is really cute, and I really liked the re-design of the half marathon medal.

Star Wars Half Marathon

I still wish there were more characters on the course...or in the finish area.

I was surprised that the half marathon and 10K didn't sell out this year. There were about 15,000-16,000 entered in the half, and 12,434 finishers. This is a PERFECT time for running in southern California. I don't want to jinx it, but in the five years that runDisney has held a race weekend at Disneyland in January, we've always had great weather for running.

We will be back for this race weekend next year.

Good luck to all of you running Dark Side in April to complete the Kessel Run Challenge! We will not be there this year.

Thanks for reading.







January 21, 2017

2017 Disneyland Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend - Part 2, 10K

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Saturday - January 14, Star Wars 10K

I know I've mentioned this before, but it's so much easier to run races at Disneyland! The start area and all of the hotels are all walking distance, so we don't have to get up really early to catch a bus to the start.

The race started at 5:30, and we set a wakeup call for 4:00. That's pretty much sleeping in by runDisney standards. :-) We left our room about 4:45.

Both of us were in costume. Lee wore his black Luke Skywalker Jedi outfit - complete with one black glove. :-) I didn't go with a Star Wars costume this time, and just wore my trusty Cinderella costume. Though really, I think she's a Jedi at heart.

Star Wars 10K

This year the new variable was Disneyland's new security perimeter. Since Downtown Disney is within a "secure zone" now, we were pretty sure we would have to go through security from our hotel into Downtown Disney, but weren't sure how long that would take. As it turned out it was very fast. It was quite easy for the security personnel to see that most runners weren't carrying anything. We did not have to go through a secondary screening at what was the race checkpoint in the past. But there were still security people patrolling, some with dogs.

By the time we arrived in the pre-race area a lot of people had already gone to their corrals. So we couldn't tell if it seemed more crowded this year now that there were 12,000-13,000 runners in the 10K as opposed to under 10,000 as in previous years.

Star Wars 10K

Both Lee and I were planning to run the 10K for time and not stopping to take photos. We were in different corrals, so I went to B and he went to C. Most of the photos below were taken by the PhotoPass photographers. As Annual Passholders we can download them for free. Disney started using their own photographers rather than MarathonFoto at the Dark Side weekend at WDW last April. The information on how to turn your bib nunber into a PhotoPass ID is on the back of the race bibs. It's really been a MUCH better service than MarathonFoto ever was. The photographers seem to get a lot more photos, AND some of the photos are available on race day - usually by the next day they are all there.

It was really a perfect morning for running. It was 48 degrees at the race start, with little or no wind. I had gloves, arm sleeves, and a throwaway sweatshirt, and I was actually pretty comfortable while waiting for the race to start.

There really wasn't much of a pre-show with the race announcers in the 15-20 minutes before the race started. No Storm Troopers or Darth Vader on stage. We saw a couple of different sets of scenes from The Force Awakens.

Star Wars 10K

At 5:29 the wheelchairs started.

Corral A was a minute after that, and Corral B was five minutes later.

Star Wars 10K

There were new courses for the 5K, 10K, and Half Marathons this year. The biggest change was that from the starting line the race courses went south on Disneyland Drive rather than north as they have the previous two years. All three courses went through both parks - DCA first and then Disneyland - with varying routes in the parks depending on the race distance.

I really liked the new 10K course. The designers absolutely maximized the park time. Unlike previous 10K courses that have been outside the parks for the first mile or so, this one was all on property - if you consider the first .3 miles on Disneyland Drive to be on property, which I do.

After that first .3 miles we turned left in front of the Paradise Pier Hotel and went backstage at DCA. This part of the course was a little too dark, and could have used some additional light. Fortunately the pavement was smooth, so there wasn't really much danger of tripping, but it still made me a little more cautious. There were projections on some of the buildings, like the Rebel Alliance symbol, the Millennium Falcon, or an X-wing fighter.

Star Wars 10K

We went into the park near the Pacific Wharf where we ran through Radiator Springs past Radiator Springs Racers (so pretty at night with all of the light on the Cadillac Range) and Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters.

Star Wars 10K

We ran through Flik's Fun Fair past the Mile 1 sign and out to the parade route. The first character stop was Threepio and R2-D2 by the Cars Land sign - I was surprised at how long it was that early in the race. I wasn't planning to stop anyway, though.

We ran clockwise around Paradise Bay. As I mentioned I was wearing my Cinderella costume, and I heard a cast member say something like "Go Cindy! Oh, it's ok, she still has both her shoes." I cracked up at that - which was when the PhotoPass photographer snapped the picture below. :-)

Star Wars 10K

At Ariel's we turned left towards Grizzly River Run, past Soarin' and into Hollywood Land to the Tower of Terror. There were Jedi and Storm Troopers next to the Tower. We went backstage behind the Tower and passed the Mile 2 sign.

We took the tunnel down and up under the east tram area over to Disneyland. This was really the only significant hill on the course. That took us backstage at Disneyland for quite a while - past the Mile 3 sign. The BB-8 photo stop was back there, but I completely missed seeing it. This was another area where it was a little dark in places. We'd had great Star Wars music playing most of the time, but once we reached this point it got a little quiet until we emerged into Toon Town.

We ran past "it's a small world", which was still lit up with all of the holiday lights.

Star Wars 10K

We turned left at the Matterhorn and ran towards Tomorrowland. Kylo Ren was somewhere in there - between the Matterhorn and the Tomorrowland Terrace, as I recall. The course took us past the Launch Bay, where there were Storm Troopers above us. We ran past Star Tours and out to the hub.

Star Wars 10K

Once we reached the hub we did a 180 onto Matterhorn Way past Alice in Wonderland, then made a left at the tea cups and passed the Mile 4 sign. I was happy to see that I was on pace - maybe slightly ahead of pace. This year the Star Wars 10K course went through the castle to the hub, which it's never done before.

Star Wars 10K

We went through Frontierland and New Orleans Square, then the course did a hard 180 just in front of the Haunted Mansion and went back to the hub via Adventureland. We had quite an extensive tour of Disneyland and visited all of the lands except Critter Country.

We ran down Main Street. Chewbacca's photo op was at the end of the street by the Disney Showcase shop.

Star Wars 10K

After we went out the park entrance we ran into the Esplanade and to the left to go backstage at DCA again. We passed the Mile 5 sign on a perimeter road that took us around the back of Radiator Springs Racers and Paradise Pier. For about a tenth of a mile we could see some of those in the last corral coming towards us - only about .4 miles into their race whereas we were 5.8 miles into ours! I saw the balloon ladies at the very end of the race.

After we crossed Disneyland Drive we went around the back of the Paradise Pier Hotel (and the Mile 6 sign), and then it was just .2 miles to the traditional finish line near the Disneyland Hotel. It was still dark!

Star Wars 10K

I finished in 56:41, which is a new personal best 10K time for me. I was very happy with that. I was hoping to crack the top ten in my division, and I finished 8th! 10K is definitely my favorite distance.

Star Wars 10K

The BB-8 medal is really cute. It spins!

Star Wars 10K BB-8 Medal

I exited into the finish area and talked to Lisa (Hi Lisa!) for a while I waited for Lee to finish. Fortunately the volunteers had handed out mylar sheets at the finish (they sometimes don't do that for 10Ks), because it was still only 48 degrees and I was starting to get a little chilled.

Star Wars 10K

There was a vendor selling Death Star balloons (that's what the balloon ladies had been carrying, too).

Star Wars 10K

Once Lee finished we went over to the Annual Passholder tent. We showed our passes and they gave us an Annual Passholder string bag - it was nice for carrying our snack boxes and water bottles back to our room. There was a photo backdrop and a photographer there, too.

Star Wars 10K

Another change in the course this year: in previous years the 10K has finished by going all the way through Downtown Disney. While it's been kind of thrilling to run by all of the cheering crowds, it's been a nightmare after the race when trying to get back to the hotels, because you have to cross the race course at least once, and usually more than once. This year we didn't have to do that, and it was much easier to get back to our hotel.

I really enjoyed this course - I think it's now my favorite of the Disney 10K courses. And not just because I ran it for a personal best. :-) With all of the Star Wars Land construction in Disneyland I expected that we might have less park time this year, but instead I'm not sure how they could have given us any more! While yes, we had a fair bit of time that was in not-so-exciting backstage areas, I still enjoyed being on property for the entire race.

There were 11,606 finishers this year as opposed to 8,994 last year, so quite a few more runners out there. Since I was at the front it was not congested for me, but I can't speak to how it might have been further back. Certainly the first mile of this course was narrower than the first mile of the former course, which was all on wide city streets, and that might have been an issue. If you ran the race and experienced congestion, please leave a comment and let me know how it was for you.

The characters...still not a strong point, especially compared to our experience at Disneyland Paris last year. (Over 10 character stops in a 5K!) For this 10K there were four character stops, plus a couple of unattended backdrops and "run bys" like the Storm Troopers and Jedi. I would still so LOVE to see the Disney characters in their Star Wars attire out on the course! In Florida there are character meet and greets in the pre/post-race area, and I'd like to see them do that in California, also. Though there were a couple of photo backdrops (with photographers) in that area - the Wampa cave and the trash compactor.

Star Wars 10K

Coming next: The Star Wars Half Marathon








January 20, 2017

2017 Disneyland Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend - Part 1, Expo

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Star Wars Half Marathon

For the third year Lee and I participated in the 10K and half marathon races at Disneyland's Star Wars Half Marathon. Or Star Wars Half Marathon - the Light Side as they now call it, to distinguish it from the Star Wars Half Marathon - the Dark Side at Walt Disney World. :-)

Unlike previous years, the 10K and half marathon races did not sell out, and runDisney was still selling race registrations at the Expo. That was a surprise. Of course part of the reason is that they raised the race capacities: the 10K had almost 13,000 spots, as opposed to 10,000 last year, while the half had 16,000 instead of 14,000. Of those numbers, about 6,000 were those running the Rebel Challenge. There were 5,000 entered in the 5K, and 1,500 in the Kids Races.

We arrived at the Expo on Friday afternoon - it had opened on Thursday. As usual, bib pickup was downstairs in the Disneyland Hotel Convention Center. This is the first time I remember that there wasn't a specially designed rug on the ramp going down to the pickup area. But we've had a lot of rain recently (and it rained on Thursday) so the rug would have been soaking wet. This photo is from last year.

Star Wars Half Marathon

We had printed out our race waivers in advance, so all we had to do was go to the correct counter to pick up our Rebel Challenge bibs. There are computers and printers available for those who don't bring waivers with them. I think this was the most people that I've ever seen in bib pick-up, but it still was a fast process for us.

Star Wars Half Marathon

As Rebel Challenge runners we had to get our photo taken with our bib number - that's how they verify after the half marathon that we 1: completed the 10K, and 2: are the same person who picked up the bib. They used to give us wristbands at the end of the 10K - this is a nice alternative to not having to wear the wristband.

Star Wars Half Marathon

The race brochure was again condensed down to a "Final Race Instructions" pamphlet. It has all of the essential information like course maps, road closures, times, transportation, and viewing, but without all of the ads. I prefer this format - "just the facts, ma'am." (Am I showing my age there or what?) What I *don't* prefer is the new "on-line magazine" format for the official race guide - I can no longer download it as a PDF like I used to. And I find it very cumbersome and slow - really useless.

Star Wars Half Marathon
Star Wars Half Marathon

Once we picked up the bibs we went back upstairs to the main expo in the Disneyland Hotel Convention Center. I always enjoy seeing how they have decorated the entrance. The different banners are nice photo ops!

Star Wars Half Marathon
Star Wars Half Marathon
Star Wars Half Marathon

We picked up our race shirts. I liked this year's designs, but a gray shirt AGAIN????? I wish they would do more white shirts. These are long sleeve shirts - typical for January races. This particular weekend they felt pretty good since the weather was cooler than usual - highs in the low 60s, lows in the upper 40s.

2017 Star Wars Half Marathon shirts

There was a shirt exchange available, but neither of us needed to get a different size. It's very nice to have that option, though. I've found Disney sizing to be consistent in recent years, but that wasn't always the case.

Star Wars Half Marathon

Usually when we arrive on Friday afternoons there is either a short line or no line to get into the Official Merchandise area. This time the line extended out into the foyer, and it took 15-20 minutes to get into the area. The line moved pretty consistently so it wasn't too bad. But still, I was surprised to see it that long.

Once we went inside, it seemed like there was still plenty of merchandise left. A few things were sold out, like the special edition runDisney Star Wars Weekend Christmas tree ornament, and the Star Wars Weekend wine glasses. I believe the Dooney & Bourke bags were sold out by then, also.

Star Wars Half Marathon

There were already only limited sizes available on a few of the shirts. Lee bought this one. They were out of size large, so he had to get an XL, which is a little big.

Star Wars Half Marathon Rebel shirt

Race weekend logo:

Star Wars Half Marathon

All of the pins, mini medal pins, magnets, water bottles, mugs, etc. seemed to be available.

Star Wars Half Marathon magnet
Star Wars Half Marathon water bottle
Star Wars Half Marathon pins
Star Wars Half Marathon hat

I thought there was a very nice selection of shirts available for the Rebel Challenge and the Half Marathon.

Star Wars Half Marathon shirt
Star Wars Half Marathon
Star Wars Half Marathon shirt
Star Wars Half Marathon shirt
Star Wars Half Marathon tank
Star Wars Half Marathon shirt

The Han/Leia graphic on this one is especially poignant right now.

Star Wars Half Marathon Han/Leia shirt

But for the 5K and 10K, there seemed to be only one shirt plus the "I Did It" shirts. With BB-8 as the theme for the 10K, I was surprised that there wasn't more merchandise available for the 10K.

Star Wars 5K shirt
Star Wars 5K I Did It
Star Wars Half 10K shirt

Star Wars 10K I Did It

There were some other fun Star Wars items that weren't themed to any specific race.

Star Wars Half Marathon
Star Wars Half Marathon shirt
Star Wars Half Marathon Yoda hat

There's a new design for the Coast-to-Coast merchandise this year. The shirts are available in men's and women's cuts. I bought one of these.

2017 Coast to Coast shirt
2017 Coast to Coast hat

The rest of the Expo seemed about the same. Honda was a major sponsor and they had a special pace car. We weren't sure how a pace car would be used in a half marathon, but I guess there was one.

Star Wars Half Marathon

There were Star Wars-themed Stance socks.

Star Wars Stance socks

The latest versions of New Balance Disney running shoes were available. This time they represent Disney attractions rather than characters. The women's shoes are Haunted Mansion and Mad Tea Party.

Star Wars Half Marathon
2017 New Balance Mad Tea Party shoe

The men's shoes are Star Tours and Toy Story Mania.

2017 New Balance Toy Story shoe
2017 New Balance Star Tours shoe

I don't know if I'm mentioned this before...Runner Tracking is available for the races. You can track runners of your choice, or you can provide the information for others to track you. My parents always like to know how we're doing, so I set up tracking to send them an email or text message. And if Lee and I aren't running together we track each other.There's typically a link on the event page under the "Spectators" tab. Sometimes you need a log in to set it up, sometimes not. There's usually options to have your times sent via text message or email, or to have it automatically post to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

As we wandered through Downtown Disney we saw several signs advising guests that various businesses would be open at 4:00 a.m. on race mornings, like Starbucks, Jamba Juice, and Haagen Daz. That's a nice service for runners and spectators!

Downtown Disney Early Openings

Coming next: The Star Wars 10K








November 19, 2016

2016 Super Heroes Half Marathon Weekend

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Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

After a 10K/half marathon race challenge weekend at Walt Disney World followed by a four night Disney cruise, what would you do? How about running a 10K at Disneyland? At least this year we did only the 10K and not the half marathon, too!

We had initially not planned to run any of the events of the Super Heroes Half Marathon weekend at Disneyland. But when runDisney announced the theme of the 10K was Dr. Strange, then Lee really wanted to do that. And I love 10Ks - it's my favorite distance.

Friday, November 11

We got off the Disney Dream on Friday morning, took a bus to the airport and caught a flight to John Wayne Airport. As we did last year, we'd flown out of that airport instead of San Diego, and left our car there. (By the way, I recommend snagaspace.com to find good prices on airport parking. The last two years we have parked at the Marriott near John Wayne Airport and had an excellent experience - the parking and shuttle staff at the Marriott is so nice!)

We had an earlier flight this year and arrived at the airport earlier than we did last year. So we did not have the horrible Friday afternoon traffic that we experienced last year. We arrived at Disneyland a little after 4:00 and went straight to the Expo.

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

It felt strange to only be picking up a 10K bib and not a Challenge bib. We didn't need to get our photo taken this time. As usual, the bib pickup area was not too busy and we were in and out quickly. As in Florida the week before there wasn't a big printed race program, but this time they gave us a brochure at bib pickup that had all of the really useful information like course maps and time schedules.

The main part of the Expo was upstairs in the Disneyland convention center. There were some new super heroes added to the banners this year.

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

We picked up our shirts...yet another maroon long sleeve shirt. With a large rubber graphic on the front. Come on, runDisney - most of your race participants live in California and Florida! PLEASE give us some short sleeve shirts!

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

Nesquik was one of the sponsors this year (Nesquik chocolate milk was available to runners at the end of the half marathon on Sunday), and the Nesquik bunny was in the booth when he wasn't posing for photos with guests.

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

The Expo seemed to have most of the usual vendors, though there were a few new sponsors this year, like Nesquik and Misfit.

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

We heard an announcement about a special offer for Annual Passholders at the runDisney booth, so we went to check that out. They looked at our passes and then put a sticker on our bibs and told us there would be a special AP tent in the finish area of the 10K and half where they would have a special gift for us. Interesting!

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

The runDisney booth also had the medals for the upcoming Star Wars - the Light Side weekend in January. Everyone seems to be very excited about the BB-8 10K medal! He spins!

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

There was no line to get into the Official Merchandise area. And it seemed as though they still had everything left - I didn't see a lot of space that had been filled by generic merchandise as I often do. All of the items that I usually look for were still there.

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

There were lots of different shirts - even more than in the photos below.

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

All of the "I Did It" shirts were available, though a cast member told me that in the 10K shirts they were out of small-sized shirts and only had a few mediums left.

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

There were a number of Infinity Gauntlet items available, though most of the shirts were (as usual) for women.

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

There wasn't as much 10K merchandise - the mini medal pin, a hat, and a couple of shirts.

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

Lee really liked this shirt so he bought it and wore it the next day for the 10K.

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

Nice to see Black Widow get some attention. Now, when does SHE get her own race?

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

We were surprised to see a few items from the previous weekend's Wine and Dine Expo.

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

For dinner that night we went to Disney California Adventure and checked out the food booths at the Festival of Holidays (as I wrote about in this blog). Maybe not the best pre-race dinner, but it was only a 10K the next day. :-)

For once jet lag worked in our favor - we'd come from the east coast and were tired from a long day of travel. So we went to bed at 8:30 and actually fell asleep quickly.

Saturday, November 12 - Dr. Strange 10K

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

We'd set the alarm for 4:15, but we were both awake before that. This might be the first time I've ever gotten a full night's sleep before a race!

I know I say this every time, but if you're new to my blog you won't have seen it before: I love race weekends at Disneyland. The race logistics are SO much easier! Everything is within walking distance of the hotels (even many of the neighboring hotels), so there's no need to catch a bus at an insanely early hour. We pushed it more this year than we usually do - the race started at 5:30 but we didn't get up until 4:15, and left the hotel at 4:45. And we still had plenty of time to get to the start corrals. Short/no lines for the porta-potties, too.

I wore my Agent Carter costume again, and Lee wore his new Dr. Strange tech shirt.

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

Dr. Strange is one of Lee's favorite super heroes, but to be honest I'd never heard of him, and didn't know anything about him until we saw the movie on the Disney Dream a few days before the race.

I was hoping that there would be some photo ops in the pre-race area before the race but there wasn't anything other than some race banners.

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

We were in Corral A, but I thought this collection of balloons for the other corrals was pretty.

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

Dr. Strange actually came out on stage before the race. We hoped that meant that we would later see him on the race course. After that they showed us the preview for the movie - and reminded us that it was showing at the AMC Theaters in Downtown Disney. :-)

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

While the talented Disneyland cast member was singing the national anthem I noticed that there was a special pattern on some of the lights!

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

The race started about a minute late. No fireworks at Disneyland - just some colored puffs of smoke.

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

The course was different this year, thanks to Disneyland construction, though the first part of it was the same with the first two miles off Disney property. We ran down to the Convention Center on West Street, then cut across and over to Harbor Blvd, and back north to Disney Way, then went backstage at DCA. That was about mile 2. Having the first two miles outside the parks really helps spread the runners out. We didn't find that the course felt crowded at all.

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

While we were winding around backstage there were some interesting projections on some of the buildings.

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

The first character we saw was Thor, near the Wine Country Trattoria. The line was a little long, so we didn't stop. We were hoping for shorter lines further on, since we had started so far forward.

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

We ran around Paradise Bay, and past the mile 3 sign. Almost halfway done! There's that symbol again on California Screamin'.

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

Captain America was just outside Soarin'. The line was maybe 20 deep, but it was Captain America! I got my hug again, but I didn't get swept off my feet like I did last year. :-)

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

As we ran down Hollywood Blvd near the Animation Building a cast member was telling us that Spider-Man was ahead to the left. The race course turned right, and since he was on the other side and kind of hidden behind a building I think a lot of runners didn't see him. The line was pretty short.

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

We ran backstage next to the Tower of Terror. The sun was coming up and there was a beautiful sunrise!

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

A high school band was performing back there. The majorette was doing some pretty good baton tricks, but I didn't manage to get a photo of that. There were just a couple of bands along the course - since so much of the course was on property there wasn't really any place for them to set up.

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

For most of the next mile we were backstage - we ran through the tunnel that goes under the bus area and connects DCA and Disneyland, and then wound around backstage at Disneyland, finally entering the park in Toon Town.

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

Mile 5 - only 1.2 to go. We were still feeling really good. A 10K is so much easier than a half marathon!

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

It was getting light out, but we could still see the lights on "it's a small world" Holiday.

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

Black Widow was in front of "small world", and there was almost no line!

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

Not too much further away was Hawkeye. That's been Lee's costume in previous years. There was one person in front of us. I think we were in the sweet spot where the serious runners who don't stop for characters were ahead of us, but we were running fast enough that we were ahead of most of the other people who do stop for photos. However it worked out, it was a great place to be.

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

As we ran around the Matterhorn, we saw Dr. Strange!!! There was a line there, but only about 10 people in it. We were really happy to get our photo with him. He was very much in character, and SO serious.

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

We really didn't spend much time in Disneyland at all - didn't run through the castle, Frontierland, or Adventureland. After seeing Dr. Strange we ran to the hub and down Main Street and out of the park. As we ran under the train station the villain from the Dr. Strange movie, Kaecilius, was standing on the bridge above us. He had a microphone and was making in-character comments to the runners, though I don't remember what he said.

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

The course finished through Downtown Disney and ended at the usual finish line near the Disneyland Hotel. I got lots of cheers for my Peggy Carter costume throughout the race, and especially towards the end where there were more spectators, and that's always fun.

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

We finished in 1:09:38, which I thought was really a good time considering we stopped for five character photos plus a few other shots. This was a smaller race than the Wine and Dine 10K. Less than 10,000 entered, with 8245 finishers. I thought it was interesting that the male-female ratio was not quite so skewed as it is in many Disney races. There were still more females, but it was 4861 women to 3384 men.

Since as Annual Passholders we get free downloads of our race photos, we stopped to get our post-race photo taken.

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

We went to the Annual Passholder tent to get our gift - it was small cans of Coke with several of the Avengers on them. We were told they would have Iron Man the next day after the half marathon.

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

One not-so-good thing about the Disneyland 10Ks: trying to get back to your hotel afterward. Since the courses finish through Downtown Disney you have to cross the race course. Even though they have cast members controlling the crossing points it can take some time. One thing we learned is that when staying at the Grand Californian, you do not want to try to go through Downtown Disney to the usual hotel entrance. If you do you'll have to cross the course three times! So we cross the course once and go right towards the Paradise Pier, then cross Disneyland Drive and go into the hotel via the main entrance. If you're staying at one of the hotels on Harbor Drive then you don't have much of an option, though.

I really enjoyed this race! It was nice to see six character stops on the course instead of just the four they've had for this race weekend in the first two years. And we really lucked out with the character lines not being too long.

I think my biggest issue with the race was the limited time in Disneyland, and that so much of what we did have was backstage. Still, for the most part I liked this course. I'd much rather have the miles outside the park be at the beginning of the race rather than at the end. I think having that two miles for the runners to spread out really helps with the congestion and the overall enjoyment of the course.

The rest of the day felt a little strange (so to speak) because we weren't preparing to run a half marathon the next day. So we didn't have to worry about what we ate or drank, or about trying to go to bed early - which was why I'd scheduled the World of Color Dessert Party for that evening. :-)

That night for a change we actually had to pay attention to the road closures map that was left on our door, and the phone message about the race that had been left on our phone. We were planning to leave around 8:00 on Sunday morning - the half marathon wasn't going to be over until about 10:30. Everything we read indicated that we should be able to get out of the parking lot by 8:00, though. And that proved to be the case. The only issue we had was getting our room key to work to open the automated parking gate. :-)

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

As we drove down Disneyland Drive we went under the start line...that was as close as we got to it. I thought I might be more bothered that we hadn't done the half marathon, but I really wasn't.

Super Heroes Dr. Strange 10K

We had no problems getting out of the resort, but the same was not true for those trying to get to the resort. Traffic was backed up on I5 both north and south - it was quite a mess. But some of the freeway exits were closed because of the race course, so I think there was only one way in, and everyone was trying to use it.

It was nice to do only one race - and a shorter one at that - and we really enjoyed the race weekend. If you haven't done a race weekend at Disneyland, then I highly recommend that you try it. I find that it's just a lot easier. There are fewer runners than in most of the Walt Disney World races and everything is closer together - walking distance, really. No buses required unless you are staying way off property. Think about it!








November 15, 2016

2016 Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend, Part 2, Half Marathon and Post Race Party

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Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

Sunday, November 6 - Half Marathon

Saturday night was the time change - and we got to "fall back" an hour. That was very nice, since it meant that we got to sleep for an extra hour on what was already a short night! But it didn't make it a whole lot easier to get up at 2:30. That's one of the other things I liked about the half marathon being at night - the three hour time difference between the east coast and west coast actually worked FOR us for the nighttime race.

The half marathon started at ESPN Wide World of Sports, which meant that we needed to take a bus to the start line. No cars are allowed to park there. If you want to drive your own car you can drive to Epcot and park, then take a bus to the start line from there.

The buses started running at 3:00, and we caught one at 3:15. It wasn't all the way full, and there were more buses waiting behind it at our resort. I had a friend who was at Pop Century who said the bus lines were longer there, and she had more of a wait than we did.

The area that used to be the race staging area is now the construction zone for the new arena so we were in a different place this year. I thought it was closer to the actual corrals, though.

There were the same four character photo locations that we'd seen for the 10K, and we didn't wait in any of the lines. We had an even larger Team AllEars reunion than we did for the 10K!

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

It seemed like there were plenty of porta-potties. One set near bag check, and one set closer to the corral entrances. Still, I thought the lines seemed longer than usual. There were less than 15,000 runners in the half marathon. This particular half still has the smallest field of any of the Disney World half marathons.

Lee, Stan, and I were all planning to run together, so we headed out to corral E. There were fireworks for the start of each corral. We started about 12 minutes after the official start of the race. We'd all run the 10K hard the day before so were planning to take it easy for the half marathon. (If you've never done back-to-back races before then I do not recommend running the first race hard. Yes, this would be a case of "Do as I say, not as I do." I have enough experience to know how my body will respond to doing that. And while I would run a 10K hard with a half the next day, I would not run a half hard with a marathon the next day!)

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

I mentioned previously that there was a new course for the race this year. The Studios portion was cut out completely - my theory is that it's due to a combination of construction and no Osborne Lights. The first part of the race was the same as in previous years - we headed out on Osceola Parkway to Animal Kingdom. Most of this route is nice and wide so there's lots of room. We didn't feel too crowded after the first half mile or so.

The temperature was a little cooler than the day before - 65 at the start - but it was still very humid. Over 90% at the start of the race. Still, since the temperature was under 70 it wasn't too bad. The Country Bears were near the mile 1 sign, but we didn't stop. At several places along the course there were huge video screens showing scenes from various Disney movies - one of those was on the overpass near mile 2.

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

We arrived in Animal Kingdom when it was just about sunrise. The Tree of Life looked nice.

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

We ran through a lot of Animal Kingdom - Harambe Village, Dino Land, and Asia. There was some beautiful light over Expedition Everest. I saw a few character stops: Baloo, Timon, Chip and Dale, but the lines were a little long.

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

Eventually we went backstage at Animal Kingdom. I had to take a photo of Stan and Lee by the mile 5 sign. :-) Only 8.1 miles to go until they could get a beer!

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

There was a short line for Meeko, so we stopped...but as we came to the head of the line he had to go for a biscuit break. It was only a couple of minutes, though. He was pretty cute when he came back.

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

I tried to interest him in my shiny running watch but he was much more intrigued by my tiara! :-)

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

It was a fun stop - worth the extra few minutes.

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

And then it was on to the the really boring miles. This part of the course was the reverse of part of the marathon course from Animal Kingdom back to World Drive. Several miles of trees, recycling plant, and more trees. There was a Mike and Sulley character stop (long line) and a pair of Streetmosphere characters dressed as tacky tourists.

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

Somewhere after mile 8 there was another big screen that was showing a video of the Food and Wine Festival - including some of the food booths with cast members cheering us on. I haven't decided yet if that was encouraging or just cruel.

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

By mile 9 we had turned onto World Drive and were headed for Epcot. This part of the course was quite familiar to us since it's the same as most of the other WDW half marathons.

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

There were a couple of character stops - Darkwing Duck and Launchpad McQuack were at the turn onto World Drive, and later we saw Lilo and Stitch. The line for them wasn't too long, but they pulled both of them for a break just after we got in line. I was surprised - normally they stagger them so that one is always out. We didn't want to wait this time, so went on.

We found our cheer squad just past the mile 12 sign near the entrance to Epcot. So wonderful to see these smiling faces!

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

Horace Horsecollar and Clarabelle Cow were backstage at Epcot, and there was no line.

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

Homes for our Troops was the charity for this race, and most of the volunteers were wearing those shirts.

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

We saw Phineas and Ferb at the Future World bridge but didn't stop, though we did stop for a photo with Spaceship Earth in the background. This one was taken by one of Disney's PhotoPass photographers, who were the official race photographers again. They took some pretty good photos of us, and since we are annual passholders the downloads are free. That's a nice benefit.

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

Yay! The gospel choir was in their usual .2 miles to the finish location! It's always so wonderful to see them.

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

And...we finished! 2:37:03. Not bad. Though it was still under 70 degrees it felt warmer because the sun was out. There was a slight breeze, though. Volunteers handed us wet Dr. Kool towels after we finished.

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

We received our new challenge medals. The volunteers handing out the challenge medals (Hi, Michele!) had a lot to keep track of - in addition to the Lumiere's Challenge medal they were giving out Coast-to-Coast medals and Castle-to-Chateau medals! I saw a couple of people who had received the Castle-to-Chateau medals. (Which reminds me that I saw NO Castle-to-Chateau merchandise at the Expo.)

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

After exiting the finish area our first stop was the beverage trucks. The guys wanted beer and I wanted champagne! I was pleasantly surprised that the lines weren't long.

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

We waited for the rest of our group to finish...while we did we ate some of the contents of our runDisney snack boxes. It was the usual selection - tortilla chips, cheese dip, Craisins, applesauce, Oreo cookie, and icky energy bar. At least the contents have improved somewhat over what was originally in these boxes when they first started distributing them. The applesauce and chips tasted good after the race.

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

After everyone had finished we took our respective buses back to our resorts. The bus lines weren't too bad, and our timing was excellent and we walked right onto our bus.

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

One thing I discovered about the Lumiere medal is that the flames on the candlesticks glow in the dark!

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

That night we went to the post-race party. It started at 10:00 and went until 1:00 a.m. We didn't arrive until about 11:00. As we walked into the park from the International Gateway we saw quite a few people already leaving. I was interested in how well attended it might be, since from among my sample set of 10 runners, Lee and I were the only ones who were going.

We used our ticket to get in, and then received a wristband, though no one ever checked it.

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

We stopped for a selfie with the Eiffel Tower, since we'd seen the real thing about six weeks ago.

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

There were a lot of character photo ops during the party, and those lines were huge. This one was Abu, Aladdin, and Jasmine.

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

There were short/no lines at the food booths. We had just come from a delicious dinner at Flying Fish so we weren't very hungry, and just wandered around.

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

A performance of American Music Machine was just starting in the America Gardens Theater and we stopped to see that. I felt badly for the performers since there were maybe 50 people in the audience. That seemed to me to be an odd choice of entertainment for the party - it's such a large venue.

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

We walked by some more character stops - Tiana, Naveen, and Louis, Pinocchio and Geppetto, Snow White and Dopey, Mulan and Mushu. All with long lines. Frozen Ever After was open, but had a 60 minute standby line. No thanks. Donald Duck was out in Mexico, and the Mariachi Trio was also performing there.

There was a DJ on the stage at the Fountain of Nations. Playing lots of pop music that was broadcast all over Epcot. There were a few people dancing at the stage. The food booths were really not busy by this time, and the cast members were dancing and having a good time, too. That was fun to watch.

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

Soarin', Test Track, and Spaceship Earth were all open in Future World but we didn't check them out.

As I mentioned, we weren't really hungry, but we stopped at the Refreshment Outpost to get their Dole Whip with Coconut Rum Festival offering. Yummy.

The Alberta Bound group was also performing during the party, though we didn't see them. It was after midnight and the park was pretty quiet. It had been a very long day for us and we were tired so we headed out the International Gateway. I was surprised to see that there were still a few people entering the park at that time!

Final Thoughts

I still think that the Wine and Dine Half Marathon is the best value of any of the Disney races. It doesn't cost any more than the other half marathons but it includes the post-race party and the $15 gift card.

Still, I preferred the "old" Wine and Dine format with the half marathon at night and the party right afterwards. I don't think the race in the morning and the party that night worked very well. Attending the party just after finishing the race meant that we were hyped up and hungry and ready to party - but this time we were just tired. And so many runners didn't end up going to the party at all. Maybe if we hadn't had a big dinner I would have felt differently, and would have been able to enjoy the short lines a the booths. Certainly there were people there who were obviously having a very good time. And I have several other friends who attended and had a lot of fun. They are much younger than I am, though. :-)

I am hoping that this new half marathon course is only temporary, and that the Studios will be included again eventually.

I'd like to thank those of you I met over the weekend who took the time to come over and tell me that you enjoy my blogs - that means a lot to me!

Thanks for reading!








November 14, 2016

2016 Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend, Part 1, Expo and 10K

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Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

The Walt Disney World Wine and Dine Half Marathon is a race we have enjoyed participating in for several years. It was very different from other race weekends because it was a night race, starting at 10:00. It included a big finish line party at Epcot's Food and Wine Festival. All of the food booths and some attractions were open, and the party went until 4:00 a.m.

It also was quite different because the 5K and half marathon both took place on Saturday - the 5K in the morning and the half at night. There were only those two events for adults. The Kids Races were usually split between Friday and Saturday.

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

The last couple of years the nighttime race aspect has brought weather challenges. 2014 was what we called "Splash and Dash", because it rained for the entire race and much of the after party. In 2015 was the "Quarter Marathon". The start was delayed an hour because of lightning in the area. Disney was rightly concerned for the safety of volunteers, spectators and runners and evacuated all of us to the shelter of buildings at the start line at ESPN Wide World of Sports. As a result of the delay the course was shortened, and we ran not quite 7 miles rather than 13.1. Everyone still received their medals, though!

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

This year when the race was announced runDisney added a new 10K race, and with that came a new 10K/half marathon challenge as well. It also meant that it turned into a more traditional runDisney race weekend, with all races held in the morning: 5K on Friday, 10K on Saturday and half marathon on Sunday. The after party at Epcot was still scheduled, but it was held Sunday night instead of Saturday night.

As you might imagine, the changes were met with some consternation in the runDisney community. I'll admit that I wasn't very happy about it. While I understand the weather being a problem in recent years, there was something very special about Wine and Dine being
a nighttime event. It was unique in that it was at night - and getting to go straight from the race to the party was a terrific way to finish the event. These changes made it just about like any
other runDisney race weekend. Runners who make more of a long weekend of the event were dismayed because if they wanted to experience the party they could no longer return home on Sunday afternoon.

Even before the changes were announced we'd already planned to run the race again this year, so this didn't really affect our plans. And with two pieces of Inaugural bling (the Wine and Dine 10K and Lumiere's Two Course Challenge), of course I had to be there. :-)

Of late, many of the runDisney half marathons have not been selling out quickly, but this one did. Just hours after registration opened all events were sold out. And then we had to wait months for additional information on the events - like what the race courses were going to be like, and how the after party would work.

Eventually we learned that the 10K course was going to be the same old boring 10K course that most of the other races use. Starting and ending at Epcot, with over half the race on roads outside the park. Whoopee.

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

But the half marathon course was new. It still started at ESPN Wide World of Sports and ended at Epcot, but the Studios portion was completely eliminated. Instead of going to Animal Kingdom and back to the Studios, the half marathon course went to Animal Kingdom and then took back roads to World Drive near the Car Care Center. This is essentially a reversal of part of the marathon course. From there it went to Epcot - that last 4+ miles is the same course most of the other Walt Disney World half marathons take. I was not very excited about this course, either - I knew there was going to be lots of miles on boring roads. And instead of visiting three theme parks as we did before, it was only two.

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

For admission to the party we were mailed an actual ticket, along with a letter telling us the ticket was required, and that our bibs would not get us into the party. We know some runners that didn't receive their tickets before they left home, though.

Race entry also includes a $15 gift card that can be used for food and beverage, or really anything else you can purchase with a Disney gift card. Our gift cards were sent to us via email - the bar code could be scanned and used that way.

Thursday, November 3 - Expo

We arrived at the Expo on Thursday afternoon around 4:00 - it had opened at 10:00 that morning. We were surprised to see the construction of a new arena at Wide World of Sports was well underway.

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

The banners for the different races were out - those are always really nice photo ops.

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

The Expo wasn't crowded, and we didn't wait long to pick up our packets.

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

There was a meet and greet location with Lumiere, and the line was pretty short so we did that. We were running his challenge, after all!

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

There was a merchandise area in the packet pick-up building, and we checked that out. There still seemed to be quite a bit left.

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

Lots of shirts, and some nice artwork.

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend
There was quite a bit of Lumiere's Challenge merchandise, though as Lee pointed out, most of it was for women and not men. There were a number of shirts as well as a jacket.
Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

I thought the 5K shirts were really cute - I was sorry that I wasn't running the 5K! (But getting up early three mornings in a row just wasn't appealing.)

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

Shirt pick-up for the Challenge was in the Milk House - the rest was over in the Josten's Center. The shirt designs are really cute, but I don't understand why they still insist on giving us long-sleeve shirts for Wine and Dine, when it's still pretty warm at that time of year in Florida.

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

And what is it with Disney and gray shirts? Way too many of those lately.

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

The other issue we've noticed with the shirts is that the graphic on the front has become much larger and more elaborate over the years. But since it's a rubbery-iron on, that part of the shirt doesn't breathe at all. So it makes the shirts a lot warmer and they are not very comfortable to actually run in. I wish they'd go back to a simpler and smaller graphic.

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

As usual the main expo was over in Josten's Center.

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

There was even more official merchandise over there. I was able to get the mini medal pins that I wanted.

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

They had all of the "I Did It" shirts, too, though we didn't buy any of them.

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

But other than the I Did It shirt and the mini medal pin there was NO 10K merchandise - we were told that it wasn't until they put it out that someone finally realized that "Inaugural" was spelled incorrectly. So at the last minute they pulled it all. Wow. I'm not sure how they can go through as many approval levels as this stuff must have to go through without anyone noticing the mis-spelling. Disney needs to hire some proofreaders. I'd be happy to volunteer my services. Believe me, I know how to spell "Inaugural." :-)

The rest of the Expo seemed to be the typical merchandise and vendors. We weren't around for any of the presentations.

There was no printed event guide this time at all. And the on-line event guide was a weird interactive magazine format, so it wasn't anything that you could download easily for yourself! I really didn't like it. There was a one-page event guide available, which a volunteer found for us. I was surprised that wasn't included in our packet pickup. Another thing that wasn't included in our pickup was the sticker with our bib number on it to be used if we checked
a bag before the race. Instead, volunteers had to handwrite one for anyone who checked a bag.

Here's what I came back with from the Expo. I need another race shirt like I need a hole in the head, but I liked the purple Remy shirt and bought it - got lots of compliments on it, too!

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

Friday, November 4 - Mickey's Holiday 5K

This 5K is held at Animal Kingdom, and has a holiday theme. We didn't run it but we have a number of friends who did. It always looks like a lot of fun, and I'm sorry we missed it this year. But as I mentioned earlier, the idea of yet another early morning convinced us otherwise.

The race medal is one of the new metal medals, rather than the rubber version that's been distributed in the past. Really cute.

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

Saturday, November 5 - Inaugural Wine and Dine 10K

Another 5:30 race start. Since the half marathon starts at ESPN Wide World of Sports and ends at Epcot I was hoping that the 10K might do that, too, but no. It was the same 10K course that's used for the Marathon and Princess weekend 10Ks. After the disaster that was the Star Wars Dark Side 10K in April, which went from Epcot to Wide World of Sports, I can perhaps understand their reluctance to simply reverse that route, but I still hoped for something
different. They could have done a variation of the "quarter marathon" course that we did last year, which would have let us experience the Studios.

Since the start was at Epcot we opted to drive our rental car rather than take the bus. We left about 3:45 and had pretty minimal traffic.

We were very happy to see that there were four character photo stations set up in the pre-race area. The lines were very long, though, so we hoped to get some photos after the race instead.

Before the race we met up with some former members of Team AllEars - it was great to see them again! Many of us have kept in touch via Facebook, but it's always nice to get together in person.

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

One nice thing about the 10K race is that the start line is right next to the pre-race area and we didn't have a long walk to the start line like we do for the half marathon and marathon. I was in
corral A, but not very close to the front, so my photos aren't very good.

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

It was great to see Rudy Novotny back as a race announcer. For some reason he's no longer doing the runDisney events in California, but he's still working the Florida events.

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

I was hoping to get another personal best on this course, so I was running for time, and didn't take any photos. My friend Stan, who is faster than I am, ran with me. He did his best to keep me on track for a PR, but I just didn't quite have it in me. It was about 68 degrees and humid for the race, and that was a little too warm for me to do my best. I finished in 58:12, which is still a good time, but almost a minute slower than my best 10K time.

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

This 10K course is BORING. The first three miles took us through the Epcot parking lot and out onto World Drive. We went backstage at Epcot and finally into Epcot's World Showcase at Norway at about mile 4. Then we ran counterclockwise all the way past France and out the International Gateway, and ran around Crescent Lake and past the Boardwalk, Yacht Club, and Beach Club resorts. We went back towards the International Gateway again but turned left and ran backtage behind the UK and Canada and out into Future World. We ran around Spaceship Earth and then out to the finish line.

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

I hoped that runDisney would learn some character lessons from their counterparts in Paris, but no. There were just five character stops, plus one stop with stiltwalkers and another with a large
Sebastian puppet. The penguins from Mary Poppins were just past mile 1 (that seemed like a very odd choice) and Flik and Atta were around mile 2. Geppetto was at the Italy pavilion and Genie was at the Morocco pavilion. Chip and Dale were outside the ESPN Club on the Boardwalk.

But as I mentioned, there were characters in the pre-race area. And since we'd finished early, the lines weren't too bad. I was finally able to get my photo taken with Remy and Emile - which I hadn't been able to get at Disneyland Paris.

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

We also saw Mickey and Minnie.

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

Goofy and Donald were dancing to the DJ's music ("Happy") when we went up to see them.

Wine and Dine half marathon weekend

Lumiere was also there, but since we'd gotten our photo with him at the Expo we didn't wait in line.

It was still dark when we'd finished with the characters. Even though it was relatively warm, we were sweaty and soaked and getting a little chilled just standing around, so we headed back to our resort.

Later I checked the results. There were 9,260 finishers, which is pretty good for a 10K with about 10,000 entries. I finished 7th in my division, and I was very happy about that.

Next up: The Wine and Dine Half Marathon







October 3, 2016

Disneyland Paris Inaugural Half Marathon Weekend - Part 3, Half Marathon

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Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

Somewhere along the way the race was renamed the Inaugural Disneyland® Paris – Val d’Europe Half Marathon. Or Semi Marathon, as they say in France. Val d'Europe is the area that surrounds Disneyland Paris, and we would be running through it for over half of the race.

It was a fantastic event. Maybe the most I've ever enjoyed an Inaugural runDisney event (Disneyland's Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon is way up there, too.) The race organizers, the cast members, the community, the volunteers all came together to give us a marvelous experience. Thank you to all of you!

Going into the race we really weren't sure what to expect in terms of on-course support, water stops, and nutrition. And given recent events in France, security was a concern as well.

I'm very happy to report that none of that was an issue. While perhaps there wasn't quite as much entertainment or cheering crowds, those that were there were enthusiastic and very supportive. And there were plenty of well-stocked and staffed water and nutrition stops. As for security - it was very different seeing pairs of armed guards all over the course, but I felt safe.

The race course was terrific. We had even more park time in the Studios than we did for the 5K, and about the same in Disneyland. The first 5K was basically parks, and then we had 1K backstage before going out onto the roads in Val d'Europe.

It was a beautiful area, and I very much enjoyed the views as we ran through the countryside. We saw parks:

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

Woods:

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

Houses:

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

Lakes:

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

And even corn fields.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

We were never that far from Disney and could often catch a glimpse of Space Mountain or the castle in the distance and even hear some music.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

It was very nice that for most of the last 5K we were back on Disney property, where we ran through several of the Disney resorts. Hotel Santa Fe:

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

Hotel Cheyenne:

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

Newport Bay Club:

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

We finished by running through Downtown Disney, then ducking backstage around the Studios for the final kilometer to the finish line.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

The weather was perfect. There was rain in the forecast but thankfully it held off until the afternoon, and for the race we had clear skies and temperatures of about 55-60. There was a light wind at times. It was very comfortable for running.

I was very pleased to see that the race organizers had learned some lessons from the 5K and made some changes to address a few issues. There were screens and speakers in the corrals that morning, so we had a much better idea of what was happening up front.

At the character stops, the handlers let runners in line know when a character would soon be going for a break, and when they would be coming back. And they let us know if a different character was coming out to replace them. That was much appreciated.

They pulled the PhotoPass photographers from the castle ramp, which really eased congestion when we went through it - we barely slowed down.

The Disney characters were still at the finish line, but they were more away from the line - it wasn't the bottleneck that it was the day before.

Once again, the race organizers did a great job of giving us character photo opportunities along the course. And very different characters than we had saw during the 5K. The number of character stops was about the same as for the 5K, but there might have been even more characters - some of the stops had four or five different characters associated with them! Some of the groups:

Mad Hatter, March Hare, White Rabbit, Cheshire Cat(!)

Dug, Carl, Russell/Baloo, King Louie

Remy/Marie, Toulouse, Berlioz (Aristocats)

Aladdin, Abu, Genie, Sultan

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

Cinderella, Prince Charming, Belle, Prince Beast (by far the longest line I saw so we didn't stop)

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

We also saw Chip and Dale, the Incredibles, Spider-Man, Darth Vader, and the Sheriff of Nottingham. I think Remy and Spider-Man/Captain America were the only repeats from the 5K. That's quite a lineup.

Race Day

We got a slightly earlier start - had our race breakfast at the hotel and were on our way to the corrals by 6:10. I was concerned that it might take longer to get through the security check, but it was again very efficient.

We learned from the way the 5K started to try to get further forward in the corral. We were in Corral B for this one, so that helped a lot. There were over 10,000 runners registered for the race, so it was about twice the size of the 5K. There were four start corrals instead of three.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

As I mentioned before, we had video monitors and a PA system for the half, so we were able to hear the announcements when they told us they would start us in waves - I think they said 32 waves.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

It was another cool morning - about 55 degrees - but there was a light wind and it felt a little colder. I'd remember to wear my gloves this time! With arm sleeves, trash bag, and gloves I was comfortable while we waited.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

The race started 10 minutes late - no explanation as to why.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

We were near the front of corral B and started about 10 minutes after the official start of the race. We were at the front of a wave, and that was nice.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

This time we went into the Studios first and to the Lights, Motors, Action stage at the back of the park.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

There weren't lines at the kilometer signs as there were the day before. 21 of them for this race.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

We ran through the Studio 1 building that's just inside the Studios' entrance. It was strange to be running inside.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

Since we were closer to the front of the race the character lines were much shorter, so we were able to make a number of stops. But one not-so-good change between the 5K and the half: CMs were apparently instructed not to take photos with guest cameras. So we all had to get someone else to take our photo if we wanted one with our own camera. Everyone was willing to do it, it was just awkward to pass the phones back and forth.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

The CMs were still out in force and enthusiastically cheering for us, though!

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

We went the opposite direction through Toy Story Playland this time and into the Ratatouille area. I was hoping that Remy would be out again, but I didn't see any character stops. Unfortunately I missed it - it was behind the line of cheering cast members nearer the Fastpass distribution area. I found out later that in addition to Remy that stop alternated with Marie and some of the other kittens from The Aristocats! I was really disappointed that I missed that.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

We'd run a little less than 3K when we entered Disneyland and ran down Main Street.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

In Discoveryland there was a line for Vader and the Storm Troopers. It was the longest line we waited in - about 8 minutes. While we waited for that I took this photo of Lee. The Vader photo was only taken by the PhotoPass photographer and I REALLY hope it comes out - it should be a good one.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

In Fantasyland we had our first experience with the CMs telling us that characters would be leaving. The March Hare and White Rabbit were out, but the CM told us they would be leaving in four minutes. The line was short, so we knew we should have time. But when the Mad Hatter came out (less than four minutes later) they pulled the other two, so we missed getting them - but at least we had a photo with the Mad Hatter.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

The Sheriff of Nottingham was out on Adventure Isle (some people saw Robin Hood, also). That was a new one for me, I think.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

When we were in the parks the kilometer markers were themed to the area of the park that we were in. (No race clocks on any of the kilometer markers like we're used to seeing here.)

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

After we left Disneyland we ran backstage for a while - this backstage road had traffic circles on it, and there was a gargoyle statue in each one! Surprisingly this was the only Hunchback character that we saw during the races.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

At the 6K mark we left Disney property for the surrounding commune of Val d'Europe. About 3.7 miles on Disney property to start the race, most of it in interesting on-stage areas - very nice.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

We ran around a number of traffic circles that day.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

At one point we ran about half a lap around a high school track. That was nice and cushy. Felt good.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

There were two nutrition stations - one at about 7.5K and one at 15K. Different than what we're used to - they offered cereal bars and apple slices. We split one of the packets of apple slices and they were quite good. There didn't seem to be too many takers for the cereal bars, though.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

There were a number of teams of runners who were pushing a disabled person in an interesting one-wheeled sedan chair. One person in front rickshaw-style and one in back pushing. They swapped out fairly frequently. Despite the chair they were moving pretty fast - most of them passed us.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

There were a number of bands along the course - most of them seemed to be high school bands.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

And this was a very unusual group. The long tubes are didgeridoos. Their name was Pranavibes.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

11K - over half way! When we weren't in the parks the signs were themed to different Disney movies.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

One part of the course I didn't like so much - for about 5K we were on an out-and-back, which meant that we saw people on the other side going on the opposite direction. Not so bad when we were the ones further along, but a little disheartening when we were still going out and watching those on the other side of the road who were almost 5K ahead of us!

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

About kilometer 12 we ran through a village. There were quite a few people out to watch us, including a very enthusiastic cheerleading squad.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon
The volunteers were outstanding!
Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

At about 13K we ran around a small lake. We started on a gravel path, which then turned into a packed dirt/gravel track. I heard a number of complaints from runners around me in this section, but I enjoyed the change in surface.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

At kilometer 17 we were back in Disney property. I liked the way the markers at Hotel Santa Fe and Hotel Cheyenne matched the theme of those resorts.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

Running along Lake Disney - a little over a mile left to go.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

The wind had played a little havoc with the 21K sign. CMs said that it was only 100 meters to the finish from there, but it felt longer than that to me.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

Arrivee!

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

Again there were characters at the finish but runners weren't allowed to line up like they had the day before.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

Lee and I both got our Challenge medals from the smallest race volunteer I've seen - isn't she adorable?

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

The signage for the Castle to Chateau wasn't clear - I passed by it the first time, and had to backtrack a bit to get to the entrance. I was also quite surprised that no one was marking our wristbands to make sure no one received more than one - it seemed like it would be possible to do that.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

Really beautiful medals! And the one has that special word on it: Inaugural. :-)

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

It was still under 60 degrees and a little chilly - I was surprised that mylar sheets weren't being distributed. I'm not even sure they were available at the First Aid tent, since I didn't see anyone who had one.

This time our post-race snacks were a banana, cereal bar, peanuts, and a dried fruit/nut mix.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

There was still no entertainment in the Family Reunion area and the lines for photos at the photo backdrops were long.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

We were both getting a little chilled so we headed back to our hotel. We had to cross the race course twice to get there, but the runners had thinned out enough that it didn't take too long. I had a really good race and felt really good - but it's always very nice to be done.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

A few souvenirs from our trip to France!

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

This was a terrific race weekend. Totally exceeded all of my expectations. Congratulations to everyone involved, and a heartfelt thank you from me as well. I hope this race weekend will be around for a long time. While I'm not planning to run it again next year, I would certainly like to run it again in the future - maybe the 5th anniversary?







October 1, 2016

Disneyland Paris Inaugural Half Marathon Weekend - Part 2, 5K

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Disneyland Paris 5K

The 5K started at 7:00 on Saturday morning. A very civilized hour for those of us used to the typical 5:00 or 5:30 starts of most runDisney events! (Though the start time was NOT listed in the official program!) And since everything was so close, we didn't even have to get up that early - we set the alarm for 5:15.

Continental breakfast at the hotels was included as part of our race packages. On race mornings, there was also a limited race breakfast available starting at 5:00. I was very surprised that there were NO bread products at the race breakfast! We're in France, where there's a boulangerie on almost every corner, and there's no croissants or toast for race breakfast? There was yogurt, fruit, and cereal, as well as juice, coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. That was ok for me, but Lee is used to having a bagel or toast or something like that before running.

We met our friends Julie and Mike at breakfast, and then walked over to the start area - left the hotel about 6:15. We again had to go through security, but most runners obviously weren't carrying anything and could just walk through. It took less than 10 minutes to walk to the Events Center. The pre-race area was right next to it.

It looked like it was going to be a great day for running, with a forecast of mostly clear skies and temperature around 54-56. That's perfect in my book. A little chilly for waiting in the corrals, but I'd brought one of my trusty trash bags from home, and I had arm sleeves. I'd also brought gloves but I forgot to wear them that morning - they would have been nice to have. I wore my Belle running costume for the 5K.

Bag check was in the Events Center - the same location as packet pickup, merchandise, etc. That was different, though it was nice that everything was in the same place, and it certainly made sense to do it there. We didn't check any bags, but had to go through the Events Center to access the Runner's Only area. There were lots of people checking for bibs in a couple of places to make sure that only registered runners were allowed to enter.

The event map showed "Photos" in the pre-race area, and I was hoping for Disney characters as they have started to do here. But no, just a couple of backdrops with pretty long lines.

Disneyland Paris 5K

And there were NO PhotoPass photographers - none roaming around taking photos, and, even more surprisingly, none at the photo backdrops! That was one reason the lines were moving so slowly - we all had to hand our cameras to someone else for photos. I was starting to wonder what the use was of purchasing the PhotoPass card if there weren't going to be any photographers!

