I had sent my friends, Valerie Chinn and her husband, on ahead and now ran alone. Despite being behind the orange flags, there were still a good three or four dozen people behind me.
I wasn't last!
I briefly chatted with a woman who came out from Florida to run the half marathon until she ran ahead. Then another woman, who said she always walked behind the orange flags, but hadn't been swept up yet. And she had completed seven of them! So feeling a little encouraged, I figured as long as I stayed within sight of the orange flags, I would hopefully avoid the sweeper vans.
Except the orange flags were moving farther and farther away, until I couldn't see them at all.
With no one else to talk to, I finally put in my earphones and continued my run/walk. If I make it, I make it. If I don't, I can always try again. Now, I know 16-minute miles aren't extraordinary, but I'm slooow. My high school days of running crosscountry and soccer were looong behind me. My usual runs these days are around 18 minutes. I can do 15 minutes, but that's if I'm only running a mile. I'd already done five miles, which was the most I'd ever done at one time.
Did I mention it was 90 degrees that day?
Halfway to the next marker, this group of mariachi dancers entertained us.
There would be many more cheerleaders, bands, flag teams, and random spectators who would cheer us on through the miles of dreary nothingness.
Lots of medical vans and bikes all along the route. Water stops almost every other mile. I'd gulp down two cups of water and another cup, sometimes two, of PowerAde. It was just enough to get me to the next mile marker.
Why didn't I just run the 10K the day before? My friends did and they said it was mostly running through Disneyland. I could've had my photo opps and been done by now!
The "official" halfway point. I especially liked the sign that said, "We're proud of you too, random stranger."
But seriously, all the random strangers who came out to cheer us along the way encouraged me to keep going. Sometimes, it was just one guy sitting on the curb on a stretch of loneliness between mile markers and high school cheerleaders. Something. Anything. Just to keep us going to the next stop.
And my friend's husband was right, after the first few miles, it did get easier. A lot of sameness, but physically, the shinsplints and acid build-up were gone.
Mile 7! Past the halfway point now!
Groupings of classic cars scattered along the next two miles. We literally ran over and along railroad tracks and under freeway underpasses and there was nothing to see so having these cars, and people cheering and honking us on, to break the monotony was pretty awesome.
At this point, we'd already been running for several hours. Even though it was just past 8:30 a.m., the sun was relentless. I noticed more and more racers sitting on the sidelines taking breaks or being tended to by medics.
My friends messaged me that they were waiting ahead at Mile 8.
Were they waiting on me?
Don't! Go! I urged them not to wait around, wondering if, as more people dropped out, the sweeper vans were picking everyone up.
Mile 8! Eight minutes behind pace! A race announcer yelled out. Hey, that's not too bad. Maybe I'll make it after all.
I knew the scenery was supposed to pick up at this point. The brief shade was also a welcome relief. I noticed the cars got more modern as I ran along. No time to stop and admire!
In the far distance, I could see the A for Angel Stadium, which I knew was the Mile 9 marker and a fuel stop.
Part of the route was along the Santa Ana River Trail, and we had to share the road with regular runners, hikers, and bikers. At the top of the slight incline, three people held bags of cold grapes out to us. OMG! That one green grape was sooo delicious. Cold. Sweet. Refreshing. That's what I meant about the random strangers that spurred us on. Sometimes just a little bit of encouragement, but it was enough to get me to the next stop.
Finally made it to the A!
Have I been constantly moving for nearly three hours?!
I was hoping for a Clif Bar, but the fuel was a Clif Shot Energy Gel. It was incredibly sweet and caffeinated. Like swallowing a mouthful of syrup. Ugh! I gulped down several cups of water to wash out the taste.
I could hear the screaming before I even entered the stadium.
There were people in the stadium cheering us on!
It was packed! It was amazing! Boosted by the roaring crowd, I picked up my pace and started running again.
At one point, I even saw myself on the jumbotron.
What a thrill to have a stadium of people cheering for you. I wish I could've lingered.
But there were plenty of cheerleaders still.
Unbeknownst to me, Mile 10 was the cut off point.
All of a sudden, when I looked back, only about a dozen people remained behind me.
They couldn't have all passed me by, could they? Uh oh. The sweeper vans must've pulled them from the race. I started panicking.
Especially since, in the previous and next water stops, volunteers were folding up tables and cleaning up as I was running up.
Nothing doing, but to keep going and hope the sweeper vans didn't pick me.
I told the random mister lady to squirt the water straight into my face. Ah.
