Photo Journal: 2012 Disneyland Half Marathon, Part 3 of Weekend Recap

George Gensler has run every edition of the Disneyland Half Marathon, and for 2012 she takes us along for the ride in Part 3 of our three-part series on runDisney’s Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend.  In Part 1, George covered the Health and Fitness Expo, and Part 2 featured the Cars Land 5K and Kids’ Races.  Also, George has donated a Disneyland Half Marathon poster and commemorative pin set for us to auction off for Give Kids The World.  So continue reading for a photo tour of the 2012 Disneyland Half Marathon course

Article and Photos by George Gensler

Sunday – Disneyland Half Marathon

Before I tell you about this race (well, show you, really – this is going to be a photo journal through the course), I want to give you a little of my history with the event.  I started racing in 2004 and had heard great things about Disney races, so, when they announced in 2005 that there was going to be a half marathon in Disneyland (my home park, though I live in NYC), I signed up right away.  I was so excited!  And then, the Saturday before the race, I got hit by a car, while crossing the street (in the crosswalk, with the light).  I was determined, though, and went to California, anyway, and ran the half, startling spectators and fellow runners alike when they caught sight of my battered face.  I ran straight through, not stopping for pictures, but taking it all in, and I fell in love with Disney races.  Since then, I have run every Disneyland Half Marathon, earning legacy status in 2010 for the 5th race and I have every intention of holding onto my legacy status.  I have run many other Disney races since that first Disneyland Half (I have legacy status at the Expedition Everest Challenge, too, and ran all three Tower of Terror 13ks), including running every Disney race in 2010, including all of the fun runs, earning 13 medals for 11 races, including the Goofy and the Coast-to-Coast medals.

Legacy runners are given a special bib and an extra lanyard that marks our legacy status, so we’re easily identifiable to the race organizers and the volunteers (more on this later).  I like to make my bib even more special, by using Disney buttons to pin it on, rather than plain safety pins.

As with the 5k on Saturday, we had to start very early, so that all, or most, of the runners would have cleared the parks before opening.  I left the hotel at about 5am to be sure I could be in my corral by 5:15am, but ran into a traffic jam on the way to the race start area.

I got to the race festival area (the start and finish) just in time to be directed to the corral by Sarge.  I didn’t have a bag to check, so I watched the DJ and checked out the costumes and the Disneyland Half Marathon photo backdrop, which runDisney very kindly provides for those who don’t want to wait for the official Brightroom photographers at the finish.

By some miracle, there was no line at the massage tent (that does not happen at the end of the race), so I jumped in to get my injured knee some attention before demanding another 13.1 miles of it.

With 17000 runners, you can imagine the crowds at the start, but runDisney is on it.  Runners are divided into seven or eight corrals (lined with port-a-potties), which start as separate waves.  I start in the B corral, so I’m fortunate not to have to stand around for too long and run farther before the heat starts to come up.  I also wriggled my way up to the front of my corral, so I’d be close to the stage when we started.

On the screen at the start, runDisney ran numbers (there are only 551 legacy runners left for this event; there are runners from all 50 states, etc.) and quotes from various Disney characters.  Some of my favorites include:

“Don’t forget to stretch” – Mrs. Incredible

“Second star to the right and straight on to the finish” – Peter Pan

(Can you get more from runDisney?  They were very clever.)

With 5 minutes to go, Jeff Smith, Warrant Officer from the 300th Army Band, sang the National Anthem.  The Disney Touch was evident again, here, when we were treated to red rockets and bursting bombs (red fireworks, then white), at the appropriate moments during the anthem, bringing tears to my eyes and, I’m sure, the eyes of many of my fellow runners.  And, then, it was time to

Of course, that was just the first wave, Corral A, but we in Corral B were soon moving up to the start line and waiting for our own send-off by Mickey and Minnie.

The first mile is in the streets around the Disneyland Resort area and it’s still fairly dark out, so there isn’t much to see, but I use the first couple of miles in a half as my warm-up, anyway.  The mile markers for the Disneyland Half are quite big, so they can be seen no matter where you are on the street.

Mile 2 takes us into the backstage area of Disney California Adventure.  Curious about the backside of Cars Land?  Check out the striations in the Cadillac Ridge:

As with the Cars Land 5K, there were characters, parade floats and other entertainment along the course.  With so many more runners in the half, the lines were a bit longer, so, as with the half, I just snapped shots between runners.

As with the Cars Land 5K, the parks are empty of crowds, so we have wonderful views of the parks.

After running past Paradise Pier, we ran through Cars Land (not everyone runs the 5K and the half, so this was a nice treat for the half marathon runners).

Hollywood came next…

Phineas and Ferb and the Fireside Girls danced us out of Disney California Adventure on our way through the backstage area to Disneyland

Entering Disneyland…

More characters, including princesses and their princes, lined the course through Disneyland, which took us around the carrousel (ridden by pirates) and through Sleeping Beauty castle where Brightroom photographers crouched to catch us with the castle behind us and Princess Aurora and Prince Philip greeted runners and posed with them for photos.