We eventually got to the front of the line at one of the backdrops and had a few photos taken.

Disneyland Paris 5K

And then we went to the corrals - which were a very short distance away. Corral assignment for the 5K appeared to be completely random. Mike, Julie and I were all in B, but for whatever reason Lee was assigned to C (even though he and I had booked together!), so we all had to go back to C to run together. That was a bummer, as it turned out. We ended up near the back of Corral C.

Disneyland Paris 5K

There were 5,000-6,000 participants in the 5K - and most of them were ahead of us. We could barely see the start line, and there were no speakers or monitors anywhere around us so we had no idea what was going on.

Disneyland Paris 5K

There was a small burst of fireworks a few minutes before 7:00, and then after that we started seeing occasional puffs of "smoke" over the start line.

Disneyland Paris 5K

It appeared that the race started on time but we didn't start moving for another 10 minutes, I think. And once we did start moving we'd move a bit, then stop, then move some more. The reason became obvious as we approached the start line: within the corrals, they were grouping people together and starting them in waves about a minute apart. Interesting strategy, and it did seem to work to spread us out a bit more early in the race. But it was confusing since we couldn't hear anything and had no idea what was going on until we got pretty close to the start line.

Disneyland Paris 5K

There were a couple of race announcers, but we couldn't hear them until we were close to the starting line. They were mixing it up between English and French. Really made me miss Rudy Novotny and Carissa Bealert, though.

Disneyland Paris 5K

We started about 20 minutes after the race officially began. We were on the wide walkway between Downtown Disney and Disneyland, so crowding wasn't much of an issue and we had room to maneuver around slower walkers and runners.

Disneyland Paris 5K

We were very quickly on Main Street in Disneyland.

Disneyland Paris 5K

There's that lovely castle...but no PhotoPass photographers!

Disneyland Paris 5K

We reached the first of what were to be the most character stops I've seen in any Disney race as we made the turn from the hub towards Discoveryland. Cruella deVil and Jafar. Unfortunately, because of our start in Corral C, the lines were very long, so we didn't stop at most of the official photo stops - we had to make our own fun photos instead.

This is one of my favorites. Mike, Julie, and Lee got in the car and the CMs who were cheering there saw what they were doing and rushed over to photobomb them! It was great! There were a lot of cast members out cheering throughout the race, and they all looked like they were having a wonderful time doing it.

Disneyland Paris 5K

We passed the 1K marker in Discoveryland. A few runners around us thought we had already gone a mile. Nope, sorry, different system of measurement here! :-) There were even lines to take photos of the kilometer markers, so we didn't stop.

The course went through all of the various lands - Main Street, Discoveryland, Fantasyland, Adventureland and Frontierland before exiting Disneyland and taking us into the Studios.

There were lots of character stops - most of them had more than one character. And several of them were characters not often seen. For example, in Fantasyland there were two pairs of more unusual characters - Eeyore and Rabbit, and Thumper and his girlfriend. We counted 11 character stops. Very impressive.

Disneyland Paris 5K

Between Discoveryland and Fantasyland we turned and ran into a backstage area which was lit by some interesting lights - they changed color.

Disneyland Paris 5K

In Fantasyland we stopped for a photo outside Alice's Curious Labyrinth.

Disneyland Paris 5K

One of the two water stations was located in Adventureland just past Pirates and Adventure Isle. They were clearly marked.

Disneyland Paris 5K

We actually went into Fantasyland twice - once from the backstage area and once from Adventureland. The course designers did a great job of maximizing park time for this race. The second time we saw Mary Poppins and Bert at the Carousel. That's probably the one photo op that I regret not stopping for.

Disneyland Paris 5K

After that it was time to run through the castle. There were PhotoPass photographers on the Main Street side, so people were slowing down as we went through to mug for the cameras, though we didn't come to a screeching halt like we do in some Disney races.

Disneyland Paris 5K

We stopped in Frontierland to take photos with some of the "pumpkin people" (there were lots of Halloween figures out on Main Street and Frontierland for their Halloween celebration), and the people in front of us were the young woman and her father that we had talked to when in line for the Expo! It was so much fun to see them - and they were having a wonderful time.

Disneyland Paris 5K

We were disappointed that Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is shut down for a lengthy refurbishment - but it's still a very pretty backdrop.

Disneyland Paris 5K

After Frontierland we left Disneyland and went backstage to get into the Studios. In that area we were passed by a scooter with a cameraman on the back - we'd seen a couple of these. I felt like I was in the Tour de France. :-)

Disneyland Paris 5K

We didn't go through quite as much of the Studios park, though we passed most of the major areas and attractions. It's a much smaller park than Disneyland. It might even be Disney's smallest theme park - or that's how it feels to me. We passed the 3K sign just before we entered, so we didn't have too much of the race still remaining.

There weren't as many character stops in the Studios but there were a few very interesting ones. Near Crush's coaster was a character I haven't seen in a VERY long time - Roger Rabbit! And I think the longest line I saw was outside Bistrot Chez Remy - for Remy, Linguini, and Emile! Wow. Very cool to see all three of them.

Disneyland Paris 5K

A bit of a loop - the runners behind Lee, Mike, and Julie who are exiting Playland were ahead of us.

Disneyland Paris 5K

The course took us back into the Hollywood portion of the park and past the Tower of Terror and Rock'n'Roller Coaster. The final character stop was Marvel characters. We saw Spider-Man - others saw Captain America. The line wasn't too long (by far the shortest one we'd seen) and we stopped for it. Unfortunately only the PhotoPass photographer took the picture, and it's not available yet.

The last kilometer of the race was in backstage areas between the Studios and Downtown Disney. We finally found a kilometer sign that didn't have a line. Yay. :-)

Disneyland Paris 5K

The sun was just starting to come over the trees, and it was in our eyes. Lee was inspired to do his best zombie walk. I don't know why.

Disneyland Paris 5K

We reached the Arrivee line. This race wasn't officially timed, but by my Garmin it took us about 53 minutes. Even though we didn't stand in character lines we still stopped a lot for photos. We had a great time running with Mike and Julie.

Disneyland Paris 5K

One very odd thing...there were characters just AFTER the finish line - and they were letting runners pose for selfies with them! It clogged up the finish area. There were Goofy, Minnie, Mickey and Pluto. It was nice to see them, but it became a bottleneck.

Disneyland Paris 5K

5K complete!

Disneyland Paris 5K

I think the medallion is really cute! This is the last of the rubber ones - they will all be made of metal from now on.

Disneyland Paris 5K

In addition to bottles of water and PowerAde, volunteers were handing out bottles of a lactose-free chocolate or vanilla milk called Sporteus. It was pretty good, and hit the spot after running.

Disneyland Paris 5K

And...no runDisney snack boxes at this race! Yay! Instead we received an apple and an actual bag that had peanuts and a cereal bar inside. It was very nice to have the bag to carry the beverage bottles in - juggling all of that is always difficult.

Disneyland Paris 5K

There was no entertainment in the Family Reunion area at all - that seemed strange. There really wasn't anything to do once we finished the race unless we wanted to try to get photos with the backdrops. The lines were even longer than they had been in the morning and there was still no PhotoPass photographer. The generic half marathon weekend backdrop was available, though. I should mention that there were PhotoPass photographers in the finish area to take our official finisher photos.

Disneyland Paris 5K

We were finished and on our way back to the hotel by 8:30. Continental breakfast was still available there - we even had time to shower first. :-)

When we headed to Disneyland after breakfast we could see the Kids Races going on across the lake. It sounded like everyone was having a lot of fun.

Disneyland Paris 5K

Final Thoughts

I must say that I was very impressed - it was an excellent 5K. Easily the best runDisney 5K I have run. The course was terrific - most of it on-stage, and we had lots of time in the parks. I did not experience any real crowded and congested conditions. A little slowing when we went through the castle, but that was the only place that I had to drop to a walk, and not for very long.

And the characters! Disneyland Paris got it RIGHT. I was amazed at how many character stops there were. I hope that Disneyland and Walt Disney World were paying attention.

I didn't call them all out in the blog, but here's the ones that I saw:
Cruella
Jafar
Chewbacca/R2-D2
Eeyore/Rabbit
Thumper/Miss Bunny
Captain Hook/Mr. Smee
Mary Poppins/Bert/Penguin
Jessie/Woody
Roger Rabbit
Remy, Linguini, Emile
Spider-Man

From other runners I know that sometimes the entire Pooh gang, including Pooh, Piglet and Tigger, were out together, and Captain America alternated with Spider-Man.

I was disappointed that we started so far back that the lines were too long, but that's just luck of the draw. And it was our choice not to wait in some of the lines. The one complaint I heard about characters was that the handlers didn't close the lines when they knew a character would be leaving, so some people waited in long lines only to have the character pulled before their turn came.

Considering how much they pushed the purchase of the PhotoPass card, I was surprised that there were no PhotoPass opportunities in the start and finish areas. But there were a reasonable number of photographers along the race course, and at all of the character stops. There were a few other official photo stops in the parks, such as in the hub with the castle behind, at the entrance to Playland, and with some of the Tower of Terror Bellhops. But I'm disappointed at how long it is taking them to make the photos available to us - I'd hope to include some in this blog, but we are still waiting for them to be posted.

The pre-race experience was lacking. There were no video displays or speakers, so we had no idea what was going on. And especially when it turned out they were creating separate waves within the corrals, it would have been nice to know that.

Speaking of waves...I thought the wave idea worked very well in spreading us out a little bit more at the beginning. Especially for the 5K where corrals seemed to be randomly assigned and it was such a mix of runners, walkers, families with kids, etc.

The medallion is adorable...and I really liked the race shirt, also.

I was pleased with the refreshments. Chocolate milk is a very common post-race beverage at non-Disney races, and I was happy to see it here. I don't really need much after a 5K but the apple and cereal bar were nice to have - I ate them later. And giving us BAGS - hallelujah!!!

It was really a terrific race, and we had a lot of fun. I would definitely recommend this race, and I hope to do it again some time. Thanks, Disneyland Paris. Your debut race was a winner!

Next up: the Semi Marathon







September 30, 2016

Disneyland Paris Inaugural Half Marathon Weekend - Part 1

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Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Logo

For a number of years there had been rumors in the runDisney community that a half marathon race would be coming to Disneyland Paris. The official announcement was finally made at the Disney Princess half marathon in 2015, while we were waiting in the starting corrals. There were few details at that time other than the dates, September 23-25, 2016. There was also a run.disneylandparis.com/ web site, but all that was available there was an email signup for additional information when it became available.

Since it had that wonderful "I" word, "Inaugural", associated with it, I knew that I wanted to run it. Plus neither Lee nor I had ever been to Paris or Disneyland Paris. So it seemed like a great opportunity to do that.

Eventually there was a bit more information - there would be 5K and Kids races also, and there would be a Castle to Chateau Challenge medal for those of us who had completed a Disneyland/Disney World half marathon in the same year. Lots of excitement about that!

Later that summer we learned that initial registration would take the form of a package that included hotel nights, park tickets, and race registration. Those would go on sale in October. Bib only sales would not take place until early 2016. For many of us coming from the U.S. a package deal was somewhat attractive since we would want to combine the race with a trip to Disneyland Paris, but many European runners were not so keen on that idea. Some already had DLP annual passes and didn't need park tickets, or lived nearby and didn't need lodging, etc.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon
[Non-attributed photos courtesy of Disney]

There was also a lot of confusion about which travel agencies were "authorized" and had packages to sell. GET Travel was the only U.S. agency, though a number of U.S. agents partnered with U.K. agencies to provide packages. (The latter is the way that we went.) A number of people also called and booked with Disneyland Paris directly, though it was not initially obvious that you could do that. Different providers had different rules on how much you had to put down, and when you had to pay the balance. The one we used, Sports Tours International, didn't require as much down, plus we didn't have to make final payment until the end of June.

The packages offered a stay of 3-5 nights, though all of them required a Monday checkout, which I thought was odd. All of the various hotel properties were available, which meant there was a selection of price points. We decided on Sequoia Lodge, which is classed as a Moderate and has more of a wilderness theme.

Disneyland Paris Sequoia Lodge

It wasn't until mid-December that we each received an email giving us a username and password to the race registration site. That allowed us to register for the 5K and half marathon races. French law requires those participating in half marathons (or longer) races to provide a medical certificate from a doctor certifying that you are healthy enough to run. This of course was unusual to those of us in the U.S. but I thought the requirement was very well communicated. There was a particular certificate template on the web site that we had to print for the doctor to sign. (The hardest part was that the date fields were reversed: day/month/year.) As part of the registration process we had to upload a completed copy of that. And if we were eligible for Castle to Chateau we had to upload a copy of a finisher certificate from a 2016 Disney half marathon (or marathon). It didn't all have to be done at once, but the registration status was not complete until everything was uploaded AND we received an email stating that the medical certificate and finisher certificate had been accepted. Runners who wanted to use the Disneyland Half as their Castle to Chateau qualifier were nervous because their race certificates weren't available soon enough after the race, and I think most ended up bringing a copy of their results to the Expo.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Registration

Bibs went on sale early this year, and it seemed as though those who wanted bib only were able to register. There was even a transfer policy for those who had initially booked a package and then found they would be unable to attend. Bibs for the half marathon were still on sale as late as August. I do not think the race reached capacity. By the way, registration was quite inexpensive by U.S. Disney standards - 29 Euros for the 5K and 69 Euros for the half. Approximately $35/$80.

In addition to the 5K and half marathon, other events that were available were the Inaugural Party, a private event at the Studios on Friday night, and the "Rice Party" (in place of a pasta party) on Saturday night at Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in Downtown Disney. We did not attend either of those.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon events

We received some email communications from the race organizers in Paris, but there still didn't seem to be nearly as much information available in advance as we are used to. The actual race courses were announced quite late - though that may have been due to security measures. The emails with links to our vouchers (which would allow us to pick up our bibs) didn't come out until September 6, and the actual race waiver form we only received via email the morning of the 16th, as we were preparing to leave for the airport!

I was a little concerned because we had nothing more than a confirmation number from the travel provider. There was an information packet we'd been able to download (again, not long before we left), but nothing really personalized. One detail that should have been communicated: when we arrived at Sequoia Lodge we had to check in at the group area (which was in a separate building) and not at the main desk.

We spent four days in Paris before going to Disneyland Paris. We had managed to travel with just a carry-on suitcase and small bag/backpack each, partly because of the move partway through the trip. We took the metro and the RER-A train to the Marne-la-Vallee Chessy station, which is right outside the gates to Disneyland Paris. Very easy.

Disneyland Paris Train Station

We decided to walk to the hotel rather than take the shuttle bus. I was surprised that we had to go through a security checkpoint to enter Downtown Disney - but it was also the security perimeter for the parks. Going through security was something that we got used to. It's quite efficient since they use an x-Ray machine to scan bags and everyone walks through a metal detector, or gets scanned with a wand. Even when the lines seemed long they moved quickly. I wish Disney would do that here.

Disneyland Paris Security Entrance

After we were directed to the correct check-in area, check-in at the hotel was easy. It was only 1:30, but our room was ready! Because our package was prepaid we didn't even have to leave a credit card - and they don't use the keys for room charging like we are used to here. We received 5 day park hopper tickets since we had a five night package. That meant we could go into the parks that afternoon. We were leaving early on Monday so that wasn't going to be a park day for us. The CM gave us a race information pamphlet but it really had very little information - the hours of the Expo and where things were located and not much else.

Disneyland Paris group check-in

We went to Disneyland Paris that afternoon - but that is for another post. :-)


The Disneyland Half Marathon Expo opened at 3:00 p.m. on Thursday. I thought that was a little unusual. The Disneyland Paris resort is quite compact and reminded me more of Disneyland, with parks, hotels, Expo, and start/finish areas all within walking distance. That's all the long way of saying that the Expo took place in the Disney Events Center, on the opposite end of Downtown Disney from the parks, and close to most of the hotels. And again, within the security perimeter - there was a checkpoint between the hotels and the entrance to Downtown Disney.

Disneyland Paris Events Center

People were concerned about the availability of merchandise for an Inaugural race, and were lining up outside the Events Center by 1:00, and probably before. We didn't go until about 3:20, at which point there was still a long line to get in. The line was because they were checking that everyone had their waiver, race voucher, and ID. It turned out that we needed two waivers - one for each race, and had only printed one, but there were boxes of blanks readily available. There was an area available to print out race vouchers for those who arrived without them.

Disneyland Paris Expo Line

Disneyland Paris Events Center

While we were waiting we chatted with a lovely young French woman behind us (who spoke excellent English). She and her father were running their first Disney race, the 5K, and they were very excited. They were from the local area, and have annual passes to the parks. We tried to give them some idea of what to expect - but of course we didn't know how much it would be like the races here.

Once we got inside there was a huge line. I assumed it was for merchandise and got in it, but it was for the Castle to Chateau wristband! Computer issues. Eventually we figured out what line we were in, and that we didn't need to do that right then.

Disneyland Paris Events Center

Though the lines weren't long, picking up the half marathon bibs took a long time. There was a laptop computer at each pickup counter for the volunteers to scan the bar code on the bib, but the computers were having problems. We also got the gear check bag there with a copy of the program and a cereal bar, but had to go elsewhere to pick up our shirts. We are used to getting our challenge wristbands when we get the bib, but that was not the case here - that was the huge line.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Bib Pickup

After we picked up the bib we had to move to a photo location to have our photo taken with our half marathon bib - we assumed that was for PhotoPass identification since they scanned the bib after taking our photo.

Disneyland Paris Expo

We picked up our 5K bibs and went into the merchandise area. There was no line to get in at that time. There was a line to pay, but there were lots of registers and it moved steadily.

Disneyland Paris Official Merchandise entrance

There really wasn't much merchandise available. "I Did It" shirts for the 5K and half, which were cotton, and men's and women's gray tech shirts with a half marathon logo.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Merchandise

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Merchandise

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Merchandise

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Merchandise

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Merchandise

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Merchandise

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Merchandise

There was a hat, mug, and a few Remy-themed items. No magnets, wine glasses, or a lot of other popular items. There was surprisingly no Castle to Chateau shirt, but we received a flyer with info on ordering them from the Disney Store web site. It loses the immediacy that way, but at least we'll still be able to get them.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Merchandise

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Merchandise

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Merchandise

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Merchandise

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Merchandise

The thing I wanted was the pins. There was an open edition half marathon weekend pin in the merchandise area, but the limited edition pins were only available at the registers. Since they were actually limited to one per transaction I had some hope that there would still be some left. But, of the five pins available, the mini-medal versions of the 5K and Challenge pins were already gone. This was less than two hours after the Expo opened on the first day. At least the half marathon mini-medal pin was still available. The two "I Did It" pins were also available, but I didn't want those. At the register they said they would have more of the other two the next day. I can't believe how badly they misjudged the quantity of pins to order. There's simply no reason to make them so limited! (The 5K mini-medal pin is already missing from the pin display as it was sold out.)

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Pins

After we shopped we wandered around the rest of the Expo. There weren't too many exhibitors there, and very little merchandise for sale. If you'd forgotten some running essential you probably wouldn't find it there.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Expo

We also picked up our race shirts. The 5K shirt is a light soft cotton and the design is very cute. Overall I really liked the shirt. When I selected my shirt size there was an advisory that European sizes run small in the women's cut, so I went with a large instead of a medium. I would have been ok with a medium, I think. They had a shirt exchange but I decided to keep what I had. It's comfortable.

Disneyland Paris 5K shirt

The half marathon shirt is a tech fabric and it's dark gray. I don't know what it is with runDisney and gray shirts, but I'm not a fan. A number of the shirts for sale were gray, also. The Mickey design was nice, though. I thought it interesting that both of the shirts were made in Portugal.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon shirt

The other thing we purchased at the Expo was the Photopass. For a (special?) price of 40 Euros, we will be able to get all of our race photos, plus any PhotoPass photos taken in the parks. To purchase I had to have a bib, and they scanned it, so at least my half marathon bib should be associated with it. And we are supposed to be able to put in all four of our bib numbers. But there wasn't much information on this, and the web site where we are supposed to go put in the info still isn't functional yet, as of this writing - current info says to wait for a week after the race. Not nearly the instant gratification that we are used to!

Disneyland Paris PhotoPass

Disneyland Paris 5K

I guess I should mention that the Expo was in a very large tent. It was a sunny day and it was very warm in there.

The runDisney booth was giving away runDisney shopping bags but the lines were too long so we skipped it. But they had all of the upcoming race medals, including those for Marathon weekend in January. They have all been redesigned. Almost makes me wish I was planning to run the half or full next year. Almost. :-)

runDisney 2016 Mickey's Holiday 5K medal

runDisney Inaugural Wine and Dine 10K medal

runDisney 2016 Wine and Dine Half Marathon Medal

runDisney 2016 Inaugural Lumiere's Challenge Medal

runDisney 2017 WDW 5K Pluto medal

runDisney 2017 WDW 10K Minnie Medal

runDisney 2017 Half Marathon Donald medal

runDisney 2017 Marathon Mickey Medal

runDisney 2017 Goofy Challenge Medal

runDisney 2017 Dopey Challenge medal

runDisney 2017 Castaway Cay Challenge Medal

Isn't the Castle to Chateau medal a thing of beauty? I was definitely looking forward to getting that one put around my neck!

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Medals

The line for Castle to Chateau wristbands was even longer, so we decided to just come back the next day - especially since I was hoping to get the other two pins. At that point there was no line to get into the Expo, and not much for bib pickup or merchandise.

Here's what I brought back from the Expo that day:

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Expo

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon medal pins

On Friday the Expo opened at 10:00 and we went back about 10:40. There was a short line to get in, but we explained we'd already picked up our bibs and needed to get wristbands and they let us in. We went to the merchandise area. They did have the Castle to Chateau pins but were already sold out of the 5K pin. By sometime later that afternoon all pins were sold out. Major failure.

There was a line of 15-20 people waiting for Castle to Chateau wristbands but it moved very quickly.

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Expo

We had to have our bibs to get the wristband - they stamped the back of the bib to show that we had picked up the band.

Disneyland Paris Castle to Chateau button

Then we went to the runDisney booth, where there was a Castle to Chateau button for us. Our wristband was marked with a small "X" to show that we'd received that. I thought it was nice to see those measures in place.

Disneyland Paris Castle to Chateau button

The Disneyland Paris race director, Laurent Charbonnier, was giving a talk on the race as part of the "Speaker Series" so we sat down to listen to that. He obviously had experienced some runDisney races before, and described some of the similarities and differences that we might see. He also gave us a preview of both of the race courses - we were especially interested in what he had to say about the half marathon course, since much of that was outside the parks. One other thing I found interesting was that he warned us that at character photo stops we might find that some French and Italian people (yes, he singled them out specifically) could attempt to cut in line. He suggested that we firmly direct them to the back of the line. (We never saw any of that - and there were lots of French people in the race.)

Disneyland Paris Race Director Laurent Charbonnier

As you can tell, there were some Expo glitches. Though it seemed to me that they made adjustments between Thursday and Friday so that things went more smoothly for those who arrived on Friday. Honestly, I thought it was pretty good for a first attempt.

My major complaint is merchandise, specifically the pins. I just can't understand how, with as many race expos as there have been, that Disney can't figure out the merchandise quantities they need to order. Especially for an inaugural event.

Next up: the 5K








September 12, 2016

2016 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

2016 Disneyland Half Marathon

Christopher Schmidt, back again to bring you a review of the 2016 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend.

The Expo itself was a breeze this year. Admittedly I don’t spend a ton of time shopping, and do not engage in the Official Race Merchandise madness at all. When the Expo opened, there was a healthy and eager crowd, but they did not overwhelm the volunteers dispensing bibs and shirts; my primary areas of concern. Jeff Galloway was again in attendance, of course. He was, again, exceedingly generous with his time; hanging around before and after his speaking engagement to meet and talk to participants and fans.

2016 Disneyland Half Marathon

I confess I was disappointed to hear the Official Race Guide would not be available in print this year. I often found it a bit heavy on advertisements, but as a handy resource for park hours, race times and courses, the guides are indispensable. Maps were posted all throughout the Health & Fitness Expo, which was helpful. The time I spent trying to capture just the right photo of them was unnecessary as our bibs came with a perfectly adequate Race Instruction pamphlet. Though not as complete as in previous years, it contained all of the weekend’s relevant maps and information with none of the distracting advertisements. I appreciate the runDisney sponsors, and am addicted to Clif Bars, but the pared-down guide has to be better for the environment.

2016 Disneyland Half Marathon

Both the Disneyland 5K and 10K were wonderful. The 5K is still woefully brief, and had some bizarre theming this year. Liver Lips and Big Al, from Country Bear Jamboree, were the character guests of honor. I grew up on, and loved the Country Bear Jamboree. It was charming, and one of those attractions where you could consistently count on short lines. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh took over the Disneyland Country Bear Playhouse in 2001, making the bears an intriguing choice to host the 5K. Still, it is always a delight to see classic characters return. I’m afraid to ask if this portends the release of another Country Bears movie.

The 5K and 10K did not course down Route 66 this year, which was disappointing. Cars Land is a thrill at night, and also before sunrise as an exclusive part of a runDisney event. Both races did circle Radiator Springs, then cross through Cars Land. It was all well-lit and beautiful though I missed that emotional jolt of being essentially immersed in the movie.

2016 Disneyland Half Marathon

The World of Color light and water display in the heart of the 10K helped make up for the Cars Land abbreviation. The Aladdin theme for this year's 10K was a welcome touch. There was a bit of negative sentiment surrounding the discontinue of the popular Aladdin stage show in Disney California Adventure, even if it was to make room for Frozen. The Aladdin medals and on-course entertainment may have been a concession. There are many who would love to see the show make its way back into the Disneyland Resort somewhere soon.

2016 Disneyland Half Marathon

All of the 2016 races have been rerouted due to construction on Star Wars Land. This weekend’s courses omitted Frontierland, Adventureland and New Orleans Square entirely. There is still plenty of park land to cover, and in the 5K, the change was not disruptive. For the 10K and Half Marathon, the courses seemed to spend an exorbitant amount of time back stage. Often the behind-the-scenes glimpses are a major part of the appeal of a Disney race. Unfortunately, we spent little time running behind attractions and secret portions of the parks. We were relegated to less descript driveways and service roads. Still, none of this detracted from the amazing experience. It just didn’t add to it in the way circumnavigating Space Mountain and running behind Main Street have traditionally.

2016 Disneyland Half Marathon

There was a wealth of costumed characters out this year. RunDisney did a thorough job of highlighting the theme from each race throughout the weekend. While in previous years, it seemed they sort of just slapped a name on each race, then didn't go much beyond having XXXX wave at and high five runners at the start and finish lines, this year revealed a concentrated and intentional effort. Beasts and critters from Bear Country were on full display for the 5K. Aladdin and friends were the unmistakable highlight of the 10K. Mickey, Pluto and all the originals adorned each race, but were specifically all over the parks and staging area of the Half Marathon. Cast Members dressed in the race theme, acting in character along the course and within the parks, were a genuine highlight. The Aladdin and Jasmine look-a-likes in front of "it's a small world" were mic'd up and had an entertaining exchange going on as we passed. Bravo to the two Imperial Storm Troopers who were actively, convincingly, in character. I think the look of discomfort on the Ewok’s face above was genuine.

2016 Disneyland Half Marathon

Pooh and Piglet in the double-decker omnibus were a thrill, as was the lineup of Cast Members surrounding the hub and much of Main Street. But, again, the park time is over all too quickly. Before you know it, or want it to be so, the 5K and 10K courses are angling through Downtown Disney and their all-too-sudden finish.

2016 Disneyland Half Marathon

If you drew one of the deeper starting corrals for the half marathon, you were in for a tough slog. Among the thousands of participants there seemed a high number of early and frequent walkers. Walking is absolutely your prerogative, if that is your preferred approach. The number of participants walking at the outset this year, and throughout the race, appeared uncommon.

The half marathon had excellent on-course support. The volunteers, bands, etc., are so passionate and committed. The classic cars were present in their usual location on Cerritos Ave. They are always such a wonderful break after being outside the park for so long. Admittedly, it did feel like there weren't as many organized groups, e.g. bands, on the route this year.

I thought there were more costumes than I have ever seen for the Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend. There really seemed to be a higher level of creativity and participation. The costumes ran the entire gamut. Tons of Minnies, Donalds and the other traditionalists. Then there was a bellhop carrying a "Looking for Work" sign vis-a-vis the closing of the Tower of Terror. One guy had an amazing Tron getup. In the dark he looked incredible, but of course it made him impossible to photograph.

2016 Disneyland Half Marathon

This year's medals were beautiful, sturdy and reliable. What participants have come to expect and mostly appreciate from the Disneyland Half Marathon, I believe. The Coast to Coast Medal however, shows the detail and intricacy that is going into other runDisney event medals. I do love tradition, but wish a little more creativity would spill over to the Disneyland Half Marathon weekend medals.

The weather was perfect for the entire weekend, really. There was nice cloud cover early in the race day, with pleasantly low humidity. Can’t really account for all the walking. This is not a criticism. I did, and do, my share of walking. We would all do well to pay more attention to Mr. Galloway. It’s just something different I noticed this year.

With the half marathon course circling and doubling back upon itself, something else I noticed were the elite runners finishing while many of us were just getting started. Not sure if I am more envious of those with such ability, or concerned for their emotional well-being. If I could run that fast through Disneyland, I’m not sure I would. It seems a tragic waste of the runDisney opportunity. Oh, believe me, I want to sprint through a few of those tedious middle miles. I just have to wonder if the elite runners are actually enjoying themselves. I guess being excellent at something is rewarding in and of itself.

2016 Disneyland Half Marathon

For the rest of us mere mortals, the runDisney experience continues to impress. It also beckons us back. I thank runDisney for another memorable weekend, as I look longingly toward November, the Super Heroes Half and the next incredible adventure.

August 27, 2016

Survive, Even Enjoy the Disneyland runDisney Health & Fitness Expo

Disneyland sign

Greetings. My name is Christopher Schmidt, a former Disneyland Cast Member, ongoing passionate Disney fanatic and absolute runDisney disciple. The 2016 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend is fast approaching. Every runDisney event is an opportunity to enjoy an added, semi-exclusive, layer of Disney magic. Unfortunately, what lies between guests and their spectacular experience is an often daunting Health & Fitness Expo hurdle. With the proper approach, mostly shaped by timing and attitude as much as anything else, you may sail through the potentially troubled waters and absolutely enjoy yourself.

To experience total enjoyment at Disneyland, very little is required of you. A bit of patience and some disposable income, sure, but as far as fun and fulfillment go, you almost have to try to have a bad time. These festivities are very well attended. Participants also have to get up obscenely early in the morning. But everything else, from decorations to the course design, music and amenities, every Disney detail is carefully crafted to maximize guest enjoyment. All you do is show up and let an unbelievable experience embrace you.

Then, like a hurricane on the horizon, we have the runDisney Health & Fitness Expo. No amount of exceptional Disney-patented planning and organization seems to mitigate the potential Expo pitfalls. Whether it’s merchandise, bib-number retrieval, pins or the improperly-sized participant t-shirts, tales of Expo woe persist beyond any capacity to rectify them. Considering Disney’s guest-centric priority structure, that is saying something.

runDisney medals

Every single participant in every race throughout a runDisney weekend is required to attend the Expo. There is no other way to pick up your bib, shirt and sundry swag. Each half marathon attracts a minimum of ten thousand entrants. The Disneyland Half Marathon alone draws almost twice that. Throw in the 5Ks, 10Ks and Kids Races, and you are talking about a lot of needy humans passing through a crowded space in a limited amount of time.

Try to avoid limiting yourself one single, rigid window of time in which to get your stuff. If you arrive at the Expo during high tide, faced with resolute human gridlock, your best option is to come back later. The poor Cast Member assigned to direct people who refuse to read the huge, boldly printed signs is not the person responsible for the chaos or your plight. Do them and the spirit of the event a favor by not yelling at them. Do yourself a favor and remain flexible. Come back later. Chances are there will be fewer people. Worst case, if you can't come back, joining the current crush of humanity will help prepare you for the corral experience that awaits you at your race in the morning.

Once you commit to the Expo try to enjoy yourself. Negotiating the admittedly crowded convention hall can get frustrating. If you let it, matters can get off to a positively unpleasant start. So don't let it. Remember you are surrounded by people with whom you share a pleasurable interest; people who are purposely engaged in an activity that you all enjoy. Then, packing the floor and lining every wall are booths bursting with stuff to make your run easier and the whole weekend that much more spectacular. Some of it is free. Grab some cranberries and a CLIF Bar, try on some new shoes (these are not free), shop for authentic runDisney merchandise—if there's any left (see below). Let the crowd take you where it will and explore the place. At the very least, count the manifold blessing that you aren’t running yet and the Expo is inside a thoroughly air-conditioned building.

Disneyland Expo entrance

Packet Pick-Up – Your race bib is your #1 Expo priority. Yes, the Expo repeatedly runs out of commemorative pins, which is infuriating—and is why you should order one online when you register—but you can still participate in your race without one. Try to handle the packet pick-up first. This is particularly important for half marathon participants as the Expo continues to close astoundingly early on Saturday afternoon, and is not open at all the morning of your race.

Bibs are claimed on the lower level of the Disneyland Hotel Exhibit Hall. Find your way there by paying attention to signs and helpful Cast Members. Following the herd will draw you directly into the Upper Level Exhibit Hall, where you will find acres of fine goodies and gear and the incomparable Jeff Galloway. Once relegated to this sprawling room, it can be difficult to make your way out and there is almost no indication how to get to the lower level, or that you are even supposed to. Even as a veteran of dozens of these specific functions, I still sometimes lose my bearings in the upper hall.

Packet Pick-Up can be a breeze, or it can be a logjam. Naturally, it depends on when you arrive. The setup is beautiful: clearly delineated entry and exit, a wide-open floor plan, separate stations for each race, even clean accessible restrooms. Again, problems arise during those periods when too many of us arrive at once. When pick-up does develop a line, the good news is it moves fairly well, assuming you already have your waiver and aren’t simply in the line of people taking photos of the huge Disneyland cutout at the bottom of the ramp.

A signed waiver and photo ID are required to retrieve your race packet. If you do not print a waiver ahead of time at runDisney.com, there is a station on the lower level for doing just that. I have always had success here on the occasions I admittedly arrived without my paperwork.

A tip for families and supporters: if you don’t want to follow your particular runDisney participant all over the Expo, while they are retrieving their bib seek out the “Runner Tracking” station on the upper level. A fun game is to count the number of people who get out of line when they realize these aren’t the waiver printing computers.

Your packet is the key to the runDisney kingdom. Inside is your race bib, voucher for your gEAR bag and the pins you should have ordered. Pull out your bib to confirm your starting position, but don’t dawdle. Those who put off getting their shirts do so at their own peril.

(Laura's Note: If you are participating in the Dumbo Double Dare, make sure you get your photo taken with your bib number before you leave the packet pick-up area.)

Expo Sparkle Skirts booth

Shirts and gEAR Bags – as soon as you get your packet head back upstairs. The volunteers handing out shirts won’t give out gEAR without the proper voucher from your packet. runDisney has established a shirt-exchange table. This is a grand courtesy, but again, the more common sizes are hard to come by as fewer people are handing them in. Don’t walk away until you’ve scrutinized your own gEAR.

10K and half marathon tech shirts are beautiful and make an exceptional collector’s item, taking a tiny bit of the sting out of the registration fee. For the 5K you get a regular t-shirt. They’re nice too, featuring delightful Disney themes and artistry, though not sure how far yet another sleep shirt goes toward mitigating the cost of registration. Shirt sizes run small, except for that year they were inexplicably huge. Throw yours on really quick when you get it. Then stand there until your 14-year-old does the same. In your hotel room a mile away, on the wrong side of Disneyland’s bag check at 7 p.m. on Saturday night is not the place to find out your daughter’s shirt doesn’t fit, and that she’s never going to wear it.

Expo booths

Samples and Shopping – once you’ve got your bib and a correctly sized shirt you have fulfilled what can be thought of as your Expo responsibilities. You are now free to wander about, shop and ease into the experience. So many of us keep a rigid checklist, if only in our heads, and move compulsively from one specific demand to the next. After I checkoff that race-bib box, I try to make a point to slow down. Try to check your own box as promptly as your own neuroses will allow, and invite your own enjoyable experience to commence.

I find the pull of the Disney Parks almost overwhelming at this point, and don’t tend to linger. I am thankful for the occasions on which I did browse around a bit, and unless you have children who already smell Disneyland popcorn, I recommend you do the same. On two successive runDisney weekends I discovered and became a dedicated consumer of Chocolate Mint CLIF Builder’s Bars and Dannon Active fruit fusion. The sample offerings alone are worth your time. Expo vendors probably wouldn’t mind if you buy some stuff, too.

runDisney medals

runDisney Merchandise – longer, slower and more baffling than the line for Storybook Land Canal Boats, shopping or rather waiting to shop - for Official Event Merchandise is a true test of one’s esprit Disney. Limited supplies, sizes and cash registers are just a portion of the problems associated with this annual aggravation. The problem itself is anchored in recursive overwhelming demand. Interested parties know the items sell out, so they have no choice but to descend upon the Expo the instant it opens, and create their own habitual nightmare. This is blasphemy, of course, but if you don’t insist upon the ultra-exclusive stuff, and you wait even a few hours, shopping at the Expo can be both pleasurable and almost similarly rewarding.

Almost everyone tries to hit the Expo first thing. It makes total sense, as you want to leave the rest of your day/weekend open for the parks, pools and pomegranate limeade. Consequently, the Expo is busy early. Try to stop by any other time. It's best, even, to arrange your day so that you aren't committed to conducting your Expo business at any set time. Swing by the Disneyland Hotel and Expo at random. If it looks busy, come back later.

Jeff Galloway at DL Half Expo

f you aren’t looking to put a bunch of extra miles on your feet, settle in and listen to one of the helpful, knowledgeable speakers. If you are not familiar with Jeff Galloway and his astounding distance running techniques, prepare to have your life and perspective on exercise forever changed for the better. Mr. Galloway draws a crowd himself, which may not be the mayhem cure you’re looking for. His wisdom will serve you well if you can get close enough to listen. Then once he’s done, the hall tends to empty out a bit. If you can beat those people to the merchandise lines, you may be able to breeze through.

The bottom line, make extra time, and take your time. Time is a precious commodity at a Disney Resort and, true, there is not a minute to be wasted. The difference between starting your runDisney Weekend off on the right foot and hurtling it down the road to frustration and disaster is a simple matter of budgeting. If you have to sacrifice an attraction or two, to make a second or third pass of the Expo, your children will never forgive you, but you open a far wider window for further enjoyment. Do that, and enjoy yourself on purpose.

May 12, 2016

2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend - Part 2

laura%27s%20masthead%20copy2.jpg
2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

Saturday, May 7 - 10K

We didn't run the 10K this year - the first Tinker Bell 10K we've skipped. It felt strange not to be running it, but it was very nice to sleep in! As we made our way to Disneyland for Extra Magic Hour we crossed the race course very close to where the final participants were going by - they probably finished just before 8:00.

Sunday, May 8 - Half Marathon

Happy Mother's Day!

This still seems to me like it's an odd weekend to hold this particular race...And in fact registration was down this year...the half marathon never sold out. Whether that's due to the date or to some combination of the price and the number of runDisney race weekends now available is hard to say.

When runDisney changed the race date from January to May one of my concerns was the weather - it can be HOT in May. Fortunately, we've had cool weather for these first two years. Even a little bit of rain both years - unusual for southern California in May.

On Sunday the weather was just about perfect - 55 at the start, and low 60s at the finish. A little bit of sun, but not too bad.

This year the pre-race/finish areas for the Tinker Bell half marathon (and 10K) moved from the Paradise Pier to the traditional finish line by the Disneyland Hotel. Which meant there were adjustments to the course as well, but I'll get to that later.

Have I mentioned yet how nice it is to do runDisney races in California where we can walk from our hotel to the start area (and back)? After the bus experience with Star Wars - the Dark Side in Florida last month, it was especially nice to not have to deal with buses for this race weekend.

By the time we reached the pre-race area a lot of runners were already going to their corrals. We met my friend/co-worker Janet - she was running her second Tinker Bell Half Marathon, and hoping to improve her time from last year. (Yes, she did: 2:08 last year, and 2:04 this year!)

2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

We visited the porta-potties one last time (no lines!) and then started our trek to the corrals. To get to the corrals we had to walk back toward the Paradise Pier Hotel and then out to Disneyland Drive. And we also had to go through a security bag check twice: once near Downtown Disney as we entered the pre-race area, and then again near the Paradise Pier to access the corral area. Neither was a problem, and the second check was especially quick because by than runners had checked their gear bags, so the most any of us had was a race belt. It still had to be checked, but it was fast.

Lee and I were in Corral B this year. I was in A last year, but this year they made A smaller, and my proof of time missed the cutoff by a minute. It didn't really matter, because I would have gone back to B anyway...but it's awfully nice to be in A.

Carissa and Andrea, the race announcers, had taken a short break, and didn't come back onstage until 5:25 - and the race was supposed to start at 5:30! That didn't seem like much time, since we still hadn't had the National Anthem. As soon as they came back they introduced the Disneyland cast member who sang the anthem. I don't remember her name, but she did a beautiful job.

2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon National Anthem

Minnie and Daisy came on stage with Carissa and Andrea.

2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

And then it was time to start the race. No fireworks or fire pots or anything like that this year - just the graphics on the big screen over the start line. That was very anti-climactic.

2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

Corral B started 5 minutes after A. One thing I really like about this course is that it's nice and wide right out of the start - we have all of the northbound lanes of Disneyland Drive to run on. I could mostly run the pace I wanted to, or get around slower runners fairly easily. That was how it was for me the whole race - I never experienced much course congestion. The worst issues I had were other runners who either suddenly stopped or changed direction right in front of me so I had to pull up quickly to avoid running over them. People, when you're in the middle of a race course please look behind you before suddenly changing direction.

The first part of the course was the same one we're used to - right on Ball, up and over the freeway overpass, right on Harbor, and up and over the freeway again (I heard several runners grumbling about the "hills"), then past the mile 1 sign, and a right turn into a backstage area of Disneyland. The first water stop was there. But from there on the course was quite different: instead of going to DCA and running all around that park and then going to Disneyland, we went to Disneyland first.

We ran into Disneyland in Tomorrowland next to The Launch Bay (originally the Carousel of Progress) out to the hub, then a quick 180 onto Matterhorn Way. The first character stop was there: Tinker Bell and Iridessa. The line was pretty long so we didn't stop.

2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Tink and Iridessa

We ran back toward the opposite side of Tomorrowland, then left around the Matterhorn, and then past the Tea Cups into Fantasyland. The Lost Boys were riding the Carrousel, but they all jumped off and came to the fence for photos. One of them asked me if I was going to be their new mother, and if I would tell him a story. I started off with "Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess..." - and he instantly fell asleep. :-)

2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Lost Boys

From there we ran through the castle. LOTS of PhotoPass photographers there. A little congested, but not too bad - everyone was still running.

2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

I'd lost Lee when I stopped for the Lost Boys, but I caught up to him when he was at the head of the line at the next character stop in Frontierland next to the Golden Horseshoe. Fawn and Vidia.

2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

We ran along the Rivers of America and then did another 180 near the Haunted Mansion and ran through Adventureland, over the bridge, back to the hub, and then down Main Street. Then out of Disneyland and briefly into Downtown Disney before going into DCA next to Soarin'. Even with all of the Disneyland construction, we still managed to see most of the areas of the park - we missed Critter Country and Toontown.

The mile 3 sign was along the road around Grizzly Peak.

2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Mile 3

We went right around Paradise Bay. This time the World of Color fountains were running (they weren't during the 5K, which was too bad, because they would have shown up much better in the dark than they did in the early morning light), and we stopped for a quick photo by the PhotoPass photographers.

2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

The next character stop was at Silly Symphony Swings. It was non-Tinker Bell characters, so we stopped, even though the line was a little bit long. This picture cracks me up because it looks like Goofy is eating Lee's wing. :-)

2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

From there we wound around backstage behind California Screamin', and eventually entered Radiator Springs under the arch again. Then we went past Flik's Fun Fair and the Tower of Terror, where there was a character stop at the end of Hollywood Blvd. Just Rosetta for us, but Silvermist was with her at other times.

2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

We ran down Hollywood Blvd to the mile 4 sign.

2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Mile 4

There were pirates on Buena Vista Street.

2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

The next part was quite different from what we've done in the past to take us off Disney property and into the residential area next to the Mickey and Friends parking garage. In the past we've done Disneyland after DCA, then run out of Disneyland and through Downtown Disney and past the Disneyland Hotel, then out towards the Mickey and Friends parking garage before turning left and then right out onto Walnut St. Just about the time we exited Disney property was where we reached mile 6, almost halfway done before we left property. And I really enjoyed that stretch through Downtown Disney and the hotels because there were lots of people cheering for us, which is very energizing. The Red Hat Society ladies were always outside the Disneyland Hotel.

This year we went out of DCA and instead of going through Downtown Disney we turned right and ran around most of the outer perimeter of the park behind Radiator Springs Racers and Paradise Pier. Then we crossed Disneyland Drive south of the Paradise Pier Hotel and ran through the parking lot and back behind the DVC preview center to get out to Walnut Street. Frankly through some not very attractive backstage areas, though at least it wasn't too far. I really missed the cheering crowds at that point.

2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Mile 6

Once we were on Walnut Street heading north it was pretty quiet because we were in the residential area. There were a few people who had come out to watch us - some in their bathrobes. :-)

We crossed over I5 again and headed east towards downtown Anaheim. There were some very nice houses along that area, but it was still pretty quiet.

2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

Once we reached downtown there were cheerleaders and bands. And just about mile 8, was the Red Hat Society! This was a wonderful place for them to be, because we really needed some encouragement by then. And I think there was more room for them to spread out than they had in the spot near the Disneyland Hotel. As you'll see from the video below, it took me two minutes to walk past all of them! They were so wonderfully enthusiastic and supportive. I love seeing them every year - it's always one of the highlights of the race for me.

We made a u-turn at the Muzeo and were on our way back toward the finish.

2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Anaheim Muzeo

Though once we reach Ball Rd comes the cruelest part of this course: we can see the Matterhorn ahead of us, but we turn LEFT and head away from the park, because we're not much past mile 10 at that point. We wind through the industrial district a little bit, go under I5 ( the fourth and last time we cross it, though at least this time it was under and not over) and then past some of the hotels that are just east of Disneyland along the freeway.

2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Mile 10

We went backstage at Disneyland again and ran under the bus/tram area (one last hill - ugh!) and then all the way around the backstage of DCA - again. This was looking a little too familiar - we passed the mile 5 sign again. I was surprised that the clock on it had stopped, but I didn't stop for a photo. I didn't take any photos in the last three miles because I was hoping to make it in under 2:20, so I was pushing my pace as much as I could. Just didn't quite have it in me, though, and I finished in 2:21:43. But considering photo stops I was pretty happy with that. There were 13,145 finishers this year, and 1740 were men - I think that's the most men ever in this race.

2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Finish

The last .3 miles of the race were the same as all of the other half marathons now - around the Paradise Pier Hotel and then between the west side of Downtown Disney and the Disneyland Hotel to the finish line just north of it. I high-fived Minnie as I crossed the finish line, though unfortunately the photographer didn't get a photo of that.

2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

As a Legacy Runner I received the same medal, but it had two ribbons on it instead of one - the second says "Legacy Runner" on it.

2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Legacy Runner medal

And then I went to the Challenge area to pick up my pink coast-to-coast medal - I received that one for completing the Princess Half in Florida and the Tink Half in California. There were runners who were receiving BOTH the blue and pink C2C medals, which surprised me, since they had used the same two races to qualify for it. Quite a departure from a couple of years ago when they were being pretty stingy about it - now it seems like they are using every opportunity to give away a C2C medal! I had received my blue C2C at Princess, since I'd run Star Wars in California in January.

There were different photographers to go to depending on whether you had the pink medal or the blue medal, or the Pixie Dust Challenge medal.

2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

I had my photo taken and got my water, and then I got a text message from runner tracking that Lee had finished so I waited for him. That way we could visit the final set of photographers together to get a finisher photo of both of us.

2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

We got the runDisney box and exited into the Family Reunion area. It was a WHOLE lot more crowded than it had been for the 5K! Janet was waiting for us, so we heard her good news about her excellent finish time.

There were a couple of photo opportunities in the area - this really long Tinker Bell sign was one. But I didn't want to wait in line so never got a good photo of it.

2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

The Legacy Runners sign was out, too.

2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

We'd finished early enough that the Awards ceremony was going on (though I think it was almost over), and we watched a bit of that before leaving.

2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

As we walked by ESPN Club on our way back to the hotel, we could see the live feed of the finish line displayed on their marquis.

2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

It was another good race for us. The weather again cooperated, and it was really very nice for both races that we did. I didn't like this version of the course as much, especially all of the running behind DCA. I hope that we'll get the old course back, though I have a feeling we'll have to wait until 2018 or 2019 for that. I did think that the placement of the Red Hat Society downtown was a much better location for them.

Overall I didn't think I saw as many costumes this year. But I can't really talk since I didn't wear a costume for the half this time. Lee at least wore his wings. I saw some really good costumes, though. One of my favorites was a man and woman running together: he was dressed as Peter Pan, and she was all in black as Peter Pan's shadow. I also saw someone dressed as Queen Clarice - that's the first time I've seen that. There seemed to be more regular Disney costumes as opposed to Pixie/Never Land costumes this year.

I was disappointed in the characters this year. In looking back at my blogs from previous years there were significantly fewer characters this time. Only four character stops in the half marathon, plus the Lost Boys. Last year there were six, plus the Lost Boys and Jack Sparrow. The year before that there were seven or eight.

I was also disappointed in the medal. Usually on the 5 year anniversaries the medal is almost completely re-designed, but the only change this year was the added colors and the "5 YEARS" banner across the top rather than the date. Maybe that seems overly picky, but runDisney has lead us to expect that kind of thing.

2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon medal

I'm still enjoying the change to Disney's PhotoPass as the official race photographers. I didn't get quite as many photos from the half marathon as for the 5K, but there were still more than MarathonFoto seemed to get. And since the downloads are free for me as an Annual Passholder, that's a significant benefit.

It was fun to finally be a "Legacy Runner" for a Disney race. Here's all five of my Tinker Bell Half Marathon medals.

2012-2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon medals

We haven't really decided if we'll try to remain "Legacy Runners" for this race. Kinda hate to let it drop, though. We'll see. Registration opens on September 20, so we have some time to "Tink" about it. :-)

"Only" three medals this weekend, since we didn't do the Challenge. :-) I didn't really miss the challenge itself, but I do like a good 10K, and we've enjoyed the Tinker Bell 10K.

2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon weekend medals

Before I finish I must say "Thank You" to the "Red Hat Ladies" and to all of the other cheerleaders and bands and everyone else who came out to cheer us on. And thank you to all of the volunteers and cast members for all of their efforts - the race wouldn't be possible without them.

Thanks for reading!

2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon







May 9, 2016

2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend - Part 1

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2016Tinker Bell Half Marathon Expo

It's Tinker Bell Half Marathon weekend at Disneyland again. This time around we decided to run the 5K and the half marathon rather than doing the 10K/Half Marathon Challenge. Many people have told us that it's the best 5K Disney offers, and we wanted to try it for ourselves. And I was very disappointed in the Pixie Dust Challenge medal - I think it's ugly. No change to it this year, unfortunately.

This year is the 5th anniversary of the Tinker Bell Half Marathon, so we hoped there would be something special (like a new medal) in recognition of that. In addition, this is the first Disney race that we have been "perfect" in for any length of time, and since this was #5 we hoped there would be some recognition of that, as there has been for other Disney races at the 5 year mark.

Thursday, May 5 - Expo

Since we were running the Never Land 5K on Friday morning, we arrived late Thursday afternoon instead of Friday afternoon as we usually do. Our first stop, as always, was the Expo. It was held in the usual place in the Disneyland Hotel's Convention Center garage.

2016Tinker Bell Half Marathon Expo

There are about 950 Legacy Runners in the Tinker Bell Half Marathon. There were two large banners in the bib pick-up area with the names of all of the Legacy Runners.

2016Tinker Bell Half Marathon Legacy Runners

Lee's name was easy to find. :-)

2016Tinker Bell Half Marathon Expo

And we found my name, too.

2016Tinker Bell Half Marathon Expo

Bib pickup was fast. As Legacy Runners, that is noted on our bib, and we also were told to go to another booth to pickup our "Legacy Gift". I wasn't really expecting much - but I should be grateful that there was anything at all, right? :-) So...what we received were these Tinker Bell compacts. Just a couple of mirrors inside - no space to hold anything. And it is very hard to open!

2016Tinker Bell Half Marathon Legacy Runner Compact

It makes Lee feel pretty, though. ;-)

2016Tinker Bell Half Marathon Legacy compact

The Dooney and Burke bags and the special Tinker Bell Pandora charms were also on sale in the bib pick-up area.

2016Tinker Bell Half Marathon Dooney and Burke bags

We went upstairs to the Expo area, where we felt "fairy" special as we walked the green carpet to enter.

2016Tinker Bell Half Marathon Expo

It was a little odd not to be doing the Challenge, and to have two different bibs and two different shirt pick ups. I liked the 5K shirt. This one is made of cotton.

2016Tinker Bell Half Marathon Never Land 5K shirt

The half marathon shirt is a very nice shade of green - it's the usual tech shirt fabric. I liked the designs of all of the race shirts this year. No pink ones. :-)

2016Tinker Bell Half Marathon Never Land 5K shirt

There was still a line (at 5:20 p.m.) to enter the Official Merchandise area, but it moved quickly.

2016Tinker Bell Half Marathon Expo Merchandise Line

At that point, it seemed like most of the race merchandise was still available. There was one aisle that was almost exclusively generic runDisney items, but I don't know if it had started that way or not. I guess that might be the difference between arriving on the first day of the Expo and the second day, which is when we usually arrive, since we had a similar experience at Star Wars - The Dark Side, where we also went to the Expo in the late afternoon of the first day.

There were lots of different women's shirts, many with designs on the front and the back.

2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon shirt


2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon shirt


2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon shirt


2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon shirt


2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon shirt


2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon shirt


2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon shirt


2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Croc shirt


2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Tink shorts

The jacket was still available - I also thought this one was nicely designed.

2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon jacket

There was also this jacket, which I thought was an awful shade of pink...but people will certainly see it coming!

2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon shirt

The race weekend shirt was the only unisex shirt we saw.

2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon shirt

There were "I Did It" shirts for all of the race distances.

2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon shirt


2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon shirt

It looked like all of the race pins and mini-medal pins were still available. I picked up the Never Land 5K mini medal, since that was going to be a new race for me.

2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon mini medals and pins

Race weekend magnets were also available in what looked to be all of the styles. I didn't get one this time, though.

2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon magnet

There were even some temporary tattoos.

2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon tattoo

In one corner there were two different styles of shirts that must have been left over from the Star Wars - The Dark Side weekend.

2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Star Wars shirt

Water bottles have been very popular items, and there were several different styles.

2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon water bottle


2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon water bottle


2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon water bottle

And mugs. I didn't see any Tinker Bell-specific wine glasses - just the generic "Every Mile is Magic" version.

2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon shirt

I liked the hat - but I don't wear hats.

2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon hat

So we got out of there very inexpensively - I bought the 5K mini medal and that was all.

We took a tour through the rest of the Expo exhibitors, also. Pandora had a HUGE booth - which I suppose makes sense, as they are the main sponsor.

2016Tinker Bell Half Marathon Expo Pandora Booth


2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Expo Pandora Wings

Otherwise, it seemed as though the usual exhibitors were there. The show floor was not very busy that evening, which was nice for us.

2016Tinker Bell Half Marathon Expo

Even the New Balance show booth was not very busy - it looked like they were taking anyone who walked up.

