The 2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekendby Lorree Tachell, contributing writer
Events put on by runDisney always bring out the fun (and occasionally even the crazy) in both participants and spectators, and the 2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend, held May 7–10, was no exception. Where else could you see Green Army Men running in fairy wings, Captain Hook offering "hook bumps" on the side of the road, and almost 500 Red Hat Ladies lining the street in front of the Disneyland Hotel cheering on half-marathon participants?
Although the move from mid-January to Mother's Day weekend in May was not universally embraced by everyone (I was really dubious about the weather) and with a "10K spoiler" in the form of outdated applesauce packets, Tinker Bell 2015 still proved to be another great race weekend.
|2015 Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend at a Glance|
|Tinker Bell Half Marathon||The flagship race is 13.1 miles long, held on Sunday.|
|Tinker Bell 10K||The 10-kilometer run is 6.2 miles long, held on Saturday.|
|Never Land 5K||The 5-kilometer family fun run/walk is 3.1 miles long, held on Friday morning.|
|Pixie Dust Challenge||Special recognition (in the form of a medal) given to participants who successfully complete both the half-marathon and 10K back to back. Registration for the challenge is required.|
|Coast to Coast Medal||Special recognition (in the form of a medal) given to Tinker Bell Half Marathon finishers who successfully completed either the Walt Disney World half-marathon or marathon, or Disney's Princess Half Marathon in 2015.|
Ohh, I NEED one of those…
Many race participants eagerly await the reveal of the weekend race shirts (this year's Tinker Bell shirts were in shades of bright blue, raspberry, and light turquoise blue), but even more await the shopping bonanza of the runDisney official merchandise booth at the Health & Fitness Expo. Once runDisney releases merchandise photos (usually two days prior to the race weekend), social media such as Facebook and Twitter light up with wish-lists and wants. The cuteness factor was high on the 2015 Tinker Bell race merchandise—there was no doubt this would be another runDisney shopping frenzy.
Lines started to form early in the morning for the 10:00 a.m. opening on Thursday, and by the time the first group was allowed in, shoppers could expect to wait on average of 45 minutes to an hour just to gain access to the merchandise location. Thanks to a delayed early morning flight to California and a rerouted itinerary, I didn't arrive until almost 11:30 a.m. Given the interest in race-specific merchandise by race participants and eBay sellers, would anything be left?
Thankfully, a few event wine glasses remained, as were event jackets and tech shirts. For the first time, "I did it" shirts were available for not only the challenge and the half-marathon, but for the 10K and 5K. Inaugural Pixie Dust Challenge jackets in raspberry featured a rather simple pocket logo while the turquoise half-marathon jackets boasted a fun floral fairy wing design on the back. Ironically, the "limited edition" pre-order jacket recycled the 2015 WDW Marathon weekend design of running shoes; a disappointment for those looking for a more race-specific keepsake.
By mid-afternoon Thursday, much of the race weekend merchandise was either gone or were left in very limited sizes. Wine glasses and coffee mugs were sold out by 1:00 p.m., and clothing was available only in extra-small and small. Before I left the expo, I picked up my race packets and had my picture taken for the Pixie Dust Challenge (completing both the Tinker Bell 10K and Tinker Bell Half Marathon over the weekend). I was also now wearing a pink wristband signifying I could also collect a pink Coast-to-Coast medal for completing both the Tinker Bell and Princess half-marathons in 2015. Add in the Never Land 5K on Friday, and if the stars aligned it could be a five medal weekend!
A 5:00 a.m. Family 5K
Waking to the Friday morning 3:30 a.m. alarm revealed the remnants of a much-needed rainy L.A. night; by 4:00 a.m. when participants were walking to the start line, the rain had stopped, leaving dripping trees and shiny puddles on the roads (making for interesting footing on the course).
The start of the Never Land 5K is unique among the four Disneyland 5K events as it is the only one that actually starts in Disneyland. I entered the park by a side gate and made my way up Main Street to the ropes blocking off access to the front of Sleeping Beauty's Castle. As it was still early, I easily made my way to the front of the ropes and had a bird's-eye view of the pre-race festivities as well as the four race chairs who would lead the runners that morning. Cast Members with industrial-size squeegees pushed standing water off the course as much as possible to provide safer footing and fewer soaked shoes.
With minutes to the start, a trumpeteer played the National Anthem as the crowd of 4500-plus runners and walkers sang in unison. At 5:00 a.m., Tinker Bell did her now-annual race start castle fly-by, signaling our movement to the official start line. Race announcer Rudy Novotny did the countdown and with that, the first wave of race participants was off. Before heading out, we were advised to watch for Peter Pan's shadow out along the course and were told to "crow" when one was spotted.
We didn't have long to wait before the first shadow was spotted up on the wall of an off-stage building, and the crowing started. Finding the shadows made for a fun adventure as we ran through Disneyland and made our way over to Disney California Adventure. While the groups of spectators out in the esplanade between the parks were small (it was really early in the morning, after all), they were extremely vocal in their support as we popped out one end of the park and disappeared behind the hedge on the other side.
Once over in DCA, we made our way down Buena Vista Avenue and up towards the lagoon. The Lost Boys, featured on the Never Land 5K medal, were stationed just before the bridge and were a very popular photo stop. We continued by California Screamin', Toy Story Mania, and the Tinker Bell photo stop before reaching the finish line by the Silly Symphony Swings.
