runDisney Shots & Thoughts

Episode 49 featured a good amount of detail about my experience during the Walt Disney World Marathon weekend.  I wanted to include a few select pictures of my trip around the world, in addition to a brief recap of my adventures the next weekend for the Star Wars Half Marathon.

WDWMarathonCastleOne of my goals was to run fast enough to get to the Magic Kingdom before dawn so that the Dream Lights on Cinderella Castle would still be lit and visible.  Running through castles is one of the best parts about Disney races.

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This was the first Disney race that I dressed up and the first that I stopped for pictures with characters.  Taking a picture with Mickey while dressed as Mickey was one of the highlights of the marathon for me.

WDWMarathonFinish

And I finished the race much like I had run it — with jazz hands.  Not sure why I feel like Mickey would run a marathon with jazz hands but I did.  It still doesn’t quite seem real to me that I ran 26.2 miles.  I might not ever run that distance again but I’m proud to say that I did it once.

Running a marathon almost makes running a half marathon seem like nothing.  Thirteen point one miles is still a good amount of mileage to run though.  The Star Wars Half Marathon was my third half marathon, having completed two Disneyland Half Marathons the previous two years on Labor Day Weekend.  It is easier to compare Star Wars run to those rather than comparing to the events of the previous weekend in Florida.

As a big Disney fan as well as a big Star Wars fan, I thought this would be the perfect event for me.  And while I enjoyed it, I think I preferred the Disneyland Half better.

Event pickup was the same — going to the bottom parking level at the Disneyland Hotel to get my bib and pre-purchased pin.  Having done this in the past, I’m now familiar with how it goes.  I was excited to see the Coast-to-Coast designation next to me name in the sign-in book and received my wrist band that allowed me to get my bonus medal at the end of the half marathon.

The pickup and corresponding expo had begun Thursday but I couldn’t make it down until Saturday, the day before my event.  There hadn’t been a lot of preview of the merchandise but what I had seen, I wasn’t that interested in.  The design of much of the stuff was done in a comic-book style, which didn’t do much for me for the most part.  The Disneyland Half has animated Mickey and gang and Avengers was well suited for this style but I didn’t feel it worked as well for Star Wars.  I’ve heard a lot of stuff had sold out early but it didn’t affect me much because I wasn’t that into it.  I was happy with my “free” participant shirt, which featured Chewbacca, and I picked up a Coast-to-Coast shirt I had passed on in Florida.  Seeing runners who had just completed the 10k with their medals around the neck made me wonder whether I should have done the Rebel Challenge though.

Race day started fine.  Got down there early enough and saw a little performance by the announcing crew and R2-D2 and C3PO before being told that we could head to our corrals.  With a different route than the Disneyland Half, we had quite a bit of walking to do from the staging area to the corrals.  Waiting for the race to start, they showed clips from various Star Wars movies, which was neat.

SWHalf01

I was in Corral B so I didn’t have to wait long after the race began to start my run.  I was surprised how slow the start was with supposed “faster” runners in the corral but it was an OK pace to start.  I had worked hard to get the better start time but perhaps it was a bit of a curse rather than a blessing.

During the Disneyland Half, the sun rises earlier in the morning and the course is run outside of the parks for the first couple of miles but in January, it remained dark for the first part of the race, which headed pretty quickly into the Resort.  Running backstage was done completely in the dark and they didn’t seem to have any floats or other things of interest on display back there.  There simply wasn’t much to see until we made our way into Disneyland.

I love running through the Disney parks and this race was no exception.  Having enjoyed stopping for pictures with the characters in Florida, I had intended to do so again if I saw anyone I wanted to take a picture with.  We headed down Main Street and into Frontierland.  The first photo opportunity was near the dock of the Mark Twain.  It was “Luke” and “Leia,” though they didn’t quite look like them.  I kept going into Fantasyland where there were some Stormtroopers near the carousel.  We ran towards Tomorrowland (no running through the castle … a big bummer) and a cast member was directing people to another photo op near the Matterhorn, though I couldn’t tell who it was (later found out it was Chewbacca).

I wanted my picture taken with Darth Vader and was excited to see him in front of Star Tours but the line was prohibitively long.  They were using the queue of the attraction for the photo line and I honestly thought maybe the ride was open it was so long.  It must have been at least a 20-minute wait when I went past so I decided to skip it.  I read at least one report about someone waiting more than 30 minutes for a picture — much too long in the middle (or rather start) of a race.

