So it’s race day!
After having checked in the day before (and also going to the Force Friday event at Disneyland), we rolled out of bed at 4:15am and walked over to the corrals. Thankfully, we were staying at the Grand Californian so we could sleep as late as possible. But it was also great because we didn’t have to worry about parking or driving in possible traffic or anything else. We just threw on our race day clothes and headed over to Disneyland Drive. Being our first time, I had no idea where to go. I read the map, but wasn’t sure the easiest way to get to the starting line, but there were a bunch of us staying on property so it was easy to just follow the crowd. Where else are a bunch of people wearing running gear likely going at now 5:05am?
We got to the corrals right about 5:15am when they asked us to be there and it was very well organized and easy to figure out. Our corral matched up to the letter on the upper left of our bib. Since Emma and I were in the very last corral (for all the newbies and slower walkers) we had to wait about 20 extra minutes to get past the 5:30 start, but when we headed out, we started at a pretty good pace, remembering not to expend all our energy at the beginning. Still, I am not in the best of shape and had to slow down a bit from a run to a run/walk pace. Even then it was quite a bit of an exertion, but once we got off the road and turned into Disney California Adventure, the sight was amazing!
Right before us was the Cars Land mountain range all lit up in the still dark sky as the light started to slowly creep in. There was an audible gasp from the collected crowd and people yanked out their phones to take pictures. We made it around Radiator Springs Racers and headed out of Cars Land to Paradise Pier where we hit the Mile 1 marker. As we left Cars Land we could hear them doing test runs on Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree adding even more life to the park atmosphere. After Paradise Pier, we headed toward Grizzly Peak and out toward the esplanade between the two parks. We entered right through the center gates and headed down Main Street and around the castle toward Big Thunder Ranch where we hit the Mile 2 marker. Then it was around the Rivers of America, out behind Critter Country and back to Downtown Disney where we knew we were coming to the end! Emma and I had passed the other two mile markers without taking a pic, but decided that since we were going at a decent pace and were so close to the end, we would stop for this one and we did. We finished the last tenth of a mile and crossed the finish line so happy to have done it! We received our medallions right away and proudly wore them for a staff photographer as she congratulated us on our race.
Part of the fun of running in the parks is the number of great photo opportunities. Everywhere you went there were professional Disney photographers waiting to take your picture (make sure your bib number is showing clearly so they can identify you). You could take a picture with characters, at the mile markers, or just along the way as a group. And not even at specific locations! Cast members who were there to cheer you on would always be willing to stop and take a picture for you. It was funny because this one woman, who was a very good runner, would stop at every picture location and wait in line to take pics with whatever characters were available. When she stopped we would pass her by, and then we’d see her later on running by us like a comet. We must have passed each other about 10 times.
It was also great seeing all the cool costumes people made just for the race. You could tell that so many of them had a love of Disney like Emma and I did. But what was more evident was the fun they had when racing. And it was really uplifting, especially for me and Emma and all the first-timers out there to be so honestly encouraged by everyone! From the third shift custodial folks to the cast members directing us along the route, to the photographers who were always unobtrusive, to the volunteers who did so much, everyone was just so positive! By the end of the race, Emma was so enthusiastic she definitely wants to do it again! If you’ve never done a race before and you are worried about it like I was, let me encourage you to do a runDisney event. You’ll feel like you can accomplish anything – and with a bit of pixie dust who knows what’s possible? Maybe a 10K?