As I crossed the finish line to collect my rubber Never Land 5K medal, the rain started up again, which made for a slightly soggy walk back to the hotel as well as for the race participants still out on the course. But even a rainy run in a Disney park, however, is better than a run just about anywhere else.
The Tinker Bell 10K – Double the Morning Fun
Saturday morning's Tinker Bell 10K run started at 5:30 a.m., which allowed participants the luxury of an extra 30 minutes of morning sleep. The race start is on Disneyland Drive by the Paradise Pier Hotel and, unlike the previous day's Never Land 5K, participants were assigned to corrals (A – E), which started in waves roughly eight minutes apart. I was extremely lucky and landed in corral B. With a quick countdown, "Go!" appeared on the big screen, Tinker Bell did a virtual fly-by, and we were off.
We headed off towards Ball Road, and took a right on Harbor Boulevard before entering Disneyland. We ran up Main Street and out through Frontierland, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland. By mile 4, we were heading across the esplanade and into Disney California Adventure, where we made our way through Hollywood Land and the ever-popular Cars Land. Unfortunately, unlike previous years, World of Color was quiet, as preparations for the new show were underway. The Tinker Bell 10K ended in the Simba parking lot, where things turned a bit odd.
According to the official race guide, upon completing the 10K, Pixie Dust Challenge participants were to visit the Challenge tent to receive their "10K finisher" wristband. Well, that was wrong information. While there was a Challenge tent at the finish, it was unstaffed except for a few cast member volunteers who spent their time explaining that no wristband would be given. There were a lot of nervous Pixie Dust Challengers leaving the finish line area (myself among them) who hoped that they were correct.
Post-race refreshments are a big part of any race and runDisney races traditionally offer a snack box along with fruit such as bananas. After completing the 10K, race finishers passed through a tent where tables of bananas were waiting. I wandered through the tent and assumed that I had just missed the snack boxes as I was trying to work through the Pixie Dust Challenge wristband status. Wrong-o. Apparently due to expired packets of applesauce, the 10K snack boxes had been pulled at the very last minute with no time for substitution. Did I need to carry my own snacks for Sunday's Tinker Bell Half Marathon?
After securing a few breakfast munchies back at the hotel, I wandered back to DCA, where I scored five single-rider trips on Radiator Springs; an awesome way to start the morning. The arrival of the Hat Box Ghost at the Haunted Mansion (and availability of Fastpass tickets) warranted multiple trips through the attraction during the day to check out the newest mansion inhabitant.
By early afternoon, word that Hat Box was "in the house" caused the Mansion stand-by line to swell to over 90 minutes. After a fortuitous stop and reaching my first million-point ride on Buzz Lightyear (!), I caught up with a couple of my extended "framily" who live in the area and spent the remainder of the day and early evening catching up, and enjoying the ambiance of Disneyland and DCA.
Flying through the streets of Anaheim
You'd think that after as many runDisney races I've had the good fortune to do, I would know better than to spend the days in the parks after the 5K and 10K events. But as usual, I found myself putting in many more miles bouncing between the two parks. By Sunday morning's 4:00 a.m. alarm, I was semi-regretting the extra time on my feet—but there was no way I would miss my fourth Tinker Bell Half Marathon, so it was up and out the door with 13.1 miles looming ahead of me. After last year's disaster of a run following the "Dopey Challenge" injury, I had high expectations (and fingers crossed) for a much better race experience.
As with Saturday's Tinker Bell 10K, I was again placed in corral B; this time the corrals went up to G to accommodate another 6,000 or so race participants. We followed the same first mile as the 10K, but the course took us into DCA before Disneyland. We crossed the esplanade at mile 3 and headed into Disneyland for miles 4 and 5.
At the Disneyland Hotel, just before mile 6, we were treated to the incredible sight of almost 500 Red Hat Ladies lining the street cheering on the race participants. Every year it seems more and more of them come to join in the fun; they are certainly a welcome and uplifting addition to the race.
After waving farewell to the Ladies, we ran through the streets of Anaheim. Just past mile ei8ght, members of Team MousePlanet were handing out "candy for strangers" (i.e., Red Vines). After the much-needed energy boost, it was time to kick it into gear and finish out the remaining few miles.
I know I had a huge smile on my face as I made my way across the finish line and collected my fourth pair of Tinker Bell Half Marathon wings. Thankfully, the volunteers were correct on Saturday; no wristband was needed to collect the inaugural Pixie Dust Challenge medal. And last but not least, I picked up a pink Coast-to-Coast medal (my second, after getting one last year). While the temperatures were warmer than this weather wimp would have liked, it was still a beautiful morning for a run. I had officially avenged the horrible finish of the 2014 Tinker Bell Half Marathon!
With a symphony of medal-on-medal clanking around me, I made my way through Downtown Disney and back to the hotel. After a breakfast and a quick shower, I headed back to Disneyland, where I observed many race participants posing for castle photos with both their Princess and Tinker Bell Coast-to-Coast hardware; some even brought ALL their runDisney medals earned so far in 2015 for a jaw-dropping (as well as neck-cramping) photograph. All in all it was another great runDisney weekend.
Going five for five?
In 2016, the Tinker Bell Half Marathon turns 5, which means special medals will be awarded to all half-marathon finishers to celebrate the anniversary. It will also be the first runDisney acknowledgement of Legacy/Perfect status for those who have completed all five Tinker Bell half-marathons. Hope to see you next year at the Tinker Bell Half Marathon when we celebrate five years of flying through the streets of Anaheim!