I clanked when I walked back to the hotel after completing the Tinker Bell Half Marathon at Disneyland. Not the normal medal-on-medal clank that comes from the bonus Coast-to-Coast medal hitting a full or half-marathon medal, but a true symphony of sounds coming from not one, not two, but three runDisney medals hanging around my neck. In my recent article "One and Done," I shared with you the story of my first (and last) marathon where I earned hardware #1, the gorgeous 20th Anniversary WDW Marathon medal. This is the story of how I came to add two more runDisney medals to the collection in the space of a week.
Thomas, my CSO (Chief Support Officer) and I left behind freezing weather at home and were greeted on Thursday by beautiful blue skies when we touched down at Orange County Airport in Anaheim. Fortunately, temperatures promised to be cooler and the humidity lower than the previous week in Walt Disney World, which was a big plus for those participating in Tinker Bell Marathon Weekend.
After checking in to the Candy Cane Inn, we headed to Disneyland park to relax and finalize the game plan for the weekend. The park was relatively quiet and we enjoyed being able to walk on to just about any ride we desired. We made a stop by the Main Street Market Place for a hot cocoa. We took in what may be the last time the wonderful ambiance of the shop—opened in 1955, this venue is slated to be turned into a Starbucks location.
Friday was expo day, but we decided to take a couple of turns on Toy Story Mania in Disney California Adventure first. While WDW has a lot to offer, the close proximity of the two theme parks here makes park-hopping much less challenging. Well, it used to be easier. Disneyland Resort, in an effort to crack down on the selling of multi-day tickets on sites such as Craig's List, has implemented a new policy that requires everyone with a multi-day pass to have a picture on file that comes up with the card. This requires a cast member to check every pass. As you can imagine, this causes gridlock at the gates.
From a totally nerdy perspective, it's pretty interesting how the process works. From a business perspective, Disney must be losing a lot of money on resales of tickets (or "rentals," as they are also called) to have implemented this program, given the negative guest experience that has resulted from the pass checks. The program is working; we did overhear one very frustrated couple who had apparently "rented" their tickets and couldn't use them to get into the park because they didn't match the photos on file. From a totally selfish annual passholder perspective, however, it was a pain to go through the pass process every time we wanted to change parks. While it wasn't too bad on Friday, by Sunday the lines for park entrance reached completely across the esplanade.
When we arrived at the Health & Fitness Expo on Friday morning, the lines for both the expo and packet pick-up were long. Thomas knew what items I would be most interested in so he headed into the expo to do a reconnaissance mission while I headed down the ramp to pick up my runner's bib. The cast members were only allowing 50 or so people at a time into the pick-up area, which left a lot of volunteers with little or nothing do to. There was no separate Coast-to-Coast line this year (which was an improvement, since that line always took forever), so pick-up went fast and easy. A quick check to make sure my ChronoTrack B-Tag (RFID tracker) on my bib was working, and it was out the door and back upstairs to see what Thomas had found in the runDisney expo area.
Now, I know there are a lot of first-timers participating in the Tinker Bell events, but using the same designs or ones very similar to 2012 as if they are new was very disappointing. In addition—as has been mentioned on the Team MousePlanet forum on the MousePad discussion boards—the overly cute designs didn't really thrill many of the participants (including myself), who were looking for more grown-up designs, not the cartoonish ones filling the racks. While my credit card was happy for this break, I had hoped for a few more fun things to add to the runDisney race collection.
Although I didn't stop by the runDisney onsite store the morning of the half to see what was left, I did come across a sight I'd never previously seen after a race: a large rack of cartoonish "I did it" race shirts for sale in the World of Disney store in Downtown Disney the afternoon following the half marathon.
We headed back into the park and spent time investigating the new Fantasy Faire exhibit at the Blue Sky Cellar in DCA. Fantasy Faire, located in Disneyland park, is the new princess meet-and-greet location set to open in Spring 2013. The Blue Sky Cellar exhibit is an impressive collection of designs and models, and even included a short clip featuring many of the Imagineer cast members who are working on the project.