2016Tinker Bell Half Marathon Expo New Balance shoes

The New Balance booth had some pixie-themed attire as well as shoes.

2016Tinker Bell Half Marathon New Balance shirts


2016Tinker Bell Half Marathon New Balance outfit

I was hoping that the runDisney booth would have the Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Weekend medals, but I asked, and they haven't been released yet. But that's where we learned that after we finish the race on Sunday we will also receive a special Legacy Runner ribbon for our medal.

2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon ribbon

There was a nice photo backdrop in the lobby outside the show floor, and only a couple of people in front of us.

2016 Tinker Bell Half Marathon photo op

Friday, May 6 - Never Land 5K

As I mentioned earlier, we had never run the 5K before, but everyone who had said that it was Disney's best 5K. The main reason being that it starts inside Disneyland!!!.

But it started at 5:00 a.m. - even earlier than the 10K and half, which started at 5:30. We headed over to Disneyland at about 4:10. We had to go through the regular security check as we entered the Esplanade, but we didn't have any bags, and that was quick.

At the Disneyland gates they were carefully checking to make sure that everyone had a bib. There weren't very many people in the park yet, and Main Street was still pretty empty! We stopped to watch the Peter Pan Enchanted Window at the Emporium - that seemed like an appropriate thing to do. :-)

2016 Disneyland Peter Pan Enchanted Window

Disney's PhotoPass was the official race photographer for this race weekend, also, just like they were for Star Wars - The Dark Side. There's a code on the back of the bibs and you add your bib number to that, then link it to your PhotoPass account to get your photos. Free downloads for Annual Passholders! I'm really enjoying this - we had pictures taken several places where I didn't bother with getting them to take one with my phone because I knew I would get much better ones from the PhotoPass people.

2016 Never Land 5K

There weren't formal corrals with this one - they were gathering the runners on either side of the hub in front of the castle. Those who arrived earlier were in Corral A on the right side, and those who arrived later were in Corral B on the left side. We made it into the A Corral with just a couple of minutes to spare.

2016 Never Land 5K

There was a pre-show on a stage in front of the castle but we couldn't see it. No big screens or any other visual aids.

Just before the race started, Tinker Bell flew around the castle! Very cool.

The start line was actually on Matterhorn Way, near the exit of Pixie Hollow, so after Tink flew Corral A moved in that direction. I was surprised that there really wasn't a starting line - no archway or anything. The race was not officially timed - we didn't have timing chips on our bibs. I wasn't really sure where the start line was, so I just started my watch when I passed Carissa Bealert, one of the race announcers.

2016 Never Land 5K

(This was the first runDisney race that I'd ever done where long-time announcer Rudy Novotny wasn't there. Many runDisney participants were very disappointed when we heard that his contract had not been renewed, and we would not see him for Tinker Bell weekend. It really was different not hearing his voice at the start line. I missed him.)

The course took us toward "it's a small world" and into Toontown. We couldn't run at all for the first tenth of a mile or so because it was so crowded and there were so many walkers, and I was pretty concerned that it was going to be like that, but fortunately once we went backstage at Toontown it started to clear out.

In previous years this race has started in Disneyland and ended in Disney California Adventure, but this year, because of all of the construction, we had very limited time in Disneyland. Most of the race was in California Adventure until we ran through Downtown Disney and finished at the Disneyland Hotel - at the usual finish line used by all of the other race weekends.

So, once we ran through Toontown, that was it for Disneyland. We ran backstage, under the bus area, then backstage behind DCA. That's where the mile 1 sign was. I should also mention the music...we had music for just about all of the race. A loop featuring "A Pirate's Life is a Wonderful Life" and "Follow the Leader", from Peter Pan. I enjoyed it, though I felt a little sorry for the cast members who were having to listen to it over and over and over and over again.

2016 Never Land 5K 1 mile sign

We ran down Hollywood Blvd, and stopped for a quick photo with Walt and Mickey.

2016 Never Land 5K Walt and Mickey

I was very surprised that we hadn't seen any character stops. There were a few pirates in front of Grizzly Peak.

2016 Never Land 5K Pirates

By this time we were among the front runners, and there weren't very many people running around us. It was great to be on a mostly empty race course! And it meant we got lots of photos taken by the race photographers, because they didn't have nearly as many subjects.

2016 Never Land 5K

We ran through Flik's Fun Faire and then backstage behind Cars Land, then into Cars Land from the Pacific Wharf side. The two mile mark was in front of Luigi's.

2016 Never Land 5K 2 Mile sign

We made a left and ran up Route 66, then left toward Paradise Pier. I expected there might be a character stop there but no - just a couple more generic pirates.

2016 Never Land 5K Pirates

We ran all around Paradise Bay. I was surprised that the World of Color fountains weren't on. The Lost Boys were at King Triton's Carousel, but not really available for a photo. The lighting was terrible, too.

2016 Never Land 5K Lost Boys

There was a photo stop with the Fun Wheel in the background.

2016 Never Land 5K

I took a photo looking back just before we turned towards Grizzly Rapids - still not a lot of people back there!

2016 Never Land 5K

FINALLY, just before we left DCA next to Soarin', there was a character stop!!!

2016 Never Land 5K Peter and Wendy

There were a fair number of people in Downtown Disney who had gotten up very early to cheer us on - it was still really dark. We made a brief stop at the Mile 3 sign.

2016 Never Land 5K 3 Mile Sign

And then it was a dash that last tenth of a mile to the finish line! There were a number of photographers in that area and we had lots of photos of us in our PhotoPass accounts.

2016 Never Land 5K

We got a shout-out from the race announcers for our wings. :-)

No official time for this one, but by my running watch my time was 32:40. Not bad considering photo stops, and a first mile that was a bit slow.

2016 Never Land 5K Finish Line

We had our finisher photo taken and got our runDisney snack box, etc.

2016 Never Land 5K Finisher Photo

The snack box seemed identical to what we received for Star Wars.

2016 Never Land 5K snack box

There was hardly anyone even in the finishing area! Really no reason to linger at all. So we went back to our room. Let's see...the race started at 5:00, and we were back in our room at 5:47. I'm really liking this whole 5K thing!

2016 Never Land 5K Stage

We received the rubber medallion rather than a "real" medal. It's cute, though.

2016 Never Land 5K Medal

There were somewhere between 4000 and 4500 people in this race - so it was very small compared to the races that we usually run. It was so much fun being so far in front of most of the rest of the pack, and having so much running room! Now we know how our fast friends, like Eddie McCoy, feel. It really is quite a different experience.

All those people who told us that it was a really good 5K - I agree with them. Starting inside Disneyland, with Tinker Bell flying overhead, was special. Even at 5:00 in the morning. :-) Though it was disappointing that because of the construction we really didn't get to run through very much of Disneyland.

The thing that most surprised and disappointed me was the character stops - or lack thereof. Peter Pan and Wendy - that was it for us. From other runners' photos I saw that Captain Hook and Mr. Smee were in Toontown, but we didn't see them. Still, I thought only two character photo stops in a 5K was a very poor showing.

Next up - the Tinker Bell Half Marathon







April 30, 2016

2016 WDW Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend - Part 3 - The Food

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What's a Disney race weekend without the opportunity to enjoy a little food? And some adult beverages, too. :-) One of the things I was looking forward to on this trip was the opportunity to sample foods from the food booths at Epcot's Flower and Garden (aka mini Food and Wine) Festival.

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

Lee and I arrived fairly late on Wednesday night. We were headed to the Boardwalk Bakery when we noticed that the Trattoria al Forno pizza window was still open...so that's what we had. We were hungry, and scarfed it down pretty quickly, so there's no photos. :-) My cheese pizza was just ok - it had been sitting around under the heat lamp for a while. Lee really enjoyed his piece of the Boardwalk Signature Pizza, though. (This is the stock AllEars.net photo of the cheese pizza - mine didn't look quite this good. :-) )

Trattoria al Forno Pizza Window Cheese Pizza

The next morning we went to the Bellevue Room at the Boardwalk, which sells "Continental Breakfast" types of foods in the morning - pastries, bagels, cold cereal, yogurt, fruit cup/whole fruit, and beverages: coffee, tea, juice, milk. We were planning to visit the food booths at Epcot, but needed something to eat since they didn't open until 11:00.

When we walked into Epcot I picked up a "Garden Passport". This little booklet had the menus for all of the food booths, and there was a place to get a stamp at each booth.

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival Passport

All of the food booths had unique stamps, and there were some really interesting designs. There were stamps for the butterfly garden, the Festival shops, playground, and tours, also. No reward (such as a pin) for getting all of the stamps - just the completion stamp. But I had fun doing it anyway.

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival Tasting Passport stamps

The first thing we sampled was Seared Pork Tenderloin with Mushroom Ragout, Spring Vegetables and Marble Potatoes from Urban Farm Eats. It was excellent, and a good-sized serving for $6.00. I appreciated the fact that it had some vegetables - pieces of asparagus, onion, and beans - in addition to the sliced potatoes.

Seared Pork Tenderloin from Urban Farm Eats

Next was "Adult Soft Serve", as the Pineapple Promenade CM called it: Pineapple Soft-Serve with Parrot Bay Coconut Rum for $10.00. Oh wow. This was SO good! The rum was on top so we had to make sure we got a little on our spoons in addition to the pineapple soft serve - but once the ice cream level was low enough we could mix it in. We liked this so much that we went back later in our visit to share another one.

Pineapple Promenade Pineapple Soft Serve with Coconut Rum

One thing we really enjoyed about the food booths was that there were no lines! Mostly we walked right up to the cashier, or at most waited behind 2-3 other people. Very different from the Food and Wine Festival.

Hanami Japan Food Booth

From La Isla Fresca we sampled the Jerk-spice Grouper with Mango Salsa, Chayote and Green Papaya Slaw with Lime-Cilantro Vinaigrette. This was another good one though I had to eat around the red and green peppers.

La Isla Fresca Jerk Spice Grouper

We also tried the Frozen Simply Tropical Juice Drink with Cruzan Mango Rum. I was surprised that this had chunks of mango in it - but I thought that was the best part. It was all pretty tasty, though.

La Isla Fresca Tropical Juice Drink with Cruzan Mango Rum

At the coffee kiosk near Mexico I tried the Tiki Torch - a passion fruit slush with Grey Goose vodka. I was expecting it to be more slushy, but it wasn't really frozen. It was fine, but Lee enjoyed this one more than I did.

Coffee Kiosk Tiki Torch

At Lotus House in China Lee tried a Gaoli Beef Bun, which a friend had recommended. He really liked this.

Lotus House Gaoli Beef Bun

I had my first sparkling wine at Germany's Bauernmarkt: Farmer's Market - Hugo-Charles de Fere "Organic" Brut with Elderflower and Mint. This was good - fortunately the mint was not overpowering, so I could taste the elderflower. Lee tried the Kostritzer Schwarzbier Black Lager, which he enjoyed.

Bauernmarkt Brut with Elderflower and Mint

From Primavera Kitchen at Italy we ordered Mezze Lune Primavera - Egg Pasta stuffed with Ricotta and Spinach in a Creamy Sauce with Spring Vegetables and Pecorino Cheese. This was...OK. It seemed a little bit dry.

Primavera Kitchen Mezze Lune Primavera

At THE SMOKEHOUSE at The American Adventure we tried most of the food items. The Pulled Pig Slider with Crispy Onions and Coleslaw was pretty good, but not great. I think I liked the coleslaw more than the slider.

Smokehouse Pulled Pig Slider

We also tried Smoked Pork Ribs with Roasted Corn Salad. I thought these were better. They were pretty meaty and tender. Lee liked the corn salad.

Smokehouse Smoked Pork Ribs with Roasted Corn Salad

For topping the BBQ offerings there were three BBQ sauces at the condiment station to choose from - I had North Carolina (nice and mustardy) and Lee had the classic.

For dessert we tried the Warm Chocolate Cake with Bourbon-Salted Caramel Sauce and Spiced Pecans. This was just ok. The top part of the cake which had the caramel sauce and nuts on it was the best part. And when they say "spiced" pecans they mean spicy hot and not spicy cinnamon. These had a kick to them.

Smokehouse Chocolate Cake with Bourbon Salted Caramel Sauce

That was pretty good for a first round of tastings. The last thing I tried was the La Vie en Rose Frozen Slush - Grey Goose vodka orange, St-Germain liqueur, white and red cranberry juice at France. Lee didn't care for it, but I thought it was tasty. I knew I had to finish it before we could leave the park, though. :-)

La Vie en Rose Frozen Slush

That evening we went to Disney Springs for dinner at Morimoto Asia. This was our first experience driving ourselves there and parking in the "Orange" garage. The "smart garage" worked really well - when we first pulled in the sign told us which parking levels had the most spaces, and then once we chose level 4, each row told us how many spaces were in it, and there were green lights on the ceiling of the garage over each open space to identify it. Super easy! We arrived about 5:20, so it might be more of a challenge when it's busier, but we had no problem.

We were a little early at Morimoto Asia - instead of a pager, they told me they would send a text message to my phone instead. We were seated in less than 10 minutes, but had a nice conversation with a blog reader (Hello!) while we were waiting. Our table was the outside corner of the middle block nearest the hostess station - I was concerned it might feel very busy with the aisle right next to us, but it was fine.

I'd been to Morimoto in February, but this was Lee's first visit. We started off with a couple of glasses of wine from their "Spring Selections" list. They were both very good. We also shared two appetizers. The first was the Tempura Rock Shrimp. It was $16, and I was expecting it to be just a few pieces of shrimp, but it was a very generous serving! Easily an appetizer for 3-4 people and not just two. Very good, also.

Morimoto Asia Tempura Rock Shrimp

Our other appetizer was Kakuni Pork Bao - steamed buns, braised pork belly, lettuce, spicy mayo. This was also excellent, and very filling. Lee was concerned that the pork belly might be very fatty but it wasn't. I was expecting it to be more of a traditional bao (sort of a large dumpling) rather than the something more like a taco, but we definitely got a lot more filling this way.

Morimoto Asia Kakuni Pork Bao

And then the entrees arrived. Honestly, after the appetizers I didn't need much more to eat!

I ordered something different this time and tried the Lo Mein Noodles with Chicken - stir-fried egg noodles, Napa cabbage, carrots, bean sprouts, and scallions. This was good but not awesome - the Shrimp Pad Thai I had last time was much better. I still enjoyed part of it (I was too full to eat much of it), and took about 2/3 of it with me, figuring it would taste good after one of the races (and I ended up eating it after the half marathon, when it tasted REALLY good).

Morimoto Asia Lo Mein Noodles Chicken

Lee tried the Singapore Laksa Noodle - creamy coconut and spicy curry, rice noodle, chicken meatballs, and soy marinated egg. He was disappointed in this. He didn't care for the chicken meatballs, and thought the curry didn't have enough coconut flavor. I tried it, and it was a bit too spicy for me. He also ended up taking about 1/2 of it with him, which he also ate after the half marathon. Things taste a lot better after a half marathon when your body is just saying: "FEED ME", and you're shoveling it in as fast as you can. :-)

Morimoto Asia Singapore Laksa Noodle

We'd left some room for dessert. I would've liked to have had the MM Parfait again, but there was no way the two of us were going to make any serious inroads on that! So we tried the Churro Fondue instead. Housemade churros, with Nutella and vanilla cream sauces. The churros were freshly made and hot, but I thought they were a little doughy inside. They were dipped in sugar - I would've preferred cinnamon sugar, though. I really liked the Nutella sauce, but Lee preferred the cream sauce. I didn't think it was very creamy - it was a little too thick.

Morimoto Asia Churro Fondue

When our server brought us the dessert menu, I had a chuckle over a typo under the tea selections. I guess this is not the Mos Eisley Cantina, and they serve droids here. :-)

Morimoto Asia Tea Menu
Cylon Tea

It was still a really good dinner - we loved the appetizers. Next time (and there will be a next time!) we might just do appetizers/sushi/dessert and skip the entree. This is not a quiet intimate experience - the restaurant is very noisy. Though our table, being along the edge, wasn't as noisy as the one I sat at the last time. I think one of the tables along the outside wall might be better, also.

Friday morning we went to Animal Kingdom. As a snack we tried the Smoky Cheddar Grits, served with pulled pork and bread-and-butter pickles, from the Smiling Crocodile kiosk. We'd wanted to try this in February but the kiosk was closed, so we were happy to see that it was open. At $5.99 it's a pretty small serving - the size of the bowls you get at the F&W Festival. But it was really good - once Lee pulled the green peppers out of it. Ick. The pork was moist and flavorful and the grits were very cheesy - even had little bits of cheese in them. Yum.

Animal Kingdom Smoky Cheddar Grits

That afternoon we went back over to Epcot to sample from some of the food booths we hadn't yet tried. First was the Cider House at the UK. We wanted to sample three of the food items. Unfortunately they had just run out of the corned beef and cabbage that Lee wanted to try, and wouldn't have more for 15-20 minutes. But we tried the Land-harvested Field Greens with Apples, Dried Blueberries, Stilton Cheese and Apple Cider Vinaigrette. This was a nice salad, though I don't care for blue cheese.

Cider House Land Harvested Field Greens

We also ordered the House-made Potato and Cheddar Cheese Biscuit with Smoked Salmon Tartare. We both really liked the biscuit. I also enjoyed the salmon tartare, especially with the little bit of fresh dill, but Lee let me eat most of that. :-)

Cider House Potato and Cheddar Cheese Biscuit

We washed it down with two of the ciders: Keel & Curley Mad Man Blueberry Hard Cider for Lee and McKenzie's Black Cherry Hard Cider for me. We tried what the other had ordered, and both were happy with our own choices.

Cider House Blueberry and Black Cherry Hard Ciders

Next stop was Hanami in Japan, where we ordered all of the food items. First up was a Chicken Edamame Bun: Steamed Bun filled with Chicken and Edamame and topped with Curry Sauce. It was very good - maybe my favorite Festival item. The curry sauce was more like a curry aioli, but it really added a lot of flavor to the bun and the filling inside. Yummy.

Hanami Chicken Edamame Bun

One of Lee's favorite items was the Beef Teriyaki Udon: Thin-sliced Beef, Onions and Noodles tossed on the grill with Soy and Ginger. We ordered this and the steamed bun again on a later visit.

Hanami Beef Teriyaki Udon

We also tried the Frushi - Fresh pineapple, strawberries and melon, rolled with coconut rice, topped with raspberry sauce, sprinkled with toasted coconut and served with whipped cream on the side. These were tasty, though the fruit leather they were rolled in was a bit odd. And they gave us an awful lot of whipped cream - we didn't use very much of it.

Hanami Frushi

We decided that Japan won the award for most attractive presentation of their food items. They really were very pretty.

I also tried a Desert Rose from Taste of Marrakesh at Morocco. It was sparkling wine with pomegranate liqueur. It was very pretty, though a little too sweet. At $7.00 it was the cheapest sparkling wine I had, though!

Morocco Desert Rose

That evening we met friends at the Crew's Cup Lounge at the Yacht Club for dinner. I hadn't realized this place existed, much less that they served food! It was a really nice place to hang out with friends and enjoy some beverages and conversation. I tried the Tomato and Mozzarella Sandwich. It was excellent - plenty of thick-sliced fresh mozzarella, with nice slices of tomato and pesto sauce on toasted sea salt foccacia. The bread was very good also. I had a choice of house-made chips, French fries or pasta salad and chose the chips - they were crisp and salty and yummy.

Crews Cup Lounge Tomato Mozzarella Sandwich

Lee ordered the Angus Cheeseburger - he had his choice of cheese, and it came with lettuce, tomato, onion, and French fries. He said it was an excellent burger.

Crews Cup Lounge Angus Cheeseburger

Saturday morning after the 10K we went to the Boardwalk Bakery to get something to eat. I got a great big Sticky Bun. After a 10K I figured I was entitled to it. The pastry at the bakery is lighter and not so doughy, which I really like. So this was not as huge and filling as it looked, though I was still surprised that I ate the whole thing.

Boardwalk Bakery Pecan Sticky Bun

We went to the Studios later that morning...after using our Star Tours Fastpasses we were hungry, and the Backlot Express was about to open. This place has a Star Wars overlay menu now. We both had the Dark Side Chicken and Waffles, though Lee had the adult portion and I had the kid's meal. I wasn't expecting chicken nuggets as the chicken part, though at least they were tasty chicken nuggets.

Darth Vader Chicken and Waffles

I was surprised that my kid's meal came with fries - the menu said carrots and applesauce, which was actually what I wanted. I enjoyed it all, though, and it was plenty of food for me. At $7.99 the price was not too bad, either, especially since it included a small bottle of water.

Backlot Express Kids Chicken and Darth Waffles

The friends with us got their food on the lucky orange tray, which meant that they were invited to choose a free dessert. They chose the BB-8 cupcake, and shared with the rest of us. It was lemony, and just ok. We were all glad that no one had paid for it. The "pebbles" on the outside were candy covered chocolate - but very inferior chocolate.

Backlot Express BB-8 Cupcake

Saturday evening a group of us went to Il Mulino in the Swan Hotel for our pre-half marathon Italian dinner. Our reservation was at 5:00, which was when the restaurant opened. We were seated pretty quickly at our table for 11 people. The server was a little slow getting drinks and initial orders taken, but after that things moved along ok.

Lee and I ordered Parmigiano Reggiano for Two as an appetizer. I think I forgot to take a photo of it. But it served more than two people! Quite a lot of really yummy cheese for $10. We passed it down the table and a few other people partook and we still had about 8 pieces left that we took with us at the end of the meal.

We also shared an Insalata Trattoria, which our server split onto two plates. Nice selection of greens with fennel, red onions, and pine nuts.

As an entree I chose a half order of the Pappardelle Pasta with a tomato basil sauce. I'd had this before and thought there wasn't quite enough sauce, but this time it was a more generous serving. Still very tasty and I enjoyed it - and a half serving was plenty for me.

Il Mulino Pappardelle Pasta

Lee tried the Spaghetti Carbonara - spaghetti with pancetta, cheese and egg. He ordered the full serving, and managed to finish all of it.

Il Mulino Spaghetti Carbonara

While most of us enjoyed our dinners, one of our fellow diners ordered the Pollo Parmigiana and did not like it at all. It was very tough, and she couldn't cut it. Our server apologized, offered to bring her something else, and did not charge her for the entree. Unfortunate, but they tried to do the right thing.

The restaurant is pretty noisy, but fortunately it wasn't packed with diners, so it wasn't as loud as the last time I'd eaten here. (Obviously I came back, because I did enjoy the food I had last time.)

We all passed on dessert though the Torta Di Cioccolati (flourless chocolate cake) was tempting.

I found Il Mulino to be a nice alternative to the Disney restaurants like Mama Melrose, Via Napoli, and Trattoria al Forno which always seem to be disastrous dining experiences on the night before a half marathon. And actually there were a number of menu items that I'd enjoy trying when I don't have a race the next day.

For "breakfast" on Sunday after the half marathon we finished our Morimoto Asia leftovers. :-) That afternoon we went to Afternoon Tea at the Beach Club - but that is going to be a whole separate review coming soon to the All Ears Team blog. It was a very nice experience.

Sunday evening we had dinner at The Hollywood Brown Derby with our friends Dave and Holly. The restaurant was very busy and loud...so we were very pleasantly surprised when the hostess led us to a separate room at the back of the restaurant. It was so nice and quiet in there! There was one large group in there, plus two tables that were set for four people. It was really, really a very welcome oasis of calm. So nice to talk to each other without shouting!

Our server was not very good. He seemed to keep getting lost, or forgetting about us. It was a long time before we got any water or bread. Dave's drink order was messed up (though that might have been the bartender), and there was confusion about Lee's wine and he brought me the wrong salad.

I ordered a sparkling wine flight, with a prosecco, Iron Horse Fairy Tale Cuvee, and Rosa Regale. It was very nice.

Brown Derby Sparkling Wine Flight

Holly had a martini flight, with a gin martini, citrus vodka martini and cosmopolitan. Such cute little martini glasses!

Brown Derby Martini Flight

For an appetizer, Lee and I both ordered the Local Greens - tossed in champagne vinaigrette, with blueberries and peaches, Laura Chenel goat cheese, spiced candied pecans. It was a really nice salad.

Brown Derby Local Greens Salad

Dave tried the Tomato Soup.

Brown Derby Tomato Soup

As an entree I ordered the salmon, which was very tasty. It came with roasted potatoes, crispy leeks, English peas, and cauliflower puree.

Brown Derby Salmon

Lee and Holly both ordered the Charred Filet of Beef - Cabernet and Shallot Butter, Forest Mushroom and White Truffle Oil Mashed Potatoes, Sautéed Rainbow Carrots, Haricot Verts, and Red Wine Reduction. They were both pleased with it and the way it was cooked to order.

Brown Derby Charred Filet of Beef

Dave had the Pork Three Ways with a grilled wild boar chop, pork rillette, and crispy pork belly. Served with sweet corn and chili spoonbread.

Brown Derby Wild Boar special

Desserts are served as a choice of three mini desserts now - no full-sized servings of anything (even the famous Grapefruit Cake). We were disappointed in the dessert choices, so didn't order any of them. Our choices were: Amaretto Flan and Opalys White Chocolate Whip (whatever that is), Warm Blueberry Cobbler, Chocolate Mascarpone Sphere, Double Vanilla Creme Brulee, Banana-Toffee Cake, and the aforementioned Grapefruit Cake.

The food was good, the service was so-so. The company was terrific, and we really enjoyed being in the "quiet room" - we were sorry to leave it. And we probably lingered longer than we would have if we'd been in the main dining room.

Monday was our final park day - we had an evening flight home. We started with breakfast at Trattoria al Forno. We've eaten breakfast here several times since the conversion from Kouzzina. Mostly because it's the only place to get a hot breakfast at the Boardwalk rather than because we really love the food.

I ordered something new this time: Breakfast Pizza, with sliced potato, tomato sauce, and cracked egg. Normally it also comes with fennel sausage but I requested bacon instead. It was really good, and VERY filling - it was unfortunate that it was our last morning because otherwise I would've had most of it to take with me. As it was I ate the eggs and two pieces of the pizza, and picked off the potatoes and bacon from the rest.

Trattoria al Forno Breakfast Pizza

Lee had the Frittata - with red peppers, prosciutto, onions, potatoes, and pecorino romano cheese topped with arugula. It was served with breakfast potatoes and a multi-grain croissant.

Trattoria al Forno Frittata

Monday afternoon we made one last circuit of the food booths at Epcot. We had a few favorites a second time, but also tried some new items. Lee was able to get his Pear Cider-brined Shredded Corned Beef with Braised Cabbage and Pears and Branston Dressing from Cider House this time, and enjoyed that.

Cider House Corned Beef and Cabbage

We also tried the Lemon Scone with Créme Fraiche and Mixed Berries. I thought this was very good - it wasn't overly lemony (and that's a good thing). I was very surprised to read that this was gluten-free - it certainly didn't taste like it.

Cider House Lemon Scone

Lee sampled a Frozen Strawberry-Lemon Sunset – Layered frozen Strawberry and Lemonade topped with Grey Goose Vodka from the coffee kiosk near the American Adventure. He said it would've been better without the vodka. :-)

Frozen Strawberry-Lemon Sunset

From Florida Fresh we ordered Kale Salad with Dried Cherries, Almonds, Goat Cheese and White Balsamic Vinaigrette. This was very good - I think it was the best salad I had anywhere the entire weekend.

Florida Fresh Kale Salad

We finished our food adventure at Japan, where we ordered the Chicken Edamame Bun and Beef Teriyaki Udon again. And I also tried a Yuzu Plum Wine Slushy. It was different...not bad, but not my favorite beverage.

Hanami Yuzu Plum Wine Slushy

I really enjoyed the mini Food and Wine Festival aspect of the Flower and Garden Festival. It wasn't nearly as busy, so it was a much more pleasant experience. And with fewer food booths it seemed like there were more tables set up - only rarely did we not find an open table. I enjoyed the selection of foods and beverages - with fewer food booths the choices weren't so overwhelming.







April 26, 2016

2016 WDW Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend - Part 2

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A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

Sunday, April 17 - Half Marathon

The half marathon was scheduled to start at 5:00, rather than the usual 5:30. Even though we knew that, the alarm going off at 2:15 was still a shock. The buses started running at 2:30, but we were driving, so we left about 3:00. As we walked to the car we could see two buses waiting to transport runners. No one was getting on them, so there wasn't a line. Looked like Disney was much better prepared than the day before.

We had little traffic on our drive, and even ended up in the same row of the parking lot that we had for the 10K.

I forgot to mention the bag check area. As usual, everyone needed to pass through the security perimeter. There was a queue set up for those who had bags, but there were plenty of people checking. There was no line when we went through.

The characters were out again. I wanted to get a photo with Captain Phasma but the line was long and not moving at all, so we skipped the photos - all of them had pretty long lines.

It was a much cooler morning than the day before - 64 degrees, lower humidity, and a cool breeze. Very nice running weather, and we were thankful that the half marathon had not been the day before! It was a bit cool for sitting around, though, and most of us were sporting various fashions of trash bags or runDisney mylar sheets saved from previous races. (Lee and I have quite a collection of them at home.)

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

There were over 50% more runners than in the 10K so the pre-race area was much more crowded. We were sent to our corrals about an hour before the race, and that was a pretty slow shuffle most of the way - until the split for A-G and H-L.

I was in corral G, but everyone that I was planning to run with was in corral F. My friend Kim was also in G, and she managed to wend her way through the runners to place us near the front of the corral.

While we were waiting, there were clips from the various Star Wars movies shown on the big TV monitors.

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

The race started pretty close to 5:00, with the usual burst of fireworks. For A-G the release was spaced 5 minutes apart - I'm not sure about the later corrals. Those are larger, so there may have been more time between them.

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

Kim got me right up to the start line - I've never been up there before! I got a smile and a wave from race announcer Rudy Novotny, who also lives in San Diego.

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

Kim told me "Go get them", and when Rudy said "Runners...Set...Gooooooo!" I went.

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

The proof of time thing really seems to be working. I was one of the faster runners in the corral, and very few people passed me in the first mile. There were several guys ahead (and pulling way), but I ran by myself for about .2 miles. At .4 miles I caught up with the walkers at the back of corral F.

Even once I caught up with F the course was much less crowded than it had been the day before.

The first part of the course was similar to the 10K, with R2D2 in Epcot's backstage near mile 1. In addition to the long line for R2, there was a line for photos with the mile marker! So I didn't stop for that.

I caught up with my group not long before we entered World Showcase. Our entry point was still near Mexico, this time we went left towards Norway and around to the International Gateway. I think there was a character somewhere along there, and Chewie was again by the International Gateway.

Another difference from the day before is that we ran by the Yacht and Beach Club resorts this time before getting to the dreaded canal path. It wasn't as bad as it was for the 10K - but I had also started ahead of a lot more people than I had the day before. We had a group of 9 running together, so we tried to stay mostly single file where it was narrow.

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

We took the same route through the Studios that we had for the 10K - down Hollywood Blvd, then Sunset, and past the Tower of Terror. Kylo Ren and some Storm Troopers were on the stage in front of the Chinese Theater. (Kylo Ren and the Storm Troopers - that might be a good name for a rock band.)

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

The first set of Cosplayers was backstage behind the Tower of Terror, but again, there were lines. The Emperor's chair was in that area again, too.

This time when we reached Osceola Parkway at about mile 5 we went right towards Animal Kingdom. Lots of running room, which was very nice.

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

At just before mile 7 we reached the Animal Kingdom toll plaza - it was about sunrise.

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon


Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

We took a big turn around the parking lot before going backstage. The Wampa ice cave photo op that they'd had at Disneyland's Star Wars race was set up there. With a pretty long line, of course. :-)

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

The course took us through a fair bit of Animal Kingdom, from Dinoland around to Asia past Expedition Everest, though we turned left at the first bridge instead of going all the way to Harambe.

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

We ran past the Tree of Life and out through the Oasis. The second set of cosplayers was just inside the park entrance. No lines for photos, but I took this video. Not the number of folks that we've seen in California, but we appreciate all of them coming out to cheer us on!

As we left the Animal Kingdom area and hit mile 10, we could still see a lot of runners who were over three miles behind us still heading towards Animal Kingdom. There were a fair number of people who had come out to cheer us on from the overpass near the McDonalds.

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

By now the sun was up, and it was a clear day. I had been concerned that it would warm up quickly, but the temperature was still holding at 64, and we still had our cool refreshing breeze. It was a lovely day to run.

I was surprised that there was very little on-course entertainment in the form of cheerleaders and bands for this race. There were some DJs, and several big screens showing Star Wars clips, but I only remember one band, and no cheerleaders.

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

About mile 10.5 we saw the "Balloon Ladies" on the other side - appropriately carrying Death Star balloons. Many of the runners on our side called out encouragement to those on the other side.

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

Our merry little band of runners was moving along just fine and keeping each other entertained and motivated. When you're not going for time I think it really is easier to run with a group, especially mentally. It made the race go much faster for me.

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

As we approached ESPN Wide World of Sports we ran on the same gravel path we did the day before. One of the props there was the leg of an AT-ST Walker (apparently recovered from the Forest Moon of Endor). The Speeder Bike photo op was also there again.

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

The last mile+ of the course was the same as it had been for the 10K, though it didn't seem quite as congested as the day before.

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

We made it to the finish - my time was 2:45:51. A nice mellow pace, and I was still feeling pretty good at the end, though my feet were tired.

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon


Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

After we finished there were volunteers handing out the Dr Kool towels - those felt really good, even though it was still only about 65 outside. We also could pick up the usual bottles of water and PowerAde, and the runDisney snack box and a banana.

We got our half marathon medals, then went to the Challenge tent for our Dark Side Challenge, and most importantly, our Kessel Run medals. One interesting thing about the medals: there were a number of people who picked up both their Kessel Run and blue Coast-to-Coast medals that day! They allowed people to use the two Star Wars races for both. We'd gotten our blue Coast-to-Coast at the Princess Half in February. I was just as happy NOT to have one more medal around my neck. :-)

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon Kessel Run Medal

For the official finisher photos, PhotoPass put a nice border on the bottom - there were different stations for the half marathon, Kessel Run, and Coast-to-Coast.

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

We got our group together for a photo.

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

One surprising (and disappointing) thing about the finish area: it's in a different county than Epcot, and because of that, they couldn't sell beer and wine in the finish area on Sunday until after 11:00! (We finished around 8:15.) I had been looking forward to a celebratory glass of champagne, and most of the rest of our intrepid band had been looking forward to a beer. I guess the good news was that Dave, our advance scout, had already discovered this, so we didn't waste time heading over to that area after we finished...Lee and I decided to just go catch the bus.

The bus situation was MUCH improved. I'm not sure if part of that is because I finished ahead of more people than I had the day before, or changes that Disney made, or both. Certainly they had completely changed the location and queue for the Epcot bus, which is what we took. It was a very long queue off to the side, and there were a lot of buses lined up waiting. It took us a while to walk the queue, but we were moving the whole time, and essentially walked right onto a bus - they were loading three at a time. In speaking with friends who took buses back to their resorts, they also reported that the bus service was much better - anywhere from no wait to less than 15 minutes in a line that was consistently moving.

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

The half marathon was a much better race for me than the 10K - starting in an earlier corral made a lot of difference. At the front of G, I figure I started before 2/3 of the runners - there were 18,171 official finishers. While the first 3+ miles of the race was still more congested and narrow than I would've liked, conditions were much better than they had been the day before. The rest of the course was fine, and I especially enjoyed all of the running room we had when we ran both directions on Osceola Parkway.

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon

I'd essentially run this course backwards previously for the Wine and Dine Half Marathon, which has been at night. (Though it will be a morning race this year.) I have to say that it was nice to run through Animal Kingdom during the day rather than at night.

And although I know runDisney is trying to change things up, I'd rather see the Star Wars race also start at ESPN and end at Epcot like Wine and Dine does. That three miles at the start from the Epcot side is just too narrow to support the number of runners that are all bunched together early in the race. And not being able to buy beer and champagne at the end??? GASP!

I thought the whole Dark Side theme was well done. I really liked the race medals for these races - very nicely designed. As were the race shirts. I thought it was a little odd having "Light Side" characters on the course, like R2D2, Chewbacca, and Ezra/Sabine. But there was a really good selection of Dark Side characters in the start and finish areas.

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon medals

I'm a big fan of the new PhotoPass system for race photos. The photos seem to be of much higher quality and there are a lot more of them than before. AND I don't have to pay an exorbitant fee for them - they are included since I am an annual passholder!

runDisney has already announced the dates for next year's Star Wars - The Dark Side Half Marathon Weekend - April 20-23, 2017. I was chatting with Cindy (Hi Cindy!) who pointed out that next year's dates are the week after Easter. And that for those of us who are DVC members, that week falls into Premier Season, where point costs are very high - 30-40% higher than for Magic Season. I hadn't realized that. Wow. Not to mention that the weeks before and after Easter are always very busy at the parks.

We had a good time this year, and I'm very happy to have my Kessel Run medal, but I think we'll probably pass on this race next year. I think we'll concentrate on the Star Wars Half in California instead - it's a lot easier for us to get to, and I prefer the course, the characters, the weather, and the logistics in general.







April 25, 2016

2016 WDW Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend - Part 1

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A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon Weekend

But really, it was only last summer that runDisney announced a new Star Wars Half Marathon weekend to be held in Florida in April, 2016. But this one would have a Dark Side theme. All of the usual races: Kids Races, 5K, 10K, half marathon, and 10K/half marathon challenge. For those who also ran the Star Wars Half Marathon at Disneyland there would be a new coast-to-coast challenge: The Kessel Run, with a medal shaped like the Millennium Falcon!

Lee and I, as you might expect, signed up for the new Dark Side Challenge - running the 10K and half marathon on consecutive mornings. Since we were also running the Star Wars Half at Disneyland we also qualified for the Kessel Run Challenge. All of the races sold out very quickly. But we were surprised when registration for the half marathon and the challenge re-opened briefly a couple of months later. It again sold out, though.

Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon Weekend

There were new courses for the 10K and half marathon, since both of those races would start at Epcot and end at ESPN Wide World of Sports. The half marathon looked like essentially a reverse of the Wine and Dine Half Marathon course, which starts at ESPN and goes through Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Epcot. The 10K would be completely new, though, and go through Epcot and the Studios before finishing at ESPN.

Star Wars Dark Side race courses
I find your lack of running disturbing.

I was concerned about transportation since the start and finish were in different places, and parking at ESPN would not be allowed. Everyone who drove themselves to the start would require transportation from the finish area back to Epcot. The rumor was that the 10K had 12,000 runners and the half had 19,000, and that's a lot of people to move around. Any bags that runners checked at the start line needed to be transported to the finish. And there were separate start and finish areas, which meant multiple sets of porta-potties, medical tents, concession stands, entertainment stages, etc. Yes, Disney has done that sort of thing before, but it looked logistically challenging.

Thursday, April 14 - The Expo

Lee and I had arrived at Walt Disney World on Wednesday night. The Expo opened on Thursday morning, and we knew that it would be a zoo, with great demand for all of the inaugural merchandise. So we didn't go until about 2:30 on Thursday afternoon. By then there were no lines for packet pick-up or to enter the merchandise area.

I was happy to see that the individual race banners were back at the entrance again - they were missing for Princess weekend.

Star Wars Dark Side 10K


Star Wars Dark Side 10K

A view of the show floor at about 5:00 p.m.

Star Wars Dark Side Expo show floor

Some of the merchandise was already sold out. Except for Kids Races there were no magnets left, which is my usual race weekend souvenir. And almost nothing that said "Kessel Run". There was a Kessel Run Challenge shirt, but my size was the only one still available, and there weren't many of those. Lee was very disappointed not to get a Kessel Run shirt.

Star Wars Dark Side Kessel Run shirt

There did seem to be plenty of "I Did It" shirts. Though the women's version of the Dark Side shirt was pink. "Pink" and "Dark Side" do not go together. (Now that I think about it, I didn't see anyone wearing one, either.)

Star Wars Dark Side Challenge I Did It shirt


Star Wars Dark Side Challenge I Did It shirt

It was nice to see and "I Did It" shirt for the 5K.

Star Wars Dark Side 5K I Did It shirt

There were still some fun shirt designs left, though.

Star Wars Dark Side shirt


Star Wars Dark Side shirt


Star Wars Dark Side shirt


Star Wars Dark Side shirt

The race weekend shirt was a nice design on both front and back and Lee and I both bought one of those.

Star Wars Dark Side weekend shirt  Star Wars Dark Side weekend shirt

I was able to buy my mini-medal pins of the half and challenge medals, also, but not the Kessel Run medal. So the good news was that there was still some merchandise left, even if it wasn't everything we wanted. I still don't understand why they don't impose quantity limits on race merchandise.

Star Wars Dark Side merchandise

But of course we also had three new race shirts. I thought the designs were nice, though I didn't need yet another gray shirt.

Star Wars Dark Side race shirts

We didn't run the 5K, but that shirt was nicely done as well. (Thanks Helen, for use of the photo.)

Star Wars Dark Side 5K shirt

The Expo done, we had time to enjoy WDW before our first race on Saturday morning. This was a slightly longer trip for us and it was great to have most of the day Thursday and Friday to go to the parks before rather than having to rush to our first race day.


Saturday, April 17 - 10K

The race started at 5:30 and the buses were due to start running at 3:00. We decided to drive to the start at Epcot. (Actually we swapped driving duties with friends: they drove us all to the 10K, we drove us all to the half.) The secret to driving yourself is not to use it as an excuse to sleep in. We get up almost as early as we would if we were taking the bus, and that way traffic and parking are still easy.

It was a very warm and humid morning - already 70 degrees at 4:00 am! There was a chance of thunderstorms, but fortunately those did not materialize. But it was humid.

I could never get inspired to make a Dark Side costume so I wore my Rey costume instead. But without the arm wraps - too warm for those. This photo was taken by a Disney PhotoPass photographer. That's one thing that was new with this race weekend - no more MarathonFoto. Instead there were PhotoPass photographers all along the courses and at all of the photo locations, and all of our photos were included as part of our registration! There was information on the back of our race bibs on how to link our race photos to our PhotoPass accounts. It worked really well for the most part. I was really pleased - I had more race photos than I have ever had from MarathonFoto - and they were free! Well done, Disney.

Star Wars Dark Side 10K pre-race

N.B. I stand corrected - the PhotoPass photos are free if you otherwise have access to free downloads of your PhotoPass photos: e.g. you are a qualifying Annual Passholder and/or you have purchased Memory Maker. Otherwise there is still a charge for them. Still, a friend or family member can link your photos to their account and access them that way.

In the pre-race area there were seven or eight different photo spots, all with PhotoPass photographers. Some of them were set pieces, like Jabba the Hutt and the rapthor, but there were also characters: Boba Fett, Captain Phasma, Storm Troopers and Darth Maul. The lines were pretty short when we arrived so we had our picture taken with Jabba, and then went to Captain Phasma but they had closed the line, even though it wasn't that long and there was still over an hour until the race started. :-(

Star Wars Dark Side 10K Jabba the Hutt

So we got a photo with BB-8 instead.

Star Wars Dark Side 10K BB-8

We waited for friends in the pre-race area - they were still at their resort in the bus line. There was a huge line at Pop Century and no buses. They finally arrived but it had been a long wait. (That was an issue at some of the other resorts, also.)

For the other 10Ks the start line is in the Epcot parking lot, but for this 10K and the half marathon the start line was out on World Center Drive as it is for the marathon and most of the other half marathon races. One big difference: this time we started in the opposite direction. It was a slightly shorter walk than it is to the start of the "regular" half marathon course, but still pretty slow getting to the corrals. This sign was entertaining.

Star Wars Dark Side 10K

For the 10K the corrals were A-F. I unfortunately never submitted my proof of time (though I was sure that I had) and so I was in the last corral, F, while Lee was in A. It was my own fault, and no reason to make him suffer, too, so he went up to A and I went to F. (At least that meant that he got photos, so most of the ones you'll see are his.) But I wasn't alone - my friend Liz had done (or hadn't done) the same thing, so we were at least together.

The race started at 5:30, but we didn't start until almost 44 minutes later. And F was a huge corral - I think there were over 2,000 people in it. We were in the first 1/4 of it, and mostly surrounded by walkers.

There were fireworks for each corral.

Star Wars Dark Side 10K fireworks


Star Wars Dark Side

I'd looked at the race course in advance and I knew the first three miles would be a slog, since most of it would be on fairly narrow roads and paths where we wouldn't be able to find much running room. I was especially concerned about running the path between the Boardwalk and the Studios along the canal. I've done that at the end of the Wine and Dine half and the end of the marathon a number of times and it's congested enough then when runners are a whole lot more spread out than we would be at the beginning of a race.

And the running experience was about what I expected. To try to find some running room we did all of the things you're not supposed to do - dodging and weaving around people and running on the grass. We weren't alone - there were a number of other runners also back in F. I can't fault the walkers, as they were doing their thing - we were in their territory really. Liz and I were running single file and trying not to annoy them too much. About 3/4 of a mile in we got clear for a little while - and then we caught up with the back of corral E. :-/

Star Wars Dark Side 10K

The course took us backstage at Epcot where R2D2 had a character stop. The line was huge, not surprisingly. We entered World Showcase near Mexico, then turned right and ran past Canada and the UK and out the international gateway. Chewbacca was there, and I think that line was even longer than the one for R2D2. We ran around Crescent Lake past the Boardwalk resort. There were a number of people who had come out to cheer us there - thank you to those who came out so early!

Star Wars Dark Side 10K


Star Wars Dark Side 10K

Once we passed the Boardwalk we came to the dreaded canal path. One good thing: rather than running on the concrete path right next to the canal we were on the asphalt access road above it. That was a little wider. I was afraid we'd end up walking that whole path, but it wasn't that bad. We did drop to a walk several times, but we never totally stopped, and we could usually jog. Still, it was a huge relief to get off the path near the entrance to the Studios.

Just like the Star Wars Half Marathon in California, runDisney invited Star Wars cosplayers to come out and cheer the runners on. Some of them were just outside the Studios entrance. At first I thought it was a regular character stop because there were long lines - THAT doesn't happen in California! I honestly did not get a good look at them because too many people were around them, but it wasn't crowded when Lee went through, and he stopped for a photo. There weren't as many of them as we've seen in CA. And it was still pretty dark.

Star Wars Dark Side 10K cosplayers

We took a short tour of the Studios: down Hollywood Blvd, around the stage in front of the Chinese Theater, and then down Sunset, then past the Tower of Terror and out of the park onto Buena Vista Drive. That's where we finally had some running room, now that we were over 4 miles into the race.

Star Wars Dark Side 10K

We ran up an overpass and ended up on Osceola Parkway. We had to do a short out-and-back where the course doubled back on itself to add a little bit of extra distance. At about 5.5 miles we ran on a narrow gravel path towards ESPN. This got us all bunched up again and there was a lot of grumbling from runners and walkers. There was a photo op with the speeder bikes from Endor along there, also - not really a good location for it.

Star Wars Dark Side 10K speeder bikes

Congestion wasn't much better when we got onto the concrete paths at ESPN, which were still narrow and lined with cheering spectators.

Less than .4 miles to the finish was the second set of cosplayers. There weren't lines for most of them, and we stopped for one quick photo. (No PhotoPass photographers with any of them.)

Star Wars Dark Side 10K Cosplayers

The course widened out for the last quarter mile or so, and I was relieved to see the finish line. I was very happy to be done. It was really not a good race for me - 1:12 with NO character stops. I could never really get into a rhythm, and the high humidity didn't help. But at least the first part of the Dark Side Challenge was complete. And I enjoyed running with Liz again - we ran the second half of last year's Wine and Dine Half Half Marathon together.

Star Wars Dark Side 10K finish

Liz and I posed for a finish photo, but unfortunately it never showed up under either of our bib numbers. :-( It would have been nice because PhotoPass put a special 10K border on it. Here's the one that Lee got, though:

Star Wars Dark Side 10K finish photo

The TIE Fighter medal is really nice. Lee pointed out that it was very fitting that we received an X-wing fighter medal for the "Star Wars - The Light Side 10K" in California, and the corresponding Dark Side fighter medal in Florida.

Star Wars Dark Side 10K medal

Lee had finished over 45 minutes before I did, so he'd used the time to get several photos taken. All of the photo ops in the start area were duplicated in the finish area. And he'd finished early enough that the lines were short. I was very envious that he had a photo with Captain Phasma - that was the one I really wanted.

Star Wars Dark Side 10K Captain Phasma

He had one with the rapthor, too. :-)

Star Wars Dark Side 10K Rapthor

But by the time I arrived the photo lines were pretty long and we both wanted to get back to the room. So we went to the bus area. Our friends had already finished and taken the Epcot bus back to their car, so as planned we took the Swan/Dolphin/Boardwalk bus back to our resort. We were glad we were not going to Epcot because the line was huge. It seemed to be moving steadily but it was still very long. (Our friends waited about 15 minutes, but later we heard the wait was well over an hour!) We waited 10-15 minutes for our bus. The line had more than doubled behind us, so our timing was not too bad. The lines for buses to the resorts seemed to be much more reasonable than the line for Epcot.

We had the usual runDisney snack boxes. The selection seemed a little better than usual - or maybe I've just resigned myself to the fact that I'm not going to get real food from Disney. I ate the applesauce while waiting for the bus.

Star Wars Dark Side 10K snack boxes

I really like the idea of this 10K course - it is SO much more interesting than the one that spends half its distance looping around on roads outside Epcot - but running it from Epcot TO ESPN is the wrong direction. The first three miles is just too narrow, and I think it would be much better in the opposite direction. Which is likely what we'll get when the new Wine and Dine 10K makes its debut this fall. Though even then I expect that path along the canal will be crowded - we got a taste of it (so to speak) during the abbreviated Wine and Dine Half last year, which was about 6.8 miles long, and the path was more crowded than during the normal half marathon because we weren't spread out as much.

Not a lot of characters along the course, but on a par with other Disney races. In addition to R2 and Chewie there were Ezra and Sabine, and Storm Troopers, plus the cosplayers. There was also a photo op with the Emperor's chair which was very popular. The lines were very long for all of these.

Big failure with the buses for the 10K. Lots of issues traveling both to the start and from the finish.

Even more than the other Disney races, I think your perception of the race experience was inversely proportional to where you started. If you started early the course was much less crowded - Lee was in A and really enjoyed the course. And for those who finished early the wait for buses at the end was minimized. If you started at the back, well, whole 'nother world - or galaxy, as the case may be.

Still, the addition of PhotoPass was a major benefit, and having so many characters available at the start and finish was also a plus. The thing I liked most about the characters at the start is that it's a level playing field for everyone. It didn't matter what corral you were in. If you were willing to get up early and get to the race start area as early as possible you had the opportunity to maximize the number of photos you could get.

Half Marathon the next day...Don't get cocky!







March 8, 2016

2016 Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend - Part 3 - Dining

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I was able to dine at a number of new (to me) places on this trip and had some really good experiences.

I started off my trip staying at the Polynesian Villas and Bungalows. On the first night there I went to Captain Cook's. I wasn't very hungry but I thought the Pho Noodle Bowl with Shrimp (it also comes with beef) looked good. Rice noodles and seasonal vegetables in Bui broth. It was tasty and really hit the spot, though I would've liked to have gyoza sauce or something like that to add to it to kick up the flavor a little. All that was available was soy sauce. Still, I liked it so much that I had it again later in the week.

Captain Cook's Pho Noodle Bowl

The following afternoon Deb and I went to Afternoon Tea in the Garden View Lounge at the Grand Floridian. Sigh. It was just lovely.

Grand Floridian Tea

We both had the Derbyshire Tea, which was three courses: sandwich plate, scone and tart, and choice of dessert. We also received a glass of Veuve Clicquot champagne and our choice of tea, each with our own individual pot.

Grand Floridian Derbyshire Tea

The sandwich plate was four tea sandwiches: egg salad, golden beet and goat cheese, curried chicken salad, and cucumber. It also had generous slices of Tillamook and sage cheddar cheese with lavosh, grapes, and a small caramelized onion tart. I thought the presentation was very attractive. And it was really quite a bit of food.

Grand Floridian Tea sandwiches

The currant scone was served with apricot jam (which was wonderful!), clotted cream, and lemon curd, accompanied by a strawberry jam tart. The scone was very good, but the tart was disappointing - the jam seemed gummy and the texture was unappealing.

Grand Floridian Tea scone and jam tart

For dessert we had our choice of strawberries and cream, pastries, or banana creme brulee trifle. I chose the strawberries and cream. A little too much whipped cream, but the berries were excellent.

Grand Floridian Tea berries and cream

Deb tried the trifle - she said it was too sweet. The pieces of banana in it were good, but there weren't enough of them. (This photo is from my tea with Lee later in the week - he ordered the trifle and I tried the housemade pastries, which I really enjoyed.)

Grand Floridian Tea trifle and pastries

I chose the Mad Hatter's Tea Party as my tea selection. I really enjoyed it - black tea, a bit fruity with some vanilla.

It was really a lovely way to spend almost two hours. We were not rushed at all and were able to relax and enjoy our food, as well as our tea and champagne. We were both pleasantly full when we left.

Grand Floridian Tea

The Derbyshire Tea was $45/person, plus tax and gratuity. (The Lounge does not accept Tables in Wonderland.) I thought it was well worth it for the experience that we had. In addition to being tasty the food was very satisfying - we weren't hungry again for hours.

Tea is served from 2:00-5:00. It's not a very big place, and most of the tables are only seated once. I made reservations six months in advance - you need to plan ahead for this one.

Grand Floridian Tea Garden View Lounge

I recently tried the new Classic Afternoon Tea at Steakhouse 55 at Disneyland - and while that was very nice, I have to say that I enjoyed this one more. It was also significantly cheaper - our Derbyshire Tea was almost equivalent to the Premium Tea Party we enjoyed at Steakhouse 55 (it also included a salad), but that one was $65/person.

That night we had a late dinner at Captain Cook's. I tried the Aloha Pork Sandwich - pulled pork on pineapple-coconut bun with cheddar, cucumbers, and tomatoes. It came with fries, but I opted for steamed vegetables instead. Unfortunately that included lots of red peppers - yuck. The pork itself was good and the pineapple-coconut bun was really good - very soft and tender.

Captain Cook's Aloha Pork Sandwich

Deb tried the Hot Beef and Cheddar Sandwich - Roast beef, cheddar, caramelized onions with sweet chili mayo on house-made bread. It was also topped with yellow peppers, which were not mentioned anywhere in the description. She likes peppers about as well as I do, so was not too happy about that. The sandwich was served with a small side "Asian slaw" - it was mostly red peppers and onions! Deb commented that it wasn't like any "slaw" she'd ever had before. Pretty inedible.

Captain Cook's Hot Beef and Cheddar Sandwich

The next afternoon we went to "Be Our Guest" restaurant at the Magic Kingdom. I'd also made this reservation six months in advance. The restaurant gives you the option of pre-ordering your food - you can do that several days in advance, but we just did it that morning. When we arrived at the podium outside we were given a large plastic rose (tracking device), then we went inside to the registers. The cashier asked if we had any changes to what we had pre-ordered, we said no, and she rang us up.

The restaurant is "seat yourself" at lunch. While it was busy, we were still able to quickly find a table in the main room. Our food was delivered to us about 10 minutes later, and the server took the rose away. That worked pretty well.

I ordered the Tuna Nicoise Salad - Warm seared tuna steak with chilled green beans, potatoes, olives, roasted bell peppers, tomatoes, and hard boiled eggs. Bell peppers again - ugh. (Ordering on-line gave me limited options for modifying the dish.) Fortunately there weren't very many and they were pretty easy to pick out. I was able to order the dressing on the side - it was some kind of a light fruit vinaigrette. The tuna was very good, and it was nice to see the roasted potato wedges. The egg wasn't hard boiled - it was more like a poached egg over medium. It was a very good salad and I would order it again, though maybe for $15.99 they could have added some more greens to it.

