• Caitlin McAninch

Participating in a runDisney Event

I’ve never been much of an exerciser. Like, at all. Physical activity isn’t really my thing. But, in the past year or so it’s become rather trendy to be a runner. So last May when I saw “The Top 20 Runs for Beginners” on Pinterest, I was interested. And, when I saw runDisney events on the list, I thought, “Yeah, okay! What’s better than running through Disneyland?!” So I registered for the next event I could: the Star Wars Half Marathon in January 2016.

I’m not going to use this post to discuss my lack of training, or how stoked I was when I came in under my goal time (2:56:10). Instead, I would like to review what it’s like participating in a runDisney half marathon.

Signing Up

Getting your spot for a runDisney event is similar to getting your ticket to Burning Man: you have to click refresh at the perfect moment and pray they don’t sell out too quick. My race was set for January 17, 2016, but sign ups were on June 16, 2015. I had my laptop all set to go at 11 am, and continued to press refresh until it came up. It continued to freeze, and I was panicking as I saw the 5K and 10K fill up. But, at 11:15 am, I had secured my spot in the race. To sign up for the race, I paid $199. Adding the commemorative necklace and pin, and tax brought my total to $302.76.

Because Dylan is so supportive, we decided to add him to the $99 ChEAR Squad. Securing him a spot inside California Adventure and the finish line to cheer me on. It included breakfast, a blanket, and Mickey hand clappers.

runDisney Health & Fitness Expo

We got to the Disneyland Resort on the Thursday before race day. My plan was to get to our hotel as early as possible so we could go into the expo to see all the great goodies. We headed down to an exhibit hall below the Disneyland Hotel, and we were able to get through the check in and sign ups very quick, with zero people in line. I got my free shirt, necklace and pins, and Dylan got his blanket and clappers. Luckily for me, I wasn’t in love with the Dooney bags for the event, so we were able to skip that booth and head to the convention room for the Expo.

The Expo was similar to any other race convention hall. Many great companies had booths, including Clif, New Balance, and Havaianas. I even saw some new ones such as SparkleSkirts and Raw Threads. Turns out, Raw Threads has some amazing workout gear. I bought a few things from them and still am in love!!

The New Balance area was amazzzzing with their custom Disney Running Shoes. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any in my size, and the way to actually purchase them would have seriously cut into my park time.

At the end of the convention hall was the area I was really excited for, the Event Merchandise. There was about a ten-minute line to get into the sectioned off area, and an even longer line to pay. But, I did get an awesome pin and an adorable sweatshirt.

Race Day

On the morning of my race, I woke up super early and was very nervous, of course! I got ready and kissed Dylan goodbye as I headed to the race corrals at 3:50 am to make it by the recommended 4 am. But, what the brochure failed to mention was that it was very unnecessary to arrive that early. Given, there was a stage set up and loud music going, I was rather uninterested and too cold to enjoy the early morning fun. So, at around 4:15 am I headed to the actual corrals.

I sat in the second corral trying to take a nap from then until 5:30 when the first corral would start off. Since the first group was so large, I did not cross the starting line until 5:42 am. But then, I was off!

I think it’s because I trained in such high elevation, but also because I actually really had to pee… But I felt like I was flying in the beginning of my race. At about a mile and half, we entered the main gates of Disneyland and I immediately ran into the bathroom! But then, running through the park was incredible. It was barely light out, and it was just so empty. For a true Disney fan, it was the perfect way to see the park. We circled through the back lots and different areas.

As we exited through the main gates, we ran through a straight line of friends and family as we entered California Adventure. Again, the emptiness of the park was just amazing. Throughout both parks, there were photo opportunities to pose with the characters from Star Wars, wanting to finish in 3 hours was my biggest concern, so I only stopped once in each park: in front of the Castle and in front of the World of Color.

The sad part was leaving California Adventure to enter the rest of the race in Anaheim. What they didn’t tell runners before giving them the maps was that only about 4 miles was inside the two parks. The rest of the race was in Anaheim and the surrounding small California towns, on the very ugly, unexciting, and disappointing streets. Although there were plenty of people on the streets cheering runners on, such as cheerleaders and high school bands, it was definitely NOT what I had in mind, and in my opinion, nowhere near worth the cost.

I am realistic in the fact that the race started so early to ensure the park can open on time. But, charging that much, and having so little time spent running in the park is absolutely insane to me. And for that, I am still so disappointed.

Planning a Vacation Around Your Race

The main reason we went to Disneyland was for my race. And because of my race, we chose to stay at a Disney hotel to be close in case I wanted breaks, and we knew that the day before my race I wouldn’t want to be too active to ensure I wouldn’t be too tired to run on Sunday. But, this was one of our oddest trips to Disneyland.

We got a four-day hopper pass, which I still don’t know if it was the best choice. But anyways… As I mentioned, Saturday we kept it slow, taking a big afternoon break, and dedicating most of our time to the parade in the evening. Sunday after the race, I was so exhausted I fell asleep on Pirates! So we went back to the room for a nap. And, on Monday, I was so sore that I had a hard time running around the park at our usual pace. So, with that in mind, it was hard to have a “real” Disneyland vacation with the race being the main focus of the trip. After, we discussed that it might have been better to have the race the first day of our vacation.

As a Disnerd, I have a lot of patience for the brand and what it takes to be a dedicated fan - $$$. But, I will say that a runDisney event at Disneyland is not what it’s cracked up to be. I am very glad I did it, and completing a half marathon made me feel very accomplished. But, I do not think this race was worth the cost.

Have you participated in a runDisney event? How was your experience, and would you do another one? Share your thoughts below!

Disneyland Resort

Distance: 540 miles

Driving Time: 7 hours & 45 minutes

#California #Disney #WeekendGetaway #Disneyland