Mile 11! Seeing signs for Disney Way. Not too far now!
Seriously. So amazing the people who would stand for hours along empty roads and freeway underpasses just to cheer us on.
Ooh. Pretty California poppies. I wouldn't have taken the time to really notice them if I had driven.
Running along Disney Way. Not too far now.
I see Disneyland ahead. They can't possibly sweep me up now! But still, I couldn't rest easy until I was actually inside the park.
They have to let me finish now! No more sweeper vans! Yay!
But wait! Sweeper golf carts?!
Sooo close, yet sooo far away. The last mile was hard! I started limping and my pace slowed down even more. Valerie texted that they were waiting for me just beyond the finish line. "You got this!" she messaged.
Disneyland Drive. Just past the Disneyland Hotel and I'll be done.
Last batch of cheerleaders.
I can see Mile 13 up ahead! People were still lingering to cheer on the last of us. Keep on swimming, yelled someone.
How about, "Keep on limping?" I suggested.
"Keep on limping! Keeping on limping!"
I can see the finish line!
Mickey and Minnie and Chip and Dale to greet us at the end.
13.1 miles baby!
Owww! Owww! Owww!
After crossing the finish line, I found my friends and promptly collapsed onto the ground. How do they do this on a regular basis? Why?
"We're proud of you!" they said.
"I'm never doing that ever again!" I said.
When I looked back at the route we ran though, I'm pretty darn proud I finished. I finished! I was almost dead last, but I ran 13.1 miles. I never thought I could do that.
I ran 13.1 miles and all I got was this lousy T-shirt? Umm, yeah. And a box of snacks.
There were 17,000 half marathon runners. Several thousand couldn't finish. But I did!
Did you know the winner, Jimmy Grabow, finished in 1:07:41?! Crazy! But he didn't beat the record he set last year when he won at 1:05:29. Crazier!
You can sign up for other races or find out more information on the runDisney website. A few last tips:
*If you're interested in running the Disneyland Half Marathon, mark on your calendar when registration opens in January because it sells out fast. If you're wavering about whether or not to run, just do it. Cost seems to climb every year as well as the number of runners. It'll only get more expensive and more crowded if you wait.
*Follow the suggested training schedule. Or at least, don't slack off on running regularly.
*Dress up! Make or buy a costume! Part of the fun of running the Disneyland Half Marathon is seeing all the other people in costume.
*If you're local, just park in the Mickey & Friends Parking Structure. It's $16, but do you really want to walk far to get back to your car after running 13.1 miles? If you're coming into town, make sure you stay at one of the designated hotels with a shuttle stop to Disneyland. Otherwise, like my friends who stayed at a hotel half a mile away, you'll still have to walk back to the hotel afterward. You could also park at one of those designated hotels, but you'd still have to pay hotel parking fees and take a shuttle back.
*On race day, no need to wear layers. Even at 4:30 a.m., Labor Day weekend in Southern California is warm. If it's an unusually cold day, my friend says she's seen people wrap themselves in plastic garbage bags and then discard them when the race starts.
*If you're a first-time runner or slow, line up in your corral as early and as far to the front as you can. There were so many runners that it takes at least 45 minutes from when corral A runners started to when it was corral G's turn. Every minute counts. I honestly think that if we hadn't managed to sneak into corral F and if my friend's husband hadn't urged me on the first five miles, that I would have been swept up in the vans. It might have only made minutes of difference overall, but that was the difference between me being allowed to finish or being swept up.
*Take pictures! I ran 13.1 miles with my point-and-shoot camera and cell phone in hand. Documenting the whole race is part of the fun. If I just wanted to run, I don't need to go through all this. Take pictures with the Disney characters. After all, that's what sets this race apart from others. But don't waste all your time waiting in line for them, unless there's a character you absolutely have to take a photo with, all those photo opps take up time.
*And finally, yes, you, too, can do this. I'm not a runner by any means. I came in almost dead last. I never ran more than 5 miles at a time before. But after that fifth mile, it does get easier. Plus, there were sooo many people cheering us on and enough water breaks that they really do help you keep going. Just keep slogging along and you can do it! It is such a great feeling of accomplishment.
And you get bling! Can't beat the bling!
Now, let's eat! What's nearby? Umami Burger - Anaheim was only 1.1 miles away. One last meal with my friends before they left town. Oww! Oww! Oww! I limped back to the parking structure.
1313 S. Harbor Blvd.
Anaheim, CA 92803
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