After a carbo-loading dinner at Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta and a wild ride on Radiator Springs Racers, we called Friday a day.
Saturday morning at 5:00 a.m., 4,500 runners and walkers crammed into Main Street in Disneyland Park for the 3.1-mile Never Land 5K fun run/walk. The corrals, not based on time but on when you arrived in the park, wound around both sides of the Central Plaza hub and went down to City Hall. Only 5K participants were allowed in the park for the start; supporters were relegated to the esplenade and the finish in DCA. The DJ, dressed as a Pixie Hollow Sparrowman, spun tunes and kept the crowds pumped up for the fun.
Shortly before race start, runDisney announcers Carissa and Rudy appeared in a pirate ship and warned the crowd that pirates were trying to catch Tinker Bell—so be on the look-out along the course. Given the number of Tinker Bells among the runners, I don't know how they could have picked out the real one. Even runDisney regular actor Sean Astin (of Lord of the Rings and Rudy fame), looked particularly festive that morning in a green sparkle skirt and wings.
At 5:45 a.m., after a trumpeter played the national anthem, Tinker Bell herself made an appearance, flying around the castle, much to the delight of the attendees. And with that, to the tune of "Following the Leader" (from Peter Pan), we were off. The 5K course winds around both on- and off-stage in Disneyland park, then crosses the esplanade before ending by the Silly Symphony Swings in Disney California Adventure. It is a fun course made even more special in the dark of the morning when the attractions such as World of Color in DCA are bright and sparkling.
I finished the 5K, happily accepted my rubber medal, and headed back to the hotel to prepare for another fun day in the park. I know I should have been resting, but there were parks to see and attractions to ride.
One of the biggest benefits of running the half marathons in Disneyland is the close proximity of the start and finish lines to many of the local area hotels. From our location at Candy Cane Inn, I could walk out the door, around the corner, and within two blocks, be at the start line—no buses needed. With a Sunday morning 5:00 a.m. start, that is a huge benefit as you get more time to sleep in. Another benefit was the weather: highs in the 40s at the start and humidity at 11 percent, it couldn't have been more perfect.
We were herded into our assigned corrals and patiently waited for the start. Just prior to the start, a member of the Marine Corps took the stage and led us in the national anthem accompanied by perfectly timed fireworks, which were a nice surprise. Both Minnie Mouse and Daisy Duck were on stage to help start the race as was an animated Tinker Bell who, though the magic of some very large video screens located across the start area, sprinkled pixie dust as each corral moved to the start line.
The Tinker Bell Half Marathon course had a few changes from last year and most of them were for the better. The start remained the same on Disneyland Drive but miles 2 through 5 were spent in DCA and Disneyland park, which gave us the opportunity to run through both parks before the sun came up—last year, we didn't hit DCA until mile 11. As always, running down Route 66 in Cars Land, with its neon signs, is not to be missed in the dark, while running through Sleeping Beauty's Castle is a thrill no matter the time of day. Characters were out in abundance for pictures. including a bevy of princesses, Clarabelle the Cow and Clarice, a female chipmunk you don't often see in the park. Captain Jack Sparrow was also on the course, as were Darth Vader and his Storm Troopers, who were a popular stop for pictures.
I will say that it seemed to be more challenging getting through the crowds that went out in corral B, as everyone was stopping for pictures; my early pace through the first few miles was dreadfully slow. There were a lot of first-timers in the corral with many still learning the 'rules of the road' (such as moving to the right if you need to walk, not bunching up more than two abreast with friends so others may pass, and so on), which is always to be expected in a runDisney event. I was also more than slightly concerned when the 2:45 – 3:00 hour pacer took up residence at the front of the corral (which was set for a finish of 2:45 or less). With corral A set for a 2:15 or faster finish, there seems to be something needed in the 2:30 range to help break up some of the course the crowding.
