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2012-366 Day 246 – Disneyland Half Marathon

Four thirty a.m. Thankfully we stayed in a hotel within a quarter to half mile of the starting line. With no illusions of setting any records, we were able to get there much closer to start time than recommended and thus able to avoid standing around for too long (45 minutes rather than two hours).

As I’ve mentioned before, my distance runs suffered in the heat of the summer, so I wasn’t expecting much more than to try to finish. One of our friends, Belen, also signed up to run for the first time, and has been suffering some shin problems, so I thought I’d try to help her to the finish line. We lined up at the very back of 17,000 people and waited for our turn to cross the starting line.

One of the great things about doing the same race for a second time (even if it is three years removed) is the familiarity. One of the things I remember about the Disney Half is how supportive it was and how many people were out cheering both in the park and out on the streets of Anaheim. Along with the people are some great signs, and we had an early favorite with “Worst Parade Ever” at the starting line.

Jess came with us to see us off and then filtered out with the crowd once Belen and I headed back into the queues. As we approached the starting line I think I heard her, but didn’t see her (she has video proving she was there). I knew her next stop was the Esplanade where I saw her last time, so I made sure to make a mental note to look for her there.

The first mile traces the streets outside of the park, so Belen and I decided to run it since there wasn’t much to look at there. We finished that mile in around twelve minutes and bought ourselves a bit of a cushion against the “Goofy Bus.” The “Goofy Bus” is our term for the Disney mandated minimum pace (16 minute miles), otherwise a shuttle (the Bus) picks you up and takes you back to the start line. Belen had some trepidation that she would be a victim of the “Bus,” so getting the first mile in with that bit of cushion helped.

The second mile brought us into California Adventure and included a run through Cars Land. We were back stage for the first part of it and saw the floats from the Pixar parade which we had never seen before, one for the Incredibles and one for Toy Story. They looked great, as did the rest of the park and characters throughout. We still ran most of the time, but threw in a couple walk breaks to make sure that Belen’s legs didn’t have too much too soon. This was the first of many times I was told to go without her, but I wasn’t going to do that.

We reached the Esplanade and saw Jess with the signs she made the previous day fairly quickly (Belen saw the sign first, I picked Jess out of the crowd before I saw the sign). We crossed into Disneyland and took a winding path through the park and out the north end onto Ball Road. Both California Adventure and Disneyland had plenty of cast members and characters out to cheer, as well as great locations like the Castle and plenty of interesting backstage locations like the stables for the Clydesdale horses. On the way out of the park at the four mile mark, we were informed by volunteers on a bike that we were 12 minutes ahead of minimum pace.

Once outside of the parks, there isn’t much to see until you get to the Honda Center and Angels Stadium. Unfortunately that takes you from mile 4 to mile 8 with just the streets and industrial areas. There were some great groups spread throughout, including mariachis, Hawaiian dancers, plenty of cheer squads, some dance teams, and even a bunch of classic and current cars in the last stretch to Honda Center, the only thing I didn’t really remember from last time.

At mile 5 we had upped our lead to 13 minutes ahead of pace, and we were no longer getting warnings after that. In fact, we hit the seven mile mark and I did some quick math in my head (since all the clocks show the initial start time, and we started about 45 minutes after that) and determined that we were actually on pace to finish in under 3 hours. That prospect excited both of us, and we decided to make that our goal.

My favorite part of the race the first time remained my favorite part the second time. After circling the Honda Center and taking a trail across to the outskirts of Angels Stadium, we got to head into the stadium and out onto the field (well, the warning track) and run from right field down past home plate and back out via left field. The most amazing part is that they let 500-1000 people into the stadium and you get to emerge from the insides of the stadium out to a bunch of cheering. The feeling is fantastic, and then you get to run around the field and see the runners on the big screen in the outfield. So much fun, and, as I said, so amazing.

Mile markers 10 through 12 take you back from Angels Stadium to Disneyland through some pretty uninspired industrial areas. We ran and walked off and on while I kept an eye on our time. The best sign on this stretch was a picture of McKayla Maroney with the simple subtitle, “McKayla is not impressed.” (Yes, we got trolled by an internet meme and cracked up at it. Unlike the sign around mile 4 that said, “If you’re walking, then you can’t say you ran it.” Untrue, and unnecessary.) Another great sign around mile 5 was a little kid holding one that said, “Mommy, Daddy said if you run under 3 hours I get an iPad.”

McKayla is not impressed

We counted down from 3.1 miles, to 2.1 miles, and hit the 12 mile marker with 1.1 miles to go and about sixteen minutes left before our time rolled over to three hours. Belen and I agreed to a good jog for the last mile and then to go all out for the last tenth. I knew adrenaline would carry us, and we had a real shot at breaking three hours if we kept it up. They had opened up California Adventure while we were out on the course, so, unlike the first time I ran the race, we didn’t get to go into the park on the way back and instead ran backstage one last time. We spotted our cheering squad (Jess and Eric) right before the finish and made it through to the end in 2:59.

Turns out that pacing with Belen this year only added 20 minutes to my time from the first time in which I ran nine and a half miles before crashing and run/walking the rest. Having someone to run with and talk to certainly made things more fun this time around too, and helping Belen accomplish her first half marathon was awesome. I’m not sure I’d run the race by myself again, there’s just too many dead zones and not enough time in the park (although the run through Angels Stadium certainly makes a compelling case for a return), but I’m glad to have done it again. I felt pretty good at the end, and, outside of some chaffing issues and stiffness, am doing alright now.

Weight: 228 Loss: 12 lbs – Running Yearly Mileage: 275.2 miles (+13.1 miles)
Fitocracy Level: 25 ID: disciplev1

Posted in Matt 2012-366, Matt General. Tagged with , , , .

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