Be Our Guest Tuna Nicoise Salad

Deb ordered the Carved Prime Chuck Roast Beef Sandwich - served warm on a baguette with horseradish sour cream and Pomme Frites. She said it was good. I tried a couple of the fries and they were decent.

Be Our Guest Roast Beef Sandwich

Our friend Jack joined us (they were able to add him to our party as a walk-up), and ordered the Carved Turkey Sandwich - served on a warm baguette with Dijon mayonnaise and Pomme Frites. REAL carved turkey - it looked very good.

Be Our Guest Turkey Sandwich

I had ordered dessert: The Triple Chocolate Cupcake. They had me at "chocolate". :-) Chocolate sponge cake, chocolate mousse filling, and chocolate ganache. It was a pretty small cupcake for $4.59, but it was really good. The cake was moist and delicious, and the mousse filling and ganache icing were chocolaty goodness. My sweet tooth was happy. (I did offer to share!)

Be Our Guest Triple Chocolate Cupcake
Be Our Guest Triple Chocolate Cupcake

That evening four of us dined at Liberty Tree Tavern. Let's just say I will not be returning there anytime soon. The seating process was chaotic. They don't use pagers there - instead the hostesses stand in the restaurant waiting area and announce: "Hear ye, hear ye, now seating the Wills family from the colony of Florida". Which is different, but the waiting area is SO loud that we couldn't hear them - especially since most of them didn't project very well. We had a reservation but we still waited about 20 minutes before we were seated.

Once we made it to our table, our server quickly took our drink orders and explained the menu. It's a series of items served family style - and if you want more of anything the server will bring it to you. We started with the Declaration Salad. It was your average green salad - nothing remarkable about it. Also served with rolls and cornbread, which you will see in the next photo.

Liberty Tree Tavern Declaration Salad

The entree and side dishes were all served at the same time. The Patriot's Platter included roast turkey breast, carved ham, and pot roast, with stuffing and cranberry relish. For side dishes we had green beans and mashed potatoes, gravy, and macaroni and cheese. It was all - OK. Filling, but not exceptional. None of us cared for the cranberry relish - all we could taste was orange rind. The turkey was pretty good, and the ham was fine. I didn't try the pot roast but the others didn't like it at all.

Liberty Tree Tavern Meat Platter

For dessert we had pieces of Johnny Appleseed's Cake - Tavern made white cake filled with apples and dried cranberries, topped with ice cream, according to the menu. I think I was the only one who liked this. But the menu description is not correct - it was not cakey at all - it was more like a bar topped with apples and cranberries. I don't think this is a very appealing dessert to most people - it didn't look very appetizing, and I think they would have been better off with apple pie or apple crisp. (I make an oatmeal apple crisp that is way better than what I was served.)

Liberty Tree Tavern Johnny Appleseed Cake

It was a disappointing meal. Not that anything was really BAD, but for the price ($34/person) I expected more. If you have a hungry family and want to fill them up this might be a good option...but I won't be returning any time soon.

The next morning we went to breakfast at The Garden Grill in The Land Pavilion in Epcot. It's an "All-you-care-to eat Harvest Feast" served family style, and I enjoyed this one a whole lot more than our meal the night before.

We started with Chip's Sticky Bun Bake - a large cinnamon bun served in a skillet. It separated into pieces pretty easily. I loved this...I could've filled up just on this - it was hard not to go back for seconds or thirds (I did have a second piece after I'd finished most of the rest of my breakfast.)

Garden Grill Chip's Sticky Bun

We also had a dish of fresh fruit. It was good - it would have been nice to have more strawberries.

Garden Grill Fresh Fruit

And then there was a plate of sausage gravy with biscuits. I didn't try this, but my companions seemed to enjoy it.

Garden Grill Biscuits and Gravy

The main platter included Mickey waffles, scrambled eggs, bacon (and it was CRISP! Yay!), ham, and tater tots. There was chocolate-hazelnut sauce to go on the Mickey waffles...heavenly! (Though the rest of the table requested plain old maple syrup. I'm not sure they are really my friends. :-) )

Garden Grill Breakfast Platter

The scrambled eggs were freshly prepared but they were a little salty. We requested a second serving later and they were fine.

The tater tots were surprisingly good - I'm not sure why. But several of us had a hard time stopping and kept returning to the plate to have "just one more".

Garden Grill Breakfast Plate

This was a character meal, with Farmer Mickey, Chip, Dale, and Pluto. They all came by at least twice. The chipmunks were a hoot. Chip tried to convince us that he had layed the eggs (eww!), and Dale had a sign telling us to "look for the hidden Dale in the flowers" - the mural on the wall. But there wasn't one - he was just messing with us.

Garden Grill Pluto

Farmer Mickey was having a hard time keeping the chipmunks under control. And they were taking all of the credit for his hard work in growing the food, too. :-)

Garden Grill Farmer Mickey

The Garden Grill restaurant rotates above the "Living with the Land" attraction. We were there a little over an hour and made one revolution. Afterward we walked around the restaurant to have a better view (we were on the upper level, so couldn't see down into it very well when we went around.)

The price for breakfast was $29.99, and it also included juice, and coffee/tea. For a character meal I didn't think that was too bad, and I really enjoyed the food. I'd seriously consider returning again when I want a big breakfast - like after running a half marathon or even a 10K. With so much of The Land pavilion closed right now (Living with the Land is the only attraction open) the restaurant was relatively quiet - when it's very busy and loud I might feel differently.

Even though we were still pretty full from breakfast, in the interests of research Deb and I headed over to the Magic Kingdom for a late lunch at the new Skipper Canteen in Adventureland. You can watch our episode of AllEarsTV below, or keep reading...

It was much larger than I expected - three different rooms. All decorated in that sort of Jungle Cruise motif.

Skipper Canteen

This is one of the back rooms - more of a library or study.

Skipper Canteen

The room we were in was a large, richly decorated dining room - this is one of the lights.

Skipper Canteen light

Our server told us that the menu would take us all over the world. And yes, it included selections from China, southeast Asia, and India. There were also more traditional dishes like mac and cheese and lamb, but they incorporated spices from Africa and Asia.

Deb and I both started with one of the specialty (non-alcoholic, since this is the Magic Kingdom) beverages. I had the Schweitzer Slush (trying saying that fast even twice!) - frozen apple juice and passion fruit with bursting green apple boba balls. I liked it because it wasn't too sweet - very refreshing, and the boba balls are fun, though I had to be careful not to inhale them through the straw.

Skipper Canteen Schweitzer Slush

Deb tried the Punch Line Punch- tropical fruit juices and mango puree. She enjoyed that - said it was like a mango smoothie.

Skipper Canteen Punch Line Punch

The bread service was an Ethiopian bread served with honey that was spiced with fenugreek. The bread had coriander in it. It was a fairly assertive spice flavor - I really didn't like it at all.

Skipper Canteen bread service

As an appetizer we ordered the S.E.A. SHU MAI - steamed dumplings filled with pork, shrimp, and mung beans. It was served with tamari sauce - sort of a soy sauce with some additional flavor. I thought it was a pretty generous serving for $10.

Skipper Canteen shu mai dumpling

For an entree I tried Char Siu Pork - marinated grilled pork tenderloin medallions served with Chinese broccoli and white rice. It was the right color, and nicely grilled, but it was dry. While it had a good flavor it didn't have the sweetness I associate with Char Siu pork. The Chinese broccoli was pretty fibrous - it needed a sauce or some additional flavors.

Skipper Canteen Char Siu Pork

Deb tried Skip's Mac and Cheese - an Egyptian take on the dish with spiced ground beef, pasta, and Bechamel sauce. Also served with Chinese broccoli. She enjoyed it, and in fact said the mac and cheese part was among the best she's had. I tried just the mac and cheese part and it was very good.

Skipper Canteen Mac and Cheese

For dessert we tried a Kungaloosh. Those of you who remember the Adventurer's Club at Pleasure Island will be familiar with this name. In this case it's a chocolate cake served with cashew caramel ice cream and caramelized bananas. We were pretty full - all I tried was the ice cream. Which was excellent - like a butter pecan, but with cashews.

Skipper Canteen Kungaloosh

As Deb and I said in the AllEarsNet TV episode - we really liked the idea of this restaurant, but don't think the menu is going to go over very well in Magic Kingdom. The spices and flavors are more appropriate for Animal Kingdom or a resort restaurant. I thought a lot of the appetizers looked good, so on a return visit I'd be tempted just to order several of those to share rather than ordering entrees.

That night a group of us went to Morimoto Asia in Disney Springs. This was my first time visiting Disney Springs since before the name changed. So there was a lot of it that was new to me. The restaurant is really gorgeous, and quite large. Unfortunately it's also extremely loud.

Morimoto Asia

The menu had all kinds of offerings that looked really good. To start I ordered a glass of Sake Sangria - asian pears, apple plum, tangerine juice, sake, light white wine, plum wine. It was refreshing - the sake gave it a different flavor that I'm a little on the fence about.

Morimoto Asia Sake Sangria

For an appetizer I tried Vegetable Sushi with spicy mayo, asparagus, carrot, and cucumber. I liked it.

Morimoto Asia Tuna Pizza

Deb ordered Shrimp Tempura Sushi with asparagus, spicy mayo, and avocado, and I tried a piece of that. It was also very good, though the panko crumbs on top weren't very attractive.

Morimoto Asia Shrimp Tempura sushi

Several of us also shared a Tuna Pizza - crispy tortilla, tuna sashimi, tomato, jalapeno, and anchovy aioli. It was a little messy to eat, but very tasty.

Morimoto Asia Tuna Pizza

For an entree I ordered Pad Thai with Shrimp - it also comes with chicken. Stir-fried flat rice noodles, egg, bean sprouts, scallions, fried tofu, pickled turnip, and sweet tamarind sauce. Our server advised me that it was not a traditional pad thai with peanut sauce - and that was fine with me, since I don't really like peanut sauce. It was very good - I especially liked the fried tofu. The sauce was very good.

Morimoto Asia Pad Thai with Shrimp

For dessert we all shared an Mm Parfait. This is a dessert for two: chocolate cream puffs, vanilla gelato, hazelnut chocolate crunchies, and sesame mochi. I thought the mochi was a little odd, but I really enjoyed all of the rest of it, especially the hazelnut crunchies. It will definitely serve more than two people.

Morimoto Asia Mm Parfait

Other than the noise I really enjoyed our meal at Morimoto Asia. We had a terrific server and the food was great. I'm looking forward to trying it again, and being able to take Lee this time.

More dining still to come!








March 2, 2016

2016 Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend - Part 2

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Sunday, February 21 - Disney Princess Half Marathon

Up at 2:45, left the room about 3:30. No problem getting to the Epcot parking lot - we were actually parked one row closer than we were the day before. This time we had bags (our running belts) that needed to be checked, but that was very quick. There were plenty of lanes open.

There were over 20,000 runners in the half marathon, as opposed to about 11,000 for the 10K. The pre-race area was much more crowded.

It was another great morning for a race. About 55 degrees, so a little warmer than the day before, and it was more humid. I was comfortable in trash bag and gloves again.

It's always fun to run a Disney race in costume - and even more fun to run with friends who are also in costume. Several months ago I had an idea for a group...Cinderella and her stepsisters. I already had a Cinderella costume, and I talked Lee and our friend Eddie into running as my stepsisters. To be honest, they were all for it, and it really didn't take any fast-talking on my part. :-) Though Eddie did request the "pink one" (Anastasia).

For their costumes, I made a couple of skirts in the appropriate colors for Anastasia and Drizella out of sequined fabric. It was easier to work with than I expected. It doesn't ravel so I didn't need to hem.

Stepsister Drizella Anastasia running costumes

For the tops, I purchased sleeveless running tops and then added puffy sleeves to them.

Stepsister Drizella Anastasia running costumes
Stepsister Drizella Anastasia running costumes

For Drizella's costume I made a puffy bow out of the sequin fabric and attached it to a headband. For Anastasia, Lee covered a visor with pink sequin fabric and I made the "crown" piece out of metallic gold craft foam. The guys said that it was all very comfortable to run in. And they looked great, if I do say so myself.

Stepsister Drizella Anastasia running costumes

We met up with the Mickey Milers again.

2016 Princess Half Marathon Mickey Milers

About 4:45 we headed to the corrals. The porta-pottie lines were VERY long, but Eddie reminded us that there were some once we went into the "Runners Only" area. The lines were much shorter there. And then it was the 1/2 mile walk to the corrals. It wasn't too crowded for us this time. We met Lisa again and had time for a short chat and to wish each other a good race before going to our different corrals. (She's faster than we are! :-) )

We were in Corral C for this one. The race started at 5:30 with a burst of fireworks - they had them for each corral, which is always very nice.

2016 Princess Half Marathon fireworks

As we got closer to the start line we could see the stage and the Fairy Godmother, plus the race announcers.

2016 Princess Half Marathon

We started about 4 minutes after the official start, so we didn't have to wait too long.

2016 Princess Half Marathon start line

The course heads straight to Magic Kingdom. This is the first time I've been this far forward in a WDW race and it made a big difference when we were on the single lane sections - it really didn't feel crowded at all.

2016 Princess Half Marathon

One thing that was disappointing: the pirate ship that's normally placed about mile 2 wasn't there this year. The Heroes were out for photos not far from there, but had a long line - and we knew we'd see them on the way back. We also bypassed Aladdin and Sally/Jack Skellington - lines were long and it was still pretty dark for photos with the iPhone.

After mile 5 we entered Magic Kingdom. And the photo fun really began. :-) The "sisters" fought over Buzz Lightyear.

2016 Princess Half Marathon Buzz Lightyear

When we left the Alice group, the cast member said: "You're in for a surprise up ahead."

2016 Princess Half Marathon White Rabbit Queen of Hearts

And there they were - the stepmother and both of the stepsisters! I knew that I had to get video of this - and their meeting did not disappoint. They were so excited. :-) (It's very funny to view in slow motion and watch their reactions when they first see the guys.)

2016 Princess Half Marathon Cinderella stepsisters

We stopped in Frontierland to use the restroom there. There were cast members on the Adventureland side to make sure runners didn't go through there, and Lee cracked them up when he said: "Which side should I use?"

I was really hoping that Cinderella would be at the traditional princess photo stop backstage after Splash Mountain, but she wasn't there. We did get a two-fer, though - both Belle and the Beast and Aurora and Prince Phillip. Aurora almost lost it when she saw "the sisters", but recovered and told me: "Don't they look wonderful!" This was the longest line that we waited in, and it was only about 5 minutes long.

2016 Princess Half Marathon Aurora Phillip

Just after that was the 10K mark and we made the turn to head back towards Epcot. The one lane "Cone Alley" section near the Grand Floridian wasn't too bad this time. Near the entrance to the Grand Floridian we found Bert and the penguins from "Mary Poppins". I guess Mary was taking a break.

2016 Princess Half Marathon Bert penguins

Outside the Wedding Pavilion were the guys with the glass slipper. It didn't fit. :-)

2016 Princess Half Marathon glass slipper

Anastasia: "Genie, grant my wish and make HER disappear."

2016 Princess Half Marathon Genie

My cold was taking its toll on me and I was really starting to drag by mile 8. The guys did a great job in keeping my spirits up and making me laugh. And we got lots of nice comments from other runners on how good we looked. I say "we", but in all honesty it was the sisters who received most of the comments. They were pretty unique - I was just one of hundreds of Cinderellas. :-) This woman ran up to us and wanted her photo taken with them. "Sister - we've found our prince!"

2016 Princess Half Marathon

Around mile 9.5 we came back to the Heroes again. They seemed a little alarmed. :-)

2016 Princess Half Marathon Heroes

Finally we passed mile 12 and were backstage at Epcot. I think this is my favorite photo of the three of us from the race.

2016 Princess Half Marathon Cinderella carriage

The sisters were very put out with the Fairy Godmother.

2016 Princess Half Marathon Fairy Godmother

We crossed the finish line with a time of 2:49. It was a LOT of fun. The guys were really good sports - and they had a blast, too. They made a lot of people smile - many times when we ran by groups of spectators I'd see their faces light up when they saw the sisters. And I still laugh when I look at the photos and think about all of the funny moments we shared during the race. Thanks guys - you are both princes in my book!

2016 Princess Half Marathon finish line

I collected three medals - the half marathon medal, Glass Slipper Challenge medal, and Coast-to-Coast medal.

2016 Princess Half Marathon medals

And then it was time to celebrate with the beverage of our choice! It had turned into a lovely warm day - very comfortable to sit around the finish area and visit for a while.

2016 Princess Half Marathon champagne

Final Thoughts

I find this particular race weekend to be a lot of fun - one of my favorites. The secret is to avoid the Expo on the first day. :-) This weekend has the most consistently good weather of any of the WDW race weekends and it's generally good - not too hot, not too cold. The theme is very appealing - it's hard not to love a race that features the Disney princesses! And it's wonderful to see so many women come out to share it together: mothers and daughters, sisters, friends... There are always lots of creative and beautiful costumes, too. The medals are also lovely, and are some of my favorites.

2016 Princess Half Marathon medals

I thought it was interesting that the number of men in this race has been increasing every year: 1454 finished in 2014, 1720 in 2015, and 2037 this year. (18099 women finished this year.) For the most part the men who participate get into the spirit of the event and dress in costume and have a lot of fun with it.

Thank you to all of the cast members and the wonderful volunteers who make it all possible. They work hard and have to get up even earlier than the runners!

2016 Princess Half Marathon water station

We are planning to return next year!

Coming up - Princess Weekend Dining







March 1, 2016

2016 Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend - Part 1

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Time to head back to Walt Disney World for the 2016 Princess Half Marathon Weekend. This is the 8th year for this event, and the third year for the Glass Slipper Challenge. My fifth time running the half marathon, and third year for the GSC.

2016 Princess Half Marathon

I really enjoy this event, even though I don't care much for either the 10K or the half marathon courses, LOL! I find that there are advantages and disadvantages to it being a women-focused event. I think the character and other photo ops are a lot more fun for this one - there seem to be more of them, and a wider variety of characters than during the other weekends.

Without so many men in the race, my proof of time gets me a much better corral here than for any of the other WDW races, too. :-)

But the Expo and the merchandise...not so good. There have been several disasters associated with Princess weekend - and this year had its challenges, too. But I'll get to all of that.

Given previous Expo "issues" in the past I intentionally did not go to the Expo on Thursday, the day it opened. This turned out to be an excellent idea. Reports from people who were there early in the day were that the lines for packet pickup (which is usually pretty efficient) stretched out the door of the Field House! It was taking close to an hour just to pick up bibs. And over in the Official Merchandise area, there were some actual blows exchanged as people fought over merchandise. Wow. Unbelievable. I do not understand why Disney does not impose quantity limits. Or offer additional merchandise for pre-order.

Friday, February 19 - Expo

Lee and I ended up going to the Expo, held at Wide World of Sports, on Friday afternoon around 4:30. I was disappointed that the banners for the various races weren't at the entrance to Wide World of Sports as they usually are. Just a couple of generic weekend banners. No lines to speak of for packet pickup - it was as easy as it should be.

2016 Princess Half Marathon bib pickup

The main Expo floor was still plenty busy, but not horrible.

2016 Princess Half Marathon Expo floor

There was no line to get into the official merchandise area.

2016 Princess Half Marathon Merchandise area

There was still a fair amount of merchandise available, but it was obvious that some items had sold out, and a number of the merchandise bays featured generic runDisney items. For the "I Did It" shirts, they were already down to limited sizes for the 10K and Challenge shirts.

2016 Princess Half Marathon shirt
2016 Princess Half Marathon Bondi Bands
2016 Princess Half Marathon
2016 Princess 10K I Did It shirt

In protest for the poor way that I believe merchandise is handled, I did not purchase ANYTHING. Though to be honest all I really would have purchased would have been a magnet and maybe one of the mini medal pins.

2016 Princess Half Marathon magnets
2016 Princess Half Marathon mini medal

There was this cute runDisney shirt - but I have waaaaay too many running shirts already.

2016 Princess Half Marathon runDisney shirt

And of course, I got three more for this race weekend! I'm very happy that they all have short sleeves.

2016 Princess Half Marathon shirts

Lee was unimpressed with the color of the half marathon shirt. :-) (I was, too.)

2016 Princess Half Marathon

There were a few of the coveted wine glasses left - it sounded like this was the last of them, though.

2016 Princess Half Marathon wine glasses

The rest of the Expo was pretty much the same as it always is. If we'd been looking for some last-minute costume pieces, or race gear that we'd forgotten, there were opportunities to purchase those sorts of items. But we've found lately that all of the Disney race expos look the same to us.


Saturday, February 20 - 10K

We'd decided to drive ourselves to the 10K instead of taking the bus. And since it's a smaller race than the half marathon (about half the number of runners), we allowed ourselves to sleep in until 3:00, and left the room about 3:45. We still had very little traffic, and were parked by 4:10. It was a coolish morning (52 degrees) - great for running, and not too bad for standing around. I had a trash bag and gloves for warmth while I waited, and that was fine. Really, I couldn't have asked for better weather. Very comfortable for running.

There was a security checkpoint, but we didn't have any bags, so were able to go through the "No bags" line. Though I think that was actually longer than the line for people who had bags! They had plenty of people checking us to make sure we didn't have bags, and it moved quickly.

We met up with the Mickey Milers prior to the race - nice to see some familiar faces!

2016 Princess Half Marathon Mickey Milers

The race started at 5:30, and they sent us to our corrals around 5:00. One very nice thing about the 5K and 10K races is that, because there are fewer runners, the corrals are in the Epcot parking lot just next to the pre-race area. No 1/2 mile walk to get to the start area.

We were in Corral A, and it's always nice to be up front. We didn't have a very good view of the stage, though. Not much of a show - though the Fairy Godmother started us off.

2016 Enchanted 10K start line

I unfortunately had come down with a bad head cold the week before the race, and I was not 100%. I knew I wasn't going to get a personal record this year. I hadn't run in a week, and wasn't even sure how I would feel. Though we started together, Lee quickly outpaced me. He was also coming off a cold, and didn't PR either, though he finished in under an hour.

While this course isn't my favorite, it's still a pretty fast course, and fairly easy to run. The first three+ miles are not very interesting: all on roads outside Epcot. I didn't stop to take any photos, but there were a number of photo opportunities. Elsa and Anna were on the overpass, talking to the runners, and it was snowing. Tinker Bell and several of the other pixies were near mile 1, and Pocahontas and Meeko were near mile two or three.

Finally, about mile 3.5, we entered Epcot. Jiminy Cricket and Pinocchio were posing for photos in Italy, and Lumiere and Cogsworth were posing at France. I was dressed as Belle, so I wish I would've stopped for that one...since I was early in the race the line was pretty short, and I was trying to take it easy.

After we went out the International Gateway, the Genie was posing outside ESPN Club. We ran all the way around Crescent Lake and turned left at the International Gateway to head backstage. Sophia the First was there. Once we came back into the park next to the Imagination Pavilion we went left and ran in front of The Land and The Living Seas, then through the Innoventions breezeway. Across the park, under Spaceship Earth, and backstage again, where it was only .2 miles to the finish line.

2016 Enchanted 10K finish line

I finished in 1:01:51. All things considered, I was happy with that. Lee came in at 58:15.

2016 Princess Half Marathon

Since the 10K was added, each race weekend has featured a different princess - this year it was Ariel, so all of the medals and neck ribbons had an ocean theme. That's been nice to see.

2016 Princess Enchanted 10K medal

We got our usual runDisney MRE boxes. Not a bad variety, though I miss the Almond Roca!

2016 Princess Half Marathon food box

We didn't hang around the post-race area very long. While walking back to the car we met Lisa, a long-time reader of this blog. We've corresponded a bit, and it was great to finally meet her in person! Hi Lisa - and congratulations on your excellent race (she placed in her age group!).

2016 Enchanted 10K

We tried to mostly rest and relax for the rest of the day, since the half marathon was the next day.

Coming up: The Disney Princess Half Marathon



February 5, 2016

2016 Disneyland Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend - Part 4 - Dining

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During our three days at Disneyland for the Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend, we tried a few different dining options. We (gasp!) did not have any meals at our usual pre-race favorite, Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta!

Friday evening we were tired after a long week at work, driving in traffic to Anaheim, visiting the Expo, and checking into our hotel. So we wanted something fairly easy, and went to Earl of Sandwich in Downtown Disney. It was about 6:00, and we were surprised that the line wasn't very long.

They have some new items on the "Get the Skinny" menu, which are under 400 calories. There's a BBQ Chicken Flatbread, Quinoa Chicken Salad, and Turkey Wrap. They looked interesting but I opted for one of my favorites: The Holiday Turkey, with turkey, cranberry sauce, dressing, and gravy. Yum.

Earl of Sandwich Holiday Turkey

I also had a cup of the Chicken Noodle soup. It was good, but it was a small serving - they didn't fill the cup very full.

Earl of Sandwich Chicken Noodle

Lee had The Original 1762 - roast beef with horseradish sauce.

Earl of Sandwich Original 1762

Lee also picked up a container of Brownie Bites. These were surprisingly good! Moist and chewy and very chocolaty and satisfying. We really enjoyed these - we still had a couple left on Monday, and even then they were still very good!

Earl of Sandwich Brownie Bite

Earl of Sandwich Menu

On Saturday morning after the 10K and Kids Races we went into Disneyland - I wanted to try the breakfast menu at the Galactic Grill, which has Star Wars-inspired menu items.

I tried the Bantha Blue Milk Bread. This was essentially French toast, served with bacon and fresh fruit. It was pretty good.

Galactic Grill Bantha Blue Milk Bread

Lee went with the Darth Tamale. A blue corn tamale with scrambled eggs, chorizo, red chili sauce and tomatillo salsa. I had a bite and found that the chili sauce was pretty spicy. I couldn't have eaten this but Lee really enjoyed it, enough that he recommended it to several other people. Though with the caution that it was for people who like spicy food.

Galactic Grill Darth Tamale

Galactic Grill Breakfast Menu

That afternoon we had something from Lucky Fortune Cookery. I like the idea of rice bowls and veggies with choice of meat and sauce, but they use peppers in the veggie mix, which makes it inedible for me. But on the kid's menu there's a chicken and brown rice offering, served with oranges and carrots - but no peppers. So I tried that. It was a good-sized serving and I liked it. The oranges were on top of the chicken, and the carrots were in a bag. There was a mild teriyaki type of sauce on the chicken. I'd get that again.

Lucky Fortune Cookery Kids Chicken and Rice

Lee ordered the beef bowl with teriyaki sauce. He liked it.

Lucky Fortune Cookery Teriyaki Beef

Lucky Fortune Cookery Menu

That evening a group of us went to Naples in Downtown Disney for dinner. We had a reservation for 5:30. As you might expect, it was a popular choice on the night before a race, and there was a long line to check in. Some in our party knew from previous experience that it was for walk-ups, and that those with reservations checked in at the podium inside. Once our fearless leader did that, we were soon seated at an outside table.

It was coolish evening, but there were gas heaters around us, so that was fine - until they ran out of propane. And then apparently there were no additional gas canisters to be had, so it got a little chilly by the time we left.

Unlike our experience at Italian restaurants at Walt Disney World, Naples had a couple of "runner's specials" in addition to their regular menu. These included salad as well as pasta choices. We didn't go for any of those, though.

Our server (Amazing Amanda!) brought us fresh bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Must...Not...Fill...Up...On...Bread....(But it's sooo good!)

As an entree I ordered Agnolotti - housemade cheese ravioli with fresh tomato and basil sauce. I requested marinara rather than basil sauce - I love pesto, but it can be too garlicky the night before a race. It was very good.

Naples Restaurant Agnolotti

Lee tried the Lasagna, a traditional eight layer lasagna with Bolognese meat sauce, béchamel and Parmesan cheese. He enjoyed it.

Naples Restaurant Lasagna

Some of our dining companions ordered the Spaghetti and Meatballs.

Naples Restaurant Spaghetti and Meatballs

The restaurant was quite busy, but we didn't feel rushed to finish, and had a very nice meal. Naples is not my favorite restaurant but this was a very nice experience.

Naples Restaurant Menu

Sunday morning after the half marathon and a hot shower we met friends at the UVA Bar for breakfast. Lee and I had never had breakfast here before, but our friend Eddie really likes it - and he had already gotten a table for all of us. It's outdoor seating, but there was a heat lamp nearby (that had plenty of propane ;-) ) and we were warm enough. It was fun to people-watch and see all of the runners coming by in their medals and costumes. We saw several people we knew.

We started with celebratory mimosas, and then ordered breakfast. :-) I went with "2 Organic Eggs", served with potatoes and choice of toast. Thankfully there were no peppers in the eggs! Nothing fancy, but it was nicely prepared.

UVA Bar Two Organic Eggs Breakfast

Lee went with the Breakfast Burrito with scrambled eggs, potatoes, applewood smoked bacon, mild red chile sauce, and aged cheddar. This looked very good, and he liked it.

UVA Bar Breakfast Burrito

Eddie tried the Buttermilk Pancakes, and enjoyed those.

UVA Bar Buttermilk Pancakes

Phill ordered the Steel Cut Oats, which was served with honey, raisins, and almonds. I didn't get a picture of that - oatmeal is just not very photogenic. :-)

We enjoyed the food and ambiance and especially the company - definitely a place we'll consider returning to for breakfast on a future Disneyland trip.

UVA Bar & Cafe Breakfast Menu

We didn't really have lunch - we had an afternoon snack at Ghirardelli. :-) I had my new favorite Nob Hill Chill, though it wasn't quite as thick this time as I like it.

Ghirardelli Nob Hill Chill

Lee had the Sea Salt Caramel Sundae.

Ghirardelli Sea Salt Caramel Sundae

For dinner, we joined several friends at Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen. Lee and I have eaten here several times before and have always enjoyed the food, and there's a lot of variety on the menu. Our friends told us later that it was the best meal they had on their visit - and they'd eaten at several other Disney table service restaurants.

We had an early reservation, and were seated in the corner of the big room upstairs. That was nice and out of the way. It was quiet when we arrived, but it got a lot noisier as the place filled up. Oh well...we enjoyed it while we could.

There were several specialty cocktails on the menu. This is The Blue Marquise, in honor of Disneyland's 60th anniversary. The color apparently came from 44th North Huckleberry Vodka. It was very pretty and quite tasty.

Ralph Brennans Blue Marquise

Lee and I shared an appetizer: Boudin Balls. Slow roasted cochon pork, dirty rice, Creole mustard aioli with Tabasco pepper jelly. They were deep-fried, and they were really, really good.

Ralph Brennans Boudin Balls

Another couple shared the Louisiana Crab Cake - with fire roasted corn cucumber salsa and Creole mustard drizzle. They liked it.

Ralph Brennans Crab Cake

Since I knew I wanted dessert, I didn't order an entree, and instead ordered soup and salad. The soup of the day was tomato and artichoke, and it was excellent.

Ralph Brennans Soup of the Day

I ordered the house French Quarter salad - mixed greens, candied pecans, cherry tomatoes and cider vinaigrette. Not too exciting, but it was a nice salad.

Ralph Brennans French Quarter Salad

Lee ordered the classic BBQ Shrimp and Grits with barbecue sauce and andouille-parmesan grits. Very good.

Ralph Brennans BBQ Shrimp & Grits

Other entrees:

Blackened Chicken Mac & Cheese - Applewood smoked bacon, caramelized onions, oven roasted tomatoes, baby arugula and rosemary garlic ciabatta bread.

Ralph Brennans Blackened Chicken Mac & Cheese

Grilled Medallions of Beef - Filet mignon, crawfish mashed potatoes, bacon & pecan-crusted green beans and a zinfandel reduction.

Ralph Brennans Grilled Medallions of Beef

Gumbo Ya-Ya - Chicken, andouille sausage, dark roux, Creole seasoning and rice.

Ralph Brennans Crab Cake Gumbo Ya-Ya

Southern Fried Chicken - highly recommended by our server, and a winner. With smoked gouda mac & cheese, bacon braised turnip greens, lemon-pepper gravy.

Ralph Brennans Southern Fried Chicken

As I mentioned, I didn't order an entree because I knew what I wanted for dessert: Double Chocolate Bread Pudding. It takes about 25 minutes to prepare and should be pre-ordered - the servers should ask about it in plenty of time so that you don't end up waiting for it. It's served with dark chocolate and white chocolate sauce - use one or the other or both. This is a dessert for two (or more) people to share...Lee and I only got through about 2/3 of ours. Really good.

Ralph Brennans Double Chocolate Bread Pudding

This was a wonderful meal with great company, and we really enjoyed it.

Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen Dinner Menu

Monday morning a group of us did early entry at DCA. After two rides on Radiator Springs Racers (for our first ride we were in the first group of cars for the day!) and a wrist and arm workout on Toy Story Midway Mania, we went in search of breakfast.

Pacific Wharf Cafe is no longer serving breakfast, and neither is Cozy Cone #3. :-( That left Fiddler, Fifer and Practical Cafe (Starbucks) and Flo's V8 Cafe as our only options. So we went to Flo's. I decided I wanted some Churro Bites from Cozy Cone #1, but when I got there was very disappointed to find that they no longer serve Churro Bites - just regular churros. Not what I wanted.

I don't like the scrambled eggs at Flo's - they are baked or steamed or something and have a weird texture. I had the fruit plate, which came with yogurt and a mini oat bran muffin.

Flo's Breakfast Fruit Plate

Lee had the American Breakfast, with the aforementioned weird eggs, potatoes, bacon and a biscuit. That's another thing I don't like about Flo's - the potatoes have peppers in them.

Flo's American Breakfast

Kim had the Kids Waffles - this came with turkey bacon and fruit. It's a pretty decent-sized breakfast, I think!

Flo's Kids Waffle Breakfast

Someone else had the Chicken Tamale, topped with scrambled eggs and salsa verde. This is pretty good, except that I think the tamale has too much masa and not enough filling. It's very attractive, though.

Flo's Chicken Tamale

Flo's V8 Cafe Breakfast Menu

By lunch time almost all of our playmates had departed for the airport, but there were still four of us left, so Dave and Holly and Lee and I all went to Trader Sam's. We were just in time to get a table inside as another party was leaving. It's noisier in there, but more fun. The one bartender was really into all of the special drink effects, and that made it a lot more entertaining.

Trader Sam's

I had a Passionate Python, with a couple different types of rum, passion fruit juice, and other tropical juices.

Trader Sam's Passionate Python

Lee went with the Piranha Pool - Strawberry vodka blended with pineapple juice, cream of coconut, strawberry puree, and blue Curacao. This is a good one.

Trader Sam's Piranha Pool

I think Holly has not yet forgiven me for suggesting the Murky Mojito to her. :-) Rum, fresh lime juice, mint and agave nectar topped with Angostura Bitters - she said it was really strong.

Trader Sam's Murky Mojito

We had food, too. I tried the Shrimp Tacos, which were new to me. They were quite good.

Trader Sam's Shrimp Tacos

Lee and Dave both had the Kalua Pork Flatbread, which I did not photograph, but you can see the corner of it in the Piranha Pool photo above.

Holly had part of Dave's flatbread, but also ordered the Panko-Crusted Chinese Long Beans, which she shared with the rest of us - those are so good.

Trader Sam's Panko-Crusted Long Beans

Trader Sam's Menu

That was our final meal for this particular trip. It was fun to have some new experiences this time, and especially to share a number of meals with good friends.








January 21, 2016

2016 Disneyland Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend - Part 2, 10K and Kids Races

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January 16, 2016 - Star Wars 10K

3:30 came much too early, though I didn't sleep much and was awake before 3:00. Doesn't matter how many races I've done, I always get pre-race jitters.

I wore the same Queen Amidala costume I made for last year's 10K - I'm into recycling. The white makeup is the most time-consuming part of this. Lee had a new X-wing fighter costume. He'd wanted to wear this one for the half marathon, but since it was a new costume that he'd never run in before he opted to wear it for the shorter distance instead. (It turned out to be just fine for running.)

As you might have heard, runDisney announced new costume guidelines in early January. Basically no weapons, no masks, no long dresses or anything that might conceal a weapon. Interesting that Jedi robes were specifically called out as prohibited. Items that were expressly allowed were plastic swords and plastic light sabers, tutus, and transparent wings. Fortunately neither of our costumes required any last-minute modifications.

With all of the new costume regulations and security screening measures we allowed a little bit of extra time to get to the start area, though it turned out that we didn't need it. The screening was fast and efficient. (If you're new to Disneyland races - one of the best things about them is that if you're staying in any of the Disney hotels or any of the nearby hotels, it's a short walk to the start line. No bus transportation required.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

The pre-race area is so much less crowded for the 10K than for the half marathon - but 10,000 runners as opposed to 14,000 will do that. :-) We met up with friends and made the obligatory porta-pottie stops before heading to our corrals.

The weather was GREAT!!!! It was 50 degrees at the start, with very little (if any) wind. The humidity was pretty high - probably 90%. Still, it made for excellent running conditions and even waiting around before the race wasn't too bad for everyone dressed in skimpy running clothes (or even skimpier Slave Leia outfits).

Lee and I were in Corral A. I still find it interesting that my current proof of time gets me Corral A in California but only Corral D in Florida. Who knew east coast runners were so much faster! I really like being in Corral A - it's so nice to be where we can actually SEE the start line, instead of looking at a screen from a corral far far away. While we were waiting we watched scenes from Star Wars Rebels and one of the trailers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I think everyone had seen the movie at least once - it should've been a requirement for participation. :-)

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

A Disneyland Cast Member sang the National Anthem, and it was time for Rudy Novotny's famous "Runners....set...GOOOOOOOOOO!" Accompanied by hyperspace graphics on the big screen.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

As I mentioned earlier, it was a new 10K course this year. We've asked for more time on property, and they gave us more time on property. :-) But be careful what you wish for - an awful lot of it was backstage in some pretty uninteresting areas. We were almost to mile 2 before we finally entered a "real" part of a park. And it was not a fast course: narrow in places, and there were some very sharp turns where the course doubled back on itself. You couldn't take those very fast.

But we did get to see a lot of the parks - I think in Disneyland we were in every land except Toon Town, and we ran through most of DCA. So I have to say that the race organizers really found a way to design a course to maximize the amount of on-stage time that we had.

With the new course, this year instead of the first mile+ being outside the parks, we were only outside for about 1/2 mile, and then ducked backstage off Ball Rd. next to the Team Disney Anaheim building.

Boba Fett was out for photos in a backstage area even before the mile 1 marker. There was already a long line and we didn't stop. Our goal was BB-8, so we were running pretty hard, and only planned to stop if we saw a pretty short line.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

As I mentioned we spent a LOT of time backstage, some of it in areas I don't think I'd ever run in before. We ran next to the monorail track around much of the eastern perimeter of Disneyland. It was quite dark in places - they really needed some additional lights. Had the running surface been uneven it could have been a real problem, but fortunately it wasn't. Watching over us, Yoda was. :-)

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

We ran under the bus/tram lot (pretty much the only hill we had on the course), then made a hard right turn in a DCA backstage area, and eventually ended up out on the Esplanade and into Disneyland's main entrance. But we only ran past Town Square before going backstage again, coming back into the park between Redd Rockett's and Innoventions. Unlike last year we didn't run all around Tomorrowland: we headed straight for the hub past Star Tours. And then something different: we ran through the castle from the front side to the back - all of the other courses go the other way.

A quick tour through Fantasyland and then we ran up towards "it's a small world", which still has all of its holiday decorations. We ducked backstage again next to the Fantasyland Theater, ran through a tunnel, and emerged onto the Big Thunder Trail.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

We ran along the perimeter of Frontierland, and saw Ezra and Sabine from Star Wars Rebels next to The Golden Horseshoe. The line was fairly short so we stopped.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon Rebels

In front of the Haunted Mansion we made a 180 degree turn and ran back along the upper level of the walkway along the Rivers of America and entered Adventureland. The Mile 3 sign was in front of The Jungle Cruise.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

Then we ran down Main Street. There were First Order Stormtroopers at the train station, but we ran past them and across the Esplanade into DCA.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

We turned left at the Walt and Mickey statue and ran up Hollywood Blvd. And at the end of the street, finally, was BB-8! There were a lot of people waiting, but we didn't care - we knew the line was only going to get a lot longer! While zigzagging in the queue we at one point ended up next to another woman who was also dressed as Queen Amidala - in a much more elaborate costume than mine. In addition to a more authentic robe she had the full headdress! I don't know how she ran in that, but she looked great.

2016 Star Wars 10K Queen Amidala running costume

It took about 12 minutes until we got our chance to meet BB-8. The cast member who took my phone told us not to touch his head, and to look at the real photographer first, and then at her. It was all very efficient, and she got a nice photo of us. We heard later that the line for BB-8 eventually went down Hollywood Blvd all the way to Award Wieners, and was estimated to be 35 minutes long.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon BB-8

This seems like a good place to say that I thought that the race organizers did a much better job of handling the lines at the character stops this year. There were masking tape queues already marked on the ground and there were CMs managing the end of the line as well as multiple CMs handling runners' cameras and giving us instructions on how it was going to work. It really seemed to help keep the lines moving as quickly as possible.

After leaving BB-8 we went backstage again next to Tower of Terror. And then we did what was my least favorite part of the course: this weird loop out to the Toy Story tram area and back. Obviously just a means of adding some additional distance because there was nothing to see out there. But it's always rather frustrating to be running and then see runners that are ahead of you coming back towards you on the other side of the course.

2016 Star Wars 10K

We ran behind Cars Land, then back into the park at the Pacific Wharf, through Radiator Springs, behind the Tower of Terror, and then into Flik's Fun Faire and past Mile 5.

2016 Star Wars 10K

R2D2 and C-3PO were at the exit of "a bug's land". This line didn't look as long as BB-8, but we still waited 10 minutes. I was disappointed that all of the photos the CM took were out of focus - this was the best one.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon R2D2 Threepio

We ran all the way around Paradise Pier and then in front of Grizzly River Run. We were just about to exit DCA next to Soarin' when I spotted a photo stop with the speeder bikes. This didn't seem to have a long line, but it took longer for people to get set up with it, so we probably waited 8-10 minutes.

2016 Star Wars 10K

The last part of the race was through Downtown Disney. Lots of people to cheer us on to the finish line. I'd looked at my watch when we left the speeder bikes and realized we could finish in less than 1:30 if we booked it, so we did. Lee had more energy than I did and finished in 1:29:33, while I came in at 1:29:53. Not bad considering we had over 30 minutes of photo stops - our running time for the 10K was under an hour.

2016 Star Wars 10K finish

We got our lovely X-wing fighter medals! I'm really pleased that they changed up the 10K medal this year - hope that will continue for next year's race.

2016 Star Wars 10K medal

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

In the finish area was a nifty backdrop of the Wampa cave from The Empire Strikes Back. We had to wait for a while to do that, but we were still feeling good and we were warm enough, even though the temperature was only 52 degrees.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

The finish area was not too crowded, and I liked the decor around the stage area.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon

We got the usual runDisney snack boxes, though the stuff inside was a little more interesting this time. The "puffed corn" one is surprisingly good.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon snack boxes

As we made our way back to the hotel we had to cross the race course near ESPN Club. Sometimes this takes a long time, but we got across with just a short wait. We've learned from past experience that on 10K days it's easier to return to the Grand Californian by walking past Earl of Sandwich down to the Paradise Pier and crossing Disneyland Drive there rather than trying to make our way through Downtown Disney along the race course.

I still love a good Disney 10K - and this is a good one. Though I still haven't decided what I thought about the new course. On one hand I like that it was almost all on property, but on the other hand I didn't like all the backstage areas, and especially all of the doubling back. I give them an "A" for effort, though. And while we didn't have any issues with course crowding I heard that it was a problem for those who started further back, and that there were places they just couldn't run because there were too many people.

One of my biggest complaints last year was character photo ops. I think there was one more this year than last year, and in addition to the characters, there were a couple of set pieces: the speeder bikes and the trash compactor (from episode IV) - though we didn't stop for that one during the 10K. Now that you can get photos with Chewbacca and Boba Fett in Disneyland, I didn't feel the need to stop for those photo ops. But I was very excited about BB-8 and R2D2 and Threepio - those were Must Dos for us. I'm still disappointed that there were no Disney characters in Star Wars costumes, though. We KNOW those outfits exist! Maybe if I keep mentioning it, someone will eventually take notice and it will happen.

Overall it was a good race experience, and we will plan to do it again next year.

After we'd showered and changed I actually did something that I've never done at a Disney race weekend before: I went to watch some of the Kids Races. We have friends whose 15-month-old son was participating in his first runDisney Kids race - the 100 meter run/walk/toddle.

There were four different events - the 100, 200, and 400 meter races, and the Diaper Dash. Distance is determined by age group: under 12 months for the Diaper Dash, and 1-3, 4-6, and 7-8 years for the others. The races used the Downtown Disney parking lot for staging, but the final 100 meters and the finish line were the same used for all of the other races. After finishing they continued into the same post-race refreshment/reunion area, also.

The 100 meter event was first, and the kids and their parents (all these kids had at least one parent with them) were already lined up in the holding area when I arrived. Wow...there were a lot more than I expected! I heard the announcers say 500 kids, though I don't know if that was over all events, or that was how many were in the 100-meter.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon Kids Races

My little friend A and his mom were already lined up, so I went and found A's dad near the finish line. Carissa Bealert and Rudy Novotny were the race announcers for these races, also, and they were joined at the finish line by special guest Chewbacca.

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon Kids Races

They sent the kids off in groups of about 50. There were some pretty fast runners in that 100-meter group of 1-3-year-olds, but the majority of them were walking, most of them holding tightly to Mom or Dad's hand. And some of them just couldn't make it and were carried across the finish line. :-) There were a few tears, too. A lot of the kids and the parents were dressed in costume. Mostly Star Wars, but there were some Princesses and Mickeys and Minnies, too.

Some of them were thrilled by Chewbacca, but a lot of them weren't quite sure about him. There were lots of "Awwww" moments, as you can see if you look at the expressions of the women in the background of this photograph. :-)

2016 Star Wars Kids races

There were bananas and bottles of water available afterwards for the kids. And they all received a Yoda finisher medallion.

2016 Star Wars Kids races

I'm happy to say that A did just great in his first race, and walked the whole thing. He looked adorable in the Han Solo costume his mom made for him, and she was dressed as Chewbacca. And he seemed very proud of his rubber medal - though he gave it a test chew and did not seem impressed. :-)

I only saw the one race, but this was a fun event - I can understand why the Kid's Races sell out so quickly.


Next up: The Star Wars Half Marathon







January 20, 2016

2016 Disneyland Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend - Part 1

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January 2016 - time for the second annual Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend at Disneyland. I thought last year's inaugural event was an unqualified success so I was interested in seeing what changes they might make this year. I'm happy to report that it was still a great event, and has firmly solidified its position as my favorite runDisney race weekend.

Star Wars Half Marathonr

There weren't any huge changes this year. A few more runners (14,000 in the half vs. 12,000 last year), since they decided the courses could handle it, and I thought there was a better variety of merchandise - and more of it. The biggest changes were to the race courses for the 10K and half marathon, but I'll get to those later.

For the first time since 2012 we did not participate in Marathon Weekend at Walt Disney World and then return to the west coast and run a half marathon at Disneyland a week later (two weeks later in 2012). It felt strange not to be at Marathon Weekend, but we were certainly a lot more rested going into this race weekend than we usually are. :-) Though we weren't as well trained, since we hadn't trained to run a marathon this last season.

We did not participate in the 5K on Friday morning, though we had a number of friends who did. It was very exciting when all of the photos from the on-course character stops started coming in on Facebook and Twitter, and I saw that BB-8 was one of this year's characters! Squeee!!! That was a must-do as far as I was concerned. The other characters were Chewbacca, Ezra and Sabine (Star Wars Rebels), and R2D2 and 3-PO.

Although we weren't there, we heard from friends about the official merchandise lines at the Expo, which was held at the Convention Center in the Disneyland Hotel. Thursday was opening day, which has historically been very busy, since many people want first chance at the merchandise before some of the limited items sell out. Disney has learned from past experience and had things under control and well-organized again this year. Shoppers were queued upstairs in one of the large convention center ballrooms and then escorted downstairs to another queue then admitted to the merchandise area in groups. In the ballroom one of the Star Wars movies was playing, so at least there was some entertainment. Our friends waited for over an hour on Thursday morning, but they were able to purchase everything they wanted.

Star Wars Half Marathon Expo entrance

We arrived at the Expo about 4:15 on Friday afternoon. As usual, packet pickup was a breeze - no lines. Lee was signed up for the Rebel Challenge; I had signed up individually for the 10K and half marathon. (We were traveling when registration opened, and it was logistically challenging to get both of us registered - and the Rebel Challenge was more important to Lee than to me.) But that was before I knew they were going to change up the Rebel Challenge medal - it was different this year. Still, Lee was getting one so there would be one in the family.

Speaking of the medals, they displayed them differently in the Expo this time. Instead of hanging in the runDisney booth where we could handle them, they were on display in cases.

This was my first opportunity to see the Kessel Run challenge medal in person (the one we will receive for completing both the Disneyland and Walt Disney World Star Wars half marathons) - it's fabulous.

Kessel Run Challenge Medal

All of the Star Wars Dark Side medals look great.

Star Wars Dark Side medals

As usual, they had done up the actual entrance to the Expo nicely with different banners.

Star Wars Half Marathon banner

Star Wars Half Marathon banner

Star Wars Half Marathon banner

Once inside we picked up our race shirts. Really nice designs this year, though some of us joked that the 10K shirts were recycled from unused 2014 Wine and Dine half marathon shirts, since they are the same color.

Star Wars Half Marathon shirts

I was very disappointed that I wasn't registered for the Rebel Challenge since the shirt has R2D2 on it!!! Sigh. I won't make that mistake next year.

Star Wars Rebel Challenge shirt

We went over to the official merchandise area. At almost 5:00 there was still a line to get in, though it wasn't too bad - we waited 10 minutes or so. Inside there still seemed to be a good variety of merchandise remaining.

Star Wars Half Marathon merchandise

There were lots of Rebel Challenge items.

Star Wars Half Marathon merchandise

Star Wars Half Marathon merchandise

I thought this one was clever - 13.0999. :-)

Star Wars Half Marathon merchandise

Some items were down to limited sizes, though - Lee would've purchased the men's version of this shirt but it was only available in a medium.

Star Wars Half Marathon merchandise

One wall had only runDisney branded merchandise, so it was obvious that some items had sold out.

runDisney merchandise

All of the "I Did It" shirts were still available, most in both men's and women's cut.

Star Wars Half Marathon I Did It

There was still a good selection of magnets - I purchased the race weekend magnet.

Star Wars Half Marathon merchandise

The only mini medal pins were the half marathon, Rebel Challenge, and Coast-to-Coast pins. I would've bought a 10K medal pin, though I'm not sure that one was available at all. There seemed to be plenty of race pins available.

Star Wars Half Marathon pins

There's a new Coast-to-Coast shirt this year.

Star Wars Half Marathon merchandise

Most of the race shirts featuring Inside Out and other characters were still available.

Star Wars Half Marathon merchandise

There were also mugs and water bottles, headbands, pins, and a very nice messenger-style bag. I was happy to see that there weren't racks of generic Star Wars merchandise like we saw last year when they had run out of so much of the race merchandise.

Star Wars Half Marathon merchandise

Star Wars Half Marathon merchandise

The rest of the expo seemed to have the usual merchants. Champion had some new shirts that were mashups of Star Wars and (mostly California) universities.

Star Wars Half Marathon merchandise

Star Wars Half Marathon merchandise

New Balance has new Disney shoe styles. These were much more appealing than last year's black and white shoes and there lots of people purchasing them. We continue to resist the temptation. (One of the few runDisney temptations that we have successfully resisted, if truth be told. ;-) )

2016 New Balance Disney shoes

In the lobby outside the Expo there was a photo op. No line, so we had the CM there take our photo.

Star Wars Half Marathon photo op

Expo done, we checked into the Grand Californian (thank goodness for DVC points) and unpacked, had dinner, etc.. We made it an early night, since 3:30 a.m. was going to come early for the 10K wake-up call the next morning.

To Be Continued...







November 21, 2015

2015 Avengers Half Marathon Weekend - Part 2

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Avengers Half Marathon Start Line

Sunday - Avengers Half Marathon

Jet lag caught up to me Saturday night and I went to bed at 8:30. I never even heard the Disneyland fireworks! So 3:30 didn't seem quite so early - I was awake before then. We had our usual yogurt and bagels in the room. Lee also went to the Hearthstone Lounge (which opened at 4:00) to get coffee.

Today our costumes were Princess Captain America (finally able to wear my tiara again!) and Hawkeye. Same costumes we wore last year, but why mess with a good thing? Unlike last year, this year there were actually two people who recognized that I was Princess Captain America. Lee's Hawkeye costume got most of the attention, though. There weren't too many Hawkeyes out there, plus he looked really good (though I told him he was smiling too much. ;-) )

It was another perfect morning for running! 54 degrees, 55% humidity and no wind. There was not going to be a repeat of last year's Santa Ana wind event that sandblasted us. That was pretty challenging. No shortening of the race course for us this week - we were going to have to run the full 13.1! :-)

Even though there were more participants in this race (11,000 as opposed to 7,000 the day before) we ended up a little further forward in Corral A than we had the day before. Before the race started they brought Captain America on the start line stage along with runners who were representatives of each branch of the Armed Forces.

Avengers Half Marathon Start Line

The National anthem was performed by a serviceman - unfortunately I do not remember his name or rank.

Avengers Half Marathon anthem singer

The race started a few minutes late, but we were off and running. The first part of the course was like last year, and from Disneyland Drive we very quickly turned left to run behind DCA. What I do not like about this course is that the parks portion is very short: by mile 2.5 we are out of the parks.

Because we stopped for all of the characters the day before we were only planning to stop for Hawkeye this time. Black Widow was near the Golden Vine Winery and had a pretty long line. Hawkeye was near the exit to DCA. His line was longer than any that we waited in yesterday - almost 5 minutes.

Avengers Half Marathon Hawkeye

There was another Hawkeye in line behind us. :-)

Avengers Half Marathon Hawkeye

We ran across the Esplanade into Disneyland. Thor and Captain America were in Disneyland but both had lines and we didn't stop. Besides, there was no way I was going to top my Captain America encounter from the day before! :-)

It was disappointing that there were only the four characters again. Though I guess the advantage is that if you run multiple races you have multiple chances to get at least one photo taken with them. There were S.H.I.E.L.D agents in various areas of the parks who were cheering us on, and even some HYDRA agents. (I kept getting suspicious anytime that we were told to "HYDRAte HYDRAte HYDRAte.")

Avengers Half Marathon SHIELD Agent

My biggest issue with this race is the lack of park time: by mile 2.5 we were out of the parks and out onto the streets. We still had some entertainment - there were lots of cheerleaders in the business areas. But some parts of the course during miles 4-7 had us running by houses and apartment buildings and that was quiet since people were still sleeping.

At least this year there was no wind to blow all of the mile markers down! :-)

Avengers Half Marathon Mile 4

The course was a little different this year - it seemed like we were on the Santa Ana Trail longer. And we were running on the east side of the trail and not the west like last year. The cosplayers were along the trail again. It seemed to me like there were fewer than last year, but it might be that they were closer together. I wish I'd taken more photos - there was a really amazing Loki!

Avengers Half Marathon Cosplayers

We were surprised to see our friend Caitlin cheering - it was great to see her! (And I loved her Peggy Carter outfit.)

Avengers Half Marathon Cosplay Agent Carter

There were banners with different Avengers characters placed along the trail - they'd had these outside the Expo entrance originally.

Avengers Half Marathon banner

We exited the Santa Ana Trail at Angel Stadium.

Avengers Half Marathon Angel Stadium

There were lots of cheerleaders in the stands, rather than the Boy and Girl Scouts that we see during the Disneyland Half Marathon.

In the parking lot outside there were the military re-enactors. They looked terrific, and they were very enthusiastic!

There was also a group of swing dancers, but they weren't performing when we ran by.