From the parks, we headed out through Downtown Disney, where large crowds of family and friends greeted the participants. After passing the Disneyland Hotel, we were cheered on by a large and boisterous contingent of ladies from the Red Hat Society, who looked particularly festive in their purple outfits and bright red hats. The course then wound through the streets of Anaheim where just after mile 8, we saw a most welcome sight: the MousePlanet Cheer Squad! Finally, I had the opportunity to meet MousePlanet's own Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix. Thanks to all the MP cheer members who stood for hours to cheer us along.
I had picked up the pace by now and was averaging in the high 9-minute/low 10-minute range. Woo hoo—the legs felt great! We made another pass down Harbor Boulevard and entered the park at mile 12, again storming the hill at the end of the tunnel. Mile 13 was run off-stage behind DCA and we ended in the Simba parking lot by the Paradise Pier Hotel, where I gratefully accepted both the Tinker Bell Half Marathon finisher's medal as well as the 2013 Coast-to-Coast medal for completing a runDisney event on both coasts in a single year (more like a single week, but why quibble).
I found Thomas in the crowds and before we made our way back to the hotel, we stopped by the Disneyland Hotel to take a picture wearing all the hardware from both big races. I clanked my way to a shower and chocolate milk which were both waiting for me at the hotel. We spent the remainder of the day celebrating in the parks and had pictures taken with both Periwinkle, Tinker Bell's fraternal twin and Terrance, the dust-talent sparrowman in Disneyland Park's Pixie Hollow. Tinker Bell was apparently out of the office and still recovering from the early morning hours at the time of our visit.
I have to say it was truly a great adventure completing both the WDW Marathon and the Tinker Bell Half Marathon in a single week but if i had to pick one event, the Disneyland experience wins out. The weather in California was perfect and the course outstanding, and the logistics in Disneyland are much simpler to navigate, as everything is in walking distance.
There were 348 international runners in the Tinker Bell Half Marathon weekend events, with almost 12,000 female runners and over 1400 male runners registered (which was quite the jump from the 822 men that registered in 2012). The winner, Angela Escay, set a new course record with an amazing finish of 1:24:10. According to runDisney, the youngest registered participant was 14 years old and the oldest was 77. As a matter of fact, the winner of the Women 75 – 79 age group came in with a net time of 2:41:45! Amazing and something I truly aspire to.
I'm already making plans to be flying with the Never Land gang again in Disneyland next January at the 2014 Tinker Bell Half Marathon—will you be there?
Congratulations to these members of Team MousePlanet for completing the Tinker Bell Half Marathon:
The next runDisney endurance event is the Disney's Princess Half Marathon Weekend, scheduled for the weekend of February 22–24 at the Walt Disney World Resort. All of the weekend's events are sold out—including the 13.1-mile Disney's Princess Half Marathon and the 3.1-mile Disney Royal Family 5K—except for the runDisney Kids Races, which will likely sell out in a matter of days. Like the Tinker Bell Half, the Princess Half is a women-focused event.
Members of Team MousePlanet, including Lorree Tachell, Stephanie Wien, and Lani Teshima, will be participating in the half-marathon.
Do you plan to be in Orlando during event weekend? Join MousePlanet staff and other readers in a meet-up!
For more information on the meet-up or to participate in our conversation about Disney's Princess Half Marathon, visit the thread in the Team MousePlanet forum on our MousePad discussion board.
Grab some food and join us!
(Send an email to Lorree Tachell)
Lorree is known to her friends as the RunningFool. Of the 50+ half marathons she's run since 2006, over a third have been runDisney events. She is a Disneyland Half Marathon Legacy Runner (meaning she has run it every year since its inauguration), and she looks forward to being a Perfect Princess at the Princess Half Marathon in 2013. Lorree also hopes to continue her legacy / perfect streaks with the Tower of Terror 10 Miler and the Wine & Dine and Tinker Bell Half Marathons as well. In January 2013, she completed her first (and only) full marathon at the 20th Anniversary Walt Disney World Marathon. "Yes, I do love running the Disney parks; there is something very special about a runDisney event."