We rushed into Tomorrowland next and, even if I hadn’t been planning to take pictures of every character, I would have stopped for these pictures, in honor of Dave Parfitt:

Passing from Tomorrowland into Fantasyland, we were watched over by a CARSified monorail,

and then greeted by an array of princesses, including my favorite, Snow White, and Disney’s newest princess, Merida (of Brave)

Disney’s barnyard animals and their handlers even came out to cheer us on…

At this point, we leave the parks and hit the backstreets of Anaheim.  This first stretch of road outside of the parks is uncomfortable, because we’re running straight into the sun.

While it is to be expected that Disney provides great entertainment while runners are in the parks, they also ensure that we are not left to drag ourselves through Anaheim.  There are school bands, cheerleaders, and dance squads all along the course.

I had expected to pick up the pace a bit out here, away from the enticements of Disney entertainment, but then I hit the most beautiful mile of the entire race.  Classic cars were parked along both sides of the street!  The owners cheered and cheered and posed for pictures with their lovely automobiles.

I don’t know if this is a permanent feature of the race now or if this was just for the Cars theme this year, but I loved it, especially the piece de resistance, anchoring the mile of cars

The 9th mile brings us to Honda arena, home of the Anaheim Ducks…

We then run along the Santa Ana River Trail…

to the Angel Stadium parking lot, where the course is lined with Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.  The course takes us into the stadium and around the bases (sort of), where we are broadcast on the Jumbotron both in the stadium and at the Disneyland Half Marathon race festival area – a nice touch by Disney and the Angels.

As we turn back towards Disneyland, we are cheered by more bands and dance squads.  Even though I hate the underpasses, because of the echoing cheers, there is one particular underpass I enjoy, because it’s lined by tiles of the Anaheim poppies.

Coming back towards the Disney resort and heading towards the finish line, the course is still lined with cheerleaders, dance squads and spectators.  No matter how tough your race has been, you will be cheered and encouraged towards the finish line, where the Fab Five (Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto) and some of their friends are waiting to welcome you with a high five and a cheer.

Exiting the course is quicker than you’d expect.  Volunteers hand out chill towels as you work your way towards your medal.  Special spotters made sure to steer me towards the legacy medals (same medal, but with an additional legacy lanyard).  Water and Powerade came next and then we were funneled into the race photo area on our way to the refreshment tent.  We received the same snack box from the 5k and there were piles of bananas to augment the items in the box.

From there, it was a few steps to the baggage tents which were walk-throughs, leading to the family reunion areas.  I stepped through and found my family waiting under this sign

In the finish area, there are numerous sponsor tents, including Lasting Commemoratives and Fond Memories, which offers on-the-spot medal engraving (your name, finish time and finish place are engraved onto the back of your medal), plus tents for the various teams and the massage tent, of course.

My only disappointment in this race was the lack of respect that some of the Team in Training spectators showed to runners by coming out onto the course to cheer their runners, forcing those of use who were racing to dodge them.  Runners should only ever have to dodge around other race participants, not spectators holding up signs in the middle of the street/course.  Hopefully, runDisney will address this issue with Team in Training.

Some additional notes about the event:

Spectators – plentiful and supportive!  Even in the back streets of Anaheim, people were out and cheering for us.  Some of my favorite signs:  Worst Parade Ever; Writing This Sign Was Hard, Tw Too!; and

Volunteers – also plentiful and supportive.  There were dozens at each water station and at least some of them had been informed about legacy runners, because, as I ran into one station, the first volunteer handing out water saw my bib and hollered back to the rest of them “Legacy runner in the house” and I was cheered all the way through.  I had a big grin on my face by the time I cleared that station.  Clif manned the water station at the exit from the Santa Ana River Trail, handing out gels and hula-hooping while they cheered.

Medical – there were at least four medical tents along the course.  I didn’t need to stop at one, but it was good to see that they were there.  Each one had a table outside with self-help aids, such as tongue depressors with BioFreeze or Vaseline, paper cups of ibuprofen or Tylenol, and (I know from past experience) sun block.

As I noted in my first paragraph, I love this race.  runDisney knows how to run an event, and I can’t wait to return in 2013.  Keep watching for our Disneyland Half Marathon poster and collectible race pin set auction for Give Kids The World.

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Bio: George Gensler is a copyrights specialist during the week and a runner on the weekends.  She lives in New York City now, but has lived in five countries on three continents.  She grew up traveling the world, but her official residence was in Southern California and every visit home included a trip to Disneyland.  She has also visited every Disney Park around the world and sailed on board two Disney cruises.  She threw in a visit to the Disney Family museum in San Francisco for good measure, and has had the Premier Disney Park Pass since its inception.

About George Gensler

George Gensler is a copyrights specialist during the week and a runner on the weekends. She lives in New York City now, but has lived in five countries on three continents. She grew up traveling the world, but her official residence was in Southern California and every visit home included a trip to Disneyland. She has also visited every Disney Park around the world and sailed on board two Disney cruises. She threw in a visit to the Disney Family museum in San Francisco for good measure, and has had the Premier Disney Park Pass since its inception.