The newest Avenger movie hero, Antman, was also represented on some of the signs and banners. I'm used to the Disneyland Half Marathon course where this point is mile 10, but it was only mile 9 - that was a little discouraging. We had to take a longer route back to make up the extra mile to the finish area.

Avengers Half Marathon Mile 9

More S.H.I.E.L.D. agents were waiting for us at mile 12. We were ready to be finished. That half mile behind DCA is a little tough because there's very few people cheering for us - just a few cast members. They do their best but lack the numbers to really energize us. It's a lot better once we cross Disneyland Drive as there are always a lot of cheerleaders next to the Paradise Pier Hotel and they generate plenty of energy. From there to the finish there are lots of spectators lining the course to cheer us to the end.

Avengers Half Marathon Mile 12

I got a nice shout out from race announcer Rudy Novotny as I approached the finish line. And the announcers were counting Hawkeyes - Lee was number four. :-) I finished in 2:22:29 - anytime I finish a Disney half marathon in under 2:25 I'm very happy with that.

Avengers Half Marathon finish line

We collected our half marathon and Infinity Gauntlet medals. The Gauntlet medal is interesting - it has a big purple stone on the back, and the word: "SPACE". I wonder whether the medals will be different next year? I guess that's one way to keep people coming back...

Avengers Half Marathon finisher medal

We didn't linger in the finish area - we needed to get back to our room to shower and pack, since we were checking out and (finally) going home that day after 11 days of food, fun, and running.

Avengers Half Marathon Hawkeye running costume

I enjoyed the race a lot more than last year since the weather was so much better. We lucked out with the wind, though - the day after the race we again had very strong winds in southern California!

There were some minor changes to the course this year which I think made it better, though the entrance to the Santa Ana Trail we used this time was pretty narrow and had a sharp turn. Later in the race that might have been congested, though it wasn't bad for us. I enjoyed running along the trail. The area we ran was all paved, though I wouldn't have minded running on dirt!

It was again wonderful to see all of the cosplayers come out and support the runners - they were terrific.

I think this race is a lot of fun if you want to run in costume - it's pretty easy to find an appropriate shirt, and then decide how much more you want to put into it. While there were lots of Captain Americas, Thors, Iron Men, and Hulks, I saw a number of Wonder Womans, Spidermans, and even some Guardians of the Galaxy characters. I was surprised at all of the people who carried hammers and Captain America shields for the entire half marathon (I carried a shield, but it was a small one).

Thank you to all of the volunteers, cast members, cheerleaders, bands, cosplayers, and spectators for all of your support - we couldn't do it without you!

Even now that I've run this race twice, this second time in optimal weather conditions, I'm still not quite sure what I think of it. I really enjoy the Avengers/Super Heroes theme, but there should be more characters on the course. It's a great time of year for a race weekend in southern California because the temperature is generally going to be cool - MUCH better than conditions for the Disneyland Half Marathon weekend. I enjoy the Santa Ana Trail part of the course, but there's too little park time. The Star Wars and Tinker Bell weekends at Disneyland are still my favorites, but I think Avengers edges out Disneyland because of the weather - it's just too hot in September.

I'm glad runDisney added the 10K this year. It's a great distance, and I really like the course. Two miles in the beginning to let us spread out, and then all on Disney property with lots of park time.

That said, I'm not sure if I will run this race next year...or maybe I'll just run the 10K. Registration opens April 5, 2016, so I have some time to think about it.

Thanks for reading!






November 20, 2015

Avengers Half Marathon Weekend - Part 1

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Avengers Half Marathon

The third stop on our Eat, Drink, and Run tour was Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon Weekend at Disneyland. Our first event was the 10K on Saturday. But we didn't get off the cruise ship until Friday morning. Makes for tight timing when have to fly cross country so you can get to the Race Expo before it closes on Friday.

When we first talked about this trip our friend Eddie had the brilliant idea that we should fly in/out of John Wayne Airport in Orange County rather than from San Diego - thus saving ourselves the hassle of trying to get from San Diego to Orange County during Friday afternoon traffic. It worked out great. By driving to John Wayne Airport (SNA) and flying from there we could leave our clothes/costumes for the Disneyland portion of the trip in the car (and Lee had a couple of large costume pieces), and have our car for transportation to Disneyland and then back home after the race on Sunday.

As an added bonus - SNA is a REALLY nice airport! We were very impressed. Even the TSA people were very nice!

I used snagaspace.com to pre-pay for parking at a hotel near the airport, which saved us over 40% of what we would have paid for airport parking. The hotel shuttles were very efficient and the process worked very well.

Friday afternoon traffic in Orange County was still a bear, and it took us almost an hour to get from the parking lot to the Grand Californian. Yikes. But we still arrived about 6:00 - plenty of time to hit the Expo and pick up our bibs and shirts.

I really liked the red (half marathon), white (10K), and blue (challenge) shirts! Just wish they were short sleeve.

Avengers Half Marathon shirts

We visited the official merchandise area. There was still some variety left, but a lot of things were sold out. I think all of the magnets were still available, but of the mini medal pins only the 1/2 marathon and Coast-to-Coast pins were left. And there were NO race pins at all. Apparently this time they were ONLY available as pre-orders. I know a lot of people were disappointed about that.

Avengers Half Marathon magnets

All of the "I Did It" shirts were available.

Avengers Half Marathon shirts

Eddie had picked up this Hawkeye shirt for Lee earlier in the day, just in case, but they were still on the rack when we arrived.

Hawkeye shirt

And Lee also liked this "Avengers Race Weekend" shirt.

Avengers Half Marathon Weekend shirt

We didn't wander around the rest of the Expo because we still needed to check into the hotel AND we were hungry! It was going on 10:00 for us by then, since we'd come from the east coast.

After dinner we finished unpacking and getting our costumes ready for the next morning, and set the alarm for 3:45.

Saturday - Captain America 10K

Captain America 10K logo

3:45 doesn't seem nearly as early when you've just come from the east coast. :-) We'd brought bagels and peanut butter, and had purchased yogurt in Whitewater Snacks the night before so we had something to eat before the race.

We met several friends in the pre-race area - four of us were in costume. Since it was the Captain America 10K, Lee dressed as Captain America (and he had the shield strapped to his back!), and I went as Agent Peggy Carter. As you might expect there were a lot of Captain Americas in the race, but I only saw a few other Peggys.

Avengers Half Marathon

The weather was absolutely perfect! 52 degrees, low humidity, almost no wind. I wore a trash bag and arm sleeves while waiting for the race to start, but even without the trash bag I think I would've been ok. Once I started running I was very comfortable, and didn't need the sleeves after mile 2.

When we picked up our bibs the night before we were very surprised to find that we were assigned to Corral A for both races! The same proof of time had put us in D for Wine and Dine. There must be more serious runners in the Florida race. We had both worked pretty hard earlier this year to improve our time and ran a couple of fast (for us) races. We were about 2/3 back in Corral A, but it was still nice to get a better view of the pre-race festivities.

A wonderful trio called the "Nightingals" sang the National anthem.

Avengers - Nightingals singers

And then we were off. Though this was a new 10K, it followed the same 10K course used by the Disneyland 10K. We ran down to the Convention Center, turned left, then came back up Harbor Blvd and went backstage behind DCA. That put us just about the two-mile mark. The rest of the course was on Disney property.

Because we were in Corral A, we were hoping the character lines wouldn't be too long and that we would be able to get photos with them during the 10K, since lines would be much longer during the half marathon.

The first character we saw was Thor. It took us over four minutes to get through that line.

Captain America 10K - Thor

Next was Black Widow. That line was much shorter - only 8 or so people in front of us.

Captain America 10K - Black  Widow

We crossed over into Disneyland, where we stopped for a photo in front of the new Super Hero HQ in Tomorrowland.

Captain America 10K - Super Hero HQ

The line for Hawkeye was very short - just 4 people.

Captain America 10K - Hawkeye

Then we wound around backstage for a while.

Captain America 10K

We passed the mile 5 sign in Fantasyland. All of the mile signs had Infinity Gauntlets with a different gem and word on them.

Captain America 10K - Mile 5

Captain America was in Frontierland. Given how we were dressed, we were going to stop no matter what, but the line was actually pretty short - only about 10 people in front of us. And it was the Best Character Stop Ever. :-) He greeted me as Peggy Carter and gave me a big hug. Then he decided that I needed to be on his other side so he picked me up (with one arm) and swung me around to the other side. The cast member who had my phone did a great job of capturing the moment. It was awesome!

Captain America 10K

  
Captain America 10K

  
Captain America 10K

And then he posed with Lee, too. ;-)

Captain America 10K

I think I floated for most of the remaining mile of the race...

We found our friend Beci cheering in Downtown Disney not long before the finish line.

Captain America 10K

  
Captain America 10K - Mile 6

I got a shout out as Agent Carter when I approached the finish line - that was fun. Actually, during the race I had a number of people cheer me on as "Peggy" or "Agent Carter", so I was pretty happy with my costume choice!

Captain America 10K finish line

Even with our photo stops we finished in 1:07:52. I was very pleased with that! Amazing what cooler weather does for my speed.

Captain America 10K

It was still in the low 50s when we finished, so the volunteers were handing out mylar sheets in addition to our race medals. We didn't linger in the finish area - just took a couple of photos and then went back to our room.

Captain America 10K medal

We had to cross the race course near ESPN - there was a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent there. We knew from previous experience that if we went left to get to the Grand from the Downtown Disney entrance we'd have to try to cross the race course at least twice more, so instead we went down to the Paradise Pier and crossed Disneyland Drive there and used the main entrance of the hotel. Much faster.

Captain America 10K

We went to the Hearthstone Lounge for some warm beverages and our friend Ellie spotted us in there and came in to say hi. It was wonderful to see her.

Agent Carter running costume

I had a great time in this race. I LOVE the 10K distance. The theme was a lot of fun, and I really like this 10K course. Having the first two miles outside the parks helps spread the pack out so that it's not so congested when we get inside the parks. This was also a pretty small race - just under 7,000 finishers. We had really good character interactions though had we been further back in the pack with longer lines I probably would not feel quite the same. (We heard that the lines later on were 30 minutes long!) My only real complaint is that there were only four character stops. No Disney characters on the course at all. Why couldn't they dress some of the Disney characters as super heroes, or at least bring out the Incredibles?

So...Part 1 of the Infinity Gauntlet Challenge complete - bring on the half marathon!






November 18, 2015

2015 Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend

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Wine and Dine Half Marathon

The Wine and Dine Half Marathon is my favorite half marathon at Walt Disney World. It's the only nighttime half marathon. It starts at ESPN Wide World of Sports and ends at Epcot, where there's an after-party that goes until 4:00 a.m. The Food and Wine Festival booths are open as are some attractions, and there's also entertainment and character meet and greets. Party admission is included with race registration, though you still have to pay at the food booths. As we did last year, our plan was to run the race Saturday night, then take a four-night Disney cruise starting on Monday. Oh, and then return to California on Friday to run the Inaugural Infinity Gauntlet Challenge at Disneyland on Saturday and Sunday!

We arrived late Wednesday night, and spent a couple of days enjoying the parks and the Epcot Food and Wine Festival.

The race expo opened on Friday morning at the usual ESPN Wide World of Sports location. We headed over late Friday afternoon. This race is not as big as most of the others, so not all of the Disney resorts are "host" resorts where transportation to race events is provided. The Boardwalk is one of those resorts, and we took the bus to/from the Expo.

Wine and Dine Half Marathon Expo

Packet pickup was easy - no line. Included in our race registration was a $15 Disney gift card intended to be used at the party after the race, though it could be used any where. Instead of picking those up with our packet as in past years, Disney mailed them to us at home before the race.

The shirts are a very dark blue, and long sleeve. It's a nice shirt but I have too many long-sleeve shirts - we don't need them very often in San Diego!

Wine and Dine Half Marathon shirt

There was a decent selection of official merchandise for the race. The item that seemed to be in the most demand was the wine glass - and I heard someone in line to check out say that she had gotten the last one. We actually did not buy anything this time! I have the magnet and mini-medal pin from last year, and although this year was slightly different, it wasn't significant enough that I wanted a new one.

Wine and Dine Half Marathon Expo

Since the race is at night we tried to stay more on west coast time, though it was more difficult this year since we arrived Wednesday and not Friday like we did the previous two times we'd run this race.

I'm always concerned with weather conditions for race day. Last year during the Wine and Dine Half Marathon we had rain for the entire race. This year it looked like it was going to be unseasonably warm and humid...and as of Thursday there were thunderstorms in the forecast for Saturday afternoon/night. Sigh.

Saturday we "prepared" for the race by wandering around Animal Kingdom in the morning. We spent much of the afternoon relaxing in our room out of the heat. We split a turkey sandwich from the Boardwalk Bakery around 5:00, and we both took bagels with us to eat before the race.

It was supposed to be 75 degrees and 80% humidity at the start of the race at 10:00, and 72 and 90% humidity at midnight. Because of that I did a slight last-minute modification to my Belle costume - instead of running in my blue skirt, which has compression shorts, I just ran in my regular lightweight black running shorts. With the apron over the shorts it still looked fine.

We got in line for the bus to the start of the race (ESPN Wide World of Sports complex) at 7:00. I think we were on the second bus. There was a fair bit of traffic getting there, but we still arrived by 7:30 for a race that started at 10:00.

There were a lot of characters out for photos, and it was early enough that the lines weren't too bad, so we had our photo taken with Chip and Dale.

Wine and Dine Half Marathon Chip & Dale

We found friends to hang out with while waiting, including our friend Jack from our amazing Hong Kong and Tokyo Disneyland trip.

It was still warm and humid, but whether we expected any rain depended on which weather forecast you looked at - and when.

At about 9:00 we were in the Porta-pottie line, anticipating that they would be sending us to our corrals soon. Suddenly the race announcer came on asking for our attention and telling us that we all needed to immediately evacuate to the nearby stadium because of lightning in the area. We were at the front of the line so we used the pottie, but when we got out they were telling all of us we needed to leave.

There were about 13,000 runners and lots of volunteers, so this exodus didn't happen very quickly. But it was orderly and no one was panicked, nor did I really hear a lot of grumbling. We could see lots of lightning flashes, and there was a little bit of light drizzle. In that we were fortunate, because it poured rain in some nearby areas.

They ran out of room in the stadium, and we ended up on the floor of the Field House instead. That was pretty comfortable and we could even stretch out. But we didn't get much information about what was going on - the cell service was overwhelmed and it was very hard to get any data. There was a DJ in the arena but he didn't have any information.

Wine and Dine Half Marathon

  
Wine and Dine Half Marathon

Rumors abounded...that the storm wouldn't pass until 11:45, that Disney would have to cancel the race if we didn't start by 11:00, that it was raining leopards and hyenas at Animal Kingdom, etc. We sat there until about 10:30, and then everyone started to get up and leave! No announcement, but we could see volunteers and race personnel waving us out. Yay!

It had not rained very much, if at all, and the ground was dry. It took much less time to get us back to the staging area than it did to move us into shelter. We hit the porta-pottie again. They still weren't quite sending us to our corrals yet. Race announcer Rudy Novotny told us that the course had been modified, one reason being that there was a chance of additional storms later. At that point they didn't say how it had been modified, but it turned out that it was shortened by over six miles. We did not go out to Animal Kingdom at all. (Apparently they were still rounding up all of those leopards and hyenas. ;-) )

Once they started letting us go to the corrals, it was a very short time before the race started. Just after we made it to corral D was the national anthem, followed very shortly by the start of the race. There were still fireworks for all of the corrals, though!

Wine and Dine Half Marathon fireworks

We started about 12 minutes after the official start. I was hoping that the storm would have cooled things off and reduced the humidity but no - it was still 75 and VERY humid. At that point we'd been told that the race was at least six miles shorter. And I have to say that I was pretty happy about that: less time in the heat, and more time to enjoy the Epcot party at the end.

I was pretty impressed with how Disney handled the situation. I felt they made the correct decisions to keep all of us safe AND make the appropriate adjustments that would still allow us to enjoy as much of the event as possible. As this particular race is largely about the party after the race I thought that shortening the course allowed those who finished towards the back to still have some time to experience the party, too. And keep in mind that it wasn't just the runners they had to keep safe - there were all of the volunteers and spectators and entertainment out on the course to consider as well.

The first part of the race followed the usual course on Osceola Parkway.

Wine and Dine Half Marathon Mile 1

At about 1.3 miles instead of continuing out to Animal Kingdom we turned right toward the Studios.

Wine and Dine Half Marathon

There was a photo stop there.

Wine and Dine Half Marathon

Not too far after that was the mile 8 sign. Fastest 8 miles I ever ran! :-) The rest of the race followed the original course.

Wine and Dine Half Marathon Mile 8

We stopped for most of the characters, though we skipped a few that had long lines. Because of the shortened course we ran faster than we would have in a longer race. And because the character stops were relatively close together we ended up not doing run-walk: the photo waits ended up being our rest interval. Given the heat I thought we did pretty well.

We had planned to run this race with a couple of friends, but we weren't able to connect with them after the evacuation. Elizabeth caught up to us anyway - she's speedy, and even starting two corrals behind us she still caught us! :-) We ran about the last half of the race together and had a good time.

Wine and Dine Half Marathon Genie

One of the best parts of this race is running through the Osborne Lights. I'm really sad that this is the final year for that, but glad that we were able to do it one last time. We walked through them instead of running.

Wine and Dine Half Marathon Osborne Lights

Because the race was shorter the runners hadn't gotten spread out on the course as much as usual, and the section from Studios along the canal behind the Boardwalk was more congested than usual. Not terrible - we just needed to be a little patient. But we were happy we were more towards the front where it wasn't as busy.

Wine and Dine Half Marathon Sebastian

We finished the modified course, which was about 6.75 miles long, in 1:20:35. I'm calling it a quarter marathon, though it was just a bit longer than that.

Wine and Dine Half Marathon medal

From previous experience I knew we did not want to linger in the finish area, which is in the Epcot parking lot, so that we could maximize our party time. To get to the party we had to get through bag check at the entrance to Epcot, and then we needed to get across the race course itself where it crosses Future World. We picked up the bags that we had checked (I was looking forward to dry clothes!), and left the finish area. Bag check was no problem for us (though the lines were very long later), but it took some time to cross the course. Disney sets up a designated crossing area where they re-route the runners to create an island for those crossing, but it's not a very quick process.

After that we found a restroom so we could change clothes. Ahhh...dry clothes feel so good! And then it was time for some food! Since we had finished relatively early the lines at the food booths were pretty short. We had pork sliders from Hawaii and a lobster pie and cheese plate from Ireland. After that we went and hung out with friends who had a table near Germany. It was after 1:30 by then.

Wine and Dine Half Marathon

We ended up not getting any more food, but I watched the lines at Germany get longer and longer. Still, I was really shocked when we left Germany at about 3:15 and saw how crowded it was and how long the lines were! Many of the food booths had lines 30-50 people deep. It looked like a busy weekend day! Disney really oversold tickets to this event. I felt badly for the runners who finished late and had to contend with those lines. I know some who simply gave up and didn't get anything to eat/drink at the party. :-(

All things considered, Lee and I had a pretty good experience. We were quite happy to run fewer miles and have time to enjoy the party after the race. Since we finished in the top 40% we were also able to take advantage of the shorter lines for food and beverages. But I hope that next year Disney will reduce the number of party tickets available to non-runners - the crowds were pretty awful as the night went on.

It seems as though Mother Nature has taken a dislike to this race. Last year was the "Splash and Dash" (or "Wet and Drenched"), and this year we had the thunderstorm that necessitated evacuating everyone. I know there are a lot of people who are very disappointed that the race was shortened, especially those for whom this was their first half marathon. They trained hard for this race and then they didn't have the opportunity to go the distance. I understand their frustration and I'm very sorry they didn't get that experience. I think it was different for those of us who have run this race, or other races, before, and perhaps easier for us to embrace the changes. If this applies to you then I hope that you will sign up for another half marathon. And I hope you realize all that you accomplished in completing the training and making it to the start line. To the best of my knowledge Disney has never had to shorten a race before, so if nothing else, at least you were part of something historic...


Next stop for us was a four-night cruise on the Disney Dream, including the Castaway Cay 5K, but the next blogs will be about Avengers Half Marathon Weekend at Disneyland.


N.B. As I was finishing up this blog entry, I received this email message from runDisney that went out to all Wine and Dine Half Marathon participants:

Thank you for participating in the 2015 Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon. We heard that some of our runners had questions about the race, which was delayed and shortened because of inclement weather and lightning in the area. As a race team, we had been monitoring weather conditions continuously on Saturday and due to conditions in the area we modified the course for the safety of our runners and spectators.

We appreciate the effort you put into preparing for the 2015 Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon. While we are equally disappointed in not being able to provide a complete half marathon experience, we are thankful our runners were able to complete the modified course safely.

All Coast to Coast Challenge participants are eligible to receive their medals, and all runners' proof of time will count toward a 10K distance option for other runDisney events.

Our runDisney team has a passion for putting on magical running events where participants can make their dreams come true and achieve their personal best. While weather is out of our control, we take necessary precautions to keep our runners and Guests safe. We apologize for the inconvenience this may have caused you and hope you will consider running with us again.

Sincerely,

Maribeth Bisienere
SVP, ESPN Wide World of Sports and Disney Springs

Jon Hughes
runDisney Race Director, East Coast





September 14, 2015

2015 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend - Half Marathon

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Disneyland 10th Annual Half Marathon

Sunday morning at 3:45... time to get up for the 10th Disneyland Half Marathon!

We'd gotten almost everything set aside and ready to go the night before, but we still had some final preparations. Everyone has their own pre-race routines - it's a very individual thing. What works for me doesn't necessarily work for Lee and vice versa. We both get up and have something to eat - I eat yogurt, and he usually has a bagel/toast with peanut butter. And he has to have his coffee. The coffee spots in the Disney hotels open early on race mornings, as do several places in Downtown Disney, such as Starbucks. Lots of runners AND spectators take advantage of that.

Have I mentioned yet how much easier race mornings are at Disneyland because we don't have to take a bus and can walk to the starting line? I did? :-)

The number of participants in the half marathon is not quite double that of the 10K, and it's noticeable, especially in the pre-race area. It's not horribly crowded, but there are longer lines for the porta-potties and more people trying to get to the starting corrals. Just another reason to love 10Ks. :-)

There's not the "show" at the start line for the half marathon like there is for the 5K and 10K races. This one was pretty understated. The race announcers recognized the 436 "Legacy" runners who have finished all of the previous Disneyland half marathons. Jessica
Bernard, one of the current Disneyland Ambassadors, sang the national anthem - it was a beautiful performance. And there were some fireworks, too.

Disneyland 10th Annual Half Marathon fireworks

Weather-wise it was another nice morning for running. About the same temperature as the day before, though I think the humidity was a little higher and it felt slightly warmer to me. As the morning went on the humidity dropped - but the temperature went up. Still, for me the drop in humidity compensated for the slightly higher temperature, and I was pretty comfortable. Not that I wasn't a sweaty mess, but I wasn't miserable like I have been for some of these Disneyland Half Marathon races! (2013. Ugh.)

Disneyland 10th Annual Half Marathon start

We were again in Corral B, though running with a larger group this time. There were seven of us. We tried to be considerate of our fellow runners, running in single- or double-file where the course was crowded, and moving to the side when we were walking.

I was surprised that the start of the race didn't feel nearly as slow/crowded as it did for the 10K. I think that's because the new proof-of-time system does a much better job of group like-paced runners together, so everyone was going a similar pace right off the start line, and we didn't have to try to get around slower runners/walkers.

Another surprise: the race course was modified slightly this year. Instead of going south and turning left on Katella we turned left and ran backstage behind Disney California Adventure. This was a little challenging because it bunched us together more and there were cones placed at intervals in the center that we had to watch out for. They were hard to see in the dark.

This tweak to the course meant we had a little more on property time and it seemed like we were in the parks a bit more. Some of the way we ran seemed like we ran in the opposite direction of the way it's been for this race in the past. That's not a complaint, just an observation. We find it interesting to see how runDisney manages to do all of these race courses just a little bit differently, which has to be a challenge given the limited space. We appreciate that they do make them different instead of just re-using the same course over and over. (Cough...Walt Disney World...cough.)

Anyway...running through Radiator Spring in the dark with the neon lights glowing is always a thrill. We were running with a couple of people for whom this was their first Disneyland half marathon. It's always fun to see it through someone else's eyes. We also ran around part of Paradise Bay where the World of Color fountains and the Fun Wheel were going.

Disneyland 10th Annual Half Marathon

Jafar is the only character I remember seeing in DCA, and the line was pretty long.

We ran down Buena Vista Street and out of DCA across the Esplanade to Disneyland. We stopped at the floral Mickey - I wanted to get a similar picture to the one I have from the first Disneyland Half Marathon.

Disneyland 10th Annual Half Marathon
Disneyland 50th Floral Mickey

We passed the two mile mark just inside Disneyland, and then we really wound around and backstage and in and out. I was getting dizzy. :-) But I think we were in all of the lands except Adventureland. I made a new friend, too. :-) I was surprised they let me touch him, but the handler said to go ahead.

Disneyland 10th Annual Half Marathon food box

Sometime after mile 3 we passed near the start line, and could still hear the announcers sending runners off. The race had been going for about 45 minutes at that point. It takes a long time to start 16,000+ people.

There were a number of character stops in Disneyland, though I think that overall there were fewer than there were in the 10K. And most of the lines were pretty long. But I found a couple of shorter lines.

Disneyland 10th Annual Half Marathon Queen of Hearts

The Captain is always such a gentleman - for a pirate. :-)

Disneyland Half Marathon Captain Hook Peter Pan

This summer the PhotoPass photographers have had sign boards of various designs - I was glad to see one for Half Marathon Weekend.

Disneyland 10th Annual Half Marathon signs

As usual, at the mile 4 mark we were outside the parks and on Disneyland Drive. The rest of the course was the same as it's been for quite a while now.

Fun to see these two cheering out on the course!

Disneyland 10th Annual Half Marathon storm troopers

The sun was just starting to come up as we turned east on Ball Rd. There was a nice sunrise.

Disneyland 10th Annual Half Marathon sunrise

Our favorite multi-generational mariachi group was performing just after mile 5. It's always wonderful to see them.

Disneyland 10th Annual Half Marathon mariachi group

There's no particular theme for the Disneyland Half Marathon, so runners come up with all kinds of costume ideas. This one was pretty clever. (She carried it rather than running in it, but still, that would be a lot to carry for 13.1 miles.)

Disneyland 10th Annual Half Marathon e-ticket runner costume

Past mile 7 the Polynesian dance group was on the course to entertain us. It's wonderful to see how the city of Anaheim comes out to support the runners.

Disneyland 10th Annual Half Marathon hula dancers

The classic cars are a relatively new addition to the race - we started seeing them in 2012. This year there were even more of them, and they occupied another ~1/4-mile more of the course. They arrange them mostly by date, with the older cars first.

Disneyland 10th Annual Half Marathon classic cars
Disneyland 10th Annual Half Marathon classic cars

We found one that matched our shirts.

Disneyland 10th Annual Half Marathon classic cars

This Star Wars-inspired van was beautiful.

Disneyland 10th Annual Half Marathon classic cars

We even found the Batmobile!

Disneyland 10th Annual Half Marathon Batmobile

After we ran past the Honda Center we dropped down to the Santa Ana River Trail. Most of it is paved now, but the first part was dirt. I know a lot of runners don't like it, but I do - it's a relief to run on a different surface. This is one of the Legacy runners, in the pretty blue powder blue shirt that they all received. (Why couldn't they have given the rest of us a blue shirt instead of gray?)

Disneyland 10th Annual Half Marathon Legacy runner

At mile 9 we'd reached Angel Stadium.

Disneyland 10th Annual Half Marathon Angel Stadium

Running inside the stadium is always energizing. They get hundreds of Boy and Girl Scouts to cheer on the runners, and they do a great job of passing some of that energy to us.

Disneyland 10th Annual Half Marathon Angel Stadium
Disneyland 10th Annual Half Marathon Angel Stadium

Mile 10 - only 3.1 to go! As you can see, it was a beautiful sunny day. Which is not great for running. Fortunately, as I mentioned earlier, the sun had burned off some of the humidity. And we were running into a little bit of a breeze so it was relatively comfortable for us. Those who started later and were on the course longer might not agree with me, though. But at least it was significantly cooler than the last two years.

Disneyland 10th Annual Half Marathon Mile 10

In addition to the groups I've previously mentioned, there were lots of cheerleading squads and high school bands out on the course. They were enthusiastic and loud and very encouraging. We especially appreciate them in that mile 10-12 stretch when we're starting to get mentally fatigued, too. RunDisney seems to know this, because that's where a lot of them are placed. Lee does his best to give back to them and let them know they are appreciated. :-)

Disneyland 10th Annual Half Marathon band

We had two friends, Jan and Molly, who were out cheering on our extended group of friends as well as other runners.

Disneyland 10th Annual Half Marathon

They got a lot of sweaty hugs that day! Thanks, ladies - you ROCK!

Disneyland 10th Annual Half Marathon

As usual the course went backstage at DCA at mile 12. There were lots of cheerleaders to encourage us as we went around the Paradise Pier Hotel and then the last .2 miles to the finish line.

Disneyland 10th Annual Half Marathon finish

Here's our excellent little running group - we had a great time together. Running Disney races with friends is a lot of fun. You won't get a best time, but you'll HAVE the best time. :-)

Disneyland 10th Annual Half Marathon

We went to the tent to collect our Dumbo Double Dare medals - the volunteers looked up our numbers and said we were good, and then we received our medals. While I still question the need for this process, it is efficient. And I'm happy not to have to wear a wristband after finishing the 10K.

Disneyland 10th Annual Half Marathon

I was hoping that maybe for the 10th Disneyland 1/2 marathon we'd get real food, but no. Just the runDisney MRE boxes. Sigh. Though just after finishing we received some really nice cool towels. Those felt very good. The sun was out and it was warming up. There was a light breeze that provided some cooling, though.

Disneyland 10th Annual Half Marathon food box

As we were leaving the finish area I noticed the sign with the names of all 436 Legacy runners on it.

Disneyland 10th Annual Half Marathon Legacy runners

The 10th anniversary medal is pretty nice. It's a spinner with a running Mickey on one side and the castle on the other.

Disneyland 10th Annual Half Marathon medal

For the most part it was an excellent race experience for us. A few comments: The slight change in the course was interesting except that it made it a little narrow for us early in the race. It seemed like there were fewer characters than in the past, especially as compared to the 10K the day before. We heard that some of the water stations ran out of PowerAde for those that were at the back of the pack, but that was not an issue for us.

Disneyland 10th Annual Half Marathon stage

But the community on-course entertainment was excellent. We are grateful to the citizens of Anaheim and surrounding communities for their continued support of this race over the years. In addition to the entertainment there are the hundreds of volunteers who work the Expo, the water stations, the medals, prepare the shirt bags, and a lot more things that I haven't thought of. I also must mention the wonderful Disney cast members who lend their support in so many ways. Thank you to all of you for everything that you do!

Disneyland 10th Annual Half Marathon

We had a great time during this race weekend. The races were fun, but even more than that we enjoyed spending time with a lot of our Disney running friends, both while running and in the parks. And we came home with some pretty nice bling, too.

Disneyland 10th Annual Half Marathon medals

Our next race will be the Wine and Dine Half Marathon in November. We're hoping for better weather than last year, when it was the "Wet and Drenched Half Marathon." :-)





September 6, 2015

2015 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend - Expo and 10K

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Disneyland 10th Annual Half Marathon

The events of our Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend have begun! We are running the Dumbo Double Dare for the third time, which means running the 10K on Saturday and the half marathon on Sunday.

As always, we started at the Health and Fitness Expo, held in the Convention Center of the Disneyland Hotel. It opened on Thursday morning. We arrived on Friday around noon and went down the ramp to the bib pick-up area. We had pre-printed our race waivers at home (always highly recommended as it can save you a lot of time if there's a line for the computers at the Expo). Very short lines for bib pick up. In addition to the bib, race program, and bag tag, we received a 10th anniversary luggage tag, also.

Disneyland Half Marathon luggage tag

The volunteer made sure to tell us that, as Dumbo Double Dare participants, we needed to have our photo taken with our bib number - our "runDisney mug shot", as I call it. :-) They will use that to ID us after we finish on Sunday.

We went upstairs to the Expo itself. They had the entrance nicely decorated.

Disneyland Half Marathon Expo

Shirt and bag pick-up was also very easy. I really love the design of the 10K shirt! But the inside of the shirt feels very thick and rubbery and sticky behind the design. I'm hoping that will go away when it's washed. I am disappointed in the color of the half marathon shirt - they have this beautiful blue that they have been using for a lot of the Diamond Anniversary merchandise: why couldn't they use that for the shirt color? And the Dumbo shirt, well, let's just say that you'll see us coming... :-)

Disneyland 10th Half Marathon Race Shirts

We went over to the Official Merchandise area, and I was very surprised that there was a line to get in! I've never seen that on Friday afternoon before.

Disneyland Half Marathon Expo

Friends had already picked up for me the one item that I really wanted, but we got in line anyway, and it moved pretty fast. Once inside it really wasn't crowded at all. There still seemed to be a good variety of merchandise - I saw everything that I expected to see, so nothing was noticeably missing. And the cast members were doing a very good job of restocking.

Disneyland Half Marathon Merchandise


Disneyland Half Marathon Hat


Disneyland Half Marathon Merchandise

Lee found a shirt and magnet that he liked, but I didn't get anything else. There was a good variety of merchandise, just nothing that appealed to me. I have SO many running shirts and race-related shirts!

Disneyland Half Marathon Race Shirt

We took a quick wander around the Expo floor - stopped by the runDisney booth to take a look at the medals on display. The one that we were hoping to see is the Infinity Gauntlet Challenge medal for the upcoming Avengers Half Marathon weekend, but they haven't unveiled that one yet.

Disney Medals

We spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out with running friends, most of whom we only see at Disney races. I was happy to have the opportunity to take my friend Joe into Cars Land for his very first time - I love doing that! We went in from the Pacific Wharf side, which I think is the very best place for your first look. He was suitably impressed.

Cars Land Cadillac Range

Since we were in the area we stopped by the new Diamond Anniversary photo spot in "a bug's land". This one is a lot of fun - they even have a magnifying glass and a net to use as props. The forced perspective works really well!

Bug's Land Diamond Photo Spot

Later we had our usual pre-race dinner at Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta. It was a lot busier than usual, with a very long line of people waiting for the four-cheese ravioli.

And then back to our room to prepare for the 10K, and our 3:45 wakeup call, the next morning.


3:45 is early, but since we're in our own time zone it's a lot easier for us to get up for the Disneyland races than for the Disney World races. And, since we can walk to the starting line rather than catching a bus, we are getting up about an hour and a half later than we would for a WDW race. So much easier.

I love how they have changed the theme of the Disneyland 10K each year. This year the theme was villains - and I think just about everyone was thrilled with that choice. (Wouldn't an entire villains-themed race series be great?) During the pre-race show a number of the villains were out on stage.

Disneyland 10K stage

There are about 10,000 runners in the 10K as opposed to about 18,000 in the half marathon, and the difference is noticeable in the pre-race area. A lot more room to move around and not nearly the lines for the porta-potties!

It was a great morning for running. So much nicer than it's been the last several years. Still on the humid side, but the temperature at the start was about 66.

Lee and I were going to run with our friend Stan and around 5:15 we headed to Corral B. Our race announcers were already on stage getting everyone ready to go. In keeping with the villains theme there was a very interesting version of the national anthem - a rock version played on a screaming electric guitar. I liked it in this setting, but it's not something I'd want to hear all of the time.

Disneyland 10K announcers

The Evil Queen usurped the race start privileges for herself, and did the "Ready, set, go" honors, much to race announcer Rudy's chagrin. :-) But she only did it for the first wave, and Rudy got to send everyone else off - including those of us in Corral B.

The 10K course goes south on West Street to the convention center. We were about halfway back in Corral B, and we found the first 3/4 of a mile to be a little congested, but not too bad. We just didn't quite have the running space we would've liked. After that I thought it was fine. But we had a friend who started in Corral C, who was going for a sub-1 hour finish, and he missed it because he was in a lot of traffic for over a mile.

After going past the convention center we went north on Harbor, then back behind DCA. That was just before the two-mile mark. And after that we were on Disney property the rest of the time. That's one of the aspects of this course that I really enjoy - lots of park time!

We ran into Radiator Springs and down route 66. Love doing this when the neon lights are on!

Disneyland 10K Radiator Springs

This race apparently encouraged the villains to emerge from their lairs, and we saw quite a few of them on the course. The first of the villains character stops was Dr. Facilier, near Ariel's Undersea Adventure. In hindsight I wish we'd stopped there because it ended up being the shortest line that we saw. He was miked, and we could hear his comments to runners - he was totally in character. Really fun.

Lotso was in front of Toy Story Mania. Not your traditional villain, but quite appropriate for that area. He had a pretty long line and we didn't stop. We finished our lap of Paradise Bay and ran towards Grizzly Rapids and Soarin' Over California, where the mile 3 sign was placed.

Disneyland 10K 3 mile sign

Hades was near Off the Page in Hollywood with a huge line, but Lady Tremaine (Cinderella's stepmother) was in front of the animation building with a fairly short line so we stopped. It was the only character photo that we ended up getting. She was suitably disdainful. :-)

Disneyland 10K Lady Tremaine

We went backstage near the Tower of Terror and went through the tunnel that goes under the tram/bus area and backstage to Disneyland. There was really great villainous music playing in there. Actually, the music was great all over the parks - it really set the right tone. I think the entertainment people had a whole lot of fun with the theme of this race! Throughout the parks there were various cast members dressed in purple who were cheering (or jeering) us on - we stopped for a photo with a couple of them on Main Street.

Disneyland 10K cast members

I think there was a character on Main Street that we didn't stop for. I was surprised not to see Darth Vader and/or the Storm Troopers in Tomorrowland. I guess now that they have a Star Wars race he's exclusive to that. The mile 4 sign was near Innoventions, and since it had Frollo on it, and the guys were wearing shirts that brought to mind the "Hellfire" song, we had to stop for that. :-)

Disneyland 10K 4 mile sign

Governor Ratcliffe and Shan Yu were together near "small world". That was a very long line. We ran around backstage for a while, then ran back into Toontown and into Fantasyland. Another character (Captain Hook?) with a long line - so we took a photo of the Mile 5 sign instead.

Disneyland 10K 5 mile sign

We actually were able to run through the castle - sometimes people really slow down there because of the photographers, but they had people who were talking to the runners and trying to keep them moving. We went into Frontierland and around the Rivers of America. Brer Fox and Brer Bear were out for photos in Critter Country.

Eventually we went backstage and around the perimeter of the park and back out near the tram stop, then ran through Downtown Disney. And there was the mile 6 sign. "Mirror, mirror on the wall...who's the fastest of them all?"

Disneyland 10K 6 mile sign

Maleficent was standing near the finish line, but I couldn't really stop to get a photo of her. Our official time was 1:12:34, including photo stops, so that wasn't too bad.

Disneyland 10K Finish Line

I really like the medal!

Disneyland 2015 10K Villains Medal

The sun was not quite all the way up when we finished, but it came up while we were waiting in the finish area and it started to warm up quickly. So it gave us an idea of what to expect the next day for the half marathon.

Disneyland 10K finishers

The thing that is difficult about this race is leaving the finish area to get back to the hotels or theme parks because the course runs through Downtown Disney and you end up having to cross the course several times. A very slow process when there are lots of people. This time when we left the finish area cast members were telling runners who wanted to go to those areas that they should walk over to the Mickey and Friends parking area and take the tram to Disneyland. Then there was only one place where you needed to cross the course. But as it turned out we had waited long enough in the finish area that the race was over by the time we got to Downtown Disney. The race started at 5:30 and it was over just a few minutes before 8:00.

Say what you will about the villains - they really know how to throw a party. This was a terrific 10K, maybe my favorite Disney 10K so far - though the Star Wars 10K earlier this year was wonderful, also. The runners seemed to enjoy this one, and I saw lots of clever villain-inspired costumes.

Disneyland Half Marathon coming up!





September 4, 2015

2015 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend - A Look Back

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Disneyland 10th Annual Half Marathon

It's time for the 10th Annual Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend!. In this blog I thought I'd take a look back at the very first Disneyland Half Marathon and some of the changes over the years. I remember how excited we were for the Inaugural race weekend nine years ago, on September 15-17, 2006. At the time Disneyland was still celebrating its 50th anniversary, and this year it's the 60th anniversary Diamond Celebration!

Disneyland 50th Floral Mickey

A lot of things have changed since that first Disneyland Half Marathon. The very next year the race weekend was moved from the third weekend of September to Labor Day, where it has remained ever since. In 2008 the first Coast-to-Coast medals were awarded to those who had finished the WDW Half Marathon or WDW Marathon in January, then finished the Disneyland Half Marathon that same year. With the addition of the Disneyland 10K in 2013, the race weekend has been extended a day, and now starts on Thursday. The year 2013 also introduced the Dumbo Double Dare race challenge, with an additional medal awarded to those who finish the 10K and the half marathon.

There are many more participants - according to runDisney, more than 29,000 people will participate in the events of this year's half marathon weekend. The Inaugural half marathon was capped at 12,000 runners, while this year's race will have more than 18,000 runners.

The first half marathon took about five months to sell out...this year's race was sold out within hours. In 2006 the registration fee for the half marathon was $85 and the 5K was only $25. The kid's races were $5 per child. Seems like a bargain compared to this year's $199/$75/$20 fees - though the price certainly does not seem to have discouraged people from signing up.

I think that first year was a bit of an experiment, and the race organizers weren't sure how well it would go over. There were a few signs of that, like the mile markers. A lot different than what we are used to now.

Disneyland Inaugural Half Marathon Mile Marker

I think they really outdid themselves when it came to Disney characters along the course. I have photos from 16 different character stops! In that first race, long before the days of cell phone cameras, I was one the few people who carried a small camera with me. This was also before the advent of PhotoPass, so there weren't a bunch of Disney photographers with the characters, and it meant that not very many people stopped to have their photos taken with them. We stopped for all of them in that first race - and some of them featured multiple characters, too - like five Alice in Wonderland characters, Sleeping Beauty, Prince Phillip and the three fairies, and Lilo and Stitch. And my estimate was that the photo stops only added 10 minutes to my finish time...you sure can't do that now.

Disneyland Half Marathon Alice

The race experience itself was excellent that first year. I didn't notice any major first-year glitches. I think my biggest complaint was that the race shirt had long sleeves - why would you do that for a race held in southern California in September?

Here's a comment I wrote about the refreshments in 2006: "In the refreshment area there were drinks, as well as fruit, bagels, muffins, and yogurt parfaits." I really wish they would bring THOSE sorts of refreshments back rather than those runDisney MRE boxes...

One thing that hasn't changed is the tremendous community support the half marathon receives from the city of Anaheim. Even in that very first race we were cheered on by high school bands, cheerleaders, and Boy and Girl Scouts. And we were entertained by two large dance groups - a Polynesian group and a mariachi group. Both of these featured participants of all ages. All of those groups have continued to be a presence on the course every year, and I always look forward to seeing them.

Disneyland Half Marathon Polynesian Dancers

And I must put in a good word for the amazing and hard-working volunteers and cast members, also. They are essential to the success of this race weekend, and have been wonderful every single year.

The medals were just as gorgeous then as they are now - that first castle medal was pretty special. This year, in honor of the 10th race and the 60th anniversary, there's a new medal that goes along with the diamond anniversary theme. I'll be happy to add that one to my collection, too.

Disneyland Half Marathon Inaugural medal

This will be the 8th time that Lee and I have run the Disneyland Half Marathon. Each of them has been memorable in some way and I'm looking forward to this year's race.

Disneyland Half Marathon





May 20, 2015

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend - Part 2, Half Marathon

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2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon logo

Sunday, May 10 - Tinker Bell Half Marathon

Happy Mother's Day! There were a lot of moms who apparently thought that getting up early and running a half marathon was a fine way to spend Mother's Day.

We set the alarm for 3:30 again. We'd brought yogurt and bread and peanut/almond butter to eat in our room. Lee was very happy when he'd seen the signs in Downtown Disney and the hotel on the previous days stating that that several places that serve coffee would be opening early on race mornings. So at 4:00 he went down to the Hearthstone Lounge for his coffee. He was the first customer there.

For this race we were both going to run with wings. Lee dressed as Terence, who is a keeper of pixie dust. (He's a character from the Tinker Bell movies - a lot of people don't know who he is, but the pixies all recognized him!) These were new (and larger) wings for both of us, so we weren't sure quite how they would work out for us. They were definitely a lot wider - we both had to go sideways through doors! :-) I realized I'd have to be much more careful to allow enough space during the race when I was trying to pass people - particularly between people.

In the pre-race area we met up with my friend/co-worker Janet. It was her first half marathon, and she was very excited - and a little nervous. Yep, we've all been there! Any of the Disney half marathons are really terrific first half marathons, but I think this one is an especially good "first" for a woman. (She did GREAT, and finished in 2:08:04 - and she wasn't even wearing wings!)

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

We went over to see the Mickey Milers, where wing expert Lee helped Caryn with her wings.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Mickey Milers

At about 5:00 we headed to the corrals again. For the Tinker Bell Half Marathon they don't let men start any higher than Corral B, so I went back there to run with Lee. Since we were both dressed up I wanted to get some photos of us, hopefully with the pixies.

It was another terrific morning for running. About the same temperature as the day before, but the sky was clear, and it felt a little cooler. I had a mylar sheet (saved from a previous runDisney race) wrapped around me while I was waiting.

For the half marathon there were some fireworks that went off during the national anthem.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon fireworks

I was surprised that it was Minnie and Daisy who came out on stage with the announcers just before the start of the race and not Tinker Bell like we'd seen the day before. The race started just a little after 5:30, and Corral B started about 7 minutes after Corral A. Our start time was just a little less than 10 minutes off of the official clock, so that made it easy for us to know where we were time-wise when we saw the mile markers during the race.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon

The first mile and a half was like the 10K course, but then instead of going into Disneyland we went into Disney California Adventure. We went past the Tower of Terror, down Hollywood Blvd, and then down Route 66 through Cars Land, and around Paradise Bay. The first pixie we saw was Silvermist,and the line was fairly short.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Silvermist Terence running costume

Vidia was not too far away, again with a pretty short line. In my dreams I am a fast-flying fairy like Vidia...

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Vidia Terence

We ran out of DCA and across the Esplanade into Disneyland and onto Main Street. Goofy, Chip and Dale were out with one of the Soundsational floats, but had a very long line so we didn't stop. We were just past mile 3 in the race.

We ran around the hub and through the castle, then around the Carrousel. The Lost Boys were riding the Carrousel, but I couldn't get a good photo. One of the monorails, with the new Tomorrowland movie logo, was gliding overhead as we ran past the Mad Tea Party. We headed back to the hub passing Pixie Hollow, where there was a long line for Tinker Bell. It was the longest that we saw - not surprising.

Tomorrowland monorail

This course spends a lot of time going through Disneyland, which is really nice. We went back to the hub so that we could go into Tomorrowland. The Storm Troopers were out by Tomorrowland Terrace, and they had a very long line. I'm not quite sure how Storm Troopers fit in with Tinker Bell, though...

From there we went past the submarine lagoon and the Matterhorn and out towards "small world" where we saw Rosetta and Iridessa. They were especially thrilled by Lee's Terence costume, and very complimentary.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Rosetta Iridessa Terence

Then we went backstage behind "it's a small world", and to mile 4. One of the trains was parked back there.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Disneyland train

We ran back into the park next to Big Thunder Ranch and then around the Rivers of America. Jack Sparrow and a couple of pirates were on the bridge above the entrance to Pirates of the Caribbean. Gee, with a race full of women I can't imagine why they would make Jack Sparrow inaccessible like that! :-)

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Jack Sparrow

Mile 5 was near the entrance to the Haunted Mansion. We went backstage again by Splash Mountain and ran around the perimeter of Disneyland until we emerged near the Esplanade and then ran through Downtown Disney.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Mile 5

Next to the Disneyland Hotel is one of my favorite parts of the Tinker Bell Half: that's where the Red Hat Society cheers every year. This year there were several hundred of them cheering and ringing cowbells and high-fiving runners. Seeing them is always one of the highlights of the race for me!

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Red Hat Society

Just past mile 6 we found "Captain Hook". :-) We were almost at the 10K point, and about to leave Disney property. That's one of the things I like the most about this course compared to the other half marathon courses: we're almost halfway through the race before we leave Disney! It really makes the race seem to go a lot faster. Lee was feeling his PR from the day before and wanted to slow down a little, so I went on ahead at my own pace.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Captain Hook

After we leave Disneyland resort property we run north through an Anaheim neighborhood of houses and apartments. Since it's still quite early on a Sunday morning, Disney puts up some signs to remind us to be quiet. I've never really found runners to be all that noisy when we're running, except for those who carry their own music and speakers. I ran past one of those guys later in the race - I sped up and ran through a walk interval to get past him.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Neighbors sleeping

We turned right and headed east, and into a slight breeze. I could feel some resistance against my larger wings...so I was hoping I'd get a little added push from them when we turned west again.

About mile 8 we run out of the "quiet zone" and into downtown Anaheim - and into the enthusiasm of marching bands and cheerleaders. The route takes us down the Anaheim Center Street Promenade.

Tinker Bell Half Marathon Anaheim Promenade

We went around the corner past the Anaheim Public Library.

Tinker Bell Half Marathon Anaheim Public Library

We run down Harbor Blvd past the mile 9 sign and back towards Disneyland...and just when it looks like we're getting close, we turn left on Ball Rd and head away from the park. Major fake out for those familiar with the area...there's still over three miles to go! Since there were no clouds we were getting some sun on us by then and it was starting to feel a little warm even though the temperature was only about 60 degrees. I should mention that we had very nice support from the community once we got away from the "quiet zone". Quite a few high school bands and cheerleading squads to cheer us on, and a lot of people out with signs and cowbells, too. Runners appreciate all of the support - thank you!

We went all the way south to Disney Way and then did a loop around some of the Good Neighbor hotels before turning onto Harbor again briefly (Mile 12) and going backstage near Disneyland. We stayed backstage behind Cars Land and Paradise Pier before crossing Disneyland Drive for the final dash to the finish line.

I finished in 2:18:24, so I had a pretty good second half of the race. After I got my Tinker Bell medal I went to the Pixie Dust Challenge and Coast-to-Coast area to pick up my other two medals. Ahhh...it's just not a Disney race without that "clank, clank" sound! :-)

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon medals

For this race they had refreshments for us. We had heard rumors that the reason there were no runDisney boxes for the 10K was because they had discovered that the applesauce in the boxes was past its "use by" date. So someone (I'm sure it was some of the volunteers) had opened up all of the race boxes, discarded the applesauce, and separated the contents into different bins. At the front of the line we got a bag with a Clif bar and a moist towelette packet in it, and then as we went down the line we could get the other items that had been in the box.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon refreshments

I thought the bag was a lot easier to handle than the boxes are since I could hang it around my hand or wrist. And I also didn't have to take items that I really didn't want. But I still don't like the box contents and wish that we had REAL food.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon refreshments

I waited a bit for Lee to finish...his time was 2:25:16. Any time we finish a Disney 1/2 marathon in under 2:30 is really good for us!

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon finishers

The Tinker Bell half marathon medal also has the pearl-like finish on the wings like the 10K medal did.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon medal

I don't care for the Pixie Dust Challenge medal at all. It looks like a child designed it. I hope they'll re-think this one for next year.

2015 Tinker Bell Pixie Dust Challenge medal

And here's the pink Coast-to-Coast.

2015 pink Disney Coast to Coast medal

When runDisney announced last year that the Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend was moving to May - and Mother's Day weekend, to boot - I had a lot of reservations. This is, after all, a race for women - and a lot of women want to be with their families on Mother's Day! I wondered if that affected registration: this half marathon has in the past sold out very quickly (often the day that registration opened), but this year it didn't sell out for several weeks.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon stage

The weather was also a concern. It's not uncommon for southern California to have some very warm days in May - I've been at Disneyland when it's been in the 90s. Now, it's not that warm at 5:30 in the morning, but still - temperatures in the upper 60s and low 70s are very warm when you're running 13.1 miles. Fortunately we had exceptional weather this year - except for the 5K. And even that was "exceptional" - it very rarely rains in southern California in May!

This was the 4th Tinker Bell Half Marathon, and our fourth time running it. I hope they'll do something special for the "Perfectly Tink" runners on the 5-year anniversary next year. This is still my favorite Disneyland 1/2 marathon course. I think that overall I prefer Star Wars half marathon weekend to Tinker Bell, but it's really close, and I still think Tink has the better 1/2 course (the 10K courses are very similar now). But there's just nothing like all of the costumed Star Wars cosplayers along the Star Wars course. Though I think Disney did a better job with characters for the Tink races than they did for the Star Wars (and Avengers) races. I thought there were a pretty good number of character opportunities as well as a good selection of characters in both the 10K and the half marathon.

Thank you to all of the wonderful volunteers and cast members who work so hard, and are so incredibly cheerful on these early mornings! And thank you to all of the bands and cheerleaders and members of the community who come out to cheer for the runners, including the Red Hat Society ladies. It just wouldn't be the Tinker Bell Half Marathon without them.

One final photo - this is the start line that we drove under as we were leaving - just about 7 hours after we had run under it. :-)

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon start line



May 19, 2015

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend - Part 1, Expo and 10K

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2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon logo

This year for the first time the Disneyland Tinker Bell Half Marathon weekend was moved from January to May - specifically to Mother's Day weekend. I was not sure how that change was going to work out, but it ended up being a great time, at least for us.

Although there was an Inaugural 10K last year, running both the 10K and the half marathon was not considered a "challenge" as it is with the other half marathon weekends. But this year runDisney introduced the Pixie Dust Challenge for those running both races, and Lee and I signed up for that.

The week before the race, runDisney released some statistics on the race entries:

Tinker Bell 1/2 Marathon Weekend Fun Facts:
32,050 total registrations
16,000 1/2 Marathon
10,000 10K
4,550 5K
1,500 Kids Races
5,000 Pixie Dust Challenge

I was alarmed when I first saw this - 21,000 in the half marathon would've been too many - but the numbers for the 10K and half included the 5,000 Pixie Dust Challengers. I think those are reasonable numbers for the two courses.

The first event of the race weekend is always the Expo, which opened on Thursday morning. Those running the 5K on Friday morning needed to pick up their bibs on Thursday - and it was also the first opportunity for people to grab the Tinker Bell merchandise. Unfortunately, "grab" is often an appropriate choice of word. I REALLY wish that runDisney would institute merchandise limits, or offer more of it that can be pre-reserved by people who are actually RUNNING the races. It's not right that a lot of this stuff shows up on eBay two hours later...I refuse to buy it there, no matter how much I want something.

Anyway...as I'm sure many of you have heard, California is in the midst of a multi-year drought, so guess what happened the morning of the 5K? Yep, it rained. I'm sorry that it wasn't as nice an outing for the runners as it normally is...but I'd like to invite them to please extend their stay in California as long as they would like. :-)

I've never run this 5K, but everyone who has says it's runDisney's best 5K race. It starts in Disneyland on Main Street and runners go through both parks, finishing in Disney California Adventure. Maybe next year...

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Packet Pickup

We arrived late Friday afternoon and went to the Expo. The packet pick-up was in the underground parking garage of the Disneyland Hotel, as usual. There were some fun pictures at the entrance.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Packet Pickup

It didn't take long to pick up our bibs. I also got a wristband, since I qualified for the pink Coast-to-Coast medal, because I ran the Princess half marathon in February, and was now running the Tinker Bell half marathon. Because we were running the Pixie Dust Challenge, we had to get our runDisney mug shots taken.

pink coast-to-coast wristband

We went upstairs to the Convention Center, where the main Expo was held. There were some cute banners at the entrance. I thought they did an especially nice job with the decor this year.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Expo Entrance

That Tink is such a hussy... :-)

Tinker Bell kisses Lee

It seemed to me as though there were more vendors than we saw at the Star Wars and Avengers Expos, so that was nice. But still, the area was not overly crowded, and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Expo

We picked up our shirts...one nice thing about moving the race to May is that we received short sleeve shirts and not long sleeve. I really liked the blue and green shirts. When I first saw a photo of the Pixie Dust Challenge shirt online it looked like a raspberry color (ick), but in person it's more of a grape color. Not my favorite, but not as bad.

