Disneyland 2016 Half Marathon Weekend Recap

by Lisa Stiglic, contributing writer
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Runners from around the globe—24 countries to be exact—met at the Happiest Place on Earth over Labor Day weekend to take part in the 2016 Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend. The year's theme highlighted Disney's favorite duos—one pair for each race. Country Bear Jamboree's Big Al and Liver Lips stepped out of retirement to host the 5K race, Aladdin and Genie partnered up for the 10K, Mickey and Pluto hosted the half marathon, and of course, Dumbo and Timothy the Mouse led the Dumbo Double Dare (a combination of both the 10K and the half marathon).

The races seemed to run as planned, with perfect weather and no issues to report, except maybe the crowds. Disneyland Resort's Diamond Celebration concluded on Labor Day, so guests infiltrated the resort in hopes to catch the last glimmer of the Paint the Night Parade and the Disneyland Forever Fireworks show. With this influx, plus the tens of thousands of runners and their families already visiting the resort, Disneyland met maximum capacity, leading to long lines.

Pre-Race Activities

The weekend warm-up started with the runDisney Fitness and Health Expo on Thursday, September 1st, where racers gathered to pick up packets, bibs, and pre-ordered merchandise. I went on Friday for my pick-up and a quick visit to the Expo.


Mickey and Pluto are displayed on the half marathon bib and jersey. Photo by Lisa Stigic.


There was still plenty of Dooney and Bourke merchandise for runners to purchase. This year's pattern featured a running Mickey with a blue background. Photo by Lisa Stiglic.

It seemed that this year's Expo was the biggest yet, at least since I've been attending for the past four years. I noticed a few more vendors and plenty of lines.


The New Balance location offered Disney-themed shirts to accompany their fan favorite Disney-themed running shoes. Photo by Lisa Stiglic.


Runners were able to choose from plenty of race-themed merchandise from the Disney brand merchandise location. Mouseplanet photo.

Race Time

By the time I had attended the Expo on Friday, the first race had already been completed. The Disneyland 3.1-mile 5K start time was 5:30 a.m., which left plenty of time for some rest then play in the resort for runners. Saturday's 10K race saw both Dumbo Double Dare participants and the 6.2-mile racers lined up for their trek through both parks in order to receive the coveted Aladdin and Genie medal.

Sunday morning, half marathon racers and Dumbo Double Dare participants running the 13.1 miles of the half marathon lined up in corresponding corrals prior to start time. Wheelchair participants started the race at 5:29, with the fastest runners assigned to corral A taking off a minute later. Every five minutes or so, the next corral would begin—so that by the time I made it to the starting line from corral I, it was already 6:20 am, 50 minutes after the first participants had started. At that point, many of us in the corral jokingly thought the elite runners had already crossed the finish line! I wasn't too far off, but more on that later.


Runners queue up in corrals I and J to await the start of the half marathon. Photo by Lisa Stiglic.

The course wound us through Disney California Adventure then over to Disneyland. Just past the mile 4, we exited out of the park and onto Ball Avenue to head toward Angel Stadium of Anaheim.


Runners pick up speed on the downhill hump of Ball Avenue crossing the I-5 freeway. Photo by Lisa Stiglic.

One of the highlights for Disneyland race runners is the turnout of fantastic volunteers who get up as early as we do to entertain us as we run. Many thanks to the bands, cheer squads, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, and other organizations who cheered us all on to the finish line.


Local youth dancers display their talents and vibrant, colorful costumes. Photo by Lisa Stiglic.


Between the miles 7 and 8, the favorite classic car clubs align the route with encouragement and lots of horn honking. Photo by Lisa Stiglic.

The course continued around the Honda Center—home of the Anaheim Ducks—then along the Santa Ana River Trail and up to the Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Another climactic feature of the Disneyland Half Marathon is getting to run along the warning track through the stadium and waving to yourself on the Jumbotron.

The last three miles pointed us back to the Disneyland Resort, where we crossed the finish line to retrieve medals—mine being the Mickey and Pluto medal. Many other racers completed multiple challenges to receive an assortment of medals. In addition to the Dumbo Double Dare challenge, in which runners acquired three medals (10K, half marathon, and the challenge medals), many participants also picked up their Coast-to-Coast Challenge medal for completing a half or full marathon at Walt Disney World and at Disneyland Resort the same calendar year. I spoke with a few Disneyland Half participants who were also registered in the inaugural Disneyland Paris Half Marathon on September 25, and who would be receiving a never-before-distributed Castle to Chateau medal.

Results

I can say that I finished the race and received my shiny new medal, but yeah, that's about it. I'm a slow runner and am always glad to cross the finish line, so it boggles my mind to think some of these runners can finish a half marathon in the time it would take me to complete a 10K, at best! And yes, all jokes aside, the runners from corral A were only 15 minutes away from finishing the race by the time I started! A big congratulations to everyone, regardless of finish time!

Men

It was a California sweep for the men with the top spots in the 10K race. Adam Henry of Santa Monica timed in at 34:27, Brian Roser of Chino followed at 37:10 for second place, and four seconds behind him was Daniel Evora from Irvine. Both Henry and Evora placed in the top three spots in last year's 10K.

The men continued a Golden State sweep in the half marathon. Jimmy Grabow from Running Springs crossed the finish line in a time of 1:06:13. Brandon Wolfe from nearby Fullerton came in second with a time of 1:08:04. Third place participant Patrick Fernandez from La Verne came in at 1:11:10.

This is Grabow's third first-place win at the Disneyland Half Marathon, however, his finish time for this year's race did not break the course record. That record was set in 2012 with a finish time of 1:05:29 by Grabow himself.

Women

Momoko Tanaka won first place for the 10K with a time of 36:55. MousePlanet friend Kellie Nickerson of Albuquerque, New Mexico, came in second at 39:19, and 15-year-old Emily Perez of Alameda, California placed third with a time of 39:27.

Tanaka repeated her winning performance for a second year for the half marathon. Her finishing time was 1:19:31 beating her 2015 win by two minutes. Jenny Kadavy from Clayton, California finished second with a time of 1:20:40, and local racer Lindsey Carter of Huntington Beach rounded out the top three with her finish of 1:26:04.

Post-Race… and Beyond

Overall, it was a fun run weekend filled with miles, medals, and memories. Congratulations to all the racers, including the many MousePlanet staff members, contributors, and readers who participated in the various events over the weekend. For those who grabbed a sponge or some Red Vine candy from us at the Team MousePlanet cheer station (between miles 6 and 7), thanks for stopping by. We love seeing everyone pass our station.

If this was your first time participating in a runDIsney event, welcome to the addiction as the lure of the Disney bling entices us for the next runDisney race. The upcoming Super Heroes Half Marathon Weekend still has open spots for the Dr. Strange 10K, the Avengers Super Heroes Half Marathon, and the Infinity Gauntlet Challenge. January's Star Wars Half Marathon – the Light Side, also has availability for the half marathon.


The medal line-up for the upcoming runDisney races is impressive. Photo by Lisa Stiglic.

For more information about upcoming races, and for a full list of this year's race results, go to runDisney.com. And make sure to hang out with us in the Team MousePlanet forum on our MousePad discussion board.

See you at the finish line!