Just me and 18,000 of my closest friends. Out for a jog. At the Happiest Place on Earth.
A friend posted on my Facebook status yesterday, something along the lines of "of course your first one would be at Disneyland." Am I that predictable? When I was in college and trying to figure out where to go for law school, I checked out the weather and the "scene" for my choices. As some of you know, I ended up in Malibu California. My response to anyone who asked "why?" was the same: "if I'm going to put myself through 3 years of Hell, I might as well do it somewhere with a nice view." The same thought process applied to my decision to try and run a 1/2 marathon - if the first few miles are through Disneyland and California Adventure, it can't be all that bad, right?
As the last week up to the run was upon me, I started to feel nervous. Did I train enough? Was I prepared? Am I nuts?!?! Our friends from Australia left last Wednesday and arrived in Anaheim Thursday morning. Since they came all this way, there was no turning back. We packed up the girls and headed down Friday morning, working our way over to the Disneyland Hotel for the expo. It was crazy! There were people everywhere, standing in lines to get their bibs and in lines to change corrals and in lines to buy things. (Rumor has it that the check out line for "official" runDisney merchandise was close to 3 hours. 3 hours to buy a t-shirt?!?!?!) Can you say "rabid" fans? New Balance was there selling sneakers with Mickey on them. (Someone told our friend that he "missed out" on getting them last year at the expo (for $120 a pair) and bought them on eBay for $500. Running shoes?
We fought our way through the expo, picked up our gear bags and shirts and walked around a little bit. The line for official merchandise scared us away, so we did not bother looking. We ended up spending part of the day wandering around D-Land before having dinner with the family and our friends. Bedtime came early on Friday night, as B and Rob had an early Saturday morning for the 5K. K and I would not be joining them - we like our sleep!
The 5K went off without a hitch and Rob said that he liked it well enough to do it again. I might even join them this time, if we can get K to do it (she was a bit young this year.) She did "run" the 10 yard dash and got her very own medal. (I say "ran" because she really ended up walking most of it - and held my hand. It was only when she saw Donald at the finish line that she kind of took off to try and catch him.)
As you might imagine, the day and a half of build up, of shorter races and various run-themed events taking place around D-Land, all combined to cause my stomach to knot and for me to again question my sanity. But I pushed through. At 3:45 a.m. on Sunday morning, my alarm went off. I got ready to go in my specially designed Tigger running gear (I put it together myself) and tried to eat a banana. Bad move - the banana was NOT any good. I grabbed a Clif bar from the goody bag, a bottle of water and headed off. I was supposed to be in my corral between 4:30 and 5 a.m., for a race that started at 5:30. As I headed through Downtown Disney, I joined the mass of people flowing along, many in costumes of various characters. When I finally made it to my corral ("F"), it was a sea of humanity. Then, I waited. And waited. And waited.
The race officially began at 5:29 with the wheelchair start and 5:30 with the "elite" runners. Our friend Stuart was in corral "A" that started 5 minutes later. His wife Sarah, just 5 more minutes behind, in corral "B". If you are wondering why I was at the back of the pack in "F", it was because I had no clue what my time might be and so I guessed. I did not realize how such an estimate would impact my morning. By the time the other corrals started ("E" seemed to go on FOREVER!), and my corral's turn came, it was after 6 a.m. I had told Rob that I expected to finish between 2 and 2.5 hours, based on my training times. I forgot to account for the late start.
I wish I could share with you all the fun of the race course, as we wound our way through California Adventure and over to Disneyland and out onto the streets of Anaheim. The route itself may still be visible on the runDisney website, but it would not tell the whole picture. I stopped for a picture with Phineas and a Fireside girl (from Phineas and Ferb - the girls would never forgive me if I hadn't), and later, a quick picture with Snow White in Disneyland. By the time I wound my way out of the parks, almost 4 miles had passed and I was feeling good! The crowds had not really thinned, but I had found a guy running along as Piglet, and we seemed to be running about the same pace. Concerned about the heat, Disney seemed to have water and Powerade at each mile, which was good. Somewhere along the line, I tried some energy "goo" (yes, that was the name of it), and let's just say that it was gross and leave it at that. Luckily, I got it at a water stop, so I was able to wash the taste away. Yuck.
As the sun went up into the sky, the miles clicked off and the race wound past the Honda Center where the Anaheim Ducks (hockey) play and then around to the Big "A" where the Angels (baseball) play. We ran into the Stadium and around the warning track, to the cheers of quite a few Boy and Girl Scouts.
By mile 6 or 7, my Nike App was running away with itself, quicker than Disney was ticking the miles off. By mile 12, my App was saying that I had already run 14 miles. As I neared the finish, one of the clocks on the mile marker showed a little more than 2 and a half hours. Knowing what my pace had been all along, I could not figure out why I seemed to be moving so slow. More on that later.
Rob and the girls were on the sidelines about 300 yards from the finish. I heard "Mommy!" before I saw the little blond head bouncing above the fence.... and the little brunette closer to the ground next to her. Kisses and high 5s around and I was off to finish. Rob had the camera out and was trying to take some pictures (he didn't get one of my stripes, unfortunately), and it wasn't until I was 1/2 way to the finish from where they stood before I realized that I hadn't given him a quick kiss. (Yup, I'll be that wife, forgetting to thank her husband at the Oscars.)
At 2:45 or so, I crossed the line. (That was my net time - I'm not sure what the "official" Disney clock said, but remember it took me over a 1/2 hour just to get out of the corral). I was exhausted. I was hot. I was tired and I was hungry. I got my medal, stopped for a 'finisher' picture and wound my way through the crowds to find my family. Stuart and Sarah had finished long before me (Stuart was done around 1:26 and Sarah somewhere around 2:00 or so) and we would meet up later. I borrowed a phone from a kind stranger and called Rob and then made my way over. The caged animals (otherwise known as my girls) had driven Daddy to his second-to-last nerve, but they were hanging on. Back to the hotel to shower and pack up, check out, and then back to D-Land for a few more rides.
By lunchtime, I was hanging on by a thread, exhausted beyond belief, but happy. I had done it. I had trained for and ran and finished my first 1/2 marathon. As crazy as it seemed to me just a few months ago, I was also sitting there considering my next one. The where, the when and the logistics.
As part of the weekend's festivities, Disney offered the option of the "Dumbo Double Dare" which was to run a 10K on Saturday morning and the 1/2 on Sunday morning. I saw many who took advantage and gained a second medal. There was also the "Coast to Coast" challenge, taken on by many, which includes running a 1/2 at Disney World in Florida and a 1/2 in California, both in the same calendar year. Rumors have already started to float around among our Australian friends about a Coast to Coast in 2015. We'll see how that goes.
In the meantime, I've got my eye on a few races that look interesting. Anyone up for a nighttime New Year's run through Downtown LA on January 4? How about something a little closer to home (Santa Clarita) in November - a nice family race through local trails. I'm keeping my options open.
The knees aren't screaming quite as loud in protest as they were yesterday, and you can be sure that I am grateful for the opportunity to run the race, and for the fact that I am healthy enough to have attempted it. So who's with me for next year? Tinkerbell in January, perhaps? See you on the trails!