Tinker Bell Half Marathon shirts 2015

We checked out the official merchandise area...though they had lots of merchandise out, a lot of if was the same stuff in different places - we could tell that a lot had sold out. As I expected, the two things that I wanted, the Pixie Dust Challenge mini medal and one of the Pixie Dust Challenge car magnets, were sold out. I was still able to purchase the Mickey-ear magnet, though. And thanks to a friend who had an extra, I also have the mini medal now. (You know who you are - thank you!!!)

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon merchandise

There was the usual speaker series, but we didn't stay for any of that. We wandered through the non-Disney part of the Expo, also. Lots of neat shirts, and the booths selling the various types of running skirts were very popular.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Expo

And the New Balance booth was really hopping, since they introduced a new Tinker Bell-inspired running shoe that was just made available this weekend. They were VERY popular, and we saw lots of people walking around wearing them. There were accessories that you could buy for the shoes, like wings and pom-poms, and they also glow in the dark!

New Balance Tinker  Bell shoes

There was a photo-op in the lobby of the Expo, so we took advantage of that before leaving the Expo. We had an early dinner at Tangaroa Terrace and then spent some time over at Disneyland before calling it a night - we had a 10K to run at 5:30 the next morning.

2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon photo backdrop


Tinker Bell 10K - Saturday, May 9

The alarm went off at 3:30...not quite as early as for the races in Florida, and since we were in our own time zone, we weren't also dealing with jet lag. That's another thing that makes the California races so much easier for us!

I had a new outfit to wear for this race. It wasn't any specific character, instead it was just a sort of dark fairy. Rather than wings I had made myself a kind of winged cape. One advantage of it was that I could wrap it around myself a little bit while we were waiting to stay warm.

Tinker Bell 10K dark fairy costume

One of my concerns with the race moving to May was that the weather might be very warm (80s and even 90s in May is not that uncommon), but it ended up being a little cooler than normal. The conditions Saturday morning for the 10K were as good as it gets, I think - it was about 55 degrees at the start. Overcast and not much of a breeze. Really great running weather!

We met up with the Mickey Milers before the race - they were easy to find in the dark since many of them wore their bright yellow shirts (including Lee).

Mickey Milers before 2015 Tinker Bell 10K

We headed to the corrals about 5:00. For some reason I was in Corral A for the 10K and Lee was in Corral B. Last year we were both in A, and this year there were other men in A (legitimately), so I'm not sure why he wasn't in A. He was going to run the 10K for time, and I wasn't sure what I was doing, though I hoped to get some photos, which meant that being in A would be an advantage, so I went up to A instead of going to B with him.

It's always fun being in A, where I'm actually close to the start line and able to see the stage and what's going on. Tinker Bell and Fawn were on-stage before the race to wish us luck. The race started right on time at 5:30, and we were off!

2015 Tinker Bell 10K start

The 10K course was a bit different this year than last year - but it was all good changes! At the start we were outside the parks for just over a mile (same as last year), but then the rest of the time we were in the parks or backstage until the last tenth of a mile when we crossed Disneyland Drive and headed to the finish line near the Paradise Pier Hotel. I loved this course - it's my favorite 10K course now. (You can see the map HERE).

The first characters I saw were Chip and Dale on Main Street, but there was a line, so I didn't stop. We ran to the end of Main Street (Mile 2) and into Frontierland past Big Thunder Mountain and into Fantasyland, where Alice and the Mad Hatter were next to the Carrousel. That line was only about six people, so I stopped.

2015 Tinker Bell 10K Alice and Mad Hatter

Iridessa was near Pixie Hollow, with only a couple of people in line.

2015 Tinker Bell 10K Iridessa

The course went back to the hub and then into Tomorrowland, past the submarine lagoon and the Matterhorn, then on "small world way". Rosetta was there, also with only a couple of people in line. In a pixie-themed race I wasn't sure why the lines for the pixies were so short, but it very nice for me!

2015 Tinker Bell 10K  Rosetta

Clarabelle Cow and Horace Horsecollar were in Toontown, but that was a much longer line, and I didn't stop. We went backstage behind Toontown (Mile 3) and ran around the backstage perimeter of Disneyland until we came back out at the Esplanade (Mile 4) and ran across into Disney California Adventure.

The course went down Buena Vista Street and Hollywood Blvd, past the Tower of Terror and into "a bug's land". Silvermist was there, with no line. Nice.

2015 Tinker Bell 10K Silvermist

From "a bug's land" it was back towards the Winery and then left towards Paradise Pier. Vidia was near the entrance of Ariel's Undersea Adventure. Two people in front of me there, so it was another quick stop.

2015 Tinker Bell 10K Vidia

We went across the bridge past Ariel's Grotto and around Paradise Bay. I was surprised that the World of Color fountains weren't running. We went backstage at the parade gate near Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta, and soon were at the mile 5 marker.

I hadn't really been paying attention to the time, but when I saw the time at mile 5 I knew I could finish in less than an hour if I kept a reasonable pace. We re-entered the park at Paradise Wharf and ran into Cars Land past Radiator Springs Racers. Lightning McQueen and Mater were out near Ramone's but I didn't stop. We went backstage again and ran around the perimeter of DCA behind Cars Land and Paradise Pier before crossing Disneyland Drive (Mile 6) and headed towards the finish.

2015 Tinker Bell 10K Finish Line

My time was 58:23: I made it in under an hour WITH photo stops, so I was very happy with that!

When I went through the refreshment area there was PowerAde and water and bananas...but no runDisney boxes. No food at all other than the bananas. What???? We found out later that there was a problem with one of the items in the boxes, so they pulled them for the 10K, even though they had given them out at the 5K the day before. Sigh.

I didn't have too long to wait until Lee arrived - he had a great run and finished with a personal best of 56:55!

2015 Tinker Bell 10K Laura and Lee finish

We visited with a few friends in the finish area but we didn't linger for very long - it was still early (6:45), and we were getting a bit chilled so we went back to our hotel.

The 10K is still my favorite race distance - it's so nice to be done in about an hour. And this one in particular is a lot of fun. Maybe not quite as much fun as last year, when Lee, Eddie and I goofed off and took almost two hours to finish, but I still enjoyed myself this year. As I mentioned earlier, I really like this course. Last year's course was good, but they certainly improved on it this year.

Another change from last year was the characters: last year it was mostly regular Disney characters like Chip and Dale, Daisy, and Buzz - though it did have the Haunted Mansion bride and parasol girl (BEST CHARACTER STOP EVER!). This year in addition to the regular characters there were the pixies, and in a pixie-themed race that's quite appropriate! I really enjoyed them - they were into their characters, with just the right amount of sass and attitude.

The medal was slightly different this year - it's the same design, but a pearl-like finish was added to the pixie wings, and it looks very nice.

2015 Tinker Bell 10K Medal

Another nice thing about finishing early...we had enough time to shower and dress and still get to Disneyland in time for early entry! (It started at 8:00) Tink was already greeting guests in Pixie Hollow, so we went to visit. She and Silvermist were very happy to hear that we had enjoyed the race and that we would be out there the next day, too. They were really cute.

2015 Tinker Bell 10K Tinker Bell and Silvermist

Part one of the Pixie Dust Challenge complete, next up: the Tinker Bell Half Marathon.


April 13, 2015

Trip Planning for a runDisney Race Weekend

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In response to one of my recent half marathon blogs, Kristyn sent this comment:

Enjoy your RunDisney posts. I am looking for recommendations on two topics if you can help me, Laura. I am doing my first event this fall at Wine and Dine. Can you do a blog on how you prepare for a nighttime race as most of us are used to the early morning runs. Also, not sure if it has ever been covered, but how to plan on where to stay and how to get to to packet pickup and the event if you don't have a rental car. Would love some advice on how to plan for a RunDisney trip. Thanks.

I'm hoping there are others of you that are interested in this information, too. So here are some of my thoughts on how to plan a trip for a runDisney race.


7-9 months in advance

Choose a race weekend and a race or races.

The first decision you have to make is which race weekend you're going to attend, and which events are you going to participate in. This could be influenced by a number of factors, including work/school schedules, potential weather conditions, and race theme.

As I write this, runDisney offers seven different race weekends in Florida and California, with most race weekends including 5K, 10K, and half marathon races. (There's no 10K for Wine and Dine Weekend; and WDW Marathon Weekend also features the WDW Marathon, which is the granddaddy of them all!)

Planning for a runDisney Race Weekend

So, what's it going to be? Decisions, decisions. WDW Marathon Weekend in early January offers all four race distances, in addition to the Goofy Challenge and the Dopey Challenge. This is also the largest runDisney race weekend and has the most participants.

Planning for a runDisney Race Weekend

Is The Force with you? Then you might want to choose Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend at Disneyland, which is also in January, a week after Marathon Weekend. There are 5K, 10K, and half marathon races, as well as the Rebel Challenge, where runners do both the 10K and the half marathon. Races at Disneyland have smaller fields since the resort is smaller - this tends to make for a more pleasant race experience, but it also means they often sell out faster.

Planning for a runDisney Race Weekend

Are you looking for a "Girls' Getaway"? Then you might be interested in Princess Half Marathon Weekend at Walt Disney World or Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend at Disneyland. Both of these race weekends are women-focused. That doesn't mean that men are not allowed, but in the last few years women have outnumbered men by about 11:1 in the half marathons. Both race weekends offer 5K, 10K, and half marathon races, as well as a 10K/half marathon challenge. Princess Half Marathon Weekend takes place at the end of February.

Planning for a runDisney Race Weekend

This year Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend has been moved from January to Mother's Day Weekend in May. We'll see how that works out - many of us (myself included) think that's a poor choice for a race weekend, especially one focused on women. Getting up really early to run a half marathon is not the kind of pampering that most moms are looking for on Mother's Day!

Planning for a runDisney Race Weekend

Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend is held over Labor Day weekend, and also offers 5K, 10K, and half marathon races, and includes the Dumbo Double Dare 10K/half marathon challenge. It's pretty warm in Anaheim at this time of year, but a race weekend is a great excuse to visit Disneyland, if you haven't been out here before. The City of Anaheim really comes out in support of this one, with lots of high school bands, cheerleaders, Boy and Girl Scouts, and community dance groups. And then there's the classic cars!

Planning for a runDisney Race Weekend

Do you want to run a race and party afterward? Then the WDW Wine and Dine Half Marathon might be for you. This is my favorite WDW race: it's at night, it's a different course that goes through three theme parks, and there's an after-race party in Epcot until 4:00 a.m. The Food and Wine Festival food booths are open, as well as some attractions, and there's also special entertainment. The race weekend takes place in early November. There's no 10K for this one, just the 5K (which takes place the same day as the half marathon - but early in the morning), and the half marathon. But the 5K is also slightly different, since it's held at Animal Kingdom and not at Epcot like the others. This half is also a smaller field than the other WDW races.

Planning for a runDisney Race Weekend

If you want to bring out your inner super hero, then how about the Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon Weekend at Disneyland? In addition to having the longest name, this is the last runDisney event of the year, and takes place the week after Wine and Dine. There are 5K, 10K (new this year), and half marathon races. With the introduction of the 10K, there's the new Infinity Gauntlet Challenge. Weather-wise, this is a terrific time for a race in California.* In addition, the parks are fully decorated for the holidays. making it a special time of year for a visit to the Disneyland Resort.

*Last year's wind event during the half marathon was an anomaly.

Now that you've decided on a race...

Race registration opens 7-9 months in advance, (you can visit the runDisney web site to sign up for a reminder email) and many of the races sell out quickly (sometimes in under 30 minutes!). I highly recommend that you be prepared to register the minute that race registration opens (typically at 12:00 eastern time) so that you don't get shut out. The 10Ks and race challenges are usually the earliest to sell out, because they allow fewer participants. If you are an Annual Pass Holder or DVC member, there will be a pre-registration opportunity about two weeks before regular registration opens. A limited number of registrations are available during this time, and they also tend to go quickly. The good news is that if you qualify for this you get two shots at registering, and if you don't get in via pre-registration, you can try again during open registration. (In the past pre-registration was also available to Disney Visa card holders, but I do not know if this is still the case.)

RunDisney uses active.com as their registration site. If you don't already have an active.com account, then it's a good idea to set one up in advance. It doesn't help with pre-registration, but during open registration it will speed the process if you have an active.com account you can log into.


So you're registered...what's next?

Time to make some additional decisions about the race weekend. Are you going to turn it into a vacation, and add on some days before and/or after the race? Where are you going to stay? How are you going to get around? Some of these considerations are slightly different depending on whether the race is at Walt Disney World or Disneyland, so I'll address them separately.

Since most of us travel to WDW or Disneyland we want to spend some extra time there apart from the races to give some added value to the trip. I personally recommend adding more of the time on after the race and not before. You'll still want to arrive at least a day or two before the race so that you have time to visit the Race Expo and pick up your race bib and shirt, etc., but once the race is over it's nice to have some time to relax and enjoy the parks.

At Walt Disney World, if you are staying on-site at a WDW resort, then race transportation and where to stay are kind of all rolled together. For each race weekend, there are multiple Walt Disney World resorts that are designated "host resorts". Race transportation is provided for runners staying at these hotels - this includes free transportation to/from the Expo in addition to transportation to/from the races. So, between using Disney's Magical Express for airport transportation and normal Disney transportation to the parks, then if you're staying at a host resort you probably don't need a rental car. For Marathon and Princess weekends, all WDW resorts are considered host resorts and offer race transportation. For Wine and Dine, the resort choices are more limited. You can visit the runDisney web site and go to Travel->Walt Disney World and then select the race weekend you are interested in for more information on the host resorts.

At Disneyland everything is much more compact, so from any of the Disney hotels and from many of the hotels in the surrounding area you simply walk to/from any race weekend events. The Expos are held in the convention center at the Disneyland Hotel, and the races all start/end near either the Disneyland Hotel or the Paradise Pier Hotel. (This makes the race morning logistics a WHOLE lot easier than at WDW - no bus ride required!). There are some designated host hotels that are further away which do offer Expo and race transportation, so that's also an option.

One thing to keep in mind is that there's no "Magical Express" equivalent at Disneyland, though there are a number of reputable shuttle services that provide airport transportation to all area hotels. You'll have to pay for it, but balance that off against the price of a car rental. Also, most hotels (including the Disney hotels) charge a fee for parking, so that's another thing to keep in mind. The two most popular airports to fly into are John Wayne (SNA) and Los Angeles International (LAX). SNA is a whole lot closer to Disneyland, but doesn't have as many flights. Long Beach (LGB) is another airport option, but it's very small, and few airlines fly there.

There are only three Disney-owned hotels at Disneyland, and they are all high-end, so Disney depends on their "Good Neighbor" hotels to provide the more moderate and budget-priced options. You won't get the Disney theming, but the accommodations are just fine, especially if your biggest requirement is a place to sleep and shower.

And did I mention that a lot of them are walking distance to the race events and the parks? :-) i can not stress enough what a huge benefit that is when running a race at Disneyland. You can find some additional information, including links to the hotel web sites, on our Good Neighbor Hotel FAQ


2-7 months in advance

Train for your race(s). I'm not going to say too much about this, since everyone has their own strategy, and what works best for them. But I will address Kristyn's question about Wine and Dine, and how to prepare for a nighttime race: I personally don't do anything differently in my training. I typically run one evening a week, but the first time I ran Wine and Dine I wasn't doing that, and it didn't make a difference in my performance. I think that if you've done your training, then your body knows what it needs to do, and time of day doesn't matter. If anything, I find it a little easier to run at night because it's dark and I don't have the sun beating down on me.

This is also the time period where you'll be able to submit your "Proof of Time". This is a race result from some other race you've participated in during the past couple of years, which runDisney will use in determining your placement in a start corral. This is done via a web page. You can use another runDisney race, but most of us don't have our best times in a runDisney race. :-) You'll need to have the race information, including the name of the race, date, location, distance, your time, AND a URL where runDisney can find the race results. If you run a different race and get a better time, you can go in and modify it. But you will not be able to modify your proof of time within about 3 months of the Disney race date - the cutoff date will be posted on the page. You are not required to submit a proof of time, but if you don't have one runDisney will assign you to one of the later corrals.

For WDW races, starting 6 months in advance you can make your Priority Seating arrangements for dining. So if it's important to you to eat a particular kind of food - or at a particular place - before a race, it's something to consider far in advance. And of course there's probably other restaurants you'd like to enjoy after the race - we often have a celebratory dinner at one of our favorite restaurants on Sunday night of race weekend.


60 days in advance

At Disneyland it's time to make your Priority Seating, though this isn't nearly as critical as it is at WDW. The exceptions would be for a special dining package, such as Fantasmic! viewing, or if you're booking for a large party.

For WDW you can make your Fastpass+ selections, if you are staying at a WDW resort.


1-4 weeks in advance

Race waivers will be available on the runDisney web site. You must complete a race waiver and present photo id to pick up your bib at the race Expo. While there are print stations at the Expo, it's a lot easier and faster if you print the waiver in advance and bring it with you. This is also how you find out your bib number, and you can determine your corral placement from that - otherwise you'll have to wait until you pick up your bib, as the corral will be printed on that.

Make a packing list. Don't forget things like gels, running belts, and throwaway clothes. If you use a particular nutrition product bring it with you - don't count on being able to purchase it at the Expo. If you're planning to run in costume, make sure you list all of the pieces. If you can do a test run in the costume to make sure it's going to work that's great, but I'm sure most of us (myself included) don't do that.


The week before

Obsessively stalk the weather channel. Ok, maybe that's just me. :-) But honestly, you want to know what to expect so that you can bring the appropriate clothing, both for running and park touring. And be aware that the weather can change drastically, even a day or two before the race (though this is more often an issue in Florida than California). Predicted starting temps in the 60s can suddenly turn into the 40s (or 30s!), or 50s can turn into high 60s, with finishing temps in the 80s. And rain is always a possibility. I've had experience with all of those, and they all have their own challenges. If it's chilly, the worst part is all the waiting around before the race. In that case, those little chemical hand warmer packets and some cheap throwaway gloves will go a long way to keeping you more comfortable. I ALWAYS pack a LARGE trash bag in my suitcase - it comes down past my knees and really helps me retain body heat while waiting.
Planning for a runDisney Race Weekend


Race Weekend

Yay! You've made it to your destination, with your running gear and waiver in hand. Next up is the race Expo. If you want first chance at the race merchandise, then you need to arrive EARLY on the day the Expo opens and be prepared to wait in line. This is the one situation where it's easier if you have a car since the buses don't start running until 30 minutes or so before the Expo starts. Also, remember that bib pickup and merchandise are in separate areas - you can choose to go to merchandise first and later pick up your bib or vice versa. If you don't want to wait in a lot of lines and are willing to take your chances on merchandise, then I would suggest visiting the Expo sometime after 2:00 in the afternoon. I've never encountered much in the way of lines at that point in time.
Planning for a runDisney Race Weekend

Be a little cautious about trying the samples that are available at the Expo. That energy bar might contain some ingredient that doesn't agree with you - and stomach issues are not something you want to deal with on race day.


The day before the race

It's really difficult to stay off your feet when you're at Disney, but it's a good idea the day before a race, especially if you're running the marathon. Even with a half marathon, being on your feet for hours the day before will tire you out to some extent. We try to do some limited touring in the morning, and then take an extended break back in our room in the afternoon, before venturing out in the early evening for dinner. And you should be drinking water throughout the day - not drowning yourself, but if you're running a half or the marathon then you want to be well-hydrated.

When you're out and about, pick up whatever it is you're going to want to eat in the few hours before the race. This might be a bagel or a banana, or yogurt - or maybe it's an energy bar that you brought with you. Your choices the morning of the race will be very limited, so if you already have what you need that's one less thing to worry about in the morning.

Planning for a runDisney Race Weekend

When it comes to dinner the night before, just about everyone has their own idea of what works best for them. Some want pasta, others pizza, and some swear by Chinese food. At this point, you should have done enough long training runs to know what you need to fuel yourself for the next day. You definitely do NOT want to gorge yourself the night before, but you should eat a good dinner, with some carbs and protein. I like chicken and rice, with some vegetables or a salad, though my go-to meal the night before a Disneyland half marathon is four cheese ravioli from Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta.

For the Wine and Dine Half Marathon, since it's a night race, we do things slightly differently. We still do some touring in the morning, and then we'll try to have our big meal of the day around 1:00-2:00 in the afternoon. And by "big meal", I don't mean gorging on an all-you-can-eat buffet - I mean your largest meal of that particular day. I recommend something similar to what you would eat for dinner the night before a morning race. Then around 6:00 have a light (and I do mean light) meal or snack.

In the couple of hours before the race, whether it's in the morning or the evening, you'll want to have something to eat. Again, from your training, you should be familiar with what works for you. You may want to eat in your room, or you may want to take something with you to the start area.

The Disney resorts usually have some kind of quick service option that's open very early on race mornings where you can get coffee and light fare such as fruit and bagels. At Disneyland several locations in Downtown Disney are open early on half marathon mornings, like Starbucks and Jamba Juice.


Race Day

Planning for a runDisney Race Weekend

And...you've made it to race day! Get out to the start line and have a great time on the course!


What about the rest of you? What are your suggestion on planning for a runDisney trip?

Learn more about runDisney from Laura on this episode of AllEarsNet TV



March 3, 2015

2015 Princess Half Marathon Weekend - Part 2, Half Marathon

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2015 Princess Half Marathon Weekend

I think I got even less sleep on Saturday night than I did on Friday night. Frustrating, but not unusual for me. Maybe I perform better when I'm sleep deprived...

I was awake before the wakeup call, and I canceled it so that it wouldn't wake Deb up. Did the usual routine of having something to eat (yogurt, though I also had a bagel and almond butter available - and I should've had at least half of the bagel because I was hungry an hour later), and getting ready to go, with last-minute checks to make sure I had essentials like my bib, hydration belt, Magic Band, car keys, phone, driver's license, and throwaway clothes. I was wearing my favorite Cinderella running outfit again. But that's the third time for it this year...I may need to change it up a little bit. :-)

I went to pick up Jill and Hilary before going to Epcot. I arrived in the Epcot area a little later than the day before, and with twice as many runners as for the 10K there was more traffic headed to Epcot, but it still didn't take long to drive there. Once past the parking booths I Chose Wisely (stay left) and ended up parking closer to the Family Reunion area (aka the start/finish area) than I had the day before.

The temperature was 57 outside - balmy compared to Saturday. It really was significantly warmer. I had a trash bag and a throwaway t-shirt, but probably would've been fine with just the trash bag. It was one of the big ones and came down to my knees.

There's a security bag check outside the Reunion area and we all had to go through that, but it was pretty efficient - lots of lanes open.

With twice as many runners the Reunion area was much more crowded than it was on Saturday. And people also weren't huddled together for warmth near heat lamps, either. No heat lamps this time!

I said goodbye to Jill and Hilary, who were in an earlier start corral, and went to find the Mickey Milers - even made it in time for the pre-race photo! It was nice to see quite a few running friends from all over the country. Most of them were really enjoying the warmer weather in Florida.

The 1/2-mile walk to the start corral wasn't bad at all - it hasn't been bad the last several times I've done it, but the memories of the times when it was an agonizingly slow shuffle still linger. I have to say that Disney has done a much better job of supplying lots of porta-potties. In addition to those in the Reunion area there are more in the "runner's only" area, and then there are also several sets of them near the start corrals. That's really made the lines much shorter. (During the half marathon I also thought that there were more along the course as well.)

I was in Corral E. Close enough that I could actually see the stage and the start line, unlike marathon weekend when I was in Corral J and couldn't see it at all. I had the same proof of time for both, but there's so many more faster (male) runners at Marathon weekend that there were a lot more people ahead of me. In this race the ratio of men to women was about 1:11, which improved my corral position a lot. :-)

2015 Princess Half Marathon Weekend

Before the race started a runDisney spokeswoman came on stage to play a video and make an announcement. I wasn't close enough to a video screen to see much, but as soon as I heard the music, which was recognizably French, I knew that they were going to (finally) be announcing the long-awaited Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Weekend. And sure enough, the Inaugural Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Weekend is scheduled for September 23-25, 2016. Disneyland Paris is the only Disney resort that I haven't yet visited...and of course this race will have that "I" word, too! :-)

There's not much real information available yet, but you can visit this web site to be added to a mailing list.

I think that because of the announcement the race started about 5 minutes late - a bit unusual for a Disney event. There was a nice burst of fireworks at the start, and again for each corral.

2015 Princess Half Marathon Weekend

The earlier corrals are smaller than the later ones, and they were sending us off about 2 minutes apart. I started just about 10 minutes after the official race start. That was nice - it made it much easier when I was at the mile markers - I just subtracted 10 minutes and that was pretty close to what my net time was.

2015 Princess Half Marathon Weekend

Over the last year or so Disney has gotten much stricter about proof of time submissions, and I think that has really improved the course congestion in the early part of the races. I know that my experience has been that when I start I'm with people that are going approximately my same pace. Yes, some are a little faster, some a little slower, but overall we've been able to have room to spread out enough that the single lane parts of the course that we encounter in the first two miles are much less crowded and frustrating than they have been in the past.

In the first mile I could tell that my legs were a little tired after the PR the day before. Not a surprise, and I was planning to take it easy for this one anyway. But this is why you don't PR two days in a row! :-)

2015 Princess Half Marathon Weekend

This is the same half marathon course I've run a number of times, and which you may have read about a number of times. But just in case this is new to you: the 13.1-mile half marathon course leaves Epcot and heads to the Magic Kingdom, then back to Epcot.

2015 Princess Half Marathon Weekend

There are several character stops between miles 2-4, but they are always the most crowded, so I rarely stop. One of them is the villains - this had a huge line so I just stopped long enough to take a quick photo. There's also the pirates and the heroes, but those we also hit on the way back, and I wait until then when the lines are much shorter. People seem to be much less willing to stop for photos at mile 9 than they are at mile 2. :-)

2015 Princess Half Marathon Weekend

We arrive at Magic Kingdom about mile 5 and run down Main Street towards the Castle. It doesn't matter how many times I've done it - it's always a thrill for me.

2015 Princess Half Marathon Weekend

The course takes us through quite a bit of Magic Kingdom: Main Street, Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Liberty Square, and Frontierland. I was surprised not to see any characters in the new Fantasyland part - I've seen Gaston and Belle/Beast there in the past. But Elsa, Anna, and Kristoff were on the balcony behind the castle, cheering on the runners as we prepared to run through the castle.

2015 Princess Half Marathon Weekend

There weren't any characters in Liberty Square, either. Another surprise. Woody was in Frontierland. Just after we went backstage near Splash Mountain there were Snow White and her prince, but a very long line so I didn't stop. I was kind of glad it was Snow White, because if it had been Cinderella I would've had to think about stopping...

2015 Princess Half Marathon Weekend

My least favorite part of the course is the section after leaving the Magic Kingdom: about mile 6.4 through mile 8. A lot of it is single lane and we call it "Cone Alley" because of the wall of cones in the center to keep the runners out of the traffic lane. It can get very congested for the runners. This time it wasn't bad for me, since I was still among the top 20% of runners, even though I'd stopped for quite a few character photos. Those later in the race probably had a different experience.

2015 Princess Half Marathon Weekend

In the mile 7-8 section Luna Bar had some fun inspirational signs posted - things like: "My other shoes are glass slippers" and "Run like a beast, sleep like a Beauty". It was nice to see the signs because there aren't too many spectators in that area, and I know that's often when I start to get tired and need a distraction.

2015 Princess Half Marathon Weekend

Just past mile 9 were the Heroes again. Aladdin, Prince Eric, Flynn Rider, Phoebus (that was a surprise) and Hercules. The line was a lot shorter than it was earlier - I only waited about two minutes before it was my turn. This is one of my favorite photo ops in the Princess Half Marathon.

2015 Princess Half Marathon Weekend

There was an even shorter line for the pirates. This is a terrible photo of me, but he was a really excellent Jack Sparrow.

2015 Princess Half Marathon Weekend

Mile 10 is always a milestone for me in a half marathon, since it means there's only 5K left in the race. And I know I can do a 5K. I was still feeling pretty good. Though I was getting pretty warm and sweaty - it was a lot warmer than the day before. The sun had come out and even though it was only about 60, that's warm when you're running.

2015 Princess Half Marathon Weekend

The next two miles went pretty quickly, and I was soon backstage at Epcot less than a mile from the finish. I stopped for a photo with Princess Sophia - no line!

2015 Princess Half Marathon Weekend

I managed to pick up the pace in that last mile to make the final kick to the finish line. My time was 2:28:20, and that included lots of photo stops. I was very happy with that, especially on top of the PR the day before. I felt really good - my legs weren't sore at all. Tired, yes, but not sore.

2015 Princess Half Marathon Weekend

After I got my half marathon medal there was a Fairy Godmother to sprinkle pixie dust if I wanted it. :-) Oh, and they were handing out mylar sheets, too, but it was warm enough that I didn't need one.

2015 Princess Half Marathon Weekend

I went to the Glass Slipper Challenge tent where they quickly verified that yes, I had finished the 10K, and that yes, my photo matched the runDisney mug shot taken at the Expo, and I received my Glass Slipper Challenge medal. Ah...that familiar "clank clank" sound of multiple medals as I walk! :-)

2015 Princess Half Marathon Weekend

I guess because of the Frozen theme the medals are silver this year instead of gold, and they all have snowflakes on the ribbons.

2015 Princess Half Marathon Weekend

There was the usual runDisney MRE box...though it seemed like it had a lot more items in it this time than in the January races. Almond Roca...yum. One of my boxes had a chocolate coconut Luna bar that was really good.

2015 Princess Half Marathon Weekend

I wanted to celebrate with a glass of champagne but the line was long...and I really needed to get back to the room since I still had to pack because I was checking out and headed home later in the day. (Fire the travel agent who set that up! Oh, yes, that would be me...)

There were 20215 finishers this year: 18498 women and 1717 men. Or "1717 of the smartest guys on the planet", as race announcer Rudy Novotny puts it. :-) It's really fun to see the guys get into the Princess theme - I saw quite a few running as princes alongside their princesses, as well as some dressed as princesses themselves. I saw a couple of men dressed in Belle's yellow ball gown, and others as Cinderella or Snow White.

It didn't seem as though I saw as many runners in costume this year as previous years. But there were lots of sparkle skirts and tutus. And while I expected LOTS of Elsas (and there were quite a few) the most popular princess by far was Cinderella! (Another reason to re-think my costume.) I think the most unique costumes I saw were a couple who finished just ahead of me in the 10K - he was dressed as Quasimodo, and she wore a really detailed Esmeralda costume.

As they did for the Marathon in January, Disney live-streamed the start and the finish. You can see the finish HERE It was fun to go back and see myself run across the finish line! (You can see me at 1:56:28.)

I want to say "Thank you!" to all of the wonderful volunteers and cast members who work so hard and get up so early to make it possible for us to run. And to all the bands and groups and individuals who come out on the course to cheer us on - we love your signs and your enthusiasm!

I really enjoy this race weekend. The Princess theme is a lot of fun, and I think it's great that it's an event that encourages friends to share it together. This year was extra special for me, not just because of my 10K PR, but because I was able to spend some quality time with some very dear friends. I'm hoping we can do it again next year - but next year I'm not leaving until Monday! :-)

Learn more about my runDisney experiences on AllEarsNet TV Show #33:


March 2, 2015

2015 Princess Half Marathon Weekend - Part 1, Expo and 10K

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2015 Princess Half Marathon Weekend

February 19-22 was Princess Half Marathon weekend at Walt Disney World. Last year introduced a new 10K race to this event, in addition to the 5K and half marathon. And running both the 10K and half was a new "challenge": The Glass Slipper Challenge. I ran the challenge last year, and had so much fun that I wanted to do it this year, too. Lee decided not to go, so I invited my friend Deb to come so that we could spend some time together.

As usual, I kept my eye on the weather starting about a week out to see what I should expect. It was looking like 55-58 for lows, which is perfect running weather for me, until two days before I left home, when suddenly the forecast was for 41 for the 10K and 55 for the half - and 29 for the 5K, which I wasn't running.

Oh, did I mention that the theme for this year's 5K, and for the 10K medal, was "Frozen?" That's taking theming a little too seriously!!!

So at the last minute I had to pack extra throwaway clothes and gloves and hand warmers - and hope those would be sufficient for Saturday's 10K. And I also had to pack a heavy jacket and scarf and jeans because it was going to be cold just for wandering around the parks the first couple of days.

It was 45 when I arrived Thursday evening. And 34 on Friday morning for those running the 5K. I saw a lot of chilly-looking people getting back to the hotel as I left to go to the Expo - it was 40 by then. But the sun was out so it didn't feel quite so cold.

2015 Princess Half Marathon Weekend

There were the usual race banners in front of the Wide World of Sports, where the Expo was held. I met up with Jill and Hilary, two members from my running club in San Diego, and we had our picture taken.

2015 Princess Half Marathon Weekend

I was quickly able to do everything I needed to do at the Expo. Picked up my bib, took a few photos, shopped, and wandered in the show. It was early enough that it wasn't crowded yet. I think the worst time to be there is between 11:00 and 2:00 - before or after that there are fewer people.

2015 Princess Half Marathon Weekend

I was pleased to see that there still seemed to be plenty of merchandise, and cast members were constantly restocking. I was able to get my Glass Slipper Challenge magnet and the mini 10K medal.

2015 Princess Half Marathon Weekend

While in line to have my photo taken with Princess Minnie I chatted with AllEars reader Michelle and her daughter Molly, who were planning to run the half marathon. Thank you for introducing yourselves, and I hope you had a good race!

2015 Princess Half Marathon Weekend

RunDisney finally unveiled the medals for the upcoming Tinker Bell Half Marathon weekend races and had them in their booth at the Expo. The 10K and half marathon medals are the same with some added embellishment, but we've all been curious about the new "Pixie Dust Challenge" medal. I'd seen photos of it on-line and wasn't too impressed. And unfortunately it's no better in person. But it does have the "I" word on it. That's the only thing I like about it.

2015 Princess Half Marathon Weekend

I picked up my three new race shirts - one for the 10K, one for the half, and one for the Glass Slipper Challenge. I'm really glad that they are short-sleeve. I really love the purple color of the 10K shirt, but I don't like pink at all, and the gray of the Glass Slipper Challenge shirt is kind of drab. I was disappointed that, given the "Frozen" theme, they didn't go with shades of blue, or even white or silver.

2015 Princess Half Marathon Weekend

Deb and I enjoyed some park time later that day, and dinner at Trattoria al Forno (food blog to come). And then it was time to try to go to bed. The three-hour time difference between San Diego and Orlando always makes it hard for me to get a good night's sleep, but I dutifully tried to go to bed at 9:00 and sleep.

The wake-up call came much too early, and Baymax advised me that a fist bump was a form of expression. I dressed in my new Belle running costume - due to the cooler temps I had a long sleeve shirt rather than the short-sleeve v-neck, which would have looked better. Oh well.

2015 Princess Half Marathon Weekend

At least it was a little warmer than predicted: 45 and not 41. :-) I had rented a car so that I could drive myself to all of the race events rather than relying on Disney transportation. One very nice thing about that this year was I could sit in my nice warm car after I parked instead of going out in the cold!

The 10K is a much smaller race than the half marathon - 12,500 as opposed to 25,000. It's a lot more pleasant in the pre-race area - I could actually get close to the stage and see what was going on. Though one reason it may have seemed less crowded is that there were lots of heat lamps set up, and people were huddled around those for warmth!

2015 Princess Half Marathon Weekend

The race started at 5:30, but they didn't send us to our corrals until 4:45. It's a much shorter walk to the corrals, which are in the Epcot parking lot rather than out on World Drive. I found Jill and Hilary in corral A and we all started together. It's so nice being in Corral A! Makes for a much less congested race.

2015 Princess Half Marathon Weekend

My plan was to run this race and try for a Personal Record - I was hoping to finish in an hour or less. So I wasn't planning to stop for photos this time - not even to show off my new Belle costume. :-) Most of it was covered for almost half the race anyway, until I shed my final outer layer.

I'm not really a fan of this 10K course. The first 3+ miles are in the parking lot and on roads, and then it goes backstage at Epcot, before entering World Showcase about mile 4. From then on I like it: it goes around about half of World Showcase, then out the International Gateway and around the Boardwalk area and past the Yacht and Beach Clubs before going back to Epcot again, through Future World and out to the finish line in the parking lot. But it is a fast course, mostly flat with just one overpass at the beginning and a few small hills where it goes over bridges in the park and around the Boardwalk.

Early in the race we went under an overpass. Elsa and Anna were on the overpass talking to the runners, "Let it Go" was playing, and it was "snowing." That was kind of fun. I managed to keep up with Jill for the first mile and a half, but then she sped up. But I was still on what was a fast pace for me, as I could see when I passed the mile markers. And I was feeling strong, and didn't need to stop for any walk breaks as I usually do. I didn't use any of the three water stops, either. It seemed to me like there were more characters out than last year, and most had short lines, but I had that PR in mind, and knew that I was on pace to achieve it!

Deb had gotten up early to come down to the boardwalk to cheer me on. I stopped for a quick hug, so she only got a photo as I ran away. :-)

2015 Princess Half Marathon Weekend

At mile 5 I knew I was going to get my "under-an-hour" finish - the question was how much under an hour. I was still feeling good, and managed to run the last 1.2 miles a little faster, and crossed the finish line with a time of 57:19!!! I was SO happy! Jill and Hilary also PR'd. So it was a great day for the West Coast Roadrunners!

2015 Princess Half Marathon Weekend

This is my new favorite race medal because of what it represents. :-) 10K seems to be "my" distance - long enough, but not too long. I don't have to carry a hydration belt with me like I do for a half marathon, and that's very nice. I've really enjoyed the five different Disney 10Ks that I've done (some of them multiple times). I prefer the 10K courses at Disneyland in California, but I think that this one, used for both the Walt Disney World 10K and the Enchanted 10K, is probably a faster course.

2015 Princess Half Marathon Weekend

Snow White and Tiana were available in the finish area for photos, and since Jill, Hilary, and I all finished early the lines weren't too bad. It was still only about 46 degrees, and all I had for warmth was the mylar blanket I'd gotten at the finish (at least they were handing them out this time, unlike in January!) so after getting our photo with Snow White we all headed back to the car where I had a jacket. It was quite easy getting out of the parking lot. I dropped them off at their resort and went back to the Boardwalk for some hot tea and a warm shower!

2015 Princess Half Marathon Weekend

I'm still so happy about the PR - I don't remember ever being this excited about a race result! I've had a good training season, and it was great to see all of the hard work pay off.

But this is an example of "do as I say, not as I do". :-) When asked about running a race challenge series I always advise people not to run the first race hard, so that you have something left for the second race. But it's a matter of knowing yourself and what you can do - I knew that I could run the 10K fast and still be ok for the half marathon the next day. And one thing I did NOT do was sprint at the end of the 10K, because I knew that would really use up a lot of energy and cost me the next day. I did push my pace a bit over the last mile, but it was not an all-out sprint at the end.

I spent much of the rest of the day doing what you're NOT supposed to do before a half marathon: wandering around theme parks. :-). It's really hard to be at a Disney race and not do that. And it was a beautiful day for being outside - it warmed up to about 75. I felt really good, too - my legs weren't tired at all.

It was another night of trying to get to bed early and sleep. I was hoping that after not getting much sleep the night before I'd sleep better, but that didn't work. Race weekends are exercises in sleep deprivation.

Next up: The Princess Half Marathon

Learn more about my runDisney experiences on AllEarsNet TV Show #33:



January 24, 2015

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend - Half Marathon Recap

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2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

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.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

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.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

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. :-)

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

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.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

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!

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

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.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

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.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

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." :-)

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

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.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

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.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

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.")

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

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!

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

And even a special vehicle - notice R2D2 in the back. (The license plate was OBISHWN.)

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

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.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

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!

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

We had friends who were dressed as Leia and an X-wing pilot, and it was wonderful to see them out there!

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

In miles 9-10 we went east on Chapman Avenue.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

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.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

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. :-)

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

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.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

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.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

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.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend


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".

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

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.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

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.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

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.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

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.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

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.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

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.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

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!

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

Learn more about my runDisney experiences on AllEarsNet TV Show #33:


January 20, 2015

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend - 10K Recap

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It is a dark time for the Rebellion. (5:30 is really early.) Although the Out-of-Breath Star has been destroyed, Imperial troops have driven the Rebel runners from their hidden fitness expo and pursued them across 6.2 miles. Evading the dreaded Imperial Sweeper Bikes, a group of Rebel Challengers, led by run/walkers, have established a new secret race retreat near the icy world of Frozen Fun.

The evil Lord Darth Vader, obsessed with finding the run/walkers, has dispatched official photographers into the far reaches of the course in an attempt to find runners and lure them to the Park side...

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

Saturday, January 17

Our alarm went off at 3:30 a.m. Since at Disneyland we can walk to the start line and don't need to drive or take a bus, we don't have to get up quite as early, even though the race still starts at 5:30.

We planned to leave the room about 4:30, but we still needed that hour to have something to eat and to put on our costumes.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

I hadn't originally planned to run in costume. When the race was first announced I had something in mind, but could never really get inspired and figure out how to do it, and between the holidays and Marathon weekend I just ran out of time. But then on Wednesday, inspiration hit, and I decided to run the 10K as Queen Amidala. I went shopping Wednesday after work, started on some of the cutting and sewing, and finished it on Thursday night. The costume was actually very comfortable - it was essentially a tech shirt (men's size large) with some ribbon sewn on, and a black running skirt underneath. I made the collar and decorative piece out of red felt, painted with gold fabric paint. The most time-consuming part in the morning was putting on the make-up (and I hadn't had a chance to do a trial run on it), but it worked out ok, I think.

Lee had adapted a Jedi costume that he has worn in the past to something he could run in, replacing the vest/belt with a grey tech shirt and his regular running belt. He was a little warm in it, but otherwise very happy with it.

Getting to the pre-race area was more challenging than usual. Since this was a new race we didn't know where everything was going to be! We walked out of the Grand Californian onto Disneyland Drive, but that put us right into the corrals, because this race starts by going north and not south. We eventually went out to Downtown Disney and managed to get to the pre-race area, which is in the same place used for the Disneyland and Avengers races. It's a longer walk to the start corrals from there for this race than for the other two, though, since corral access is south of the Paradise Pier.

I really enjoyed the graphics and the way the stage looked. The DJ was even in Jedi attire.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

We met up with Eddie and Brad, who were going to be running with us, and then went back to our start corral - because of where we were staying it would've been a lot easier to just go straight to the corral from the hotel! :-)

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

We were in Corral B. While we waited they played some clips from Star Wars movies on the big screens, including the trailer for the new movie that is supposed to be released in December. R2D2 and C-3PO joined the race announcers on stage.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

The wheelchair athletes started first - no fireworks, though. Corral A started a few minutes later, and then our corral. We started almost 9 minutes after the official start. The course goes north on Disneyland Drive, then east on Ball, then south on Harbor. All of those are nice wide roads, and we weren't crowded at all.

The temperature was great - about 50 degrees at the start. I was glad that I had l arm sleeves, but I was pretty comfortable for the entire race.

Once we entered Disneyland's backstage area at about mile 1.5 we were on Disney property for the rest of the race, though a lot of it was backstage.

When we ran through the tunnel that goes down under the bus/tram area we heard the spooky sound of Darth Vader breathing, as well as his occasional admonitions that our destiny lies with the Dark Side. I think not, Darth! :-)

The first water stop was just after that, and then we ran across the esplanade and through Disneyland's main entrance onto Main Street. The first character stop was a Jedi master, but he had a pretty long line. There was even a line to take photos with the mile 2 sign at the end of Main Street! I liked the mile signs - they all had different images from the Star Wars movies.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

We went left into Frontierland. Chewbacca was set up just in front of the Mark Twain, and a a HUGE line. There were several cast members just managing the queue, in addition to those who were taking photos! We didn't stop, but I asked a woman who had just gotten her photo how long she had waited, and she said 20 minutes - and she had started in Corral A!

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

We went around Big Thunder Mountain and into Fantasyland. This course did not go through the castle: instead we went out of Fantasyland next to the teacups and by Alice in Wonderland back to the hub, then made a left and went into Tomorrowland. For a Star Wars themed race of course you have to run through Tomorrowland!

We stopped for a photo in front of Star Tours.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

Darth Vader was in front of Innoventions, with another huge line, though not as long as the line for Chewbacca. There were Storm Troopers patrolling the Innoventions ramp, so we were able to get a quick photo of them.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

We ran past the submarine lagoon and the Matterhorn and then back towards "it's a small world". There were several Jedi on the terraced area overlooking the course, but apparently "these are not the Jedi available for photos", because we were chased off when we tried to take photos of them. Not even WITH them, just OF them. They were miked, and were offering Jedi-appropriate encouragement to the runners.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

"It's a small world" is undergoing refurbishment and was largely covered, but some of the holiday lights were still turned on.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

We ran backstage again to the mile 3 sign and the second water stop. We were having a great time and the race had gone very fast and we were surprised that we were halfway done already! I'd hoped that we would hear a lot of Star Wars music along the course and we did - I can't tell you the names, but I recognized a number of different pieces.

In the backstage areas there were some cast members to cheer us on, but it was pretty quiet. There were projections on some of the buildings that looked good, but I had a cast member tell me "no photos backstage" when I tried to take a photo of the Death Star projection.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

We ran around the outside of about 2/3 of Disneyland before entering the Esplanade again and running across through the main entrance of DCA, and down Buena Vista Street and past the mile 4 sign.

At the end of Hollywood Blvd near the Hyperion Theater were two characters from the Star Wars Rebels animated series. Finally a short line, so we posed with them. We ran past the Tower of Terror and into Flik's Fun Fair. The Mos Eisley Cantina music was playing there - that was fun to hear.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

From "a bug's land" we went towards Paradise Pier. Boba Fett was posing for photos near the entrance to Paradise Pier. Another pretty long line there. And I thought the cast members were being a little overzealous in not allowing runners to just stop and take a photo or selfie from the edge of the race course.

World of Color is undergoing refurbishment so the lagoon is mostly drained and the fountains weren't running. We've gotten very used to seeing them during races and it was strange not to see them this time. Hopefully next year!

There were several Jedi in the Midway area, and they also had a very short line. They appropriately acknowledged me in my costume. :-)

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

We went backstage at the parade gate near Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta and ran back behind California Screamin', and re-entered the park at the Pacific Wharf, just in time to run through the arch and into Cars Land. And the mile 5 sign.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

We ran by Luigi's Flying Tires and then backstage again onto the perimeter road. The route from here to the finish was quite familiar, as a number of the Disneyland races finish this way: across Disneyland Drive and past the Paradise Pier and Disneyland Hotels to the finish line.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

The volunteers gave us our lovely Inaugural Star Wars 10K medals. We were wondering if there was something we had to do for the Rebel Challenge, to show we'd finished the 10K (such as a wrist band), but there wasn't.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

After we exited into the Family Reunion area we met up with some other friends who had finished earlier. It was just after 7:00, and still only 52 degrees, so we started getting chilled just standing around, and soon headed back to our hotel for a warm beverage and a hot shower.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

We received the usual runDisney MRE box. Meh. I still don't like these. There wasn't even any chocolate in them this time - at the Disneyland races we have usually had some Almond Roca in them.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

The 6.2 miles really flew by - I didn't feel like I'd run that far at all. And in spite of the photo stops, we still finished in 1:16:07. We really had a great time - up until now last year's Tinker Bell 10K had been my most fun race, but now it's this one. I still smile thinking about it!

I REALLY love the 10K distance - it is by far my favorite. I can travel very light since I don't have to carry a hydration belt or anything with me other than my room key and phone, which fit into pockets of my running skirt. And it's really nice to be done in less than 90 minutes, and still have the rest of the day left! We actually had time to shower, walk to Disneyland, and still make the last 30 minutes of Magic Morning! (And we rode Star Tours, of course!)

This was a new 10K course, and I enjoyed it. I never felt crowded at all, not even in the early part of the race - it was really a very pleasant running experience. Of the Disney 10Ks I think I still like the Disneyland 10K course the best because of the finish through Downtown Disney, but this one is really good. It's all on Disney property after the first 1.5 miles, but because a lot of that is backstage, to me it feels more isolated from the spectators. But it was a whole lot easier to get back to our hotel (the Grand Californian) after this 10K than the Disneyland 10K since we didn't have to get across the race course. On the other hand, it was a lot harder this time for those staying at the Disneyland Hotel. They had to go left out of the finish area away from the hotel, then left on Magic Way, and left again back toward the hotel. Eddie said it was .35 miles.

The runners (and the spectators) embraced the Star Wars theme, and there were lots of runners in costume. I expected to see lots of Jedi, but actually i saw a lot more X-wing fighter pilots and Princess Leias. R2D2 was also very well represented.

As you can tell, I had a great time. For an Inaugural event I thought it went off extremely well - I didn't really see any major problems. They even did a pretty good job of anticipating the lines for the characters, and having personnel available to manage the lines. There were over 10,000 entered in the 10K, with 9195 finishers. That's a pretty good-sized field.

I suppose my only disappointment is the characters. I was REALLY hoping to see the Disney characters in their Star Wars attire out on the course. Besides, having more character opportunities would have helped shorten the lines by spreading people out more.

This event was a lot of fun, and we hope to do it again next year!

Learn more about my runDisney experiences on AllEarsNet TV Show #33:



January 19, 2015

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend - Part 3, Half Marathon

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2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

The Course was with us, and we successfully completed the Rebel Challenge and earned our Coast-to-Coast medals, also! I'll have a more detailed report to come, but here's a few thoughts.

It was a wonderful morning for running - 50 at the start, and cloudy and mid-50s when we finished. There was a beautiful sunrise!

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

The new half marathon course was interesting. We spent almost 4 miles in the parks, though a lot of it was backstage. We didn't exit the parks until mile 4.5, which made the first 1/3 of the race go quickly.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

Once we left the parks the course went south and west into the city of Garden Grove. It was a mixture of commercial and residential areas, and we went by a couple of pretty park areas, too. Nice wide roads, and it felt open and uncrowded. Easy running. The spectators really embraced the Star Wars theme, and they seemed to having a wonderful time, too. It was especially fun to hear the high school bands playing Star Wars music.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

The Costumers who were on the course between mile 8 and 9 were totally awesome (and I don't just say that because one of them is a friend). Much more variety of costumes and characters than we saw in the parks, without the huge lines. Thank you, Disney, for inviting them to participate in both the Avengers and Star Wars half marathons. They really bring a lot to the races, and give the runners a tremendous lift at a point when we are starting to need it.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

The medals are beautiful, though I thought it was interesting the the half marathon medal does not say Inaugural on it - just on the ribbon. The 5K, 10K and Rebel Challenge medals all say "Inaugural".

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

It was really a terrific Inaugural event - Congratulations to all involved! We will be back next year!

Learn more about my runDisney experiences on AllEarsNet TV Show #33:


January 18, 2015

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend - Part 2, 10K

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2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

A more thorough race recap is going to have to wait until I have time to write it, but I wanted to post this update to say that Lee and I had a blast running the Inaugural Disneyland Star Wars 10K this morning. We finished in 1:16:07. It was SO much fun. The miles flew by like the Millennium Falcon on the Kessel Run.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

We ran with our friends Eddie and Brad. We stopped for a number of photos, but didn't stand in any of the REALLY long lines for characters like Chewbacca, Darth Vader, and Boba Fett.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

The medal is beautiful! Very happy to add this one to my collection.

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend

I'll have more details in a later blog. Tomorrow we'll be running the Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon, completing the Rebel Challenge, and earning our Coast-to-Coast medal.

May the Course Be With You!

For real-time updates and photos follow me on twitter: @AllEarsLaura

Learn more about my runDisney experiences on AllEarsNet TV Show #33:



January 17, 2015

2015 Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend - Part 1

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A long time ago in a galaxy far, far, away...

It is a period of taper and recovery. Rebel runners, operating from a hidden start line, have won the opening 5K against the evil Galactic Bonk.

During the race, rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire's ultimate weapon, the Out-of-Breath Star, which has the power to cause legions of runners to hit the wall.

Analysis of the plans has revealed a weakness, and a new hope for the Rebel Running Alliance. Only by undertaking the Rebel Challenge, and crossing the 10K and half marathon finish lines on two consecutive mornings, can runners defeat the Bonk and restore glycogen stores to the galaxy...


When runDisney announced that there would be a Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend at Disneyland in January 2015 there was a great disturbance in the Force, as though thousands of runners screamed for joy. When the event went on sale to the public in all race events were sold out in less than two hours.

The race weekend runs from January 15-18. Events include the Health and Fitness Expo Thursday-Saturday, the Star Wars 5K on Friday, the Star Wars 10K and Kids Races on Saturday, and the Half Marathon on Sunday. Runners participating in both the 10K and the Half Marathon have the opportunity to take on the Rebel Challenge, and earn an additional medal for completing both races.

And, let's not forget that this event has my favorite word: Inaugural. :-) It took about a nanosecond for Lee and me to decide that we wanted to sign up for the Rebel Challenge.

To say that this race weekend has been eagerly anticipated is quite an understatement, and Disney fans and Star Wars fans have been training, and, more importantly, planning their race costumes, for months. Lee and I are no exception - I can't remember when I've looked forward to a race weekend this much!

Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend has replaced Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend, which moved to May. So it is the weekend after WDW Marathon Weekend. While we "only" did the Goofy Challenge this year, that still means we'll be running 58.6 miles in nine days. And again earning our Coast-to-Coast medal in the shortest possible time. We're actually feeling pretty good, but these races are not going to about time, they are going to be about having fun!

We are really eager to see the special touches that Disney will put on the race courses. There's always the great mile marker signs, and I hope we will also hear lots of Star Wars music. And the characters...who will we see? In addition to Darth Vader and the Storm Troopers (who are regulars at the Disneyland Half) I'm hoping for Disney characters in Star Wars costumes. We also know that Disney has recruited "costumers" from the Cosplay world to come out and cheer us on - we have a friend who will be doing that, and we are looking forward to seeing her.

And speaking of costumes - it's going to be really interesting to see all of the creative costumes that the runners will come up with! I know Lee and I have worked on ours...

May the Course Be With You!

For real-time updates and photos follow me on twitter: @AllEarsLaura

Learn more about my runDisney experiences on AllEarsNet TV Show #33:



January 13, 2015

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend, Part 3 - Marathon

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2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

Sunday, January 11

I slept a little better Saturday night so for a change I was asleep
when the alarm went off. A few minutes later we received our wakeup
all from Baymax, who told us to have a "fun-filled day".

It was hard to get up, and I really wanted to just go back to bed.
Lee and I both wondered how we managed to do it four mornings
in a row last year when we did the Dopey Challenge..

It was a much warmer morning - 56 degrees at 3:00, which was 10
degrees warmer than the day before at that time. We only needed a
throwaway shirt and our trusty trash bags. I also had gloves and a
couple of "Hot Hands".

We left the room a little after 3:30. There was a little more
traffic driving to Epcot, but not bad, and we were actually
parked two rows closer than for the half marathon.

There was a very short line to get through the bag check and we
entered the race area. There was a stage with a DJ, and there were
a couple of photo backdrops with the Marathon logo on them.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

Before we went to the corrals we hung out with a lot of our running
friends - it was nice to see a lot of our former Team All Ears
mates!