We headed through more backstage areas and out the front gates.  I heard my name called and was pleasantly surprised to see my mom.  I stopped for a quick hello and picture before continuing.  The Darth Vader breathing in the underpass between the two parks was pretty cool.

In DCA, there were some Jedi.  I knew that Boba Fett had been here for the 10k and I was interested in a picture with him but his line was at least 10 minutes.  Too long again to wait.  I did stop off for my picture with some Stormtroopers near a bug’s land.

SWHalf03I would have stopped for the characters from Star Wars Rebels, as I saw that they were there during the 10k, but I never encountered them.  I only saw one more group of Jedi before heading out onto the streets of Anaheim and Garden Grove.

One thing I didn’t think I’d like about this course wound up being pretty cool.  Part of Harbor Blvd. was used twice during the race — going and coming.  I didn’t want to run the same stretch twice but as I was passing Katella, the leaders were coming down the other side of the street towards the finish, which I thought was neat to see.  Had I been in a later corral, I wouldn’t have seen this.  Though, if I had been in a later corral, I would have caught an incredible sunrise inside the parks instead of on the streets of Anaheim.  (The lack of sunlight in the parks also led to horrible pictures from MarathonFoto, so I didn’t buy any).

During the Disneyland Half, I look forward to going to Angels Stadium and running the warning track but this course didn’t have that offering (there was a motocross event happening at the stadium so it was all torn up).  Unfortunately, that meant there wasn’t anything to look forward to during the last 10 miles of the race.  We just ran.  Honestly, it was kind of boring.  There were spectators throughout and one stretch had members of the 501st but I didn’t really get to appreciate their costumes as I ran by.

My knee held up pretty well, which I was pleased with.  There was some illnesses going around Kathy’s school the week before the race and I started feeling a little ill myself during the race.  I don’t like using the restroom during a run but after passing by a few port-a-potty stations, I decided I needed to take a bio break.  I felt much better afterward and was able to complete the course a lot more comfortably.

I was happy to hear my name from the announcers as I came across the finish line — the first time they’ve called my name.  Maybe I just wasn’t paying attention but I didn’t see any characters at the finish line as I was crossing.  Perhaps they were in the middle of a shift change?  I got my Star Wars Half medal and my Coast-to-Coast and was finished with yet another long-distance run.

SWHalf04

Reading others’ reports after the race, it seemed like quite a few people liked the Star Wars Half.  It’s not that I didn’t but I didn’t feel it was great and am not sure that I’ll continue doing it in the future.  I think the race brought out a lot of first-time runners and a lot of people who were more fans of Star Wars rather than Disney, which may account for some of that opinion.  There were a lot of intricate costumes worn and the event seemed lively from that standpoint.

I’m not a typical runner either, so I think what I enjoy from a run isn’t necessarily what the typical runner likes.  I’m not a fan of cooler weather and actually prefer the warmer temperatures of the Disneyland Half.  I like the sunrise a little earlier so that I can enjoy the setting I’m running in a little better.  A lot of people liked the course but I thought we entered the parks too quickly and left them too quickly for what would then become a fairly standard road race.

I had planned for the Star Wars Half Marathon to be the end of my running career (and it may still be) but I apparently am not quite done with runDisney yet.  I decided that I’d do the Disneyland Half again this year since it is the 10th anniversary of the event and they sometimes do special medals to commemorate (plus it’s Disneyland’s 60th so who knows if there might be more surprises).  Next year, my daughter will be old enough to do the 10k’s and I told her that I’d run the Tinker Bell one with her.  Perhaps I’ll do the Avengers event at some point too to say that I did them all.

It’s not necessarily easy to do such long-distance events but runDisney does make them fun and accessible to a wide range of abilities with a fairly generous pace requirement.  They cost a bit more than the standard running events but honestly if they weren’t Disney-themed, I wouldn’t be doing them.  They’ve been a great way to challenge myself physically and I love the bling hanging from pegs on the wall of my office.  And like many things Disney, runDisney is highly addictive.  I don’t relish the thought of training for more events but I can’t help thinking which ones I’m going to do next.

~Matt

 

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About Matthew Walker

A lifelong Disney fan, Matt realized his dream of becoming "part of the magic" by working as a cast member at the Disney Store for 7 years, where he also met his wife, Kathy. He is a two-time Disney Store National Trivia Showdown finalist and has shared his knowledge and photographs on the subject in a number of print publications and websites, including StartedByAMouse.com, which he runs. Matt currently serves as the writing director at a technology-focused public relations firm. In his free time, Matt enjoys photography, walking and frequent trips to Disneyland. He lives in Burbank, California with his wife and daughter, Chelsea.

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