We were running with a group of friends, and around 5:00 we all
headed to Corral K. The race started at 5:30, but we knew we
wouldn't start until after 6:00. The walk to the corrals was a
little more crowded than it had been the day before, but still not
bad.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

There were 26,000 registered for the marathon (though there's always
some number of runners who are unable to participate), separated
into 16 different start corrals - A-P. As they did for the half
marathon, each corral had their own set of fireworks. One thing
I hadn't realized was that they shoot the fireworks off from a
couple of locations, and we could see both the ones at the start
line, and some that were off to our right. As we moved forward
those were behind us.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

Our corral started around 6:10. It's always a relief to finally get
going. Our group was doing 2:1 intervals: two minutes running and
one minute walking. It was really a wonderful morning for running:
nice and cool - ~58 degrees and not too humid. By mile 3 I had
discarded all of my throwaway clothes, though I hung onto the "Hot
Hands" for a while longer.

The character lines were significantly shorter than they had been
the day before as we made our way towards Magic Kingdom. It was all
the same characters, so I guess a lot of runners (since about half
were either Goofy or Dopey) had gotten their photos during the half
marathon. But we stopped for a photo with Wreck-it Ralph - and got
photobombed by several other friends who caught up to us just as we
were posing. :-)

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

The runDisney banner was staked down at the bottom this time, so I
was able to get a better look at it!

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

It was starting to get light as we approached the "underwater
overpass" where we go under the channel that connects Bay Lake and
Seven Seas Lagoon. The "Big Hands Guy" is always there playing
music and cheering us on.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

There was a pretty sunrise as we looked towards the Contemporary
Resort.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

Once we reached Magic Kingdom we enjoyed running down Main Street.
At the end we had some friends who were there cheering for us. It's
always so wonderful to see some familiar faces when we are running,
and we appreciate them getting up way early to come out and support
us.

Anna, Elsa, and Kristoff were cheering us on from the castle balcony
again.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

We stopped in front of the castle to get a group photo.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

After we left the Magic Kingdom it was time for the dreaded "Cone
Alley" section from there to past the Polynesian. We were further
back in the pack than we had been during the half, and there were a
lot more people. Plus we were running as a group of eight, so we
couldn't really run together. We get really frustrated with big
groups who run side-by-side on the narrow parts, so we tried to stay
mostly single file, especially when we were walking.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

There were some new signs up today. The "song" for this part of the
course was "This is the Best Day of My Life". (How would you like to
be the DJ working that area, having to hear the same song over and
over and over..).

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

Until just past mile 8 the course had been identical to the half
marathon the day before. But from there on it was different. We
made a left to the Walt Disney World Speedway, where we took a
lap around the track.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend
`

There were car enthusiasts who had brought out their cars and were
cheering us on.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend
`

After we left the speedway we had to run across the grassy median to
get onto Bear Island Rd towards Animal Kingdom. Our path across the
median was marked with pink (and green) flamingos, which I found
very amusing.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

There were a number of character stops along the road, but the lines
were a little longer than we wanted to stop for. As we neared Animal
Kingdom we ran by the Waste Treatment facility. It did not smell
very good in this area, but there were a number of informational
signs to read as we ran by.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

The group from Robin Hood was out for photos! You don't see them
very often.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

A lot of us wanted our photo taken with this Goofy topiary!

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

As we neared Animal Kingdom some of the animals were out with a
number of animals and birds. Beaker the vulture had his own way of
encouraging the runners to "look alive" and keep moving. :-)

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

Emme Lu the pig was even wearing a marathon bib! I thought there
were more animals this year. It's a lot of fun to see them.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

Because of the construction between Harambe and Asia we entered
Animal Kingdom by the Maharajah Jungle Trek instead of Harambe. We
were almost to mile 13 by then. The park was open, and we got in
line to ride Expedition Everest! It only took about 10 minutes
and it was really fun. Where else can you ride a roller coaster in
the middle of a marathon? :-)

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

But all of that fun took a long time - about 3:25 to do the first
13.1 miles. I wanted to finish in under six hours, so I said
goodbye to my running companions (including Lee) and picked up the
pace a bit. I switched to 4:1 intervals, which is what I'm used to.

After leaving Animal Kingdom there's about a mile of narrow paths
and roads. That was pretty frustrating, but I was happy to see Mike
Scopa's smiling face along that stretch!

Once we were back on the main road towards Wide World of Sports it
widened out a bit, but there were still a lot of people. And since
I was moving faster than almost everyone else I had to weave my way
through a lot of traffic.

About mile 15 it started to drizzle, and then it rained lightly for
10 minutes or so. The temperature was up to about 65, which was
still a comfortable running temperature for me - I was actually
really pleased with the weather, since it was not quite as warm as
had been predicted. According to the weather forecast the rain was
supposed to hold off until 1:00, but it was only about 10:00. I
was really hoping we weren't going to have a repeat of the rain we
had for the Wine and Dine half marathon.

As the course turned right to go towards Wide World of Sports it
went down to one lane - because on the other side were all of the
people who were exiting WWoS who were almost four miles ahead of me.
This part was decidedly not fun - I dislike it even more than "Cone
Alley".

Once we turned right again just before mile 17 we were no longer
facing the other runners and the course got a bit wider. Volunteers
were handing out cool towels, and those felt really good! Also in
this area was a huge Baymax towering above us. Signs posted at his
base said things like: "I heard a sound of distress", "I am not
fast", and "On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate your
pain?" At that point I was still feeling pretty good, but ask me
that question again in another 9 miles...

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

Most of the time in the Wide World of Sports complex we are running
on concrete walkways - pretty narrow and hard on the feet. But we
get to run almost a lap on the track, and that has a rubberized
surface that feels really good on the feet after almost 18 miles!

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

Just after mile 19 we did a lap around the field at Champions
Stadium. I know some people don't like the dirt surface, but I find
it's a nice break from the concrete and asphalt.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

The race banners from the Expo had been moved so they would be next
to the marathon course.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

Once we left the WWoS complex we were again down to one lane, but
this time we were the ones who were a long way ahead of the oncoming
runners. I really did not like this part of the course. But I
think I already said that.

At mile 20.5 I found cheerleader extraordinaire Laura Ozo. She had
asked people in advance what they wanted her to have for them, and
offered me a variety of choices - chips, candy, coke, etc., but I
wanted an orange slice, which tasted really good. Thanks, Laura!

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

By mile 22 I was starting to feel pretty tired. I knew I could
still do the last four miles, but my running pace was slowing down
a bit, though I was still able to do 4:1 intervals.

I was very happy to reach the Studios - just over three miles to go!
They were handing out chocolate there - I didn't take any, but it
was nice to have the option. No gummies this year, which is what I
would've liked. I love chocolate but not during a race.

Several character stops but they had lines so I didn't stop. I
passed by the Sorcerer's hat with all the construction walls around
it - that might be the last time that I'll see it, since it is being
removed.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

After leaving the Studios the course narrowed again as we ran on the
path along the waterway towards the Epcot Resort area. It was so
wonderful to get to the Yacht Club and see Deb and Linda there to
cheer in the same spot they'd been during the Team AllEars years! I
got two great hugs to speed me on my final two miles.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

That was about when it started to rain again, and by the time I
reached the International Gateway it was really raining. Ivana
Dream, the self-proclaimed Marathon Fairy, was out. She was
impressed that I knew who she was (but that's only because I asked
her last year during the Princess Half Marathon!).

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

As I came into World Showcase at the UK, I found Phil, Pam, and
Nancy cheering - rain hadn't dampened their enthusiasm!

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

Because of the rain the characters who are usually out during the
race had either been pulled or were in sheltered spots. I was able
to get my photo taken with Aurora in France.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

And Mushu in China.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

It was raining and I just wanted to finish so I didn't stop for a
frozen margarita in Mexico this year - plus I still had my eye on
that under 6-hour finish.

The gospel choir was still out singing in spite of the rain, though
it had slowed to a drizzle by then.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

And I did it! I finished in less than 6 hours: 5:51:42, to be
exact. I ran the second 13.1 in 2:25, and I was very happy with
that!

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

The rain stopped about the time that I finished. I got my Mickey
medal from the nice volunteer and a cool towel from another. It
wasn't uncomfortably warm, but it still felt good to wipe my face
and hands and arms.

I made my way to the Dopey/Goofy tent. I was skeptical about how
well this photo process would work, but it went very well. They had
a lot of lanes open with a computer and volunteer at each one. The
volunteer punched in my bib number and said "You're good to go -
congratulations!", and then I went through and the next person gave
me my Goofy medal. (The woman in front of me was not so fortunate,
and she was immediately directed off to the side to talk to a
manager.)

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

I saw lots of runners with the runDisney mylar sheets, but no one
was handing them out. I was wet, and concerned about getting
chilled (I hadn't checked a bag, so didn't have any dry clothes,
and Lee had the car keys), so I went looking for one. I asked one
runner where she got hers, and she directed me to Medical. I went
to Medical, and was told I couldn't get one if I didn't have a
Medical condition - that I needed to go to Self Treatment or the
Massage tent. Those were outside the finish area in the Family
Reunion area. Ok. As I exit, I see lots of people, including
spectators, who have the sheets. I go to Self Treatment, but they
don't have any. I go to the Massage Tent, and they don't have any
- though the answer I got was "I can't give you one". But still...how
are there no mylar sheets for runners??? I eventually got one that
a spectator was discarding. I ended up not really needing it,
though.

After all of that I went to the Champagne Station and rewarded
myself with a glass of champagne.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

I checked the on-line results and saw that Lee had finished so I
went back into the runner's area to find him. By then not only had
the rain stopped but the sun had come out a little bit. Which is
why we're both squinting in this photo. :-)

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

He had continued to have a good time with the group, so that was
great. But we were both tired and wet and ready to get out of
there, so we headed back to the car. It really didn't take long to
get back to our room at all. We were pretty wiped out - after we
showered we snacked on my leftover chicken parmesan from the night
before ("Chicken parm you taste so good") and what was in our
runDisney MRE boxes, and took a nap.

After we got back I took a closer look at the Goofy medal. It's a
spinner, but Goofy is upside down on the orange side! It's not a
mistake, because the writing is correct. Just Goofy being, well,
goofy.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

So. We're glad we did it, and it's nice to have that anniversary
medal, but we are done with marathons for a while. I won't say
"never again", but it's going to have to be something pretty
special. We just don't like the marathon distance, and all of the
training required. Love the halfs, but marathons are just not for
me. I have friends who run multiple marathons a year, and I don't
know how they do it.

Next up is Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend at Disneyland this
next weekend. Another Inaugural event! We will be doing the
Rebel Challenge which is the 10K and the half marathon. And
we will be earning our Coast-to-Coast medal, also.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for all of the good thoughts and well
wishes!

Learn more about my runDisney experiences on AllEarsNet TV Show #33:

You can follow me on twitter: @AllEarsLaura


January 12, 2015

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend, Part 2.5 - Marathon

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2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

We finished! Goofy Challenge #4 complete. It was very tiring, though - I'm actually more tired and sore than I was after the Dopey Challenge last year. So no race recap in today's blog entry - that will be coming tomorrow (I hope).

Thanks everyone for the congratulations and the well wishes - we really appreciate it!

Learn more about my runDisney experiences on AllEarsNet TV Show #33:

You can follow me on twitter: @AllEarsLaura


January 11, 2015

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend, Part 2 - Half Marathon

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To paraphrase Lao-tzu:
"A journey of 39.3 miles begins with a half marathon."

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

Part one of the Goofy Challenge successfully completed - the marathon is tomorrow. That's the REAL challenge.


As they always do, our race morning began far too early - 2:30 a.m. Or 11:30 p.m., as my Garmin informed me. We had breakfast in the room, and tried to prepare ourselves as best we could for the cool conditions. It was 46 degrees, and was supposed to go down to 44 around 6:00. Nice conditions for running, but difficult for waiting around. I'll take it over the heat and humidity, though.

We left about 3:30, and had decided to drive to Epcot. We were actually hoping for a bit of traffic so that we could sit inside our nice warm car, but there was very little, and we were parked by 3:45! We still sat in the car for a while before donning all of our warm clothes and heading to the start area.

No photos, because I was too bundled up, but I had my running skirt and shirt, a throwaway cotton t-shirt, calf sleeves, arm sleeves, and gloves. Also a new running jacket that my niece and nephews gave me for Christmas (that wasn't a throwaway; I thought I might need it later in the race if the wind came up). And over all of that a trash bag that went down to my calves. I also had "Hot Hands" to put in my gloves. Was I warm? Mostly, and I was fine while we were moving, but the last 10 minutes in the corral I was starting to shiver. (Remember, I am a native of southern California, and I have very thin blood!)

We had to go through bag check to enter the race area - trying to dig my running belt out from under all of that was a challenge, and I lost a glove in the process. Oh well, it was a cheap throwaway, and I still had the hand warmers that I hadn't yet opened. The bag check line moved well, and we were soon into the pre-race area.

It was already about 4:30 by then. We said hi to some friends, and made another potty stop. It seemed like there were a lot more porta-potties this year, both in the pre-race area, the runner's only area, and near the corrals themselves, and the lines weren't nearly as long as they usually are.

By 4:40 we were on our way to the corrals. This was a much more pleasant trip than it has been in some years. We could walk, and didn't have to shuffle along shoulder-to-shoulder - though this morning that might not have been so bad - it would've been warmer! :-) The path also seemed much better lit than previous years.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

They had some cheerleaders and a DJ to entertain us along the way - first time I've ever seen cheerleaders in body suits and earmuffs. :-)

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

By 5:05 we were in Corral J - only 25 minutes until the start of the race! I was surprised that it wasn't more crowded - we were not too far from the front of the corral. We settled down on the ground to wait and rest our legs and feet a little bit.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

We were too far back and not near one of the big video screens, so really couldn't see any of the pre-race "show" with the characters. A male vocalist sang the National Anthem at 5:25, and then the fireworks went off at 5:30 when they started the wheelchair racers, followed closely by the first corral.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

While we were waiting for our corral to begin moving we chatted with some runners around us - Richard, a mutual acquaintance, was right behind us. And hello to Michael, an AllEars reader who was next to us.

Once our corral started moving forward we found a break in the fence and left it so that we could make one last potty stop - the cold weather shrinks the bladder! There's no lines at that point, so it's pretty fast. We nipped back into line at the back of the corral, so we didn't lose any time in starting - well, except that we were at the back of the corral.

I'd removed my trash bag by then but that was all. Oh, and in the meantime I'd found a discarded glove to replace the one that I lost. :-) Lee was down one layer: he'd removed his lightweight pants and put them in his running pack.

Finally we were close enough to see the start line!

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

The race announcers were on-stage, though all of the characters had left by then. We were Corral J, and they still had to get all the way to P. At that point there were sending them off every 3 minutes, though I think for the larger corrals in back it's 5 minute intervals. As it was, the race had been underway for almost 30 minutes when we started. It's over an hour for those in the back.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

It was a relief to be running, and have the opportunity to start getting warm! I had the hand warmers in my gloves, and those helped.

The course is the typical half marathon course that goes from Epcot to Magic Kingdom and back. With the usual narrow one-lane places. I didn't feel that we were unpleasantly crowded this time, but still, it was a relief to get to the first really wide section about about mile 1.5. When we were almost at the mile 2 marker the first elite runner passed us going back! That was about 50 minutes into the race for him, 23 minutes for us. Our plan was to do 4:1 run/walk intervals, and maintain an easy, steady pace since we still have to run a marathon tomorrow.

There were a number of character photo stops along the way to Magic Kingdom, but the lines were long and we didn't stop. I still hadn't discarded any clothes - it seemed like every time I'd start to think about doing that and unzip my jacket we would turn into the wind and I'd have to zip it back up. I'd taken my gloves off and put them in my jacket pocket but I still carried the hand warmers in the palms of my hands. That helps a lot to keep my hands warm.

About mile 5.25 we entered Main Street at the Magic Kingdom, where there were lots of people to cheer us on, including Beci and Bea!

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

We had to stop near the castle to have our photo taken with the beautifully lit ice castle in the background.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

We ran around through Tomorrowland and Fantasyland. Anna, Elsa and Kristoff were hanging out on the balcony at the castle - guess Disney realized the lines would be unmanageable if they were actually available on the course.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

The course goes through Liberty Square and Fontierland, where the mile 6 sign is placed. We were almost halfway through the race, and still feeling pretty good. Lee had thrown away his outer shirt, but I was still wearing all of mine.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

After exiting Magic Kingdom the course goes down the infamous "Cone Alley" for over a mile, past the Grand Floridian and the Polynesian. It was not as crowded for us this time, but I think that's because we hadn't stopped for any character photo lines and were still in the top 40% of runners. Most everyone around us was running a similar pace.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

Our friends Gail and Julian were cheering in that section, and it was wonderful to see them.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

Around mile 8 we found Laura, another of our friends who was cheering the runners.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend
2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

There were also a series of signs giving us some "Fun Facts" about Donald Duck, like the names of his parents and sisters, movies he'd been in, etc. Appropriate since Donald is the mascot for this race.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

Lee broke out his dance moves when we passed one of the many high school bands who came out to cheer us on.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

There was a nice runDisney banner on the course, but the wind was blowing it around so I couldn't get a good photo.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

The sun came up - it had ended up being a nice clear morning. It was still only 48 degrees but it felt warmer once we had the sun on us. I could've gotten rid of my t-shirt at that point, but it was going to be more trouble to take it off than to continue wearing it. I'd been wearing my running belt with my race number on it under all of those clothes, and at least I finally moved that to the outside. My poor race number is already pretty beat up, and I still have another race to run!

Mile 10 is always a milestone for me in a half marathon - once I reach that point I know that I can do a 5K, even if I have to walk it. Mile 10 is at the start of a series of overpasses, so that two-mile section is a little challenging at the end of a race. Once we get to mile 12, in the Epcot parking lot, it's all flat from there.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

Our friends Eddie and Phill had finished quite a bit earlier, but had come out to cheer for the rest of us. They were enjoying a well-deserved adult beverage. :-)

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

We ran into Epcot and did the loop around, stopping for a picture near the fountain. I always tell Lee that "there's no sprinting in Goofy", so we didn't sprint the last .3 miles, but we picked up the pace.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

As we were crossing the finish line we got a nice shout out from race announcer Rudy Novotny, and Lee high-fived Mickey Mouse.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

The nice volunteers gave us our Donald medals.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

I was surprised that they were not handing out the runDisney mylar sheets at the finish area - it was still 48 degrees, and I started to get chilled pretty quickly once we stopped running.

We made our way through the refreshment area and picked up water/PowerAde and the runDisney MRE boxes. (I was happy to see the Goldfish crackers inside.) There were signs directing Goofy and Dopey runners off to one side, so we were expecting them to check our photos to make sure we were really the person who had picked up the bib, but they didn't do that. I guess that'll be tomorrow.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

As I mentioned, it was chilly, so we didn't linger, and pretty quickly went back to our car. We'd both brought dry shirts and jackets to change into, and those felt very good!

My official time was 2:33:35. I was hoping to do 2:35, so that was right on target. We felt pretty good, though I can't say that I'm really enthused about doing double the distance tomorrow. After we returned to the room I took a cold bath (though Florida water is not that cold). My legs will thank me tomorrow. :-) We went to our traditional post-half marathon lunch at the Dolphin Fountain - they make an excellent turkey burger. We relaxed in the room the rest of the afternoon - even took a nap, since neither of us has slept well the last two nights.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

It was a really good race for us. We didn't experience most of the things that have made me write more negatively about this race in the past. The pre-race experience, especially the walk to the corrals, was good, and the on-course crowding wasn't bad at all. There were plenty of water stops, and all of the wonderful volunteers and cast members. Thank you to all of you, and to everyone who came out and cheered on such a cold day.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

Tonight will be another short night, with another early wakeup call. The weather will be a lot warmer tomorrow. It's supposed to be 56 at the start, with very high humidity, and will be in the 70s by the end of the race. That's pretty warm. We're hoping to get a lot of miles in while it's still cool. Looking forward to running through Animal Kingdom and the Studios!

Learn more about my runDisney experiences on AllEarsNet TV Show #33:

You can follow me on twitter: @AllEarsLaura


January 10, 2015

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend, Part 1 - Expo and 10K

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2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

Lee and I are back a WDW Marathon Weekend to participate in the 10th Goofy Challenge. An anniversary year - and that means special bling! :-) We opted not to run the Dopey Challenge again this year - just couldn't take the getting up early 4 mornings in a row. Besides, that gave two other people a chance to run it. Yeah, that's why we didn't do it. Total altruism on our part. :-)

I've been stalking the weather all week trying to figure out what to pack for this weekend. Started off looking warmish, but as the week went on the predicted highs and lows kept going down - though of course the warmest day is still supposed to be the day of the marathon! But it looks like we will be standing around waiting when the temperature is in the 40s and low 50s, so we had to bring some throwaway clothes and trash bags, and also packed calf and arm sleeves. Once we're running we should be ok in shorts and short sleeves, but it's the waiting that's hard. We still managed to get everything in carry-on bags, and they weren't even overly stuffed! (Had to leave room to come back with at least the three new race shirts!)


Thursday, January 8 - Arrival

Alaska Airlines now has a non-stop flight from San Diego to Orlando (and vice versa), and this was our first chance to try that. Best flight experience I've had in a long time. The plane wasn't full, so Lee and I had a row to ourselves. And it's a newer plane with the less bulky seats, which felt significantly more roomy. The people in front of us didn't recline their seats on top of us, and there were no screaming children around us. Fairly smooth flight, and only 4 hours and 40 minutes! The service was good - they came around with the beverage and food carts twice, and in between asked if we wanted coffee or anything else. I hope the flight home on Monday will be as pleasant.

We arrived about 6:00, and since we only had carry-on bags went straight to the rental car area. Had a glitch with the rental car reservation, but finally got that straightened out, and we were on the road by 7:00. It was a chilly (for Orlando) 57 when we arrived. It was downright cold that morning for the 5K - 38 at the start, with a wind advisory. The wind of course made everyone feel colder. In watching the posts of our friends on Facebook, we were pretty happy we hadn't run Dopey this year!

At the Boardwalk we had our first issue with the Magic Bands. We'd brought five (have to color coordinate, you know), but only one of them would open our room. On our way to dinner we stopped by the Concierge Desk, who verified that they were all linked and active, but she re-encoded them, and now they all work.

After dinner at the Dolphin Fountain we came back to our room to unpack and try to go to sleep. We're on the fourth floor overlooking the hotel entrance, and we could actually see some of the IllumiNations fireworks.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend


Friday, January 9 - 10K and Expo

I was awakened about 4:00 by the sound of the announcer way over at the 10K in the Epcot parking lot. Sound carries. I could hear some of the words and the music. I got up a little bit before 6:00 and put on warm clothes, since it was only 48 outside, and went out to a spot near the Boardwalk Bakery with the Mickey Milers to cheer the 10K runners. That area is just over 4 miles into the race, and there were already a lot of runners going by when I arrived about 6:10. And it was still very dark.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

I was very surprised that the Boardwalk Bakery wasn't open yet - they opened at 6:30. Once they opened a lot of the spectators went in, and even some of the runners went in for coffee and pastries!

It was a cool morning for the run. I saw lots of people who were wearing the long-sleeve yellow Minnie race shirt - several of us commented that it seemed like there were more people wearing the race shirt than we have ever seen.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

There were lots of costumes, and it was fun to see all of the creative ideas people had. There were a LOT of Annas and Elsas and Olafs - many of them running together in a group. The Olaf costume was seeming like a pretty good idea given the weather - it's a little warmer. (How ironic is it that a snowman costume would be warm?) The oddest combination I saw was Anna and Elsa running with Darth Vader, though. :-)

I saw a couple of groups where all of the runners were dressed as Snow White. I'm not sure what the term is for a collection of Snow Whites! A blizzard of Snow Whites?

There were also a lot of people dressed as Dalmatians, enough that they must have been some kind of a group, even though they weren't running all together. It was fun to see a few of them running with a Cruella, or with a Cruella not too far away from them.

I think the most unique pair I saw were the couple dressed as Mary Poppins and Mr. Banks.

Cheering was fun, though I wish I'd brought gloves! And a cowbell. Next time...The final runners followed by the bikes and the carts came by around 7:30. We visited with our fellow cheer-ers for a while before getting some breakfast at the bakery. There was no line there, which really surprised me!

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

After breakfast we grabbed our race waivers and drove to the Expo. Very little traffic and we were able to park close, so our walk was shorter than if we'd taken the bus from the Boardwalk.

I always like seeing the race banners near the entrance to Wide World of Sports - it's a a very nice photo spot. This time there was a cast member there to take photos of people - not a PhotoPass photographer, just a regular guy who used our camera.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

We went to the Field House first to pick up our bibs. Bib pickup for Goofy, Dopey, 10K, and 5K runners as well as Kids Races, was upstairs. So at this point almost everyone up there was a Goofy runner, since the others had already picked theirs up.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

When we picked up our bibs they told us that we needed to get our photo taken while holding our bib number. This is a new policy, and has apparently replaced the wristbands they have used to identify Goofy/Dopey runners in previous years. The policy was in place at Avengers for Coast-to-Coast runners, but it was iffy as to whether the volunteers knew to tell runners about it, and we also had wristbands there. We'll see how well it works on Sunday when all of the runners have to be looked up on a computer instead of just showing a wristband.

Anyway...there were signs directing us to the area where they were taking the runDisney mug shots. I do have to say that this was very efficient. There were multiple photographers and backdrops, and someone at the head of the line to direct us to the next available backdrop. Mine really will look like a mug shot, since the photographer didn't tell me to "smile" or anything - just took the photo. :-)

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

We still had to go downstairs in the Field House to collect our shirts. They had already shut down the merchandise area there, but the bib pickup for the half marathon and full marathon were still going on.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

I like the graphic design on this year's shirts, but I think that the Goofy shirt is an awful color. I don't like orange to begin with but with the colors they used Goofy barely shows up on it. I really like the Donald shirt, but I wish the Mickey shirt was a lighter color. The fit and fabric are still very nice, though - I still am SO happy to have a women's shirt that fits me!

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

When we'd seen images of this shirt on-line we though that the graphics were a lenticular or metallic, but they aren't.

In addition to the shirts, our bags had this odd item in them (this is both of ours, so I can show front and back). It's the size to hold a gel packet, but it has an adhesive strip on the back, and I'm not sure what you're supposed to attach it to - I certainly wouldn't trust it to hold during a race.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

Next we went over to the Josten's Center to visit the main Expo - especially to see what was still available for Official Merchandise. It was just after 9:30 and it wasn't too crowded yet.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

Though the Merchandise area was pretty busy - lots of people in the aisles. There still seemed to be a good selection of merchandise available - I was particularly surprised at how much Dopey merchandise there was. Plenty of stuff for the half and marathon, and still quite a bit for Goofy.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

They had all of the "I Did It" shirts, also, though they were down to only smalls and mediums in the Goofy shirt - and there were only 5 mediums. This one didn't appeal to either of us - we have other "I Did It" Goofy shirts.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

I was still able to find the things that I wanted: the Goofy Challenge magnet, and the mini-medal pins for Goofy and Coast-to-Coast. Lee and I both bought the new Coast-to-Coast shirts - I like this particular design. My other Expo purchases (from other vendors) were a pair of throwaway gloves, since tomorrow is colder than I was expecting, and a pair of black and white tie-dye calf sleeves, which will go much better with tomorrow's half marathon outfit. :-)

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

Lee bought the new runDisney vinylmation, but we were dismayed to find that they are no longer selling the little medals that go around Mickey's neck. The runDisney rep we asked said that they didn't sell them for Avengers, either.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

Short line to checkout, but it moved quickly, and as Annual Passholders we received a discount. That's always nice.

After we shopped we visited some of the other booths. The runDisney booth had the usual collection of medals, though we were hoping to see the new Pixie Dust Challenge medal, and it wasn't there.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

I again admired the Castaway Cay Challenge medal - I really hope they will offer that in conjunction with the Wine and Dine Half Marathon this year!

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

We visited some of the other vendors and picked up a few items before leaving the Josten's Center. This year there are more vendors located around Champions Stadium. Given the cool weather that's probably not a very favorable spot this year.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

They had some fun cutouts to pose with over there, though.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend
2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

There were a lot of people still arriving as we were leaving, so we'd timed it pretty well. On our way back we stopped at the Hess Station near the Boardwalk to buy water and yogurt. Four containers of yogurt and 1.5 gallons of water was less than $11 - at Disney, just the water alone would have been more than that! So we're set for food for tomorrow morning - we also brought some bagels and almond and peanut butter from home.

This afternoon we finally went into a theme park. :-) Our Magic Bands functioned just fine, so whatever issue we had with our doors either didn't extend to the park passes, or was fixed when they were re-encoded.

We had lunch at Katsura Grill, and we were able to sit inside - it was still chilly outside, only 52. Hot food tasted good!

After lunch we finished our circle around World Showcase. I was surprised to see that the Christmas decorations were still up in all of the pavilions that decorate for the holidays. I guess the "undecorators" haven't made it that far yet. :-)

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend
2015 WDW Marathon Weekend
2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

In Italy, the Magic Disney Screening Shrubbery is not doing a very good job of hiding this large tower. :-)

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

We also stopped in the Karamell Kuche for some caramel goodness. Yum.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

At one of the two shops at the entrance to World Showcase we were surprised to see a pretty nice selection of Star Wars merchandise, in addition to all of the Anna/Elsa/Olaf stuff.

2015 WDW Marathon Weekend

We'll spend the rest of the day relaxing a little bit, visiting with friends, and then going into Epcot to have an early dinner.

And then we try to sleep before our very early wakeup call tomorrow, so we can go out and run 13.1 miles! Doesn't that sound like fun? :-)

Learn more about my runDisney experiences on AllEarsNet TV Show #33:

You can follow me on twitter: @AllEarsLaura

December 1, 2014

2014 Inaugural Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon

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2014 Inaugural Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon

The Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon Weekend was held at Disneyland November 14-16. This is a new runDisney event, which of course means it has the "I" word, Inaugural, associated with it. :-) All events sold out very quickly, but Lee and I were able to register for the half marathon.

This was the third event in what has been a very busy week for us. We ran the Wine and Dine Half Marathon last Saturday night (you can read more about that HERE), then went on a four-night Disney cruise. We flew back to San Diego on Friday, went home, repacked our bags, and drove to Disneyland that night. It was a long day, but it was nice to have all day on Saturday at Disneyland, rather than driving on Saturday and not being able to check into our hotel until the afternoon.

The events for the weekend included the Health and Fitness Expo on Friday and Saturday, the Super Heroes 5K and Kids Races on Saturday, and the Half Marathon on Sunday. We didn't arrive in time to go to the Expo on Friday night (which was one reason we chose not to register for the 5K), so we went on Saturday, around 11:30. We intentionally did not go at opening, since we'd heard what the crowds were like the day before in the merchandise area. At least this time they had a system, with a queue and cast members controlling access to the area (unlike for the Inaugural Dumbo Double Dare in 2013), but still, the lines were long on Friday morning. And, unfortunately, some of the merchandise sold out on Friday morning. I don't know why Disney seems to have so much trouble ordering sufficient merchandise. But it's pretty disappointing to be a registered participant in the race, and not have a chance to purchase items. There's no reason for shirts to be limited editions. I really wish runDisney would allow registered runners to pre-order merchandise other than pins. But that's another topic.

Anyway...The Expo was held at the Disneyland Hotel's Convention Center, like all of the other Disneyland race expos. Packet pickup was a breeze - we had printed our waivers in advance (which is highly recommended - saves a lot of time), and I walked right up to the counter to pick up my number - no line at all!

2014 Inaugural Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon

As they did for Wine and Dine, there were photographers in the packet pickup area to photograph those who were going for their Coast-to-Coast medal. This didn't affect us this time but it still was not clear at all that this was something that Coast-to-Coast participants needed to do. The volunteers who give out the Coast-to-Coast wristbands need to be given better directions on this. It was in the race program - but who reads the race program in advance on-line, much less takes the time to read the printed version at the Expo?

2014 Inaugural Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon

They had some fun banners posted outside the hall.

2014 Inaugural Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon

The shirt pickup was upstairs in the Expo area - that was also a very fast process. I like the shirt fabric. It's the same softer, lighter weight fabric they have been using for other race shirts this year. The design is also nice, and I'm still very happy with the women's cut. Though these are long-sleeve shirts and the sleeves are too long.

2014 Inaugural Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon


The Expo seemed pretty small to me - not that many vendors, which meant that it felt less crowded and easier to get around. Though it wasn't really that busy when we were there. The vendors that I expected were there, and I couldn't tell you who was "missing".

2014 Inaugural Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon

There were no lines at the merchandise area when we got there - I think that really the only busy time was Friday morning. As I mentioned before, some of the merchandise was already sold out, but there was still a pretty good selection remaining, including the "I Did It" shirts, though it looked like they were running low on some of the sizes. There was a unisex version and a women's version. They were cotton this time and not tech shirts. That has received some mixed responses. I personally like the cotton shirts, but others prefer the tech shirts.

2014 Inaugural Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon

2014 Inaugural Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon

2014 Inaugural Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon

We spent the rest of the day visiting with friends who were also running the half marathon and getting a first look at all of the holiday decorations in the parks. And as usual we ended our day with our traditional pre-race favorite meal: four cheese ravioli from Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta.

One advantage to our travel schedule is that we were on east coast time. So getting up for a race that starts at 5:30 Pacific time isn't that bad when your body thinks it's 8:30. :-) We went to bed at 8:45 on Saturday night and set a wakeup call for 3:45 a.m. That's pretty close to a full night's sleep! And I know I've said it before but I LOVE the races at Disneyland because we can walk to the start line instead of taking a bus, so there's no reason to get there insanely early.

No rain in the forecast for this race (for which we were very grateful, after last weekend's rainy Wine and Dine run), and in fact the conditions looked really good, with temperatures of 55-64 predicted for the race itself. We arrived at the pre-race area about 4:40. This was a relatively small race, with only about 12,000 registered. (There were 10,449 official finishers.) The pre-race area was not crowded at all, and there weren't even any lines for the porta-potties!

Lee and I had both dressed in costume. He put together a really nice Hawkeye costume, and even carried a bow for the entire race. There weren't very many Hawkeyes in the race, so he got lots of compliments! I did a "Princess Captain America Winter Soldier" look - but there were hundreds of Captain Americas. :-) Lots of Thors, Hulks, and Iron Men, also, not so many Black Widows. Also lots of Supermen, Wonder Women, Batmen and Robins, and Spidermen. I did not see very many runners dressed as traditional Disney characters in this race.

2014 Inaugural Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon

The race started on time - we even had some fireworks at the start, which is unusual for a race at Disneyland. Lee and I were running with our friend Eddie - both Eddie and Lee were in higher corrals, but they came back to Corral D to run with me. As in the Disneyland half marathon, they sent A and B together, then C and D together, then E and F. Those were the smaller corrals. The larger corrals went off individually. As usual, the runners were pretty bunched together at the start, but we started to spread out after about 3/4 of a mile.

2014 Inaugural Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon
2014 Inaugural Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon

The Avengers Half Marathon is a new course. When I first looked at it I was surprised (and disappointed) to see that we would be out of the parks and off Disney property before we even reached mile 3. By way of comparison, the Disneyland half leaves Disney property just before mile 4, and for the Tinker Bell half it's almost mile 6! Upon leaving the parks the Disneyland half heads basically east, Tinker Bell heads north, and this course went south, then east. About mile 6.5 it turns north again on the Santa Ana River Trail for a couple of miles, exiting at Angel Stadium. From there on it's very similar to the Disneyland half, though it takes a loop around some of the off-site hotels near the park to add a little more distance. The last 1.1 miles of the race is identical to the Disneyland half, and it finishes in the traditional place near the Disneyland hotel.

The course map is HERE.

The first park was DCA, and we entered near "a bug's land" and then ran by Luigi's Flying Tires, and turned right to run through Radiator Springs, then left towards Paradise Pier. Lightning McQueen and D.J. were in Radiator Springs. The photo op for Thor was positioned in front of Blue Sky Cellar, and had a very long line. We did not do the traditional loop around Paradise Bay, which really shortened our time in DCA. But even so I was surprised that the World of Color fountains weren't running, nor was the Fun Wheel lit.

2014 Inaugural Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon

We turned right at the Little Mermaid and ran by Redwood Creek, where I saw Dug and Russell. Then we passed Grizzly River Run, and turned left just before Soarin'. Hawkeye was there, and had a relatively short line. Since Lee was dressed as Hawkeye we had to stop. Though the line seemed relatively short, it still took over 5 minutes.

2014 Inaugural Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon

We ran out of DCA and entered the backstage area of Disneyland near the Indiana Jones attraction, then ran into Disneyland itself by Splash Mountain. There were a number of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents (dressed in dark suits) cheering us on. The course took us along the Rivers of America past the Haunted Mansion and Pirates. We saw Black Widow in front of The Golden Horseshoe, but that was the longest line we'd seen and we didn't stop.

2014 Inaugural Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon


We ran past Big Thunder Mountain and the mile 2 sign, and into Fantasyland.

2014 Inaugural Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs were on the Carrousel, though they were far enough away that it was hard to pose with them.

2014 Inaugural Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon

2014 Inaugural Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon

We ran through the castle, which is all covered in its seasonal icicle lights and snow. I do have to say that one very special thing about this race was getting the opportunity to run through the parks when they were decorated for the holidays, though we weren't able to take full advantage of that since we never ran by "it's a small world".

2014 Inaugural Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon

As we ran down Main Street Mickey and Minnie were near the Plaza Inn. Surprisingly they were not dressed in any kind of special costume! I expected some kind of superhero outfit, or at least their runner outfits. Very disappointing. Captain America was near Town Square, and had a huge line - nope, not stopping for that.

From there it was under the train station and out of the park, into the Esplanade, and then left through the shuttle bus/tram area, and out to Harbor Blvd. Done with the parks and we were less than 3 miles into the race. Bummer.

2014 Inaugural Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon

Once we started south on Harbor, we really started to notice the wind. The Santa Ana winds had kicked up, and though at that point it was coming from our left, we could still really feel it. After we ran south on Harbor for about a mile we turned left on Chapman Avenue, and right into the wind. It was blowing leaves and dirt around, especially when the wind gusted, and the going was much more difficult when we were running into the wind. After not quite a mile we turned south into the Christ Cathedral complex (I remember it as the Crystal Cathedral), and that was a huge relief, since we were no longer heading straight into the wind.

2014 Inaugural Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon

The wind really took its toll on the mile markers - starting at mile 3, almost none of them were intact for the rest of the race. Several had blown over completely, and others had just the framework left. Wow.

2014 Inaugural Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon

2014 Inaugural Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon

I was wearing a cape, and depending on the wind direction it was either flowing beautifully or trying to strangle me. :-)

2014 Inaugural Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon

The wind was also a big issue for the volunteers at the water stops, since it was strong enough to blow the tables over! At some locations the tables had been taken down and volunteers were simply pouring water into the cups and handing them out as fast as they could. So it was a difficult day for the volunteers, also.

At about mild 6.5 we went down onto the Santa Ana River Trail. There was a really great mural on the wall!

2014 Inaugural Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon

But it was very windy down there, with lots of dust, even though the trail is paved. We even saw a big tumbleweed that was getting blown along. Eddie and I had given Lee a bad time about wearing his sunglasses because it was dark when we started, but we were wishing we had glasses to help keep the dust out of our eyes.

2014 Inaugural Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon

As part of the on-course entertainment Disney had put a call out for volunteers including Costumers (the more authentic, the better), military vehicles and re-enactors to go with them, and veterans.

2014 Inaugural Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon

The Costumers were placed along the Trail. I thought this was a little bit of an odd choice because it was somewhat narrow, but for morale purposes it was a wonderful location for them. They were really terrific - for one thing they looked amazing! So many different and really well-crafted costumes!

2014 Inaugural Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon

And they were also very enthusiastic, offering plenty of cheers and smiles and high-fives and encouragement. We were really happy to see them, and they made us forget the dust and the wind for a little while.

2014 Inaugural Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon

At about mile 8 we exited the trail and went into the parking lot at Angel Stadium, and then into the stadium itself.

2014 Inaugural Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon

No boy and girl scouts this time, but there were a couple of bands and flag teams, and some other groups in the stands to cheer for us.

2014 Inaugural Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon

After we left the stadium we ran by the other group of volunteers - those with military vehicles, period uniforms, and veterans in uniform. This was another wonderful group of people, and we also appreciated their support so much!

2014 Inaugural Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon
2014 Inaugural Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon

From that point on we were mostly running with the wind at our backs, and that helped, though the gusts were strong enough that I felt like I was going to get blown off my feet several times. Very odd feeling.

2014 Inaugural Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon

The last 4+ miles back to Disneyland were pretty similar to what we've experienced in the past on the Disneyland half marathon course. Lots of cheerleaders and high school bands to cheer us on. Finally at mile 11 we again saw a mile marker sign that was still standing! Mile 12 was completely gone - replaced by a cast member announcing that we were at mile 12. The mile 13 sign was surrounded by people, and it was ok. But that's when Lee decided to sprint, and I had to beat him to the finish line, so there's no photo of it. :-)

2014 Inaugural Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon

2014 Inaugural Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon

My time was 2:42:27. I was kind of surprised it wasn't better, because we didn't stop for that many photos. But the wind made for a very challenging and tiring run - it was a pretty tough day. That said, I'll still take the wind over the rain we had for the Wine and Dine Half Marathon.

2014 Inaugural Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon

The medal is very nice - it's a spinner.

2014 Inaugural Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon

As usual we received the typical runDisney MRE box at the end. Someone (hello, Lori!) asked me recently why I object so much to the boxes. I couldn't put it into words at the time, but in thinking about it I realized that it's largely because here I've been out doing something healthy, running a race, and at the end I get a box that's filled with a bunch of processed food. That just doesn't seem right - it's almost insulting. Disney could do so much better, and in fact other races, that don't charge nearly so much money, do a whole lot better when it comes to post-race refreshments.

2014 Inaugural Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon

The windy conditions continued to affect things even in the finish area. The photo backdrops used by the official race photographers were missing, and most of the tents in the finish area had to be taken down. The awards ceremony was canceled, and runners were encouraged to leave the area fairly quickly. We didn't really have any reason to linger, so we headed back to our hotel.

2014 Inaugural Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon

Because of the wind, I'm not entirely sure what I thought about this race, especially the course. I expected to enjoy the Santa Ana River Trail part a lot, but because of the dust, that area was pretty unpleasant. Obviously that's not Disney's fault since they do not control the weather - not yet, at least. :-)

But they do control the park time, and I'm definitely not a fan of the very limited park time. That aspect of the course was very disappointing. But even so, there were a lot of things that I liked about this course. It was nice to see some different parts of Orange County. In the Disneyland half, I don't really like the tour of the Anaheim industrial park, so I found this course to be an improvement since it gave us a look at some business and residential areas instead. If it weren't for the lack of park time I would choose the Avengers course over the Disneyland course, but the Tinker Bell course is still my overall favorite.

The other area where I see a lot of room for improvement in future Avengers races is the characters. The lines for the characters were so long - you pretty much had to choose which one character you were going to stand in line for. I can't think of any really good way to deal with that, but one thing that I would've loved to have seen was some of the Disney characters in Avengers costumes. They do that with the Star Wars characters - why couldn't they do it with Marvel characters? Or why not bring out the Disney super heroes, like The Incredibles and Frozone? And Rapunzel, Mulan, and Merida are pretty bada$$ princesses.

Other than merchandise, I didn't really experience any issues that I associate with this being an inaugural race. Disneyland has done this before, and they have learned from previous race experiences and made improvements over the years (well, other than the runDisney MREs...).

The volunteers were terrific, and I'm sure it was a more difficult day for them than it would usually be. I really enjoyed the Costumers and the vehicles and all of those in uniform - thank you to all of you for coming out to support us, and a special thank you to the veterans for your service to our country!

We will probably run this race again next year and hope for more typical November conditions. It really is a great time of year for a race weekend, given our usual weather at this time of year.

Thanks for reading, and thank you to all of you who have taken the time to tell me how much you enjoy my running blogs - that means a lot to me. I'm especially humbled by those who have told me that my blogs have inspired them to go out and participate in a Disney race! Good for you, and congratulations on your achievements.


November 15, 2014

2014 Wine and Dine Half Marathon

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The Wine and Dine Half Marathon is almost my favorite Disney half marathon - second only to Tinker Bell. We first ran it in 2012, and had a wonderful experience. We decided to run it again this year - it was only after we signed up that I found out it was the 5th anniversary, and that there would be special bling. :-)

2014 Wine and Dine Half Marathon

W&D is Disney's only nighttime half marathon. It's a terrific course that starts at Wide World of Sports and goes through three theme parks: Animal Kingdom, Disney's Hollywood Studios, and Epcot. One of the highlights is running through the Osborne Lights. And after finishing at Epcot there's a post-race party until 4:00 a.m.! The food and wine booths are all open, as are some attractions, and there's entertainment as well. The post-race party is included in the registration fee; tickets are also available to the public, and it sells out every year. I have to admit I'm a little envious of those who are just party goers - they get to start at 10:00, whereas the runners have to complete a half marathon first!

This is a much smaller and more compressed event than the other Disney half marathon weekends. The Expo only runs on Friday and Saturday. The Jingle Jungle 5K and Kids Races take place on Saturday morning (at Animal Kingdom and Wide World of Sports, respectively), and then the half marathon starts at 10:00 p.m. on Saturday night. There are also many fewer runners - whereas the WDW and Princess Half Marathons typically have over 25,000 entrants, the W&D Half has less than 13,000 - it was 12,300 this year. I wonder if this is partially due to the logistics of having the start at Wide World of Sports and the finish at Epcot.

2014 Wine and Dine Half Marathon

Whatever the reason for the smaller field - I like it. :-) It makes for a much more pleasant running experience. This course has a few narrow areas too, but I don't think it's nearly as bad as the Epcot->Magic Kingdom->Epcot half marathon course used for the WDW and Princess half marathon. Having fewer runners makes a big difference, too.

Since the race was Saturday night, we chose to arrive on Friday night, since we could get to the Expo to pick up our race bibs and shirts the next day. We had a great dinner at Sanaa with our friends Mike and Christine that evening - we were having so much fun talking that we were the last people in the restaurant! :-) But it was a rush to get there for our 8:45 ADR - thanks, Mike, for driving us to/from dinner!

Another thing I love about Wine and Dine - it's one of the only Disney races where being from the west coast is an advantage! The 10:00 start time is only 7:00 to us. :-) We consciously make the decision to try to stay on west coast time until after the race is over. Of course this year that wasn't much of a problem, since we arrived on Friday, and only had one night before the race. Still, Friday night we made sure the curtains were closed and attempted to sleep until 8:30-9:00 on Saturday.

After breakfast at the Boardwalk Bakery we headed to the race Expo, at Wide World of Sports. The Boardwalk is one of the "host hotels" for W&D, so there were buses to all race events. Those buses load in front of the Convention Center rather than at the regular bus stop, though. We had to wait about 15 minutes before a bus arrived, though in the meantime we saw a couple of buses return to drop off people who had run the Jingle Jungle 5K that morning. One of these years I want to do that one - it looks like a lot of fun. The course is all at Animal Kingdom, and it sounds like there were a lot of characters out for it - including Santa Goofy!

2014 Wine and Dine Half Marathon

A lot of people had picked up their race materials the day before and the Expo wasn't crowded at all. I walked right up to the counter to pick up my race packet. In addition to my race bib, there was a cork drink coaster shaped like Mickey's hand, a Clif bar, the official race program, my wrist band for post-race party admission, and a Disney gift card with $10 on it. The idea is that the card was to be used at the party, but it can be used any time. I chose not to take it for the race - between my running watch, Magic Band, and Coast-to-Coast and party wristbands, I already had enough on my arms!

2014 Wine and Dine Half Marathon

There was a runDisney backdrop in the pick-up area, and photographers there, but no one told us that we should get our photo taken. It turned out that if you were Coast-to-Coast, you were supposed to get your picture taken while holding your bib number (your runDisney mug shot, apparently). Then at the end of the half marathon they were verifying that the bib number matched the photo. We didn't know, so we didn't do this, but fortunately we didn't have any problems getting our Coast-to-Coast medals - the cast member told us that it was a new program they were trying out, but since we had our wristbands we were ok.

As usual, packet pickup was in the Field House and the shirt pickup and vendors were in the Josten's Center. I like this year's shirt - and again, can I say that I'm VERY happy that they are now offering a women's cut race shirt???

2014 Wine and Dine Half Marathon

There seemed to still be plenty of merchandise left, though it wasn't as large a selection as I see for Marathon or Princess weekends. But of course it's also a much smaller race. It was nice to see that there were even a few items for the 5K - like a pin and some kid's Mickey ears. The 5Ks are usually left out of the merchandise game.

2014 Wine and Dine Half Marathon

At the runDisney booth we admired the medals they will be giving out for Star Wars Half Marathon weekend at Disneyland in January (another Inaugural race). We're both very excited about that one.

2014 Wine and Dine Half Marathon

We chatted with a friend of ours who works for RunningSkirts. She said the Expo was super busy on Friday, but had been quiet so far on Saturday. Makes sense, as anyone who ran the 5K needed to pick up their packets on Friday, and lots of people like to visit the Expo the first day, too.

We didn't stay at the Expo very long - wanted to get back in time for the Team AllEars meet at noon! We didn't have much of a wait for the bus on the trip back, which was very nice.

It was great to reconnect with Team AllEars people!

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One of the very different things about a nighttime race is figuring out how you are going to fuel your body during the day. You want to eat enough, but not too much, and definitely not too much of the wrong things. The temptations of the Food and Wine Festival make it much more difficult. :-) We try to eat a good lunch, and then snack a little bit in the afternoon, and have a light meal, like a sandwich or something, around 6:00. And of course hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

Speaking of hydration...unfortunately it looked like we were facing the possibility of a lot of external hydration for this race. The weather, which had looked GREAT all week, suddenly had rain showers predicted from 8:00 p.m. until 4:00 a.m., and 100% chance of rain at 11:00. Ugh. It didn't really change what we did, except that we bought a poncho for Lee (I always bring a trusty trash bag from home, just in case).

We tried to stay off our feet, but we took a turn through Epcot in the late afternoon. It was Saturday of the final weekend of the Festival, so it was very crowded. Maybe that was a good thing, since it made us want to get out of there and back to our room. :-)

2014 Wine and Dine Half Marathon

The race starts at Wide World of Sports. No one is allowed to park there, so everyone has to take the bus. The buses only run from 7:00 to 8:00, so even though the race doesn't start until 10:00, you still have to get there early and wait around for quite a while before the start. They have to get the traffic off the roads, though, including the bus traffic.

From past experience we've learned to catch the bus as soon as possible, even though technically we should have enough time as long as we arrive before the cutoff. We arrived at the bus stop about 6:45, and there were already 40-50 people in front of us. The first bus did not arrive until 7:10, and there was a huge line behind us by then. But there was a second bus that pulled up right after that, so it looked like things were starting to get moving.

2014 Wine and Dine Half Marathon

Around 7:30 we arrived at the Wide World of Sports complex - it wasn't too crowded yet. There was a security bag check that we all had to go through, and fortunately those lines weren't long. We also had to check gear bags to pick up after the race - for this race we had a full change of clothes in them, since we knew we'd want warmer (not to mention dry) clothes after the race. Since the race was ending at Epcot, Disney had to transport our bags to Epcot, but that worked just fine.

We met up with friends and hung out while waiting until we could move to our start corrals. There were character greeting areas set up, but the lines were really long. There was also a DJ and musical entertainment. The start corrals didn't open until less than an hour before the race start.

2014 Wine and Dine Half Marathon

We'd had occasional drizzle, but no real rain thus far - we were grateful that we hadn't had to wait around in the rain. It started to rain lightly after we got into our start corral, about 15 minutes before the race started. We donned our poncho and trash bag, so that we could stay dry for as long as possible. The race started on time, with a burst of fireworks for each corral. The earlier corrals, A-G, went off at about 3 minute intervals. We were in Corral E, so we started about 12 minutes after the official start.

The course leaves Wide World of Sports and then turns left onto Osceola Parkway to head to Animal Kingdom. It was a little crowded until we made the turn, but after that it widened and we were able to spread out a bit. The stricter controls that runDisney has implemented for submitting "Proof of Time" have really helped - the people around us were running about the same pace that we were. So we didn't have (too many) really fast people darting by us, nor really slow people traveling in packs that we had to try to pass.

Before we started we took off our rain gear and rolled it up to carry with us, just in case we had really heavy rain. It wasn't too bad for the first mile, but then it started raining harder, and by mile 3 we were soaked. It rained steadily for the entire race - never a downpour, fortunately, but it never stopped, either. So I'm afraid I have no race pictures at all, since I didn't want to mess with pulling out the camera...and I also didn't want to take the time to stop.

There were fewer character stops, since a lot of them got pulled in because of the rain. In Animal Kingdom where there were some covered areas, they had a few of them. In open areas out on the course we saw a number of empty stages. Sarge was still out on the overpass at mile 9.5, though - those Green Army Men are tough, and not about to let a little rain deter them!

When we first did this race two years ago I was concerned about what the lighting would be like along the course. For the most part it's pretty good. Animal Kingdom is the darkest, and it's also one of the narrower parts of the course, so that was a place I was intentionally much more conscious of my footing.

I really like this course so much more than the half marathon course they use for the WDW and Princess half marathons. It visits three theme parks instead of just two, and it doesn't have all of the narrow parts near the Contemporary and the Grand Floridian. For this course the approach into Animal Kingdom, and the paths inside Animal Kingdom are probably the most constricted, but it's not bad and doesn't go on for that long.

I have to give a huge shout-out to all of the volunteers and Disney cast members who worked this race. They were out there even longer than the runners were, and were just as cold and wet as we were, but I have never seen volunteers who were more enthusiastic and supportive. Their smiles and encouragement really helped keep us going. Thank you all so very much!

By mile 10 we were at the Studios. I was SO ready to be done at this point. Once we entered near the Tower of Terror we knew the Osborne Lights were coming up, but we really took the long way around and through the Studios until we were finally at the end of the street! The lights were beautiful, and we walked down the street rather than running. (Thank you to Charlie Gessner for allowing me to use his photos, since I didn't take any.)

2014 Wine and Dine Half Marathon

2014 Wine and Dine Half Marathon

The mile 11 sign was just outside the Studios. I quickened my pace - have I mentioned that I really wanted to just be done? We ran along the waterway between the Studios and Swan/Dolphin, and as we neared the bridge that goes across to the Yacht Club there were several cast members cautioning us to slow down, as the surface was slick where we switched from cement to boardwalk.

There were still some people out cheering along that section, despite the rain - wasn't much fun for them, either. The course didn't take us much inside Epcot - we were backstage until we ran from the gate next to the Imagination Pavilion, past Innoventions West and then past Innoventions East and backstage again out toward the parking lot. And then there was finally the finish line!!! I was very happy to see it. My time was 2:16:13 which is my personal best for a Disney race, and only four minutes off my best half marathon time. I finished 2053 out of 11,941. Disney assigns bib numbers based mostly on estimated finish time, and I think this is the first time my bib number (3256) has ever been higher than my finishing place. So despite the rain it was a pretty good race for me.

2014 Wine and Dine Half Marathon

Volunteers were handing out mylar sheets and of course our special 5 year Wine and Dine Half Marathon spinner medals. It's a really nice one. We also went to get our Coast-to-Coast medals, where they told us that it was ok that we hadn't had our photo taken, and we got our medals anyway.

Next we went to pick up the bags that we had checked. The lines for this were longer than I'd seen before, but they moved quickly. As we exited the "runners only" area, we had the opportunity to exchange the drink coupons at the bottom of our bibs for a beer or wine. There were several kinds of beer, and a chardonnay in a special sealed plastic glass. I chose the chardonnay, but ended up not actually drinking it, so I can't offer any review on that.

The rain had slowed to a drizzle by this time, so we hoped that it would stop for the party. We started making our way towards the entrance to Epcot - we had to go through bag check again. The lines weren't bad when we went through, but we heard that later they were very long.

Once we were inside we looked for a restroom so we could change clothes! I was starting to get cold, even with the mylar blanket, now that I was no longer running. And I was SO ready to put on some dry clothes! There were changing tents in the finish area, but I didn't see them, and we heard the line were long. We stopped at the first restroom inside Epcot. There was a line, but it moved pretty fast. I can't even tell you how wonderful it felt to pull on a dry shirt and pants. I'd brought dry socks, but not shoes - dry socks were at least a little more comfortable than the wet socks, though.

After that we were ready to hit the food booths and find some FOOD!!! But first we had to get across the race course to go back to World Showcase. Disney cast members were creating the usual "island" crosswalks. This time they set up where they had a pretty wide area to do it, so the process went much more quickly than it has in the past.

Because we'd finished pretty early, there weren't too many people back in World Showcase, and no lines at the food booths. A number of the cast members were dancing to the music - it was fun to watch them. We went to Hawaii first, and we both had the pork slider with tropical slaw. I was starving and wolfed it down without noticing much about it except that it was FOOD. :-) We hit a couple more booths, but by then it was starting to rain again. We met up with some friends and hung out in the Odyssey where they have the craft beers. Just sitting on the floor where it was dry felt pretty good.

It was still raining at 2:45 when we decided it was time to head back to our room. We were amazed at the number of people who were still outside at the food booths - the lines were 10-20 deep! And it appeared as though a lot of people hadn't changed out of their running clothes - though at least they were wearing ponchos.

Once we arrived back at the Boardwalk we dumped all our wet clothes in the tub and took a nice hot shower - that felt great. (Our clothes were still soaked the next morning. I was so happy that we had a one bedroom villa with a washer and dryer!)

So...it was kind of a miserable running experience, but we survived. But I can't complain too much - some of my running friends have recently endured marathons and half marathons in even more challenging conditions, and then there was the 2010 WDW Half Marathon in rain and sleet that I know a lot of you did.

The race itself I still really enjoy, and we plan to run it next year - though I hope we'll have better weather. By Disney standards I think you actually get a lot for your registration dollars with this one, since in addition to the race there's the party afterwards - and don't forget that $10 gift card. :-)

Now we're off for a few days of rest and relaxation aboard the Disney Dream. Then next weekend we'll be back in California where we'll run the Inaugural (there's my favorite word again!) Avengers Half Marathon at Disneyland.


September 2, 2014

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend - Part 2

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2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

Another Disneyland Half Marathon successfully completed! That makes seven for us. We had a good race, and felt strong despite running a 10K the day before.

Even though at Disneyland we have the advantage of proximity to the starting line, we still had to get up pretty for a race that starts at 5:30! Lee was happy that the Hearthstone Lounge in the hotel opened at 4:00 so he could get his morning coffee. (All of the coffee-type places in the Disney hotels opened early today as did many locations in Downtown Disney.)

We again met some of our fellow runners in the lobby and walked over to the pre-race area together. Even though there were 18,000 registered this morning (as opposed to 10,000 for the 10K) the walkways still weren't congested, and even the porta-potty lines weren't very long.

We headed to our corrals a little after 5:00. And even that wasn't bad, as compared to previous years when there's been a couple of choke points where we've moved by inches and not feet with each step. I have to say that Disneyland for the most part has continued to improve the running experience each year.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

The first 6 corrals were much smaller in size this year - I have typically been in C or D in the past, and this year I was in F, though I was about as far back as I was when I was in D last year. Lee and Michael were in earlier corrals but they came back to F to run with me - wasn't that nice of them? :-) As it turned out they sent the first 6 corrals off in pairs, so A and B went together, C and D, E and F. After that the corrals were a lot bigger and went off one by one. This photo is looking back - there's a LOT more people behind us than in front of us!

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

The national anthem was beautifully performed by a Disney cast member - he really did a great job. We got some fireworks during the anthem, as well as some when the race started. Corrals E and F started 15 minutes after the official start, and we crossed the start line about 16-and-a-half minutes off the start.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

The weather was warmer than the day before - 70 degrees at the start as opposed to 66, and humidity was 76%. So it was warm. Fortunately we had cloud cover for most of the race, and that helped a lot.

The course was the same as the last few years - around the outside of DCA on the city streets before going backstage at DCA and coming into the park itself at Paradise Pier. Some of the Green Army Men were there near Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta, and Sarge was encouraging the runners. The World of Color fountains were going and we stopped for a quick photo.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

We ran through Cars Land and down Route 66 in the opposite direction than we'd done in the 10K, and looped around through Hollywood and past Soarin' Over California.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

We ran across the Esplanade, where there were lots of people out to cheer us on despite the early hour, and into Disneyland and down Main Street. The Three Caballeros were out near the hub but the line was long and we didn't stop.

We went through Frontierland where there were more Green Army Men near the Mark Twain's dock - seemed like an odd place for them to be, but the line was short so we stopped.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

The race route went around Big Thunder Mountain and the mile 3 sign, then into Fantasyland. Cinderella's stepsisters were on the Carrousel, and the Prince was sitting on one of the bench seats with the Wicked Stepmother - that seemed like quite an odd couple, and I'm sorry I didn't get a photo.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

We ran through the castle and into Tomorrowland. There were no characters at the castle, which was unusual. But Darth Vader and the Stormtroopers were in Tomorrowland. Huge line - the longest one we saw - so we didn't stop. We went past the submarine lagoon and the Matterhorn. Along small world way, instead of princesses, they had villains! There were three stations, but only two had villains when we went through. Jafar and the Evil Queen had a long line, but Cruella and Dr. Facilier had a relatively short line. Cruella was great - she was telling everyone where to stand and how to pose. (We heard that Maleficent was at the other photo stop.)

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

From there we ran into Toontown and went backstage and past the stables before exiting onto Disneyland Drive and turning north. Not long after that was the mile 4 sign. This is my main complaint about the Disneyland Half Marathon - the park part is done much too early in the race. :-(

We turned right onto Ball Road and began our tour of the Anaheim Industrial Park. The community of Anaheim does a great job of coming out and supporting the runners during this part of the race - there are lots of bands and cheerleaders. Two groups that I look forward to seeing each year are the mariachi band and dancers and the Hawaiian dancers. Both groups have performers of all ages in beautiful costumes.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

The classic cars were back along the route from ~mile 6.5-8. They have been such a wonderful addition to the race these last three years! The cars are beautiful and the owners are so (deservedly) proud of them. And they support the runners, too - cheer us on, ring cowbells, blow horns, etc.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

Past mile 8 as we neared the Honda Center Lee noticed a large unusual-looking structure in the distance ahead of us. It was still some distance away when we made the turn into the Honda Center parking lot, but Lee saw an Anaheim policeman standing there and asked him about it. It's the new Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center (ARTIC), which is still under construction. A variety of train, bus, and taxi services will be available there. Looks cool!

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

After going through the Honda Center parking lot we reached the Santa Ana River Trail, which runs along the Santa Ana river channel. This has always been one of my favorite parts because we get to run on dirt for a while. I know some people don't like that, and it's also a little narrow. But it appears to have been widened, and most of it has been recently paved.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

The race route exits the trail at Angel Stadium, a bit past mile 9.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

The Clif Shot station was there, and there was lots of music and people cheering us all the way to the stadium itself. And then we went down the tunnel into the stadium and onto the field! We ran on the dirt all the way down the right field line and around home plate, and down the left field line before taking the tunnel out of the stadium. Lots of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts come out to cheer us - they make a lot of noise!

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

Not too far outside the stadium is the mile 10 sign. From there until we get back to Disneyland there are lots of bands and cheerleaders along the route. They are so enthusiastic and full of energy, and that helps us when we are starting to get tired.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

At mile 12 we went backstage at DCA again - we actually ran part of the same course we ran at the beginning of the race. And we ran around Paradise Pier again - except that instead of the Paradise Pier inside DCA we crossed Disneyland Drive and ran around the Paradise Pier hotel. :-)

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

Again, lots of cheerleaders and other people to encourage us as we ran that last quarter mile or so around the hotel and past Downtown Disney and the Disneyland Hotel to the finish line!

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

My time was 2:31:05. I'd hoped to break 2:30, but I guess we goofed off a little too much along the way. :-) Even though we didn't stop for that many character photos, we made some other stops so that Lee and Michael could show off their dance moves...

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

Volunteers gave us our beautiful, slightly re-designed Disneyland Half Marathon medals, and also a wonderful cool towel. Ahhhhhh.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

Michael went to exchange his Coast-to-Coast wristband for his medal, and then we all went to get our Dumbo Double Dare medals. It's not a Disney race without that lovely "clank, clank" sound as you walk around afterward. :-) (No Coast-to-Coast for us because we got it back in January after doing the Dopey Challenge and the Tinker Bell 10K and 1/2 marathon on consecutive weekends.)

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

For refreshments there were bottles of water and PowerAde, and then those Disney MRE boxes. (That was Michael's term for them. I like it.) There were also bananas.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

Not much in the boxes: a packet of rice crackers, soft cheese, a mini Clif bar, packet of blueberry rice cake things, and a piece of Almond Roca. I still think Disney can do WAY better than that after a race. How about some chocolate milk? Oranges? Pretzels? Nuts?

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

Something our friend Dave pointed out to us later that day was that there was no concession stand in the finish area. He spent a fair bit of time at the finish line waiting for all of us, and he was hoping for a cup of coffee, but there was nothing to be had. Yes, Downtown Disney isn't too far away, but it's not convenient to the finish area at all. Anyone waiting for a runner in the Family Reunion area had no easy access to food or beverages.

We were in the finish area when they did the awards ceremony on-stage - I'd never seen that before! The winner, Nick Arciniaga, finished in 1:07:48. The guy in second place finished in 1:13:06 - BIG gap there.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

It was still partly overcast when we finished but the sun really came out while we stood watching the awards, so I know it got very warm for those still on the course. 72 degrees doesn't sound bad, but 72 with full sun beating down on you feels HOT.

After the awards we went back to the hotel. Fortunately we didn't have to try to get across the race course like we did for the 10K, so it was a lot easier and faster!

The race went well and I felt good despite running 6.2 miles the day before. Guess that whole training thing really works. :-) But seriously, I did train for this one, and all those miles I put in this summer in even warmer conditions that we had on our race days helped a lot. Still, you never exactly know how you're going to feel on race day - you can do everything right, yet for some reason you just don't have it on race day.

We were very happy to see that there were a lot more characters on the course than during the 10K. Both races had about the same number of miles in the park, but I guess the characters had Saturday morning off. So maybe that made us appreciate them a lot more on Sunday. Still, it wasn't really fair to those who only ran the 10K.

A huge thank you to all of the wonderful volunteers who worked all weekend at the Expo and the races. They put in a lot of long hours. We had friends of friends who volunteered this year, so we heard a little more about the types of days the volunteers have. I know I complain about getting up early, but the volunteers are up even earlier, since their shift will start at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning! In addition to working their area they have to set it up first. Did you know that all of the medals come in their own individual bags, and then on race morning they have to be un-bagged and checked and then hung on the racks you see at the finish line? It's a lot of work!

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

And also a heartfelt thank you to all of the community groups, bands, cheer teams, dance teams, classic car enthusiasts and members of the community who come out to support all of us who run. We so appreciate your enthusiasm and your energy, and the wonderful signs, and the high-fives, and calling out our names. And also being there with water, oranges, pretzels, licorice and even Vaseline. And then there's the very brave among you who offer free hugs no matter how sweaty the runner.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

This is a wonderful event. Is it perfect? No, but considering the logistics of dealing with something like 35,000 participants over the course of three days, it's pretty well done. Yes, it's expensive. Is it worth it? There are many answers to that question, since there are so many intangibles that go along with any race, but especially a Disney race. But that's probably a topic for a whole other blog.

We had a great time, and will definitely be running the Disneyland Half Marathon again. We certainly plan to participate next year, which will be the tenth half marathon, as well as Disneyland's 60th birthday, so we hope for something even more special.

Did you participate in any of the events during the Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend? What are your thoughts?


August 29, 2014

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Part 1

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2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

We're here for the 9th annual Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend!

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

Our first stop was the Health and Fitness Expo to pick up our bibs and shirts - and do a little shopping, too. :-)

The bib pick-up is still down in the parking garage below the convention center but they switched the ramps used for entry and exit, which I think has helped the congestion and confusion of getting into the Expo itself, since they also changed that entrance to be a side door into the main convention center.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

As usual the bib pickup process was very efficient - very few people down there, and plenty of volunteers. Just a short wait and we had our bibs and the sticker with our race number on it, which we would use if we were checking a bag. Those getting coast-to-coast medals were also getting their wristbands there, but we already got our medals this year.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

One thing Lee noticed - they often have mile signs from previous years or other props set up for photo ops down there, but there wasn't anything this year. :-(

We went upstairs to the Expo. Because they have changed the entry point, they had to move the t-shirt pickup area 90 degrees. I thought this gave them a smaller area for exhibitors, and it seemed to me as though there were fewer exhibitors this year. St. Joseph Hospital, who in the past has been the main "health" sponsor, and has a very large booth, seemed to be missing. (Celebration Hospital in Florida seems to be the sponsor, at least on the shirts, but no Expo presence. A Florida hospital for a California race? Seems odd to me.)

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

Anyway...the Expo floor was not crowded - this was about 3:00 in the afternoon. We went and picked up our shirts. The race theme for the 10K is Lilo and Stitch, and the shirt is really cute. The Dumbo shirt is very cute, also. And I like the design on the half marathon shirts though I don't care for the color. (Though it's way better than last year's orange shirt!) And hurray for the women's cut shirts! They actually fit!

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

Our next stop was the Official Merchandise store. Last year they ran very short on merchandise, especially Dumbo Double Dare, and by the time we arrived there was only one Dumbo item left (a lime green hoodie - ugh), and a limited selection of other items.

This year, even though the Expo started the day before, there was still plenty of Dumbo and other items to be purchased.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

As far as I could tell nothing was sold out - or at least items that I was interested in were still available. So this year I got my Dumbo magnet and my mini-medals.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

The thing that WAS missing from the store was 10K merchandise. No shirts, magnets, mini-medals, etc. Last year there was at least one shirt, but nothing this year. And it wasn't that it was already gone - friends who went at opening on the first day also said there wasn't any 10K merchandise. I don't get it.

Around the perimeter of the merchandise area they had some cool artwork for other upcoming runDisney races.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

After we shopped we wandered around the Expo floor and visited some of the vendors. As i said, there seemed to be a lot fewer exhibitors this year.

Our friend Kim (who we know from Team AllEars) was the first person we ran into that we knew. They had a really cute 10K photo op set up outside the Exhibit Hall, and the line was short so we all posed for a photo.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

We went and checked into the Grand Californian and got unpacked. We are in a nice studio - it's on the first floor, which isn't my favorite, but we're at the end of the hall with a stairwell on one side and a one-bedroom unit on the other, and it's actually very quiet and out-of-the-way! And the great thing about the first floor is not needing to use the elevator.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

Later we went over to Trader Sam's to meet some other Team AllEars friends - and also ran into a couple of friends from the rec.arts.disney.parks news group! Trader Sam's was very busy - we lucked out and were able to get a table outside for the five of us. But there was a line of people waiting to go inside - even if all you wanted was to go to the bar and order a drink so you could sit by the fireplace you had to wait in line! The servers working the outside tables were very busy, and we had to wait a while for someone to take our food and beverage orders. (I'll have a separate blog on food.) Lee ordered the Piranha Pool - it was pretty good, and very colorful, though thinking too much about what the red color in the drink represents is probably not very appetizing. Forget I mentioned it.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

We met up with some other friends later in the Hearthstone Lounge at the Grand, but we tried to make it a relatively early night since we had a race the next day!

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

And that brings us to 10K morning!

We'd agreed to meet friends in the lobby at 4:40, so we scheduled a wake-up call (and set an alarm) for 4:00. Have I mentioned how much I LOVE Disneyland races, where we can walk from the hotels to the starting line, so there's no need for buses, and no need to get up insanely early? I have? Sorry...but it's one of the things I REALLY love about Disneyland races as opposed to WDW. We were walking from the hotel to the pre-race area at the same time we would've been walking from the pre-race area to the corrals in Florida.

Since the 10K had a Hawaiian Stitch theme, Lee and I (and a lot of others) dressed Hawaiian. Lee and our friend Michael both wore Disney Hawaiian shirts and board shorts. (The shirts were very hot, but they both said the shorts were comfortable.)

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

I did my take on Cinderella goes to Hawaii. I was wearing a short grass skirt, though it's hard to see. I thought the rustling might get a little annoying but it was fine.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

We had no problems getting to the pre-race area - very appropriate that it was in the Lilo parking lot!

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

Most people had already headed to the corrals, but there was still a DJ out on stage.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

The weather at the start was slightly better than last year - 66 as opposed to 73 - but still 80-90% humidity, so it felt warmer. By California standards we've had a very humid summer.

The race went off right on schedule at 5:30. Lee and I were running with Michael and Stan, and we were towards the back of Corral B. We crossed the start line about 8 minutes after the race started. I was pleasantly surprised that everyone around us was going about the same pace that we were - we didn't have really slow people to go around, nor did we have really fast people blitzing by us.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

The first two miles of the race are outside the parks - the race goes south on Disneyland Drive to the Anaheim Convention Center, then through the Convention Center grounds and back onto Harbor, then north until we take a left and go backstage at Disney California Adventure near the Tower of Terror, just before mile 2. After that it's all on Disney property.

We ran through Radiator Springs down Route 66 - the neon lights were on and the mountain range was nicely lit.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

Then we took a lap around Paradise Bay and ran by Grizzly River Run and Soarin' (and the mile 3 sign), then down Hollywood Blvd, and backstage next to the Tower of Terror.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

One disappointing thing - other than Mater in Cars Land, there were no characters out on the course in DCA! They had an Elvis near Little Mermaid, but that was it. :-(

We stayed backstage until we entered Disneyland's Town Square.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

Then we ran down Main Street (no characters) and into Tomorrowland (also no characters, but the mile 4 sign was next to Innoventions).

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

Chip and Dale were near "it's a small world", but the line was pretty long, so we kept going. We looped around the backstage areas before re-entering the park at ToonTown, and ran back towards Fantasyland. This part of the course was somewhat narrow, but it wasn't unpleasantly congested for us - I'm not sure about those who were later in the race, though.

The mile 5 sign was near the Carrousel. I was surprised that there were no characters in Fantasyland, either.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

We ran into Frontierland and right by the Mark Twain was Stitch! Dressed as Elvis! I expected the line to be huge but it wasn't - maybe 15 people in front of us, and the line moved quickly.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

Next to Splash Mountain we went backstage again, and around the perimeter of Disneyland and into Downtown Disney. About .4 miles left at that point, with lots of people to cheer us on to the finish! We passed the mile 6 sign near Tortilla Jo's.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

When we made the right turn at the Disneyland Hotel the finish line was in sight about 100 yards away. The guys gave me a bad time about how I took off at a full sprint with no warning - but they don't seem to have had any problem keeping up with me, and in fact both Michael and Lee finished ahead of me. (Thanks to our friend Eddie for taking this finish line photo of us - he finished about 20 minutes ahead of us.)

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

My official time was 1:09:41. Not bad, since we stopped for some photos. It was a really good race for me - I felt good the whole time and didn't get too overheated despite the humidity, though it made a big difference that we never had sun on us. I'm hoping for some additional cloud cover tomorrow.

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

We all got our Dumbo Double Dare wristbands which we will exchange for our medals when we finish the half marathon. And of course we have our "Tiki Stitch" medals. I really like this one - great design! For some reason it's lighter in weight than most of my other Disney medals. That's not necessarily a bad thing. :-)

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

After finishing we got the usual silly runDisney food boxes. Sigh. We waited in the finish area until most of our other friends had finished - a couple of them were walking (but FAST), and started in later corrals. Everyone did great!

Then we tried to walk back to the hotel...ugh. We had to cross the race course in Downtown Disney. They had crosswalk areas set up but it still took a long time to cross the first one - and then there was a second one further down! The end of the race actually went by us before we got across that one. It took us 30 minutes to get back to our room! Very frustrating.

Some thoughts on the 10K...I still really like this course, and all the park time we get. And I LOVE the 10K distance. It's very nice to be done in a little over an hour! And it's especially nice for me to not have to wear a hydration belt like I do in longer races.

I also love the fact that they changed the theme for the 10K this year - Alice in Wonderland was a fun theme last year, but it was great to have something different, and I hope they will continue that in the future.

This year I was very disappointed in the lack of characters along the course, especially compared to last year, and to what we experienced in the Tinker Bell 10K in January. (Haunted Mansion Ghosts. Best. Photo. Stop. Ever.) In all fairness I suppose I should mention that there were a number of Elvis characters along the course, in places where in the past there have been Disney characters, and I didn't stop for photos with them. But they weren't Disney characters.

The water stops were MUCH better spaced this year. It helped that it wasn't as hot as last year, but I was still ready for some water at all three stops.

There were 20% more entrants in the race this year, and I was a little worried that it might seem more crowded than last year, but it was fine. But I started in Corral B - those in later corrals might not have had the same experience. According to runDisney there were 10,000 entered in the 10K, and 9603 finishers - that's a very high percentage, since I know there weren't 10,000 who actually started.

It was a fun morning, and I really enjoyed the race and running with Lee, Michael, and Stan.

Half Marathon tomorrow!


August 26, 2014

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Preview

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2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

This weekend, August 28-31, is Disneyland's Half Marathon weekend. (This is #9, for those keeping track of such things - like me.) Events include the Health and Fitness Expo Thursday-Saturday, the Family Fun Run 5K on Friday morning, the Disneyland 10K and Kids Races on Saturday, and the Half Marathon on Sunday. The Dumbo Double Dare race challenge, where participants run both the 10K on Saturday and the half marathon on Sunday, will be held for the second time.

According to runDisney there are 18,000 registered for the half marathon, 10,000 for the 10K, 6,000 for the 5K, and 1,500 for the Kids Races. Of the half marathon/10K runners, 6,000 are registered for the Dumbo Double Dare. All 50 states are represented, and there are runners from 25 different countries. In 2013 there were 17,800 registered in the half, 8,400 in the 10K, 5,000 in the 5K, 1500 in the Kids Races and 5,300 in the Dumbo Double Dare. So the 10K and 5K are both seeing a 20% increase - hope that won't translate to overcrowding on the race courses.

This will be our 7th time running the half marathon, and Lee and I are signed up for the Dumbo Double Dare again, also. We really enjoyed this race challenge last year, though we are hoping for slightly cooler/less humid conditions this year. So far it's looking promising - the forecast is for 67 at the start rather than 73 like we had last year.

We had a great time running the Inaugural Disneyland 10K last year. I thought the course was very well laid out - all but the first two miles are on Disney property, and there was a lot of in-the-park time. I really enjoyed the finishing stretch running through Downtown Disney to the Disneyland Hotel, where there were so many spectators to cheers us on along the way. The course wasn't too congested, either. My biggest complaint last year was that it was almost three miles between the first and second water stops. It was very warm and humid last year, so I was really thirsty by the time I reached the second water stop. This year it appears runDisney has addressed this: according to the 10K course map the water stops will be at mile 1, mile 3.25, and mile 5.75. Much better.

Something different this year is that the 5K and 10K will be held on separate days. Last year they were both on Saturday morning, with starts only an hour apart, and that complicated the start process - there was a delay in getting the 10K runners to the starting corrals. Though it was nice to start the 10K at 6:30 instead of 5:30...we got to sleep in a little. :-) This year the 5K, 10K, and half all start at 5:30. (5:30 does not seem like a very "family friendly" time for a "Family Fun Run 5K", though.)

One of the things that I was hoping for was that they would change the theme of the 10K each year like they do the 5K, and it appears that I got my wish! Last year's theme was Alice in Wonderland, and this year it's Lilo and Stitch! Whee!!!! So that means new 10K bling, of course:

2014 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend

As you see, the Disneyland Half Marathon medal also received a slight re-design.

Last year there was a huge demand for merchandise when the Expo opened on Friday morning. Disney was not prepared for it, and the lines were long - and they also ran out of almost all of the Dumbo Double Dare merchandise that first morning. It will be interesting to see what happens with the merchandise area at the Expo this year. We won't arrive until Friday afternoon, and I hope there will still be something left by then. Though I need another shirt like I need another hole in the head...

Speaking of shirts - as a Dumbo Double Dare participant I will receive three shirts: one for the 10K, one for the half marathon, and one for the challenge. And this year, for the first time in Disneyland Half Marathon history, there was the option of selecting a women's cut shirt when registering for the race! That makes me very happy, since the unisex shirts just keep getting larger and larger - even an Extra Small is too big for me, and in fact my XS shirt from last year's race fit Lee!

The Disneyland Half Marathon is an "easier" race for us because it's close to home - we can drive instead of fly, and we get to stay in our own time zone. Still, we enjoy staying for several nights and turning it into a long weekend where we can spend some time in the parks, and hang out with friends who have come to run the races.

Disneyland Half Marathon, here we come!

(I'll be blogging about our race experience, but if you're interested in reading updates during the race weekend, follow me on Twitter: @AllEarsLaura)


February 27, 2014

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge Part 2 - the Princess Half Marathon

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For half marathon morning on Sunday I scheduled the wake up call for 2:15, and I was on my way to Epcot around 3:10. There was more traffic this morning but I was still early enough that I didn't get slowed down until I was in the parking lot. I'd rather get up and get there early and not stress about transportation!

I didn't mention this in the 10k blog, but they again had a big security perimeter set up and all bags had to be checked. I had no bag for the 10k, but had my running belt for the half. There was a queue, but they had lots of security folks and the line moved quickly - I think the people in the "no bags" line had a longer wait!

I was in the pre-race area by 3:40, and I was very surprised at how many people were already there! One new thing this year: they had put out a number of chaise lounges, and those were very popular. They took up a lot of room, though...I'll be interested in seeing whether they return in the future, since they also became obstacles in trying to move around. At various times during the weekend I heard both 24,000 and 25,000 given as the number of runners in the half marathon, which is about as large as the January races, and it was pretty crowded. Though there were fewer people in the half marathon than last year. (This year there were 20,750 finishers, last year there were 22,739.)

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

I thought they started sending people to the corrals a little late (about 4:45 for a 5:30 start!). I was running with my friend Holly, and we were on our way to the corrals even before they made the first announcement - we heard them call for those in A and B to start heading out. The walk to the corrals was not bad at all - I've commented (complained) about it in the past, but I have to say that in my last three WDW races (half and full marathons in January and now Princess) the walk to the corrals has been no problem at all. I'm not quite sure how they did that, because it's still just as many people moving on the same narrow roads, but it hasn't been the slow cattle car shuffle that it has been in the past.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

In the January races they started a new corral system to help ease the race course congestion: more corrals with fewer people in them. I think this really has helped, though it means that the people in the later corrals start even later and have even longer to wait around before the race. Holly and I were in corral E, but we were closer to the start line than I have ever been in a big WDW race, and we started just 10 minutes after the gun.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

At the start line were our race announcers, and the Fairy Godmother, who said the magic words and counted down to the start of the race.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge
2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

I haven't mentioned the weather...it was cooler than the day before, about 65, but the humidity was 100% and it was foggy and misty. There was a little more breeze than the previous day when it was almost dead calm. I found it slightly more comfortable than Saturday, but it was still far from optimal conditions. You can see the fog really obscured the fireworks they shot off when each corral started.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

The Princess half marathon course is the same as the WDW half marathon course - I won't bore you again with all the reasons I don't care for it. :-) Though as I said before, the new corral system did help with the congestion in the narrow places. I think we only found it really unpleasantly crowded in one spot. But, although we were by no means going fast, we still finished in the top 40%, and there were a lot of people behind us who experienced more crowding than we did.

The on course entertainment was pretty good, though it didn't seem to me as though there were as many high school bands and cheerleaders as we see during marathon weekend. The pirates and the princes (~miles 2-3) had huge lines so we didn't stop - we knew we would pass them again on the way back when the lines would be shorter. :-) The longest line we waited in was for the villains. That took a little over 8 minutes, but we were glad we did it. They had this villains chair, and runners were having fun with that. (Unfortunately the mist and fog in the air reflected in the flash, so the photo didn't turn out well at all.)

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

Near the Contemporary they had some really nice lighting on the water bridge.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

It's always great running down Main Street towards the castle, with all of the people cheering. Holly's husband Dave was waiting for us at the hub, along with Stan and Mike, who had also come out to cheer on their wives who were running.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

There were quite a few character stops in the Magic Kingdom but we didn't stop for any of them. The line for Mickey and Minnie was huge, but otherwise the lines weren't too bad. Snow White and Prince Charming also had a good-sized line.

The photo we did stop for...our friends Eddie and Dave had started several corrals in front of us and were running with a few other women. They'd obviously been enjoying themselves and taking their time because we caught up with them when they were posing for a picture in front of The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Holly said, "Let's photo bomb them!", so we ran in front of them and got in their photo. :-) They got into the line for Mickey and Minnie (which Eddie later told us took 20 minutes), so we didn't see them again in the race.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

"Cone Alley", the one lane section from the Magic Kingdom to the Grand Floridian, wasn't too bad - we could still make our way past slower runners and walkers without too much trouble. I still don't like that part of the course, though.

At about the mile 7 mark they always play a selected song to inspire us, and they usually let us choose it by voting on Facebook. This year the winner was "Let it Go" from Frozen - I think it won by an avalanche. :-)

I was happy to see Mary Poppins and Bert outside the Grand Floridian - they weren't out at all in January.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

In front of the Wedding Pavilion there was a wedding singer! (I recognized him as one of the lead singers from the old Tarzan Rocks show.) On the side of the road, also in tuxes, were several other men gathered around a glass slipper. That was a popular photo op, but we didn't stop for it.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

About mile 9 we got to the princes again and the line was much shorter than it had been earlier, though we still waited 4-5 minutes. But it was worth it. :-)

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

My legs were starting to get tired, so I was glad that we were almost done. Still, the last couple of miles went pretty fast, and we headed back into Epcot. Princess Sophia was backstage - I'd never seen her before, and there was no line.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

As we started our short loop around Future World I saw this vision in pink - I'd seen her near the end of the 2013 marathon but had no idea who she was, so this time I asked. :-) She is Ivana Dream, and she's a wannabe Fairy Godmother. She had a microphone, and was talking to runners as they went by. Sort of a stream of consciousness thing - did you know the trees with the yellow flowers in Epcot are yellow tabebuia trees? Fun, and I'm glad to finally know who she is!

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

We finished strong, and I got a high 5 from Jester Goofy as I crossed the finish line. (Sir Donald was on the other side.)

Just after we crossed some of the wonderful volunteers were handing out packets containing moist, COOL towels. Those felt SO good! After we passed the water and PowerAde tables there were volunteers handing out the nice mesh stringbags. We usually get these in our goodie bags, but I thought it was MUCH better to get them after the race, since that's when we can really use them to carry the bottles and food boxes, etc.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

We got our half marathon medals (new design this year) and went to the Glass Slipper Challenge area where they checked to make sure we had our 10K wristbands and then gave us our medals. Yay! Another race challenge successfully completed!

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

Holly and I celebrated with our adult beverages of choice: beer for her and champagne for me. (In the concession area there were six different registers where you could buy champagne so the lines weren't long at all - in this case Disney definitely understood their target audience!)

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

The finish area was pretty crowded - I heard that there were princesses available for photos but I didn't to see them - and I'm sure the lines were long. I needed to leave since I had to get back to my room, shower, pack, and check out by 11:00. I made it - but not by much!

It was a short trip, but still a very successful weekend. But I'm a little concerned that running races two days in a row is starting to seem normal to me! :-)

I thought that the Glass Slipper Challenge went very smoothly and the Enchanted 10K didn't have any typical "first year" issues. The 10K was an improvement over the one in January, though I think it could still use another couple of characters on the course. I think my main suggestion for improvement is the merchandise - as usual, there wasn't enough of it. Hard to believe that Disney is missing out on a money-making opportunity like that.

I really enjoyed the theming of the races and the weekend - "Enchanted", "Glass Slipper" and "Princess" all go so well together!

The medals, as usual, are just beautiful - Disney knows how to do bling. :-)

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

I had a wonderful time, and am already considering doing this race challenge again next year. With the bevy of princesses Disney has available I am hoping they will change up the challenge every year - perhaps an enchanted rose challenge next year, a magic mirror the next?



February 25, 2014

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge Part 1 - Expo and 10K

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2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

This past weekend featured the sixth Disney Princess Half Marathon weekend at Walt Disney World. This year there was a new race, The Enchanted 10K. And along with the new race came a new race challenge: The Glass Slipper Challenge. Those running both the 10K and the half marathon received the Glass Slipper Challenge medal in addition to their 10k and half marathon medals.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

I made a quick trip to Florida to check it out. Oh, who am I kidding - I just couldn't resist the opportunity to come home with two new pieces of bling bearing my favorite word: Inaugural. :-)

If you read my blog on last year's Princess weekend, then you know what a fiasco the Expo was. This year was a whole lot better since the Expo took place at Wide World of Sports, where there was plenty of room and parking. I didn't arrive at the Expo until Friday evening, and there were still a lot of people there, though it wasn't overcrowded like last year when we could barely move through the aisles. They were running low on some official merchandise already, and I again missed out on my "challenge" magnet (like I did for the Dumbo Double Dare). Disney does pre-orders of other small items like pins and necklaces - I wish they would offer it for the magnets, too.

The merchandise area in the Field House, where packet pickup was held, didn't have much of a selection of merchandise left at all - lots of bare walls!

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

There was still a decent selection available at the main Expo in the Josten's Center, though I didn't think there was much of a variety...on the other hand, I don't know what might have sold out already since it was the end of the second day by then.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

I thought it was interesting that those doing the Challenge could pick up their packet and their goodie bag (with the shirts) all in the Field House, and didn't have to visit the Josten's Center at all (but where's the fun in that?).

At the entrance to the Josten's Center there was a fun photo opportunity - two of Cinderella's very handsome footmen.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

Most of the usual Expo vendors were there. Those selling running apparel were doing great business helping runners put together last-minute princess costumes for the races. There were some really clever ideas.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

Except for the Glass Slipper Challenge participants, shirt and goodie bag pickup was in the Josten's Center. This year's shirts are made of a nice lightweight tech fabric - it's very soft and silky and I really love it! They are also short-sleeve. The grey is just ok but I really like the other two. They were also true to size, which I appreciated. There were men's sizes available as well. I'm so glad that Disney has finally seemed to start offering men's and women's shirts for all of their races. It's also very nice that women who would rather have the unisex cut have that option. There is a shirt exchange area at the Expo, and it's also good to see that process has been made easy.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

Speaking of shirts, this year there were a couple of race shirts in unisex sizes and non-girlie colors. That has been one of Lee's complaints, so it was nice to see that. Most of the guys who run the race are very supportive and really get into the spirit of it, and have no problems wearing a tutu or skirt! So they deserve some recognition, too.

I re-visited the Expo on Saturday morning, this time using the buses. They were efficient and the wait times were short - they did a great job with the buses this year. (I heard that the buses to the races were pretty trouble-free also.)

I didn't run the 5K, which was held on Friday morning before I arrived. It was the regular Epcot 5K course, and it sounded like those who ran it had a good time. The Kids races were held on Saturday.

The Enchanted 10k started at Epcot at 5:30 a.m. I was staying at All Star Music and decided to drive rather than take the bus. Because I knew the 10k had a lot fewer runners than the half marathon (10,000 vs 24,000) I let myself sleep in a little and set the wake up call for 3:00 instead of 2:00. Still way too early...yawn. But at that time I had no traffic, though there were still a lot of people who had arrived ahead of me!

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

With the princess theme it was almost a requirement that you run in some kind of costume, be it as simple as a tutu, wings, or a tiara - or all of the above. It was very interesting to see the creative things that people did to represent a particular character - just with the right colors you knew someone was dressed as Rapunzel or Ariel, yellow tank top and a rose was obviously Belle. Given the huge success of Frozen, Anna and Elsa were very popular this year, and I saw a fair number of Olafs, too.

I wore a new Cinderella costume that I had put together with various pieces of running attire - in the past I've worn a purchased costume with the skirt cut shorter. It worked out pretty well for me, though it was still a little too warm given the weather. As usual, it was a Disney race weekend, so Florida was having unseasonably warm temperatures. Sigh. It had rained the day before and it was a warm and humid morning - I think it was 70 when the race started and the humidity was close to 100%. Ugh.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

They had start corrals for this one, and I was in A. I ended up very near the start line, and that was great! When I got to the mile markers the time displayed was almost exactly my time! It also meant the course was much less crowded for me. (And this is not Lee - it's his "twin", fellow Team AllEars member Dave!)

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

We ran the same 10k course that was used for the WDW 10k in January. I still don't like the course very much, though. The first 3 miles is all on roads looping around the perimeter of Epcot, and it's pretty boring. Though there were a couple more characters in that section this time. The coolest thing (literally) was seeing Elsa on an overpass - and it was snowing! She was talking to runners below - asking if we liked snow, and if we wanted to build a snowman - she was great!

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

The first character stop was the White Rabbit about mile 1. Even though I had started at the front a lot of people had passed me and there was a long line so I went on, and not too much further were Pocahontas and Meeko, with a fairly short line.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

Just after mile 3 where we went backstage into Epcot were the toy soldiers.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

We ran into Epcot just between Norway and China. In January Daisy was there, but I think that created problems with line backing up onto the race course, and this time there were no characters until we got to Jiminy Cricket in Italy. Short line there, but long line for Tiana, Naveen, and Louis at the American Adventure so I passed them. They were just past the mile 4 sign.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

Marie was in front of France, also with a short line. Another character stop in World Showcase would have been nice, but they did have three within a fairly short distance.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

The course exits Epcot at the International Gateway and loops clockwise around the Boardwalk area. Goofy was in front of ESPN Club, same as January, but also had a long line.

Just before we went backstage at Epcot again we saw the Genie and Lumiere puppets, which I had first seen at Disney California Adventure when World of Color opened.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

We came back into Epcot by the Imagination Pavilion. Donald was in the breezeway - I was very surprised that there was no line! But we were less than 1/2 mile to the finish, so I guess people just wanted to get done?

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

Anna and Elsa were featured on the mile 6 sign. Only .2 left!

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

I finished in a little over 1:04, including multiple photo stops, and I was VERY happy with that, especially given the heat and humidity. I really like the 10K distance. Since I don't have to wear a fuel belt I feel a lot lighter and more free.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

I got my (Inaugural) 10k medal and my Glass Slipper Challenge wristband.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

I was very thankful for volunteers handing out bottles of water at the finish line - there had been three water stations on the course, but I'd lost a lot of water along the way. (In other words i was a hot, sweaty mess!)

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

We had the usual silly runDisney refreshment box. I did enjoy the Almond Roca and the chocolate covered blueberries, but it's not REAL food.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

For the most part I thought the 10k went very well. I wish it were a more interesting course, but at least they improved that first three miles a little bit by adding a couple of additional characters. Elsa and the snow were really fun.

Coming up - the Princess Half Marathon.



January 27, 2014

2014 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend - Part 2

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This is it - the day of the Tinker Bell Half Marathon, and most importantly, our last morning of getting up insanely early for a while! Yay!!!

We had moved to the Disney Vacation Club's Villas at the Grand Californian on Saturday after the 10K, so we were even closer to the start line than we were for the 10K. We were pretty tired and had gone to bed early on Saturday night - I was asleep before 9:00, and never even heard the second World of Color show (heard the first one). The race started at 5:00, so we were up at 3:00. We didn't really have to get up that early, but it gave us plenty of time to have something to eat, check Facebook and weather, and put on our costumes without feeling rushed.

We met our friends Anna and Eddie in the lobby at 4:15 and walked right over to our start corrals - we never even went to the pre-race area. We were all in Corral B. This year they allowed men to start in B rather than all the way back in C. There were more men in the race this year - around 15% rather than 10% as in past years. And this year a lot of them were NOT in costume - that was disappointing. But our guys were - they were wearing their new sparkle skirts and wings, and they looked terrific. (And they got lots of compliments - I heard one woman say jokingly that it wasn't fair that a guy looked better in a skirt than she did. :-) )

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

It was race announcer Rudy Novotny's 60th birthday, so we all sang Happy Birthday to Rudy before the start of the race - that was a lot of fun! (Such a nice man, and he works SO hard - he and Carissa Bealert, too. They work the Expo and the races - the ENTIRE race, from the pre-race until the last person crosses the finish line. I don't know when they get a chance to sleep.)

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

Another great morning for running - about 48, not too humid, almost no wind. A few clouds, unlike the day before when it was clear. Lee, Eddie and I were all wearing our wings, which were tied around an outer sleeveless shirt, then pinned to it to keep them from bouncing around. By tying the straps around the outer shirt instead of wearing them we avoid chafing - makes for a MUCH more comfortable run. (The ladies at Team Sparkle gave us those tips when we first wore wings two years ago.)

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

As you might expect in a Tinker Bell-themed race we saw LOTS of wings, and lots of tutus, and quite a variety of each. Also a lot of people in other costumes - Disney princesses, pirates, Marvel and Star Wars characters...I am always amazed at how creative people are with their costumes. It's just one of the many fun things about a Disney race.

Where was I...oh yes, the start. :-) Corral B started just about 5 minutes after Corral A. We went north and around the perimeter of Disneyland for the first mile, then went backstage at DCA and into the park by the Tower of Terror, and ran down Hollywood Boulevard. That's where Mile 2 was. Aren't the guys just adorable in their skirts and wings?

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

From there we ran into Cars Land and past Ornament Valley - this view was so pretty in the dark!

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

We went backstage and ran around the back side of Paradise Pier, re-entering the park next to Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta. They had characters from Viva Navidad to greet us.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

And the World of Color fountains, with the Fun Wheel backdrop. Such a GREAT photo op! Disney had photographers and cast members in most of the photo locations, but where they didn't, other runners were always happy to take our photo, and we returned the favor.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

We ran past Grizzly Rapids and Soarin', down Buena Vista Street, then across the Esplanade to Disneyland. That was just past Mile 3 - and we'd just arrived in Disneyland! Love all of the park time that we get on this course!

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

We ran up Main Street, where Tinker Bell was on top of one of the drums from Soundsational, with Captain Hook and Mr. Smee posing for photos at the bottom. The line was VERY long, and we didn't wait for that.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

We stopped in front of the Castle, though! And then we ran through the Castle and into Fantasyland and Tomorrowland.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

The princesses were along "small world way" as usual, but again, the lines were long except for Merida. She was quite taken with the guys in their skirts.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

In Toontown, I made us stop because Marie was out with Clarice (Marie's personality is SO like our cat Princessa). And the cast member that we'd seen in Frontierland during the 10K, who was so wonderful and enthusiastic (without coffee!) was working that line, so we wanted her in our photo, too.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

And then there was the car incident...poor Anna!

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

We took the Big Thunder Trail through Frontierland and then into New Orleans Square and the Mile 5 sign.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

Backstage again by Splash Mountain and around the perimeter of the park and into Downtown Disney...lots of people there to cheer us on. As we arrived at the Disneyland Hotel, there they were - my favorite Red Hat Society ladies! I love seeing them, and they really come out and support the runners.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

We ran down a side road and suddenly were off Disney property onto Walnut Street, in the residential area. And there was the mile 6 sign. Almost halfway through the race before we exit Disney property - that's one reason we love this course so much.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

By Mile 8 we were into downtown Anaheim, where we went down the Promenade and past City Hall and the Muzeo.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

As much as I enjoy it, the course is a little cruel - we're on Harbor headed south towards Disneyland at mile 9.5 and we can see the Matterhorn and the Team Disney Anaheim building and it looks like we're so close to the end...but then we take a left onto Ball and head east again to add some more miles. That's the least enjoyable part of the course, through commercial areas with lots of strip malls and fast food places.

The sun had kind of come out and it had warmed up a little as we went past the Garden Walk and some of the hotels on Manchester.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

The Mile 12 sign was near the back side of Cars Land - we'd seen it three hours earlier, too!

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

Oh no! What happened to the band? Someone stole the band!

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

That last mile always seems short to me (that's a good thing!) as we went around the back side of Cars Land and Paradise Pier before crossing Disneyland Drive and heading to the finish line south of the Paradise Pier Hotel.

We stopped at the announcer's stand just before the finish line to sing Happy Birthday to Rudy and he shared some birthday cupcakes with us. Yum! (Way better than anything that was in the silly runDisney box.)

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

Lee and I got our Tinker Bell medals and our Coast-to-Coast medals. Eddie also had run Dopey and qualified for Coast-to-Coast, but he is running the Princess Half next month, and getting the special pink Coast-to-Coast medal for those who run Tink and Princess, so he didn't get his C2C at this time.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

We had such a great time running the race with Eddie and Anna! Though we didn't stop for many character photos we still made a lot of other photo stops (I didn't include nearly all of the photos in this blog), and while we again had a "personal worst" half marathon time, we had a whole lot of fun.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

The Tinker Bell Half Marathon remains my favorite of the Disney half marathons - I really enjoy the course because it has so much "Disney time" to it. Over 6 miles on Disney property, and it really takes you all over both of the theme parks. I think the only areas we didn't run through were Adventureland and "a bug's land", though we did the latter during the 10K. It's always interesting to get a glimpse into some of the backstage areas, too. There's very few places where the course gets unpleasantly narrow and crowded, and they don't last long. It's also a nice size - this year there were a little over 13,000 finishers. The atmosphere of this race is great, too - everyone just seems to have a lot of fun with it and costumed runners are more the rule than the exception. And January in southern California has practically perfect running weather.

I'm very thankful that we survived running 67.9 miles over the course of six races in eleven days, and especially that we remained healthy and injury-free. I'm sure our slow pace in all of the races helped a lot.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

On Monday morning we went to Pixie Hollow at Disneyland to visit Tinker Bell and tell her how much we had enjoyed running her races and show off our three medals.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

Next year we won't have the same opportunity to earn our Coast-to-Coast medals so quickly because the Tinker Bell half marathon weekend moves to Mother's Day weekend in May. I'm disappointed in that - the weather is SO much nicer (cooler) in January than it is in May. I also don't think it's very fair to all the moms who want to race AND spend time with their kids...I think a lot of women have run it as a "girl's weekend" kind of thing, which doesn't work very well with Mother's Day. But I understand it - since it's been back-to-back with Marathon Weekend these last two years that's a lot for runDisney to try to do so quickly. It would have been nice if they'd left it during one of the winter months, though.



January 26, 2014

2014 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend - Part 1

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Time for the third annual Tinker Bell Half Marathon weekend at Disneyland! Lee and I had run the first two, and we are trying to remain "perfect" for this race. Coming only a week after our Dopey Challenge at Walt Disney World made this one a little more challenging this year - and if that weren't enough, we were also running the Inaugural Tinker Bell 10K on Saturday! That makes a total of 67.9 miles of racing in 11 days. OK, so maybe "racing" is a relative term...

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

We earn three more medals - the new 10K medal, the half marathon medal, and our Coast-to-Coast medal. No "challenge" medal for doing the 10K and the half with this one, though.

The Never Land 5K was Friday morning - unlike last year's Disneyland 5K and 10K they didn't attempt to hold them both on the same day. We had to work and missed this one...I'm sorry we did because it looked like lots of fun!

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

We went to the Half Marathon Expo late afternoon on Friday to pick up our bibs for the 10K and the half marathon. And we also got our Coast-to-Coast wristbands. Because hey, it's not a Disney race if I'm not wearing a wristband!

The Expo was not too crowded - a much better experience than the Disneyland Half Marathon Expo last year. They had queues set up for the Official Merchandise area but they weren't in use when we were there.

I didn't take very many Expo photos, but Jason did when he was there earlier in the day, so most of these are his. Bib pickup was in the parking garage of the Disneyland Hotel, while the Expo show floor was in the Convention Center upstairs.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

That's where we picked up our goodie bags with our shirts. This year we also received a couple of drawstring bags/backpacks.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

The shirts, well, I like the fabric and the logo, and the women's cut is flattering, but I'm really not wild about the colors. The lavender is ok, but the raspberry pink...ick. (It looks more red in the photo, but believe me, it's pink.) And they are long sleeve. Which has very limited usefulness in California. There's not too many mornings I'd want to wear it while running. I know the men were less than enthused with the colors, also. Of course I'm sure some out there will say: "What do they expect, running a women's race?" But I don't think the colors had to be quite so feminine. Last year's mint green was a lot better.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

This Expo is not as large as the ones at Walt Disney World, but there were still a lot of vendors selling running gear and clothes and other accessories. As usual, those selling sparkle skirts and wings were doing great business - we did our share of shopping.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

RunDisney had a fairly large booth, where you could see samples of the medals that will be given out at other Disney races this year.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

A couple of our West Coast Roadrunner coaches were working at The Stick booth, and helped work out some knots in our calves.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

Lee participated in this fun photo-op at the Lady Foot Locker booth.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

The Official Merchandise area was not crowded and still seemed to have all of the merchandise we expected. We were able to get our Tinker Bell magnets, and we both got this shirt - it has images of the three medals on the back side.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge


Even though it was an Inaugural race there was very little 10K merchandise - I saw this shirt and a pin. (Though I suppose that's better than the 5K, which only had a pin.)

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

I'm very disappointed in the design of the Coast-to-Coast shirts this year. It's very plain and un-Disneyish. (The women's version has bright pink lettering. Yuck. Yes, I know lots of women love pink. But I don't.)

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

The Inaugural Tinker Bell 10K started at 6:00 on Saturday morning. One of the VERY best things about Disneyland races is that YOU CAN WALK TO THE START LINE FROM YOUR HOTEL! There's no need to get up insanely early to catch a bus. We got up at 4:00, which, after our Dopey experience in Florida, seemed like sleeping in. Helped by the fact that we are in our own timezone - another thing I love about Disneyland races.

We stayed at the Anabella Hotel on Friday night. Since there had been no announcement of a 10K at the time I booked our DVC villa at the Grand Californian, I only had Saturday and Sunday nights reserved there. The Anabella was very close to the start and finish areas next to the Paradise Pier Hotel, so it was a good choice. The hotel was fine, though parking was a problem. We were able to find a space, but we saw lots of cars that arrived later and were illegally parked.

We met our friend Eddie in the pre-race area at 5:15 - by then they were already telling people to go to the corrals. Though there weren't that many runners - I don't think there were more than 7,000 and I think it was closer to 6,000. It was a nice size!

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

It was an absolutely perfect morning for running - in the high 40s with fairly low humidity and very little wind. I wore a throwaway t-shirt while we were waiting to start, but otherwise I was comfortable in my pull-on sleeves for most of the race - I only pulled them down towards the end. The guys were fine in their short sleeves.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

We were in Corral A, and were able to be near the front by the stage where we could see all of the pre-race activity. There were four corrals, and each had a fairy coach - Vidia for us, as well as Iridessa, Fawn, and Rosetta.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

The national anthem was played by a trumpeter - that was different, and was very well done.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

Tinker Bell showed up on the big screen to see us off...ready, set, fly!

This is a slightly different 10K course than the Disneyland 10K they held as part of Disneyland Half Marathon weekend last year. For this one most of the first four miles of the 6.2 mile course was either backstage or inside the parks, so there were a lot of interesting sights to keep us entertained. After we'd run backstage for a while we came into Disneyland right next to "it's a small world" which is still decorated for the holidays. (As you can see the guys didn't go all out with the costumes for this one, but they did wear pink calf sleeves and tutus - or man-tus, and some of the other runners called them.)

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

There were a lot of character photo opportunities, and we stopped for most of them. In the beginning we were far enough ahead of most of the pack that the lines weren't too long, but they grew longer the more we stopped.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

From small world we went back into Toontown, then backstage again before entering the park by Splash Mountain. Next to Haunted Mansion was what I think is my favorite character photo ever in a Disney race - the bride and the tightrope girl from the Haunted Mansion. So cool!!! The line was about 15 deep when we got into it, and a lot longer than that when we left. After we had our photos taken Lee looked back at the bride, and she gave a slight smile and said softly: "Hurry baaack..." It was great!

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

All of the mile markers had different fairies on them. There were lines to take photos with the mile markers!

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

Then we went into Frontierland and along the Big Thunder Trail to Fantasyland, then past the Matterhorn into Tomorrowland. We were having a great time, stopping for lots of photos, some with characters and some just for fun.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

From Tomorrowland we went around the hub and down Main Street to Town Square, where Eddie paused for a nap.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

Then we were across the Esplanade into DCA and onto Buena Vista Street.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

Through Condor Flats and by Grizzly River run, then counter-clockwise around Paradise Bay, where the World of Color fountains were running.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

Then we ran down Route 66 into Cars Land, taking photos with both DJ and Lightning and Mater.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

We took a left on Center St. and went into "a bug's land" - that was a little bit crowded. But we saw the best costume of the day - a pair of ladies running as Slinky Dog! One was the front end, and one the back, with some loops of wire connecting them. That took some coordination - they had to stay no more than about 4 feet apart.

We really went ALL around DCA, since we went out of "a bug's land" back to the main pathway next to Grizzly Peak, then back to Buena Vista Street and up Hollywood Blvd. The Monsters University characters were there but the line was long...and one of the sweeper bikes came up to tell everyone that we were only 4 minutes ahead of the pace.

We left DCA next to Tower of Terror, and that was just about the 4 mile mark. Since we only had 2.2 miles left we knew we'd have no problems completing the race ahead of the sweepers - but all of our goofing off had cost us a lot of time.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

The portion of the race that was outside the park went north on Harbor to Manchester, then back south to Disney Way. Just after mile 5 we went backstage at DCA and ran around the back side of the park to the finish line.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

We got our new 10K medals - they are very nice, and have that lovely word on them: "Inaugural." :-)

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

The race was SO much fun - even though it was our worst 10K time, we had absolutely the BEST time running a race! We all really enjoyed the course - about 2/3 of it was in the parks, which was so much better than the WDW 10K the week before. The part on the streets of Anaheim was fine, and there were a fair number of people out there cheering for us, as well as a band or two. Anaheim does a great job with community support for the Disney races.

2014 Glass Slipper Challenge

The water stops were better placed than they were with last August's 10K (when it was SO hot). There were three: about mile 1.5, just before mile 3, and about 5.25. But with the cool weather we didn't need them as much.

Race refreshments were bananas and the silly runDisney boxes, though these had a better assortment, and included hummus and almond roca. Most of it was labeled as gluten-free.

As I think you can tell, we had fun, and I'd definitely recommend this race. I really enjoy the 10K distance - it is a lot easier to train for than a half marathon. And it's a good stepping stone for those thinking of trying to get into longer distances. I'm happy to see Disney adding more 10K races - next up will be the Inaugural Enchanted Princess 10K during Princess Half Marathon weekend at Walt Disney World next month.

Next up - the Tinker Bell Half Marathon!



January 15, 2014

WDW 2014 Marathon Weekend - Inaugural Dopey Challenge, Part 6

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2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

Three down, one to go! But we haven't even done half of the mileage yet...we have completed 22.4, and still have 26.2 left!

It was VERY hard to get up at 2:00 this morning...we both really, really, really wanted to go back to sleep. But today was the first real test of this whole Dopey Challenge thing - at 13.1 miles a half marathon is much more of an endurance test for most of us.

We again drove to Epcot, leaving our resort at a little after 3:00, and again we had minimal traffic. Even including parking it only took about 12 minutes. But that's because we left EARLY.

Before I go any further I want to say a HUGE thank you to all of the volunteers and cast members who get up even earlier than we do to man the aid stations, direct traffic, answer questions, and probably a thousand other jobs that we might not see, but that are absolutely necessary. I don't know how they manage to keep doing it with smiles on their faces, and words of encouragement, but they do, and we are SO appreciative and grateful. This is Andrew, who we also saw the morning of the 10K. Notice his duck hat, and his gloves, which had glowing fingers - he told us to touch them for a burst of power. :-) (I did - every little bit helps!)

2014 Inaugural Dopey Challenge

It had rained during the night and it was quite humid. The temperature was about 67, so it was our warmest race so far. Showers were expected about 9:00, and thunderstorms later, so we were hoping the rain would hold off for the race. At least the overcast kept the temperature down while we were running. (Th